Calling All Readers!

Thanks to an e-mail participant’s suggestion and LifeRing’s Board of Directors, I have been given the approval to create a Books-slash-Recommended-Reading page on, and in addition to LifeRing’s own series of books written by Martin Nicolaus, I would love to include some of your favorite titles, along with your reviews of them, there as well!

Specifically, we’re looking to add books regarding addiction, recovery, mental health and well-being, physical health and well-being and/or self-help that you have found to be the most helpful, inspirational, important, moving, relatable or downright easily readable within that subject range.

Generally, this can include just about any genre – memoir, scientific study, psychological profile, cookbook, manual or guide, anthology, reference, fiction – as long as it has meant something to you that you feel others would benefit from reading as much as you have.

You’re certainly welcome to list as many as you’d like, we just need for each one:

  • The book’s title and author name(s)
  • A little blurb or review – i.e. why the book spoke to you so much – which can be as short as a sentence or two or as long as a paragraph or two.

The information you provide (edited for spelling and grammar) will be featured on the Books page along with your first name and last initial (or your alias of choice) so that anyone looking at it can see these are real recommendations by real people, not a bunch of critics’ opinions (which mean far less, in mine ).

The total list eventually featured will depend on how many recommendations we get, and any duplicates will, for hopefully obvious reasons, only be included once.

Below is a partial list I’ve collected so far with examples of reviews and reviewers’ names so you can get an idea of what we’re looking for; please feel free to reply to this post with your additions, and I’ll be sure and let you know when the Books page is up and running!

Many Thanks!

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
“Best book I’ve ever read. May look like a new age psychobabble self-help offering at first glance, but it is the best book I’ve ever read.” – Mark W.

Overcoming Alcohol Misuse: A 28-Day Guide by Conor Farren
“He covers so many bases.” – P.J.M.

The Sober Kitchen by Liz Scott
“A good reference guide.” – Mary S.

Under the Influence: A Guide to the Myths and Realities of Alcoholism by James Milam and Katherine Ketchum
“It was first published in 1981, but so much about the relationship between alcoholism and hypoglycemia was already known by then that many millions of dollars worth of hard, scientific research later not much has really changed since then beyond the addition of dozens of interesting but not terribly important (for the layman) details concerning stuff like the peculiarities of many different isomers of the alcohol-dehydrogenase enzyme. Most of the book is about understanding the progression from what he calls the ‘early adaptive stage’ where drinking does not appear to be a ‘problem’, on through to the ‘late deteriorative stage.’

I recommend it highly, not only for alcoholics themselves, but also for non-alcoholic family members and friends who just want to understand what the hell has been happening to the wonderful person they used to know. In my opinion, it is nothing short of criminal that it is not available at cost on the literature table of every AA meeting. It is, by group conscience, on the literature table of both of the very LifeRing-like AA meetings that I founded.” – Greg H.

Sobriety, dual diagnosis, and personal OTC self-help

First, I want to make clear that this is just about my personal experiences, since Lifering is about personalized, individualized, self-empowerment, or self-help.

That said, let’s jump into what’s on my mind.

A fair percentage of people who eventually have addictive problems to drugs or alcohol are “dual diagnosis.” That is, they have some mental health issue connected with their addiction. Often it’s depression. Often it’s anxiety. Sometimes it’s bipolar disorder, occasionally schizophrenia.

For people that have “simple” depression or anxiety, and have been to a doctor before, for lower-level depression or anxiety, it’s tempting to self-medicate with over-the-counter items. For example, it’s a “commonplace” that Benadryl can help mild anxiety. Many people use St. John’s wort for mild depression. Beyond that, over-the-counter versions of lithium compounds, somewhat similar to, but not the same as, the prescription versions, are available. And more.

But, even over-the-counter medications aren’t risk free.

For example, prescription lithium has a narrow range of dosages. The non-prescription versions are presumably similar.

With St. John’s wort, there are studies indicating it can help with some cases of mild-moderate depression. There’s no “magic secret” as to why, though. The active ingredient is an MAO inhibitor, just like the first class of anti-depressant medications. Given that prescription MAO inhibitors come with certain warnings, like not combining them with aged cheeses, something similar might apply to St. John’s worth.

And, there’s the placebo effect. A lot of people swear by GABA, a natural neurotransmitter, to help with anxiety. However, GABA does not cross what’s known as the blood-brain barrier, therefore people are presumably just talking about a placebo effect.

Also, just as a prescription anti-depressant that works for one person might not work well for another, the same is true of these OTC self-helps.

A Lifering friend mentioned his doctor suggested he take a new OTC medication, which is GABA chemically linked to niacin, the B vitamin. He said it helped totally kill alcohol cravings, as well as some anxiety.

I decided to order it myself; it’s readily available online.

Well, my “sample size date” is only 10 days so far, but, I may discontinue it after another week.

While it’s not quite making me MORE anxious, I have had trouble falling asleep since then. I’ve had a couple of issues in my mind, but, this may be a contributing factor.

For me, the one time I went to a doctor with even more serious anxiety, it was anti-depressants that helped.

There’s nothing wrong with a prescription from a doctor, and there’s nothing magical about over-the-counter items. It never hurts to get professional advice.

“For An Addict”

“Maybe the journey isn’t so much about becoming anything. Maybe it’s about unbecoming everything that isn’t you so you can be who you were meant to be in the first place.”  — Unknown

Below is a link to a YouTube video reading of “For An Addict”, John O’Donohue’s powerfully rendered and heartbreakingly accurate poem about the heart of addiction, introduced to me by one of LifeRing’s e-mail list participants that I thought most worthy of sharing with you here.

Psychotherapist Declan Tarpey introduces and then reads the poem, and something he says at around the 2:07 mark absolutely represents what my addiction was, in large part, my attempt to address: An escape from my true self – someone I felt was hideous and disfigured and thus, needed to be hidden, and hidden away from.



Keeper of the Month – July

Lifering’s e-mail groups are active, thriving communities of people who use them as strong sources of sobriety support, and many members often post remarkably written sources of inspiration, hope and encouragement that many other group members call “Keepers” – posts that they save for themselves so they can go back and look at them as often as they like.

We here at LifeRing like sharing these posts, with the authors’ permission, on our Blog so that everyone can enjoy them as much as our group members do.


This month’s post, reflecting on a different sort of life-changing anniversary, comes from Craig W.:


I’ve been sober since 2001, but yesterday marked the 8 year anniversary of the second most important event in my life in the current millennium — I had a stroke. My recovery was almost complete, but not a day goes by when I’m not aware that “almost” is not at all the same as “complete.’ I spent five weeks in a hospital and nursing home learning how to walk again — I hadn’t lost strength in my limbs but my balance had been strongly affected. It’s still less than perfect. I lost a little feeling on my right side but not enough to make much difference. The main difficulty that has stayed with me is something called “post-stroke fatigue,” a rather mysterious tiredness that plagues many stroke survivors. The condition isn’t related to the location of the stroke and doesn’t seem to be related to the seriousness of the stroke. It means I’m tired all the time and very tired some of the time. It’s pretty unrelated to the amount of sleep I get, so I try not to give in to it too much. But it’s why I retired early.

For a long time I thought the fatigue was the only “cognitive” impact of my stroke. But I’ve learned in recent years that the tiredness is part of a larger mental syndrome in which certain types of mental tasks are very draining, while physical activity is actually refreshing. The most draining seems to be multitasking, jumping from one thing to another back and forth. That was the essence of my job as a bookseller — dealing with customers at the counter and on the phone, paying bills, preparing orders and a bunch of other stuff all at the same time. I was good at that until the stroke. I wasn’t bad at it after my stroke, for that matter. Except that it exhausted me after a couple of hours.

So I retired a couple of years early and after about a week started climbing the walls. I’d had my bookstore as the focus of my life for 40 years. I never put in the sort of hours that many small business owners do, but it was always on my mind. Replacing it with …. nothing soon horrified me. Which is how I found myself coming down to the San Francisco Bay Area to volunteer for LifeRing. It has been an almost perfect solution to my retirement dilemma. There’s more to do than I can do, so I never feel purposeless, and yet as a volunteer I decide entirely by myself how much to do each day, which allows me to make full allowance for my tiredness problem. And the weather down here is so …. different (I was going to say “better” but one shouldn’t make those sorts of value judgements) that I can spend at least an hour each day walking in the warm sunshine, something that was a rare occurrence up in the Pacific Northwest.

There’s a point to this story for addicts like us. My stroke happened well after I got sober and the cause was unknown. But I figure it was all those years of ignoring my high blood pressure while I was drinking. For me, there was no escaping the consequences of my years of imbibing. But the other point is more positive — I changed my entire life after age 60, moving, doing work I’d never done before in a place I’d only visited briefly. I realized when I retired, I could afford (doG bless Social Security) to live almost anywhere and do almost anything (anything that wasn’t too expensive, at least). Sobriety gave me this new life.It’s so easy to feel trapped by life, by addiction or a bad marriage or lack of money or health problems, or …. But I’m here to tell you that everything can be changed for the better, and it all starts with sobriety. It starts with facing reality and fixing what’s wrong with our lives and nothing is more ‘wrong’ than addictive drinking or using. Fix that and move on to the next thing on your list.

Be patient, but persevere.