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Category Archives: Media

Revealing Story of Pain Medication Addiction

Here is a harrowing story about pain pill addiction and how easily and savagely it occurs. It’s a story from the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah. It illustrates exceptionally well how easily good people can stumble into addiction, even with their eyes wide open to the dangers. An accomplished, intelligent, award-winning writer becomes addicted not because of childhood abuse, inherited predilections, emotional dysfunction, or moral failure, but instead because of simply using too much of a drug, prescribed properly, for too long.

See the story Here.



LifeRing and Other 12-Step Alternatives Featured in Professional Journal

A recent magazine article on Alternatives to 12-Step Addiction Recovery in “Social Work Today” magazine not only is the lead story for that issue, but features LifeRing as an organization and quotes Executive Director Robert Stump.

The article deals with the current situation faced by nearly everyone who seeks treatment for addiction: “there is something that many people in recovery will share as they progress through and out of treatment: They will be asked, if not required, to “work the steps.” Indeed, the process of recovery from addiction has been dominated in the United States by the 12-step method established with the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) in 1935.”

The Article goes on to explain the appearance in recent decades of non-traditional recovery groups such as LifeRing. “These alternative groups historically have struggled to gain a significant following, but with the advent of new technologies and the rise of a new generation of people in treatment who want more control over their recovery, these groups believe the time has come for social workers and other behavioral health professionals to accept them as part of the mainstream continuum of recovery services.”

“A big part of what I believe in is choice,” says Robert Stump, executive director of LifeRing, a group based in Oakland, CA. “One shoe does not fit all people. Every day that goes by, there are more and more people who are demanding that choice. [Alternative groups] may not cater to a large section of the American public, but we do appeal to a subset of Americans, and professionals should be aware of that.”

The entire article, available Here, is very much worth reading


The Role of Abstinence in Treating Addiction

LifeRing believes strongly that abstinence from all alcohol and other non-medically indicated drugs is the only acceptable goal once addiction has occurred. All of our members accept that as the goal of our approach, and many of our members have years of successful abstinence to point to along with a vastly improved quality of life. I’m one of those and I completely endorse the abstinence approach – I’m convinced that even one drink could lead to a resumption of my addicted life.

But there are other points of view. Phillip H., a LifeRing Convenor of long standing in Northern Ireland, recently shared an article that takes a slightly different view. The article is very much worth reading for it’s clear and compelling view of the problems created by a focus on “moral failing” in treatment programs based on the 12-Step program and the so-called Minnesota Model still very widely used in the professional treatment system. Throughout the article the author takes a caustic view of an emphasis on total abstinence, although it appears by the end of the lengthy article that his position is one of viewing zero-tolerance policies in treatment facilities as punitive and counter-productive. “Discharging an alcoholic for relapsing” he suggests, “is like discharging a schizophrenic for relapsing: it is not a reason for discharge but a reason to work with the client.”

This compassionate view of relapse is very much what LifeRing tries to practice. We view relapse as a setback, not some sort of moral failing. A favorite image I’ve heard in LifeRing meetings is that “if you’re driving from New York to Seattle and your car has a problem in Chicago, you don’t have to start the trip over in New York if you can fix the car in Chicago.”

The author of the article goes on to suggest that, for some people, continued but reduced use of drugs can lead to an improved life. On this point, LifeRing parts company – too often, “harm reduction” leads eventually to a resumption of full-blown addictive usage. It’s not worth the gamble.

But the article – see it Here – has much to offer.

— Craig Whalley

Addiction: Is It a Disease, or … Something Else

The question of whether addiction constitutes a “disease” is a perennial source of disagreement among the “experts’ and among addicts themselves. Much depends on the definition of “disease.” Used casually, the term implies some sort of breakdown in the body, stemming from bacteria, or viruses or things like cancer which have a clear and negative effect on the sufferer. Addiction clearly isn’t caused by a virus or bacteria or other foreign agent.  And while the effects of drinking and drug use cause damage which can lead to conditions that are clearly diseases (cirrhosis, for example), that is not the same as the addiction itself being a disease.

A recent blog post in the magazine Psychology Today bywriter/physician Lance Dodes (author of the book, Breaking Addiction) gives a very brief history of the label as applied to addiction and then contends that addiction is a behavioral problem, a compulsion, no different – except perhaps in the physical damage it can do – from other compulsive disorders, such as out-of-control gambling:

“When addiction,” he writes, “is properly understood to be a compulsive behavior like many others, it becomes impossible to justify moralizing about people who feel driven to perform addictive acts.  And because compulsive behaviors are so common, any idea that “addicts” are in some way sicker, lazier, more self-centered, or in any other way different from the rest of humanity becomes indefensible.”

Dodes holds that the “addictive acts occur when precipitated by emotionally significant events” by which he presumably means events that lead to emotions that are very difficult to deal with. He goes on to say “they can be prevented by understanding what makes these events so emotionally important, and they can be replaced by other emotionally meaningful actions or even other psychological symptoms that are not addictions.  Addictive behavior is a readily understandable symptom, not a disease.”

Boy, I wish it had seemed so simple and straightforward to me when I was struggling to get sober! For that matter, I wish I could be certain, after 12 years of sobriety, that I had overcome the underlying cause and didn’t have to worry any more. It’s an interesting way of looking at it that undoubtedly has some truth. But it seems to me that the problem is more complex than he implies. I don’t much care if we call it a ‘disease’ or a ‘condition’ or a ‘problem;’ but I do think it takes every ounce of determination one can marshal, plus some sort of supportive help,  to overcome it. It’s not simple, whatever you call it.

— Craig Whalley

LifeRing Recognized in Professional Journal

Martin Nicolaus, LifeRing’s founding leader and author of our three LifeRing books, passes along this mention of LifeRing in a recent article co-authored by the widely-respected writer on addiction William L. White. John Kelly was the other author and the passage appeared in the Journal of Groups in Addiction and Recovery under the title “Broadening the Base of Addiction Mutual-Help Organizations.” Here’s what they said about us:

LifeRing for Secular Sobriety [actually, LifeRing Secular Recovery] is a cognitive-behaviorally oriented support group that emphasizes a tradition of positive psychology rather than spirituality or religious ideas. Founded in 2001, it has grown to about 140 [more than 170 as of now] face-to- face meetings as well as online meetings with about 1,000 participants [at any given time]. It has already begun surveys of its membership (sample responded = 401) indicating 58% were male, the average age was 47.8 years old, more than 80% had attended some college, and 44% had a bachelors degree. The average length of sobriety was 2.74 years. In the past year, 40% reported attending a religious service of some kind. In keeping with LifeRing’s goal of targeting any kind of substance dependence, survey respondents’ primary substances covered a full range of substances of misuse including tobacco. [a recently completed new survey will update these results, but probably won’t change them radically]

The LifeRing approach centers on empowerment of the “sober self” characterized by three major components: recognition, activation, and mastery. Recognition emphasizes insight and empowerment by realizing that the “sober self” is a part of who individuals are and has helped them access help and get to this point in their lives. Activation is about living in sobriety and facing the challenges of recovery, which is discussed in group meetings. Mastery is supported through empowering individual members to develop their own “Personal Recovery Program” (PRP). Individuals’ PRPs can be allowed to occur naturally as things progress, or more strategically by working through the organization’s Recovery by Choice workbook. This facilitates the formation of the PRP across nine different recovery-related domains.

The LifeRing approach is essentially a grassroots experientially based mutual-help group but is informed by the latest treatment and recovery research. Consequently, it incorporates ideas from cognitive-behavioral, motivational, humanistic, existential, and positive psychology areas. No studies have been conducted on LifeRing, but its continued expansion is evidence of its value to many individuals suffering a variety of substance addiction problems. Future research should focus on which individuals may be likely to engage with the organization and on its effectiveness in helping individuals maintain recovery.