Category Archives: Books

Second Edition of “Empowering Your Sober Self” Now Available!

Hey Everyone! We at LifeRing are pleased to announce that a new, Second Edition of “Empowering Your Sober Self” by our co-founder Martin Nicolaus is now available! Please see below for reviews, information about the author, and links to get your own copy:

 

front cover 2nd edition

Empowering Your Sober Self

The LifeRing Approach to Addiction Recovery

Second edition — with a new supplement by the author

The one book to read for an introduction to LifeRing.  Written for the person who wants to get free of alcohol/drugs, for their friends and relations, and for the professionals who treat them.

“A sophisticated, insightful, well-documented view of the philosophy and practice that are at the heart of the LifeRing approach. This book offers a perspective on recovery that can motivate change in clinicians and researchers as well as among individuals struggling to find their sober selves.”
—Carlo DiClemente, Ph.D., professor and chair, Department of Psychology, University of Maryland, Baltimore, and author, Addiction and Change

“With impressive analytical clarity and therapeutic generosity, Nicolaus presents a well-argued brief for understanding the complexities of addiction treatment and accepting the full range of diverse paths to recovery. . . . [Anyone] wanting insight and balance on a vitally important public health issue will appreciate the author’s lively and respectful presentation.”
—Judith Herman, M.D., author, Trauma and Recovery

By Martin Nicolaus, cofounder of LifeRing Secular Recovery. He is an attorney in private practice who lives in Berkeley, California.

Empower Your Sober Self is available exclusively online from  the LifeRing bookstore , or from your local LifeRing meeting.   (You can order it via amazon.com, but because Amazon forwards all orders to us for fulfillment, it’s faster and easier to order from LifeRing directly.)  Click “Add to Bag” to order a copy using your Visa/MasterCard or PayPal account.

Empower Your Sober Self, 277 pp. 9″ x 6″, stay-flat binding. ISBN 978-0-9659429-6-6. Second edition, 2014. US$20.00 + S/H.

 

Many congratulations and, as always, our deepest thanks to Marty! Without you, we’d be nothing! :)

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 Lifering.org, 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.

New book hits hard at fundamentals of 12-step based sobriety support

In a book that’s getting plenty of discussion around the Internet, including multiple reviews, “The Sober Truth: Debunking the Bad Science Behind 12-Step Programs and the Rehab Industry,” is one of the hardest-hitting and most direct critiques yet of the 12-step ideas, structure and model for sobriety support. Per the subtitle, it’s about more than just Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. Authors Lance Dodes and Zachary Dodes, the former with  35 years of psychiatric experience, tackle how the 12-step model has become accepted by the rehab industry, and also the courts, including noting, of additional importance to LifeRing, legal rulings that 12-step programs are a religion in terms of First Amendment views. and therefore mandatory  orders to AA or NA meetings are not allowed.

From the review on Amazon:

In The Sober Truth, acclaimed addiction specialist Dr. Lance Dodes exposes the deeply flawed science that the 12-step industry has used to support its programs. Dr. Dodes analyzes dozens of studies to reveal a startling pattern of errors, misjudgments, and biases. He also pores over the research to highlight the best peer-reviewed studies available and discovers that they reach a grim consensus on the program’s overall success.

But The Sober Truth is more than a book about addiction. It is also a book about science and how and why AA and rehab became so popular, despite the discouraging data. Dr. Dodes explores the entire story of AA’s rise, from its origins in early fundamentalist religious and mystical beliefs to its present-day place of privilege in politics and media.

The Sober Truth includes true stories from Dr. Dodes’s thirty-five years of clinical practice, as well as firsthand accounts submitted by addicts through an open invitation on the Psychology Today website. These stories vividly reveal the experience of walking the steps and attending some of the nation’s most famous rehabilitation centers.

The Sober Truth builds a powerful response to the monopoly of the 12-step program and explodes the myth that these programs offer an acceptable or universal solution to the deeply personal problem of addiction. This book offers new and actionable information for addicts, their families, and medical providers, and lays out better ways to understand addiction for those seeking a more effective and compassionate approach to this treatable problem.

To many LifeRingers who came to LifeRing from 12-step programs, these critiques may already be known. But, as Dr. Dodes notes, they’re still not well known in either the court system or his own profession.

Some, based on the first major media review of the book, in Salon, an excerpt from the book by the authors, may fear this book engages in “AA bashing.” However, Dodes does note that the 12-step methodology does work for some people. Rather, to me, the book seems to be what flows from his observations of “medical best practice” based on his 35 years as a psychiatrist.

In one earlier book, per a review on Amazon, he labels as “myth”:

  • Addictions are fundamentally a physical problem.
  • People with addictions are different from other people.
  • You have to hit bottom before you can get well.
  • You are wasting your time if you ask “why” you have an addiction.

In other words, he seems to discuss issues of addiction from a variety of medically and psychologically informed angles. In that book, these issues seem to be related to what he presents in his current book, namely that addiction is a psychological issue as much as anything, and that while addictive substances affect brain chemicals, that’s not the most productive way, or the right level of approach, to address this situation. I do know that neuroscientist Carl Hart, in his new book, “High Price,” is more explicit about ideas about how addiction boils down to dopamine problems are more and more panning out as not true. (I’ll have a review of that book in a couple of days.)

Per the informational angle, this book is gaining “traction” nationally, and aside from any possible concerns about “tone” on Dodes’ discussion of 12-step methodology, raises important issues from a medical stance. Besides Salon, it’s now also been reviewed in The Atlantic and at NPR, as part of an author interview.

There is one thing that is a bit eyebrow-raising, that I noticed most at his NPR interview. He talks about “managing” addiction. I don’t know if “moderation” is under his “management” ideas or not.

You can learn more about Dodes, including a blog he maintains on addiction issues, at his website.

Note: This post h as been lightly edited since its original posting to drop most references to other Liferingers’ opinions and to add a reference to another new book about addiction, that of Hart.

The psychology of quitting, and quitting drinking

Getting sober means quitting, quitting drinking. In the “can-do” and “rugged individualism” that seems part and parcel of American society, the idea of “quitting” often has other attendant psychological issues. Like, if you quit something, that means you were a failure. You didn’t do something successfully.

And, that can be seen as applying to the need for sobriety, too. A person “failed” at being a successful drinker. We even have semi-jokey stereotyped statements about people “not being able to handle their liquor” and similar.

The book, “Mastering the Art of Quitting” has nothing specific to sobriety. But, as a self-help book that isn’t overly laden with blind-rosy optimism, and that talks about goal strategies and similar ideas, a person embarking on the journey of sobriety can surely mine nuggets from this issue, not only about sobriety itself, but, for many people, earlier life issues that may have contributed to eventual addictive alcohol drinking or drug use.

The good points of this book are that it says we shouldn’t be afraid to quit something. Nor should we see shame or a sense of failure in doing so.

Personality factors that affect this, strategies for planning quitting, etc., all get discussed.

AA vs moderation — false dilemma rears its head again

NY Times image

And unfortunately, it rears its ugly head in a New York Times op-ed, and even worse, it’s one of those New York Times op-eds written by an author who’s got a new book to plug.

Gabrielle Glaser thinks that she is saving many a woman with some degree of a drinking problem from the moralizing of AA. She gets right that, as well as noting that AA is male-focused, unscientific, and still largely rooted in the days of its founding.

She also gets right this:

Women increasingly need help, as their drinking has escalated. Women are being stopped more for drunken driving than they were two decades ago. They’re also the biggest consumers of wine, buying the larger share of the 856 million gallons sold in the United States in 2012. These women are drinking partly because alcohol is a socially respectable way to slog through the smartphone-tethered universe of managing demanding careers, aging parents, kids’ activities and relationships at once. And while it’s not healthy to pour yourself a third or fourth glass every night, it doesn’t mean you’re powerless to do anything about it.

But, she then says the alternative to this:

(T)he A.A. program offers a single path to recovery: abstinence, surrendering one’s ego and accepting one’s “powerlessness” over alcohol.

Can, and should, (often) be moderated drinking.

I put the “often” in parentheses because she does, at her website, albeit on a hyperlink whose linkage is broken, or was for me, abstinence-only alternatives to AA. Besides us, and the others, I was simply flabbergasted that, because her column was about drinking problems particular to women, she wouldn’t even mention Women for Sobriety in the column.

She then goes on to specifically tout Moderation Management, without noting, besides just founder Audrey Kishline, its own problematic history, lack of verifiable information, etc. This is a sad case of wanting to have one’s cake and eat it, too.

Next is this:

This approach isn’t for severely dependent drinkers, for whom abstinence might be best.

“Might”? Try “is.” Period.

Unfortunately, she got curt with me when I pointed out some of the above issues in an email. I have made multiple comments on the Times op-ed, my original ones being about the book itself, then responding to a couple of diehard AAers trotting out the classical “no true Scotsman” stance in saying Glaser wasn’t critiquing true AA, etc.

Her book is getting a number of unfavorable ratings on Amazon from people who are NOT diehard AAers, for a variety of reasons, so a few people are looking at the devils in the details.