Recovery & Growth

Those of us in recovery from addictions are given an extra incentive to grow emotionally and spiritually. If we don’t, our relationships and lives fall apart or end. This section offers all readers, both those in recovery and those not, an opportunity to learn about the many connections between everyday emotional and spiritual growth and recovery. There are many kinds and degrees of addiction and many paths for recovery; hence, there are many lessons here for all.

Click the title of each organization or article to explore further.

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Go-To Websites

 Since 1935 and the launch of Alcoholics Anonymous — by Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith helping each other stay sober — the Twelve Steps has become the most reliable approach to addiction recovery. My personal experience and that of thousands of people I have met in Twelve Step meetings attests to this amazing power. Many of those who are prone to addictive use of substances (alcohol, food, drugs, nicotine) and compulsive behaviors (gambling, sexual activities, work, exercise, over-dependence on others and their opinions, etc.) find it requires more than one Twelve Step program to live sanely and happily. Our culture and societal attitudes make it harder to face some addictions than others.  Awareness is the beginning of change. The following websites are the primary websites for some of the many Twelve Step programs. Information about addiction/compulsive behavior, Twelve Steps and meetings are found at these websites.

NOTE: The descriptions below are based on website information that often uses past tense —   e.g., have had a drinking problem. Twelve Step organizations assist people in stopping undesired behaviors and in staying stopped. 

Twelve Step Organizations

Alcoholics Anonymous –  for people who have had a drinking problem.

Al-Anon Family Groups – for family and friends of persons who misuse alcohol and who are, without knowing it, impacted emotionally, physically, and spiritually because of concern over another’s drinking.

Narcotics Anonymous – for people for whom drugs had become a major problem.

Overeaters Anonymous – for people who have had an unhealthy relationship with food and body image and are recovering from compulsive eating and food behaviors.

Gamblers Anonymous – for people who have had a difficult time admitting they were real problem gamblers.

Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous – for people whose lives had become unmanageable because of living out of a pattern of sex and love addiction.

Workaholics Anonymous – for people who work compulsively in a way that interferes with health and relationships.

Codependent Anonymous – for people seeking ways to overcome the dilemma of conflicts in relationships and childhood. 

Debtors Anonymous – for people who have had problems with debt and money and who want to stop incurring unsecured debt.

Adult Children of Alcoholics Anonymous for people who grew up in dysfunctional homes where abuse, neglect, and trauma affect them today and influence all aspects of life.

Other Recovery and Growth Resources (See Spirituality & Love for resources on spiritual growth)

Recovery Speakers
This is an amazing site that began as a home for the many audiotapes of A.A. pioneers and their stories and the history of the evolution of A.A. Under Mike Fitzpatrick’s leadership, it has expanded to become a go-to site with information from most Twelve Step programs.

Recovery Research Institute
From two Boston universities, this site’s mission is to make research widely available on addiction recovery’s impact on public health. In March 2020, the Institute published a definitive study establishing the effectiveness of Alcoholics Anonymous when compared with other interventions.

William White Papers
Bill White is a prolific practitioner, researcher, and writer. He has captured on this website the most comprehensive mix of scholarly and lay-friendly articles on the history of addiction treatment, and advocacy for reframing of recovery and what it means. See Recovery Advocacy Movement for more on this evolution.

Smart Recovery
Smart Recovery is an alternative to Alcoholics Anonymous and the Twelve Step programs above. The mission of this global self-help community is “to empower people to achieve independence from addiction problems with our science-based 4-Point Program®.” This is among the most widely used alternatives to the Anonymous programs.

Emotional Intelligence Consortium
This Consortium advances “research and practice of emotional and social intelligence in organizations through the generation and exchange of knowledge.” Growing emotionally is a life-time habit. This site offers videos, articles, and tools to support emotional growth.

Most Helpful Short Reads

Addictionary – Glossary of Substance Use Disorder Terminology
Recovery Research Institute
Looking for a simple, easy to read and understand explanation of addiction and recovery and the relevant terms? Check out the Recovery Research Institute’s “Addictionary.”

Opening our Hearts, Transforming our Losses
Al-Anon Family Groups
Grief is unavoidable in life. Addictions often lead to denial and postponement of facing losses and grief. This powerful 177-page book offers those whose lives have been impacted by alcoholism or other addictions or behaviors a way to better identify losses, own the grief, and move through it.

Redesigning Addiction Treatment for Historically Disempowered Communities
William White
This is one of several articles by Bill White about the limits of traditional treatment in helping people of color and other disempowered people recover from addiction and explore what changes might improve outcomes.

5 Alternatives to the A.A. Approach Editorial Staff
Bill Wilson, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, acknowledged that A.A. was not for everyone. This site offers information on five alternative treatment programs for those who are looking for help with a problem of misusing alcohol.

Lessons from Lois Wilson, a trailblazer in 12-step program development
Tom Adams
Lois Wilson, who died in 1988, empowered millions of women and offered each a path out of the slavery of a toxic, life-threatening relationship. She and her husband, Bill, along with many others built a movement that is today the largest and most successful self-help movement in the world.

Where to Find Help

For self-help and mutual aid, the best resources are one or more of the Twelve Step organizations above, the alternative treatment approaches found above, or at Recovery Research Institute.

For emotional growth, there are many approaches to therapy and other help which are beyond the scope of this site. For those in recovery using outside therapy or spiritual growth help, experience points to the importance of finding help that understands the nature of addiction and sees growth and change as an emotional, physical, and spiritual process.

Important Books and Longer Reads

The first five books are basic and very helpful reads for both newcomers and veterans on these topics.

Alcoholics Anonymous
Written in 1939, this is the first Twelve Step book comprised of 164 pages of foundation text important to anyone in Twelve Step recovery, including stories of those who have recovered.

How Al-Anon Works
A terrific overview of Al-Anon, how living with a person with a drinking problem (or drugging or other addiction) results in mental health challenges for the person who loves the drinker, and how the Twelve Steps, Traditions, concepts, tools, and slogans of Al-Anon make recovery possible.

Workaholics Anonymous Book of Recovery
A must-read for people who wonder if the way they work is causing them health and relationship problems. Eye-opening.

The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Overeaters Anonymous
Many of the more established Twelve Step programs have a book that serves as a guide to working and living the Twelve Steps. The A.A. Twelve and Twelve is the first, written by Bill Wilson. The O.A. Twelve and Twelve is a great resource as well.

Narcotics Anonymous
Called the “Basic Text,” this book is precisely that. N.A. intentionally has written a book on how to recover from problems with drugs.  Like the A.A. Big Book, there are chapters on recovery followed by a number of personal stories.

Slaying the Dragon
William A. White
For those who believe the present is better understood by being aware of the past, the subtitle of this book is The History of Addiction Treatment and Recovery in America. This is a thorough, well-written history that is useful to the recovering person and those working with people in recovery.

The Road Less Traveled, Timeless Edition: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth
M. Scott Peck
Everyone has a favorite book or two that has touched us deeply. This is one of mine. The version here was published in 2003 on the 25th anniversary of the initial publication in 1978. The book begins with the simple truth — “Life is difficult.” It has had a profound impact on the emotional and spiritual lives of many.

Other Useful Websites

A Vision for You, Overeaters Anonymous 
Hazelden Publications
Central Recovery Press
The Fix
Brown Research Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies
A.A. Agnostics
Literature – A.A. Agnostica — Books that are helpful to atheists, agnostics, and freethinkers in recovery from alcoholism and addiction. — for people of color in recovery; a Buddhist focus.

About Tom Adams

Tom AdamsTom Adams writes and speaks on topics vital to the intersection of our personal lives with our community and global lives. He has for decades been engaged in and written about nonprofit leadership and transitions, spirituality and spiritual growth, how we each contribute to a more just and equitable world and recovery from addictions and the Twelve Step recovery movement.