Tag Archives: alcoholism

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!

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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.

Sobriety, dual diagnosis, and personal OTC self-help

First, I want to make clear that this is just about my personal experiences, since Lifering is about personalized, individualized, self-empowerment, or self-help.

That said, let’s jump into what’s on my mind.

A fair percentage of people who eventually have addictive problems to drugs or alcohol are “dual diagnosis.” That is, they have some mental health issue connected with their addiction. Often it’s depression. Often it’s anxiety. Sometimes it’s bipolar disorder, occasionally schizophrenia.

For people that have “simple” depression or anxiety, and have been to a doctor before, for lower-level depression or anxiety, it’s tempting to self-medicate with over-the-counter items. For example, it’s a “commonplace” that Benadryl can help mild anxiety. Many people use St. John’s wort for mild depression. Beyond that, over-the-counter versions of lithium compounds, somewhat similar to, but not the same as, the prescription versions, are available. And more.

But, even over-the-counter medications aren’t risk free.

For example, prescription lithium has a narrow range of dosages. The non-prescription versions are presumably similar.

With St. John’s wort, there are studies indicating it can help with some cases of mild-moderate depression. There’s no “magic secret” as to why, though. The active ingredient is an MAO inhibitor, just like the first class of anti-depressant medications. Given that prescription MAO inhibitors come with certain warnings, like not combining them with aged cheeses, something similar might apply to St. John’s worth.

And, there’s the placebo effect. A lot of people swear by GABA, a natural neurotransmitter, to help with anxiety. However, GABA does not cross what’s known as the blood-brain barrier, therefore people are presumably just talking about a placebo effect.

Also, just as a prescription anti-depressant that works for one person might not work well for another, the same is true of these OTC self-helps.

A Lifering friend mentioned his doctor suggested he take a new OTC medication, which is GABA chemically linked to niacin, the B vitamin. He said it helped totally kill alcohol cravings, as well as some anxiety.

I decided to order it myself; it’s readily available online.

Well, my “sample size date” is only 10 days so far, but, I may discontinue it after another week.

While it’s not quite making me MORE anxious, I have had trouble falling asleep since then. I’ve had a couple of issues in my mind, but, this may be a contributing factor.

For me, the one time I went to a doctor with even more serious anxiety, it was anti-depressants that helped.

There’s nothing wrong with a prescription from a doctor, and there’s nothing magical about over-the-counter items. It never hurts to get professional advice.

Yet another “false dichotomy” story

Just a couple of weeks after the New York Times, in a column by a person pushing a book, presents a false dichotomy between Alcoholics Anonymous and science-based moderation as the only alternatives on the table, Slate does the same thing. And, it’s story author is a Slate staffer who doesn’t even have the excuse of publishing a book. You can comment on the page or Tweet Brian Palmer here.

The story’s good otherwise; Palmer knows the history of AA’s semi-official opposition to medical assistance for addiction, counseling and more. But, there’s not a single word in there about secular sobriety organizations. Only by people like us contacting people like Palmer to get the full story out there, can we get the full story out there.

And, whether Palmer’s analysis of AA is close to correct or not is not the primary point of this blog post. (That said, I do think he is broadly correct.)