LifeRing Recovery and Procrustes

A LifeRing supporter recently posted to another website a good description of what sets LifeRing apart. Writing to the forum of, a poster identified as Willcat wrote:

In ancient Greek mythology there was a roadside bandit named Procrustes who had a bed in which he forced all travelers to lie. Those who were shorter than the bed, he stretched until their bones cracked; those who were longer, he cut off their feet.

Most alcoholism and addiction programs are like Procrustes and his bed. Everyone has “The Program”: one size fits all. In AA, everyone does the Twelve Steps. In Rational Recovery, everyone does AVRT. In SMART, everyone does REBT. And so on. Each vendor promises that its particular Program is the Answer. In fact, some people are helped by the Steps, some are not, and the same is true of the others. There is no such thing as one Program that works for everybody, and we doubt there will ever be.

LSR is unique in the alcoholism and addiction movement in deliberately not offering a capital-P Program. We have no Program, no panacea, no one-size-fits-all, no cookie cutter, no miracle cure, no magic pill to sell. We reject the whole dichotomy between Program and alcoholic, in which The Program is the active, knowing, healthy protagonist and the alcoholic is the passive, dumb, sick raw material to be stamped and molded into the desired shape. We think that any approach that acts on the alcoholic over time as an outside compulsion, a Program, is doomed to fail with most people most of the time.

No program, including the LSR self-empowerment approach, will work if the person doesn’t have an inner desire to escape from addiction. LSR rests its entire chance of success on the encouragement and rational nurture of that desire.

We hold that each alcoholic or addict needs to construct their own sobriety based on their own experiences and needs. We think each alcoholic not only needs to, but is able to constuct his or her own personal sobriety program, if afforded the support and the tools. The work of puting a program together must be and is done by the newly recovering persons themselves, just as each of us with long-term sobriety has done it for ourselves. We have confidence in the ability of alcoholics and addicts, no matter how serious our history, to pull ourselves together with peer support. We have seen it work. Conversely, we are quite certain that we cannot get and stay sober unless we construct a sobriety program for ourselves. That is why we say that we have no one (big-P) Program; we have as many programs (small p) as we have participants.


  1. Katherine on November 6, 2011 at 10:48 pm

    I can relate to this is a big way. I disguised my drinking as ‘fun times’ for 15 years, selectively blocking out the hundreds of ways that I ‘d hurt myself and left myself vulnerable. I’d tried 12 step programs at different times for pot, alcohol, sex and food but would always leave 12 step programs feeling stifled and the desire to run away from the box they were trying to squeeze me into. Having a mother in Alanon for over 30years meant that everytime my drinking brought me to my knees again, her first suggestion would be to get to an AA meeting… I considered drinking to be the better alternative as I didn’t want to have to live and breathe AA, “work the program harder!” Although my journey has only just begun and I am writing from Australia, I am positive about the support that will be possible from life ring and understanding the importance to tailor “my” recovery based on my needs.

  2. Cat on October 22, 2011 at 10:09 am

    Thank you Craig for saying so eloquently why I love LifeRing. The email list that I’m on has given me new depth to my recovery, due to getting dozens of suggestions on how to stay sober and have a fulfilling life.

  3. Olivia on October 5, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    Exactly why I chose SOS (Save Ourselves) for my alcohol addiction. No steps, no panaceas, no guarantees. Just a group of people with a common goal- to free ourselves of our own self-destructive behavior(s). Now I’m in S-Anon to help me deal with my husband’s sexual addiction, and it’s hard to adapt to the 12-steps. For more info, check out my blog post “My Aversion to 12 Step Programs” at

  4. JeffK on October 4, 2011 at 6:54 am

    I like the Procrustian Bed analogy. It never mattered to me how many other people were “saved” by programs like 12-step, because the person who mattered most, me, was not and never would be “saved” that way – I guess my legs are too long. Perhaps this is a key commonality in LR, the need to create and follow one’s own program, taking input wherever it’s useful but ultimately being the responsibility of the individual addict.