“I Wish I Could Go To The Retreat Without Having To Relapse.”

[fa icon="calendar"] Jun 28, 2017 9:16:39 AM / by John MacDougall


           I have heard this wishful thinking many times over the past three years, since I came to work at The Retreat full time in May 2014. Many people who are sober in AA have a sense that their program isn’t all that it could be. They want more, but aren’t sure how to get it. Our Big Book says that it is easy to be vague about the matter of prayer and meditation, and then it goes on to make some “definite and valuable suggestions.” (page 86). The Retreat is all about those “definite and valuable suggestions” that we find in the Big Book.

            I recently had a friend whom I have known for almost thirty years call me, all upset. He had relapsed after more than two decades of sobriety. He was miserable and his wife was angry. I encouraged him to come to The Retreat for a month, to get the drugs and alcohol out of his system, and to get re-grounded in the program of Alcoholics Anonymous. Over the years, he had learned the program, but he had gradually slipped away from living it. I told him that he needed the opportunity to eat, sleep, and live in our community as “an ordinary alcoholic---not special.” He came, spent the month, and left with his body, mind, and spirit renewed. His wife came to our Family Program and had a great deal of her burden lifted.

            This is just what most people expect from The Retreat. How much better it would have been if my friend could have come the month before his relapse instead of six months after his relapse! Most people don’t know this, but you don’t have to relapse to come to The Retreat.

            From the beginning of The Retreat, there has always been a plan for a “Rest and Renewal” track. In this track at The Retreat, you can come for a week to ten days, without having to pick up a drink or a drug, first. In the “Rest and Renewal” track, you just decide that your program of recovery needs a boost. You come, and move in with our recovery community: men with men, and women with women. You get up early, make your bed, do morning meditation, and go through the day with those who are seeking sobriety for the first time, or those who are seeking sobriety again after attending a clinical treatment program elsewhere.

            The heart of the program is Big Book study, but there are lectures, and small group discussions. You also take Steps One through Eight. All Twelve Steps are discussed. The staff is available for consultations, and every evening there is an AA meeting, brought by an outside AA group. The benefit is that you are away from everything else, and can focus on your AA program. There are no computers, televisions, cell phones, or interruptions. It is truly an immersion into the program of Alcoholics Anonymous.

            For a shorter getaway, The Retreat offers weekend retreats in a pleasant new home on our property, The McIver Center. Upcoming retreats include “The Pivot Point” with Roger B July 28-30, based on Steps 6 and 7. August 25-27 I am leading a weekend retreat based on the nine chapters in my book “Being Sober and Becoming Happy.” September 29-Oct. 1, Sherry Gaugler-Stewart will lead an 11th Step Retreat, “Sought Through Prayer and Meditation.” On Oct. 27-29 Roger B returns with “The Big Book”.

            Another way to be a part of The Retreat, even if it is just for an evening, is to attend The Retreat’s fund-raising dinner, Saturday October 14th. It’s called “Imagine” and it will be in Golden Valley. Even when I was working at Hazelden, I attended “Imagine” and contributed to The Retreat, because I believed in The Retreat’s simple, Twelve Step model for recovery, and I wanted to be a part of it, as a donor.

            You can come to The Retreat, in many ways, but I wanted our friends to know about the “Rest and Renewal” one week to ten-day opportunity. You don’t have to pick up a drink or a drug to come to The Retreat.

John MacDougall is the Spiritual Care Coordinator at The Retreat

His book, “Being Sober and Becoming Happy” is available from


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Topics: Sober Housing, AA Big Book, Older Adult Recovery Programs, Men's Sober Residential, Women's Sober Residential

John MacDougall

Written by John MacDougall

John MacDougall is the Spiritual Care Coordinator at The Retreat.
His book, “Being Sober and Becoming Happy” is available from

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