PAUL GRONDAHL Staff writer
Section: LIFE & LEISURE,  Page: D8

Date: Friday, October 25, 2002

A decade of research by Christopher D. Ringwald began with a newspaper series on drug and alcohol treatment programs, grew into a book on the role of spirituality in recovery and now has earned him a local literary recognition. Ringwald, of Albany, author of ``The Soul of Recovery,'' has been named Albany author of the year.

He will receive his award at the 34th annual book and author luncheon Saturday at the Albany Public Library. Past recipients include William Kennedy, Bernard F. Conners and Richard Selzer.

``It feels great to receive this award,'' Ringwald said. ``Writing is solitary work. It's nice to receive something like this that reminds you there's an audience out there for what you've spent years writing.''

Ringwald and his wife Amy Biancolli are former Times Union staff writers. They have three children. Ringwald works at Advocates for Human Potential in Delmar, a research firm that focuses on mental health, homelessness and substance abuse.

Ringwald's reporting on the topic of recovery stems from a series of articles he co-wrote with Michael Gormley for the Times Union a decade ago. Their articles uncovered a lack of oversight and evaluation on state-funded treatment programs, which led to legislative reform.

``Working on that series showed me that there's a major divide between the researchers who talk about addiction in dry, scientific terms, and those addicted on the ground level who talk about some sort of spiritual transformation in their recovery,'' Ringwald said.

Ringwald's book explores that divide between science and spirituality in treatment programs.

``There are many ways to recover, but millions of people recover through spirituality-based programs,'' Ringwald said, noting that 93 percent of the nation's treatment programs adhere to the spirituality-rich 12-step process. ``My book tries to look at how and why.''

Publishers Weekly praised Ringwald's ``sweeping study'' and ``broad ethnographic approach.'' With the help of a Kaiser foundation fellowship, Ringwald traveled across the U.S. and interviewed hundreds of addicts, alcoholics and experts in a range of treatment programs.

`'Chris has produced a good book on an important issue,'' said Dennis Mosley, a member of the Friends of the Albany Public Library, who nominated Ringwald for the award. ``He's concerned about the plight of people who have been marginalized. His work is a service to the recovery community.''

Professionals in the field of treatment addiction have not all been so kind to Ringwald's emphasis on the spiritual component of recovery.

``People have very strong feelings about spirituality and about addiction, and when you mix the two, it's particularly volatile,'' Ringwald said.

``There's probably something in the book to annoy just about every segment of the recovery community.''

Ringwald's library talk will focus on how a sense of place makes its way into a national examination of his subject.

``The book has a number of people and programs based in Albany,'' Ringwald said. ``Different circles of people and ideas here influenced it.''

Ringwald praised the support of officials with The Sage Colleges, who provide him with office space and support for his work as director of the Faith & Society Project at its Albany campus.

``I bounced ideas for the book off professors at Sage all the time, and they gave me wonderful feedback,'' Ringwald said. ``It's become my intellectual home.''

Ringwald is currently researching a book on the Sabbath in Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

FACTS:RECOGNIZED WRITER CHRISTOPHER D. RINGWALD Albany Author of the Year What: Luncheon and talkWhere: Albany Public Library, 161 Washington Ave., AlbanyWhen: Saturday. Luncheon begins at noon, award ceremony and lecture at 1:15 p.m Admission: Buffet luncheon is $25 for non-members and $22 for members of the Friends of the Library. Tickets available at the door. The award ceremony and talk are free. Info: 427-4333