How the Men’s Alumni Association Keeps Recovery Going Strong
The Men’s Alumni Association is an established presence at UGM, helping participants strengthen and continue in their recovery for the long haul. But for Men’s Recovery alumnus Collin, being involved with the Association came with some surprises.
After participating in the Association for several months as part of his own recovery journey, Collin walked into a meeting and was made President. “I asked why, and they said ‘We think you’d be good at it.’ I was taken aback; I didn’t know what they’d seen in me. But that was about two and a half years ago.” Since then, Collin has used his background in running job sites to bolster the Association’s mandate: to remove as many obstacles to recovery as they can for as many men as possible.
As much as a surprise as the presidency was, Collin is adamant that he isn’t the face of the Alumni Association: it’s not a hierarchy, but a collective. Headed up by a Council of five to seven men, the Association holds monthly meetings open to all alumni, and its planned events are designed to build community and encourage men in their lives beyond UGM. After several years of reduced ability to meet, the Council is regrouping and working to enliven the Association.
We are devoted to helping the newcomer, and to passing on our experience, strength, and hope to help them in their recovery. — Steve, Council Member and UGM’s Assistant Manager for Maintenance & Custodial
The yearly calendar for the Alumni Association features a little bit of everything. Early in the year is the Countdown Dinner, an event where the collected years of sobriety in the room—often around 300 years in total—are marked and celebrated. Then in spring, alumni participate in the North Shore Roundup, an Alcoholics Anonymous convention held in Vancouver and attended by approximately 2,000 people.
When weather is favourable, the alumni team up with UGM’s Expeditions to canoe and camp, and in the summer there are barbeques and a baseball league. The Association gives back through scheduled neighbourhood clean-ups, and Christmas features tournaments and gifts for the men in recovery. “Christmas is hard here,” notes Collin, “So we throw Christmas morning. We have breakfast and hang out and award prizes and gift cards. All the alumni that can show up definitely show up that morning.”
These activities all work together to keep alumni connected. They’re also envisioned, organized, and managed by alumni. As Council Member Steve says, “There are so many good men in the Alumni Association making a big difference in so many lives.” While every story in the Association is unique, men in recovery can find solidarity in their shared experiences: what Steve describes as the “beautiful transformation that occurs as they move through the program.”
The impact of this kind of community can’t be underestimated. When asked what the most exciting milestones have been during his involvement in the Association, Collin takes a moment to respond. “You’d think it’d be seeing men come up and get their first year, their second year, their third year of sobriety, but those aren't the biggest impacts,” he says slowly. “It’s watching them gain their lives and their families back. In one case, I watched a guy go from barely talking to his family, to attending his daughter’s wedding. All those little milestones, that’s my biggest joy.”
For his part, Steve has seen how participating in group initiatives fosters leadership. “I think the Alumni Association is a great stepping stone for people in recovery to really believe in themselves to become the next voice and leaders,” he says. “It has made men into respected leaders in the eyes of those just starting their recovery journey.”
As the Association looks to the summer and more opportunities to gather outside, they see themselves as part of a long tradition of men in recovery caring for men in recovery. “That's the Alumni Association,” says Collin. “We all do our small part to pull the next guy into recovery and help him on his journey. You know, we're all links in this chain.”
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