LifeRing in My Friends House!

Image of map of New Jersey pinpointing a LifeRing in-person meetingNew LifeRing In-Person Meeting in The Garden State!

LifeRing is proud to introduce Michael M from Jersey, our newest online meeting convenor.  Michael is braving the snow this winter to start LifeRing's first in-person meeting in New Jersey. This is a How Was Your Week? check-in meeting set in My Friend's House!

LifeRing New Jersey | 371 Woodbury-Glasboro Road, Woodbury Heights, New Jersey 08097
My Friends House  | Suite 2 in the 2nd Floor Meeting Room
Sundays at 1:00pm | Meeting Name:  Room for Improvement
Contact Michael M. | SNewJersey@lifering.org  (856) 725-3702 for more information

The following is an introduction contributed by Michael:

 


 

About Me

I'm a 66-year-old recent retiree (11/16/23) from a 25-year stint with FedEx Corporation (Ground Division). I've spent more than 35 years in and out of the transportation industry as a truck driver, trainer of truck drivers, instructor for defensive driving, safety advocate, customer service administrator, and line haul dispatcher (coordinated the movement of tractor-trailers from one location to another). Between 1990 and 1997, I returned to college (my wife was a neonatal registered nurse for a now shuttered Philadelphia hospital and was the family breadwinner while I masqueraded as Mr. Mom to our two sons), earned a B.A. in History and certification to teach high school Social Studies and Elementary Education in the state of New Jersey. After graduation, I substitute taught for two years attempting to secure a full-time position before I earned a post at a middle school teaching 7th grade Literature & Geography and 8th grade English.

 

You may notice that none of those subjects was History, the one discipline I did have a degree for, but my Elementary certification enabled me to teach those subjects to students in grades 1 through 8 (theoretically), so I jumped at the opportunity after searching for a full-time teaching gig for two years prior. Sometimes, "a man must know his limitations"  (That's a Clint Eastwood line from one of his early spaghetti westerns). I was in over my head from the jump. I lasted all of one school year, 1996-1997, and struggled to maintain my sanity for the 10 months I was there. The strain of attempting to teach three subjects, classroom discipline issues, meaningless staff meetings, curriculum arguments and parental neglect and/or interference induced dry heaving in the school parking lot in the morning, full scale panic attacks that required medication, and a painful decision to leave the profession. I returned to the transportation industry, found a home with FDX and was able to provide for my family until my exit from the workforce this past November. "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans". I believe that's a John Lennon quote.

 

After coming to the realization that I had an alcohol/cannabis abuse disorder a few years ago, I sought a friend's advice about how to address it and he took me to my first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting the very next morning. That was November of 2019. I never truly accepted the the "program" with its message of "powerlessness", requirement of spiritual reclamation with a "higher power", or a "fearless, searching moral inventory" that demands you declare all of your character defects to another person as if he/she were a priest in a confessional. But, I knew I wanted to get clean & sober, so I took what I needed from the meetings (the fellowship with others with the same disorders) and ignored the suggestions from other members to "work the steps". It wasn't long before the format of the meetings began to bore and disillusion me (reading aloud from the Big Book, 12 & 12, As Bill Sees It, etc., the constant recollection of "war stories", run-ins with law enforcement, court appearances.... on and on).

 

Despite my issues with AA, I can't minimize what they did for me during my earliest days of sobriety. Those in-person meetings were instrumental in making me accountable to the other members, many of whom I'll call friends for the remainder of my life. But, then, Covid-19 forced us to the internet and Zoom meetings, and my interest waned to the point of abandonment. Fortunately, I was working 60-70 hours a week and was too exhausted to do anything other than wake up, eat a meal, go to work, come home, eat another meal, sleep, rinse & repeat. But, while Covid had forcibly separated us from human contact, my cravings to drink and/or smoke were fading. When in-person meetings opened up again, I went, just not with the desire to listen again to the same members repeating their same past transgressions, misdeeds and inability to consider any alteration to a ritual that hasn't changed since its founding in the 1930s. I began to search for alternatives on the "Interwebs".

 

Initially, I wanted to find a group meeting with a more free-wheeling philosophy, didn't push its own list of "commandments" that I could take as "suggestions", allowed for outside reading materials and welcomed those who landed somewhere on the sliding spiritual scale between seeker, agnostic and atheist. LifeRing was one of the results that appeared when I submitted "Secular Alternatives to AA/NA meetings". The more I read, the more intrigued I became. This was April of 2023. By this time, I'd had just about 3 1/2 years of sobriety (November 23, 2019 was the last day I succumbed to the desire to drink/smoke) and felt I could probably remain so without attending any recovery support group, but I did miss the connection with others who understood the struggle. Simultaneously, I had a solid retirement date of November 16th, 2023, and I was writing down ideas about how I was going to spend it. I knew if I had no plan, I was setting myself up for a probable relapse if I didn't consider some activities to occupy myself.

 

So, I downloaded Zoom and began attending online meetings, beginning with "OK Boomer" on Saturday afternoons with Michael A., and "Nest" with Anna B. on the Monday afternoons when I wasn't working. I've also attended a few Workbook meetings that used to be held on Sundays, but I don't see it posted anymore. No matter. LifeRing was the platform I had been searching for. The concept of having fellow disorder sufferers "convene" meetings with the discretion to design the content of the meetings (within the parameters of LifeRing's Three "S" philosophy) began to germinate in those moments when I was contemplating my post-employment existence.

 

My wife of 41 years was forced into an early retirement in 2019 when the hospital she served at for 38 years (Hahnemann Hospital in Philadelphia) was closed and sold to a real estate developer. She found a volunteer group that supplies personal care products to women in need, and the idea of service was prominent in my own mind when looking at that empty block of time I'd need to fill when November finally arrived.

 

I found a volunteer opportunity suggested by my wife the first week of my retirement that provides food and clothing to the needy (South Jersey Dream Center in West Deptford, NJ). During my second session at their location, I was asked to help unload a couple of vans that contained clothing and toys for Christmas. I've loaded and unloaded  thousands of trucks during my career in transportation, so this was "just like old times". On the side of the vans was the name and address of the contributors to the Dream Center's clients, My Friends House, a drug and alcohol recovery center not very far from where we were, or from my own home. I had been trying to gather information about the recovery centers in my area to ask if I could obtain permission to speak with their administrators about LifeRing, but I was in the early stages of contacting them. But, here was someone right in front of me for whom I could at least plant the seed and ask if there would be anyone willing to meet with me to determine if I might be able to begin a live, in-person meeting that provided an alternative to the traditional AA/NA sanctioned meetings. The young lady I began to speak to was very willing to take my information and tell her husband (they co-founded My Friends House) that I'd be calling him to set up a meeting. He agreed to do so once the New Year arrived, so we set a date.

 

My meeting with him went very well.... I was introduced to the Executive Director and gave a presentation to her a week later which also went successfully. The only hurdle left to clear was to do the same presentation in front of two of their in-house group meetings to determine if any of their clients would be interested in attending in-person LifeRing meetings. One of them occurred yesterday and I have one more presentation before an evening group tomorrow, but after the first meeting I was given the go-ahead to begin convening meetings as early as this Sunday, January 21st! I still don't know how to reconcile how one service opportunity provided me with a chance meeting with someone who could allow me another to express the gratitude I feel for finding my own way toward recovery and hopefully improving the lives of others. Serendipity or destiny... who's to say?

 

I was asked what I intend to call this meeting. This was something that came to me early on when I embarked on this journey. I've decided to call it Room for Improvement — a double entendre. AA always referred to where meetings occurred as the rooms. and I'm hoping to provide a venue where those suffering from alcohol and/or drug use challenges are able to discover room for improvement in their path toward recovery. As I approach this last act of my life, where I can see my own mortality just over the horizon, I'd like to be able to look in the mirror and say to myself that I at least made a valiant effort at improving the life of another. I'd consider it a privilege to have anyone remember me that way.

 

 

LifeRing New Jersey | 371 Woodbury-Glasboro Road, Woodbury Heights, New Jersey 08097
My Friends House  | Suite 2 in the 2nd Floor Meeting Room
Sundays at 1:00pm | Meeting Name:  Room for Improvement
Contact Michael M. | SNewJersey@lifering.org  (856) 725-3702 for more information

 

 


Please help Michael support those with substance use challenges with your one-time or sustaining donations. Thank you!

 

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