An Affordable Solution


The Retreat

Located on 14 acres in the Big Woods of Wayzata, Minnesota, The Retreat provides a sanctuary where men, women and families are able to find hope and recovery. The Retreat represents a non-clinical, mutual help approach to the problem of alcohol and drug dependency. The organization’s mission is to improve the quality of life for individuals, families and communities affected by addiction by providing affordable, effective educational services. This supportive setting provides a safe environment where guests are able to study and practice the 12 Step principles of Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon.

John Curtiss, president and co-founder of The Retreat, gained two decades of experience working for the Hazelden Foundation’s senior leadership team, where he focused on opening centers around the country. In 1991, he became part of a think-tank consisting of leaders in the addiction treatment field, Twin Cities business professionals and long-time recovering individuals, called the Community of Recovering People. Curtiss says they began exploring where alcoholics and addicts were going to get help in the future as the cost of treatment was skyrocketing and access to care was diminishing across the country. One of the central aims of this group was to come up with another approach to promote recovery that was more accessible and affordable to those in need.

After meeting with this group monthly for seven years, Curtiss says they developed a business plan for a 20-bed model of care. He named this model “The Retreat” in order to convey that its solution lay outside the traditional healthcare industry and in a community-based supportive-educational approach. Such a retreat from clinical healthcare permeates the entire model: instead of a highly medical environment, guests at The Retreat are immersed in a community of individuals modeling happy sober lives.

When Curtiss left Hazelden in 1998 to start The Retreat, it was housed in the Pillsbury estate just outside of Minneapolis. “Guest number one came from West Palm Beach, Florida,” Curtiss says. “Before we knew it, people were coming to The Retreat from all around the world.” The Retreat outgrew the Pillsbury mansion in six short years, and in 2004 its current 80-bed facility opened in Wayzata, Minnesota.

Curtiss says the model mirrors the treatment continuum but does so in a supportive-educational way rather than a clinical-medical way: it is not treatment.

“We realized that if we could surround people who want recovery with a community of people who have it and care about them, recovery will happen” Curtiss says. “We modeled The Retreat after the early years of High Watch Farm in Connecticut, which was started just after the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous had been written. Bill W. wanted a place where people could go to get to know the steps to recovery outlined in the Alcoholics Anonymous text. Hazelden started in 1949 as a recovery retreat.


In 1998, nobody was moving in the direction of a simpler, more basic, more affordable solution. We’ve taken the best of what occurred in those early days in the addiction treatment field and married it with the knowledge we have now about the issues people come into recovery with today. We have brought them together in a new model of care.”

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