About Mark

Twenty eight years ago I had a dream to change the alcohol and drug treatment industry to a model that actually worked. I was 19 years old at the time, idealistic, stubborn, and I had just overcome a drinking problem. Out of simple default, I was a member of AA, but a very reluctant and skeptical member. There were no viable alternatives to the 12 steps in 1989, so if you had a substance use issue like I did at the time, well, that’s where you went whether you liked it or not. It was depressing, less than effective, and was a horribly negative experience, yet I remained a member for some years because “that’s all there was.” Like millions through the decades, I too was subjected to learned powerlessness and the self-limiting labels and rhetoric of 12 step support groups and the treatment facility that I was mandated to attend at the time (as a result of a DUI charge).

 

However, it’s not my nature to sit idly by and not question the powers that be. And so as time passed, I grew further and further away from the AA model and began to fulfill my dream to create a better way to help those in need. Over the next 12 years I became a researcher and an author and the first effective alternative to treatment began to take shape. The more I learned and the more experience I gained helping others like myself, the further I drifted from learned powerlessness models. Eventually, myself and Jerry Brown created the first true alternative to the 12 steps with the founding of the Baldwin Research Institute (BRI) and the St. Jude Retreats. Within these two institutes the non-12 step/non-treatment model was born and continues to develop and flourish to this day 28 years later with the publishing of The Freedom Model. Today we know addiction and recovery are merely constructs of our culture – and as a construct, it’s place in society only exists based on a set of learned beliefs. The Freedom Model upends addiction and recovery, and demonstrates that people are in fact the creators of their own motivation to use substances, whether that use is heavy, moderate, light or none at all.

I’m 47 now and still idealistic and stubborn. Not much has changed in that respect I suppose. To this day I want nothing more than to remain a part of the companies I co-founded nearly three decades ago. BRI, the St. Jude Retreats, and The Freedom Model remain my passion in life. By creating the definitive alternative to treatment, addiction and recovery, we challenged the footings of the treatment industry bringing about a slow and steady paradigmatic shift in the American addiction culture.

The Paradigm Shift – 12-Step vs. Non-12 Step

As in any cultural shift, the current paradigm (12 steps/treatment) will take one of two directions to deal with the new way of thinking that is making inroads and shaking up the status quo (The Freedom Model).

In some cases as two paradigms collide, the current paradigm (the status quo) adapts to the new ideas posed by the new paradigm, essentially changing over to the new paradigm over time. A good example of this is the switch from horse and carriage to the Model T Ford. In this case, the old paradigm of horse and carriage transit clearly adapted into the new paradigm, motorized transit. The paradigm shifted dramatically and quite quickly in this particular case. But in most paradigm shifts this smooth transition to progress rarely occurs. Instead, the two paradigms collide and then clash, with the status quo usually remaining the last man standing. The new model’s attributes then die on the vine and essentially disappear to be rediscovered again sometime later, if at all. At BRI we call this process paradigmatic absorption.

Absorption

In paradigmatic absorption, the paradigm that represents the entrenched status quo might look upon the new paradigm and instead of adapting its current form to take on the newcomer’s advantages; it absorbs the new technology and then morphs it back into the status quo essentially eliminating any benefits the new paradigm might have created if given the chance. This absorption process snuffs out progress in whatever field or culture the shift may have occurred. We saw the first step of the absorption process with the treatment industry’s quiet acceptance of the non-12 step moniker coupled with its disdain for the Non-12 step model’s anti-AA/anti-treatment methods

employed. As word spread in the alcohol and drug treatment industry of the St. Jude Retreats and “their non-12 step model,” and the success we were having with the methods we developed, several non-12 step treatment centers popped up across the country. By all outside accounts they sure sounded like St. Jude’s, but that pesky word “treatment” was added to describe these newer versions and gave up the ghost that these new programs were actually non-12 step in name only. These new players in our authentic non-12 step world simply wanted the health insurance dollars, so they became non-12 step and treatment. Of course, a true non-12 step program cannot be treatment too; as these two models are mutually exclusive in both concept and in function. Obviously there must have been a reason for these two mutually exclusive models to attempt to become one model, especially since the two models cannot in actuality coexist effectively.

What actually happened was this: The treatment/12 step paradigm was threatened by its opposite, the non-12 step/non-treatment model we at St. Jude’s founded and developed in the late 90’s and early aught’s. Because non-treatment and treatment are polar opposites, one had to go, or one had to be absorbed by the other. These clashes are inevitable when such conflicting paradigms exist in the same culture or occupy the same physical space or market. Treatment, being the 34 billion dollar monstrosity it is, certainly had the upper hand to absorb the newcomer on the scene; in this case the non-12 step/non-treatment paradigm we developed.

Follow the Money

A non-12 step model cannot gain third party reimbursement for the simple fact that to be an authentic non-12 step methodology you are also by default a non-disease methodology. Therefore, without the diagnostic code for an addiction disease, an authentic non-12 step model must forego health insurance reimbursements that result from such medical codes. Such is the price for ethics. So what did the treatment industry do? Well, the current treatment and recovery model needed to make the non-12 step model a treatment model in some way, shape or form. So, the treatment industry renamed their “treatment centers” as “non-12 step treatment centers.” This provided a new customer base who wanted an alternative to treatment, while also remaining viable to the disease based finance reimbursement sources. The treatment industry had found a way to have their financial cake and eat it too. They could finally get customers who normally would never go through a treatment center by misrepresenting themselves as being “like St. Jude’s.” But because they were not willing to let go of their cash cow, that being the health insurance reimbursements which require the disease model to be present, they needed to keep the disease model quietly running in the background. It’s really quite effective marketing, with respect to making money, it works. But it’s also horribly dishonest and ineffective at helping people. We now see dozens of these treatment centers who market in non-treatment/non-12 step clothes; just one more classification of treatment to further confuse an already packed field. At St. Jude’s we call this public fleecing through name games the “bait and switch routine.” In short, they make the facility sound like a non-12 step approach while also getting the health insurance dollars by quietly remaining disease based and treatment centered.

Make no mistake, those who come to St. Jude’s for the authentic, original non-12 step model do not want anything more to do with treatment and the addiction mythology that is peddled there. But for the unwary vulnerable person who has been virtually destroyed by recovery ideology and its many treatment centers, ugly fear tactics and lies, a simple “non-12 step” implication may be enough to sell them to attend these counterfeit non-12 step programs. This doubling up of non-12 step marketing and treatment based methodology is the first step of the treatment paradigm absorbing the non-12 step paradigm. It co-opted the term “non-12 step” and watered it down to mean the same thing as “treatment.” The absorption process had begun.

As the treatment industry began the process of absorbing and redefining the non-12 step model into a treatment model, a different priority began to force treatment’s gaze away from its focus on the non-treatment model, allowing St. Jude’s to not only survive but grow in the vacuum that was created. In any paradigmatic absorption there requires a weakening of one of the two paradigm’s involved. In this case, by treatment co-opting and bastardizing the non-12 step purity the usual outcome should have been the death of the non-12 step model held by St. Jude’s. But that didn’t happen.

Like many conflicts that had a surprise ending, instead of systematically absorbing the non-12 step competition as most industries would do when they have competition, the treatment industry shifted away from absorbing the non-12 step model and instead doubled down on its message of disease and learned helplessness, thusly moving farther away from the non-12 step/non-treatment model. Meanwhile we at St. Jude’s hammered home the idea that “treatment doesn’t work” to the public at large and we continued to develop The Freedom Model. This brought those looking for a solution to their drug or alcohol problem two very different options. You either needed to accept a mental illness along with your “disease of addiction” to attend an insurance based treatment program, or you could reject all of that and focus your attention upon the non-12 step/non-treatment model. St. Jude’s made the decision to no longer play in the same sandbox as all the other programs in existence. There is St. Jude’s and then there is the rest. We decided to no longer allow the treatment industry to define our programs with cheap look-alikes. “Treatment doesn’t work!” That clearly states that we are not treatment and draws a line in the sand that anyone can understand. The Freedom Model takes this message even further, with it’s factual proclamation that addiction and recovery are constructs of our culture. As such, people can move forward with no programs, no processes, no therapies; nothing whatsoever but factual information designed to show people how to deconstruct the concepts of addiction and recovery and find true freedom.

These two moves, one made by the treatment industry to shift away from its counterfeit efforts while also doubling down on the disease/learned helplessness model, and then St. Jude’s public exclamation that treatment doesn’t work and our creation of The Freedom Model, shifted the trajectories of each organization in opposite directions and completely different customer demographics. Thus there is no longer a paradigmatic conflict nor any absorption occurring – there are just two completely opposite models with opposite results.

As the treatment industry fleeces the public with addiction mythology and fear tactics and learned powerlessness, Baldwin Research continues to pick up those ravaged by this industry’s lies and deception. We pick up the pieces by offering treatment’s opposite. We provide the only true alternative. We offer non-treatment – we offer you The Freedom Model!

The reason the treatment industry failed to snuff out or absorb the authentic non-12 step/non-treatment offered at St. Jude’s and why they will not be able to strangle The Freedom Model either, is really quite simple. Ordinary people want to be empowered and be free, and only a true non-treatment model can provide unequivocal solutions to the problem of substance use. Once the treatment industry diluted non-12 step with its own subtle disease rhetoric, a savvy public that didn’t want to be falsely diagnosed began to smell the rat, and they swiftly shifted their gaze to the only group with the guts to tell it like it is – Baldwin Research/St. Jude Retreats. With the exception of the authentic non-12 step/non-treatment model represented by St. Jude’s and the soon to be released Freedom Model, all other non-12 step programs that are still around are simply rebadged treatment models. It might say non-12 step, but it’s really just the same ole’ rehab thing that’s been churning for 70 years since AA’s beginnings.

It’s a matter of momentum. The challenge of any new paradigm is its ability to touch enough lives throughout a culture or market to build social momentum. This becomes more difficult as the status quo co-opts terms of the new model, thereby watering down the definition and blurring the lines between the old and the new paradigms. This then forces the new paradigm to always remain one step ahead of the old paradigm’s tactics to absorb them. Baldwin Research and the St. Jude Retreats have managed to stay ahead of the competing status quo, and over its twenty eight year history we continued to grow. But our biggest achievement will be the upcoming book, The Freedom Model. We will remain the tip of the spear in the alcohol and drug research field. We will also remain the only true alternative to treatment and the 12 steps and all the other forms of recovery ideology.

Enter The Freedom Model

The more recent non-treatment methods we employ in our current St. Jude Program have blossomed in The Freedom Model. A new era for St. Jude’s and Baldwin Research has begun. The clear differences between treatment and non-treatment will be even more glaring as we eviscerate the cultural constructs of addiction and recovery. Treatment and the 12 steps and their empty promises will be exposed in glaring detail and we will openly challenge the recovery movement with the same honesty, research and experience we always have. We will prove that not only has treatment et al. been a horrible cultural mistake, but that its offshoot – recovery – is just as empty and filled with mythology and damaging rhetoric. The Freedom Model will provide a path away from treatment and recovery, and provide what many desire instead, true freedom from both.