Local LifeRing support group meets Wednesdays in Edwards, offers a different way to recovery | VailDaily.com

Local LifeRing support group meets Wednesdays in Edwards, offers a different way to recovery

Laura Bell
Special to the Daily

Editor's note: The names of LifeRing Secular Recovery meeting participants have been changed in this article to protect their identities.

EDWARDS — Each Wednesday evening, recovering addicts meet to discuss their ongoing sobriety, successes, road bumps, highlights and possible mishaps along the way. This is a group called LifeRing Secular Recovery.

Erika Salvador leads the Vail Valley group, where God is not discussed and addicts do not have labels — there's no "Hi I'm Jane and I'm an alcoholic" or "I'm Matthew and I'm addicted to heroin."

"We welcome everyone without distinction," she said. "There is nothing wrong with Alcoholics Anonymous or their 12 Step Program. They have and continue to help many people with their sobriety. This is just different.

"With LifeRing, your religion — or lack of it — is your own private business. I am Christian, but that is not what LifeRing is about."

A different approach

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LifeRing, which began in California in 1997, believes that a person's sobriety must be his or her most important thing in life. The organization does not believe in a prescribed set of steps that everyone needs to follow. The three basic tenets are sobriety, secularity and self-help.

Salvador, 40, was initially introduced to LifeRing while attending an inpatient holistic treatment facility. After she was clean and sober for more than a year and an attendee at LifeRing meetings, Salvador became a convener, or group leader. In May 2017, she led the first meeting of Vail Valley LifeRing.

There is cross talking in the meeting, so attendees can share thoughts, as opposed to AA, where only one person at a time speaks.

Again, Salvador said, "There is nothing wrong with that, it just didn't work for me."

"Think of it this way," said Paul, who attended a recent LifeRing meeting at Trinity Baptist Church in Edwards. "There are different types of exercises: yoga, running, weights. This is just a different path of recovery."

Support group

Meetings begin with an opening statement that the convener reads. Each participant "checks in" and talks about his or her week and the upcoming week ahead. Cross talk is encouraged, and only helpful or positive comments are requested. Participants state what they plan to do to stay clean and sober during the coming week.

Susan, another participant, shared that she had a rough week, as she was headed back to school to learn a new profession. She admitted that because she was "juggling" many things, the upcoming week would be difficult. She is still moving to a clean and sober life but is not quite there yet.

Paul interjected, "Don't forget to give yourself credit for what you have done."

Salvador added, "I've never known anyone with the problem of addiction that says, 'I have an addiction and I'm now done.' It is an ongoing process."

Steve spoke of learning to manage his addiction and fears that when people discover who he is, they might not accept him.

"We can call each other when we want, but we don't have sponsors like AA," Salvador said. "There are also no awards, such as sobriety for six months. Again, there are different tools in the toolbox and no way is right or wrong.

"With AA, you can only use and read their literature, but we can bring in anything we find useful or helpful. I might bring in something about yoga or meditation."

LifeRing has a workbook, "Recovery by Choice," and a guidebook, "Empowering Your Sober Self," for purchase, but those are not mandatory. The only requirement to attend is a person must be clean and sober that day.

'Alcoholism is a disease'

Susan felt more comfortable coming to LifeRing and not knowing if she would "get sober or not." She did not want to abide by AA rules, and she did not want to admit that she was "powerless," which is the first of the 12 Steps.

"I have every power in the world not to pick up that first drink," Salvador said.

"Alcoholism is a disease like diabetes. It is not an illness," she continued.

The American Medical Association writes, "alcoholism or alcohol dependence is a primary, chronic disease with genetic, psychosocial and environmental factors influencing its development and manifestations."

"We address this as a disease that we have power over," Salvador.

The LifeRing guidebook encourages people to consider sobriety as an adventure: "When you use substances, you face endless repetition of the same boring ritual. When you leave substance behind, you become open to change. Getting free of drugs is a daring journey."

"I'm learning new tools to manage addiction. Bringing things that are in my head into the open is vey healing, talking to others, which is what LifeRing offers me," Steve said. "When I need to change the channel in my brain, I go for a walk or get some exercise or call someone."

Each meeting ends with a closing statement that reads, in part, "If someone among us has tripped or fallen, we appreciate the incredible strength and courage it takes to come back. We applaud them in hope that we will make the same decision if we are in the same position. We know the sweetness of the victory that each sober day signifies. Let's applaud ourselves for our success in being here clean and sober today."

If you go …

What: LifeRing Secular Recovery group.

When: Meetings are 6 to 7 p.m. each Wednesday.

Where: Trinity Baptist Church, 90 Lariat Loop, Edwards.

Cost: Free; reservations are not required.

More information: Email Erika Salvador at liferingvail@yahoo.com for more information on the Edwards chapter. To learn more about the organization and chapters around the country, visit http://www.lifering.org.