Wednesday, April 14, 2010

An Outline for Workbook Study

Lloyd E., who just began a Tuesday night workbook study group at the Kaiser CDRP (Chemical Dependency Recovery Program) in Oakland, has drafted a short study outline that I want to pass along, below.  The Recovery by Choice workbook was written mainly for individual study, and the convenor who leads a group through the text needs to select a few issues out of the many that the book contains, or -- experience shows -- it may take a group several years to complete the book.  There are several outlines in existence, and more will probably be created.  Lloyd's outline is short, but it touches on every chapter in the book.  He's based it on a review exercise in the Relapse chapter.  Here it is:

Recovery by Choice
Weekly Topics of Conversation
1.  Decision:          Do we remember why we originally wanted to get clean and sober?  Have we found additional reasons?  How do we make sobriety our priority?
2.  Body:                 Can we make progress in addressing concerns about our bodies and our mental health?
3.  Exposure:        Have we done the best we can to minimize our exposure?  Or are we being reckless about getting into trigger situations and neglecting our reminders?
4.  Activities:         Can we make progress in learning to do life’s activities clean and sober, and in starting up new activities that interest us?  Or are we barely functional or doing very little different from when we were drinking/using?
5.  People:             Have we worked out who are the friends and who are the opponents of our recovery, and can we make progress in improving our relationships?  Or are we spending too much time with people who are a drag on our recovery, and not enough with people who care for us as sober persons?
6.  Feelings:          Can we succeed in building more clean and sober pleasure into our lives.  Can we identify and deal with our trigger feelings, and do we feel better about our emotional lives?  Or are we treating recovery as a punishment or retreating into numbness?
7.  Lifestyle:          Can we pinpoint our major lifestyle issues and can we make progress in repairing damage that addiction did to our lifestyle?  Or have we resigned ourselves to the way things were and given up trying to solve real-life problems?
8:  History:             Have we reviewed our personal history and come to an understanding of what part of our life was us, and what part was our addiction?  Do we have a clearer sense of who we are, where we came from, and where we are going.
9.  Culture:            Can we recognize the sources of support and the problems areas for our recovery within our culture, and have we begun to figure out our roles in it?
10. Treatment:    Have we made the necessary decisions about treatment and support groups, and do we know how to get what we need from these resources.
11.  Relapse:         Do we understand the structures of relapse and do we recognize what might undermine our recovery?  Do we have a better sense of ourselves, .and do we monitor ourselves frequently for early warning signs.   Have we prepared ourselves to eject immediately in case of relapse?
12.  Plans:              How do we develop our Personal Recovery Plans for the short and long term?

My only quibble with this outline is that it has 12 -- count them -- 12 points.  Inevitably people will start to refer to this as the "12 Steps of LifeRing."  (Sigh and groan.)  Apart from that, I think it's a great starting point for a workbook study group.  Initial reviews of the opening session were raves.  It took more than five years of nudging and begging to get a room at this facility for a workbook study meeting, and this one looks like it's going to be a big success story.  Congratulations, Lloyd!

Shining Model in Walnut Creek CA

Carola Z. writes:

Just a quick note with some good  news:  The meeting we started at Kaiser CDRP in Walnut Creek [California] celebrated its first anniversary today.
The meeting is every Wednesday from 12:15 to 1:15 pm in Room 3D at 710 Broadway 3rd floor.  It's still going strong and we had a nice large group of regulars and newcomers today.
 I had made a commitment to convene this meeting for a year, and I am especially happy to be able to announce that I handed it over today to two very capable members of that meeting as the new convenors.

Way to go, Carola!  Starting a new meeting and then passing on the convenor role to other members of the meeting is a shining model of how LifeRing takes root and expands.

Carola makes it sound so simple, as if there were nothing to it.  But there's a lot to it.  First, you have to get the room -- sometimes a battle of years with an entrenched and obscure administrative bureaucracy.  Then, you have to create the positive LifeRing atmosphere in the room:  safety, openness, honesty, freedom, humor, caring ... the environment that empowers the sober self, and keeps people coming back.  It's only then that you get regulars who build up sober time and learn the ropes of the LifeRing process.  And it's only when you begin to have such a core group that you have your pool of future convenors to whom you can hand the clipboard and the basket, give a friendly hug, and move on to start another meeting somewhere else.

The core message of the LifeRing convenor handbook (How Was Your Week) is "Pass it on!"  The "it" here is the convenor role.  When convenors remember that message and put it into practice, as Carola has done, then LifeRing thrives and grows.  There are, unfortunately, also some negative examples.  Last week at the monthly convenor workshop at the Service Center, I learned that a certain meeting that I had started fourteen years ago, and passed on long ago, was now without a convenor.  People had gone to the room, sat and waited, and no convenor had showed up. So, I went and acted as pinch-hitter tonight. There were ten participants, and we had a great meeting. A member of the meeting told me that the regular convenor had convened this meeting for more than three years.  No one knew what had happened to him, and we had only sketchy contact information for him in the database at the LifeRing Service Center. I enjoyed pinch hitting and I'll do it again next week; but I shouldn't have to.  Convenors who fail to develop other convenors and pass the meeting on will eventually burn out, and risk taking the whole meeting down with them.  That's not a recipe for a healthy, expanding organization.

So, congratulations and a shining gold star to Carola and the other convenors who "pass it on!"