Thursday, April 5, 2007

Many Roads, One Journey: Moving Beyond the 12 Steps

By Charlotte Davis Kasl, Ph.D.

Reviewed by Don G.

Subtitled, "A New Understanding of Recovery", Charlotte Davis Kasl’s book addresses a number of issues and concepts that the traditional 12 Step movement either ignores or dismisses out of hand.

The book is divided into four sections.

Section One covers how society has changed since the formation of Alcoholics Anonymous in 1935. Among the criticisms of AA Kasl expresses is the rigidity of how the program is practiced by groups and individuals -- what is supposed to be a "spiritual" program frequently becomes a religious one; with some members beliefs approaching fundamentalist proportions.

Section Two discusses patterns of chemical and psychological addiction; as well as the many faces of alcoholism.

Section Three discusses the various programs available to the recovering person; including Alcoholics Anonymous, Secular Organization For Sobriety, Rational Recovery, Women For Sobriety and alternative forms of treatment including counter-conditioning and aversion therapy. Kasl also addresses how physical health is often ignored as a factor in recovery. The second half of section Three is devoted to the use and misuse of slogan; jargon and program literature - especially in AA. Boundary issues and various forms of exploitation are also discussed in this section.

In Section Four, many issues are addressed: codependency \ internalized oppression, the difference between healthy and dysfunctional groups; finding your own voice and alternative versions of the 12 Steps of AA. She also shares her own concept of 16 steps for discovery and empowerment; and finding/forming a group to fit your needs in recovery. The section finished with a discussion on moving beyond hierarchy and addiction.

It’s very difficult to try a summarize a book that has such a broad scope and discussion of recovery related issues. I feel that Charlotte Davis Kasl has written a powerful, well researched and thought provoking book. Many of the issues and questions she raises, (especially about some aspects of AA), are the same ones that I asked in my early sobriety. I recommend the book highly as a "must read" for anyone in recovery.

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