Category Archives: Essays

A View on LifeRing’s “Structure”

LifeRing member Byron Kerr shares some thoughts on LifeRing’s approach to providing structure in recovery:

I recently heard a proposal in a LifeRing forum that, “some people just need the structure of 12-Step.” This reflects an assumption that LifeRing is somehow unstructured. While it is true that we do not offer a single “official” structure as to how an individual must achieve sobriety, the LifeRing approach is not unstructured. It is personally structured.

A user/drinker will not succeed in LifeRing without crafting their own structure. We call it your “Personal Recovery Plan.” Your PRP is your best hope for success. Your PRP should be detailed, specific, and well thought out. All persons that succeed in recovery use structure. We simply propose that when you compose your own structure, you will be automatically more invested in your own recovery. If you only read a script and put none of your own effort into your structure, the odds of your success may be diminished.

Can people in recovery benefit from suggestions and guidance? Certainly. We provide those things as a fundamental part of all of our support efforts. We offer ideas from personal experience but stop short of specific, “you should………” type advice.

LifeRing can work for anyone. The notion that there are some people who can only benefit from the “structure” of other support programs is not considering the fact that LifeRing is very much a structured approach. It only works with structure. That’s what we mean by “self-empowerment.”

— Byron Kerr

On Counting Sober Time

A 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

You are NOT powerless!

ShelbyOne of the most-read items on this website is an essay by long-time LifeRing supporter Dr. Candice Shelby, an Associate Professor of Philosopy at the University of Colorado. I thought it might be worthwhile to draw your attention to it again. It encapsulates an important part of what LifeRing stands for. See it Here.


Searching For Obamacare

The following is Part 1 in a series of posts regarding one slightly middle-aged, uninsured gal’s search for affordable, quality health care coverage in the age of Obamacare.

In spite of the current battle in Washington, where the immediate toll for Congress’s feckless legislative filibustering will injure all but those who’ve waged it (their toll, depending on who “wins” in this latest of fiscal folderols, comes due only in the next election cycle and not a minute sooner – and for some, not even then), I have decided to simply pretend like it’s not happening and go ahead and try to sign up for Obamacare anyway, because this law was made for you and me.

Really, it was! You see, in spite of being a good patient with a history of alcoholism (emphasis on the word history) managing my diabetes fairly well, I nevertheless belong squarely in the “Pre-Existing Condition” category of patient, and therefore (in the great state of California, at least), just by those very facts am rendered what’s lovingly known by insurers everywhere as “uninsurable”. Obamacare is supposed to render that point moot – now they have to cover me anyway. HA!

And yet, I still find myself skeptical as to whether it can actually come to pass. Even though October 1 was the day for everyone who needs coverage to begin shopping via what are being called “Exchanges” (which are, essentially, health insurance carrier marketplaces where one finds a plan that will work for them based on their healthcare and financial needs in exchange for coverage. Handy, no?), I still wonder if any of it’s actually possible, let alone actually going to happen.

See, in addition to various and sundry glitches  in the sign-up process reported throughout the week, there’s also been rumor and rumors of rumors that, in order to avoid covering folks like me, a lot of carriers have thrown the baby out with the bathwater and simply opted out of the private insurance racket altogether, so…I don’t even know what companies are still left to choose from.

And I wonder how much of my past and current medical history, supposedly rendered moot, will still come back to bite me in the pocketbook: OK, so, they can’t hold my alcoholism, diabetes or any other of my multiple and sundry diseases/disorders/conditions/skin tags against me coverage-wise. Sweet! But…will they make up for it by gouging me good and plenty where it counts?

Then there’s the small matter of figuring out who “they” are. …. Read More

Read more ...

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; now 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