Saturday, September 5, 2009

Second LifeRing at MPI

Merritt Peralta Institute is the oldest adult residential addiction treatment facility on the West Coast.  If you had any doubts about its treatment philosophy, the wall-size framed poster of the 12 steps, with letters 3 inches high, opposite the reception desk, removed them. Nevertheless, at the beginning of the 21st century, in March 2000, after three LifeRing presentations to staff and patients, and a prolonged soul-searching, the facility allowed the first LifeRing meeting onto its premises.  I had the honor of being one of the founding convenors, and this was my regular Wednesday night meeting for about three years.

MPI was also the second treatment program where patients got a choice between the LifeRing meeting and a 12-step meeting  on site in the same time slot (Kaiser Oakland was the first).  At the appointed hour, a counselor takes to the PA system and advises clients that they have a choice of AA in Room x and LifeRing in Room y. The LifeRing meeting usually holds up very well in that setting.  When I was the convenor, there were a couple of nights when no one came, but quite a few nights when everyone came, either because the AA speaker failed to show up or because the clients had quite enough of AA for the day, thank you.  On the average, the LifeRing meeting drew about a third to a half of the program's census when I was present.  I hear from John D., who has been convening this meeting for some time now, with help from Rick K., that the attendance has picked up from that ratio, and that the room is usually pretty full now.  So I should not have been surprised to get a call from one of the staff counselors two weeks ago asking for a second LifeRing meeting to be established at MPI, please.

This is the new reality for LifeRing.  Ten years ago we would knock and knock on the doors of treatment programs like MPI and the doors would get slammed in our faces.  We had convenors ready to lead meetings, but no rooms or referral sources.  Today, we get phone calls from treatment programs asking us to start a LifeRing meeting, or another LifeRing meeting, please.

Luckily, I quickly found not just one but two LifeRing regulars with the requisite six-months-or-more sober who are ready, willing and able to convene this new meeting.  They are Rick B. and Jon M.  We'll be launching the new Tuesday evening meeting at MPI this coming week, day after Labor Day, at 8:30 p.m.  

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