Pat McGraw, a counselor at The Prevention Coalition – a recovery support organization based in Southern California – sent us a lovely e-mail filled links to helpful resources out there for any of you who may find yourselves feeling stressed out and/or struggling through this holiday season.
Please check our Pat’s guest post with those links included, and please – reach out to and keep in close contact with your support groups and friends in recovery. And feel free to contact us here at LifeRing anytime via e-mail at email@example.com.
Many thanks to Pat for sharing this information with all of us, and to all of you, we wish you safe, healthy, happy, and peaceful holidays.
While this is a joyful and busy time of the year for most, many people suffering from mental health issues or substance abuse disorder find the holidays to be a challenge.
As a counselor, I see a lot of my clients struggle with putting on a brave face during the winter holidays. For those in recovery, the parties and celebrations are rife with temptation (and explanation). For those suffering from depression and anxiety, the holidays can exacerbate feelings of despondence and agitation — which, unfortunately, can linger even after the holiday season is over.
In an effort to help those who are suffering find measures of comfort and reassurance, I have created a list of resources to share this list with your readers.
How about starting here:
Please enjoy these success stories of members who have benefited from LifeRing recovery over the years since our founding in 1997 – we hope you take hope, comfort, and inspiration from all of them. If you would like to share your story, we require only that you simply write it (up to 500 words) and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Success Stories” in the subject line. Easy!
I had a happy childhood with parents who loved us and each other. I was a ‘highly strung’ child with phobias and was therefore a soft target for classroom bullies. I went to university and on the first social occasion (a university union vodka promotion!) realised that alcohol would provide me with ‘Dutch courage’.
I got married to a very kind man and when we were saving up for a deposit to buy a house we restricted our drinking to a bottle of wine on Friday and Saturday nights with our meal. They were happy times however they couldn’t last.
I made some attempts to stop. I assumed my drinking was because I had a very hard life. I was incapable of taking responsibility for anything in my life. I was utterly selfish and miserable.
Eventually, after a 24-hour bender I stumbled into AA. I credit AA with drumming into me that I had lost the ability to control my drinking – if I had ever had any control. That I needed to be totally abstinent from alcohol and to take life one day at a time. Fear kept me away from alcohol. I did eventually work through the AA programme although I always struggled with the idea of surrendering to a higher power.
I was brought up to believe that it was my own efforts in life that would bring results, that I was not powerless. I did the AA steps again a few years back. I liked the self-honesty required however I felt the programme encouraged within me a passivity around life (just ‘hand it over’) and a sense of failure when I was incapable of accepting my fate. When I stated to AA friends that I believe I kept myself sober it was often met with a sharp intake of breath.
A friend who I love and respect had moved away from AA and into LifeRing. She was living proof that people leave AA and don’t necessarily drink. I asked her about LifeRing and she steered me to the website. I ordered ‘Empowering Your Sober Self’. It made so much sense to me. At last! I had ‘permission’ to craft my own programme (which I had really been doing anyway). The only thing to do was not to drink or drug no matter what.
In my 21 years of sobriety I have experienced bereavement, unemployment, illness, major surgery and financial instability. This stuff has affected my life as it is part of my life. I have made the decision during the dark times not to pick up a drink (or a drug). When I make that decision, I have clenched my fists in preparation for a fight. I have been on my guard against forgetting my drinking past – especially during the good times, of which there have been many. I take responsibility for my behaviour today. The old addict self is much diminished but is still there waiting for its chance. I know that I must help other addicts and alcoholics. In fact, I no longer refer to myself as being alcoholic as I now find the term too exclusive as it forces people to identify themselves as being different from other people with alcohol problems. I volunteer with a drug and alcohol recovery service and see that alcohol affects many people badly and one doesn’t need to hit a ‘rock bottom’ to stop and learn the nature of their addiction. I have just started a LifeRing meeting at the Recovery Centre as I am determined that other addicts should have a choice and not have 12-Step fellowships as their only option (AA did LifeRing a big favour here!)
I am an unremarkable woman with an unremarkable drinking story. What is remarkable is the fact that I am one of the lucky few people in the world who became addicted to alcohol and managed to stop drinking. Everything else is a bonus!
I struggled with my addiction to alcohol for decades. Most of the time I was a ‘functioning’ alcoholic. Sometimes I would abstain for a week or two until I was convinced I could handle my liquor. Try as I might I never could for long as a couple of beers turned into a couple of drinks and soon I was only drinking beer as a chaser after a long pull off of a big bottle.
From the fall of 2014 until the spring of 2015 I was at my absolute worst. After alienating my family, losing my job and experiencing multi-day blackouts I finally took action by calling the VA.
I had my last drink June 16th of 2015 and started in an IOP program on Monday the 22nd. While in IOP I began to wonder what I was going to do once I graduated. I knew from previous experience that for me Alcoholics Anonymous was more likely to make me drink than keep me sober. After seeing a post on a bulletin board advertising a Lifering Secular Recovery meeting in the hospital, I did some research and found a couple of face to face meetings within a half an hour of my home. I began attending Lifering in July and took over convening a meeting the following February.
I can honestly say that without LifeRing there is no way I would be sober today. I got myself sober with the help of the VA but LifeRing meetings are what have kept me going. The help, encouragement and support are fantastic. Convening meetings had given me even more confidence which in turn gives me the opportunity to help others.
LifeRing has made a world of difference in life and my success in sobriety. I enjoy being a link in the support chain for others as well as that only strengthens my own resolve.
I have no idea whether my slip into full-blown into alcoholism was unusual or altogether typical but I do know that on my 40th birthday I woke up knowing that I had a problem and that I needed to address it. I can’t explain why it took me another 22 years to make a commitment to real sobriety nor why I never got DUI, lost my lifelong partner or got fired from my job. My best guess is that I was exceedingly lucky on all counts.
During those two decades I went through an extended outpatient program as well as a month-long residential program. Both were 12-step programs and neither enabled me to stay sober for more than a few months. I don’t know whether that was because of the nature of the programs or because I was not yet ready to stop drinking.
What I do know is that early in 2015 I entered a five-day detox program, and while there I attended my first LifeRing meeting. At that meeting I found myself among a group whose members believe that a program of collective empowerment was more likely to be effective than any confession of complete powerlessness over alcohol.
I have been attending meetings since that day and now serve as the convenor of a small group. Can I say with confidence that absent LifeRing I would probably still be drinking today? I do not know. What I do know is that LifeRing has been essential as I approach the end of my second year of abstinence and for that I am exceedingly grateful.
I was a small town bookseller living alone after a difficult marriage and divorce when I finally acknowledged to myself that I needed help to quit drinking.
We had copies of the AA “Big Book” at my bookstore and I would flip through it at times, hoping to find The Answer but was always disappointed. To start with I’m not religious at all and the idea of being “powerless” was offensive to me.
When I found LifeRing on the internet, I knew instantly that I’d found what I was looking for: supporters who weren’t concerned with my spiritual life, didn’t insist on a one-size-fits-all approach but rather emphasized that it is each person’s responsibility for building their own personal recovery plan. Addiction wasn’t labeled a character defect but rather a condition rooted in genetics, psychology and life-experiences.
LifeRing had no meetings anywhere near me so not knowing what to expect I joined a LifeRing email group on the internet. It functioned like a slow motion, 24/7/365 support meeting that I could enter or leave whenever I chose without missing anything. It was a perfect fit for me. I participated actively and knew that the “support” piece of the recovery puzzle was in place.
Support isn’t the only thing needed however and it still took me a good long time to get sober for good. I had to learn things about myself, about the nature of addiction and about what I needed to change and what I needed to hold on to. But it’s been more than 15 years now since I had a drink. I’m not Mr. Happy now — my life isn’t filled with joy every minute. But I’ve regained my health and my self-respect.
People entering recovery need to know that there are choices. I’m so glad I made the right choice.
In 1970, at age 30, I recognized that I had an alcohol problem. I consulted with my MD and he wrote me a prescription for Antabuse. Because AA was, by choice, not an option, I had no support and soon relapsed.
About eight years later I managed, with virtually no withdrawal discomfort/anxiety, to stop smoking and drinking, which began a cycle of sobriety/relapse lasting the next twenty-nine years. After getting out of detox the last time, one of my sisters told me of a woman she knew from the League of Women Voters who was married to a man from an organization called LifeRing, a non-religious support group.
I took the information and went to my first LifeRing meeting. That was October, 2007. I found an approach that respects everyone’s individuality, indeed urging you to discover what you need to do to maintain your sobriety. I hope that acknowledging that many of us need multiple sober/relapse episodes before achieving a comfortable, not-taken-for-granted sobriety will lend needed support, not shame, to those for whom relapse prevention is still a 24/7 concern.
A few months back our Service Center received a letter from a earnest young man incarcerated in Elmwood Correctional Facility in Milpitas, California named Mykel Hall, who was requesting information about our program to help him find another way to recover besides the 12 Steps – the only recovery group available in the majority of prisons throughout the U.S. – while finishing his sentence.
As is often the case, our own Craig Whalley not only sent Mykel our materials, but took it upon himself to begin corresponding with Mykel. Mykel found that LifeRing was right for him, but knew his fellow inmates at Elmwood would want to participate in it, too – so he started his own meeting. And it’s been a great success!
Here are a few letters, the first from Mykel, expressing what LifeRing’s meant to people at his meeting who want to better themselves on the inside so they can continue bettering themselves on the outside, as well. Their stories offer hope and encouragement.
Thank you for your wonderful letter and quick response I love the newsletter. Because we don’t have access to the internet it really helps to having things to read on LifeRing business.
Of course you can use my full name if you need to tell my or our story. I have no problem with that, anything I can do to help.
Enclosed you will find letters from some of our Sunday Sunraisers meeting members. I wanted to have them write to share what LifeRing has done for them and also to give some encouragement to the Board that supporting our efforts will spread the LifeRing message.
Feel free to post my name and contact info. for anyone who would like to correspond and assist with furthering our cause. If the guy who is composing your annual fundraising needs more background on me I am more than willing to share my story. I really like the idea of the donate button. Each week I donate cups of coffee to groups members so when they come it feels like what you would find at an outside NA or AA meeting.
I really would like to take LifeRing to other facilities once I am released. 12 Steps dominate here in Elmwood but as more men learn about LifeRing they are taking it and running with it.
I will keep you posted on the happenings and changes here. I look forward to hearing how the Board of Directors meeting went. Anything I can do to help LifeRing please let me know.
Lifering meetings have helped me express how my struggle with addiction has affected me. I had heard about it before, but was hesitant to attend any meetings, or seek help. I thought that I could do it by myself. While I had success, trying to recover by myself left me without any resources or support to assist me when things got difficult. Talking in a a group about our short timer goals the past week and the future week allowed me to stay focused and to receive helpful tips and new perspectives offered by the group. LifeRing meetings have made my recovery easier, without me needing to rely on outside help, or focus on things that don’t help me.
As an inmate, my personal experience with LifeRing has been a good one. One of the first things that stood out was the atmosphere and the warm welcome one receives automatically when they enter the circle. This was important to me because it set the foundation of what to expect from its group holder. Because of the warm welcome I instantly want to be open to the idea of sharing my personal conflicts that I was facing during the week. Because it’s designed not to so much focus on one’s personal religious background it allowed me to feel more comfortable in sharing my personal feelings and opinions about a particular subject without having to feel worried about being religious or politically correct about the matters. LifeRing I found to be another good resource to help relieve tension that one might feel by allowing the participant to freely discuss issues and a safe environment while being receptive to positive cross talk among his peers in which who might be experiencing similar feelings about a particular topic. Saying all that I definitely can see the benefits from its material. Anything that helps one be at peace with himself is a good group to be a part of, especially in a hostile environment as jail could be without the proper means to a degree.
My name is Joe. I have been attending LifeRing meetings with Mykel since he first introduced what LifeRing was all about. Prior to LifeRing AA was the place to be, but out with the higher power and in with the self-power! With empowerment, encouragement, and openness our LifeRing meetings bring, I have been able to face lifelong challenges I’ve been struggling with since, when? Either addiction, or coping from addiction, LifeRing has provided me with the courage and oomph to break out of my hiding spot of a shell! I believe with this secular support, I can achieve greater heights from my old self! Thank you, LifeRing!
I attended my first meeting this week and I have to say that it was really fruitful so I will be attending regularly. I was invited without knowing what it was and found out quickly that it was an alternative to NA, which I have attended a couple of times and knew it wasn’t for me. I appreciate the material, program layout and Mykel and the others who attend the meeting for being supportive. I would like to thank you for caring enough about ours and others’ sobriety to put together a program like this.
My name is Cedrick A. and I am here in Elmwood Jail and I attended LifeRing meetings here and since I attended my first meeting I have been hooked that there is a way to stay clean other than NA. Thanks to LifeRing for saving my life.
I have found LifeRing to be a major tool in helping me keep a positive mentality and for giving me a new hope that recovery is possible. I was never one to dive into recovery and to be looking forward to my future without using alcohol or drugs. Being that AA/NA was my support group then. But now that I found LifeRing this time around I am eager to see what I can do for myself and maintain a sober lifestyle upon my release. I have been attending the Sunday Sunriser meeting here held by Mykel H. and he has encouraged me and inspires me to want to better myself. I will be released soon within the next few weeks so I know I will need the LifeRing support when I get out and would like some advice from you guys on the outside. I am very grateful that LifeRing has made it in these rooms and has reached the addict because people need to know there are other ways to stay clean and sober without AA or NA and I believe that LifeRing will be what works for me.
I sat down to a Central European breakfast of buttered bread and sliced peppers with my partner, hung over and wondering how I acted during my latest blackout. She announced that she could not live with me if I behaved like I did the night before. I said that I would try to stop drinking.
12 years earlier I had an alcohol-caused should-have-been fatal car accident which led to PTSD and eventually a drunk tank. New friends that I met in 12 Step meetings in my liberal USA home town gave me a hand back into life. I moved to the Czech Republic and initially went to 12 Step meetings here. Confronted with dogma and students of the bible, I soon dropped out. After three sober years, I decided that with my PTSD cured I could resume drinking. I was shocked to find myself hopelessly on a path to self-destruction. Czech-mate.
I went to a lunchtime 12 Step meeting hours after that breakfast because I desperately wanted to stop drinking. I attended daily weekday meetings while I researched my problem on the internet. I also emailed a sober friend from my home town who had helped me before.
In cyberspace, I found self-declared secular support groups for agnostics, atheists and freethinkers associated with 12 Step programs. Every such resource I explored ended up with my feeling ambushed by religion.
I finally Googled key words which led to lifering.org. As a science Ph.D. and atheist, LifeRing’s message that maintaining abstinence does not require religious faith was both rational and reassuring. Reading EMPOWERING Your SOBER Self: The LifeRing Approach to Addiction Recovery and completing the free relapse prevention download gave me a fact-based understanding of my return to addiction and a non-judgmental framework to analyze my five decades of drinking, respectively. This was exactly what I needed: knowledge is my higher power. I implemented my personal recovery plan.
Two months after my last drink I adopted LSRSafe as my sole support for my now thirteen months of abstinence. LSRSafe is a warm environment in which advice and encouragement are offered without an our-way-or-the-highway attitude. I can post or just browse depending on my evolving recovery needs. As an overseas American, I am grateful for the worldwide reach of LifeRing’s online support network which I log into every morning.
From the moment of my first drunk at the age of 40, I knew I was in the grip of something I could not control. The story of my descent is not a sterile one. Indeed, I don’t think anyone’s addiction story is ever anything other than a degrading tale of perceived inability to take positive action.
I came to my Day One following a devastating blackout that finally got my attention. In order to benefit from a program I have to believe in its precepts. I walked into my first AA meeting with an open mind and great hope only to quickly discover that the group was too far removed from my core beliefs to be of benefit.
Horror at the realization of how far I had let alcohol take me empowered me to remain abstinent for 100 days. Knowing I needed some helpful guidance to be able to hang on any longer, I began a desperate online search for 12 Step alternatives. I persisted until I found a group called LifeRing Secular Recovery. The name appealed to me. I joined one of the email lists and from the start knew I was home. The people on the list presented me with a sane, logical, no-nonsense, no-excuses brand of sobriety. They clearly communicated the facts of sober life and convinced me that I possessed the resources to live a life of permanent freedom from alcohol.
My last drink was on January 13, 2004 and it is no exaggeration to say that without LifeRing I’d still be drinking today. I have no words to express the depth of my gratitude.
Hey, everyone. How’s it going? I hope you’re all well, but however you are, I’m glad you’re here. Honestly, and not because I’m about to tout something (‘cuz…I am), but because if you’re here, then it means you’re a seeker, someone open, someone dedicated to finding what works for you, and not afraid to use it!
Perhaps LifeRing’s it, perhaps it’s not quite it but just one piece of your recovery program, perhaps it’s still a puzzle you’re trying to put together – and that’s not a bad thing.
There’s been lots of talk lately about “multiple pathways to recovery”, and it’s been music to my ears. This wasn’t necessarily the case when I got started on my own journey – in fact, it took some real digging through the labyrinthine interwebs just to find LifeRing. At the time it seemed if it was that difficult, then it must be a dubious source of sobriety support. I waded in cautiously, but even then something about it just…felt…right. So I dove in headfirst, and I’ve never looked back.
Now I consider all the other folks who found LifeRing and other means of support such as (just to name a few) S.O.S., SMART Recovery, or Rational Recovery way earlier than I did as sources of not just personal inspiration but a testament to something else, something far more important: They were, and are, pioneers in addiction recovery. Living, breathing examples that what they’ve done, walking whatever path they’ve chosen, works for them. The fact that their lives – and the lives of their families, friends, co-workers, and society in general – were and are improved for the better is reason enough alone to prove those paths legit, and that that’s all that really matters.
Somewhere along the line other folks, both in and out of the greater recovery community, took notice and have come to the conclusion that this is OK to do. In fact, the concept has gotten so much attention and gained such unprecedented importance it’s now a movement, peopled by those deeply committed to saving as many lives as possible, who are open to the reality that people need all the help they can get, in any way that works for them.
One such person is a guy by the name of William White, a professional researcher with a Masters in Addiction Studies who’s worked in the addiction treatment and research fields since 1969 and was one of the first to get on board with the multiple pathways concept. (He’s also the author of a book some of you may have heard of – or even read – called “Slaying the Dragon – The History of Addiction and Recovery in America”.)
He also writes about all kinds of different things recovery-related on his blog, The William White Papers. In a recent post of his I found that he’s taken the concept even further, one that many of us have been living in our own recoveries for years now as well, and that’s of a recovery mosaic. A bright, colorful mishmash that’s not a “pathway” so much as as of little dabs of this and nice dollops of that, all melded together to create one beautiful, harmonious whole. It doesn’t necessarily mean just meetings or other mutual support aids anymore, either – it includes mindfulness practices, yoga, Buddhist teachings, hot wax therapies.
OK, not the hot wax, but anyhoo, you get the idea. And so…if you’re looking for ways to create, or expand, your own mosaic/pathway, I’m most happy to let you know that LifeRing will be participating in a 5-day telesummit coming up on August 15 – 19th. Hosted by Recovery Life Management’s Beverly Sartain, it’s called “Alternative Roads to Recovery”, and along with us several other recovery groups/resources will participate, such as:
Alternative Roads To Recovery encourages men and women to find a recovery practice that works for them. Very often, that recovery practice is made up of many different systems and support. I’ll share my own journey with alternatives that had me celebrating 10 years of recovery this year with no relapses, EVER!
Sounds kinda nice, doesn’t it? If you want to check it out, please have a gander at this link here: Alternative Roads to Recovery.
And if you attend, I’d love to hear how it went (and even if you don’t, I love hearing from you anyway)!
🙂 Bobbi C.
If next Thursday will be your 1st Thanksgiving Day clean and sober or your 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or 20th, then you might be looking forward to it with anticipation, dread – and possibly both, with a dose of anxiety added in for good measure. While we hope it will be a most pleasant holiday for you, it still comes laden with multiple stresses and people determined to mix alcohol along with their bird, so it’s good to have a plan in place to keep your Sobriety Priority above all else (and pass the gravy, please).
First, a friendly reminder to our face-to-face meeting attendees whose groups may normally get together on Thursdays, please check in with your meeting convenor to find out if the meeting will still take place on Thanksgiving Day – and convenors, please do your best to let your fellow group members know if yours won’t.
But never fear – LifeRing’s still here!
Our chat room will be open at all hours, and with huge thanks to him, meeting convenor Tim S. will be hosting the online Dual Recovery meeting on Thursday evening (6 PM Pacific, 9 PM Eastern).
We have several other online support venues available 24/7/365, so if you’re not already a member of any of them, please feel free to check our e-mail groups here, our Ning Social Network Forum here, and our web forum here. Even if you don’t feel like actively participating, sometimes just reading through posts new and old helps enormously.
Finally, here’s a great blog post that lists 15 excellent ways you can survive Thanksgiving and move on unscathed!
Whatever you do, DD/UNMW (Don’t Drink or Use No Matter What), remember you’re not alone, and take good care – you can do it!