What Does Non-12 Step Mean Exactly?

Back in the early 90’s when Jerry Brown, Michelle Dunbar and I founded Baldwin Research Institute (BRI) and the St. Jude Retreat; our research forced us to slowly separate ourselves from AA and its 12 step methods. It was a natural progression away from harmful and ineffective methods, to one that actually helped people. In essence our model, at that time, told people they had a choice to drink/use or not to drink/use, and that happiness was a better, more effective motivator than was fear. This put us at direct odds with the cult of 12 step programs. It was during these early years that we began to discuss the model we were developing as “non-12 step”. At this point what we were building hadn’t really taken shape yet (we wouldn’t write The Freedom Model – the replacement of the 12 step model – for another 2 decades), and so we just described the framework as not 12 step or for lack of a better label, “non-12 step”. And so an entirely new form of helping the substance user began to take shape in America and Europe.

As the years went by non-12 step became a popular term and idea, and we were the people who gave it life and legs. Also, by being the first addiction-help program on the worldwide web (pre-Google), our promotion of the term gained real traction. Actually it exploded. And then something very unfortunate happened; others in the addiction-help arena – namely popular rehab chains – began to use the term to gain private pay customers they couldn’t entice with the standard AA rhetoric. And this is where things went sideways.

As BRI and St. Jude’s stood by our movement away from AA and NA, companies in the treatment industry that were dependent on health insurance reimbursement remained tied to the disease of addiction medical diagnostic codes that were required for them to gain third party reimbursement. This means that these rehabs and clinics continued to use the 12 steps in their model (albeit very secretly), while promoting themselves as non-12 step rehabs. Put bluntly, they lied to get people who did not want a 12 step rehab while still remaining tied to the disease of addiction model that defines the 12 steps. It was, and remains to this day, to be the ultimate bait and switch routine in rehab circles. All of this lying is to gain both private pay AND insurance dollars, something a true non-12 step, non-disease based program cannot do. At St. Jude’s we have never chased third party reimbursement (health insurance dollars, Medicaid, etc.) because we will never falsely diagnose someone with a disease that doesn’t exist as a means to gain that style of funding. It’s wrong and it’s dishonest to those vulnerable customers who desire a true non-12 step program.

So What is a True Non-12 Step Program?

First, there is only one true non-12 step model – The Freedom Model. You might think I am self-promoting here. I’m not. I’m stating a fact that I will back up as a means for people to know the difference. Here is why we are the only true non-12 step model in the world today:

  1. We do not tell people they have a disease of addiction or alcoholism – there is no such thing
  2. We demonstrate that there is no loss of control in regards to heavy substance use, no matter how entrenched the habit might be
  3. We demonstrate why and how there is no such thing as an alcoholic or an addict
  4. We show that addiction is not real when defined as a compelled behavior
  5. We demonstrate that heavy substance use is not chronic
  6. We show that identifying as “in recovery” from a substance use habit is completely unnecessary
  7. We show that heavy substance use habits go away in more than 90% of the heavy use population, with or without treatment (when you factor in age)
  8. We show that there is no need for treatment, rehab or any support meetings to move past an addiction permanently

No other program is so unequivocal. All other non-12 step imposters hedge on one or more of these points, making them fall back into a 12-step model or a control-based model (of which AA and NA are a part). You cannot believe in any addiction/recovery mythology and be a true non-12 step method. And because The Freedom Model is the only model that tells the truth without fear or apologies, it truly is and has been, the only non-12 step program in the world today.

For more information about the St. Jude Retreat or The Freedom Model, call 888-424-2626