Tag Archives: Addiction

Hitting the Toggle Switch: Tools for Triggers

Eckhart Tolle Quote


Friends of the Blog, I cannot stress to you enough the vital, powerful, and user-friendly importance of the following exercises, shared with us and created by our San Francisco Convenors. Please have a good look see at it, put yourself in place of where it says “I”, and by all means, tell us what you’ve found out here in the comments, as will I!

:) Bobbi C.

For Every Trigger There is a Toggle

Most of us have experienced a Trigger—something that generates an immediate and overwhelming desire to have a drink or take a drug. Usually it’s some kind of sensory experience, like the smell of limes, or hearing a sad song, or talking with a specific person. Sometimes it’s a place. These Triggers are echoes of the past—your Addict Self trying to get back some control.

How can I get around such a powerful force? It begins with my Sober Self being fully aware of my personal Triggers. If I know them, I can anticipate and prepare my response. If I can’t avoid them, I can plan for them. That’s where Toggles come in—they can be a counterbalancing force to the Trigger.

Begin with Self Knowledge: Know My Triggers

  • What is the trigger? A smell, a sound, a person, a place?
  • What feelings does it create?
  • How long will it last?

For example, a trigger might be smelling lime juice because I used to drink vodka-limes. The smell causes a deep, immediate desire to drink, and lasts for a short anticipated time.

Create My Toggles

  • Imagine a sober opposite that will temporarily disable the Trigger.
  • Imagine a sober feeling and attach it to the Toggle.
  • Practice the Toggle until the Trigger disappears.

In our example, I might imagine a lime tree that reminds me of my garden, and think about the peace and happiness I feel while enjoying the garden until the craving passes (and I know it will pass eventually—a powerful understanding by itself).

Anticipate and Practice

  • What Triggers could be coming up this week?
  • Imagine them happening and practice the Toggles
  • Create a list of Triggers and their opposing Toggles
  • Notice the transition as Triggers become Toggles

With practice and repetition, my Toggles will override and become a natural and healthy, habitual, unconscious reaction to the Triggers, something I am fully aware of and don’t even have to think about.

Tell us about your experience

Do you have Toggles that work for you (maybe by a different name)? If so, please share!

— Prepared by San Francisco Conveners


Keeper of the Month – September

Stay Calm


One of the most magical things that happens in LifeRing’s e-mail groups is that someone new(er) to the group who may be struggling or have multiple relapses under their belt might post something about how difficult it’s been for them, but how it’s so seemingly easy for others…

And then the group does what it does best, and post after post from other members who’ve been through much the same things roll in, and the original poster realizes they’re really, truly not alone, and that despite everything they’ve been through, there really, truly is hope for them, too.

This month’s Keeper is one such response from long-time group member Richard:

[Replying after another member told their story] “…my story is such that I can’t tell it even in the space you used. So here is the very truncated version for you and anybody else who might benefit.

 I’m one of those folks who drank to excess from the time I started. I was surrounded in my youth with lots of other big drinkers and drug-takers, and I managed to function (i.e.,get up and go to work, or school) most of the time, despite being out of control with uppers, pot, acid, always accompanied by lots and lots of booze.
When I turned 30, I had my first kid, and then a couple of years later had another one on the way. Until then, the big deal was the few times I had stopped for a week or two, just to prove I could do it. But I knew I needed help, and finally sought it, entering a rehab in the summer of ’84. I had to go back again in the spring of ’85, and this time it stuck for a decade.
I was directed to AA and found a home there, of sorts. My life improved significantly, although of course I still had a lot of  ‘issues.’ I remain grateful to this day that I was sober throughout much of my kid’s youth, despite having split with their mom after a few years.
Finally, nearly ten years after stopping, I decided (while on a business trip in the midst of a painful break-up), that going on a little bender ‘just this once,’ would be okay. After all, I had been in therapy most of the ten years I’d been sober, and told myself I had ‘grown’ so much that I’d have no problem resuming long-term sobriety. I lasted a couple of months, and then the drinking times started getting closer and closer.
So, I stumbled inadvertently into LifeRing 15 years ago, and started putting together some longish periods of sobriety, but I never seemed to hold onto it. Finally, in February of 2010, I began what is now by far my second longest period of sobriety, which is continuing.
I should stress that not everybody struggles, and I do have to say that I have no doubt that my extended periods of sobriety probably saved my life. I figure I’ve been sober over 20 of the last 31 years, just counting periods of longer than one year, plus I know I have around half a dozen six month stretches. Nonetheless, there is no substitute for continuous sobriety, at least not for me. Things don’t always get wonderful right off the bat, but you give yourself a darn good chance to get the most out of life. We all have learned that the other way is just fighting a losing battle against misery.”




On LifeRing’s 2015 Annual Meeting: Hope for the Future

So, here’s the deal. Even though I’ve been involved with LifeRing since the very beginning of my sobriety in the Fall of 2007, this is the first year I’ve attended its Annual Meeting and Congress. Not because I haven’t wanted to go of course, but because, well, hanging out in enclosed spaces with a bunch of people I don’t know has never been my forté.

So why go this year, then, as opposed to, say, never?

Some of it has to do with becoming LifeRing’s “blog mistress”, some of it this year’s venue in beautiful Salt Lake City, Utah – not only does LifeRing have a fantastic presence there, but I also have family I hadn’t seen in far too long there – and some of it the need for an extended road trip with my hubby and fellow sobrietist Rich from our home in California through some of the Southwest’s gorgeous canyonlands on our way to and from SLC.

But I digress. This is my take and report on the conference, and here’s the real deal, Holyfield:

Recovery in America is changing, my friends, and all for the better as far as I’m concerned.

Friday afternoon consisted of checking out the Meeting venue and greeting some of our fellow attendees. Mahala Kephart, LifeRing Board Member and one of the main reasons we have the presence in Salt Lake that we do, was this year’s event planner and coordinator extraordinaire, and from the moment she greeted us as we walked in the door of the Marriott Library on the University of Utah’s lovely campus, I knew it was going to be a great weekend.

LifeRing Annual Meeting M Nicolaus 2

The LifeRing Annual Meeting was held at the Gould Auditorium in the Marriott Library on the campus of the University Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah. Photo courtesy of Dan Carrigan

The bulk of the meeting was held in the Gould Auditorium inside the Library, an open, airy, well-lit and yet still intimate-feeling space. The Friday afternoon Meet and Greet was a casual, low-key affair that actually made it a pleasure to meet some of our fellow attendees, many of whom like us had also traveled from afar, such as LifeRing Colorado‘s delightful Kathleen Gargan.

Joseph Mott, M.D., in the center, talks with fellow LifeRingers Kathleen Gargan, on the right, and Mahala Kephart, on the left.

Joseph Mott, M.D., in the center, talks with fellow LifeRingers Kathleen Gargan, on the right, and Mahala Kephart, on the left. Photo courtesy of Tim Reith

On Saturday morning we arrived in time to hear Kevin McCauley, M.D. from The Institute for Addiction Study speak about his personal experience as an addict as well as his professional experience in becoming a part of the addiction treatment solution. It was heartening to hear a physician say that more needs to be and can be done to give addicts the best chances possible to get and stay clean, whether it be through using medication like naltrexone to quell drug receptors in the brain or by giving patients a choice in which recovery group to attend, such as…LifeRing!

To say Dr. McCauley’s talk was refreshing would be an understatement, particularly when what I’m used to hearing from pretty much every practitioner involved in the medical community is something akin to what Dr. Drew Pinsky – accepted as the medical “expert” in the field of addiction medicine – has to say about the necessity of the 12 Steps in recovery, without which “…recovery is not possible.”

Next was a fascinating and informative talk given by Peter Gaumond, SAMHSA Recovery Branch Chief, White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, about building and giving voice to an inclusive and engaged recovery community, including those involved in the “alternative” recovery movement such as LifeRing. He spoke about the significant changes needed to our current drug control policies, such as offering addicts treatment as opposed to mandating prison sentences.

Gaumond also spoke about newly acquired information, such as studies which showed the need for using different language when talking about addicts and addiction. A study they’ve recently done showed that when people are described as having a “substance use disorder” as opposed to being described as “substance abusers” or “drug addicts”, the public’s perception of them – and how they should be treated – was significantly altered. People with a disorder are deserving of and should be given various and sundry treatment. Substance abusers, however, should be thrown in the slammer for as long as it takes to get it through their thick skulls that they should just…say…no.

Très intéressant, no? He also touched on the fact that the U.S.’s new Drug Czar, Michael Botticelli, is himself a person in recovery as opposed to, say, your garden-variety governmental policy wonk.

The final speaker of the morning was our own Martin Nicolaus, J.D., co-founder of LifeRing and author of its principal texts “Empowering Your Sober Self” and the subject of his talk, the “Recovery By Choice” workbook. His demonstration of the dichotomy between the “Addicted self” versus the “Sober self”, and the role the workbook can play in helping one empower their Sober self was enlightening, entertaining, and informative. The talk was a privilege to listen to from the man himself!

LifeRing Annual Meeting M Nicolaus

Martin Nicolaus at the podium speaking about how to empower your sober self by using the “Recovery by Choice” workbook. Photo courtesy of Dan Carrigan.

After a delicious lunch buffet, people not used to early mornings capped off by warm, full bellies such as my husband and I (a coupla night owls who typically arise somewhere around mid-morning and most usually consider a fruit smoothie a complete lunch) felt compelled to skip the early afternoon sessions to go back to our hotel close to University and take a nap.

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Keeper of the Month – April

Lifering’s e-mail groups are active, thriving communities of people who use them as strong sources of sobriety support, and many members often post remarkably written sources of inspiration, hope and encouragement that many other group members call “Keepers” – posts that they save for themselves so they can go back and look at them as often as they like.

We here at LifeRing like sharing these posts, with the authors’ permission, on our Blog so that everyone can enjoy them as much as our group members do.

  You gotta do what you have to do

LifeRing’s major mission is helping addicts learn to practice “The Sobriety Priority“, which means making recovery the most important thing in one’s life. When done, everything one does or doesn’t do thereafter involves considering the impact upon their recovery, and making self-care and life decisions based upon those principles.

Sometimes people in early recovery have a difficult time wrapping their minds around what, exactly, this means or why it’s necessary. This month’s Keeper is a LifeRing “old timer” answering those very questions posed by a newcomer:


From my point of view, sobriety is about learning how to live life, in whatever permutation you choose it to take. The thing about it that’s always appealed to me is the very possibility of that, whereas when I was drinking alcohol my choices were extremely limited, usually to more of it, and less of pretty much everything else.

Most active alcoholics, contrary to popular belief, are able to hold down jobs, mortgages, marriages and families, hobbies and almost all other vestiges of daily life precisely because they smack of “normalcy”, and allow the drinker to point out to themselves and everyone else that, since they’re not sitting underneath a bridge somewhere, swilling things out of brown paper sacks (or some other horrific fate worse than death), then they must be OK.

Some are more or less successful at this depending upon to what degree they are willing to work to maintain operating under the illusion that they’re running the show, while shackled in chains.

When you sober up, one thing that happens almost immediately is that you begin to notice the detritus left scattered about from your own personal, slow-motion train wreck, all of which was generally observable the entire time, only you were too drunk to notice or care. Without the blinders of alcohol, it can seem overwhelming.

The part of your brain that’s responsible for the whole thing, conveniently, thinks the solution to seeing the light of day is to put the blinders back on, and carry on with the chief fallacy of every addict’s life–“You can’t deal with all this! It’s not a good time, not a good time at all. You’ve got this (insert adjective of importance here) to do right now, and once that happens, then you can think aboutquitting drinking. How about we wait and pencil it in for next Thursday?”

It seems, to me, that the real key to freedom, to life, is learning how to sort out the truth from the lies–reality versus illusion–and what of either we choose to believe. The reality is, the rest of your life can be a long time, but it won’t happen next Thursday, after the illusion of some other self-imposed condition has been improbably met. It begins when you begin it, and it continues if you sustain and build on what you’ve begun.

Since life is not an instant but begins (and ends) in them, and instants become moments, and moments unfold into days, all you can do is take them as they come; some days are better than others, but through continuous practice – and yes, some monumental effort – and often to your own amazement, you realize you’re able to point your life in the direction you want it to go for the simple reason that you’re finally able to lift your aim that high.

You may not find that out for a while, but there’s plenty of time for it, and anything else you’d like, if you’re willing to give it to yourself.





The Essential Recovery Toolkit

Leonard Nimoy Quote 2


Hi Everyone,

Since I’ve been fiddling around while Rome burns (i.e. working very, very, slowly on new blog pieces), I’d like to direct you to a new page placed on our website today that, in my humble opinion, is truly the most remarkable collection of recovery toolkits I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.

Made up of real tools contributed by LifeRing members, including links to LifeRing-related tools here at lifering.org, it’s the perfect starting place for newcomers, go-to for those in early recovery, and a great refresher for those long-timers who can use one.

Please have a look-see at it here:

LifeRing Recovery Toolkit


:) Bobbi C.