January marks the beginning of our 20th year of operations. I had no clue that two decades later I would still be here trying to be a good shepherd assisting people out of the darkness of addiction and into the light of freedom.
Samuel Johnson- Author of The English Dictionary, written 300 years ago said:
The chains of a habit are too weak to be felt – until they are too strong to be broken!
This past December No More Secrets (NMS) held our 14th annual holiday party at an upscale venue on the water. We came together all dressed up with smiles on. For just a night for some of the men still in the throes of the pain of addiction they tried to set aside the disease and be one of many. For most of the nearly 100 people in attendance it was a chance to see old friends, reminisce and celebrate our personal and collective journey from the outhouse to the penthouse of life. Each year while we dine I give a “state of the union” address where I share our collective successes and failures. As the self-help icon Dr. Brené Brown says, “If you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist” so I share our data with everyone. WE EXIST.
At the end of the 2018 calendar year, since we started having groups in 2002 there have been 273 Men in NMS. 37 of the 273 are currently in 5 working groups. We have a total of 69 alums. We have had 21 separate groups. Two of our current groups is being facilitated by a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist (CSAT®), two of our other groups are alumni lead by men who have “walked the walk”, and I lead the 5th. It’s a great mix that seems to work. I’m blessed to be surrounded by great healthy men. When you crunch all the numbers that include, those who moved out of state while in group, alumni who have relocated plus unfortunately three alumni who have passed on we have a retention rate of 42%. Which in the addiction field is a crazy high number. IT DOES TAKES A VILLAGE TO RAISE AN ADDICT.
Whenever someone asks me what I do for a living I reply that I build community. The opposite of addiction is not sobriety it is connection. In addition to 14 holiday parties we have also had 14 NMS BBQ/Softball family picnics. Every August in a public park on the eastside of Seattle we come together with family and friends for a day of fun in the sun, great food and softball, & no one ever strikes out and we do not keep score. Members bring their children, spouses, parents, dogs and anyone they want. The event lasts from noon to 6pm and at 3pm we take a big group photo & as I always say for all those other people in the park noticing 100 folks coming together for a picture as far as anyone knows “we’re just a normal family”. Maybe we’re a family reunion, maybe a company event or even a church picnic, who could tell especially since as with all of our events we are alcohol free.
Starting in October 2003 and continuing on 5 times a year we hold a pot luck movie night every other month. Since we started we have had 76 movie nights! I always choose the movie, it has something to do with addiction and I NEVER, EVER TELL ANYONE WHAT MOVIE I’M SHOWING. We have seen a wide range of movies from the 1944 Oscar winning “Gaslight” to the 1962 Oscar winning “Days of Wine & Roses” to the 2017 winner “Manchester by the Sea”. Movie night is open to current and alumni men. It’s a wonderful opportunity to show the multi-generational nature of NMS, where a man who has been here for over a dozen years meets a men I might have first met earlier in the day.
Every July we go in mass to a Mariners Baseball game, anywhere between 60 & 80 people including family and friends. We have also been doing that for 14 years. To be honest very few of the NMS men are baseball fans or any other kind of sport fan but they do love going to this game. We take walks around the park, introduce family members, switch seats and just have a great time. I can’t even recall who played this year or who won but who cares.
When I meet a new man and explain this odd program I can see the panic come over him. Most are attracted yet petrified all at the same time. This model puts a spotlight of his intimacy disorder. As I always say, NMS is not for the faint of heart.
So there it is. An overview of NMS as of 2018. In the next year people will come and go, get well or stay sick, lose a family or repair a marriage, stay helpless and hopeless or see the light. I for one can’t wait to see the gift of 2019! If you’re in a rut [I once heard rut described as a coffin without a top or a bottom] and if you might have been granted the gift of desperation then give me a call. And as I always say, “Misery is optional”. HAVE A WONDERFUL NEW YEAR!