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What is LifeRing Secular Recovery?

Learn more about LifeRing Secular Recovery, how it works, and if it might be the right treatment for you.

verview of LifeRing

LifeRing is a secular organization for sobriety. Compared to other support group programs, such as NA (Narcotics Anonymous) and AA (Alcoholics Anonymous), LifeRing Recovery is relatively new. Founded in 2001, LifeRing is a network of addiction recovery groups for people who are ready to put addiction in the past. LifeRing notably differs from traditional 12-Step programs like AA and NA in that it is a secular program. But what does that mean? When a program is secular, it is not affiliated with any religion or holisticity.

LifeRing secular recovery

What is the Principle of LifeRing?

LifeRing uses evolving scientific, evidence-based principles to guide their recovery program. In contrast to NA and RA, the only “step” LifeRing follows is no drinking or substance use, no matter what.[1]

Foundations of the LifeRing Program

Although LifeRing is a secular recovery group, it welcomes people of all religions and faiths. The only requirement to participate in a LifeRing group is the desire not to use drugs or alcohol. The structure and format of LifeRing encourage members to use whatever methods work for them to develop their own recovery plan.

What is LifeRing Secular Recovery?

LifeRing meetings focus on the principle that you DO have the power to overcome drug or alcohol addiction. You are not required to acknowledge powerlessness or surrender to a higher power to achieve sobriety. LifeRing strives to support and strengthen your sober self and weaken the power of your addicted self.[2

LifeRing defines sobriety as “an abstinence from alcohol and non-medically indicated drugs.” This is another notable difference between LifeRing and other peer support groups. Many traditional support groups do not allow for the use of any medications while participating in the group. This includes using MAT (medically assisted treatment) and pain management medications.[3]

How LifeRing Secular Recovery Works

LifeRing Secular Recovery is an alternative to Alcoholics Anonymous and other faith-focused recovery groups. Rather than focusing on the influence of a "higher power," LifeRing Secular Recovery programs believe that addicts who are ready to conquer addiction have the power within themselves to overcome addictive behaviors. The LifeRing approach tailors its programs around the “A (addicted self)” and the “S (sober self).” It is understood that there will always be a conflict between the two; still, LifeRing Recovery approaches believe that by empowering the sober self, it is possible to overcome the control of the addicted self.

The “3-S” Philosophy

As an alternative to the standard 12-Step program, LifeRing is based on the 3-S philosophy in addition to the conflict between the addicted and sober self. The 3-S philosophy stands for sobriety, secularity, and self-help.[4]


Sobriety is the essential requirement for LifeRing membership. You must have the desire to abstain from substance use (other than for medical reasons) to participate in LifeRing meetings. While LifeRing opens meetings to anyone who wishes to abstain from substance use, it does not allow those who want to gradually or selectively quit alcohol or drug use. All LifeRing members must be willing to completely abstain from substances of all types.


LifeRing does not take a multi-faceted approach. Members are encouraged to practice their chosen faith without pressure to conform to a particular religion or practice. As part of LifeRing meetings, the focus is on the individuals' ability and internal power to overcome addiction and manage future relapse triggers.


The program's third philosophy is based on the importance of individual effort, persistence, and motivation in maintaining sobriety. This differs significantly from traditional 12-Step programs’ focus on acknowledging or turning to religion and a higher power as a vital part of recovery.

LifeRing Secular Recovery’s Meeting Format

LifeRing meetings occur in three formats: in-person, online, and via text. These formats will be detailed below.

In-Person meetings

In-person meetings involve group participants sitting together in a small circle. A typical meeting begins with an opening statement and a question to the group, which is typically, “How was your week?” All members are encouraged to answer the question and elaborate on their victories for the week, whether large or small.

All members are encouraged to ask questions, comment, and provide feedback throughout the meeting. While open and active communication is encouraged, there are rules, including no shouting, disrespect, or condescending words. Most meetings last approximately one hour.

Online meetings

LifeRing online meetings take a similar approach to in-person groups, with the meeting convenor asking the same question: “How was your week?” During an online session, the convenor will turn off other members' mics when an individual is speaking. LifeRing online meetings also last about an hour.

Text meetings 

LifeRing allows members to communicate via chat as well. All conversations are expected to focus entirely on sobriety and self-improvement goals. There are usually several LifeRing moderators online with the group who can remove members who are disrespectful or rude to others.

Choosing LifeRing Secular Recovery to Get Sober

When choosing a peer support program as part of your sobriety journey, it is important to acknowledge the pros and cons of each program option. You must consider what is most important to you on your journey to recovery. Traditional 12-Step programs like AA and NA are indeed successful, but a multi-faceted approach may not be ideal for all participants. Still, more than 60% of public treatment programs encourage 12-Step involvement, with about 50% of programs holding 12-Step meetings on-site.[5]

Despite an ongoing focus on traditional 12-Step recovery formats, surveys suggest secular programs are also effective in helping addicts achieve and maintain sobriety. Up to 34% of respondents report no longer having a drinking problem after choosing a program like LifeRing over traditional recovery programs. From the same survey, more than 90% of LifeRing participants stated that the program had been helpful and that they would recommend it to a friend.[5]

LifeRing meetings

Frequently Asked Questions

There are some questions that one may ask when considering the LifeRing approach to sobriety. These will be discussed below.

Is LifeRing Similar to AA or NA?

Although LifeRing is a secular organization for sobriety, it does share similarities to AA and NA. Like AA and NA, LifeRing meetings are confidential. All groups are abstinence-based and rely on group support for individual success.

Are the LifeRing Meetings Confidential?

Yes. LifeRing requires all members to keep all conversations from meetings confidential. However, members can discuss their individual participation with loved ones if it will help as part of their recovery.

Is LifeRing Only for Alcoholics?

LifeRing views addictions to drugs and alcohol as equal. This means everyone is welcome at meetings regardless of their substance of choice.

Can Friends and Loved Ones of Alcoholics/Addicts Attend LifeRing?

Yes. Like group participants, friends and loved ones must be clean and sober at the time of the meeting.

Where Can I Learn More About LifeRing?

If you are in search of an alternative to a traditional 12-Step program, LifeRing Secular Recovery may be a good option. LifeRing focuses on the present, not the past. Group members discuss their current challenges and achievements while focusing on setting goals for the next week.

If you would like to learn more about how LifeRing Secular Recovery can help you, contact us at Genesis Recovery today for more information.  


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