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Category Archives: Essays

Letter From Pelican Bay Prison

LifeRing offers an”e-mail pal” program for people who can’t or prefer not to be involved with our face-t0-face groups. Read about it on this page: E-Mail Pals. One of our members exchanges emails with a person looking for some help and offers support, information and, we hope, friendship. Many, many addicts are very isolated and sometimes they need to start making changes in a very safe and non-threatening way. Others literally can’t be involved with face-to-face help, because of handicaps or geographical limitations or other obstacles.

Recently, we’ve added to that program by starting a more old-fashioned service: pen pals for people who lack computer access. That includes prisoners. One of our volunteers (thanks, Tim!) sent along a letter he received from his inmate correspondent that is very much worth sharing. Arturo granted  permission for us to offer this. It gives insight into addiction, prisons and the human spirit.

Response from Arturo (typed from his hand-written response to my letter – no corrections have been made).  Dated 9/8/11.

Tim – Greetings to you!.

I do hope that this finds you doing well and in the best of heath and recovery on your end.  As for myself, I am doing great!  I received your letter as well as the LifeRing brochures.  Thank you for extending your hand.  I appreciate it and would like to begin a correspondence with you.

I intend to thoroughly read all of these brochures and I am sure that I will have questions regarding those.  In the meantime I just wanted to briefly introduce myself to you and “break the ice” between strangers.  I am an open book and always maintain honesty in my dealings with others.  So if you ever want to talk about what I share with you, or whatever, please feel free to do so.  I do not easily take offense!

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Message from a LifeRing Convenor

One of LifeRing’s convenors writes:

Tonight’s meeting was just one of those wonderful gatherings in which I felt tremendous love and connectedness with each person present.

A member with 11 months’ sobriety convened the meeting. It’s such a joy to see the transformation that has taken place in him, as he moved from viewing sobriety as a straitjacket to really unfurling his sober wings.

We discussed the importance of continually examining our sober foundation. We agreed that if we build our sober structure on a foundation of anger, resentment, wistfulness, lack of self-honesty, an unbalanced life, then even the slightest gust of wind could be enough to topple that structure. People gave examples of ways in which they blasted off parts of their sober foundation that they found did not serve them well, and replaced it with something that truly supported their sober lives.

I felt the love of those who truly understood my struggles. I felt gifted by a generosity I never experienced prior to my recovery.

It hasn’t always been a rose garden, but my decision to become a convenor, rooted in the purely selfish need for a viable f2f alternative to AA, has been one of the greatest joys I’ve known.


And Now for Something Completely Different

Miriam C., one of our Irish convenors, sent along an essay that I can’t resist posting, despite it being rather far from the usual fare here:

“I guess it’s the other part of me that does it”

We’re the proud and extremely lucky parents of the most amazing son.  What makes him so special is that he was born with the wonderful gifts of autism and what is referred to as ‘intellectual disability’.

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Memorial Day, 2011

A personal note:

My family never made much of Memorial Day — my father was a young man during WWII, but wasn’t healthy enough for military service; my brothers and I managed to weasel our way out of service during the Vietnam War. But like many, I’ve often wondered who went to that awful war in my place. and what price he paid.

There is no equivalent of Memorial Day for those killed or damaged by addiction. Perhaps there should be. More are killed by alcohol alone than in war, and the survivors carry scars that are just as slow to heal, if they heal at all. “But you did it to yourself!” we’re told, and often tell ourselves. Only the most callous and blind would say that about cancer victims, or heart attack victims or, for that matter, victims of war who volunteered for service.

So I hope we can feel appropriate respect and gratitude for those who gave their lives, and their health, for a cause that they believed in. And maybe we can renew our commitment to providing help to others who are being killed and harmed, not by bullets but by addiction.

Craig Whalley
Executive Director,

Drinking on the Job as an Employee Benefit?

The San Francisco Chronicle, the major newspaper in the Bay Area, carried an article in its Sunday edition that raises some concerns about the culture surrounding the high tech industries that often seem to be re-shaping the world. The article, entitled “Bar’s open at Startups,” reports that at prominent companies such as Twitter and Yelp it’s not unusual for beer to be free and available throughout the work day: “At Yelp Inc.’s San Francisco headquarters, a keg refrigerator provides a never-ending supply of beer to employees, letting them drink as much as they like” according to the article.

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