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AOD Information > Recovery Medicine Wheel


A different approach to sobriety, based on Native American spirituality, is called the Recovery Medicine Wheel. It is a method of walking the Red Road (which is considered the "Right, or Good Way" in the White culture) that can work either in conjunction with AA or separate from it. Like AA, the Recovery Medicine Wheel is a step approach to sobriety. Unlike the Twelve Steps of AA, which are considered progressively from Step 1 through Step 12, an individual can begin step work at any point in the Wheel. Because the Wheel is circular in nature, all of the steps can be reached in succession. This circular nature of the Wheel helps recovering persons to remember Wakan Tanka (God) as they walk through the steps, because the circle, like Wakan Tanka, has no end.


There are four areas within the Wheel which correspond to the four realms of human existence: (1) the physical realm, (2) knowledge and enlightenment, (3) the spiritual realm, and (4) introspective thought. Each of these areas contain four steps, making sixteen steps altogether as follows:


NORTH (The Physical Realm)

  1. Take good physical care of myself.
  2. Regain balance in my life by developing an understanding of the important connection between the physical, psychological, spiritual, and emotional parts of my existence.
  3. Stop inflicting pain (either physically or emotionally) on others or myself.
  4. Come to an understanding that change is a process. (I can't expect miracles overnight).

WEST (The Realm of Introspective Thought)

  1. Speak honestly with myself.
  2. Look at my problems and my accomplishments with a willingness to commit myself to positive growth and change.
  3. Examine the ways in which I have tried to manipulate, control or manage the lives of others and make a commitment to stop this behavior.
  4. Acknowledge that change in my life must begin with me.

EAST (The Realm of Knowledge and Enlightenment)

  1. Reawaken to all of creation and to all of the beauty that exists in the world around me.
  2. Make a commitment to release myself from a narrow view of life and begin to grow, learn and gain new knowledge.
  3. Remember that I have a sacred right to live my life as I wish and the need to bring harmony and balance to my existence by respecting the life rights of others.
  4. Work on understanding the changes I must make in order to achieve personal harmony, balance, and freedom.

SOUTH (The Spiritual Realm)

  1. Come to an understanding of my special relation to Mother Earth. (Release my pain to Mother Earth).
  2. Come to an understanding of my special relation to Father Sky.
  3. Seek a greater understanding of my sacred connection to all of the universe.
  4. Reconnect with and nurture my own Spirit (Coggins, 1990, p. 14).

Each step is begun in the same manner, i.e., with a statement concerning the individual's intentions. For example, a person might decide on any one day to work on Step One in the Physical Realm of the North. He or she might say, "Beginning today I will take good physical care of myself."


For more information on the Recovery Medicine Wheel and the Red Road, read:

  • Brown, J. E. (Ed.). (1989). The sacred pipe: Black Elk's account of the Seven Rites of the Oglala Sioux. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.
  • Coggins, K. (1990). Alternative pathways to healing: The recovery medicine wheel. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications.
  • Deloria, V., Jr. (1994). God is red: A native view of religion. Golden, CO: Fulcrum.
  • Thin Elk, G. (1993, Fall). Walking in balance on the Red Road. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Problems, 54-57.
  • Vick, R. D., Sr., Smith, L. M., & Iron Rope Herrera, C. (1998, Jan.) The healing circle: An alternative path to alcoholism recovery. Counseling and Values, 42, 133-141.



Related WSC Links:
 § Effective Abstinence

 § Alcohol 101

 § Alcoholics Anonymous

 § Nebraska Legal Facts


Other Related Links:

 § Addiction Alchemy - Addiction Recovery Wheel

 § Traditional Teachings of the Medicine Wheel



Ron Vick, MA, LPC
Counselor / Academic Advisor
Int'l Student Advisor




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