Working for recovery through self-relianceWhen Marguerite...

SUNDAY SNAPSHOTS

October 09, 1994|By Kim Wesley

Working for recovery through self-reliance

When Marguerite Nichols and Paula Rangel aren't in class learning psychology or public speaking, they're busy keeping people off alcohol and drugs. Together they run a self-help group in Baltimore called Rational Recovery (RR).

"Sometimes people come to the meeting with a lot of anger, or a great sense of worthlessness," Ms. Rangel says. "What we try to do is give them the tools they need to deal with those emotions. They learn how to reason with the inner voice that's telling them to have a drink."

Pioneered in 1986 by recovered substance abuser Jack Trimpey, Rational Recovery is a nationally recognized alternative to Alcoholics Anonymous. As in AA, all members are anonymous, but they don't introduce themselves as alcoholics or drug addicts, and they don't go through a 12-step process.

"Rational Recovery stresses self-reliance," Ms. Nichols says. "It doesn't mean surrendering to a higher power. You can be religious or not and feel comfortable with RR."

The first RR meetings in Maryland started in Towson in 1990, with Ms. Nichols leading the way. After taking psychology classes at Essex Community College, she decided to become an RR facilitator.

At 62, a retired secretary and grandmother, Ms. Nichols started an RR group on Dulaney Valley Road. After that, "the number of people coming to meetings just grew and grew."

Last January, Ms. Nichols started another group at Good Samaritan Hospital, and Paula Rangel joined her.

A communication-arts major at the University of Notre Dame and an Avon sales representative, Ms. Rangel, 46, volunteered out of personal conviction.

?3 "I do it because I feel it's needed," she says. The Boys of Summer are still playing.

Inside a batting cage at Baltimore's Pastime in Federal Hill, a Regular Joe named Steve was batting about .400 in the 70 mph batting cage. He was getting around on everything.

Steve Fairall, a former high-school baseball player, tagged waist- to letter-high fastballs into the phony bleachers -- where the phony cardboard cut-out of fans makes phony crowd noises when a hitter hits a phony home run.

But hitting here is a real thrill, says Mr. Fairall, 32, of Ellicott City. "This is as good as it gets," explains.

He comes around maybe three times a week and buys the $10 value token pack, meaning he gets 150 swings. He wraps his calloused hands around his 34-ounce bat and simply and sweetly hits a rubberized baseball very hard.

At Baltimore's Pastime, 1032 Light St., a lot of guys drop by -- even businessmen at lunch -- to venture into the batting cages, owner Steve Merullo says. A sign reads, "Bat at Your Own Risk." But it's not risky, just humiliating when you whiff. But the point is to relax and unload frustration, says Kevin Scott, who just started working here.

He's sort of the Zen Master of Indoor Batting Cages: "Hitting the ball locks the soul in. It takes the pressure off, and people are able to see some accomplishment in their personality. We allow things to complicate our character. You'd be surprised how simple things are."

Mr. Fairall hits another home run, dead center field.

The crowd goes nuts.

Rob Hiaasen

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