Forcing people to attend AA/NA meetings as a condition of parole or probation without offering a secular option was found to be unconstitutional by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco in 2007. It is a religious organization, according to the court, and people who are forced to attend against their will have a right to sue for damages. Unfortunately, many probation officers and parole agents are not aware of the court’s decision or choose to ignore it, so to take advantage of alternative groups, print out a copy of this story and take it with you when you have a court date or are meeting with parole or probation folks to get the alternative support group cleared ahead of time. Officials don’t appreciate hearing that you have done something other than what was promised without checking with them. It’s best to keep those relationships cordial.
For many people, twelve step programs are a good fit. But if you are not Christian, not spiritually-minded, or not comfortable with heavy reliance on a higher power, you have two alternatives right here in town, and even more options on the Internet. Secular organizations do not insist that you rely on a higher power for doing the heavy lifting, but your faith may be a great source of strength for you, and that’s perfectly fine as well. Many people of faith prefer the spiritual privacy of secular support groups.
Two not-for-profit secular addiction recovery support groups meet in Fresno on a weekly basis: SMART Recovery and LifeRing. SMART (Self-Management and Recovery Training) meets on Tuesdays from 8:00 PM to 9:00 PM at Kaiser Permanente Hospital in the Sierra Conference Room on the third floor. LifeRing meets at 8:00 PM on Thursdays at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center at 7300 N. Fresno St in the Redwood Room on the second floor. The contact person for both meetings is David Roberts. You can reach him by phone at (559) 213-0098 or by email at email@example.com. You can browse their comprehensive websites for more information about their take on addiction and recovery.
Both groups offer excellent online meetings as well, as do Women For Sobriety (WFS), Secular Organization for Sobriety (SOS), and many AA/NA groups.
Your questions and comments are welcome. To contact me directly, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.