I recently had the opportunity to speak with Susie Minervini, a Long Island-based woman who found and has sustained nearly two decades in recovery by embracing Women for Sobriety as a pathway to recovery. Today, she serves as 1st Vice President of the WFS Board of Directors, participates in committees to attract volunteers and increase the number of face-to-face meetings throughout the country; and moderates two meetings on Long Island each week.
As Susie explained, prior to finding Women For Sobriety she had tried AA, but didn’t feel it was right for her as she wasn’t comfortable sharing personal issues with men in the room. She believes that there are many issues (including sexual assault and molestation) that women prefer to discuss only with other women. It was while searching for an alternative to AA that she happened upon Women For Sobriety and 19-1/2 years later, she’s never looked back.
Today, WFS has a significant and robust online community including online meetings, blogs, and an active Facebook community. The organization is also in the midst of restructuring its website. While its online community has grown tremendously, face-to-face meetings have dwindled in recent years and the organization is actively working to reverse that trend. That said, there are currently more than one hundred active face-to-face meetings throughout the country, including the following locations in New York State:
- East Meadow
- Valley Stream
- Port Chester
- Niagara Falls
While new groups are forming on an ongoing basis, their location depends upon the availability of a certified moderator. However, women can be successful using the program’s positive self-help approach even without attending face to face meetings. In fact, the program was designed with that flexibility in mind.
The remainder of this column has been provided by WFS Director, Becky Fenner and includes information about the WFS program, its history, resource materials, online forums, community meetings and information specifically directed to clinicians and peer professionals who may be interested in starting a group at their facility (or in their community).
We know that the concept of “one size fits all” does not apply when dealing with women’s needs in recovery; similarly, we know that for some women a 12-step approach is simply not the right fit, for whatever reasons. And these women are often more successful using a different for-women-only strategy for their personal recovery journey. Women for Sobriety and our program can be a useful option to fill this need. Let me tell you a little more about us ….
Any woman with a sincere desire to achieve lasting recovery and who is willing to try using our WFS program is welcome. There is no membership fee to join. Women for Sobriety is abstinence-based, with lasting recovery as the goal. The WFS New Life Program is designed especially for women who are addicted to or who abuse alcohol, street drugs and prescription drugs. The program shows women how to be empowered to handle life situations without resorting to alcohol or drugs so that they can move forward in a personal journey of self-discovery and growth, acquiring coping skills and tools to deal with life and its pressures and old, underlying issues.
The program is very much cognitive behaviorally based, in that WFS believes that women can draw on their inner strength to change their thinking, and use the power of their minds to likewise change their habits and their lives. Through the New Life Program, women have the opportunity to learn how to fill their lives with healthier, happier and more fulfilling choices. Further, the program’s principles can remain an ongoing plan for living a better, more balanced life in the future. We also know that the program can be helpful in dealing with issues such as depression, isolation, guilt and self-esteem that are often so much a part of women addicts’ lives. There are several helpful articles and brochures about the program available.
When founded in 1975, Women for Sobriety concentrated on women struggling with alcohol; since then, however, the scope of the program has expanded to include women dealing with alcohol and/or other chemical addictions. WFS also offers a companion version of the program called “New You,” developed specifically for food addictions; and another version for men, called “Men for Sobriety”(MFS).
While both WFS and Alcoholics Anonymous share a similar objective — achievement of lasting sobriety — the approaches to that objective are different. WFS does not discourage participation in AA. As mentioned earlier, we believe that the needs of women in recovery vary by individual (and are quite different from men’s needs); therefore, it is each individual’s personal preference that should determine which recovery alternatives work best for her and we encourage her to choose and pursue them.
Visitors to our website will find a complete description of the program, suggestions for using the program in recovery, an online bookstore/catalog and more. For confidentiality purposes, meeting specifics are not posted on the website.
WFS Online Forum
With the ever-increasing popularity of the internet, many women are turning to online sources to help them in their recovery. Our WFS Online Forum is an excellent resource for women pursuing recovery (especially useful if there are no face-to face groups in their community). Our robust message boards and chats connect women struggling with their addictions with thousands of caring and compassionate women who share a common bond, use our WFS program, and are willing to help one another. The chat meetings are offered on different days and times across several time zones. Chats are led by women in recovery who use the program and are certified as chat leaders based on the same competencies that we require for our face to face group moderators. The chats are very much like having a meeting online, and our ladies love them. Any woman looking for ongoing support and encouragement to help her stay focused on recovery will benefit from connecting with our online community. The WFS Online Forum is a private site (only women with alcohol/drug addictions may join), so women need to register to be admitted, but there are no fees required. Rather, women are encouraged to send a donation to WFS to support this service. Many of our members use this resource (along with our printed materials) exclusively and successfully in their recovery, without ever attending a face to face meeting. (We highly recommend women start with the Beginner’s Special and Goodbye Hangovers, Hello Life.)
We prefer that women in need of help contact our office directly for group and other information. We believe it’s an important part of the recovery process for women to take the responsibility for pursuing their recovery and make that contact personally. In addition, direct contact helps ensure that they receive the most current, accurate meeting information. Also, it’s our policy that WFS groups are “closed” meetings; that is, they are not open to the public. Only women in recovery who are pursuing abstinence may attend. As a result, no outside visitors are permitted at meetings. You are welcome to direct clients to our website, where they can fill out a “request for information” online or call 215-536-8026.
For Clinicians & Peer Professionals Interested in Starting a Group at Your Facility
Only women who are formally certified by our WFS organization are permitted to start and facilitate our face to face groups in their local communities. However, this process is handled differently when addiction counselors, working in treatment centers, are interested in starting groups.
In treatment facilities, professional certification is usually a “blanket” approach, in which the facility purchases the group starter kit for professionals (details below), and the facility retains the certification to conduct WFS meetings. In other words, there is no need for individual certification of the professionals who work there. This blanket accommodation provides the flexibility for any professional in the facility who understands our program to facilitate the groups if necessary.
Briefly, professionals intending to lead a group within a facility need not have a personal history with alcoholism/drug addiction; HOWEVER, they do need to be WOMEN to lead a WFS group and have professional credentials in the field of addiction. We DO NOT HAVE CO-ED GROUPS, and we feel that to have other than same-sex facilitators would be contrary to our philosophy that the needs and issues of women and men vary greatly in their recovery. Before starting a group in the facility, we feel it is important for professionals to read Dr. Jean Kirkpatrick’s book Turnabout (available through our website) and to read The WFS Program Booklet. Turnabout describes Dr. Kirkpatrick’s personal struggle with alcohol and how she came to create Women for Sobriety — it helps familiarize readers with our program’s principles, philosophy and background. It is available through the WFS online catalog at. In addition, some facilities eventually open their clients-only groups so that women from the surrounding community may also attend. If this is done, please inform the WFS Office so we may refer women in need of a group.
If your facility decides to proceed with offering the WFS program and groups in-house, there are really only a few steps needed to move the process along. Please contact the WFS office directly at 215-536-8026 or [email protected].
Thank you to Susie and Becky for helping to inform our readers about WFS as a Pathway to Recovery!