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Category Archives: Books

How Was Your Week – version 2


How Was Your Week?

Bringing people together in recovery the LifeRing Way

A Convenor’s Handbook

How was your week? is the starter topic for most LifeRing meetings — an invitation to report on the person’s recovery work since the last meeting, and look forward to the challenges of the coming week.  This book describes the deeper healing processes that are at work beneath the surface of this simple format, and empowers the meeting facilitator to set these forces in motion and keep them on track.

How Was Your Week? is a handbook for the core members of the LifeRing network: the people who start and lead LifeRing meetings, or perform other services that keep the organization humming.  To “convene” means to bring people together.   Bringing people together in recovery the LifeRing way is what LifeRing meeting facilitators do, which is why they are known in the organization as “convenors.”

The book covers the basic model of the LifeRing recovery process: the division of the addicted mind into an addict self (A) and a sober self (S).  It outlines the fundamental process at work in LifeRing meetings: empowerment of the sober self.  It explains the proper role of the convenor in facilitating this process. It looks at the dynamics at work in the meeting room.   It discusses common issues and problems that may arise, and suggests methods of handling them.  The work also looks at the nuts and bolts of the meeting framework, such as door signs, signup sheets, passing the basket, and distributing literature. There is a chapter on the LifeRing process online in chat rooms and other web venues, and a chapter on the annual LifeRing Congress.

Discussion of the basic philosophy of LifeRing — the three S — is a major portion of the book. Chapters on Sobriety (Abstinence), Secularity, and Self-Help offer the deepest and most detailed analysis of these foundations in print.  A separate chapter introduces the basics of building a personal recovery program.  Although aimed primarily at the convenor, the book is accessible to anyone who wants a deeper understanding of what LifeRing is about.

A major chapter (Ch. 15) outlines the work involved in starting a new LifeRing meeting. Everything is covered here from the initial contacts to the final successful passing of the baton. This chapter is the indispensable guide for the pioneers who establish a LifeRing presence in new territory.

An excerpt from the book, consisting of the first two chapters plus Table of Contents and Index, is available for free download on this website at Selections from HWYW in pdf format.

To purchase How Was Your Week? online, please goto the LifeRing Bookstore.  Originally published in 2003, How Was Your Week? is now in its second edition (2015). This edition is updated, expanded, easier to read, and professionally printed and bound with a handsome full-color cover.



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.


Table of Contents

Foreword by William L. White



My Story
I Get the Wake-up Call
Beginning Treatment
First Encounters
The LifeRing Philosophy
Some Similarities and Differences with 12-Step
The Majority of Recoveries Happen Outside AA
Calling for Help on the Front Lines
Voices from the Field
AA Retains Five Per Cent of Those Who Approach It
My Client-Side Perspective

(1) A Person Addicted Is A Person In Conflict

The Divided Self
The Divided Self is a Clinical Reality
Addictive Substances Hijack the Brain
The Impact on Our Lives
“A” (Addicted Self) Versus “S” (The Sober Self)
A Radical Simplification
In Conflict Lies Hope

(2) Prepare Your Sober Self For Action

Reinforcing Your Sober Self
Stop Beating Yourself Up
No S is Too Small to Start
Listen For Your Wake-up Call
Motivating Yourself to Start
Addiction is Not A Defect of Character
Every Personality Type is Liable to Become Addicted
The Power of Habit
The Power of Self-Conditioning
Different Styles of Breaking the Habit
Develop your choice muscles

(3) How LifeRing Works

The LifeRing Meeting
Reinforcing Our Sober Selves
Labels Are Optional
How Was Your Week?
An X-Ray of the Meeting Dynamic
The Neurobiological Dimension
Horizontal Synergy
Feedback and Cross-Talk
Mirror Neurons
The Spiritual Dimension

(4) Building A Personal Recovery Program

Why Build a Personal Recovery Program
The Recovery by Choice Workbook
The Nine Work Areas for a Personal Recovery Program
Abstinence, the Common Element in All LifeRing Personal Recovery Programs
Building A Personal Recovery Program on Your Own
The Challenges and Rewards of A Personal Recovery Program
Building A Personal Recovery Program Is Not Everyone’s Cup of Tea
Self Help and Professional Help

(5) About Powerlessness

Choice or Powerlessness
The Augustinian Doctrine of Alcoholics Anonymous
The Problems of the Zero Power Doctrine
Augustine Won the Battle but Pelagius Won the War
How the Powerlessness Doctrine Drives Out Newcomers
The First Drink and the Second
Feelings of Powerlessness Lead People to Drink
The 12-Step Gauntlet of Negative Emotions
Powerlessness for Women and Minorities
The Addict Needs To Fight, Not To Surrender

(6) About The Disease Theory Of Alcoholism

The “Medical Business”
Disease as the Hammer to Induce Powerlessness
Enter the Alcohol Industry and Marty Mann
Disease Is the Money Word
AA And the Alcohol Industry
A Political but Not a Scientific Triumph
The “Medical Business” Conquers AA
The Comparison to Tobacco
Drinking and Public Health
Does The Disease Theory Reduce Social Stigma?
The Disease Concept and Abstinence
The Disease Concept and the Supreme Court
Why Physicians Have Trouble with the Disease Concept
Disease Treatment without Doctors
The Perfect Storm That Made the Treatment System
The Cure for the Disease Model

(7) Genetic Headlines Meet Laboratory Realities

Headline Fantasies v. Laboratory Research
Twin Studies
Molecular Studies
Searching For the Alcoholism Gene
Guarded Generalities
A Genetic Trait That Protects Against Alcoholism
The High Risk of Low Responsiveness
The Dangers of Genetic Fatalism
Genetic Fatalism and Eugenics
Alcoholics Are Not a People Apart


Recovery as Liberation
An Invitation to LifeRing

Supplement for the Second Edition

Publications of Interest About Addiction Treatment
The Genomics Revolution
Schuckit’s Low Responsiveness Hypothesis

References For The First Edition

About the Author


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.