Craig Whalley is a person in long-term recovery. He is a member of LifeRing Secular Recovery. LifeRing is a worldwide self-help organization that promotes non-religious/non-spiritual, abstinence-based recovery. They offer peer-to-peer support through face-to-face and online meetings that encourage personal growth and continued learning through individual empowerment. They believe that each person has the power to change. LifeRing focuses on weakening the “Addict Self” while strengthening the “Sober Self” by focusing on members’ current lives and triggers rather than experiences from the more distant past.
Read Craig’s Success story below.
Craig Whalley’s Recovery Success Story
There are many roads to recovery. Finding the path that works for you is a huge challenge that often plays itself out at the very beginning of the journey when one’s thinking may not be at its best.
I was a small town bookseller, living alone after a difficult marriage and divorce when I finally acknowledged to myself that I needed help to quit drinking. There had been periods in my earlier life when I seemed able to quit on my own for significant periods of time, but I always went back eventually — often because I simply forgot how high a price I would pay for even one drink. After a few weeks or months of abstinence I’d feel healthy and normal. And I’d find myself in a situation in which picking up a drink seemed the most natural act imaginable. The slide back downhill was always quick.
We had copies of the AA “Big Book” at my bookstore and I would surreptitiously flip through it at times, hoping to find “the answer.” I was always disappointed. I’m not religious at all, to start with. And the idea of being “powerless” was offensive to me. Most of the 12 steps seemed totally beside the point — I wanted to know how to get and stay sober, not how to completely re-invent myself or go through a spiritual awakening.
As my drinking increased over time, I remained a “functional” drinker, but was gradually becoming less so. My drinking hours increased as my work hours decreased. Still, it never really occurred to me to seek a treatment program. The only ‘treatment’ I felt I needed was to quit the damn drinking. I didn’t want a whole program thrown at me, I just wanted support and information. But short of treatment, the only choice offered in my small city was AA. I couldn’t believe that in this day and age, a faith-based approach was the only answer for my problem. I searched the internet for alternatives. At first the searches produced only AA sites, blogs, testimonials, etc. Finally, I hit on a search term that worked: “secular”. That led me to the website for LifeRing Secular Recovery.
I knew almost instantly that I’d found what I was looking for: an organization offering support groups that weren’t interested in one’s spiritual life, didn’t insist on a one-size-fits-all approach and emphasized that each participant was responsible for building their own personal recovery plan. Addiction wasn’t labeled a character defect but rather a condition rooted in genetics, psychology and life-experiences. Call it a disease or not, but it was real and not spiritual.
So I had found the approach I wanted, but they were a fledgling organization and had no meetings anywhere near me. Eager to avoid attending AA, I decided to join a LifeRing email group, not knowing what to expect. It functioned like a slow motion, 24/7/365 support group meeting that I could enter or leave whenever I chose without missing anything. It was a perfect fit for me. I write better than I talk and I read better than I listen, so I participated actively and immediately knew the “support” piece of the recovery puzzle was in place.
Support isn’t the only thing needed, however, and it still took me a good long time to get sober for good. I had to learn things about myself, about the nature of addiction, about what I needed to change and what I needed to hold on to. But it’s been more than 15 years now since I had a drink — I didn’t learn instantly but I did learn at a deep level. I’m not Mr. Happy now — my life isn’t filled with joy every minute. But I’ve regained my self-respect, found immense satisfaction in my volunteer work in LifeRing, and discovered a kind of friendship based on real honesty that I had never experienced before. I’m retired now and spend hours every day working to strengthen LifeRing and to bring its path to recovery to as many people as possible.
People entering recovery need to know that there are choices. I’m so glad I made the right choice.
By Craig Whalley
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Disclaimer: LifeRing does not endorse Eminent Potential in anyway.