The 12 step recovery model has been the most popular addiction treatment model in the world since 1939 and has remained basically unchanged for the past 80 years. The majority of residential addiction treatment centers (95%) are based on the 12 steps. Many believe that the popularity of the program is due to its effectiveness. However, the statistics for sobriety in 12 step programs indicate otherwise.
In their 2014 book, The Sober Truth: Debunking the Bad Science Behind 12-Step Programs and the Rehab Industry, Dr. Lance Dodes and Zachary Dodes state that, “Peer reviewed studies peg the success rate of AA somewhere between five and 10 percent…About one of every 15 people who enter these programs is able to become and stay sober.” According to Alcoholics Anonymous’ own 2007 internal study, success rates for long-term sobriety were thirty-three percent (33%) at best, not taking into account people who begin to attend meetings and then drop out of the program.
12 step recovery is based on the disease model of addiction. In other words, addiction is considered an incurable disease, and as such, being “in recovery” means a lifetime of disease “symptom management.” In this model, one never achieves recovery. The focus is on the addiction itself, and the goal is abstention from using a substance or an acting out behavior. In this model, a person is irrevocably damaged and defective, or “ diseased,” and must lead a life of hypervigilance to remain sober and out of harm’s way.
12 step slogans illustrate this 12 step program foundational belief. They include sayings such as, “You are only 1 drink away from a drunk.” “Jails, institutions or death.” “Remember that addiction is incurable, progressive and fatal.” Or, “While I’m sitting in a meeting, my disease is doing push-ups in the parking lot.”
There is no argument that addiction can kill. We need only to look at the news to see the epidemic of the opiate crisis. It is easy to see how the focus of recovery is on staying alive. However, if the focus of recovery remains fear-based and on the addictive behavior itself, long-term, sustainable recovery will be more difficult, if not impossible, to achieve.
Although abstinence is a given for successful recovery, addiction treatment must be focused on the underlying core issue and root cause of the addiction. Often addiction is a coping strategy to help self-medicate, soothe or numb the underlying issues related to trauma and subconscious disempowering beliefs about oneself, others and the world. By focusing treatment on the coping strategy, as in the 12 step model, the underlying core issue is never healed.
Because addiction always has an underlying cause, be it physical or psychological, recovery from an addiction in significantly improved using an integrated, non-12 step approach. Unfortunately, the term non-12 step is not descriptive of an actual program model. Non-12 step can mean anything that is not 12 step. Therefore, it is important to understand specifics of any program you may be considering.
For example, what is the program philosophy? What is included in the program? What is the facility’s position on medication? What is the daily schedule? How qualified is the staff? How much time do you get with them? These are all important questions, as there is no standard as to what constitutes non-12 step treatment.
Only through an integrative, holistic addiction treatment protocol, where a person’s entire being – mind, body, soul and spirit are considered, can a person identify and then heal underlying trauma and related self-sabotaging beliefs. Addictions are then no longer needed to self-medicate core wounds. This means a life of “being recovered” rather than a life of “being in recovery,” and allows for a life open to new experiences rather than a life defined by past addictions.
Please visit our non 12 step page to learn more about The Sanctuary’s non 12 step rehab approach, or call us at 1.877.710.3385.