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A Caring Community

The Story of The Retreat

Damian McElrath and John Curtiss

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  • Paperback: 186 pages
  • Dimensions: 5.50" x 8.50"
  • ISBN: 978-1-59298-920-1
  • Publication Date: 2014-10-01
  • Beaver’s Pond Press

Availability: In stock

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Paperback$16.95

A Caring Community

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This compelling story of The Retreat, told by Damian McElrath and John Curtiss, should give us all hope that recovery from alcohol and drug dependency can be affordable, accessible, and effective for all who need it. This time-tested “caring community” approach to recovery has become a standard of care that has helped thousands of individuals and their families access a life of recovery. This book provides a historical perspective of the Minnesota Model of treatment, the impact of managed care on the treatment field, and chronicles the step-by-step process this group of dedicated addiction professionals and recovered individuals undertook to change the way people access a life of meaningful and productive recovery.


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“The world needs to pay close attention to this model of care. The Retreat is one of the most promising solutions we’ve seen in decades to address our nation’s number-one health-related problem. “ –Jim Ramstad, former congressman and co-chair of the Addiction, Treatment and Recovery Caucus


“This compelling story of The Retreat, told by Damian McElrath and John Curtiss, should give us all hope that recovery from alcohol and drug dependency can be affordable, accessible, and effective for all who need it.”–Christopher Kennedy Lawford, author of What Addicts Know, Ten Lessons of Recovery to Benefit Everyone; Recovery to Live; Symptoms of Withdrawal and Moments of Clarity


“The Retreat is one of the most significant events in the treatment of addiction in the last thirty years. This book reveals the spiritual heart of The Retreat and the countless lives it’s saved. A treasure.”–Jeff Jay, coauthor of Love First: A Family’s Guide to Intervention and author of At Wit’s End: What You Need to Know When a Loved One is Diagnosed with Addiction and Mental Illness


“No Story in the addiction treatment field in the past decade has been more compelling or presented a greater opportunity to save more lives. I’m grateful to consider myself part of The Retreat’s caring community.” –Andrew Zimmern, author, teacher, chef and creator of Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern


“This book brings us back to the truth of recovery. John Curtiss and Damian McElrath are outstretching their hands to the reader and saying, “Here is the treasure we were given. Protect it, preserve it, and share it.” –Debra Jay, author of No More Letting Go: The Spirituality of Taking Action Against Alcoholism and Drug Addiction, coauthor of Love First: A Family’s Guide to Intervention.

Damian McElrath

Damian McElrath, DHE. spent three decades as a Franciscan priest serving the spiritual needs of others in a variety of roles, including teaching, counseling and administrative positions. He was the president of St. Bonaventure University from 1972 to 1976. In that life, he wrote and edited a number of scholarly books and articles on historical and theological topics. Damian arrived at Hazelden in 1977 to participate in its Clinical Pastoral Education program. Over the course of the next two decades, he served in a variety of administrative roles, including Executive Vice President of Recovery Services, as well as being chaplain to Hazelden’s long-term program for almost a decade. Damian has served as a spiritual coordinator at The Retreat since 2011, hearing Fifth Steps and providing spiritual guidance to the guests. Damian has edited and authored a number of books.

John Curtiss

John H. Curtiss, MA, LADC is President of the Community of Recovering People’s board of directors and of The Retreat. He’s an original member of CORP’s board, and one of the principle designers of The Retreat model of care. Before this, he worked at the Hazelden Foundation for over 19 years, serving as VP of their National Continuum of Care, Executive Director of Outreach Services and of Fellowship Club, unit supervisor of two primary treatment units, and as a chemical dependency counselor. He taught group therapy, the history of the Minnesota Model and treatment of special populations in Hazelden’s professional education department. John has a Masters Degree in Human and Health Services Admin from Saint Mary’s University of MN; he’s a graduate of Hazelden’s Counselor Training Program and a licensed counselor in the state of MN. John has dedicated his life to the creation of affordable, accessible recovery communities throughout the U.S., and in many other countries.