Ask an Expert: Where Can I Go If AA Isn't For Me?

By Rita Milios 01/29/15

Today's question is on what you can do if neither AA nor moderate drinking seems to work.


I was talking with a friend the other day about the lack of options especially women ( I feel ) face today in recovery.  I have written a lot on my “getting sober.”  I have written poetry that may or may not get published but helped me get my thoughts from being a tornado in my brain.  I am extremely frustrated by AA and all its suggestions albeit rules. I am just as frustrated that there is nowhere else to go so to speak. I happened upon your site after I told my sponsor that maybe AA isn't for me. 

Who is me?  I am a divorced 49 yr old college educated working professional that drank her way out of an unhappy marriage. Once divorced I tried social drinking only to find all the AA jargon was swirling through my brain and the guilt overpowered me. Once my anxiety kicked in, for added measure, I was back to drinking to stay calm. That doesn't work, it just increases the need of alcohol to keep the anxiety from overpowering my brain for a short while, too short, so I think you can imagine how I ended up. 

Being an eternal optimist I tried several times over the past few years to “social” drink only to have that whole thing happen each time. Today I am 6 months sober and trying desperately to fit in somewhere. I have no idea why I am telling you all of this but I do hope that reading your newly found website can be a tool in helping me find me or at least where I fit in.  - Eileen


Rita Milios: I am so sorry that you have been feeling overwhelmed and frustrated, but I also congratulate you on remaining sober even despite these trying circumstances. Yes, I can understand that AA might not be right for you -  many people report similar experiences as yours, where AA may feel too “regimented “ or that the slogans, intended to be motivating, can be “guilt-inducing” instead.

Please do not give up! As the saying goes, “Sometimes you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find the prince”…in other words, you may have to try out a number of alternatives before you find the source of support that you feel “fits” you.  And actually, it is a good thing that you have recognized that the dilemma is with “fit” and not with you or your ability to make the changes you desire in your life. Many people give up after trying AA and failing; then they feel that they are without hope and their goals are unachievable. That, however, is certainly not the case.

Below are several of the most promising “alternatives” to AA, with a brief description of each. Perhaps one of these support systems might be a better fit for you. Also, please do not discount the value of individual counseling. Issues such as you describe (unhappiness, anxiety, and frustration with life circumstances) are indeed triggers for drinking, but they do not exist in a vacuum. Unresolved anger, self-doubt and fears are often “residuals” of a failed marriage and lost dreams. Resolving these underlying issues via therapy might be a good option to consider as well.

I wish you all the best! 

Alternatives to AA:

SMART Recovery is recognized by the American Academy of Family Physicians, the Center for Health Care Evaluation, The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the American Society of Addiction Medicine. It offers free face-to-face and online mutual help groups, as well as an online message board.

Women For Sobriety, Inc. is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping women overcome alcoholism and other addictions. It is the first national self-help program specifically for women alcoholics. It does advocate total abstinence.

The Recovery International Method uses cognitive behavioral techniques and psycho-education to teach people to control self-destructive behaviors and change self-defeating attitudes. The Method advocates that learning to change thoughts and behaviors leads to positive changes in attitude…and from there, changes in beliefs follow, resulting in long-term positive change

Rational Recovery provides counseling, guidance, and direct instruction on self-recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs through planned, permanent abstinence. The group believes that individuals are on their own in staying sober, so there are no meetings or treatment centers as part of the approach. The website provides information about the method (Addictive Voice Recognition Technique® (AVRT®), frequently asked questions, and other free information.

Moderation Management (MM) is a behavioral change program and national support group network for people concerned about their drinking and who desire to make positive lifestyle changes. MM empowers individuals to accept personal responsibility for choosing and maintaining their own path, whether moderation or abstinence. MM promotes early self-recognition of risky drinking behavior, when moderate drinking is a more easily achievable goal.


Rita Milios, LCSW, is a psychotherapist in private practice, author of more than 30 books, and frequent professional lecturer and on-camera expert. She also facilitates workshops and training for clinicians, therapists, writers, holistic practitioners, businesses and associations. She is known as "The Mind Mentor" because of her unique approach to “mind tools training."   Full Bio.

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