The Saint Jude Retreats History

A Timeline of Hope and Results


First and foremost, the Saint Jude Retreats and The Freedom Model - our non-disease, non-treatment approach to drug and alcohol problems - was created based on research. We at Saint Jude's didn't set out to create a choice based method when we began the research in the mid 80's. But a decade of watching individuals rebuild their lives drove the research to the conclusion that a cognitive educational method was the most effective vehicle for promoting personal positive self-change. The underpinnings of The Freedom Model were born. This was an approach no other program offered (Saint Jude's is still the only program worldwide with this sensible and logic based approach.) Through the years of research, it became obvious that there was a need for a method that actually was a proponent of the people, not a control model bent on telling individuals how to live. To this day, Saint Jude's remains the only facility designed to help people help themselves and become responsible for all their personal choices!

In the early to mid 1980's, we witnessed, through our own experience in treatment programs and 12-Step programs, that people were needlessly dying or trapped in counseling and treatment modalities for life, and many of those seemed to get worse the longer they remained in therapy or treatment. We too got worse, never better. We felt trapped, lost and in constant guilt and fear of "relapse." And, to add to this negative experience, none of the information we received made sense. It was not intuitive and was counter to simple common sense. It removed free will and personal power, personal qualities that people naturally know they are born with, and replaced it with guilt and fear. So, when it was evident that there was no light at the end of the treatment tunnel, we began asking questions.

When the "addiction professionals" could not answer simple questions like, "How is my choice to drink/drug anything like a real disease like leukemia?", then it became obvious that we as researchers needed to find the answers. That was 1988. That simple question was the beginning of the non-treatment model now known around the world as The Freedom Model.


We wanted to know more and decided to study the other main premises of the recovery culture at the time. Do people need support group meetings to stay sober? Do they need a religious or spiritual involvement and to "surrender" their will to God? Do you need to do service work with other troubled people to stay sober? As we questioned the recovery paradigm, we found that while any single person may find any of these practices helpful and/or enjoyable – not one of them was necessary for sustained happiness and, in many cases, the guilt surrounding many of these premises caused greater grief than benefits.

In testing these ideas, we even went so far as to create our own set of support group meetings, an alternative to 12-Step AA and NA meetings. While the atmosphere was uplifting, the group members were caring people and the message at the meetings was consistent with the teachings of our program at that time, and the group members were caring people, it still proved to be the wrong approach. Essentially, the meetings provided a convenient fence to ride; a way for our graduates to avoid the decision to move on with their lives. These meetings became no different than the AA subculture it was attempting to replace - a "dose of daily medicine." They inherently sent the message that social support was necessary, once again building those learned connections (Chapter 6 in The Freedom Model) that promote the idea that our graduates were somehow fragile and in need of hiding from life's trials and struggles. The individual began to see themselves as somehow different than the average successful individual and thus in need of continuous support. The attendees fell into the mindset that they did not have the personal ability to change their behavior, that their behavior is somehow determined by outside forces, and the meetings became the crutch to avoid those natural stresses. We were reinforcing the powerlessness credo without intending to do so. In stark contrast, however, many graduates of the Saint Jude Program (which is what the method was called in those earlier years) completed the six-week educational program, moved on with their lives, and had better success than those who involved themselves in the meetings. With these results, we disbanded the meeting structure completely, and thus broke free from the 12 Step model completely. The Freedom Model was born - the first true social/educational cognitive, non-treatment approach to alcohol and drug problems!

2000 to the Present

Over the last 17 years the Saint Jude Program has been rewritten nine separate times and has now been completely rewritten again - this time with the addition of famed writer/researcher Steven Slate as a co-author with Ms. Michelle Dunbar and Mr. Mark Scheeren. The Freedom Model is changing the entire landscape of how addiction and recovery are seen and addressed. In that time, we also built the Executive Retreat, opened a day-class office in Manhattan, NYC, and founded Saint Jude Private Instruction. All of these new facilities and models have The Freedom Model as its paradigm. Unlike 12 Step programs like AA or NA that have never had a rewrite of their program since 1939 or the last 70 years, Saint Jude's is built on research, not stagnant, ineffective, cult-like unchanged dogma. Research demands greater, safer, and more effective methods as each day passes. In this sense, The Freedom Model and our non confrontational methods have revolutionized how people with substance usage issues are helped. Nowhere else will you find the freedom to build goal sets based on personal happiness, learn how to take full responsibility for your choices and actions, and gain all of these positive changes without additional drugs (with anti-depressants or substitute therapy such as Suboxone or methadone), endless therapy or continuous meetings.

You are a powerful being and it is just a matter of where you have placed your power that can result in positive self-change, or negative self change. The choice is up to you, and the Saint Jude Retreats can show you the path to that reality.

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