Being sober doesn’t mean being miserable or dwelling on past failures. That’s the basic premise of Men for Sobriety, a logical spinoff from the popular Women for Sobriety (WFS), which was founded in the 1970s as an alternative to Twelve Step meetings.
Most self-help groups are not intended to replace recovery resources or counseling. Men for Sobriety (MFS) is just talk for sober men who want to stay sober. In fact, many use MFS in addition to Twelve Step groups as a sort of “sobriety insurance.”
Over the past 16 years, MFS has been expanding in Canada and is poised for growth in the US. The first group in the lower 48 met in the spring of 2014 in a space owned by Agape Recovery in Burlington, Wisconsin.
MFS is a secular program with no fees, and it offers men a chance to get together and talk about the positives of recovery. All MFS requires to join is a desire to stay sober and a Y chromosome.
The group’s men-only format allows participants to open up a little more, recognizing that men have special interests and needs, especially when it comes to relationship and family issues. These are interests and needs men may not feel comfortable airing in a mixed environment.
The program’s basic point is that the past is gone forever; and rather than going back and reliving those dark days, it is time to move on, to focus on the present and the future. MFS self-help groups are based upon the WFS New Life Acceptance program of positivity that includes 13 affirmations that encourage emotional and spiritual growth.
They’re not steps. They’re not addressed in any particular order. To make MFS effective, men think about each affirmation, and taking each statement separately, use it consciously throughout the day. At the end of the day and in the meetings, men review the use of the affirmation and its effect on their actions during that day.
Some men will mistakenly try to compare one program with another program – steps to statements, meeting format to meeting format. MFS isn’t intended to replace a group; it’s just another alternative. The emphasis is on recovering, not on what you’re reading or not reading.
People in recovery face a lot of stress as they deal with living in a society that often seems focused on alcohol. Alcoholics and non-alcoholics drink to relieve stress, but this is not a good option for alcoholics. MFS men talk about that stress, as well as the shame, guilt and stigma of alcoholism.
Alcoholism is a disease that is often viewed as a lifestyle choice made by bad people or a dirty secret that people are afraid to admit they have. These ideas stem from keeping a focus on the past; not merely archaic perspectives on the disease, but also an overly-critical eye on past behaviors while under the influence. MFS doesn’t dwell in the past — no drunk-a-logs, no labels on spiritual failings or character flaws. Fix ’em and move on. Members discuss where they are today, not who they were at their sickest in the past.
While the Agape Recovery Center serves as the group’s host, MFS is not affiliated with the Center’s practice or with Alcoholics Anonymous. “Both Men for Sobriety and the Center’s weekly Women for Sobriety sessions are welcoming programs, involving open conversation and not a lot of rules of conduct,” said Sherry Ward, a certified substance abuse counselor with Agape. “There’s not a lot you need to know in order to feel comfortable.”
Ward emphasized that both Men for Sobriety and Women for Sobriety are wonderful programs in and of themselves, but also great additions to other programs people may be working. “[MFS] provides additional tools for people in recovery.”
Author and journalist Scott Stevens, co-chairs the Wisconsin MFS meeting and also chairs a Twelve-Step meeting. He is author of the recovery book, Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud, and creator of the Alcohology app for Android devices. His work may be found at alcohologist.com.