Some Ottawa groups are aiming to help alcoholics recover without the spiritual element of Alcoholics Anonymous, which says people have to submit to a higher power to beat addiction.
The recently-formed Secular Recovery Ottawa says it provides a "non-religious," peer-based service with a code of conduct, fellowship and acceptance similar to AA but without the spiritual themes found in six steps of the 12-step process.
"Why should we have to wade through all of this religion to what's really important? Young people who are walking into these meetings are hearing the religious aspect and are walking out again," said Clifford Beninger, who started Secular Recovery after 20 years of trying to navigate AA programs himself.
"Some of them will stay, definitely, and some will benefit, but why should they have to get through that to get to exactly what you're talking about: the peer support and the help they need?" he added.
Other organizations doing similar work include SMART Recovery Ontario and Secular Organizations for Sobriety, Beninger said.
Alcoholics Anonymous is well-known and most in-patient addiction treatment programs send clients to AA after their work is done.
Supporters of Alcoholics Anonymous say it's not necessarily about religion, it's about the results.
"We don't do it because of any theoretical or philosophical things, we do it because this is the best way we can get people to not come back," said Dr. Patrick Smith, CEO of Renascent, Canada’s largest publicly-funded addiction treatment centre.
"If I had a better option for people for people who want recovery, I would turn them to it. But I haven't seen anything that's as robust. They've had decades of development, and you can go anywhere and get that support."
Former hockey star Sheldon Kennedy said AA's spiritual component helped him.
"To me it's not about religion," Kennedy said. "It's about spiritual peace and spiritual peace is important."
A spokesman for AA said while the organization makes use of the word "God," there is no attempt to define what that may mean for a member. The organization's literature also outlines that the Twelve Step program is a suggestion, not a requirement, the spokesman notes.