Sunday, September 7, 2008

LifeRing at the National Association of Addiction Professionals' Conference

From Andy Ross, who represented LifeRing at the annual meeting of the National Addiction Professionals' Association (NAADAC) in Kansas City:

I'm back in Wichita from the National Conference of NAADAC, the National Association of Alcohol and Drug Counselors; combined with the annual conference of KAAP, the Kansas Association of Addiction Counselors; and NALGAP, the National Association of Lesbian and Gay Addiction Professional, which was held last weekend in Overland Park, Kansas. I do not have a count of how many attended though it seemed to me to be not a great many more than attended the last KAAP conference I went to a couple of years ago.

Perhaps the increased cost of travel, the date being the Labor Day holiday weekend or the fact that somehow Overland Park has escaped the world's notice as a premier "destination" city contributed to a turnout that was a bit lower than I expected. Nonetheless, there were several hundred attendees, many from Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri and nearby states but also representatives from all of the regional centers in the nation and a few international members.

I arrived at the Overland Sheraton Wednesday, August 27th, around 4:30 or 5:00 p.m. and found the exhibit hall about half full of exhibitors booths already set up or being set up and, with a little fumbling on my part, was able to get the LifeRing booth set up properly.  There were perhaps 40 - 45 other exhibitors, ranging from SAMHSA, NIDA and a few other government agency reps; to a Narcotics Anonymous booth, Hazelden (the Minnesota based treatment program and publishing house), providers of urinalysis and drug testing kits, nutritionists, meditation music and literature providers; really, a whole gamut of services.  The government booths, especially,  provided a plethora of free literature and information. 

The exhibitor's hall was open Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 a.m. and just about everyone attending hit the hall each morning bright and early as that was also where the free continental breakfast, juice and coffee were served each day prior to the beginning of workshops and plenary sessions.  Again, as to the total number of attendees, I can only make a guess but the most I saw, based on a quick guesstimate-headcount at a plenary session, was about 175.  I believe quite a few attendees, especially from Kansas and Missouri, came for only a part of the conference and returned home and they were coming and going throughout the weekend.

Our booth was at a junction of two aisles of exhibitors and directly across from the coffee tables so we had excellent traffic flow past the booth and many people stopped and chatted with me about LifeRing's philosophy and about the nuts-and-bolts aspects of how we operate.  The one pamphlet I wish now I had thought to request more of, specifically, was the LSR Online booklet.  Because the majority of attendees were from the middle of the country, where LifeRing has few face-to-face meetings, our online presence particularly interested many. 

Attendance in the exhibitors' hall was pretty spotty and sparse whenever workshops and meetings were in session which gave me time to browse the other booths and to attend some workshops myself.  LifeRing got an unexpected and unsolicited plug at the workshop of Gary Blanchard, MA, LADC1, whose presentation focused on his book, Success Centered Addiction Recovery Facilitation.  Mr. Blanchard had been by the booth and picked up pamphlets and spoken to me and he was very impressed with LifeRing's approach, which neatly dovetailed with his own "non-traditional" philosophy of addiction treatment. He urged everyone at the workshop to check out our booth and I spoke with most of those in his workshop later in the day as they came by to see what we were about.

Thursday was the busiest day at the booth and Friday morning was a continuation of that but the traffic tapered off by late afternoon.  Saturday, by contrast, was quite light and by early afternoon a number of the other exhibitors were already breaking down their booths or leaving them largely unattended.  In retrospect I wish I had kept a log of how many came by and perhaps taken notes as Marty did in Nashville.  I'll know to do so in the future!  Trusting to memory proved to be a less than adequate method of tracking contacts.   Everyone I met expressed  interest in alternatives to traditional recovery support and also acknowledged the very great desirability of such alternatives. 

Just from memory I did meet with counselors from Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Nebraska, Massachusetts, New York, Vermont, W. Virginia, Kentucky, Florida, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Vermont, New Hampshire and Minnesota as well as a man from Kenya and three counselors from Reykjavic, Iceland.  It was an exhausting weekend from which I am still not quite feeling fully recovered; but tremendously rewarding and well worth the time and effort.  I encourage anyone who has the chance to attend similar events to do so and represent LifeRing to the people best placed to refer newcomers to recovery to our philosophy and support!