Recovery Without AA: Using the 12 Steps in My Own Way

September 8, 2011 Kendra Sebelius

I'm strong in my recovery without AA, but I admit there are parts of the 12-step program I use in my addiction recovery program. Here's what I do and don't do.

People ask me how I plan to continue in recovery without AA and without practicing the 12-step program. I never have an easy answer. I have been to AA, know the steps, and understand the benefit of community, but I had to find my own path in recovery without AA. I took time to think about what helped me get sober and helped me stay sober, and realized that many of the 12-step principles are present in my recovery without AA.

Recovery Without AA Leaves Room for Some 12-Step Tenets

Steps 8, 9 and 10--Making Amends

I absolutely made amends to those I could. I am mindful of my words and actions now. I apologize when I have said hurtful things, try to learn from my mistakes, and move forward in hope of creating better relationships. A goal of mine is to live an authentic life, and that includes being accountable for all of my words and actions. I don't individually practice these steps, but I do in my own way practice accountability for actions and words, and make amends and changes where needed.

Step 12

Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs

I do this every day. I created the Voice in Recovery blog, tweet, and share my story. I give back to others on a daily basis to give hope, share inspiration, and de-stigmatize addiction so people do not feel they need to struggle alone. I mentor one on one, and daily reach out to those who need support and resources. I feel my work with ViR and this blog are how I give back to the community.

Recovery Without AA Allows for Flexibility in Other 12-Step Ideas


I personally do not have a sponsor, but that doesn’t mean I am accountable to no one. In my recovery without AA, I remain brutally honest with my partner, my family, my mentors, and people I mentor. I have many people in my life, and I go to different people based on my needs.

Step 1

We admitted we were powerless over our addiction - that our lives had become unmanageable

I didn’t like the idea of being powerless, and thought in early sobriety that Step 1 asked me to admit I was powerless in life, and there was too much evidence against that idea. My life, unmanageable as it felt from the inside, continued forward for all I or anyone looking in could see. It took me two years of sobriety to understand and come to terms with never being able to be a social drinker, and no matter how much I thought I could risk it, I had too much to lose if I went back to using.

Step 3

Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God

Well I didn’t view "turning my life over" as something I could turn over to God, or a supreme being. I struggle with religion and consider myself spiritual or agnostic. To me, step 3 was about letting go. Letting go of control, of thinking I knew the right way, what to do, etc. It became about something greater in that I wanted to be able to say

I don’t know everything, what am I doing isn’t working, and I am willing to accept help or guidance.

I did the 3rd step on the beach and considered nature and the universe to be what I released my life into. I continue practicing letting go, and have a tattoo that says let go as a reminder that when I am clinging too hard onto something, or trying to control something, I need to let go. And I also say the serenity prayer and practice mindfulness based on this lesson of letting go.

Creating My Own Recovery Without AA

I have nothing against AA or the steps. I think they are wonderful tools and recommend them to anyone trying to get sober or trying to stay sober. I respect the principles, ideas, sense of community and accountability recovery with AA offers. But I took the pieces from the steps that work for me and apply them to my recovery without AA, while also accepting and using alternate ideas, practices, and theories.

I like to be open minded because I never know what my needs are going to be, and one day I may need accountability, the next I may need to focus on letting go of control, or meditation, yoga, CBT, DBT, SMART Recovery and other skills, so flexibility is a great asset to me. Every tool I learn helps strengthen my recovery.

I guess my recovery just doesn’t fit in a box. I incorporate a lot of things, including the 12 steps, and enjoy reading about Buddhism and the 12-steps, which is interesting and rewarding. I don't follow a script and took many different paths that helped me stay sober.

How do you feel about the steps? Do you practice them diligently? Or do you take pieces from them and apply it to your recovery without AA like I do?


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APA Reference
Sebelius, K. (2011, September 8). Recovery Without AA: Using the 12 Steps in My Own Way, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 25 from

Author: Kendra Sebelius

September, 29 2022 at 9:44 am

I too struggle with the steps and don't accept all of it as "divinely inspired." I'll save you the details; but I plan to return to my group (I need support) while maintaining my personal identity. It's a balancing act, for sure.

May, 30 2018 at 4:18 am

I found you really really helpful thank you hun, I only started yesterday I went up to get a assessment done them they held a meeting at N/A 8:30pm last night so yesterday was good you where just saying about doing 12 steps what would u do in spare time, im Kellie by the way.
I loved reading all that thanks again x

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