Being sober doesn’t mean being miserable. That’s the basic premise of a new, free support group offered in Burlington at the Agape Recovery Center, 201 N. Pine St., Burlington.
Called Men For Sobriety, these Wednesday evening sessions are not a 12-step assessment or court program, and are not intended to replace any recovery resource or counseling. Men for Sobriety is just talk, for sober men who want to stay sober, according to Scott Stevens, one of the group’s co-moderators.
“Our focus is on the positive,” said Stevens, a 47-year-old journalist and former mutual fund industry executive who has been in recovery since 2007 (www.alcohologist.com).
The program’s basic point is that the past is gone forever and, rather than going back and reliving its dark days, it is time to move on and focus on the future, Stevens said.
“Men for Sobriety is a way of life — a new life and starting over,” he said.
Based on Women For Sobriety
Burlington’s MFS group is the only one of its kind currently operating in the U.S., according to Stevens. MFS groups have been meeting in Canada and other countries for more than 16 years, he said. And both they and the Burlington group are based on an international program called Women for Sobriety.
Founded in 1975 by Jean Kirkpatrick, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s doctoral program, WFS is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping women overcome alcoholism and other addictions. Its self-help groups can be found across the country and focus on a 13-statement “New Life” program of positivity that encourages emotional and spiritual growth (see accompanying box for WFS info).
Like WFS, the men’s program follows 13 statements of “New Life.” “But we don’t sit around and read and memorize things,” said Stevens. “We talk about what’s happening today.”
People in recovery face a lot of stress as they deal with living in a society that seems to focus on alcohol, he said. Both alcoholics and non-alcoholics drink to relieve stress, but doing so is not a good option for alcoholics, he said. “So, let’s talk about that stress, and the shame, guilt and stigma of alcoholism.”
Such feelings are familiar to Stevens, a Burlington resident who has authored a couple books about alcoholism (www.alcohologist.com). His work as a volunteer with the MFS program is part of his own recovery from the disease of alcoholism — a disease that is often still viewed as a “lifestyle choice” made by bad people or a “dirty word” that people are afraid to admit they have, he said.
“That type of thinking still persists,” Stevens said. “But I was the guy sitting behind you in church and playing next to you on the golf course. I’m the guy with the nice house and nice kids who has a genetic problem — once I have one drink, all bets are off and I’m just not able to say no to that second drink.”
Because of that, Stevens and others like him have to be really mindful about not having that first drink, he said.
“This is something that is life or death for me,” he said. “It nearly killed me a couple times and I’m always aware of the possibility of relapse. I’m better off when I stay involved.”
His work with MFS allows him to reach out to other men in southeast Wisconsin, where Stevens said there seems to be a need for more support for those in recovery. MFS is a secular program with no fees, and it offers area men a chance to get together and talk about the positives of recovery.
“All we require is a desire to stay sober and a Y chromosome,” Stevens said.
The group’s men-only format allows participants to open up a little more, he said. “We recognize that men have special interests and needs, especially when it comes to relationship and family issues. And, they may not feel comfortable talking about such things in a mixed environment.”
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 MFS and the center’s weekly WFS sessions are very 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 said.
WFS, on which MFS is based, is a wonderful program in and of itself, as well as a great addition to other programs people might be working, she said. “It provides additional tools for people in recovery.”
If You Go
WHAT: Men for Sobriety group
WHEN: 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesdays
WHERE: Agape Recovery Center, 201 N. Pine St., Burlington
INFO: Call 262-332-9366 or send an email to email@example.com.
Women for Sobriety
A Women for Sobriety group also meets at the Agape Recovery Center, 201 N. Pine St., Burlington, at 9 a.m. on Tuesdays. For more information go to www.womenforsobriety.org or call Sherry Ward in Burlington at 262-210-3034.