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Secular Organizations For Sobriety

Dr. Gerardo Sison

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Gerardo Sison

April 1, 2019

In order for a person to find recovery success, an individual must have access to certain methodologies, tools, and support systems that align with their values, ambitions, and perspectives on their life and recovery. A secular support group may be the answer to these needs, as they bring together individuals who struggle with similar issues and embrace common goals and perspectives.

Addiction treatment and support is a dynamic realm, continuously changing to offer individuals better and more informed access to the resources that may serve their individualized needs best. Despite the success attributed to faith-based support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, some people desire an organization that does not base their focus on faith. Instead, these people may desire a group that approaches sobriety without the influence of spirituality or religion. Secular Organizations for Sobriety is one such organization.

The Benefit Of Support Groups

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, research illustrates that the peer support that is present in support groups “facilitates recovery and reduces healthcare costs.” These groups forge a sense of community, instilling hope, perseverance, and the pursuit of wellness, in a way that increases a person’s odds of initiating and nurturing personal growth.

Support groups offer an individual the opportunity to find and interact with role models, other individuals who have succeeded within their recovery, which can, in turn, increase a person’s chances of effectively developing hope, coping skills, and a greater capacity towards change.

A common problem within the life of an addicted individual is that they often alienate those who care about them and consider their behaviors problematic and instead surround themselves with people who engage in the same destructive behaviors as themselves. Subsequently, when a person becomes sober, they should step away from these negative relationships, and begin developing more positive ones. A support group provides a person with an excellent opportunity for social involvement, allowing them the chance to begin developing more positive and healthful relationships.

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The History of Secular Organizations for Sobriety

Secular Organizations for Sobriety, or S.O.S. as it is aptly referred to by its members, echoing its capacity for aiding the rescue of individuals from the grips of addiction, is, as derived from their site “a nonprofit network of autonomous, non-professional local groups, dedicated solely to helping individuals achieve and maintain sobriety/abstinence from alcohol and drug addiction, food addiction and more.”

Founded in 1985 by James Christopher, who himself is a recovering alcoholic, Secular Organizations for Sobriety was created as an alternative to the more traditional 12 step programs, which are often faith-based. Despite its secular nature, S.O.S. does invite religious individuals to participate.

The largest difference between groups affiliated with S.O.S. and those that are faith-based is where the perceived capacity for change and measure of power over an addiction rests. Faith-based programs urge individuals to essentially relinquish their power over to God or another higher power, while basically relying on divine intervention to bring about a sober state. Secular groups, such as those that exist within S.O.S. believe that the capability for change exists within each individual themselves and that once sobriety is obtained, it is also within their power to further cultivate and maintain it.

There is no cost to take part in S.O.S. meetings, however, the group does rely in part on participants donations, which are not required but accepted on a voluntary basis. Like many support groups, individuals are granted anonymity, as only a person’s first name is offered. This offers a person a greater sense of comfortability, as well as fostering an atmosphere that is more conducive to openness and expression. To better direct individuals, S.O.S. has developed a variety of printed materials and videos that can guide individuals that seek to start a group or stay focused within a present one.

The Principles That Guide S.O.S.

As with any support group, Secular Organizations for Sobriety has a group of principles that guide and inform both their meetings and the participant’s paths under S.O.S. support. They are as follows, S.O.S:

  • Welcomes any person who should want to attend that wholeheartedly embraces a desire for sobriety.
  • Is not affiliated or branched off of any other group, thus, they do not have any “hidden agenda.”
  • The primary focus is sobriety and abstinence, due to this, participants must remain drug and alcohol-free.
  • Does not adhere to or profess any opinions on exterior matters and strives towards not involving themselves or the group’s experience in controversy from outside influences.
  • Recognizes the importance of peer support within the recovery journey, asserting that “members share experiences, insights, information, strength, and encouragement in friendly, honest, anonymous, and supportive group meetings.”
  • Encourages that members foster honest and concise modes of communication, and employ “nondestructive, non-delusional, and rational approaches,” to forge a fulfilling sober life.
  • Shelters participants from harmful stigmas by respecting and maintaining anonymity.
  • Promotes scientific advancements and research, and does restrict its views to singular theories or perspectives on addiction.
  • Cumulatively, these things provide a foundation for a person to either begin or continue their recovery within

The Meeting Experience

Secular Organizations for Sobriety meetings provide a forum to inspire those who suffer from addiction by encouraging hope, accountability, a means of expression, persistence, and individualism. Again, S.O.S. does not only cater to those that suffer from a drug or alcohol addiction but also welcomes those that struggle with compulsive eating.

As the meeting opens, the group’s facilitator takes a moment to introduce both themselves and the group that is holding the meeting, taking care to reiterate the principles and purpose that rest behind the meeting. They then make their way through any general announcements and make special note if there are any sobriety anniversaries to celebrate. Next, they allow another individual to share a reading with the group, specifically the following Guidelines for sobriety:

“To break the cycle of denial and achieve sobriety, first we acknowledge that we are alcoholics or addicts. We reaffirm this truth daily and accept without reservation – one day at a time – the fact that as clean and sober individuals we cannot and do not drink or use, no matter what. Since drinking or using is not an option for us, we take whatever steps are necessary to continue our Sobriety Priority lifelong. Quality of life – “the good life”– can be achieved. However, life is also filled with uncertainties. Therefore, we do not drink or use, regardless of feelings, circumstances, or conflicts.”

Now that persons have had a chance to ruminate on these words and reaffirm their desire and purpose, they will now have a chance to introduce themselves to the group. Following this, they have the opportunity to share their thoughts and experiences with the group. In closing, they pass around a basket in case anyone does want to contribute to the cause, and take a moment to clap and encourage each other.

If you’re interested in finding a meeting, you can go here for further inquiries. S.O.S. recognizes the fact that some individuals may not have access to a meeting, or for various reasons, may not be able to attend. For this reason, they have also developed online meetings that provide you with interactive forums through social networking sites and other means. Some people may find these meetings more conducive to their schedule, and experience other benefits that exist due to their flexibility and even greater anonymous nature. Lastly, S.O.S. encourages people who witness a need for a support system to take initiative and develop their own S.O.S. meetings, find out more here.

Start Building A Support System Today

Are you starting to feel overwhelmed by the loneliness or isolation imposed by your addiction? Do you feel as if you could benefit by talking to someone who truly understands the impact addiction has had on your life? If this is the case, a support group within Secular Organizations for Sobriety might be for you.

If you have questions about S.O.S. or any other aspects of recovery, including treatment or aftercare services, please contact us today. At we seek to offer you only the most comprehensive information and support on addiction, so that you may begin to live a sober and more balanced life.

Secular Organizations for Sobriety - About Jim Christopher

Secular Organizations for Sobriety - Suggested Meeting Format

Secular Organizations for Sobriety - General Principles of SOS

SAMHSA - Recovery and Recovery Support

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