Jean Kirkpatrick was a scholar, writer, and activist. But for 13 years of her life she was an alcoholic. In fact, after becoming the recipient of a grant to further her academic research, she went out and got drunk, fearing that as a woman, someone might find a reason to take the funds away. She continued to drink for 13 years and lived the destructive cycle of addiction.
Eventually, she got sober, but not through the traditional 12-step method of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Instead, she found her own way and dedicated her life to helping other female adults and adolescents heal from their addictions too. Once she became sober, she wrote books and began working on a treatment method for those women like her, who seemed to be struggling with the same challenges and ending up with addictions to drugs or alcohol.
Although her principles for sobriety are much different than those of the AA community, the New Life program, the program she designed specifically for women, is similar to the 12-step method in that it uses 13 affirmations. Female recovering addicts are encouraged to become intimate with the following:
- I have a life-threatening problem that once had me.
I now take charge of my life and my disease. I accept the responsibility.
- Negative thoughts destroy only myself.
My first conscious sober act must be to remove negativity from my life.
- Happiness is a habit I will develop.
Happiness is created, not waited for.
- Problems bother me only to the degree I permit them to.
I now better understand my problems and do not permit problems to overwhelm me.
- I am what I think.
I am a capable, competent, caring, compassionate woman.
- Life can be ordinary or it can be great.
Greatness is mine by a conscious effort.
- Love can change the course of my world.
Caring becomes all important.
- The fundamental object of life is emotional and spiritual growth.
Daily I put my life into a proper order, knowing which are the priorities.
- The past is gone forever.
No longer will I be victimized by the past. I am a new person.
- All love given returns.
I will learn to know that others love me.
- Enthusiasm is my daily exercise.
I treasure all moments of my new life.
- I am a competent woman and have much to give life.
This is what I am and I shall know it always.
- I am responsible for myself and for my actions.
I am in charge of my mind, my thoughts, and my life.
Kirkpatrick and others eventually founded a nonprofit organization titled Women for Sobriety, which taught the principles of the New Life program. In the program, female teens and adults struggling with addiction are encouraged to spend 15 minutes each day reviewing all 13 affirmations. Once they are done with their review, women are then invited to use one principle throughout the day by consciously reflecting on it.
The affirmations appear to tend to the emotional and psychological needs of women. They are particularly useful for female teens, given that they are in a stage of psychosocial development. The affirmations help with the development of a sense of self and help to strengthen an inner connection.
In recent years, research has pointed to the fact that women tend to develop addictions for different reasons for men and that they tend to begin using alcohol and drugs for different reasons. Furthermore, they tend to have different needs while in treatment. Studies also show that once a woman enters an addiction treatment center, she is just as likely as a man to stay in treatment. And, there are factors that will keep her in treatment, such as the presence of childcare, a collaborative approach to treatment, and a supportive environment.
Although Kirkpatrick’s organization, Women for Sobriety, was founded in 1975, the principles that the New Life program teaches are incredibly relevant today, especially for adolescents struggling with addiction. Women for Sobriety is an organization that can provide this kind of supportive environment and tend to the unique needs of female teens and adults as they recover.