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About Empowering Your Sober Self

\"We badly need more roads to recovery. Nicolaus\' book details one such road: positive, empathetic, down to earth -- and a great read.\" -- Lonny Shavelson MD, Author of Hooked: Five Addicts Challenge our Misguided Drug Rehab System
This is an eloquently written, audience-friendly piece of work that truly engages the reader from the first page to the last. The book chronicles the emergence of LifeRing—a promising alternative to AA but without powerlessness, insanity, the supernatural, and other elements of AA that have deterred millions from participating in self-help groups. Through a medley of inspiring accounts of personal triumph, revelations of the peculiar historical evolution of AA, along with the results of empirical studies, Nicolaus reveals the remarkable power of the human spirit over the pharmacological properties of alcohol and other drugs. Masterfully done. -- William Cloud, PhD, MSW, Professor, Graduate School of Social Work, University of Denver
Using the best thinking and best science, Empowering Your Sober Self examines what works and what doesn\'t, and provides new hope and new solutions for anyone who craves a sober life, but can\'t make a go of it in the 12-step world. The book is well-written to boot, full of smart prose, great good humor, sparkling analogies, and fascinating nuggets of history and science. -- Matt Dean, software developer, web designer, LifeRing convenor, Charlotte, SC
\"This book reinforces the view that the brain\'s reward systems are usurped by drug addiction and is a strong argument for linking mechanisms of recovery with the concept that addiction is a disease of the brain.\" George F. Koob, Ph.D., The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California
\"True life recovery stories skillfully interwoven with theories about addiction and practical advice on how to overcome it.\" --CA Edington, Teacher, 10+ years sober through LifeRing, Sapporo, Japan
Drawing from his own experiences and highlighting the experiences of many others who have found LifeRing support groups and approaches useful on their journey, Nicolaus offers hope and challenges some central tenets about addictions that he believes can interfere with leaving the addicted self and finding the sober self. He offers a sane and secular approach to seeking sobriety and a sophisticated, insightful, and well documented view of the philosophy and practice that are at the heart of this LifeRing approach. This book offers a perspective on recovery that can motivate change in clinicians and researchers as well as among individuals struggling to find their sober selves.\" Carlo DiClemente, Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Maryland
\"I got the book \"Empower Your Sober Self\" as a gift, and while reading that\'s like EVERYTHING just came together. And, even though I\'ve always been one to smile, I\'m smiling bigger than ever because I feel like this great burden has been lifted off of my shoulders. I\'m not wrong, I\'m not insane, I\'m not powerless...I\'m just \"me\"....and it\'s the best feeling I\'ve felt in a long time.\" -- Rick A., sober person
\"In Empowering your Sober Self, Martin Nicolaus introduces a new, rational approach to addiction recovery, grounded in secularity, and informed by modern science. The LifeRing program mobilizes the power of caring and connection to liberate the sober self that lives inside everyone who struggles with addiction.\" -- Tom Moon, MFT; columnist, S.F. Bay Times
“Finally an author understands that an individuals success in recovery starts with the option of choice. There is no wrong way to sobriety, just one that is wrong for me.” -- Garry Mehlhorn, Ontario, Canada (sober 3+ years)
\"Martin Nicolaus\'s Empowering Your Sober Self: The LifeRing Approach to Addiction Recovery is a vital reading for anyone engaged in addiction treatment and recovery. I have no doubt that it will be celebrated as an important resource for professionals and individuals who truly wish to explore innovative self-management recovery options.\" -- Madalynn C. Rucker, Executive Director, ONTRACK Program Resources California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs Technical Assistance & Training Contractor
\"Reducing the addict self by itself has no effect unless the sober self grows and fills the gap.\" Martin Nicolaus\' new book, a compilation of stories and principles to assist recovery, fills the gap for those who wish to avoid 12-step programs and the mythos of disempowerment\" David A. Kaiser, Ph.D., Editor, Journal of Neurotherapy
\"With impressive analytical clarity and therapeutic generosity, Nicolaus presents a well--argued brief for understanding the complexities of addiction treatment and accepting the full range of diverse paths to recovery. The data on recovery and the biological, social and genetic interactions in addiction are well presented in this brief well-written text. Professionals in the field and laymen wanting insight and balance on a vitally important public health issue will appreciate the author\'s lively and respectful presentation.\" -- Judith Herman MD, Professor of Clinical Psychiatry, Harvard University Medical School
\"This book encapsulating the LifeRing program, is an excellent tool for Recovery, particularly for those put off by the concepts of ‘powerlessness’ and ‘higher power’.\" Ralph Cantor - Coordinator of Drug Prevention at the Alameda County Office of Education
\"Martin Nicolaus offers the reader a sensible and doable discipline for anyone serious about getting free of drugs and alcohol, regardless of personal beliefs.\" -- Doug Althauser, M.Ed., CSAC, MAC, author of You Can Free Yourself From Alcohol & Drugs
\"In the words of our president, \'it’s time for a change\' and nowhere is this more evident than in the field of addiction treatment. Nicolaus has written a wonderful book that presents LifeRing, a new model for self-help groups. A model based on empathy, scientific evidence, and giving people the power make their own choices about treatment options. Indeed, change has come.\" -- Joseph R. Volpicelli M.D., Ph.D., Executive Director of the Institute of Addiction Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and co-author of Recovery Options: The Complete Guide.
“In a field where most treatment is driven by myth, politics, and ideological dogma, Nicolaus’ book is a breath of fresh air. It is well written, contemporary, research based and client centered; it will without a doubt help people find recovery who would otherwise become lost.” Dr. B J Davis, Clinical Director, Strategies for Change, Sacramento CA
\"Finally, a respectful approach to persons caught in addiction. Nicolaus has given us another option in the heroic battle people fight to regain the wholeness which addiction compromises.\" -- Linda Mercadante, Ph.D., Straker Professor of Historical Theology, The Methodist Theological School in Ohio; author of Victims & Sinners: Spiritual Roots of Addiction and Recovery
\"Truly groundbreaking. A must read for addiction professionals, people suffering from addictions and their loved ones.\" -- Lorraine Robinson, LSW, Executive Director, Ka Hale Ho`ala Hou No Na Wahine (The Home of Reawakening for Women), a re-entry program for women exiting prison, Honolulu HI.
\"Many people in recovery who are searching for an alternative to the disease model of addiction and the 12-Step program will find the LifeRing Approach to be an interesting path to follow.\" -- Alan Marlatt, Ph.D., Director, Addictive Behaviors Research Center, University of Washington, Seattle
\"Martin Nicolaus, one of LifeRing’s founding members, has written a lucid explanation of its approach, philosophy and what it has meant to him and to others. I believe this book will be very helpful to both treating professionals and to many who continue to struggle with addictions. No one approach has all the answers, but this book certainly has many of them.\" -- George Ubogy M.D., Medical Director, Addiction Recovery Center, Greenwich Hospital, Greenwich, CT
I could not put it down. The book is engaging, touching, and at the same time quite informative -- a must read for the addict and non-addict alike. -- Asma Asyyed MD, Berkeley CA
\"Provides a compelling analysis of the philosophy of Life Ring, and how it compares to Alcoholics Anonymous. Readers will learn a great deal about the implications of the disease concept of alcoholism (to the alcohol industry, to coverage for treatment, and to the social stigma of addiction), of powerlessness (versus a healthy respect for addiction), and of the genetics of addiction.\" Lee Ann Kaskutas, Ph.D., senior scientist, Alcohol Research Group, Emeryville, CA
LifeRing’s approach was the greatest gift I could ever give to my young family – if you are a parent who drinks, please give yourself a gift and read this book. -- Trish S., Pacifica CA, sober parent
\"Powerful, engaging, and scientific. Marty Nicolaus shows that the sober self emerges by focusing on a person’s strength, intelligence, supportive relationships, and the ability to ask, what works? I highly recommend this excellent book to all people dealing with addictions and compulsive behavior. -- Charlotte Sophia Kasl, Ph.D., author of Many Roads, One Journey: Moving Beyond the 12 Steps
\"Issues a long overdue challenge to the accepted wisdom surrounding recovery from addiction, and illuminates a viable, alternative perspective on recovery.\" -- Sarah E. Zemore Ph.D., Senior Scientist, Alcohol Research Group, Emeryville CA


Content Categories

The Family Tree


Categories: My father My mother

My father and his father in Essen, 193?

My father and his father in Essen

The Nicolaus family name has some mythical roots.  My mother’s mother Lydia, her mind clouded by advancing dementia, maintained that it came from the Tsar, who on his travels had got the daughter of a German merchant pregnant, etc.   A myth I like much better is that we’re descended from the original Bishop Nicolaus of Myra in Asia Minor (today Turkey), known as the wonder worker, who secretly gave alms to the poor and became the model for our modern St. Nick.

My mother once paid a genealogy company to compile a book of Nicolauses, and this showed — as genealogy books will — that we have remote “cousins” all over the world.  Certainly the name or its cognates — Nikolaus, Nikolaos, Nickolaus, Nicklaus, Nicholas, Nicolas, Nicolai, etc. — is found all over Europe.  It is common in Germany, Italy, Greece, and Russia, both as a family name and as a given (first) name.  In Russian there is even an established diminutive, “Kolja,” meaning “little Nicolaus.”  This is the title character of a poignant movie, and it was my nickname as a little boy.  In the turbulent 1970s my mother, who learned ancient Greek in seminary, told me that Nicolaus in that language means “victory of the people.”  I like that.  And I don’t mind people thinking that we might be related to Nicolaus Copernicus, even though there is no evidence for it.

Closer to home, there is the town of Nicolaus on the Sacramento River about 30 miles north of the California state capital, Sacramento.  It has a neighbor, East Nicolaus, and a Nicolaus Road, Nicolaus Avenue, and Nicolaus cemetery.  My mother thought the founder was a rumored direct ancestor who emigrated from Germany in the 1840s and got in on the Gold Rush, but his tracks are long lost.  There is also a prominent financial firm, Stifel Nicolaus, based in Chicago, and various other “Nicolice” scattered here, there, and everywhere.  My mother knew of no family threads connecting us with any of them.

The known Nicolaus genealogy is prosaic and short.  Compiled from the memory of my mother and my cousin Renate in Bavaria, it is depicted in this chart:


The chart means that the earliest known and identified Nicolaus in our tree is my father’s father, Martin Karl Nicolaus.  He was born on June 2, 1885.  He started work in the Hollerith department of the Krupp works — do you know what Hollerith cards were?  — in 1910, and was transferred a year later to a Krupp works in Kiel, the Baltic seaport.  There his two children were born:  Lieselotte Nicolaus on Aug. 10, 1912, and my father Albrecht Fritz Nicolaus, on May 8, 1914.  In 1919, Martin Karl was transferred back to Essen, and he continued as an office worker (or office supervisor, as one file entry has it) for Krupp until his death on April 14, 1942, following a bombing raid that destroyed the block where the family lived.  We don’t know the names of Martin Karl’s parents.

Lieselotte Nicolaus, my father’s sister, worked for Krupp as a “Rechnerin,” something like a bookkeeping clerk, from 1929 until she quit on March 31, 1941.  Lieselotte, like my mother, married a theology student, a friend and classmate of my father’s, Helmut Wolf, and they had three children, Helmut, Gerhard, and Renate.  Helmut was killed in the war, same as my father.  Lieselotte died in 1990. Lieselotte’s daughter Renate is the cousin in Bavaria who kindly sent me a number of precious family photographs that are the only images I have of my grandparents; see below.

On my mother’s side, we know that her mother was born Lydia Streck and that she married Heinrich Wilhelm Eickhoff.  You can read about Heinrich Eickhoff in my mother’s memoirs; he was an engineer who worked on railroads and then on airplanes, and toward the end of his life became a journalist.  We know that Lydia had three sisters, Mimi, Johanna and Emma.  We don’t know anything about the parents of Lydia or the parents of Heinrich, her husband.  We don’t know what happened to Lydia’s sisters, except for a few brief recollections in my mother’s memoirs. Lydia died in a nursing home in Weilmünster on Dec. 9, 1957.

We do know that my mother had two sisters, Annelies and Lottelies.  Annelies died as a three-year old.  Lottelies was the one who married the Nazi, Wilhelm Meissner, and was never heard from again.

My father’s mother, Adolfine Auguste Anna Kroneberg (“Oma”), had a sister, Minna Kroneberg, who married K. J. Heinrich Brüggensiecker, and they had a boy, Heinrich Albrecht Brüggensiecker, whom I knew as “Uncle Heinz.”  He lived in Kiel and sent us barrels of salt herring sometimes while we lived in Frankfurt.  The genealogy chart doesn’t show it, but Uncle Heinz had a wife and they had a son, Gerd Brüggensiecker, whom I met when I visited Germany in about 1972.  After Heinz’s wife died, he reconnected with my mother, and they married in 1968.  My mother lived with Heinz in Schönkirchen, a village near Kiel, for a few happy years, until Heinz died in 1973 from complications following surgery.  Gerd studied law and at last report was working as an administrative judge somewhere in Germany, possibly in Schleswig-Holstein.

And that’s about all that we know about the Nicolaus family tree.  The sequel is up to you boys, Fred and Jack.

There are very few photographs of my mother before she began appearing with some frequency in pictures with her grandchildren.  All of these early photos, plus a few late ones, are here.  There will be more photos of her on the pages about her grandchildren.

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My mother had only three photographs of my father.  I have inserted them on the web pages of her memoirs.  I’ll insert them again here, and I’ll add the additional photographs that I received in 2010 from cousin Renate Wolf in Germany.  I’ve cropped some, pulled out faces from group shots and enlarged them, and worked on the contrast and brightness in Photoshop.  Here are all the photos I have of my father:

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Here are the Nicolaus grandparents.  All these photos are from Renate.  Renate sent me the original prints, many with handwritten captions on the back.  I scanned them, and in some cases I have cropped them, copied out and enlarged faces for detail, and boosted the contrast in Photoshop for showing on the web.  In a few cases I have copied Renate’s handwritten captions from the back of the photo to the bottom border of the photo itself.  These appear in 14-pt Arial.  In those cases, remember that Renate is the author of the embedded caption, so that “my parents” refers to Renate’s parents, not mine.  The regular captions that accompany the photo file but are not embedded in the lower border of the visible image are mine.  It is very sad that I have no photos at all of the grandparents on my mother’s side.

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These are photos of Lieselotte Nicolaus, my father’s sister:

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These are photos of Helmut Wolf, Lieselotte’s husband:

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Here are baby pix of the three little Wolves in 1942-1943:

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And here are the only photos I can lay my hands on of the Brüggensieckers:

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