Sunday, February 7, 2010

Growing in Dublin

This email came in to the Service Center this week from a counselor in Dublin, Ireland:
I am writing to you in the hope that I may receive information about facilitating LifeRing meetings within our organisation. We are a community based organisation based in Dublin 12, we work with both problematic alcohol and drug users. We have at the moment A.A meetings being held each week, but it has come to our attention that the amount of people attending these meetings is far less than the amount of people who need help. When we put the question to the people who don't attend, their response is that they believe it was themselves who chose to drink or take drugs and that it should be themselves who chooses and has the power to stop. Since finding out about and from reading your web-site,(which I really enjoy and agree with) I have mentioned it to some of our service users and they seem excited at the idea of attending these meetings.
I understand that there are 2 meetings being held in Dublin, but I am hoping that maybe we can facilitate them here also. Is there any possibility of this? Or can I receive some information please about training myself to become a convenor of LifeRing.
Dennis S., the LifeRing convenor who founded the first two LifeRing meetings in Dublin, promptly contacted the writer and offered his assistance and cooperation.  It's very likely, from the looks of it, that Dublin will soon have three LifeRings.

Note that this email comes from a counselor at a program that so far is exclusively 12-step oriented.  If you looked at this program from the outside, seeing only the surface, you might write it off as a stone 12-step program, beyond hope.

But the clients on the inside have different ideas.  The amount of people attending the 12-step meetings, the writer observed, "is far less than the amount of people who need help."  That's just about a universal condition in every 12-step program.  As we know from AA's own triennial membership surveys, reported in Don McIntire's journal article (covered in my book Empowering Your Sober Self), out of 100 people who approach AA, at the end of 90 days, 90 per cent have walked away.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that there's a gap here.  To its immense credit, the staff at this program in Dublin actually asked the people who don't attend AA, why don't they?  This is almost revolutionary in a profession that's very strong on talking at clients but not so good at listening to clients.  But the client-centered spirit of Carl Rogers is penetrating even into substance abuse treatment, the most backward province in the kingdom of mental health treatment, and the result is what you see:  clients who insist that they're not powerless to get free of alcohol and drugs, and who want support groups that acknowledge that power and reinforce it.  In short, clients who want LifeRing.

Even in Ireland.  Or perhaps: especially in Ireland.

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