Fresh off the Press: From Trash to Treasure

CC-Park-BookFront-Cover-Only-240hMy new book, From Trash to Treasure: The Splendors of Berkeley’s Cesar Chavez Park, is now off the press and available for sale on

I really owe this book to a dog named Mosey.  Sheila Jordan, my wife, rescued Mosey from the pound about 15 years ago.  He lived for the chase of tennis balls.  Our relationship to the park developed like an addiction.  First we took the dog to the park. Then the dog took us to the park.

In the process, our eyes opened to the splendors of this magnificent piece of earth that we are privileged to have within a 12-minute drive of our home. Over the past decade, several thousand photos from the park and of the park accumulated on my hard drive.

This little book features 157 of the best of them.  It starts out with the obvious: views of the Golden Gate Bridge.  (One of my sons finds my caption for the first of my bridge photos “a bit racy.”)  Then come views of the City of San Francisco, Mt. Tam, and then the views north, south, and east.  Often the greatest drama is overhead.  There is a section of skyscapes, including some of the five-star sunsets we’ve seen during the past decade.  There are pages of homage to boats, kites, model airplanes, the solar calendar, dogs, flora and fauna, especially birds.  It ends with a gallery of people using the park — to walk, run, play ball, dance, play music, stretch, fish, talk, love, or just sit and meditate on the wonder of it all.

In a short introduction, I sketch the history of the place.  Most first-time visitors don’t know it, but the park used to be the city dump.  On the park’s hilltops we stand on 50-60 feet of garbage.  It took a decades-long battle by a broad coalition of environmentalists to convert this offal to the feast for the eyes that it is today.

I plan to set up an ironing board and sell copies of the book on mild days at the park after the holidays.  A portion of the proceeds (which are slim because producing full-color items is not cheap) will go to support the Viva Cesar Chavez Park group that is in the process of being organized.

Putting this book together has been a pleasure unlike any of my previous book projects.  I hope you enjoy it also.  Click here to have send you your own copy.  No, there is no Kindle edition.

At LifeRing Press: Recovery by Choice: the Workbook

Workbook11cover2-240hBack in ’99 a couple of us early LifeRing convenors gave a talk about our 12-step alternative to a group of clients at MPI, an addiction rehab in Summit Hospital on Pill Hill in Oakland.

“Before you guys came, my alternatives were AA or a bullet to the head,” said one client when we were done.  “I like my chances better now.”  Before we had a chance to process that, he followed up.

“But do you guys have some kind of workbook with, like, the nuts and bolts of what you do?”

Of course, we didn’t.  We had barely got to the point where we had a good grasp of the general ideas that motivated us — sobriety, secularity, and self-help.  This young man’s question told us it was time to roll up our sleeves.

The workbook went through 16 alpha and 6 beta editions in photocopy, tested on dozens of groups at MPI and at handpicked focus groups, before we went to the printer in 2001.  That first edition had a wire spiral binding.  We had a bulk order from a prison.  Wire was considered a lethal weapon.  Even a plastic comb binding was prohibited.   The printer cut off the wire spine and rebound the book as a paperback before we shipped.  Lesson learned.

This workbook is now in its fourth printing, and that’s well on the way out the door.  Scores of readers have written in to say how much it has helped them.  What makes this book tick?

I can’t say.  Different people like different things about it.  I suspect that the book works mostly because alcoholics, like people in general, don’t like being told what to do.  People especially don’t like to be micro-managed.  They like to have choice.

Every modern study of what works in treatment says that treatment has to be individualized to fit the client.  Off-the-shelf, factory-made, one-size-fits-all approaches are a formula for failure.  (Read more about that in Empowering Your Sober Self.)  The Recovery by Choice workbook  is the only workbook on the market that’s grounded on the individualized treatment approach.

This workbook doesn’t tell you what to do, except in the very basic sense of reminding you not to put alcohol or other drugs into your body, no matter what.  (It does that on every page, in the header.) This workbook doesn’t pretend to have a formula for solving your medical, lifestyle, emotional, psychological or other problems.  It isn’t selling a miracle diet, a magic potion, or a silver bullet.

This workbook is a tool for you to build your personal recovery program.  It’s for you to figure out what is going to work to keep you clean and sober.  The “miracle” is the effort you put into figuring out how to meet the challenges of your life.  The “magic potion” is the blood and sweat you invest in breaking with your substance-using past and building a new, free, clean and sober present and future.

In short, it’s a real WORKbook.  The book has many hundreds of questions — some easy, some fiendishly challenging.  To work this book, you have to THINK.  You have to look hard at yourself and your situation.  There’s no correct answers, except the answers that work for you to keep you clean and sober.

The book organizes the work into nine main areas (or domains), each with its own chapter.  For example, the first domain is your body.  You give yourself a wide-ranging medical exam and make a practical plan for dealing with any issues you identify.   Exposure, Activities, People, Feelings, Lifestyle, History, Culture, and Treatment are the other domains.  (You can work them in any order, or ignore parts that don’t apply to you.)  In each domain, you make a plan for dealing with any issues you have in that area.  At the end of the book you put all those partial plans together into a master plan.  That’s your Personal Recovery Program (PRP).  Use pencil, because a successful plan needs to adapt when your life changes.

We’re accustomed to think that the carpenter builds the house.  But it’s also true that the house builds the carpenter.  As you work the workbook you construct your personal recovery program.  But in the process of doing that work, you are reconstructing yourself as a new person — a person who is clean and sober, and confident, and capable of meeting life’s challenges.

Recovery by Choice is sold by LifeRing Press.  There is no e-book edition at this point, although there may be one in the future.  There is no way to make an audiobook out of it.

The book is built for individual use by the recovering person (“bibliotherapy”).  It’s not a professional’s treatment manual.  (That’s in the early preparation stage.)  But treatment programs find Recovery by Choice a useful thing to give to clients who don’t resonate with the 12-step approach.  It provides a treatment pathway based on secular (rather than religious) principles. LifeRing Press offers quantity discounts to treatment programs and other institutions.  Check it out.




New at LifeRing Press: Empowering Your Sober Self – Second Edition

eyss2-Front-Cover-for-Kindle-240hIn 2008, Alan Rinzler, the legendary editor for the Wiley publishing house, contacted me out of the blue and asked me to write a book about LifeRing.  I had been CEO of LifeRing Secular Recovery for a dozen years and had written and spoken about it to audiences in the addiction recovery subculture many times.  But, Alan felt, there needed to be a book for the general public.  About a year later, Empowering Your Sober Self went to press under Wiley’s Jossey-Bass imprint.

Like so many other recovery books, this one begins with a personal story, mine.  But unlike the run of the mill of this genre, my turnaround had nothing to do with a vision of God or any similar spiritual experience.  From the first day of entering treatment, I enjoyed the privilege of attending secular support groups.  In this setting, people’s personal religious beliefs or disbeliefs remained their private business, and the focus was on mutual support for getting free of the bonds that bound us to alcohol and other addictive drugs.

This environment worked for me, and for most of my companions in recovery, and after I found my land legs, as it were, I began to try to understand how and why it worked.  Empowering Your Sober Self is one man’s effort to raise the experience of sixteen years of personal sobriety work up to a theoretical level.  This meant sifting through my exposure in literally thousands of LifeRing meetings and focusing on the illuminating, vibrant, pulsating threads that gave the whole process its life.  It meant rising from the anecdotal level to the level of verifiable generalities, and this in turn required checking my impressions against a considerable body of published research in the chemical dependency literature.  This also led me on side trips into theology and genetics.  Writing this book was an intellectual adventure, and, although the research involved many hours of sheer drudgery, the project on the whole was great fun and left me exhilarated.

Although the publisher did next to nothing to promote the book — a complaint that nearly every author lodges nowadays against nearly every commercial publisher — the initial press run sold out, with sales accelerating.  I owe a debt of gratitude to  the publisher for granting my request to revert the publishing rights to me as author in time for a second edition.  I in turn have granted the rights to LifeRing Press.

This second edition is completely reset with new typography and updated graphics, as well as a new index.  It corrects several typographical errors and cleans up one or two formatting glitches.  The text has otherwise been left alone.  In view of the considerable amount of new material published in the previous five years, I’ve added a Supplement that updates the sixth chapter, dealing with addiction treatment, and the seventh chapter, on genetics.

Because the book has a new and different ISBN, it has a new and different listing on   The new listing is here, and, after considerable pleading on my part, has managed to copy the reader comments from its listing for the first edition to the new listing.   However, grateful as I am, I wouldn’t suggest that you order it from  Amazon doesn’t stock the book.  Only LifeRing Press has inventory.  Amazon has to forward your order to LifeRing Press, who will ship it to you, and this forwarding causes delay.  The fastest way is to order the book directly from the publisher, LifeRing Press, here.   LifeRing Press ships very quickly, often the same day.  The people in charge there are themselves in recovery and understand about instant gratification.

However, if you really need it Right Away, there’s the Kindle version of the second edition.  With a few clicks you can be reading it in less than a minute.

An audiobook version of the second edition is also now available, click this link.

Quite a few people have told me that the first edition has been a force for good in their lives.  There is no greater reward for an author than this.