Sunday, May 31, 2009

Interesting Phone Call

The caller on the LifeRing 800 line identified himself as a 25-year member of AA, and one of the best-known speakers on the West Coast AA circuit. He said he happened to be in a recovery bookstore and my book (Empowering Your Sober Self) "jumped out at him" and be bought it and, over the next 24 hours, read it straight through. "I want to start a LifeRing meeting," he said. "I've been reading recovery literature for 30 years and I've never picked up the phone and called before."

He's going to contact some of the people he knows at local treatment centers to see about getting a room and referrals. I advised him he might run into some resistance with some of his AA friends. He said he is ready for a new challenge. We'll talk some more. He's aiming to open the doors of a new LifeRing meeting in September.

PS For a follow-up on this, see my post "They laughed at him" in the New Recovery blog.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

And now, Liability Insurance

LifeRing Treasurer Robert Stump reports that the whole LifeRing network is now covered by a general commercial liability policy. 

We now have a NIAC Commercial General Liability Insurance Policy covering the fifty states and Canada. It became effective 5/11/09 and will last one year. This policy will cover any liability and/or property damage  that might occur at any of your weekly LifeRing meetings. Personal injury and property damage are up to the limits of the policy stated here.    

 The following is a highlight of some of the coverage:

  • General Aggregate                                           $2,000,000
  • Products-Completed Operation Aggregate           2,000,000
  • Personal & Advertising                                       1,000,000
  • Each Occurrence Limit                                      1,000,000
  • Fire Damage (Any One Fire)                                 500,000 
  • Medical Expense (Any One Person)                       20,000 

The insurance policy will be on file at the Service Center in Oakland. For any questions please contact the Service Center, or me, Robert Stump at
This policy won't make any difference to most LifeRing convenors, because we've never had a claim or are likely to ever have a claim, but in a few cases it will make the difference between having a meeting or not having it.  Some churches and other meeting room providers absolutely require organizations to have such insurance.  Well, now we have it.  If you are a convenor for whom this is an issue, you will need a copy of the Declarations Page to show the meeting room provider.  Contact Robert at for a copy.

This policy is also another part of the answer to the question sometimes asked: what happens to the money we send in to the Service Center.  

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

His Excellent Adventure

The LifeRing Expo May 9-10 is already fading into memory.  You can read the quasi-'official' wrap-up I wrote on the (aka website, with some photos by Karen Ivy, here.  But to really get the flavor of the event, particularly for a traveler who came a considerable distance, you have to read "My Excellent Expo Adventure," by Craig Whalley, here.  Craig's account is all the more interesting because he is mainly an online participant -- he is listmeister of two lists and online contact for a third -- and does not have a face-to-face meeting he can go to.  What's it like when online participants meet face to face for the first time?  Craig writes well, and has a good eye for the quirks and foibles that make people human and lovable.  Worth reading.  It would be good if more people followed Craig's example and wrote such journals.

Partners: Push/Pull

Some of the calls to the LifeRing 800 line are from people who are on the edge of their sanity. I try to make it clear at the outset, gently but firmly, that this is not a crisis hotline and that I'm not a counselor or a doctor, and have no qualifications to offer advice.

This gentleman was talking through tears and sobs. What was the problem? He has a friend, a very good friend, a wonderful person (when he's sober) who broke up with his wife, got drunk and high on pot, and came over to the caller's house and did more drinking and pot smoking there, and invited the caller to go for a drive with him. The caller had made it very clear to the friend that he did not allow drinking and pot smoking in his house, and that he was absolutely not going to get in the car with the friend driving under the influence. But the friend had completely disrespected the caller's wishes, and now the friend was angry at the caller for his 'negative attitude.' Hence the tears.

After repeating that I had no qualifications to offer advice, I told the caller that I was not surprised at his friend's behavior, that I had done similar things when I was in my addiction, and that (now that I was sober) I also kept my house free of alcohol or drugs and I also would never get into a car driven by somebody under the influence. The caller had done exactly what I would have done under the circumstances.

Still, the caller was not consoled. He loved this friend and was terribly upset at the thought of losing this friendship. This was really a wonderful person when sober. What should he do?

After repeating a third time that I had no qualifications to give advice, I suggested that the caller might adopt a push-pull attitude toward his friend. When the friend is sober, pull. Engage him, involve him, enjoy him. But when the friend is drinking/using, push. Firmly maintain the wall between yourself and him, disengage, disinvolve, stay cold, stay away. Don't attack him, don't give him advice (except in the most passing, casual, matter-of-fact way), don't try to change him or convert him. Eventually, when you have been consistent, your policy may work some changes in him. You may reinforce, with your "pull," the sober part within him, the wonderful person that he is when sober. You may disempower, with your "push," the other him, the part of him that is in love with alcohol and other drugs.

Or, you may lose him as a friend. That happens. Prepare yourself for that possibility by looking around, even now, at the other people in your life that you could be friends with.

Somehow, that made sense to the caller. It offered a way forward. He stopped crying, his voice returned to normal. I concluded by reminding him that my advice was worth exactly what he paid for it. He gave a little laugh, and we ended the conversation.

Another door opens by a crack

A few weeks ago, as I reported elsewhere, I was invited to speak about LifeRing at Mountain Vista Farm, one of the oldest rural inpatient treatment programs in California. Mountain Vista's reputation is that of a citadel of the 12-step approach. Yet there was genuine interest in hearing about the LifeRing approach, and my presentation appeared to resonate with quite a few of the counselors in attendance.

Now comes an invitation to speak about LifeRing at another well-known bastion of the 12-step approach, the Henry Ohloff program in San Francisco. I will be addressing staff at the outpatient center on June 2. Like Mountain Vista, this program is not ready to host a LifeRing meeting, and it may be quite a while before the treatment protocol opens up to the reality that there are many roads to recovery. But meanwhile, there are staff members in these tradition-bound programs who have their eyes and ears open for new developments that may help some of their clients.

This is certainly a welcome sign. If I ask why it is occurring, the answer is that patients/clients are driving it. In at least 80 per cent of the cases where we are contacted by a treatment professional and asked for more information about LifeRing, a patient or client was the driver. A patient or client introduced the professional to LifeRing literature or the LifeRing web presence, or informed the professional that he/she was attending LifeRing and that it was helping.

And even when an individual patient or client is not directly the driver, in the sense that he or she located LifeRing and put LifeRing on the professional's radar screen, it is still patients/clients who drive the process passively, by voting with their feet when the professionals only offer an approach that does not work for them. A treatment program that only offers the 12 steps and nothing else is going to experience, sooner or later, the reality that 80 per cent of newcomers to AA walk away within 30 days (and 95 per cent within a year).

While few treatment programs retain a patient as long as a full 30 days -- the average stay at one nominally 28-day program I know is around 10 days -- the client resistance to 12-step may well show up from Day One of treatment. If the program has nothing else to offer, it's going to lose clients earlier than if it offered choices. Monomodal treatment translates into high patient turnover. You don't need to be a rocket scientist to figure it out.

And so, the wheels turn, and sooner or later a call goes out to LifeRing, or another alternative approach. Quite a few LifeRing convenors now have had the experience of explaining LifeRing before audiences in treatment programs. To be sure, it's far too early to proclaim a tsunami, but if we compare the interest in LifeRing from treatment programs ten years ago and now, we're almost in a new era. Ten years ago, most minds were closed and we couldn't get in the door. Today, we're frequently in the embarassing situation of getting requests from a program director to start a meeting, and not having a convenor to take the room. It's a problem, but it's a better problem to have.