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LifeRing Secular Recovery: Abstinence-Based Addiction Support Groups

Dr. Gerardo Sison

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Gerardo Sison

April 1, 2019

LifeRing Secular Recovery is a network of support groups that allow a person to find sobriety while respecting their individual needs and providing a person with a platform by which to protect and maintain their sobriety as time passes.

In order for treatment or support to be effective, it needs to embrace the person seeking help in a way that acknowledges them as an individual with needs, desires, fears, and hopes that are unique to them and their specific history. These elements all influence the future of their recovery journey. Many individuals utilize the encouragement and accountability of support groups, both within treatment and after, during their pursuit of sobriety, and in the period beyond.

The following excerpt from LifeRing’s site embodies the proactive and individualized approach that they actively pursue within their organization. “The secret is for you to become active in the cause of your recovery, choosing and using what works for you. You are the author and the judge of your own recovery….each participant assembles a meaningful mosaic that constitutes the individual’s personal recovery program.”

What Is LifeRing Secular Recovery?

LifeRing Secular Recovery was founded, nationally, in 2001. LifeRing is a non-profit, abstinence-based recovery organization that has meetings in the United States, Canada, and various international locations. LifeRing participants may suffer from any addiction, whether it be to drugs or alcohol. In addition to their person-to-person meetings, LifeRing has numerous printed publications, social networking opportunities, and online meetings that are enhanced by chatting capabilities.

LifeRing relies on “positive social reinforcement,” gleaned from peer-to-peer support. It is in fact led by an individual who at one point may have been a member, but is with certainty, an individual who has struggled with and overcome addiction. This organization understands that every addiction demands a varied approach, and assists each person in developing their own Personal Recovery Program.

LifeRing does not focus on spiritual or religious aspects like other support groups, however, as their site notes, it is not an organization simply for agnostics or atheists, rather they don’t actively involve elements of faith within their meetings. They do note, however, that people of faith do participate, equating to roughly 40 percent of their numbers.

Their site does note that many courts and treatment programs will accept LifeRing as a support group that fulfills their specific requirements, and also that they will provide documentation of your involvement with a signature should the necessity arise.

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Understanding And Reconciling The Clash Between The “Addict” And The “Sober” Self

In LifeRing they take the perspective that there are two voices, or selves, within each person in recovery. The first, “the addict self,” abbreviated as simply “A,” is the portion of a person who wants to continue using or consuming drugs or alcohol, and continues to fixate on thoughts of drug obtaining and using these substances. The second is “the sober self,” or “S,” for short, the portion of the person who is striving to embrace wellness, stability, sobriety, and an all around more healthful life.

Sometimes, they explain, the “A” self rekindles thoughts of using, entertaining notions of a life that again involves drugs or alcohol. On the other hand, the “S” self continues to strive towards a path that fosters a better lifestyle. As a person struggles to find or maintain abstinence, it is common that these two voices rise up, in a fairly simultaneous manner, and cause inner conflict. They continue to note that a dangerous path arises when two people who are experiencing this conflicted state get together, thus allowing their two “A” self to feed off of each other, which can become dangerous and lead a person towards relapse.

Because of this, LifeRing provides a person with an opportunity to connect to the “S” voice of others, helping to banish the negative and damaging thoughts the “A” voice may have tempted a person by. Instead, this discourse works towards replacing them with words of affirmation that are positive and proactive, and encouraging of sober living. As a person connects with other individuals expressing their “S” voices on a regular basis, they begin to gain more momentum, and solidify their recovery even more, providing the positive social reinforcement that we spoke about. LifeRing calls this the “S-to-S” connection.

What Is The “3-S” Philosophy?

LifeRing bases their practice on what they call the “3-S” Philosophy, or the three fundamental principles that they base their philosophy upon. These principles are Sobriety, Secularity, and Self-Help. Here, we explain them in greater depth:

Sobriety — Abstinence is a pillar of their philosophy and support group program. LifeRing urges people to adhere to their “Sobriety Priority,” placing this pursuit above all else as a guiding force within a person’s recovery. Their motto is “we do not drink or use, no matter what.”

Secularity — LifeRing bases their focus on and attributes participants’ success to their own personal drive and effort rather than divine intervention. They do not typically involve religion, or perspectives that are against religion within their discussions. A person can be of any faith, or none at all, and still find success and acceptance within LifeRing.

Self-Help — LifeRing believes that you get out what you put in—a person will have a successful recovery by their own accord and effort. LifeRing encourages a person to foster their own sense of drive and motivation. These things are enhanced by their peer-to-peer support so that a person can focus on their own deeply personal convictions towards recovery. This is why LifeRing helps a person to develop and implement their own Personal Recovery Plans. Unlike other support groups, LifeRing does not utilize a step format, also noting that it “is not a vehicle for any particular therapeutic doctrine.”

Combined, these practices grant a person the freedom to delve into themselves, in order to find and articulate the most individualized approach to finding abstinence.

What To Expect At A Meeting?

Going to a group meeting can be especially daunting for the first time, especially for an individual who is seeking to overcome an addiction. An addiction often imposes a sense of isolation and loneliness on a person, subjecting them to negative emotions that may make it difficult for them to have enough self-confidence to open up or candidly interact with other people.

Do not fear. We will not say this will be easy, however, the individuals involved in LifeRing seek to invoke an atmosphere of candid acceptance and compassionate support, welcoming every newcomer to a meeting as if they are a friend returning.

Two distinguishing characteristics of LifeRing meetings is firstly, that they do not require that a person proclaim that they are an alcoholic or an addict, merely that they wholeheartedly seek to become clean and sober. On this note, in order to participate at meetings, they must be clean and sober at the time. Secondly, they do not utilize sponsors, since “In LifeRing we each work out personal programs”; instead they encourage member interaction by providing participants’ contact information.

Typically at meetings participants sit in a circle, allowing each individual the opportunity to make eye contact with every other member of the meeting. Meetings are facilitated and opened by an individual termed “convenors,” who initiates group involvement, interaction, and reflection by asking “How was your week?” What follows is a casual discussion of the participant’s weeks, and may entail their struggles, triumphs, or any other bit of information that they find relevant to their recovery.

These meetings are relaxed, encouraging a stimulating sense of camaraderie and rapport, which they term “cross-talk.” In fact, LifeRing describes their sessions, stating “the meeting atmosphere becomes like a living room filled with sober friends having a relaxed, free conversation. Laughter is a common ingredient.” Members are encouraged to interact with each other, developing an ongoing flow of feedback and comments as others share their stories. LifeRing also suggests that people reach out to others to better understand, forge accountability, and develop their own journeys by asking questions as they come, even within the ongoing conversations of these group sessions.

LifeRing offers few stipulations on these discussions, however, they do note certain aspects that they wish a person stray from within their time to speak.

  • Stay positive and respectful
  • Not involving religion or politics
  • “No attack therapy or confrontation.”
  • Do not offer advice unsolicited
  • Do not demean or degrade other’s recovery methods
  • They discourage “drunkalogues,” meaning any in-depth accounts of past alcohol or drug use

LifeRing’s success is due to the comfortable and engaging nature, thusly, they do everything they can to propagate this atmosphere.

As with most other group support programs, LifeRing is confidential. They do understand that it is important to have accountability, support, and encouragement outside of the realm of meetings, thus they do note that you can share with your friends that you participate, however, they do stipulate that you do not share names.

At meeting’s close, the group typically applauds, recognizing everyone’s efforts for staying clean and sober. If you’re interested in finding a live LifeRing meeting, please go here.

Let Us Help Connect You To Support

If you’re feeling stranded or overcome with a sense of isolation from your addiction, and desire the outreach and support of a group meeting like LifeRing Secular Recovery, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. can give you more information and resources that can get you connected and help you to find the best path towards sobriety for you or your loved one. Contact us today.

LifeRing Secular Recovery - FAQs

LifeRing Secular Recovery - The “A” and the “S” Conflict

LifeRing Secular Recovery - The “3-S” Philosophy

LifeRing Secular Recovery - Meeting Format

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