Category Archives: Essays

Hazle Settlement A Victory For Secular Recovery

The following piece is submitted by long-time and very active LifeRing Member Byron Kerr, discussing a landmark case won by Barry Hazle, Jr. against the State of California which is also a victory for secular recovery for all who want it in California.

For more information, please reference the San Francisco Chronicle’s article about the case here.

All of us here at LifeRing extend our sincere gratitude to Mr. Hazle for his incredible tenacity and best wishes in his ongoing recovery – thank you Barry!

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In 2007, Barry Hazle, Jr. of Shasta County, CA was charged with a drug offense in Shasta County Superior Court of California. Mr. Hazle pled no contest to the charges and received a sentence of one year in state prison.

After serving one year in prison Barry Hazle was released on parole. A condition of his parole was that he attend a ninety-day, residential drug treatment program. Barry Hazle immediately said that he was willing to undergo drug treatment, but specifically desired a secular approach to treatment.

Westcare, Inc., the state contractor that was enlisted to procure a treatment facility for Mr. Hazle ignored his request for secular treatment and placed him in Empire Recovery Center that used 12-Step facilitation exclusively. Mr. Hazle objected immediately to both Westcare and his parole officer, a Mr. Crofoot. Barry Hazle was told that he must participate in the 12-Step program or risk charges of parole violation.

Barry Hazle was expelled from the treatment program at Empire Recovery for being, “disruptive, though in a congenial way” according to court records of Empire staff testimony. Mr. Crofoot arrested Barry Hazle on charges of parole violation and forced Mr. Hazle back to state prison for an additional 100 days.

Barry Hazle filed a federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for eastern California, claiming violation of his constitutional rights under the First Amendment.

In the mean time, Mr. Hazle’s original criminal conviction was thrown out and the original conviction no longer stands.

John Heller was the lead attorney in the federal lawsuit and was one of the featured speakers at our 2014 LifeRing Conference in Santa Rosa, May 31, 2014. Marty Nicolaus introduced Mr. Heller. One of the high points of the entire conference was when John Heller introduced Barry Hazle to the LifeRing audience. Mr. Hazle received a very welcoming ovation from the LifeRing crowd.
At the time of the LifeRing Conference, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals had already ruled that the case must be re-tried and that compensatory damages were mandatory. Other issues surrounding the State of California and Westcare, Inc. were also ordered re-tried due to improper instructions given to the original jury.

The final settlement, reached on October 14, 2014, was reached without a full re-trial. It was apparently reached by way of a settlement conference. While the $1,950,000 settlement is significant, the victory for choice of recovery support is the most important aspect of this settlement. The fact that the State of California is paying half and a private company is paying half is also important.

Barry Hazle has stated that he intends to remain active in the recovery community. He has also stated a desire to build a home in the mountains. His bravery and courage in standing up for his rights certainly entitles him to a home in the mountains.

Bodies In Motion – In The Whirlwind

I’ve always been a slow learner – slow to pick things up, slow to put them where they belong. When I was a kid and convinced of my intrinsic worthlessness, I didn’t know that about myself – I thought that, unlike all the other kids I grew up around, for whom so many things seemed to come so easily, I was basically just not capable of very much. Ever stubborn, however, I beat my head up against the brick wall of my inadequacies in almost any way I could find for the longest time.

This was never more true than in the area of sports, for which I lacked an abundance of natural gifts, and my inability to participate in them with even a hint of the brilliance displayed by all the other girls on my grade school T-ball, softball, and basketball teams was the bane of my existence. After a while, I learned to cut my losses not only with sports but with everything else worth doing, too, and quit early – and often.

Alcohol wasn’t like that for me. Drinking was something I was going to learn to do, dammit, even if it killed me. I decided this when I was 12 years old, drunk on a Saturday night and barfing my guts out on some cheap wine a few friends and I had lifted from a Safeway, but even back then, it simply seemed a matter of prudent dedication, and time. I thought, “Everyone drinks and they don’t barf their guts out, they have fun. How hard can it be?”

Over and over and over again I pounded my head on that one, and ugh, it was a doozy. Prior to getting sober, I’d tried to simply stop drinking, but the main reason why that never worked is nothing else had changed, and I didn’t do change.

When I finally figured out I that getting sober was going to take at least as much effort, energy and devotion as drinking did, I poured myself into it with single-minded gusto. I discovered another part of me that I’d also failed to acknowledge as a kid: When I finally do get something, I get it as well as if not better than anybody.

You learn pretty quickly that a couple of things that worked well on Days 1, 2 and 3 will continue working just as well on Day 29: Don’t take the first drink. Take it one second, minute, hour and day at a time. The journey of a 1,000 miles begins with a single step, and you keep your focus on putting one foot in front of the other. Reach out and engage with your support group, listen to what the successful folks have to tell you about what worked for them instead of what the little monster in your brain is telling you, etc. etc. etc., so on and so forth.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

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Bodies In Motion, Part One

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the way life has its ups and downs and periods of animation and stagnation – you know, bodies in motion tending to stay in motion and bodies at rest tending to stay at rest and all that. It’s long been a fascination of mine the way things can stay the same for the longest time, and then bam! Something happens, and everything is changed forever, life being what happens while you’re busy making other plans and what have you.

The truth is, I’ve never been much of one for plans, because all of that business comes packaged with so many expectations, and I fear expectations. We have so little control over anything, except ourselves and the choices we make, and even then we’re on shaky ground. Why push it?

Then there’s the matter of how we plan to spend our lives – whether we choose to become bodies in motion or at rest, for example, and what either thing entails. Many of us stay in the same places doing the same exact same things because we like them. They make us happy. OK, well, if not…”happy” exactly, then they at the very least offer the seeming comforts of the known, and the mundane known is still better than some terrifying unknown…right?

We also stay in the same places doing the exact same things because we’re in a rut and don’t know what else to do, or because we know darn well what to do…but just don’t believe that we can actually do it. Then, of course, there’s the case of buying into the utterly delusional proposition that doing the same thing over and over again will produce a different result each time, despite all evidence to the contrary.

Conversely, there’s also often much confusion about whether our doing something different every once in a while either adds some welcome variety to our lives or essentially adds up to nothing, because that’s what making a decision to do something without doing anything to back it up amounts to.

And that’s what sobriety was to me for the longest time: This giant amorphous, intangible thing one half of me desperately wanted but had no idea – other than simply waiting for it to happen to me – how to go about getting , while the other half desperately needed me to keep drinking at all costs.

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Martin Nicolaus’s Prepared Remarks for the 2014 LifeRing Annual Conference

Below is the talk that LifeRing’s founding leader wanted to give at our recent Annual Conference. Unfortunately, Martin Nicolaus ran into car trouble which you can read about on his personal blog Here. So what follows is what Marty would have presented to the Annual Conference had he made it on time:

 

MartyThank you for inviting me to speak here today.  To have served this organization as founder and its initial CEO has been an honor and a privilege.  I am deeply grateful for the support I’ve received over the years from the LifeRing network.

I get a great warm feeling from seeing the caliber of the people who are taking the lead in serving the organization today.  The basic principles of LifeRing address urgent societal needs.  A cadre of people with exceptional vision, energy, talent, and endurance has coalesced around these principles. On this basis, the outlook for LifeRing’s future is very good.

The time for me to participate in guiding the organization is past.  However, I have been asked for my view of the road ahead.  Of course, I have no crystal ball, and life has a way of laughing at our best-laid plans.  But here goes.

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Dr. Candice Shelby’s Presentation on “Biocoding” Posted on Website

ShelbyCandice Shelby, Ph.D., an associate professor of Philosophy at the University of Denver campus, is a valued friend of LifeRing. She knows a great deal about how brains and minds function, including the biological, psychological and, yes, philosophical factors that determine what we are, and why we are that way. She gave a talk a few years ago at a LifeRing Annual Conference in Denver that was very well-received and continues to draw heavy readership on this website (click Here for the earlier presentation). Dr. Shelby was kind enough to quickly supply a copy of her talk so that we could post in on lifering.org. The new presentation is concerned with “biocoding” and can be read Here.  Here is a brief excerpt:

What I would like to consider specifically today is the way in which the processes of addiction and recovery are connected to processes of meaning development and change. The level of meanings that I’m going to focus on here are at the semantic, psychological, and social levels. These meanings are encoded into individuals through the interaction of their highly complex organic systems with the highly complex environments in which they are embedded. The correlation of the meaning shifts with the transitions into and out of what we generally call addiction is so close that we could reasonably call addiction essentially a phenomenon of meaning, were it not for the oversimplification that such a characterization would invite.

The concepts dealt with in the talk are fascinating even while sometimes hard to grasp by the layman (or at least by me). Still, it is very much worth a read. Go Here