Here’s the deal; it isn’t even close. When you pit the non-12 step model against the 12 step model you’re looking at an unfair fight. The reason is simple – trying to find a singular benefit of the 12 step program to make a comparison is almost impossible. So when you’re starting point is such an unbelievably low benchmark, it isn’t difficult to build the opposite into a model that performs better. Let’s take a look…
Reason #1: Non 12 Step programs Outperform 12 Step Programs in Every Positive Metric
Let’s start with the most repeated lie of all, “The 12 steps are the most successful program for drinking, man has ever seen!” So how does a non-12 step model compare to such a supposedly powerful program? Well, if the 12 steps are truly the most successful method out there, then we don’t have a high benchmark to beat. Think about it, more than 50% of people who go to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), the first 12 step model created; don’t stay longer than 30 days. They attend some meetings and then leave feeling that it doesn’t “resonate” with them. After interviewing more than 25,000 of these folks over the course of the last 33 years of research, we see that many people who have tried AA and left continue to drink problematically. The good news is that eventually nearly all (91% of them to be exact) moderate their drinking to non-problematic levels or they quit for good – but that takes some time to iron out. With that said, neither positive result is because of the 12 step model; it is in spite of it. They reject the 12 steps ideas of doom and gloom and find their own way out of the maze of their addictions. The 5% who stay become lifers who spend their evenings in church basements, parroting AA slogans, and fearing alcohol for the rest of their lives. For them, I suppose that’s happiness, but it certainly doesn’t paint a very bright picture for most of us!
So how does the non-12 step model compare? At the St. Jude Retreat, where the first non-12 step model was created in 1989, the voluntary retreat retention rate (those who stay to complete a non-12 step curriculum – The Freedom Model) is 92%, simply meaning people don’t leave when they have the chance (unlike AA’s 95% drop out rate by the end of 1 year). Their long term abstinence rate post retreat stay is 62.5%, and the successful moderation population is 22%. These people end up wanting to learn how not to feel powerless and broken, and so they stay to complete an education on exactly how to do that. Would these folks end up eventually moving past their addiction like the 91% who do given enough time to do so? Yes, but they don’t have to spend years struggling in and out of the revolving door of heavy use, treatment, and recovery. Instead, they are provided the opposing research to the 12 steps, and they learn to move on from their addictions within weeks instead of years, decades or an entire lifetime.
Reason #2: Non-12 Step has No Limitations on Choice
The 12 steps teach you that alcohol (and/or drugs) has the power to compel you to use them, and that the individual has no power. This means that people who are “enslaved” by alcohol or drugs, then must become enslaved by “going to 12 step meetings for the rest of their lives” as a means to shelter themselves from this nebulous force called addiction and alcoholism. The non-12 step model has no such mythical ideas. There is no nebulous force; the individual is not powerless to the mystical forces of drugs and alcohol, etc. There are just choices to be made internally, and the person is seen as free to make them. So in the 12 step program, your life is completely hampered by the external opinions of the gurus and “old timers” of the meeting groups, and in the non-12 step model no such hierarchy of power exists – there’s just you making personal decisions based on factual information, and your assessment of what you want and don’t want for your life.
Reason #3: Non-12 Step Provides a Path to Freedom by Debunking the 12 Step Model!
Here is the irony of all ironies: The biggest benefit of a non-12 step model is that it isn’t a 12 step model. Much of the non-12 step model is in correcting all of the logical errors contained in the 12 steps as well as the 12 step’s dramatic and unfortunate influence on society. This undoing of the 12 steps is so the individual has a path to grow past that self-limiting ethos. This is probably the best benefit of a non-12 step program. It literally prevents the individual from going down the 12 step rabbit hole of feeling powerless, needy, broken and worst of all; becoming trapped in the cult of 12 step thinking and meetings for the rest of their life.
There are many other benefits of a non-12 step model that we could pit against the 12 step paradigm, but we’d be beating a dead horse. Just these three comparisons are enough to cast aside any idea that a 12 step method is the direction one should travel to solve any problem. It’s time to let go of 1930’s dogma and then uncork your vast potential, let go of your addiction and then move on without the endless burden of a lifetime of addiction recovery!