Recovery by Choice, A Workbook

Effective professionals tailor the treatment to fit the client. This is as true in the treatment of addictions as in any other practice. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), after a nationwide study of addiction treatment programs, found that:

"No single treatment is appropriate for all individuals. Matching treatment settings, interventions, and services to each individual's particular problems and needs is critical to his or her ultimate success in returning to productive functioning in the family, workplace, and society."


Recovery by Choice, written by Martin Nicolaus, the founder of LifeRing, is the first workbook that applies this basic principle of effective professional treatment to the recovering person’s own self-treatment, or self-help. Recovery by Choice provides a structure for the recovering person to build an abstinence-based recovery plan that matches his or her particular problems and needs — an abstinence-based Personal Recovery Program. Based on ten years’ work in support groups, the book presents the recovering person with a series of real-life choices. The options are highly detailed, concrete, and knowing. Readers quickly recognize themselves and their world and take up the work of making seemingly small decisions that, when strung together, will constitute their personal recovery pathway. The opening chapter presents a tool for making everyday decisions that reinforce recovery. The book then moves through nine big problem areas ("Domains") where most people in recovery find they have work to do:

  • My Body

  • My Exposure

  • My Activities

  • My People

  • My Feelings

  • My Life Style

  • My History

  • My Culture

  • My Treatment and Support Groups

A chapter on relapse summarizes and deepens the material. The concluding chapters lead the reader through the process of building a Personal Recovery Program for periods as short as a day and as long as a lifetime. The basic idea here is that the client attains the capacity to make wise choices — heavily impaired in addiction — through repeated and progressive exercise of the choice-making “muscles.” It is a strength-based, empowering approach that resonates with the best elements within the recovering psyche. It respects the recovering person’s intelligence and the sincerity of their desire to recover. Building a Personal Recovery Program with Recovery by Choice stimulates the client’s motivation to get well. Through dozens of worksheets and other exercises, the client engages in an intensely personal reconstruction effort that yields deep learning and personal investment in recovery. Recovery by Choice offers an eclectic, pragmatic, empathetic, positive, optimistic and sometimes humorous perspective. The author clearly has “been there.” Hundreds of authentic recovering voices speak in its pages. The text is gender-neutral and includes a broad and diverse range of people, situations, and resources. Sidebars grounded in the best modern research anchor the presentation. Reader response to Recovery by Choice is overwhelmingly positive (see a sample of testimonials, below). Most readers take it up individually as bibliotherapy. Some use it for group study within the LifeRing support group network. A growing number of solo professionals provide it for their clients at intake. Inpatient, outpatient, and criminal justice programs use Recovery by Choice wherever an abstinence-based, structured, positive, secular complement to the 12-step approach is called for.


Recovery by Choice plays well with any abstinence-based recovery philosophy. Now in its fourth printing, Recovery by Choice is available online from the LifeRing bookstore, or from your local LifeRing meeting. Recovery by Choice, A Workbook, 310 pp. 8.5" x 11", stay-flat binding. ISBN 978-0-9659429-3-5. Fourth edition, 2016. US$25.00 + S/H.

By Martin Nicolaus, co-founder of LifeRing Secular Recovery. He is an attorney in private practice who lives in Berkeley, California.

For institutional customers, booksellers, and convenors looking for discounted pricing and shipping quotes, please email

Treatment providers in for-profit settings must obtain reprint permission from LifeRing Press to copy material from the work for use with clients.

LifeRing Convenors and treatment providers in nonprofit settings are hereby granted permission to copy reasonable amounts from the work for use with clients. In case of doubt, email for questions.

Sample content from the 4thd edition is available for viewing and downloading as a PDF below. Included are these samples:

  • Title Page

  • Content Overview

  • Table of Contents

  • Table of Main Worksheets

  • Introduction

  • Chapter 2 – Second Domain: My Exposure

  • Chapter 11 – Preventing Relapse

  • Worksheet 03 – Sobriety T-Chart

  • Worksheet 60 – My Recovery Plan for Today

Reader Reviews


  • After reading just about all of the published addictions self-help literature for almost 25 years, your workbook is simply the most useful, well written, pithy, thoughtful, inclusive book I've read of its kind that I've come across. We've used worksheets from the workbook with our clients almost from the first day or two of reading it, with excellent results and feedback. -- Catherine Trestrail, Director, A Positive Alternative.

  • Do order the workbook! It's a good structure to start on the sobriety path. -- S.Y.

  • I'm really excited because I plan to attend my first LifeRing meeting this coming Saturday. I am committed to this step after having worked with the workbook -- which I highly recommend! -- S.A

  • I'm going to use it as a 'sober souvenir,' to help during those tough times to remind me how much better I feel now that I'm a sober person. The workbook really has made me re-evaluate my life and helped me through some tough times already.' -- N.D.

  • I have absolutely loved the workbook I can tell this book is going to make a lot of difference. -- R.B.

  • I am very pleased. I was especially impressed with Chapter 8 - My History. W.G.

  • I've got to say I love this book, I wish I had done this when I first got sober, the questions make me think, think, think! -- J. H.

  • I still adore my Recovery By Choice book and have become voracious about letting people know that designing your own recovery program, the one that works for you, is possible and extremely satisfying. -- M.G.

  • I just worked through the Recovery By Choice book offered at and it was phenomenal for me. I think everyone of us should have it, and work it at your own pace. It's intense but so hugely helpful. The workbook is like a hand to hold. I needed it so much. -- L.M.G.

  • I have done some introspection over the years, but this workbook is really specific. It's helping me put my finger on what my real issues have been. How I "solved" problems before, and what my options are now. -- M.G.

  • I think you'll really like the workbook. It is easily the most useful exercise book I've ever seen. Simply full of wisdom for building a recovery program. -- J.X.

  • I got the workbook quite recently and have started completing parts. It is a very useful book and I personally found the chapter on feelings extremely enlightening. -- M.O.

  • I think it's excellent, it helped me a lot. -- G.L.

  • I have the workbook and love it , it really makes you think about your addiction, hope you get one! You'll love it too. -- Liz FL

  • I was amazed at the depth of the workbook, and go to it when I need some extra support or things to ponder late at night. -- L.F.

  • It is helping clients of all ages (16-60). I am a licensed addictions counselor. -- V.S.

  • It is an excellent book -- helped me immensely. Besides being a workbook in which you can fill out answers to checklists and other questions, it has hints, tips, and suggestions that have worked for other people. These suggestions were very valuable to me. -- G.M.

  • You will be amazed by what it will show you about yourself. I was shocked! It is also kind of fun to go through. -- RP.

  • The workbook is a cool thing, its main purpose seems to be to make you think about yourself, your life. As you sit there reading it, by yourself, you can't really lie to yourself. -- B.M.

  • The workbook helped me to create a staying-sober plan that has worked well. Now I'm off to review it and make some updates. One whole year with NO hangovers and NO regrets! -- L.L.

  • The Recovery by Choice workbook is a godsend (Can I use that word on a secular board?). -- F.J.

  • Received my workbook 3 days ago and have spent about 5 hours working with it. Really stirred up a lot of thinking and self-realization. Still sober, day 13. It feels like I'm really "getting it." -- R.M.

  • My Lifering workbook arrived yesterday and it is brilliant. At least now I can read in bed of an evening and see the words, and remember in the morning what I read! -- T.D.

  • I am quite impressed. Planning to make a meeting just to show it off. -- W.N.

  • This book has been helpful for my clients. I intend to use it more. -- V.S., LCPC, CCDC

  • This is the most comprehensive, clear, practical, and effective tool I've seen in 30 years of reading recovery literature. Hands down. The section on relapse is far and away the best I've ever seen. I'd call it a must read. -- Gloria M.

  • I have found the workbook very helpful and go back to it often. It's straightforward, makes a lot of sense and is very practical. Great job! -- Angela N.

  • It will help you notice those "curve balls" before you can pretend you didn't see them coming. -- Jeanne M.

  • Anyone recovering from addiction to alcohol or drugs would benefit immensely from a thorough study of this valuable tool. - John D.

  • We don't have a Big Book, we don't have a small book, but we do have a workbook! -- Margherita M.

  • I am greatly impressed.… It has a depth that is wonderful to find, addressing those many questions that WE all know but which are so hard to get TO much less to grow past. I know already that this will be the mainstay of my work. - Anthony W.

  • Your workbook is a dream! - Charles B.

  • I knew you/we (all in recovery) had something special the first time I opened my beta copy. … There's nothing else like it out there that I have found. - Ben G.

  • It's GREAT! - Amy L.

  • We've had excellent feedback from using this workbook. MUCH MORE positive feedback than I've heard about other 'methods,' so I'll continue to use it. One [patient] said it's the first time (in several attempts at treatment) that they've had to 'work' and it was helpful. Thanks again. - Sue H.

  • A VERY helpful and well-written workbook. - Roger L.

  • I highly recommend it … It is really changing how I look at sober life, relapses, and my life in general. - Cynthia M.

  • The workbook is a tremendous tool and an outstanding body of work. - Mike C.

  • I think it will be quite useful for people at many different stages of recovery. - Bill W.

  • A marvelous piece of work. It's been helpful to me. - Richard B.

  • The workbook is awesome. I have given two of them to friends in recovery and had nothing but good reviews. - Patrick B.

  • I was knocked out by the range and quality of information in the book. - Aongus C. 

  • "Recovery by Choice" is absolutely excellent. It has a wealth of information, checklists, etc. that helped me make a plan of "how" I would do this. It costs about $20, but it is well worth every penny, in my opinion. By the way, a person doesn't need to order the book on-line, if you'd rather not - it is possible to print out an order form and send a check, if you prefer. That is what I did, and it only took a couple days for me to get the book. I am so glad I got this book, it was very helpful for me. -- Gal M.

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LifeRing Secular Recovery is an organization of people who share practical experiences and sobriety support. There are as many ways to live free of drugs and alcohol as there are stories of successful sober people.

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