Saturday, December 26, 2009

Great letter from Eugene OR

James K. from Eugene OR writes:

I convened a successful first LifeRing Secular Recovery meeting Monday, December 21, 2009 here in Eugene, Oregon.  It was helpful and, dare I say, fun, for all!  I look forward to more meetings and hope we can grow while spreading the LifeRing philosophy.
I have a few comments I'd like to share with Mr. Nicolaus:
In 'How Was Your Week' (V1.00.0), Sec. "Internal Ferment in the twelve step world."  I would try and replace 'ferment' with something.  Ferment is to alcohol as white is to school glue.  'Discord' and 'discontent' come to mind. [...]
Also, p. 11.  Very nice example; indigenous tribesman and firewater c.1700s.  I love this use.
"Recovery by Choice."  I love this workbook!  A few ideas:  tear-out t-chart and plan pages, more sections dealing with medicine in recovery (more methadone please), perhaps adding more commonly used treatment devices such as suboxone and antabuse. Maybe a version for inpatient and a slightly different one for outpatient and one mode for groups of several or more people to use together along with their own copies or own sections.
Thank you so much for this opportunity!
-- J.K.
James, thank you for that great letter.  I'm delighted that LifeRing is taking root in Eugene, and I feel in my bones that Oregon is going to be a big state for LifeRing one of these days.

Thanks especially for the comment on "How Was Your Week."  On my to do list for the next year is to update this volume and get it printed as a regular paperback, instead of the copy-shop plastic comb binding that it now has.  I'll certainly rephrase "ferment" to something less "spiritual."

You have great suggestions for the workbook.  It's designed right now primarily for bibliotherapy (individuals doing it more or less on their own).  But we're also using it in small peer-led groups and there are treatment professionals using it with clients, both individually and in groups.  If you could provide some more concrete, detailed suggestions how the book could be adapted for inpatient and outpatient use, respectively, that would be very helpful.

Best regards for the new year, and best wishes for the success of LifeRing in Eugene,

-- Marty N.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Fundraiser Mailing Goes Out

A small handful of dedicated volunteers prepared the annual LifeRing fundraiser mailing on Dec. 9 at the Service Center in Oakland. If you are on the mailing list, you probably will have received the mail piece by now, or will receive it in the next day or two. That is, unless our paper folding machine ate it.

Here's what it took to get this mailing out to you.

First, preparing the mailing list. This means selecting the most likely donors from our database. In this case, we included everyone who had donated to LifeRing within the past four years, plus everyone who had purchased something from LifeRing Press within the past two years. We also added all current or past LifeRing convenors so that the convenors could take the letter to their meetings and encourage meeting participants to pitch in.

Then, the mailing list has to be verified and sorted. For this we use a program called Dazzle Express, which costs $195 a year. Dazzle Express checks each address in the mailing list against Post Office data to make sure the address exists and the zip code is correct. It also checks for duplicate addresses. This year, the Post Office also required us to subscribe to an additional service that keeps track of change-of-address forms, and costs us an additional $250 for 100,000 addresses. The Dazzle Express software also generates traying reports, tray labels, and other paperwork required by the Post Office for our nonprofit mailing permit.

Once the mailing list is done, we convert it into an Excel file, and this becomes the data file for a Microsoft Word MailMerge printing operation. Once that's running -- and this gave us considerable trouble because of Microsoft Office 7 issues -- the job went to Fluffy, our HP 9050 printer. We acquired Fluffy second-hand from a bankrupt auto dealer at a good discount earlier this year, and it has brought much joy. Fluffy not only printed this duplex job in less than half the time it took last year on our small office lasers, it also spit out the finished paper nice and flat, instead of crinkled as in the past.

Then it was time for the folding machine. Our venerable Martin-Yale light duty friction-feed desktop paper folder, already temperamental in its youth, proved irrepressibly cranky in its decline, and indulged in spectacular paper jams that destroyed more than 50 mail pieces. By the end of the run, the rollers were barely turning over, an acrid overheating smell rose from the apparatus, and even liberal doses of 3-in-1 oil on the bearings revived it only briefly. One of the things we will have to do with the funds we raise is to purchase a new and more robust folder.

From the folder, the surviving stack of folded pieces went into the tabber. The tabbing machine, which automatically places little white round gummed stickers on the edges of the paper to keep it closed, was also unhappy at first, but recovered its good form for most of the run after a spray of WD-40 on its feed rollers. Magical stuff, that.

Then the pieces needed to be placed in the proper Post Office trays. The pieces came off the printer in proper sequence, and there were only four trays, and the Dazzle Express software created a list of what pieces go into which trays, so in theory this should have been a simple operation. But due to the problems with the folder, the pieces got quite out of sequence, and didn't seem to match the numbers on the printed list, so that the whole mailing had to be resorted manually before it went into the trays. This took the operation into a second day.

At the Business Bulk Mail Unit in the main Post Office in Oakland the next day, the clerk checked our work briefly, stamped it OK, and sent us on our way. But the next morning came a phone call that there were problems -- the Post Office's Merlin software found things out of order -- and we had to go back to the Post Office, bring more money, and move things from one tray to another before we had the official blessing.

So, when you get this modest mail piece, please give at least a fleeting thought to the people and the processes that brought it to you. And if you didn't get the mailing but would like to get the warm feeling that comes from helping a deserving nonprofit, you can donate online by clicking here, or you can mail a check to LifeRing Service Center, 1440 Broadway Suite 312, Oakland CA 94612. Thank you.

New Blog: The Shape of LifeRing in 2010

Convenors will want to check out the new blog, Lifering-10, and join the discussion there to shape the future of LifeRing in 2010 and beyond.  The blog begins with the report of the Expansion Committee. This contains proposals for greatly expanding the ranks of LifeRing leadership.  The blog allows anyone to post comments either on the Expansion Committee report as a whole or on its separate components.  Convenors are asked (a) to familiarize themselves with the proposals, (b) to sound out their meetings on the main issues that the proposals raise, and (c) to provide their own and their meeting members' feedback.

You'll be hearing more about these issues in the New Year.  We want to make sure that every LifeRing participant is aware at least of the general drift of the proposals, and has the opportunity to comment on them.  These proposals will form the centerpiece of the 2010 LifeRing Congress/Expo in Denver in June.

Please post your thoughts about the proposals in the LifeRing-10 blog (not here), thank you.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Service Center Gets New Look

Starting Thanksgiving weekend, a handful of volunteers transformed the LifeRing Service Center from a seedy looking chaotic mess into a pleasant, tidy and better organized place to serve the meetings.

(If you don't see the movie, view this in Firefox, Chrome, or any browser other than Internet Explorer.)
The Service Center is a compact (euphemism for tiny) office space with an interior view (on an airshaft).  It houses the computers that (try to) keep track of LifeRing meetings and the printers and other office machinery that put out much of our publicity.  It's located in downtown Oakland CA. The rent is $600 a month.

LifeRing Press books are stored there and your LifeRing book orders are picked, packed, and shipped from there.  It also serves as the meeting place for the monthly LifeRing convenor workshops (second Saturday of each month except August and December) and for a workbook study group (Tuesday evenings).  

The office rehab operation involved moving dozens of boxes of books, reorganizing a big steel shelf, moving two big metal file cabinets, disassembling and removing a custom desk, assembling a brand new L-shaped desk out of the box (in hundreds of pieces), and taking down and reassembling all of the electronics, among other tasks.

Credit for the major makeover goes to David F. from Marin County, Robert S. (LifeRing Treasurer), Jim R. (LifeRing Secretary), and Karen I. (IT guru).  I helped out and took some pictures, see video above.

The job isn't completely done yet -- there will be more decorations on the walls and the main computer will be upgraded -- but it was sufficiently completed by Monday morning to provide a more hospitable welcome and working environment for Rachaell C., our new Office Administrator. I'll post "After" photos when the finishing touches are added.

If you're local to the San Francisco Bay Area, come see the new digs for yourself at our Open House Saturday Dec. 19 from 1-4 pm.

Tenacity Pays Off

This message came to the Service Center this week from Brian P., convenor of the LifeRing in Vacaville CA.  Vacaville is a town of about 100,000 located halfway between San Francisco and Sacramento.  The LifeRing meeting in Vacaville was started originally by one of LifeRing's founding members, Bill Somers, at the church to which he and his wife Anita B. belonged.  After Bill's death, the meeting dwindled away.  LifeRing convenors Ken K. and John D. restarted it at the Vacaville Kaiser facility (photo), but for many months it barely hung to life.  So when an email arrived at the Service Center with the subject "LifeRing in Vacaville" I was prepared for the worst.  What a sweet surprise:

I just wanted to check in regarding the Thursday Vacaville meeting which I have been convening for about 18 months or so. If you will recall, I  picked up the meeting from the individual who had originally started it.  I must confess, it was extremely slow to start. I originally worked with Ken and John D.  Often, I would often be the only one in attendance. I am happy to report that we have finally have turned the corner and  developed a core constituency of about seven people ranging in age from 71 to 24. While it still is a bit tenuous, having an established base is helping to enlarge that group.
 Kaiser continues to be very good to work with and they have been good with program referrals. Kaiser, recently finished construction and opened their full care Vacaville hospital.  Even through the construction chaos they always strived to insure that we had a meeting room.  From time to time, I entertained the notion of trying a different night for our LifeRing meeting but Kaiser indicated they would be limited on meeting space until after the construction was finished. Now that construction is finished, Kaiser has offered us  the opportunity for an additional meeting on Monday nights from 7-8PM. After polling the existing group as well as asking others, it would seem that there is a need for Monday meetings.
 Accordingly, I would like to take advantage of this opportunity and add the second meeting to the schedule.  Another individual, Robert M., has expressed in interest in convening the Monday meeting for at least six months.  Rob has been attending my meeting as well as the LifeRing Monday meeting at Kasier Vallejo for the past nine months.  I have also given him (and he has read) the LifeRing convenor handbook and related materials. He like myself, also participates in Kaiser's long term CDRP initiative, Phase III. I have offered to assist Rob with this program insuring that I can attend his meetings regularly for the first several months to try and insure a smooth start.  [...]
 Also, one area that I have been remiss in is in passing the proverbial green envelope. I have been reluctant to do so for fear of frightening someone away.  I have made personal contributions through the Vallejo meeting  in lieu of passing the envelope, but starting with the first January meeting I will start passing the envelope and remit the proceeds to the "home office" monthly. If you would kindly advise as to where I should send this it would be appreciated.  I will see that Rob does so as well.
 As a personal aside, I wanted to take this opportunity to  congratulate you on your book, Empowering Your Sober Self.  It is a great read and it offers some of the most refreshing perspectives on addiction that I have read to date. I can also tell you that you made John D's day by including his vignette.  He has every reason to be proud of his recovery and as you know, he has given much of himself to help others in need.  It is great to give credit where credit is due. [...]

Congratulations to Brian and Rob and the other regulars of the Vacaville LifeRing for this achievement.  In a follow-up email, Brian comments on the fact that getting a new meeting started, especially in a new location, may take an extraordinary amount of tenacity. He writes:

I read a book sometime back about Fred Smith, who founded Fed Ex, entitled Overnight Success. The name of the book always stuck with me because it was deceptively accurate.  While it is true that he became success in the overnight business his journey to achieve that success was anything but overnight.  I think there was a lesson there for me.

Not only for Brian, for all of us.