Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Under Your Own Power: A Secular Approach To 12 Step Programs

By Ronald L.Rogers and Chandler Scott McMillin
ISBN 0-0399-51849-5

Reviewed by Don G.

This is the second Rogers/McMillin book that I’ve reviewed for BookTalk.
In their introductory, entitled "Recovery for The Non-Believer", they discuss their experiences as addictions treatment facilitators, where for every believer they encountered either an atheist or agnostic or non-believer that was recovering "under their own power".
Chapter Two discusses the challenge of faith for the non-believer. The authors contention is that even though you don’t need God to recover, you do need faith. They discuss different approaches to faith: The Traditional Model - "God Is Everything" , The Twelve Step Model - "God of our Understanding", and faith in what they call The Chronic Disease Model - "Whatever Works" . However, in the concept of "Whatever Works" they issue a caution to look out for people\institutions that are simply out to deceive you and not help you in your recovery.
Chapter Three looks at Ten Milestones on the Road to Recovery. Chapters Four and Five discuss working the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions for the non-believer. Self Help groups discussed in this section include AA, SOS, Rational Recovery and Women For Sobriety.
The last two chapters are lengthy, but contain much information on understanding addiction and the paradox of relapse. Some of the subjects covered in these two chapters include an excellent discussion on the stages of addiction, as well as the stages of recovery.
As mentioned in their earlier book, Relapse Traps, (also reviewed in BookTalk), much use is made of visualization exercises and of analysis of cognitive distortions that the alcoholic/addict suffer from. Overall, I liked the book. The views given are balanced and not biased towards any approach that I could see.
Comment by Diane J.:
Don: Thank you for the thoughtful reviews of the Rogers/McMillin books, but I wish you would consider altering the last sentence or two of the new one. "Under Your Own Power" really isn't "balanced and not biased toward any approach." It's a pretty heavy-fisted sales job for AA and the 12 steps (I think the subtitle should have been "How to train yourself to believe in God while pretending that's not what you're doing"--laugh).
And the deck-stacking examples and mind-games they play with "faith" vs. "religion" are straight out of the "It's a SPIRITUAL program, dummy" school of AA argument. (They also offer one of the versions of the Milam model of addiction as a possible appropriate target of your faith, without any acknowledgement of the truth that it is one theory among several, all non-proven.)
There are good things in it, of course, particularly in the "relapse traps" discussions, as you point out so well, but I think the review would be stronger for acknowledging that this is a book with a very pro-AA bias, IMHO.
Thanks again for the reviews. It's clear that you want to be very fair to the books you comment on; I think this time you might have been a little TOO fair (laugh).

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