Sunday, August 19, 2007

APA Convention Journal (4)

At 9:11 a.m. when I reached the LifeRing booth, someone was already leaning over it, checking out the literature. He turned out to be the head of the substance abuse unit at a teaching hospital in LaCrosse WI.
  • He said, "Anything that is an alternative to AA is useful and of interest." He said he has "tons of people" that won't do AA. He took one of each of the brochures. He said that if we had a meeting there he would definitely refer people to it.
  • A few moments later the woman who was staffing the AA booth three booths away came by and returned one of our brochures that she had borrowed. She said it was "interesting" but she wasn't going to keep it.
  • A counselor from Pittsburgh PA took one of each of the brochures.
  • A solo practitioner in Palo Alto CA with substance abuse clients -- a former lecturer at both Stanford and UC Berkeley -- took all of our free literature and spent some time leafing through How Was Your Week.
  • A counselor from the Army substance abuse program in Alexandria VA said he had never heard of us. The Army is using something called Primed for Life, he said, and he is not happy with the results he is seeing. He wanted me to give him a workbook. I said the Army could afford to buy one. He said he would check into it online.
  • A psychologist from the Washington State prison system said she was interested in a secular approach and took literature. "We need to give people choices," she said.
  • The director of an alcohol and drug abuse institute and professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of Washington in Seattle said that alternatives to 12-step were very interesting to him, and took all of our free literature. He said he is a firm believer in giving people alternatives to choose from.
  • "AA has so many people court-ordered attending that it's been diluted. Nobody's serious about recovery in those meetings. The serious people don't go to AA anymore." That was a counselor from Jonesboro AK. "An alternative would be good."
  • A nurse who is now working for the new Prometa program stopped by -- she knew LifeRing because she had been on night duty at the Merritt Peralta Institute in Oakland where we have a meeting. She gave me a hug. She says they have the Recovery by Choice workbook at Prometa and already have one client who does LifeRing and is doing well. She's looking forward to continuing to refer to us.
  • A graduate student at the University of Michigan who is working on a research project on substance use among teens took our literature and expressed interest.
  • A student from the University of Birmingham in AL said it would be very nice to see something other than 12-step. He asked whether I had seen the South Park caricature of AA. He said it made fun of the AA religious approach, pointing out that a religious approach turns a lot of people off. It also made fun of the disease notion, depicting it as an excuse for continuing to drink. He said it would be good to see an alternative to 12-step emerge.
  • A counselor from Plainfield NY perked up when he heard we were not 12-step. He took all of our free literature. He has substance abuse clients and wants to offer them choices.
  • A post-doc from a family practice in Piedmont CA says he has had clients who have struggled and struggled with the 12-step approach and then his supervisor told him about LifeRing, so he sent them to LifeRing and they are doing better. When he finishes his internship he is going to be working in the prison system.
  • A counselor from a university in New Jersey who is finishing her doctorate and has worked in substance abuse in the past – she is an older student – says “a lot” of her patients were deeply troubled by “the god thing” in AA and got no benefit from it. She is very pleased to hear there is an alternative and wants to know do we have groups in New Jersey. She took the literature and says she will definitely read it.
  • A researcher from the Alcohol Research Group in Emeryville CA (next door to Oakland) spent 15 minutes chatting with me. She does outcomes research and might be interested in doing an outcomes study of LifeRing. We had a very nice chat.
  • A clinician at a university health center in Sacramento CA who works with students was aware of Lifering and wanted to know did we have a meeting in Sacramento. She said she definitely would refer people to us if we had a meeting there. She says AA works for some people but turns a lot of other people away and an alternative is necessary.
  • A counselor from Long Island NY became receptive when she heard we were a non-step group. She took the brochures and said she would give them to the people in her agency who do addictions. I told her about the Smithtown and Deer Park LifeRing meetings; she said that was not far from her agency.
  • A counselor from Berkeley says he knows about us already and gives out our schedule to patients; I gave him a copy of the current local schedule.
  • An older gentleman from Atlanta joked with me, saying that he was “a secular Christian,” meaning, an atheist. He was very interested and took our literature.
  • A couple of women counselors from a residential program in Utah said they were interested in alternatives and took our literature.
  • A counselor from Seton Hall University in New Jersey took the literature to give to a colleague who does substance abuse counseling in Orange.
  • A student who is interested in becoming a psychiatrist expressed interest in our approach and took two brochures.
  • A counselor from Mishiwa IN took our literature.
  • A counselor from Ft Lauderdale FL who bought the Recovery by Choice workbook two years ago has been using it with his clients said he is having good results with it. It is “more cognitive, more motivational, than the traditional 12-step ‘do as I say’ approach.” His clients like that.
  • A clump of people around the desk – too many too fast for me to note their name tags – grabbed literature and said they needed if for their clients “because AA doesn’t work for everyone.”
  • A counselor in private practice in New Jersey and New York says it’s good to have alternatives. “We need them.” She took literature.
  • A couple of high school seniors stopped and each took a brochure.
  • A woman from the AA booth – a different one than the earlier one -- hovered. I gave her a friendly “hello” and we exchanged sobriety dates and chatted about how good it was to be sober. She asked a few questions about our approach, I explained it to her. I asked her, did she want literature. She said, “No thanks.”
  • A student from Cincinnati OH said she hadn’t decided on a career, but maybe would go into substance abuse recovery. She took a brochure.
  • A psych student from Nacogdoches TX wanted to know whether LifeRing subscribed to the disease model. I said our only criterion was the desire to get clean and sober and we left it up to individuals whether they found the disease model useful. He said he had read studies where the disease model served as a rationale for relapse. He is going to start graduate work in substance abuse in the fall. He does not like the 12-step approach because of its religiosity and because of the disease model. He took our literature.
  • A counselor doing addictions counseling in Glendale CA says she has clients that go in and out of 12-step inpatient programs – “hello, something isn’t working there.” Very interested to hear there is an alternative, took our literature.
  • A Ph.D. who works for the New York City Police Department took our literature and is going to pass it along to the substance abuse people in her office.
  • A counselor from Toronto took literature.
  • A person from Riverside CA took literature.
  • The sales manager of the company that owns the new Prometa program took one of each of our brochures and says he wants to take me to lunch sometime because he is interested in our secular approach.
  • “Being in combat cuts two ways. Some people get more religious. For other people, the whole religion thing drops away. They want nothing more to do with it.” -- A counselor at a VA facility in Pittsburgh PA. He says when they send those veterans to 12-step groups they just don’t relate to it at all. He is happy that there is a secular alternative.
  • An undergraduate from La Mirada CA stopped, asked a few questions, and took a piece of literature.
  • A counselor who works with teens in Edmonton AL took literature.
  • A psychologist from North Anderberg MN says she has a brother who just got out of Hazelden, which is 12-step. She took our literature in case that doesn’t work for him, she has us for a Plan B.
  • A private practitioner from San Diego who has addiction clients was interested to learn there is a secular option, and took literature. “I have group members who go to AA or NA and they come back to me and say it is not working for them. I want them to keep going and try something new.”
  • A student intern from Wausau WI who does alcohol and drug recovery groups was interested to hear that we existed and took our literature.
  • A young man who is on his way to a substance abuse counseling job in Victoria BC knew about us from his former job at Kaiser in San Rafael CA, and was tickled to hear we had a LifeRing meeting in Nanaimo, next door to Victoria.
  • Two counselors from Denver – one from a university there, another from a mental health agency – stopped and asked a lot of questions and were very supportive. One of them bought the workbook. I told them to be sure to connect with the LifeRing meetings in Denver.
  • A counselor from Long Island knew Smithtown and Deer Park, where we have LifeRing meetings, said she is not far from there and she is going to read our literature and send people to those meetings.
  • A counselor from Columbus GA working for a private mental health agency there said they recently opened a unit for military people at nearby Ft. Benning. He corroborated what another counselor told me earlier about the effect of combat on religiosity. He says trauma generally can cut two ways, either reinforcing religiosity or tearing it down. He told me about a very devout churchgoing young woman who was brutally kidnapped and raped, but survived. She could not understand how God would let this happen to her. He says when people come to him – the substance abuse counselor – with questions like that, he sends them to the chaplain. He strongly agreed that treatment programs need to offer both a religious and a secular option to serve their clientele.
  • A counselor from Lafayette CA, a suburb in the San Francisco Bay Area, had not heard of us but said she was glad to do so, and took the local meeting schedule. She was pleased to see that there were meetings every day. She just go her license to practice.
  • A counselor from Cincinnati OH said “we need more secular material out here, we need more secular groups.”
  • A psychology teacher from Wright State University in Ohio, who has done outcomes research and is familiar with Motivational Interviewing, said he was very enthused to find out we existed. He will mention LifeRing in his lectures and keep our literature available in his office to let people know there are options.
  • A counselor with the county mental health facility in Bakersfield CA (Kern county) perked up when she heard we were not 12-step but secular. She took the literature and said she would read it.
  • A counselor in independent practice in San Mateo CA took our literature and said that secular groups are necessary.
  • Tom Horvath, the president of SMART Recovery, dropped by again and we had another friendly chat about the issue of how to develop more group leaders.
  • A counselor from San Diego wants to know, do we have a meeting there? He will send people if we do.
  • A counselor from Las Positas college in Livermore CA had a long chat with Gillian E. (who joined me at the Lifering booth after lunch). He has a brother who is struggling to get sober in Ft. Bragg CA, and was enthusiastic to hear there was another approach besides 12-step. He took one of each of the brochures to give to his brother.
  • Two students from Tampa stopped by, appeared a bit bemused by the whole concept, but said they would check it out on the web. They took some literature.
  • A counselor from the juvenile drug court in Sacramento took our literature and wants to know when we’ll have a meeting in Sacramento.
  • A counselor in private practice from Mineola Long Island NY took our literature and said she can refer people to our Deer Park and Smithtown meetings.
  • A retired psychologist from Gillette NJ says she’s out of it herself but she sees much too much religion around and she’ll pass on our literature to her younger colleagues.
  • A senior researcher from the Pearson Group, the huge publisher that owns the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), stopped to talk about his daughter who is having serious drug and alcohol problems. He asked many questions and took our literature and he will try to get his daughter interested.
  • A graduate student in San Francisco who is beginning his doctoral research was very interested in LifeRing, chatted for quite a while, and took literature.
  • A young counselor who is going to work on a reservation near Phoenix AZ was quite interested. She bought How Was Your Week and took other literature.
  • A social worker from Rochester NY stopped and took literature.
  • A counselor from a residential program for teens in Camarillo CA chatted and took literature.
  • A counselor from Singapore Malaysia asked questions and took literature.
  • The head of an alcohol recovery clinic in South Korea stopped, chatted, and bought a workbook.
  • Two women from Texas Women’s University in Denton TX spent some time chatting, and took a lot of literature to give out to their colleagues.

As the exhibit hall closed and I took apart the display and packed the remaining literature, two more people came up, one of them breathless, and wanted information. I dug into the box and gave them brochures. After I disassembled the PVC pipe frame, I took a hard look at the cardboard display panels and tossed them into the trash. They’d taken a beating. For the next show we need to upgrade and freshen up the display.

I am very grateful to Gillian E. who gave me and the remaining display materials and literature a ride across the bay in her car.

-- MN.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

APA Convention Journal (3)

APA Convention Journal (3)

LifeRing convenor and Board of Directors member Craig O. from San Lorenzo was already at the table in Booth 325 when I arrived at 9:25 a.m. on Saturday. I brought a fresh batch of brochures from the Service Center in Oakland, Craig stacked them, and we were ready for the day’s adventures. Once again, I spoke short notes on each contact into a small voice recorder directly after it took place. Without that device, all the day’s faces and conversations would have blurred into a fog by the end of the session. At various times during the day, Craig and I would take turns exploring the hall or just taking a break. Consequently my notes aren’t as complete as they might be. For what it’s worth, here they are:

  • A counselor from Mishiwak IN said she was interested in alternatives to AA and took our literature.
  • A college professor from Grand Forks ND who says she’s now in Sioux City IA teaches introductory psych and took our literature so that she can let her students know there is more than one way to get clean and sober.
  • A professor from George Washington U in DC took some literature to bring back to his colleagues who teach addiction.
  • A young woman from Bend OR who just graduated in psychology from the university there is quite interested to hear that secular alternatives exist because she knows people who are looking for that and she’ll pass the literature on.
  • A professor from Adelphi University says she’ll take the literature to her colleagues who do substance abuse. She is on the board of an Asian-American Pacific Islander organization to protect families from addiction issues.
  • A counselor from an agency in a small town in southern Ohio says there are quite a few people who don’t do AA and there is nothing for them, and there ought to be something for them. She will see if her agency can get something started. She took literature.
  • A psychologist from the Netherlands was curious about us and took the literature.
  • A counselor from “a federal law enforcement agency” in Alexandria VA says she refers clients to AA groups all the time but there are some who don’t cotton to the “higher power thing.” She’s looking for someplace else to send them and hopes we can get a meeting going there.
  • A counselor from Columbus OH who does domestic violence expressed interest and took our literature.
  • A student from Green Bay WI who is not interested in addiction as a career but has a friend who is struggling with addiction asked whether our literature is for clinicians or for clients. I told her we have a LifeRing meeting in Green Bay, listed on our web site, and she should tell her friend about it. She took a bunch of our brochures.
  • A counselor from Oxnard CA came up and said, “So, you’re 12 step?” I said, “No.” He said, “You’re abstinence-based?” I said, yes. He said: “We need more of that in Southern California.” He took literature and left a business card.
  • A counselor from a treatment program in Concord CA spoke with Craig at length and Craig gave me her business card, saying she wants to be contacted about a possible LifeRing presentation to staff there. A lot of her clients don’t like the “higher power concept” and are interested in an alternative. She was happy to hear we have meetings in Concord.
  • A psychologist and her lawyer husband from Manchester NH took our literature. She said that 12-step works for some people, but some people have to sink pretty low before they are willing to go there, and other people want to approach abstinence from a different perspective. “I’ve had a lot of clients that go to 12-step programs and the sponsors that are available may still have their own mental health issues that they are still working on so it is not helpful for my clients and it turns them off prematurely.”
  • A teacher from a community college in Napa CA (heart of the wine country) teaches a substance abuse unit and says she’ll include us in her lectures to students.
  • A counselor with an agency in a small town on the border between KY and TN sees a lot of military guys and is very interested in an alternative to 12-step. She bought the workbook and How Was Your Week.
  • “My clients have a problem with the strong religious focus in the traditional 12-step groups, AA and NA.” – Counselor from a practice group in Washington DC. He reported a lot of negative experiences by his clients with AA. Took our literature and asked to be notified when we have a meeting.
  • The wife of a counselor from Meriden CT says she has a personal friend who started going to AA and could not relate to it at all because of “the God thing.” She has another friend who has been going to AA for years and has got so wrapped up in it that’s all she can talk about; she has no other life any more. She doesn’t think that’s really “healing.” She took some literature hoping to open that friend’s eyes.
  • A counselor in private practice in Philadelphia says she had addiction clients and often they run into problems with AA because it seems very religious to them, so they don’t get any support, and she’s interested in having options available for them. I told her we have a meeting in Telford. She said that’s on the other side of town from her. She took our literature.
  • A young man from the Lawyer Assistance Program in Los Angeles checked in and was pleased to her that LifeRing will be providing support to CA lawyers, at least in Northern CA. He says we need you down here also.
  • A counselor from a VA hospital in the Tampa area had a long discussion with Craig and me. She says “lots of people” need the LifeRing approach and she is going to see if she can get our books into their program and get something started. She bought the workbook and How Was Your Week.
  • A counselor in private practice in San Francisco took our meeting schedule and other literature.
  • A counselor from Walden in Minneapolis MN expressed interest and took literature.
  • A counselor from Middletown RI says her husband will be very interested in our approach, and took literature.
  • The editor of a newsletter, National Psychologist, asked for “one piece of literature” that he could put into his paper.
  • A counselor from Morehouse AL took our literature.
  • A psychologist from Washington DC dropped his business card into our tray and asked that we send him information.
  • A psychologist from Portland OR who is interested in pharmaceutical approaches stopped and chatted for quite a while, and took literature. He hopes that we can get some groups going in Portland.
  • A counselor in family practice in Dearborn MI was interested to hear that non-12step abstinence approaches existed, and took our literature.
  • A counselor from Waco TX has issues with alcohol and drugs in her own family and was interested in hearing about new approaches. She took literature.
  • “For a long time in the treatment community, clients have been paying big money to get a Big Book and work the first three steps…. The treatment community is re-evaluating and moving beyond the 12-step approach.” That’s from a staffer at a newly opened residential treatment program in nearby Sausalito CA, which will emphatically not be based on the 12 steps, she said. She knew about us and wants us to come and establish contact and get a LifeRing meeting started there. We exchanged business cards.
  • A counselor from San Diego asked us some questions and liked what he heard and took our literature.
  • A counselor from Atlanta GA took several copies of our brochures to distribute. She says there’s a real need for something other than 12 step because a lot of people just refuse to do 12-step.
  • A student from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana was “just looking” and took some literature.
  • A counselor from Oakland CA who works at a methadone clinic and also has a private practice knows about us, has referred people to us, and was glad to get new meeting schedules.
  • A student who is interning at a clinic in Palo Alto was interested in hearing about our Burlingame meeting, and took our literature.
  • A student from Santa Clara CA said there needs to be something more than 12-step and took our literature.
  • A counselor from Ypsilanti MI says “We need some alternatives to the AA style. Good luck to you!”
  • A counselor from Austin TX says our meetings in Cedar Park are fine but too far north, “you need more meetings in town.” But she says she will tell her clients about us.
  • A reporter from Pacific MO who covers trade shows and conventions took some literature and said he might write about us.
  • A man wearing the uniform of Moscone Center maintenance staff said he was just arguing with his sponsor about LifeRing and took some more literature and a schedule.
  • A student from Argosy University in Phoenix AZ asked whether we did the 12 steps. When I said, “No,” she said, “Oh! I’m interested. Tell me more.” She took literature.
  • A counselor from Humana Hospital in Napa was interested and took literature.
  • A counselor who also teaches at University of California in San Francisco says she has a patient who is doing LifeRing and doing “excellently,” and she doesn’t know a thing about us. She took one of each and said she may buy the workbook.
  • “People get turned off by the whole philosophy of the 12 steps and the higher power thing,” said a counselor from Honolulu HI. She spent quite a bit of time chatting with us and wants to know how to start a LifeRing meeting.
  • A counselor from Modesto CA chatted with us and took literature. He says they’re building a new recovery facility to be finished in 7 – 8 months that’s going to have meeting rooms with bathrooms and outside entrances, and we would be a “perfect match” for that situation. He left his business card.
  • Dr. Joan Zweben came by and introduced herself, and we shook hands. We had corresponded via email but never met. She is a senior member of the faculty teaching addictions at the University of California in San Francisco. She trains and consults privately with addictions counselors, and has included LifeRing in her lectures and consultations for quite some time. Her students are required to visit self-help group meetings and we see them with some frequency. She has been very supportive. We discussed the LifeRing demographic, and she took all of the literature.
  • A counselor from Louisville KY, hearing that we were abstinence-based but NOT 12-step, eagerly took one of each of our brochures.
  • A counselor in private practice from Silver Spring MD who has clients who “struggle with AA” is interested in our approach and took literature.
  • “We have a clinic in the middle of the ghetto. We have 9,000 patients. And the few who we can get to go to AA will come back to us and will say, ‘Yeah, I gave it to God, and it didn’t do anything,’ and they’ll get angry at us, ‘Why did you send me to them, I thought you liked me.’ And we’re their primary care physician.” -- Psychologist and professor at a medical school in Miami FL. He left his card and would like to get LifeRing going there.
  • A Ph.D. student at Lehigh U in Bethlehem PA was “thrilled” to find there was a non-step approach. She says frankly she hates the 12-step approach; she has a number of family members involved in it, and has had bad experiences. She doesn’t like the powerlessness aspect, or “the god stuff” and finds the whole thing “incomprehensible.” She is glad to find something else and took a lot of our literature.
  • A couple of students from a college in Ft. Lauderdale FL stopped to get an explanation of what we did, and took literature.
  • A top administrator from a psychiatric hospital affiliated with the University of California at San Francisco stopped to chat. She has a lot of substance abuse clients who don’t benefit from the 12-step approach, or don’t want to do it, and she hasn’t known where to send them. She said she was glad to find out about us. She took one of each. She talked about inviting us to do an in-service presentation to her staff.
  • A professor who teaches substance abuse among other things at a college in central Washington State was interested, took literature, and said she will tell her students about us.
  • A student from Western Michigan U in Kalamazoo stopped to chat, and took literature. He said he was attracted by the fact it was secular.
  • A clinical psychologist from San Jose CA who works mostly with children was interested to know we exist.
  • A graduate student working on his Psy.D. degree is going to be doing an internship at a treatment center in the East Bay and is taking our literature with him.
  • “Where do I get in touch with you guys in South Florida? My practice is drug and alcohol abuse. I run alcohol groups. And I run individual therapy for drug and alcohol dependence. And I cannot find non-12 step groups.” Me: “If such groups existed, would you refer clients to them?” He: “Yes.”
  • A counselor in private practice in Martinez CA works as a consultant for EAP programs at nearby major refineries. He says the refinery EAP programs are refusing to accept LifeRing participation on a par with 12-step group participation. He knows about our Martinez and Vallejo meetings.
  • A young man who has a position in APA says he has an uncle who has had his life taken over by AA, and it disturbs him because his uncle no longer has any life outside of that. He took our literature intending to give it to his uncle. I advised him not to expect too much.
  • A counselor from Lodi says she is going to do an internship in substance abuse and was glad to learn a secular alternative existed.

The hall closed at 5, and Craig and I walked to BART. I could barely keep my eyes open on the train home.

(To be continued.)

APA Convention Journal (2)

At 9:05 a.m. Friday the LifeRing booth was exactly as I had left it on setup day yesterday. Convention participants were getting their first look at the Exhibit area. I wasn’t even half through my coffee before the first ones stopped at the booth. They were from St. Petersburg FL. I told them there was a LifeRing meeting in Pinellas Park. They said they didn’t know that but were glad to hear it. They took two brochures and a copy of the Presenting LifeRing magazine.

When they stepped away, I recorded a brief summary of our contact into a small handheld voice recorder so that at the end of the day I would have a journal of our contacts. I did the same for most of the other contacts I had. LifeRing convenor David F. from San Rafael showed up after a little while. Former LifeRing convenor and board member Gillian E. joined us a bit later. My journal doesn’t record every contact we had between the three of us but I got a fair sample. Here’s a playback:

  • A counselor in private practice from Berkeley CA. She says she has clients who will not do AA and is glad to get the information that there is an alternative. Gave her the local meeting schedule together with brochures.
  • A professor from State University of New York at Rochester. He teaches the substance abuse course. He said he would have their library order our books, and he will work LifeRing into his lectures. He has students who are looking for an alternative to AA.
  • The executive director of a recovery program in Alberta. He took literature and said this would be interesting to his staff.
  • A Ph.D. on the staff of a residential program in Sonoma, CA. He told me about a client who has been through a 12-step program twice and is not improving. What did we do that was different? I explained the basics of our approach to him in a few words. He said that sounds interesting, and bought a workbook.
  • A young man who does audiovisual hookups for the convention center stopped by to say he has a brother who goes to LifeRing in San Francisco and likes it a .lot better than AA.
  • Another counselor from St. Petersburg FL said this looks very interesting and took some literature.
  • Tom Horvath, the president of SMART Recovery, stopped by and we shook hands. I had corresponded with him via email on several occasions but we had never met. We had a friendly chat.
  • A young woman, probably a student, stopped by to say she has a friend who is considering starting Alcoholics Anonymous. She took some of our literature to give her friend a choice.
  • A young man from Florida said he is a Universalist Unitarian and was attracted by our “secular” name.
  • A teacher from a community college in Galveston said she was very happy to see that there was a secular organization. Where she is, in the Galveston and Houston area, there is nothing but AA and that was not a good situation – it was terrible – and an alternative is badly needed.
  • A counselor from Oakland CA said he is often sending clients to recovery groups and had heard of us but had not seen our literature. He took some.
  • A counselor from an Air Force mental health program in San Antonio stopped. I asked her whether her people were interested in a secular alternative. She said that actually the Air Force is “highly religious” but that the clients need something different, and she took the literature.
  • A teacher at a medical school in Oregon, who teaches the substance abuse section to medical students, said with a giggle that there were “a lot of atheists” in Oregon. She said an alternative to AA was very strongly needed there. She said she would build LifeRing into her lectures and make sure students knew about it.
  • A counselor with a marriage and family practice in Tinsley IL took our literature, saying she “certainly” has clients looking for an alternative to the 12-step approach, and took our literature. She says 12-step works for some people but not for others.
  • A man wearing the badge of International President of the APA, from Ireland, said addiction was not his area but he would take the literature and bring it back to his colleagues.
  • [Across the way from our booth is a booth for an eating disorders program. They are giving away unlimited supplies of little chocolate bars. I kidded the operator: Giving away chocolate bars at an eating disorder booth is like our booth giving out airline bottles of vodka. He said, maybe, but it works better than green apples in getting people to the booth. LOL. ]
  • A professor from the U. Mass in Boston who teaches psychology, including addictions, took our literature and said, yes, she does have people looking for alternatives there.
  • People from Glendale AZ, Berkeley CA, and Morganton NC and a couple of others whose badges I couldn’t see came in a bunch and took our literature.
  • Two counselors from the Seattle area. One of them knows LifeRing and uses our workbook in one of the programs she works for: Catherine Trestrail’s Positive Alternative. Catherine was our keynote speaker at a recent LifeRing Congress.
  • Dr. Fred Rotgers stopped by and introduced himself. He is a well-known author of moderationist books and a godfather of Moderation Management. He told me that Audrey Kishline, the founder of MM, had been released from prison and had befriended the mother and wife of the girl and father Kishline had killed while driving in a drunken blackout a few years ago. Kishline was now lecturing on the evils of drunk driving, and no longer kept in touch with MM people. I told Rotgers that LifeRing was a hard core abstinence group, which he knew. We chatted cordially for a few minutes.
  • A counselor from Warrensburg MO says that even in this small town she constantly runs into people wanting a secular alternative to AA.
  • A counselor from Memphis TN. She says it’s “the buckle on the Bible Belt.” She works for a hospital that’s 12-step and so she has to do what she’s told, but she can see that there are people looking for alternatives and she’s very glad to find us.
  • A Ph.D. from Raleigh NC who says he works with teenagers. Some of them did not relate to the 12 step programs at all. Took our literature. Wondered when we were going to start a meeting there.
  • Counselor in solo practice from Austin TX. Told her we have two LifeRing meetings there and told her how to find the details on the web site. She was very glad to find there was something beside AA and said she would refer people to our Austin meetings.
  • Three folks from Anchorage AL. One of them works with the U.S. Army. They were very interested and scarfed up piles of our literature.
  • A counselor from Tucson AZ took our literature. I told him we would have a meeting in Tucson very soon. He said he would watch for it on the website.
  • A counselor in private practice from San Francisco. She said she’d include LifeRing in her referrals and took literature.
  • A counselor from a mental hospital in North Carolina who does dual diagnosis. She was very interested to hear our supportive attitude toward prescribed medications for mental illness, and took our literature.
  • A woman from Union County NJ, a licensed drug and alcohol counselor, who showed interest and took our literature.
  • A professor from University of California in San Francisco who wanted our current meeting schedule and took other literature.
  • The head of a group practice in Wilmington DE who says “12-step does not work for everyone, each person needs to find their own way.” He’s interested in what we’re doing.
  • A teacher at Argosy University in Dublin CA who is also a counselor at a federal pen near there. She had heard of us but didn’t know we had a meeting in Livermore (near Dublin) and took our literature.
  • A counselor from Reno NV who says they have serious addiction issues there that are not being met, and took our literature.
  • A substance abuse counselor at Regis U in Denver was happy to hear we had meetings in Denver, and took our literature.
  • A psych student from Vermont who had just presented a poster session. She wasn’t sure what she was going to specialize in and was interested to hear that there something else in substance abuse besides 12-step.
  • A woman from Westwood NJ who says her husband does addiction recovery, and took our literature.
  • A counselor from Holland OH says an approach other than AA would make some people she knew very happy. She took our literature.
  • A psychology student from San Francisco said she was very interested in a secular approach, and took our literature.
  • A professor from near Pittsburgh PA says there’s a lot of things about AA that turn people off and he’s very interested in alternatives. He had thought Rational Recovery was the only thing out there. He said he would include LifeRing in his lectures.
  • A guy who is on the board of California Consumer something-or-other, who leads continuing education classes for psychologists, took the literature.
  • A counselor from Orofino, ID, took our literature. She leads a program with 12 clients and says quite a few of them have trouble with the 12-step approach, particularly the “higher power thing.” She says her program doesn’t push AA but makes other programs available to the extent there are any. She was very happy to see our stuff.
  • A counselor in private practice in Atlanta stopped to chat. He is planning to take a SMART Recovery training and was very interested in LifeRing. He picked up the literature.
  • A social worker from San Diego says she “all the time” has people who can’t or won’t do the 12-steps and are looking for alternatives. Women for Sobriety has good meetings there but there’s nothing comparable for men. She took our literature and wants to be notified when we get a meeting going there.
  • A Norwegian man stopped by to say he is addicted to cod liver oil. He wants to convince American restaurants to carry it for putting in coffee. Norwegians have a great sense of humor.
  • Another person from Tucson AZ took our literature and perked up when I told him there would be a meeting there soon.
  • Two women working in a county drug treatment program in Santa Clara county (south of San Francisco) were interested in a non-step approach and took our literature.
  • A counselor from Tacoma WA says some of his clients have had bad experiences with AA. Some get freaked out by the “higher power – spirituality” component of AA. He finds it useful to have an alternative to offer. Took our literature.
  • A counselor who retired from a position heading up drug addiction programs in Davenport IA, still does referrals. Says without question there are a lot of people who do not get anything from the 12 steps and need an alternative. He says he has a room that he makes available to groups and if we wanted it we could have it. He took our literature.
  • A psychologist who does substance abuse work in the federal prisons stopped by. He says they have their own program but was very interested in ours and took our literature.
  • A counselor from Augusta GA took one of each our brochures and says AA works for some people but obviously doesn’t work for other people and she will let people know that something else exists.
  • A counselor in solo practice from San Francisco had heard of us but not met us or seen our literature. She took some.
  • A student from John F. Kennedy University said that she has “friends who have gone to both AA and LifeRing and LifeRing has the best rate of recovery in terms of both staying sober and preventing relapse.” She and her three friends took literature.
  • An elderly gent from the nearby AA booth stopped by, picked up a brochure, and said that AA was a secular organization. We had a little discussion about that and he walked off.
  • A couple from St. Petersburg Russia were fascinated with the Escher graphic on the cover of How Was Your Week?, and took some literature.
  • A woman from a group called Families Anonymous took our literature. She said her group did the 12 steps “sort of” but was open to other ideas.
  • A woman from the Wright Institute, a graduate psych school in Berkeley, said she was the guru of addictions at her school, and had heard of us and seen some of our literature, and took some more.
  • A counselor who works for the VA in Birmingham AL said she has a client who is very bright and very turned off to AA and she thought our approach might work for him. She took literature.
  • A staff member from a recovery program in Los Angeles had not heard of us but was glad to know we existed. I told him about our N. Hollywood meeting and he said he would let people know. He took literature.
  • A counselor from Louisville KY bought a workbook. [Quite a few other people expressed interest in the workbook but didn’t want to load up their convention bags with heavy stuff.]
  • A couple of students from the Pacific Graduate School of Psychology in Palo Alto CA were very interested, asked a lot of good questions, and took our literature.
  • A counselor from Anniston AL stopped by, chatted, and took literature.
  • A psych grad from UCLA who does neuroscience imaging was very interested and took literature.
  • A professor at a university in Memphis who teaches psychology, but not substance abuse, took our Presenting magazine to pass along to his colleague who teaches the substance abuse class.
  • A counselor from a VA clinic in downtown Oakland took our literature and said he would definitely put our meetings on the list for his clients to go to. He is going to have his library order our books. He has quite a few clients who say “I don’t like that god stuff, I don’t want to do that.”
  • A student with an internship at Pepperdine U says she doesn’t like integrating spirituality with recovery, and took our literature.
  • Another student from John F. Kennedy University chatted and took our literature.
  • A counselor in solo practice from Holmden NJ asked many questions, seemed very interested, and took literature.
  • A counselor from Raleigh, NC took our literature.
  • A senior APA member who is a Departmental Representative (whatever that is) said his wife went through Hazelden and didn’t like the god stuff and when she went to meetings they had more god stuff and it really bothered her and he knows she will be very glad to hear there is an alternative.
  • A young man from the Alcohol Research Group in Berkeley took our literature and said he will suggest to the librarian that they acquire our books and write something about them in their interlibrary newsletter.
  • A counselor from Seattle who does not have substance abuse clients but has friends who do, and this would be helpful to them.
  • A counselor from Arden NC who came by carrying an AA brochure left also carrying a LifeRing brochure.
  • A gentleman from Abu Dhabi asked questions, said it sounds very good, and took literature.
  • A woman from St Louis MO says she is doing AA because it’s the only show in town but she doesn’t like it. She bought a workbook. Her husband is a counselor with a Ph.D. who agreed that an alternative was needed. He said that the people who don’t like AA and don’t benefit from it often times are just beaten over the head with it. He will pass the word to see if something can’t be started by way of alternative.
  • A counselor in private practice from Pleasant Hill CA took our literature.
  • A counselor from Lafayette CA has a patient who is attending LifeRing and doing well, though it’s early on, wants to know more about our approach. Took literature.
At 5 p.m. the lights were dimmed in the Exhibit Hall and people streamed out. I’m going to have to reload the table with LifeRing brochures for tomorrow.

(to be continued)

Friday, August 17, 2007

APA Convention Journal (1)

I must have looked something like a homeless man. I was pushing a folding
hand-truck. Mounted on it was a stuffed big olive-drab backpack, the kind
with an aluminum frame. It had half a dozen pieces of white PVC pipe
sticking out of it, one of them taller than my head. A beat-up looking
piece of white cardboard was stuck between the backpack and the handle of
the hand truck. The rig was top heavy and threatened to come apart any
minute. A couple of times it did. My rig and I took up two seats and a
wheelchair space on the BART train. Some people looked away. Some people
looked at me with pity.

Moscone Convention Center is only a few blocks from the BART station in
downtown San Francisco. There was no missing the huge sign over the door:
approached the glass façade of the giant complex. There was a reason for my
stuffed backpack. The convention rulebook said that exhibitors had to hire
union labor to transport their exhibit rigs and materials into the hall.
I'm a former union man myself, Machinists and Steelworkers, and I have no
quarrel with that rule, in principle. But LifeRing operates on a shoestring
budget. With my lawyer eyes on, I saw a loophole in the union rule. You're
allowed to bring in, with your own hands, any exhibit that you can set up
inside half an hour without tools. You're allowed to bring in any amount of
material, such as books and pamphlets, that you can hand-carry in one trip.
I was ready to dismount the backpack from the hand truck, collapse the
truck, shoulder the pack, and hand-carry the whole rig into the hall, like a
hiker on the Pacific Crest trail, if challenged. I hoped it wouldn't come
to that, but I was ready.

Several hundred folks were already gathered in front of the convention
center door, waiting for registration to open at 3 p.m. No fewer than three
security guards held them back at the door. Pushing my rig, I headed
straight at the door. I was hot and sweaty and I wasn't going to wait in
that line! The nearest guard scoped me and my rig in half a second. "Aha, an
exhibitor," he said, and waved me through the door. I guess I wasn't the
only booth tenant from a shoestring operation.

Everything went like clockwork at the Exhibitor Registration booth. The
nice woman there remembered that we had talked on the phone. She had my
name badge ready. She took down the names of the other volunteers who would
come later: Gillian E., Craig O., and David F., and said she would get
badges made for them. Then I coolly wheeled my rig toward the gate of the
Exhibits Area, where a gray haired guard stood watch. He didn't know or
didn't care about the union rules regarding hand-carrying. "Watch out for
the carpet," he said, pointing to a newly laid patch of rug with a plastic
cover. "Thanks!" I said cheerily, and wheeled on it.

There were fork lifts and men on bicycles and carts with crates and people
stringing wires and others laying carpet or carrying furniture all around.
They ignored me. I threaded my way past the construction zones and found
our booth, No. 325. It's a corner location, which is nice. It's near the
Cyber-Café and the restrooms.

It took exactly ten minutes to set up our PVC
pipe display (no tools required). A LifeRing member in Denver made the big banner. Wilbur W. in Richmond CA made the two cardboard panels. I made the PVC rack. I spread our literature out on the table. Then I noticed that our booth had no chair. I was a bit tired and a chair would have been nice.

The company that runs the exhibit floor had its booth not far away. I ambled over and asked a pleasant looking clerk if she wouldn't mind telling
me where I could get a chair for our booth. Instead of pointing me to a
stack of unused chairs somewhere, she dove into her computer screen and
announced that we hadn't ordered a chair. Or a table. Or carpet. Or
anything. The table that was in our space was there by accident and was not
ours. If we wanted a rightful table and chair, there was a charge. Oh, and
the carpet. We had to pay for a carpet whether we wanted one or not.
Company rules. I winced and handed her the LifeRing credit card. Ouch.

Only minutes later, two very nice union men in their late 50s came to booth
No. 325, cleared the floor space and laid down blue plastic carpet. One saw
me taking photos of them at work and joked, "We get residuals, you know."
They brought a chair. I said I wanted to bring in a second chair of my own
tomorrow. One of them said, "Just carry it in. Don't worry about it. We
can see you're not Microsoft."

Another union guy, maybe in his 30s, looked at our literature and said,
"what's 'secular' recovery?" I explained it to him. He said he was on
break. We chatted about recovery things.

Ours wasn't the only PVC pipe display rig. In the booth directly behind
ours, a woman was assembling another home made PVC display -- admittedly
much slicker than mine. It advertised a back pain remedy. I began a slow
amble along the aisle. The third booth to our left belongs to Alcoholics
Anonymous. They have a table-mounted commercial display with "Alcoholics
Anonymous" in large letters, and an array of Big Books and AA brochures on
the table. Their booth was set up but nobody was staffing it at the moment.

The younger union guy who had chatted with me earlier swung by the AA both,
saw me, and said "There's your competition!" I laughed. Tomorrow could be fun.

Two rows away, NIDA (National Institute onDrug Abuse) had a double sized booth.

Hundreds of booths were in various stages of construction. In the other
half of the huge hall, hundreds of blank poster-frames were neatly arrayed,
waiting for the flood of scheduled poster sessions. In the outer hallway, I
picked up a copy of the APA Addiction newsletter. It is put out by APA
Section 50, Addictive Behaviors. Section 50 has approximately a thousand
members. There is also Section 28, devoted to pharmacological treatment of
substance abuse. I made a note to check that out later. By now,
registration was in full swing. Looks like a relaxed, informal crowd. The
Exhibit hall will open to the public at 9 tomorrow morning.

On the way home, a call was forwarded to my cell phone from the LifeRing 800
line, from a counselor at a clinic in San Diego. She wanted the workbook,
she wanted How Was Your Week, and the CD, and she wanted to start a meeting.
She said she has an MA in Psychology and had attended the two most recent
APA conventions, but couldn't make this one. She wished me luck.

(To be continued).

Thursday, August 16, 2007


I am a new convenor in DenverLife Ring. I will be asking questions about membership building and hopefully may be able to contribute to the blogsite. Thisis just an introduction.