Women, Alcoholism And Support Groups Providing Alcoholism Treatment For Women
Women for SobrietySet up by Jean Kirkpatrick in 1975, WFS is unique in providing focused alcohol treatment for women
It has been estimated that of the 15 or so million alcohol abusers in the United States, one third are women. That is a massive 4 to 5 million individuals.
Why then is there so little alcohol treatment for women specifically and what about support groups catering exclusively to women and alcoholism?
Many would answer this question by saying that Alcoholics Anonymous and 12-step treatment centers (by far the biggest and most popular of the alcohol dependency treatment methods) welcome both sexes.
There is no discrimination, no bias toward one sex or the other, all are welcome to attend. Explicitly this may be so, but implicitly it has proved very different for many women.
Why Alcoholics Anonymous Alienates Women
The main issue WFS (Women For Sobriety) has with AA can be illustrated by comparing the second step of Alcoholics Anonymous with the first affirmation of Women for Sobriety:
The Second Step Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity
The First Affirmation of WFS
I have a life-threatening problem that once had me. I now take charge of my life. I accept the responsibility.
One of the main tenets of AA's philosophy is that the recovering alcoholic needs to relinquish control, embrace humility and hand over to a 'power' outside of him or herself.
Understandably a majority of women alcoholics feel alienated by this notion; many women have been powerless all their lives. They have exerted no control over in any sphere of life and have been subject to the whims of men.
For many their very powerlessness has been one of the causes of their drinking. That is why, as seen in the first affirmation above, those in WFS do not look outside themselves for the power to defeat alcoholism. Inner strength and determination are the key.
Thus is not to say WFS is anti-AA. In the 1990s a survey revealed that one third of women who went to WFS group meetings also regularly attended AA meetings.
Alcoholics Anonymous And WFS Similarities
There are many similarities between the two groups:
Both advocate complete abstention from alcohol
Both have group meetings in which members support, share and learn from one another
Both are non-profit making, relying on donations and sales of books for funding
Both have at their core a list of essential 'truths' or 'commandments' (For AA the 12 steps and for WFS, the 13 affirmations
Neither has a central figure at their head, meetings follow similar patterns but are essentially autonomous
Alcoholics Anonymous And WFS Differences
Where WFS differs from AA:
The power to defeat alcoholism comes from within not outside of yourself
Only women may attend Women For Sobriety meetings. However, WFS is not anti-man or radically feminist
Alcoholism in men and women is physiologically the same, but on the psychological level it is very different
WFS is small, there are around 300 groups around the world compared to the tens of thousands run by Alcoholics Anonymous members
Women for Sobriety was set up by Jean Kirkpatrick in 1975 after suffering from alcoholism for many years. Having tried AA and other treatments for her condition, she seemed a lost cause.
But then she began to read Ralph Waldo Emerson and more specifically his essay 'Self-Reliance'. From Emerson's writings and those of other thinkers she began to to deal with alcohol by first dealing with her thoughts.- she realized negative thoughts/feelings led to negative action (in her case drinking). by applying this theory she was able to control and eventually quit drinking altogether.
With her new found knowledge and technique, Jean Kirkpatrick set in motion what was to eventually become Women for Sobriety. An alcoholic self-help group that promotes the power of the individual to overcome alcoholism rather than an outside power.
This is, at least in my opinion, the central tenet of the WFS not the fact that it is only open to women. This is reflected in the fact that a separate group has now been set up called MFS, Men For Sobriety utilizing Jean Kirkpatrick's recovery ideal.
How does Women for Sobriety Work?
This program encourages:
These qualities can be realized by repeating the 13 affirmations every day when you wake (self-reinforcement).
The 13 Affirmations
1. I have a life-threatening problem that once had me.
I now take charge of my life. I accept the responsibility.
2. Negative thoughts destroy only myself.
My first conscious act must be to remove negativity from my life.
3. Happiness is a habit I will develop.
Happiness is created, not waited for.
4. Problems bother me only to the degree I permit them to.
I now better understand my problems and do not permit problems to overwhelm me.
5. I am what I think.
I am a capable, competent, caring, compassionate woman.
6. Life can be ordinary or it can be great.
Greatness is mine by a conscious effort.
7. Love can change the course of my world.
Caring becomes all important.
8. The fundamental object of life is emotional and spiritual growth.
Daily I put my life into a proper order, knowing which are the priorities.
9. The past is gone forever.
No longer will I be victimized by the past, I am a new person.
10. All love given returns.
I will learn to know that others love me.
11. Enthusiasm is my daily exercise.
I treasure all moments of my new life.
12. I am a competent woman and have much to give life.
This is what I am and I shall know it always.
13. I am responsible for myself and for my actions.
I am in charge of my mind, my thoughts, and my life.
Group meetings are also an essential part of the program, These groups are used for much the same reason as they are in AA. That is a place for members to share their stories of, struggles with, and recovery from, alcoholism.
WFS Literature is available though the official WFS website, and the brochures give you a good idea of what the program involves and how to access it.
There is also an online aspect to Women for Sobriety, called WFS Online. Due to the small number of WFS groups this is a very useful tool for women who can't get to meetings for whatever reason. You have to register with the site first and approval can take some time. Patience is the key.
If you found this page helpful, then the following may be of interest to you:
Deborah Morrow, M.S. Addiction Psychology, is the director of treatment programs for The Alcoholism Guide website. In her practice, Deborah provides on-line coaching and support for those dependent on alcohol or who require other services such as relapse prevention or court mandated services. (Read More)