What recovery groups have in common is that they provide support for an individual's desire to quit drinking. All of them focus on techniques for quitting, and all except Moderation Management are based on abstinence. Dealing with urges, avoiding drinking situations, dealing with lapses--obviously, these are the main emphasis at first. ANY program is likely to work for you in early sobriety if you make a commitment to abstinence, make changes in your day-to-day life to enhance those changes, and do some planning for dealing with urges. PPP--Patience, Practice, and Persistence--is a concept that could apply to any plan for sobriety.
Finding a recovery program with which you share core beliefs can be real important to your long-term success. It's difficult enough to quit drinking; getting into philosophical arguments about the foundations of your drinking behavior can be a diversion from the goal of sobriety! Nevertheless, using whatever is available locally might get you through the early stage of quitting simply because of the peer support.
I quit drinking using the principles of cognitive behavioral theory. The basic principle is that irrational beliefs lead to unhealthy behavior, and that beliefs can be changed. There is no spiritual basis, although those with strong spiritual or religious beliefs will obviously find them useful to strengthen those beliefs if that will enhance their sobriety. SMART Recovery and Rational Recovery focus on using your thinking and beliefs to achieve sobriety. LifeRing and SOS focus on secular group meetings to provide encouragement and support.
I don't have any direct experience with AA, but my observation of those who come to other programs from AA is that the three concepts that seem to bother most of them are the disease concept, the use of a higher power, and the idea that we are powerless over alcohol. Folks from AA have given me good explanations of the many different ways they approach these concepts, but they can be a real hurdle for people who don't come from a religious background.
SMART Recovery and RR don't use the term "alcoholic" (SMART rejects the disease concept except as a metaphor--and only if that is useful to you), and work to enhance the power you have within your self to achieve sobriety (SMART stands for Self Management And Recovery Training). Some people successfully integrate different programs, attending face-to-face meetings for the group support and companionship but adopting different philosophies as they make their own paths to sobriety.
One problem is that in many places AA is the only organization with regular face-to-face meetings available. It is the oldest and best-known program, and in many cases the only one used for diversion programs in mandated treatment (in spite of court rulings). But in the age of the internet we have other options, including online meetings using text and voice chat.
There is no religious or doctrinal history in cognitive-based programs, with all the baggage that often carries. As such, they are open to those who seek spiritual growth as part of sobriety (or vice versa)--or those with a more analytical world view. Engineers and artists are equally able to use them.
Most of us who used substances shared an irrational belief that we were alone--that our problem was unique, so no group could possibly help us. It's always a relief to find that others have been where we are, and to learn from their experiences.
People who successfully quit drinking have three characteristics in common, regardless of the program (if any) they adopt:
--they make a firm commitment to sobriety;
--they make lifestyle changes to enhance their commitment;
--they plan and practice for combating urges.
All of the recovery groups that I've read about focus on the latter two aspects in the short run, to help you break the pattern of substance abuse. How you come to that firm commitment is the key to long-term sobriety: staying stopped once you've figured out how to get stopped.
Yours for ecumenical sobriety....