Treatment Facilities vs. Recovery Clubhouses

There’s a new storm on the horizon, and it’s not going in a positive direction for the A.A./Treatment Center relationship. Recently, private clubhouses that rent meeting space to separate A.A. groups (and other 12-Step meetings) have put an end to free services for some treatment centers.

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WIN/LOSE: For years, facilities have delivered vans full of patients to A.A. meetings as part of the protocol for treatment. Now for many clubhouses, all of that is coming to an abrupt halt. The board members of the various clubs are voting to charge up to $5,000.00 (annually) for patient attendance at meetings. According to posts on social media (see Hanna Marks/C.E.O./Wherehab), the clubhouses feel treatment centers are making huge sums of money, and they, nor their patients, are contributing to Clubhouses. They are taking up much-needed seating and giving nothing back.

It is customary for A.A. to remain self-supporting through their own contributions. If the members do not contribute, there is no way to pay rent for the meetings. Clubhouses are not A.A. entities, and since A.A. is “not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution, neither endorses nor opposes any causes,” A.A. will not step in and intervene on this conflict. This arrangement could be like any other landlord/lease relationship — a business arrangement with written contracts. The clubs are run by people in A.A., who honor the tradition to “…practice these principles in all affairs…,” yet they must maintain the integrity of the clubs they are responsible to manage — often a double-edged sword.

LOSE/LOSE: This type of drastic change from charging fees for the use of facilities that hold 12-Step meetings that are open to anyone since the beginning of A.A. is tricky. Since the only requirement for membership is “the desire to stop drinking,” how do you determine who cannot attend a meeting? Like any landlord, once space is rented, the tenant is responsible for paying rent and following rules, and as long as those rules are followed, there is no cause to say who can and can’t be on the premises. Since the meetings are renting space from the club, they can welcome anyone they want, but if the landlord says certain people can’t come unless they pay extra, an impossible scenario has come about. In addition to the divisive controversy, If the meetings move out of the clubhouse to other locations to accommodate treatment centers, the club loses its members and the rent.

WIN/WIN: For one, the communication between treatment centers and clubhouses can improve. What were the conflicts that led up to these drastic measures? What solutions were presented? Is there a liaison between the treatment facility and the clubhouse? Can the principles of A.A. be applied to resolve these conflicts? For example, since A.A. is self-supporting through its’ own contributions, each person taking a seat in the meeting could make some contribution. Traditionally, A.A. members were taught to give back right away — time and/or money, or both. If there’s money for cigarettes, snacks, phones, etc., it shouldn’t be too hard to scrounge up a buck or two for the basket or to lend a hand in some way. The clubs can be clear about their expectations, and treatment centers can do a better job at teaching patients to be mindful of such expectations and to respect the guidelines of the clubhouses and the meetings. People who attend meetings need to have some skin in the game and to take ownership of their relationship to A.A. No one is going get well without getting involved. As a previous co-owner of an out-patient facility, part of our program was designed to teach patients how to have a successful outcome in A.A. after treatment. If someone gets dropped off at a meeting, plops down in a chair, contributes nothing, and then gets dropped back off at a facility, a healthy bond is unlikely to form with the one source that is a permanent lifeline to recovery. The primary purpose of anyone in recovery is to get sober, stay sober, and then help others.

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