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Substance Use Blog Series: Mutual Aid Groups Part II

This is part 2 of our 3-part series describing mutual aid groups for substance use recovery. Last week we went through the most common of these groups, SMART Recovery and 12-step programs. This week we are exploring two more groups accessible from Delta and surrounding areas: The 16-step program and LifeRing.

16 steps

The 16 step program works from an empowerment model and values flexibility and openness in regards to its recovery principles. It grew out of the work of Dr. Charlotte Kasl. In 16 step meetings, there is a strong sense of openness to what works for different individuals. It does have steps, which are based accessing one’s own wisdom, empowerment, and self-affirmation. They can be found here

People often choose the 16 step program because of its emphasis on empowerment, positivity, acknowledgment of social influences, and its broad sense of spirituality.

The 12 step program is also flexible regarding its spiritual language, but still uses its original Christian language, and some people prefer the explicit spiritual openness of the 16 steps.

16 step meetings

Because of its values of empowerment and recognition of the impact of oppression on substance use, these groups are often held at women’s shelters and catered towards women fleeing violence, as well as other vulnerable populations. Atira Women’s Resource Society holds these meetings in Surrey, which can be accessed here.


The LifeRing program does not follow steps, and rather relies on group members to design their own personal recovery plan. This program sees those in recovery as having two selves: The Addict Self and the Sober Self, and the group aims to help members strengthen their Sober Self and weaken the Addict Self.

LifeRing meets individuals at whatever point they are at in their recovery, but seeks to support them to reach full sobriety. It is also entirely secular. While the 16 step program uses a broad and inclusive sense of spirituality within its steps, LifeRing keeps spirituality out of the picture entirely. At the same time, even though it does not bring spirituality into its meetings, it is not anti-faith or anti-spirituality in principle, and encourages its members to incorporate their own spirituality independently however they see fit (LifeRing)

LifeRing Meetings

These meetings consist of individuals using their Sober Self to connect with the Sober Selves in others. This is done through sharing advice, understanding, encouragement.

LifeRing intentionally focusses on the present Sober Self more than past damage experienced by the Addict Self (LifeRing).

This way of connecting is briefly summarized in the following video:

In Canada, LifeRing meetings have moved online due to the pandemic. You can access online meetings here, and use the zoom login info that corresponds with your preferred meeting time. 

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