The 16-step empowerment model is a holistic approach to overcoming dependency and addiction that views people in their wholeness-mind, body and spirit. A fundamental basis of this model is flexibility and an openness which leads to continually ask: What works? Who does it work for? and How can we help it work better? It encourages people to be continually open to new information and not to become trapped in dogmatic teachings. At its core, this model is based on 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.
The 16-step model helps people to develop ego strength which is seen as having a healthy ability to be introspective and to ask oneself the questions: Who am I? What do I value, believe and want?
In the 16-step model, dependency and addiction is as a complex web of social factors, physical, predisposition and personal history. This empowerment model encourages individuals to develop their own internal belief system based on their perceptions and experiences. It is fluid and open to change as the person evolves. It believes that a major task of healing from addiction is to validate the underlying, positive survival goals for safety, connection, pleasure, love and power. Then to find non-addictive and positive ways to meet those needs. It is also crucial to create a healthy physical balance to prevent cravings.
The 16-step model addresses issues of cultural diversity and internalized oppression stemming from sexism, racism, classism, and homophobia. In this model, the concept of “codependency” is understood as a form of internalized oppression, rather than an addiction to security, in a cultural context as well as an individual problem. In surveys sent to both male and female members of 16-step groups asking for responses, respondents most often listed: improving self-esteem; helping them believe in their own wisdom; giving them permission to be creative; expressing and validating their personal beliefs and feelings; and helping to be more courageous as being the positive effects of a 16-step group.
The 16-step model encourages people to use this or any other model as a springboard to find their own voice. And while it is crucial to acknowledge the power of addiction, this model helps people affirm the power they do have to take charge of their lives and overcome addiction. Developing one’s passion, finding purpose, bonding with others and becoming involved in social change are seen as antidotes to addiction. This approach does not posture itself as the one way or the right way, nor does it make assumptions about the length of time it takes or the path that must be followed.
The 16 Steps are:
- We affirm we have the power to take charge of our lives and stop being dependent on substances or other people for our self-esteem and security. Alternative: We admit/acknowledge we are out of control with/powerless over ________ yet have the power to take charge of our lives and stop being dependent on substances or other people for our self-esteem and security.
- We come to believe that God/Goddess/Universe/Great Spirit/Higher Power awakens the healing wisdom within us when we open ourselves to the power.
- We make a decision to become our authentic selves and trust in the healing power of the truth.
- We examine our beliefs, addictions and dependent behavior in the context of living in a hierarchical, patriarchal culture.
- We share with another person and the Universe all those things inside of us for which we feel shame and guilt.
- We affirm and enjoy our intelligence, strengths and creativity, remembering not to hide these qualities from ourselves and others.
- We become willing to let go of shame, guilt, and any behavior that keeps us from loving ourselves and others.
- We make a list of people we have harmed and people who have harmed us, and take steps to clear out negative energy by making amends and sharing our grievances in a respectful way.
- We express love and gratitude to others and increasingly appreciate the wonder of life and the blessings we do have.
- We learn to trust our reality and daily affirm that we see what we see, we know what we know and we feel what we feel.
- We promptly admit to mistakes and make amends when appropriate, but we do not say we are sorry for things we have not done and we do not cover up, analyze, or take responsibility for the shortcomings of others.
- We seek out situations, jobs, and people who affirm our intelligence, perceptions and self-worth and avoid situations or people who are hurtful, harmful, or demeaning to us.
- We take steps to heal our physical bodies, organize our lives, reduce stress, and have fun.
- We seek to find our inward calling, and develop the will and wisdom to follow it.
- We accept the ups and downs of life as natural events that can be used as lessons for our growth.
- We grow in awareness that we are sacred beings, interrelated with all living things, and we contribute to restoring peace and balance on the planet.
The 16-steps above are published in Many Roads, One Journey: Moving Beyond the 12 Steps and in Yes, You Can! A Guide to Empowerment Groups. They are currently in use in an estimated 200-300 groups nationwide, as well as a rapidly growing number of treatment programs..
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