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The debate between which recovery program is best will continue to rage for years to come. The fact is, only you can decide which program is right for you. Rather than tell you which one to choose, let’s look at the facts of Smart Recovery vs 12-Steps to help you make that decision.

Smart Recovery Vs 12-Steps and Moderation Vs Abstinence

While many believe Smart Recovery preaches moderation, meaning an alcoholic can continue drinking in normal amounts, this simply is not true. Smart recovery promotes abstinence too. They state that eventually you may moderate substance use, but a better choice is to refrain. As with any compulsive behavior it’s hard to have one cupcake or one beer. Our culture thrives off the concept of “I bet you can’t have just one!”

Rather than put the pressure of moderation on yourself, Smart Recovery encourages you to stop completely. Once you have control of your urges, then you can consider adding in a moderate amount of the substances you enjoy. But Smart Recovery also says studies show abstinence is the best method of continued recovery.

The 12-Steps program also encourages abstinence from drugs and alcohol. The difference here is the 12-Steps program gets a lot of bad press, saying they are too strict on the subject. Some members stress no prescription drug use when a doctor prescribes it for a medical condition.

The truth of this statement comes from within the statement itself, “some members”. The 12-Steps program does not say complete and total abstinence. Properly used medication for a medical condition is allowed.

Another important note is that the 12-Steps program does not say you must be alcohol and drug free to attend the meetings. Nor do they say you have to be alcohol and drug free after you attend the meetings. They do say if you continue attending meetings, your craving for the drugs or alcohol will decrease and you may even become abstinent.

Overall, both programs of recovery encourage abstinence.

Smart Recovery Vs 12-Steps and Spirituality

Smart Recovery does not believe spirituality must be a part of recovery. Their official position is:

“We believe that the power to change addictive behaviors resides within each individual and does not depend upon adherence to any spiritual viewpoint. The use of religious or spiritual beliefs and practices in recovery is a personal choice and not a part of our program.”

12-Step programs do not require spirituality for membership either. The only requirement for membership is as follows:

“Membership is open to anyone who wants to do something about his or her drinking problem.”

Spirituality is discussed within the program as members learn to rely on a Power greater than themselves. But that Power is determined by each member. Some members may choose a rock or tree for the Power outside themselves. Others may choose the God of the religion they practiced as a youth. Yet others may look inside themselves for the Power manifest in their own being.

The point is, you are not required to believe anything outside the fact you need help with your drinking problem. If you are concerned with the spirituality part of the program, call the group you are interested in before attending. Ask about the groups policy on spirituality. If you are uncomfortable with the answers, find a different group.

Neither Smart Recovery nor the 12-Steps requires faith in a specific religion or practice of spirituality according to a set of rules. You are free to choose your own path, including a path of no spirituality.

Smart Recovery Vs 12-Steps and Empowerment Vs Powerless

Smart recovery practices empowering recovery through methods of self-reliance. The program teaches self-directed change and learning four points of recovery. Those four points are building and maintaining motivation, coping with urges, managing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and living a balanced life. Smart Recovery focuses on the individual and willpower to make changes.

The 12-Steps program realizes that many people do not have the willpower to change their compulsion to abuse substances. Multiple attempts to stop drinking or using drugs have led them to feel powerless. The 12-Steps plays on this feeling of powerlessness by offering a Power one can rely on to help them stop addictive behaviors.

The Smart Recovery program offers a self-based reliance system designed to help you stop addictive behaviors and the 12-Steps program offers a Power outside yourself to help you on the journey to sobriety.

Smart Recovery Vs 12-Steps and Length of Program

Smart Recovery believes recovery should not be a lifelong endeavor. With the right tools, you should be able to move on with your life. But, you can attend meetings however long you need them.

The 12-Steps is designed around a lifelong recovery practice. You are encouraged to continue attending meetings, help with service, and reflect daily on sobriety.

While neither requires lifelong membership, the 12-Step programs encourage a lifelong commitment to sobriety and working the program, but there is no requirement as to how often you attend meetings.

The Smart Recovery program encourages learning the tools of recovery quickly so you can live a balanced life outside of meetings, but you can always come back to meetings when you need to.

Smart Recovery Vs 12-Steps and Availability

Smart Recovery is a newer program and has fewer meeting locations available. Contact Smart Recovery to find a meeting near you.

The 12-Steps program is available worldwide and has meetings around the clock. To find a meeting near you search your telephone company’s white pages or visit

When Meetings Are Not Enough

Smart Recovery and the 12-Steps both help people recover from addictions. But sometimes the compulsion to use is too strong for meetings alone. If you are suffering and scared of relapse, or have relapsed, call Northlake Recovery now at (561)-770-6616. Addiction specialists can help you enroll in a 90-day program designed to help you detox and get strong in recovery before returning to local meetings.

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