Category Archives: Law

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.

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.

How much does a ‘label’ matter in getting help?

Dr. John Kelly

By “label,” I’m talking about what we, what society, and what the treatment industry calls someone who has an alcohol or drugs problem.

Often, that label is “substance abuser,” a labeling that Harvard’s Dr. John Kelly, an associate professor of psychology, said can be harmful indeed.

He says that label adds to stigmatization of people with an addiction, not just in society in general but among people at the Ph.D. level of study in psychology or related disciplines, including people planning on entering addiction counseling and substance abuse treatment work.

At a White House meeting, Kelly specifically told the federal “drug abuse czar” that, from the top down, the country’s frontline people in dealing with addiction need to work on changing their labeling vocabulary.

First, ‘methadone maintenance'; now, ‘beer maintenance’?

Use of methadone to help keep heroin addicts off of smack has always had some degree of controversy.

But, given that the amount of heroin addicts is far less than the number of alcoholics, methadone maintenance is surely far less controversial, or scary, than beer maintenance for alcoholic drinkers, I would think. Nonetheless, just that thing is being tried in …. where else, one might say? … Amsterdam.

After more than a decade out of work because of a back injury and chronic alcoholism, Fred Schiphorst finally landed a job last year and is determined to keep it. He gets up at 5:30 a.m., walks his dog and then puts on a red tie, ready to clean litter from the streets of eastern Amsterdam. …

His workday begins unfailingly at 9 a.m. — with two cans of beer, a down payment on a salary paid mostly in alcohol. He gets two more cans at lunch and then another can or, if all goes smoothly, two to round off a productive day.

“Interesting,” to say the least. It’s a partnership between the Dutch government and a nonprofit group.

The program, started last year by the Rainbow Foundation, a private but mostly government-funded organization that helps the homeless, drug addicts and alcoholics get back on their feet, is so popular that there is a long waiting list of chronic alcoholics eager to join the beer-fueled cleaning teams.

Oh, I’m sure it’s popular. It also perpetuates an old stereotype, which likely adds to the problem, rather than helping solve it:

One of the project’s most enthusiastic supporters is Fatima Elatik, district mayor of eastern Amsterdam. As a practicing Muslim who wears a head scarf, Ms. Elatik personally disapproves of alcohol but says she believes that alcoholics “cannot be just ostracized” and told to shape up. It is better, she said, to give them something to do and restrict their drinking to a limited amount of beer with no hard alcohol.

But, alcohol is alcohol, whether in beer, wine or spirits.

The second page of the story gets at the heart of the city’s stance, with this quote:

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Choice in Recovery — Two Articles From Opposite Directions; Similar Conclusions

We often think of AA as being monolithic, speaking in one voice. In fact, AA has members who deviate sharply from the “established” principles. There are “Agnostic” AA groups which try to shed the religious element from the program. Since “religious elements” are central to much of AA’s approach, this is a difficult task, to say the least. A group and website called “AA Agnostica” defines itself as “a space for Agnostics, Atheists and Free Thinkers Worldwide.” A recent article posted on that website tackles the problem of the U.S. court system declaring any number of times that AA is religious and therefore cannot be mandated by a branch of the government due to the First Amendment. The article contends that the Twelve Traditions, which are much less explicitly religious than the Twelve Steps, should be placed at the heart of AA in place of the Twelve Steps. Some would argue that even the Traditions contain religious elements, including references to “a loving God.” Still, the article is an interesting read, not least because it explicitly accepts the Court’s view of AA as being legally a religiously-based organization. See the article Here

One person who never has had any problem seeing AA as religious is LifeRing’s founding leader Martin Nicolaus. He recently had an article published in Counselor: The Magazine for Addiction Professionals. That article, which can be viewed Here, gives details about a court ruling, a decision in the case of Hazle vs. Crofoot, which provides the most recent reinforcement of an earlier case (2009) that clearly required government at all levels to offer choice in recovery rather than mandating Twelve Step programs exclusively.

Both articles make for very interesting reading.

— Craig Whalley