LifeRing has embraced the power of peer-supported recovery for over 25 years.
Following are excerpts from a recent Slate | State of Mind article written by Ken Duckworth on October 31,2022: The Mental Health Care System Is Finally Recognizing the Value of Peer Support. This serves as an introduction to Kara K, our newest co-occurring disorders meeting convenor. She shares with us her hands-on insight into the good brought by LifeRing mental-health focused meetings.
As we continue to face a mental health crisis, there is a severe shortage of licensed professionals to help, especially if you are not wealthy. Nearly 60 percent of U.S. counties do not have a single psychiatrist. And it takes a decade to make a psychiatrist—the ultimate supply chain shortage. There are other types of mental health care professionals, too, of course—psychologists, licensed clinical social workers, and others—but there still aren’t enough to help everyone who needs assistance, especially if they aren’t wealthy.
We clearly need more mental health and addiction professionals. Professionals bring training, empathy, and an understanding of the research literature that comes from a commitment to the craft of mental health. They are skilled in making diagnoses and applying treatment options from psychotherapy to medications and more that are tailored to the person seeking care. Yet creating more professionals is a very long-term problem to fix. While you are waiting for professional help, and even if you have it, consider assessing whether one of the many peer resources can be part of your recovery toolbox.
Whether informal or formal, the key to peer support is using lived experience as a guide to help others and give hope to those who are struggling. People with mental illness, typically, we have executive function problems, memory problems, staying on task/focus issues—not all the time, but at various times.
To be clear: Peers cannot diagnose or treat mental health conditions. That is a clear bright line that is essential to keep in mind as you work to navigate your mental health journey.
— Ken Duckworth, MD | The Mental Health Care System Is Finally Recognizing the Value of Peer Support
Slate | State of Mind October 31, 2022
— Dr. Duckworth is the author of You Are Not Alone:
The NAMI Guide to Navigating Mental Help – With Advice from Experts and Wisdom of Real People and Families
In September 2021, LifeRing offered our first Co-occurring Disorders focus meeting. LifeRing Co-occurring Disorders meetings are specialty meetings built on the HWYW platform and tailored to people in recovery diagnosed with co-occurring disorders. These meetings are open to everyone.
Since the original co-occurring disorders meeting, LifeRing now offers 8 weekly co-occ meetings with two more to be opening this month. These meetings support over 80 LifeRing members every week!
Kara K is our newest LifeRing co-occurring disorders focus meeting convenor. She shares what motivated her to start her meetings and how she sees peer-to-peer support as vital to mental health.
I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder at age eleven. I struggled through my teens with my mental health very much in isolation. In my early twenties, I began to drink heavily. Initially, it was for fun, but it soon went down a dark path that continued for the next ten years.
I started recovery in April 2019. The brunt of our mental health symptoms comes to fruition once the numbing effects of substances are removed. I began with LifeRing in 2020 while working on my mental health disorders (which later were diagnosed as Bipolar Disorder, Type II; Anxiety; PTSD; and ADHD, Inattentive Type) that were exacerbating in parallel. I found the open safe forum I needed for my recovery, but it lacked the mental health support integral to my sobriety journey.
In May 2022, I stumbled upon Rafal’s Co-Occurring Disorders meeting. It inspired me. I had found my people and my home. Within a month, I had my Co-Occurring meeting to convene up and running. I had found my passion. I had found my purpose. (Just recently, I added two more meetings to the weekly lineup as the interest continues to grow and spread.)
These meetings tie into LifeRing recovery in a rather beautiful way. The majority of us who suffer from a substance abuse issue have an underlying mental health disorder in addition. For me, my sobriety depends on the stability of my mental health, and my mental health depends on the strength of my sobriety.
Isolation and being unheard are commonalities between many of us with co-occurring disorders as we try to navigate life and understand ourselves. The primary goal is to create a safe space (community) where we can be heard, supported, and interconnected.
The co-occurring disorder meetings are becoming a phenomenon in their own right simply through the beauty of shared human experiences and connections. I have received an enormous amount of feedback since beginning my group in May. I am hearing that the group is “supportive,” “powerful,” and “informative.” With attendees stating they’ve “never related to so many consecutive shares” or that they never expected to “love the meeting as much as [they] do.” Gratitude is continuously expressed by those that have attended, simply by providing a unique and consistent space for these intimate shares.
- Sunday: 5:00pm Pacific
- Tuesday: 11:00am Pacific
- Wednesday: 1:00pm Pacific
- Thursday: 6:30pm Pacific
- Monday: 6:00pm Pacific (Starts November 14th)
- Saturday: 7:00am Pacific (Starts November 12th) *
* Since posting this blog, there has been a scheduling update to the new LifeRing Saturday Co-Occurring Disorders focus meeting. It was originally posted as beginning on November 12th at 9:30am Pacific, but will now be starting at 7:00am Pacific. Join Kara and other LifeRing meeting participants this Saturday at 7:00am Pacific!
LifeRing is currently recruiting new convenors and co-convenors to support our growing recovery community. You can learn more about the requirements and the rewards of being a LifeRing convenor on our Be A LifeRing Convenor webpage. Other ways you can support LifeRing are listed on our Engagement Opportunities page.