Tag Archives: keepers

On Counting Sober Time

countingA member of the LifeRing board of directors writes about the issue of ‘counting the days’ since one’s last use of alcohol or other drug:

It was helpful for me to tally the years from birth to about 35 and include them in my sober time, an idea I kind of gleaned (perhaps taking some liberties with the intended concept) when I read Empowering Your Sober Self shortly after finishing an intensive outpatient program a couple of years ago, at age 55.  In hindsight, I would say it was helpful not so much in terms of thinking of those 35 years as “sober time” but as “what was I doing, and enjoying doing” during that time. 

I went to a knitting workshop by Canadian knitter Sally Melville some years ago, shortly after I moved to Salt Lake City. I was feeling very alone, and cuddling up every night with Mr. Smirnoff at the time.  In the workshop, Melville talked about her life’s work and her realization that she was doing what she loved doing when she was a girl/young woman: designing, drawing, creating, and, she noted, “playing teacher.” While that idea struck me at the time, it wasn’t until I was thinking about “what I was doing, and enjoying doing” between say, age 10 and 35 that I started to get a better picture of which threads of my life I wanted to pick up and start weaving together again in my recovery life. 

It was that concept, more than accumulating sober time, that helped propel me through the first months of recovery, and still, quite frankly, keeps me going today.  When I lose track of “ideas and creative works I want to produce and weave together in new and meaningful ways,” I end up in the weeds. Not, these days, with Mr. Smirnoff, but with the shell of the woman he left behind. She’s not nearly as much fun to be with (for me, or anyone around me) as the woman-with-dreams-and-ideas that require abstinence to accomplish, but aren’t the product of having such-and-such number of days, months, or years of sobriety. 

– Mahala Kephart

In the Beginning…

LifeRingThis is the first in what will be a series of stories from LifeRing members about their experience in finding and joining LifeRing.

In 1999, I was a “functional” addict steadily becoming less functional. I owned a bookstore in Port Angeles, WA, a small town about 50 miles west of Seattle. I’d been drinking for years, of course, and was having less and less success in “controlling” it. Since I was the owner, I could take long lunches and/or go home early in the afternoon. You can guess what I did with the time.

I lived alone. I had left a bad marriage a few years before. One thing that had kept me in the marriage was the realization that living alone, my drinking would get worse. And it did. But by ’99 I was ready to face the fact that not only did I need to quit drinking, I needed help to do that.

I was pretty isolated outside of work and had nobody to talk to about my addiction. The only group available in my town was AA. I had flipped through copies of the “Big Book” when they came in used to my bookshop and had firmly established that it wasn’t for me. But where else could I turn? I searched on Google for “alternatives AA” but only got AA sites. Finally, I hit on the term – “secular” — that brought up LifeRing.

From the first moment of my first visit to the LifeRing website (then unhooked.com; now lifering.org) I felt a surge of hope. These were people like me: people who didn’t feel powerless, just in need of a helping hand; people who didn’t want a heavily structured program powered by slogans and Steps and “higher powers,” people who wanted to deal with present life, not wallow in the black despair of the past.

I joined a LifeRing email group, LSRmail, and knew at once that I’d found a home and that the “support” piece of my recovery puzzle was in place. There were other pieces I needed to find and recovery for me was never quick or easy. But LifeRing was always there for me and I’ve remained involved ever since. It truly was a life ring for me.

–Craig Whalley


When this new website replaced the old unhooked.com home, there were some parts of the old site that didn’t make the transfer to the new one. The transfer process involved some labor-intensive re-formatting and some of the less-visited pages were left behind.

Now, one of those sections — Keepers — has been added back to the new site due to the tireless efforts of long-time LifeRing member Alceon. Those pages can be accessed through a link on the right side under Categories, or just click here.

“Keepers: Voices of Secular Recovery” is a published collection of some of the most memorable and helpful messages posted on the on-line e-mail group LSRmail in the 1990’s. Edited and with an introduction by Martin Nicolaus, only a few copies of the book are still available through LifeRing Press. Alceon has selected the best of the best to preserve on this website. She will be making a similar effort to move both the Poetry and the Food and Beverage sections to the new site.


Keepers: Voices of Secular Recovery

edited and with an introduction by Marty Nicolaus
From LifeRing Press

Keepers is a selection of more than 120 short items culled from among the best postings by members of the LifeRing email list during 1996 – 1999. A small number of copies of the book are still available at LifeRing Press but the supply is limited and the book is not scheduled for reprint — so grab your copy fast!

Selections found here are a brief sampling from the book and were all posted by permission of the authors.

To get on the email list, send a request to Tom Shelley at tshelley@tampabay.rr.com


Well, it doesn’t “work”…people work.

By Rick B.

Rick eloquently and accurately  explains to a newbie what LifeRing is, and what it IS NOT.  “LifeRing is not a pill, or a magic spell, or a secret formula.  LifeRing is
simply an organization of people who share a common goal – sobriety,  and who share some common basic beliefs about how sobriety may be achieved and maintained.”


I know that embarrassment and frustration very well.  I know the hopeless feeling of continuing to drink after I’d sworn I had to stop, and the fear that my drinking was something beyond my ability to arrest.

Now I know that there was nothing to fear, that sobriety really is achievable, that I don’t have to drink.  You will know these things too.

LifeRing is not a pill, or a magic spell, or a secret formula.  LifeRing is simply an organization of people who share a common goal – sobriety, and who share some common basic beliefs about how sobriety may be achieved and maintained.  We come together any way we can to talk about how our lives are going, what successes or failures we’ve experienced, what works and what doesn’t for us.  We care about each other.  We care about you, Jimmy, you’re here, you’re one of us.

One of the things we believe is that sobriety is completely the responsibility of the individual who wants it.  No Higher Power, no other person, no group or book or slogan can “confer” sobriety on anyone.  Breaking an addiction to booze is hard work, particularly at the beginning.  Nobody can do that hard work for you.  What a group of people can do is share suggestions, moral support, encouragement, and ideas.  What a group of people can’t do is put the bottle down for you.

There’s nothing mysterious about stopping addictive drinking.  People have been doing it for centuries.  Countless books are available which detail what you can expect in terms of physical withdrawal symptoms, the effects of alcohol on your body and your mind, the healing process, and the roles of nutrition, exercise and other life issues in recovery.  LifeRing has available a terrific workbook, “Recovery by Choice”, which many of us have found very useful.  I find reading to be central to my recovery.

So, how can you stop drinking?  My opinion, there are just a few necessary conditions: You must be willing;  You must believe it’s possible;  You must believe it’s what’s you must do for yourself; You must learn what to expect to feel and experience when you quit, or else you’ll likely be discouraged by the discomfort and get drunk;  You must stop choosing to drink…no matter what.

Others will prescribe a different formula.  None of us knows the answer for anyone other than ourselves.  I can tell you what works for me, there’s no guarantee it’ll work for you.  It’s up to you to get started finding out what works for you.  It starts with doing something, anything, other than picking up a drink.  Your head will clear, your thinking will become rational, your body will begin to heal.  If you drink, you start over.

Sobriety can be difficult to achieve.  It gets easier to maintain with practice.  It becomes a way of life, a habit, an attitude.  It’s worth whatever effort is required to get it and keep it.  Sobriety is not likely to result from simply trying to not drink and waiting to see what happens.  Success comes from action an effort, from intentionally taking responsibility and directing your own life.

So, how does LifeRing work?  Well, it doesn’t “work”…people work.  LifeRing is a community of people bound by a common belief in the free will of every human being.  We are not powerless…quite the contrary.  The only thing in the universe that can get Jimmy sober and keep him that way is Jimmy.  LifeRing is a place to find folks who’ve done it, folks who’re trying to do it, folks who want to do it.

Tell us about you, Jimmy…your life, your work, your family, yourself.  Let us get to know you a bit.  And take it easy, you can do this if you want to, but it’ll take some time and maybe a few tries to get a good solid start…you’ll figure it out.  We’ll do all we can to help you find your way.


Posted 01/07/03