By Joy Birnbach Dunstan, MA, LPC, MAC
Paths of Empowerment
There are more paths to sobriety than I have fingers to count them on, and comments I’ve received recently tell me there is great interest in alternatives to the traditional Alcoholics Anonymous program. One of my favorites is the “New Life” Program developed by Jean Kirkpatrick, author of Turnabout: New Help for the Woman Alcoholic. Her original group using these principles is called Women for Sobriety, and there are now Men for Sobriety groups meeting worldwide as well.
After years of being unable to maintain sobriety through AA alone, Kirkpatrick developed a program focused on improving self-esteem and reducing guilt rather than powerlessness and surrender to a Higher Power (the traditional AA foundation). Originally aimed at women, its ideas are pertinent to everyone, even if you’ve never had a problem with addiction.
The New Life methods promote behavioral change through positive reinforcement, cognitive strategies, body-centered techniques (relaxation, meditation, diet, and exercise), and group support. Its principles pave a road of self-discovery and personal growth.
In contrast to the traditional introduction used in AA (“I’m _____ and I’m an alcoholic”), WFS/MFS members introduce themselves by saying, “My name is _____ , and I am a competent woman/man. This week I ...”
Instead of twelve steps, the New Life program has thirteen affirmations representing six levels of growth in which members accept the physical nature of alcoholism, remove negativity, learn to think better of themselves, change their attitudes, improve their relationships, and change their life’s priorities. Read them and consider making them a part of your life, no matter what problem you may be struggling with.
1. I have a life-threatening problem that once had me. I now take charge of my life. I accept the responsibility.
2. Negative thoughts destroy only myself. My first conscious act must be to remove negativity from my life.
3. Happiness is a habit I will develop. Happiness is created, not waited for.
4. Problems bother me only to the degree I permit them to. I now better understand my problems and do not permit problems to overwhelm me.
5. I am what I think. I am a capable, competent, caring, compassionate person.
6. Life can be ordinary or it can be great. Greatness is mine by a conscious effort.
7. Love can change the course of my world. Caring becomes all important.
8. The fundamental object of life is emotional and spiritual growth. Daily I put my life into a proper order, knowing which are the priorities.
9. The past is gone forever. No longer will I be victimized by the past, I am a new person.
10. All love given returns. I will learn to know that others love me.
11. Enthusiasm is my daily exercise. I treasure all moments of my new life.
12. I am a competent person and have much to give life. This is what I am and I shall know it always.
13. I am responsible for myself and for my actions. I am in charge of my mind, my thoughts, and my life.
Another pioneer in the recovery field is Charlotte Kasl, author of Many Roads, One Journey. Kasl’s holistic program, “16 Steps for Discovery and Empowerment,” is based on developing love not fear; internal control not external authoritarianism; affirmation not deflation; and trust in the ability of people to find their own healing path when given education, support, hope and choices.