What is the Secular Organization for Sobriety?

Medically Reviewed By Nicole Arzt| Last Edited : February 02, 
| 4 Sources

Save Our Selves - Effective AA Alternative

Providing an effective alternative to Alcoholics Anonymous.

If you are committed to sobriety, but AA isn't exactly for you, there are other options like the Secular Organization for Sobriety that can help you on your road to recovery. You want to feel empowered moving forward, but maybe AA isn’t the best method for you. Fortunately, it’s not the only option!

The Secular Organization For Sobriety or SOS for short, is an effective alternative to the Alcoholics Anonymous program. It differs from AA in a number of ways:

  • Sobriety and spiritualism/religion are not necessarily connected. Individuals make their own decision regarding the connection. If you have spiritual beliefs, you are accepted. But if you don’t adhere to specific spiritual beliefs, you are still accepted.
  • No prescribed steps or plan to follow. There a suggested strategy but this is purely optional, and all ways to sobriety are respected
  • No sponsor, no prayers This program does not require that you accept a sense of powerlessness or surrender to your substance. 
  • Meetings are not substance specific. Addiction and the urgency of sobriety do not depend on the drug of choice. In fact, SOS is open to people struggling with behavioral compulsions, such as overeating. 
  • Meeting format is more flexible and open to change than Alcoholic Anonymous meetings. You can choose between physical or online meetings.
  • Skepticism is supported. Members of SOS are encouraged to follow scientific, evidence-based approaches when it comes to understanding and treating their addictions. 
  • SOS is a nonprofit group dedicated to sobriety and abstinence. They believe in the concept of self-empowerment, in the sense that abstinence is “Priority One, no matter what! Instead of giving one’s Higher Power the credit for sobriety, SOS acknowledges the individual for achieving and sustaining recovery.

Secular Organization for Sobriety
The Basic Philosophy

While the separate groups are autonomous, they all follow certain basic principles.

First, everyone who desires sobriety is welcome. There are no ulterior motives, and SOS is not a spin-off of any other religious group. SOS is self-supporting and believes that individuals can choose their own methods and beliefs for recovery. 

Rather than bylaws that each separate group must follow, SOS puts out Suggested Guidelines in order to help people who wish to start drug and alcohol addiction recovery groups in their areas.

One of the suggestions that most of the groups do follow is the daily Cycle of Sobriety, a three part process, in which they:

  • acknowledge their alcoholism,
  • accept that they have an addiction,
  • make it a priority each day to remain sober.

Secular Organization for Sobriety
Individual Groups

The meetings themselves are similar to that of AA where participants share with each other their stories of alcoholism and support each other in their recoveries. secular organization for sobriety

Anonymity is usually the policy, although it's not strictly a rule – it's up to each group to make that choice. Anonymity refers to maintaining confidentiality about group member names and identities. In general, this ensures the safety and trust within a specific group. Because addiction can be so shameful and embarrassing, it’s important that people feel comfortable opening up to others.   

During groups, participants are encouraged to share their feelings as they go through the process of recovery.

The main philosophy of SOS remains the Sobriety Priority – achieving and maintaining sobriety must be the priority of the alcoholic's life. This mindset is essential. If you don’t make sobriety your top priority, you risk relapsing and losing everything you’ve worked so hard to obtain!

The participant is free to choose from any aids to their recovery but honest, open communication of thoughts and feelings is very much encouraged.

Group members assist each other with support when needed. They collaborate together to share useful knowledge and productive ideas for staying sober and healthy. 

Meetings often reinforce the sobriety tool kit, which includes remembering that you can:

  • Learn to use fear (rather than live in it or deny it altogether).
  • Focus on “doing it now” instead of procrastinating.
  • Credit yourself when you succeed, instead of attributing your virtues to others.
  • Enjoy life and appreciate all that it has to offer.
  • Care about yourself and make things good for yourself.
  • Try over and over again.
  • Visualize and expect good things to happen to you.
  • Interrupt negative, unhelpful thoughts.
  • Examine drunk people and remind yourself that you no longer want to live that way.
  • Choose positive actions, even when they’re small! 

Scientific Study Of Alcoholism

The other emphasis of the group is the scientific study of alcoholism in order to understand it and to overcome it. The group takes no stand on whether alcoholism is a disease or whether it is not – they leave that determination up to the individual participants in the groups.

They encourage members to educate themselves on alcohol and the effects on the body, as well as the mind, believing that education and awareness are key to becoming sober and staying that way.

There is no rule that participants must be secular humanists or disbelieve in a higher power.

All are welcome as long as their personal spiritual beliefs are not pushed on other members.

There is no discussion of any sort of religion or higher power at SOS meetings, which can be a difficult policy to enforce.

Where Can I Find A Meeting?

There are SOS meetings throughout the world, however, they can be hard to locate in certain areas. For a searchable database of meetings click here.

If you can't access a live meeting then it is possible to have online SOS chat, click here to access it.

"If you're unsure whether alcohol may be a problem, speak with one of our supportive counselors. With many having first-hand experience they understand the struggle. The free chat is confidential & they are available 24/7."

Other AA Alternatives:

Secular Organization for Sobriety

SOS was founded by a man named James Christopher, an alcoholic who tried to follow the principles of AA but who was not comfortable with the religious aspects of the group.

He wrote a piece for the secular humanist journal, Free Inquiry, in 1985, which questioned those spiritual aspects.

He soon found he not alone in his struggles. Many people find themselves disagreeing with the foundational principles suggested in AA. There was a huge response to the articles from readers, with Christopher getting hundreds of letters from people who felt the same way he did.

Seeing the need, Christopher organized the first secular self-help meeting for alcoholics in 1986.

The organization has grown from there, with many groups forming based on the same principles.

In 1987, the California courts officially recognized SOS as a viable substitution to AA in sentencing offenders requiring mandatory rehabilitation care. Today, SOS prides itself on offering a highly-effective alternative to 12-step programs. 

If you or someone close to you wants help and advice on quitting drinking then take a look at the following pages:

Lead Writer/Reviewer : Kayla Loibl

Licensed Medical Health Professional 


I am a Mental Health Counselor who is licensed in both New York (LMHC) and North Carolina (LCMHC). I have been working in the Mental Health field since 2015. I have worked in a residential setting, an outpatient program and an inpatient addictions program. I began working in Long Island, NY and then in Guelph, Ontario after moving to Canada. Read More


Evidence-Based Approaches to Drug Addiction Treatment provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/evidence-based-approaches-to-drug-addiction-treatment.

The Shame of Addiction provided by the US National Library of Medicine: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3792617/.

About James Christopher provided by Secular Organizations For Sobriety: http://www.sossobriety.org/jim-christopher

Secular Organization For Sobriety (SOS) provided by AA Agnostica: https://aaagnostica.org/secular-organization-for-sobriety-sos/

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