Does Booze Deserve a Place at the NMMW Table?

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I am writing to state my opinion in an arena where I have some strong feelings and opinions. I am interested in hearing from other NMMW guys on this important topic. There was booze on campus at the recent Spring Gathering–and it was freely shared during the Saturday afternoon discretionary time. As the designated leader, I elected to confront its presence in multiple ways. This essay is part of that response.

I strongly believe that alcohol has no place at our table–not because I am a teetotaler. I enjoy a glass of wine with dinner on a regular basis I value its capacity to lubricate lively conversations–as well as its time-honored role as an element of ritual at weddings, graduations and for many other festive occasions.

Despite the above, I consistently choose to leave my wine bottles, glasses and corkscrew at home when I head off to a NMMW gathering. I  fully intend to continue this practice–as long as I am a  member of New Mexico Men’s Wellness.

First of all, New Mexico Mens Wellness provides a remarkable forum for healing, personal growth and spiritual development. In the company of seasoned,intelligent, caring and nurturing men, we take remarkable risks, communicate our highest hopes and darkest fears, and regularly achieve emotional release and powerful insights–experiences that can open up new pathways and even transform our lives. This process of growth/discovery/acceptance quite often means experiencing mood states that
are painful as well as liberating.

A primary property of alcohol is to numb and diminish raw/powerful emotions, to soothe the mind, and to promote the depositing/burial of challenging memories. In my belief these properties run  directly against the grain (pun intended), of the core values and experiences of New Mexico Mens Wellness.

Secondly, there are men in various stages of alcohol recovery among us. If they know that alcohol is tolerated in advance of registration, they may choose not to attend, in support of their recovery.  There is also the live possibility that, if presented with alcohol during the course of the weekend, they will actively imbibe. This choice may, or may not, have a highly negative impact on their recovery journey.

I am a social worker by profession, and the maxim of my trade is “Do no Harm.” Bringing alcohol to our gatherings, and sharing it with another brother whose alcohol/substance abuse history you may or may not be familiar with–is potentially a harmful act.

Thirdly, it’s the piece about following rules and observing boundaries. With the recent gathering at Hummingbird, the literature for the weekend stated clearly–please leave your firearms, pets and  alcohol at home. The person who brought booze on campus elected not to express his dissatisfaction with the clearly stated rule in advance of the weekend.

Hummingbird Music Camp has a similar no- booze- on- campus rule. Had Lesley Higgins stopped by to change light bulbs a few hours later than he chose to on Saturday afternoon, he might have encountered the happy hour circle within 100 yds of the north campus buildings. In that case we likely would have lost not only our good relationship with the Higgins Family and with the staff of Hummingbird Music Camp, but also our opportunity to host the 11th Spring Retreat on their grounds (site of all previous 10 retreats).  Fair to say that our reputation as an organization might have suffered as well.

Post Script. This essay does not address the issue of psychoactive substances–including cannabis and peyote. My personal choice has been to avoid partaking in these as well during our gatherings (and in all honesty I have yet to encounter them). I recognize that with this issue, there are multiple factors to consider (such as medicinal usage of cannabis), and I leave it to another stout-hearted man to broach the subject.

Looking forward to your responses.

Respectfully,
Christopher King

May 1, 2011

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Comments

2 Responses to “Does Booze Deserve a Place at the NMMW Table?”
  1. Bill Guse says:

    Greetings!  It has been a few years since I have made it to a gathering.  In fact yesterday marked my fifth year in Canada and I got my citizenship here last month.  Still, I would like to support what Christopher has said.  It seems to me that alcohol is often used as a form of bonding.  It is used to lower our shields so we can speak about what is going on inside.  The beauty of Men’s Wellness is that we are learning to do those things Without drugs or alcohol.  We can share a beer anytime, but the opportunity and experience created at NMMW gatherings is unique.  I’m grateful for all the open hearted communication I have had there.

  2. Uwe S. says:

    I would like to thank Christopher for bringing up this important issue.

    When I first started to attend NMMW Gatherings about six years ago, I got the impression that alcohol was not allowed or at least highly discouraged.  This information was contained in the preparation materials and I found it reflected at our Gatherings.  Lately this has changed a bit and alcohol seems to be publicly visible–and shared–at almost every quarterly Gathering.

    I enjoy drinking alcohol and I enjoy it even more with a group of good friends.  So it would seem that our Gatherings are a good place to share a bottle of wine or scotch, but there are many serious issues that speak against that.  Men in recovery is one of them, which should be reason enough to be strict about the prohibition of alcohol at our Gatherings.  Obviously, the ground rules of our hosts are another very important one.  I also recall that one previous leader put it as “…leave it at home to be fully present.”

    In recent years I have taken the NMMW Gatherings and some days before and after as an opportunity to take a break from consuming alcohol.  I like to do that to make sure that I don’t become dependent.  When other men share alcohol at our Gatherings it obviously becomes a little harder to resist, but when I am able to do so I am even more confident that this substance remains manageable.  Other men might not have this option.

    I believe that there should be no alcohol consumed in public or shared at any of our Gatherings.

    Uwe Schroeter