I'm back from the 2008 American Psychological Association Conference in Boston. This was a fascinating, if exhausting, experience. The exhibition Hall was open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and from 9;00 a.m. to noon on Sunday.
On Thursday and Friday, I handed out 317 "Welcome to LifeRing" pamphlets, and repeated my "In a Nutshell" description of LifeRing: "Can I tell you about LifeRing? LifeRing is a non-profit, secular alternative to Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous for people who don't relate to the spiritual or religious focus of the 12 step approach."
I learned quickly how important it was to get the word "nonprofit" out of my mouth as soon as possible, since most of the other booths were there to sell something. On Saturday and Sunday, traffic was much lighter and I gave out 75 pamphlets and visited exhibit booths of treatment centers, as well as academics who were giving papers on addiction related topics.
I also visited the AA and NA booths and was received cordially in each case. By far, most of the people I talked to were very positive about LifeRing. No one wanted to argue about The One True Way to get clean and sober.
One man asked if AA was "threatened" by our group. I told him that it certainly doesn't need to be, and asked him what made him ask such an interesting question. He laughed and said something about territoriality.
Even people I interrupted as they walked by very quickly with the "my destination is more important than anything you could possibly tell me" vibe thanked me for stopping them when they heard about LifeRing.
Several people wanted to know if we had studies to show the effectiveness of LifeRing; some asked if we were related to Rational Recovery, and many people expressed surprise to hear that such a thing as a secular recovery program could exist!
Therapists from Oregon, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, the Carolinas, Massachusetts and Utah wanted to know if there were face-to-face meetings in their area. Psychologists and students from Kuwait, Egypt, Spain, the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico now know about LifeRing.
I collected cards from several people who want more info One author from Pennsylvania expressed interest in doing an article about non 12 step recovery programs for the state Psychologists' journal. I plan to follow up with an email to each one. It was wonderful to hear so many people say that there is a great need for a secular alternative to 12 step programs.
It seems to me that having a presence at this event automatically gave LifeRing a certain gravity; as if we should be taken seriously as a resource for recovery. There were no representatives from Women for Sobriety, Smart Recovery or S.O.S. Likely this is because it is expensive to participate. (I learned when I arrived that we were
required to rent 10 square ft of carpet, $218.00 for 3 & 1/2 days,
and if we wanted a table and chair, we would need to rent them as well, and for equally appalling amounts)
I also feel that it would be helpful to have more than one person "personning" the booth. Sometimes as I was talking to someone, I noticed 4 more people walking by. Also, as time went on, I found I had less energy to approach people. I would have helped to have had at least one other person there to reach more people and to trade off with. Of course this will not always be possible, but it's something to think about for future conferences.
All in all, I'm very glad I got to do this gig, and I recommend to all!
I'm sure there is pertinent information I am leaving out. Please ask me questions if you want to know more!