Over the last 3+ decades I’ve worked with tens of thousands of people who sought help for a drinking or a drug problem. Being the co-founder of the St. Jude Retreat and a co-author of The Freedom Model for Addictions has put me in a unique position to understand what exists for substance users and what is effective and what isn’t. Many people I talk with do not want the same old 12 step nonsense, so they’ve begun the process of looking at alternatives to conventional treatment. Part of that includes searching the internet for a solution and finding programs that describe themselves as “non-12 step”. Not being sure what this term means exactly, but also being intrigued, they dig deeper and find hundreds of these so-called non-12 step programs throughout the country. This can be overwhelming, and in the end, how do they know which of these alternative programs is the best?

In the interests of full disclosure, I created the term non-12 step in 1992, three years into our research into building a more effective model for substance users, the St. Jude Retreat. I’d been mandated to 12 step treatment prior to that, and the experience was not only unhelpful but was painful and disempowering. I knew there had to be a better way, and within a few short years, I came away from the research knowing the 12 steps were not the grand solution that they had been promoted to be. Telling people they have a disease that they don’t have, and promoting the idea that they are powerless to stop taking substances does nothing to help that person overcome these problems. It actually engenders learned helplessness. And so the alternative was built.

The Early Years of the Non-12 step Revolution

Most research is conducted in an attempt to prove a hypothesis. Mine was simple – were the 12 steps effective? Sure, I’d had a horrendous experience in 12 step treatment just months prior, but I wanted to know if I’d missed anything. Could the 12 steps be effective as an overall solution? What I and the rest of the research team discovered in the following decade was astounding. Not only did we find out that the 12 step model was completely ineffective, but we also found out that the roots of the steps themselves were fiction; they were made up by AA’s co-founder and cult leader Bill Wilson. In the midst of these discoveries was the birthing of AA’s alternative – the Non-12 step classification of addiction-help programs, the Baldwin Program (which eventually evolved into The Freedom Model decades later).

With that brief history lesson out of the way for context, let us get down to brass tacks – how does one pick a legitimate, effective and helpful non-12 step program?

  1. Find out if the program offers a non-12 step-only curriculum. If the program in question has a strange amalgamation of offerings (for example “holistic” therapies and activities, support group emphasis, confrontational therapy, aversion therapy, catharsis theory-based methods, group therapy, or offers all, or some types of aftercare meetings, or even offers voluntary 12 step meetings while at the facility in question) this indicates that they ARE NOT a legitimate non-12 step model. Non-12 step means that the solution emanates from the individual making direct personal choices about their substance use, and this does not require any of the aforementioned recovery style techniques or distractions to the individual’s decision-making process.
  2. If the facility in question pushes or promotes the need for “support”, then it is not a true non-12 step program. While having support might help a person move forward in life in various areas, stopping or moderating substance use within the non-12 step arena is not seen as a matter of needing more willpower or strength, therefore no support is needed. Since it is only a matter of making informed decisions internally to the individual, what is needed is the proper information and then the individual can choose better for themselves – whatever they have determined is “better”.
  3. If there is any recovery lingo involved, then it is not a true non-12 step model. Recovery implies loss of control theory, a disease being present, and the need for greater willpower. None of this is reality and therefore is not a part of a valid non-12 step approach.
  4. If the facility is promoting “lifetime MAT” as what is needed for the individual to stay away from their drug of choice, that is definitely not a true non-12 step model. Rather, that is just another disempowering recovery model that is using replacement therapies in an inappropriate manner.
  5. Lastly, if the facility in question states in any way that there is a class of people who are incapable of moderating their use, that lose control, that have SUD (substance use disorder), have the disease of addiction, or are classified or labeled as “addicts” or are “alcoholics”, then it is definitely not a true non-12 step model.

Being the original non-12 step method, The Freedom Model follows a simple, effective way to moderate your use or abstain from all use if that is the option you choose. By sweeping away all of the treatment and recovery myths, you can become open to the truth – and that is that you can easily move past an addiction and move on with your life. You will see that addiction is NOT a compelled behavior as the recovery society wants you to believe (so that you will go to disease-based treatment and stay immersed in the recovery lifestyle for the rest of your life), but rather it is a preference for heavy use that can be challenged and then changed for good.

To learn more about the only valid, thoroughly tested non-12 step model in existence today (the one that makes no apologies for the researched truth), go to www.soberfoever.net or www.thefreedommodel.org or call Danny Wike at 888-424-2626.