Disclosure: Wiccan Gathering is reader-supported, so posts may contain affiliate links. When you click on affiliate links on our site, we may earn a small commission, at zero cost to you. If you enjoyed our content and want to pay it forward (even if you don’t intend to buy anything) please click on any of our product links. Blessed be!
Substance abuse is present in every group, including with Wiccans and Pagans. Recovery poses a unique challenge for Wiccans and other Pagans because of the prevalence of Judeo-Christian twelve step models like AA. This is unfortunate because then many Wiccans do not feel comfortable seeking help. If only there were viable options for Wiccan and Pagan twelve steps (and alternative) programs, right?
Don’t worry! There are actually many suitable options. Aside from the twelve steps framework, there is an abundance of secular recovery organizations out there now with different philosophies and world views that many Pagans can become comfortable with.
Let’s discover some of the available options together.
Path to Recovery
Recovery is never easy but can be the most rewarding experience you may have in your life. Recovery is a chance to rebuild your entire life. You may have just accepted things in the past because of the status quo or just because you never stopped to consider them.
Recovery is a journey of questioning everything in your life, then deciding whether or not it serves you. No more addictions, patterns, ideas, or people which harm you. It’s taking full control of your life, which blends well with the Wiccan ideas of personal responsibility and balance.
You can learn new things about yourself and the world you live in, stop denying as a coping mechanism, teach others, and give a fresh update to your personal beliefs. You can literally change your thoughts, feelings, and behavior to bring you relief and happiness.
Recovery can become a part of your spiritual practice as well. Because recovery is a deeply personal and introspective journey, it harmonizes perfectly with your spiritual pursuits.
What is 12 Step?
The “twelve step” program is the method used by the group “Alcoholics Anonymous,” normally referred to as AA. The program was started by Bill Wilson and his doctor Robert Smith in the 1930s and it officially has no religious or political affiliation. It is a huge group and probably the best known recovery program around the world.
The program makes reference to a higher power in the monotheistic Judeo-Christian sense. It is incorrect though to say that one must be a Christian to join AA. The only requirement to join AA is that you wish to stop drinking. It welcomes people of any religion or no religion.
The program is however, theistic, and the program is presented in a Christian framework. The central tenet of AA, is believing in and allowing a higher power to rescue you from alcohol. This is reflected throughout the twelve steps and in the Big Book.
Another facet of AA is that it uses the disease model of addiction. In this model, addiction is a disease of the brain which results from different brain structure. This means that the disease can be managed. although it will never go away. It is a permanent condition. Some Wiccans disagree with this model, believing it goes against personal responsibility and accepting consequences for one’s actions.
A final component of AA is sponsorship. With sponsorship, newer members are partnered with more experienced members who have maintained sobriety for a long time. They offer the new member guidance and remain available for emotional support throughout the new member’s journey.
Narcotics Anonymous (NA)
This is AA’s sister organization. Narcotics Anonymous (NA), which was founded in the 1950s as a generalized form of AA. It doesn’t reference alcohol specifically. Rather it refers to addiction to any substance. As a result, NA is open to people with any substance addiction, whether it be drugs or alcohol.
Alternative 12 Step Programs
If you like the philosophy of the twelve steps but would like a Wiccan or Pagan adaptation, these are for you.
12 Steps for Pagans
The Twelve Steps for Pagans is a lovely account of a polytheistic Pagan witch who was an AA veteran for many years. She offers her take on the Twelve Steps from a Pagan perspective.
Wiccan 13 Step Path
The Wiccan 13 Step Path is an adaptation of the twelve steps specifically for Wiccans.
The Spiral Steps is an adapted version of the twelve steps for anyone following Earth Based Spirituality. It celebrates tolerance and acceptance.
Secular AA is an international organization to help you find sobriety with AA without having to accept someone else’s beliefs.
Non-12 Step Programs
There is a huge variety of recovery programs outside of the 12-Step model. They are secular and often based in science. Most of them encourage practicality and offer tools and techniques for recovery. You can certainly embrace a higher power or some form of spirituality. However, they don’t focus on that. These programs instead zero in on your internal strength and power. They teach self-reliance, strength of character, and doing new and difficult things despite fear.
SMART Recovery is a secular, abstinence-based organization to empower you to find freedom from any addictive substance or activity. It rejects demoralizing labels like “addict” or “alcoholic.” SMART uses methods found in addiction science and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to help you achieve and maintain sobriety.
The program recognizes that addictions are short-term (albeit destructive) methods to cope with the ups and downs of life. As a result, the program focuses on self-empowerment and motivation. It provides coping techniques to manage thoughts and emotions, and it helps you find balance in your life.
SMART gives a variety of “tools for change” which you can use in recovery. The tools can also be used in any other area where you want to make positive change.
Rational Recovery is a secular organization which encourages planned, permanent abstinence. Like SMART, it also rejects negative labels like “addict.” It shows you ways of self-discovery and uses a method called Addictive Voice Recognition Technique. It also does not require or encourage group meetings because these indicate that you don’t trust yourself. It argues that independent sobriety is not only possible, but beneficial.
LifeRing is a positive and practical recovery group which empowers you to take control of your addiction. It teaches that there is a part of you that desires lasting sobriety which makes constructive decisions called the Sober Self. The Sober Self has been dominated by the Addict Self, which is the part of us that seeks short-term pleasure and makes bad decisions.
LifeRing seeks to help you strengthen your Sober Self and weaken the Addict Self. The organization doesn’t believe in mandates, steps, or sponsors and wants you to craft a unique program which works for you.
Recovery Dharma is a program that uses Buddhist principles to promote healing. It believes that you are your own guide in recovery. The program seeks to create a community for you to come together and determine what the best path for you individually is.
Refuge Recovery is another Buddhist-inspired recovery program that creates community structures to offer recovery from all mind-altering substances. The organization promotes a daily recovery ritual which includes meditation, personal inventory, mentorship, retreat, and service. It encourages regular group attendance and although based on Buddhist principles, it is a secular program.
Women for Sobriety
Women for Sobriety is an abstinence-based program that is unique to women. It recognizes that substance use originated as a way to cope with stress, loneliness, frustration, and emotional deprivation, but often turns into dependence. It provides a set of principles and tools which allow you to develop coping skills. As it is composed of women, it also emphasises issues specific to women such as guilt, shame, and low self-worth.
Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS)
SOS is not so much an program itself, but rather a nonprofit network of independent local groups to encourage sobriety and freedom from any addictive substance.
Unlike many recovery programs, Moderation Management is NOT an abstinence-based organization. It encourages self-management, moderation, balance, and personal responsibility in one’s relationship with alcohol. It seeks to help you control problem drinking and to learn behavioral change.
There are a number of excellent books and other material on the subject of recovery and Paganism or Wicca, or appeal to Wiccan sensibilities. Here are some examples:
AA Beyond Belief is another great resource. It has both a blog and podcast.
Substance Use in Wicca
If you are in recovery or suspect that you may have substance abuse issues, this is priority. If you are a solitary practitioner, non-alcoholic liquids are a great substitute in any ceremony that might traditionally use alcohol. In fact, many Wiccans prefer it this way, so you can easily keep your personal practice sober and clean.
If your coven consumes alcohol as a part of its rituals, never feel obligated to drink yourself. You must make sure that you are comfortable. Ask your coven if they might switch to non-alcoholic drinks or offer a non-alcoholic alternative.
If your coven tries to convince you into drinking alcohol, this is a big red flag that this coven is not for you. The same goes for any other substance or drug. Your coven should never endorse illegal drug use for any ritual. Drugs should also not be a frequent part of members’ lives. Stay away from such covens.
I sincerely hope this article has helped you navigate the world of Wiccan and Pagan twelve steps programs in addition to several alternative programs. Please let me know in the comments if you know of any other programs here that I may have missed.
Also, please check out our resources on meditation and mindfulness, as these can be important skills to use while in recovery.