Finally a Non-AA Solution To Addiction: Lifering

I don't claim to know a lot about addiction to alcohol or drugs, since I don't drink, smoke or take drugs (unless prescribed). Of course, I am addicted to coffee and caffeine... and naps. Anyway, one thing that really frustrates me as a godless heathen, is how the only game in town for people who want to overcome their addiction to alcohol or drugs is AA or NA, which are heavily religious and not really based on scientific research.

The main idea behind AA/NA is that you admit you are helpless over your addiction and must turn your life over to a higher power. If you have a problem and end up getting pulled over for drunk driving or caught with drugs, you can end up being court-mandated to go to AA/NA. So if you're an atheist you still have to go and "work the program" and give your life over and admit you are powerless. If you fight it though, the court can't force you to go to AA, because even though "it's not deemed a religion, it contains enough religious components to make coerced attendance at AA meetings a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the constitution".

And then there are the studies done about the effectiveness of AA/NA. The results so far have been inconsistent. AA, which has been around since about 1939 (when the Alcoholics Anonymous book was published) and now has 1,867,212 members and 106,202 AA groups worldwide, still can't produce conclusive studies that show it works.

So far in the research that has been done, the participants have been self selected. So no randomized double blinded trials exist. I don't know how they would be able to do that, but certainly it shows a huge limitation that everyone is self selected. A Cochrane Review of 8 studies published between 1967 and 2005, measuring the effectiveness of AA, found "no experimental studies unequivocally demonstrated the effectiveness of AA" in treating alcoholism, based on a meta-analysis of the results of eight trials involving a total of 3,417 individuals. To determine further the effectiveness of AA, the authors suggested that more studies comparing treatment outcomes with control groups were necessary.

Also, most people who start AA drop out, 95% according to AA's own surveys. But there really hasn't been much of an alternative. Until recently.

Now there's Lifering Secular Recovery. Here are some facts about Lifering:

  • As of this year they have about 130 face to face support groups and dozens of online communities.

  • This is a secular organization. About 40% of members attend church, but you don't talk about religion at all. There's no proselytizing, and no religion bashing. It's not an issue. It's entirely private.

  • Lifering is a non-religious pathway to abstinence from alcohol and other drugs of abuse. You have to quit completely. If you think moderation will work, they will refer you elsewhere.

  • Meetings generally conclude with a round of applause to celebrate sobriety.

  • You can see the worldwide meeting schedule here.

  • Lifering works through the power of positive social reinforcement.

  • Meetings establish supportive connections and reinforce being sober.

  • You can see a short explanation with video here.

I don't think any studies have been done on Lifering recovery rates. But at least it's secular and based on positive social reinforcement rather than admitting that you are powerless to a "disease".  It would be great if some research were done on the effectiveness of this program though. But to give Lifering credit, they are a support group system and make no scientific claims. Also, they state on their site that they are willing to work with any scientists that want to do a study on their program.

How Lifering is similar to AA/NA: They are abstinence-based. They use group support. Meetings are confidential.

How Lifering is different from AA/NA: They see the power to get clean and sober inside of each person. Your belief or disbelief in a higher power is not a factor. You can get clean and sober whether you believe in a higher power or not. They welcome people regardless of their drug of choice. They encourage cross-talk in meetings. Everyone builds Personal Recovery Programs tailored just for them.

You can see the rest of their helpful FAQs here. That's probably more than enough to get you started, if it interests you.


  1. I used to work at a substance abuse helpline on the overnight shift. People who have addictions have it tough and make it tough on the people around them. At least it's nice to know that there is a secular alternative to AA.

  2. Hi Neece,

    I'd like to through in a plug for Sober Without Gods (SWOG). Another site that's an alternative to 12-step. And one that is specifically oriented toward the "godless heathen" looking for support without the BS of religion or higher powers.



  3. Thanks, Ed. The one thing about Lifering though is the face to face meetings. SWOG is online only, right?

  4. Mornin Neece,

    Yes, SWOG is only an online resource. However, we have all that lifering online offers. Chat, Forums, info. We're trying to grow some formal online meetings. Newcomers are always welcome.

    And, actually, it was formed by a bunch of ex-Lifering people to address the atheist, agnostic, and skeptic in particular.


  5. LifeRing ( branched off from SOS (Secular Organizations for Sobriety -, which is yet another alternative to AA. SOS is affiliated with CFI ( Apparently, one of the considerations leading to the formation of LifeRing was the desire for greater autonomy.

  6. I guess this came from the Penn & Teller show. The only requirement to be a member of AA is to have a drinking problem. You don't have to believe in a god or any particular god. The steps were written in 1935 so it would be reasonable for them to have some god-soaking. However, there were a number of atheist in the program back then and resisted the god-soaked part. That is why a number of steps have in it "God as we understood Him". You will have wackos in any organization but no where is any religion forced upon you there. In fact the literature states for you to find a higher power of your choice who could be anything. Also, AA doesn't get involved in ANY outside issues. It does nothing political. You can go to any meeting and see all this for yourself. On the matter is it the only game in town, by no means. They don't make that claim and suggest even their members try alternatives. This is not the only answer for everyone. The fact that they save anyone from this life destroying affliction is amazing. It is just as wonderful that there are plenty of other organizations out there who can assist other alcoholics. The more the better.
    I am an atheist.

  7. Good to know. We have you in our links section. :)

  8. First, I don't know why you needed to call yourself exminister and tell us your an atheist. It seems irrelevant to the post.
    Hey, if AA were successful for a good portion of their members it would be one thing. But they aren't. The failure rate is 95% within the first year. This program is not successful. But if it worked for you or if some people want to give it a try that's fine by me. I know people who have gone through it and are sober now. But I disagree that you have to give up your responsibility and defer to a higher power. I think the Lifering model is far superior. You have the strength within you to quit drinking. The AA idea that you can call your cellphone your higher power smacks of moving the goalpost, and seems disingenuous. I don't think it's a helpful model at all.

  9. Well, i never thought i'd see it happen, Lifering has finally embraced the 12 steps of A/A, ok the god bits are gone but Lifering is now officially run by the Cult!!

  10. Really?! I thought they had a better model. Why would they turn to the 12 step program (albeit sans god) when its rate of success is so low?