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The St. Jude Retreats History

A Timeline of Hope and Results


First and foremost, the St. Jude Retreats and our non-disease, non-treatment approach to drug and alcohol problems was created based on research. We at St. Jude's didn't set out to create a cognitive behavioral educational 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. This was an approach no other program offered (St. Jude's is still the only program worldwide with this sensible approach.) Through the years of research, it became obvious that there was a need for a program that actually was a proponent of the people, not a control model bent on telling individuals how to live. To this present day, St. Jude's remains the only program 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 programsa that people were needlessly dying or were 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 a 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 St. Jude Program Series


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, 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 of 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 that cultural connection that promotes 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 attendee 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 that 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 St. Jude Program completed the six-week educational program and moved on with their lives and had better success than those who involved themselves in the meetings. With these results in, we disbanded the meeting structure completely, and thus broke free from the 12 step model completely. The St. Jude Program was born – the first true social/educational cognitive, non treatment approach to alcohol and drug problems!

2000 to the Present

Over the last 12 years the St. Jude Program has been rewritten eight separate times and is now in its 13th edition. We have also built 2 more retreats, created the St. Jude Home Program and the St. Jude Program NYC. Unlike 12 step programs like AA that have never had a rewrite of their program in over 70 years, (since 1939) St. 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 St. Jude Program 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, create positive Neuroplastic changes within the brain tissue, and gain all of these positive changes without additional drugs, (such as 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 St. Jude Retreats can show you the path to that reality.