Editor’s note: In compliance with the rules of Alcoholics Anonymous, all individuals referred to in this article have had their last names redacted.
(LifeSiteNews) –– A newly launched recovery program for persons struggling with alcohol addiction incorporates the traditional 12-step Alcoholics Anonymous method but places an added emphasis on spirituality and family life.
“It’s become increasingly popular for people to just go to rehab,” Bill told me over the phone this past weekend. “But rehab can be expensive and lasts only several weeks. What seems to work best is the ‘old fashion’ approach — going to meetings and forming lasting relationships with others.”
Bill is one of three co-founders of Sobrietatis Societas, which is Latin for “Sober Fellows.” The nonprofit was started in Michigan earlier this year after he and two colleagues realized there is a great need to meet people where they are.
“The purpose of Sobrietatis Societas is to carry the message of recovery in 12 step programs to those still suffering,” their website explains. “In our experience, this is largely focused on the Christian spiritual works of mercy. The focus is on the virtue of kindness which is rooted in the One Truth. It is a simple program for those who are willing to learn to be honest with themselves and others.”
Why give up drinking in the first place?
Bill is now in his 70s, having only recently retired from a career in banking, accounting, and investments. A graduate of Michigan State University and the University of Michigan, he and his wife frequently travel to Chicago and Detroit to see their children and grandchildren. A devout Catholic who has spread the message of sobriety for decades — even to the imprisoned and those who have experienced traumatic brain injuries — a personal experience with alcohol and workaholism forced Bill to change his ways in the 1990s.
“I drank for about 25 years. It was about 12 years into my ‘drinking career’ when both my wife and I became concerned with the amount our fathers were drinking. Her father was an attorney who drank ‘socially’ for many years. My father’s alcohol consumption accelerated after my mother’s death at age 55 from ovarian cancer in 1968.”
“I went to my first Al-Anon Family Groups meeting in 1979, the year my father-in-law sought treatment through a 28-Day residential program. The next year in 1980, I was involved in a family intervention in an attempt to convince my father to enter a 28-Day program for recovery.”
“I continued to drink,” Bill admits, “but after reading the ‘Big Book’ of Alcoholics Anonymous, I was concerned I enjoyed alcohol more than I should. My ‘carefree’ drinking days were over after reading that book, which noted that, ‘alcoholism is an incurable, progressive disease.’”
Bill told me that the last day he ever had a drink was February 22, 1992. He started attending AA meetings regularly and continues attending meetings to this day. “One day at a time,” he says. “Stay away from wet faces and wet places and always plan an escape route.”
What is the purpose of Sobrietatis Societas?
I was curious why Bill and his colleagues started Sober Fellows in the first place. After all, Alcoholics Anonymous is universally known, and widely accepted, as the premier addiction recovery program around, though some critics suggest it should be more explicitly Christian so to lead persons to Jesus Christ and sanctifying grace.
“In a sense, we run parallel and complement AA,” he explained. “It’s about forming relationships in sobriety and overcoming that initial fear.”
“People are often worried about going to their first meeting. It can be daunting for them. The first and second meetings are critically important to being convinced of coming back. It’s crucial for folks to attend and meet a wide cross-section of other people.”
“Sober Fellows is a sort of feeder program for AA. Our tagline is ‘Coming alongside families in dealing with addiction.’ Simply put, our focus is on the 12th step of AA, which is: ‘Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.’ This is what we’re really about. We focus primarily on families.”
What sort of influence has your faith had on your mission?
While browsing Sober Fellows’ website, one cannot help but notice the influence Christian spirituality has on their mission.
“We have come to realize if we don’t properly order pleasure, happiness, and joy, we will never attain joy,” one section reads. “As St. Augustine of Hippo’s famous passage from Confessions states: ‘You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.’”
Bill himself admits that “the longer I have been active in the recovery community and attending meetings regularly, the more I am convinced what we do are spiritual works of mercy. Faith and recovery go hand and hand.” But Bill’s journey to sobriety (and Catholicism) has not been a quick one.
“My wife and I have an eclectic faith background. My mother was RCA (Reformed Church of America). My father was Lutheran. Once they were married before World War II, they agreed to join the Congregational Church, which is what we attended as a family. My wife was raised in the Episcopal Church. We were married in 1970 in that church. We each pursued our careers, me in banking and public accounting, and she in interior design. We fell away from a faith life.”
“After 12 years of marriage, we had our first child and joined the Presbyterian Church, where our daughter was baptized. After I received a promotion and geographical transfer, we joined an Episcopal church where our son was baptized. After another transfer and move, and then a job change and third move, we remained in the Episcopal Church. “
“The children attended a Christian school for several years and then transferred to a Catholic grade school,” he further explained. “My wife was asked to be on the Catholicism committee there. She joked she was a token Protestant on the committee. But she started reading the early Church Fathers and fell in love with the faith. She described Catholicism as ‘a mile wide and a mile deep.’ She then announced to me one day that ‘the children and I are going to join the Catholic Church and we hope you will too.’ After some foot dragging on my part, we both went through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). Our family came into the Catholic Church on Easter of 1997. We discovered the Traditional Latin Mass in 2020 when I was asked to be godparent for a baby whose family had joined a Latin Mass church. It has been a long journey home!”
How can I get in touch with Sober Fellows?
To learn more about Sobrietatis Societas, you can visit their website by clicking here. If you are struggling with addiction, Bill can be reached by email on the “Contact Us” page of the website by clicking here.