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MARR Articles

Be a Man

By June 3, 2015 3 Comments
Carry the Message:
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Will-1By Will Atkins, MA, LAPC, CRC
Residential Manager, Men’s Recovery Center

From the moment we enter the world, we are inundated with messages and expectations regarding what is and is not acceptable behavior. For many of us, our caretakers and society view crying and outward displays of sadness, fear and hurt in a negative light. This is especially true for males, as gender norms, the media and society all convey the idea that these emotions are indicators of weakness. Consequently, we hear statements like “be a man,” “man up,” and “real men don’t cry.”

As we grow older, many of us live out our lives based on the rules of emotional expression and gender roles we were exposed to at an early age. Men typically have no issue expressing or acting out their anger, rage and frustration, but many genuinely struggle to identify or openly communicate other feelings. We often believe that expressing such ‘unacceptable’ emotions will lead to judgment from others, so we bottle them up or stuff them down by any means necessary. For some, this includes using anger as a means for covering up emotions that we perceive as being off limits. In individuals struggling with addiction, this issue may be more than a perceived fear. It often becomes a true survival mechanism as they engage in criminal activities, high-risk behaviors, drug dealing and buying street drugs.

For men who choose the path of recovery, a great deal of time and effort is required to overcome the messages of “acceptable” emotions and behavior, as well as replace the emotional tools for survival they developed in active addiction with healthy ones. The reason people drink and/or use drugs is to change the way they feel. In fact, they may not even be aware of the feelings they are trying to avoid. To begin the recovery journey, an individual must identify the true feelings he is experiencing, allow himself to experience them rather than avoid them, and risk sharing them with others. This level of intimacy, vulnerability and transparency goes against every fiber of an addicted male’s being.

As men see others in their therapeutic community at MARR share openly and honestly—and risk vulnerability—a safe environment is created in which newcomers realize they, too, may be able to risk sharing the feelings they are experiencing. They begin taking a chance at being authentic, and their therapeutic community connects with them without judgment or abandonment. With enough practice, individuals recognize that expressing their feelings takes courage. They can then redefine their own standards of strength instead of living out the messages they received from society, and decide what it truly means to “be a man.”


Carry the Message:
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3 Comments

  • Julia Kreisher says:

    Well said Will Atkins! Very much on point and so true! Great article!

  • Phillip Moss says:

    Very true…good stuff. In my own journey the therapeutic community also aided in breaking the anti-social and isolated situations that were always there but exacerbated in addiction. Website looks nice.

  • Gentry W says:

    My ole buddy Will,
    You speak the truth man! You had a front row seat, and played a intricate role in this difficult and what I felt was a impossible rewiring of my flawed thinking! For me being able to identify a sad or hurt feeling was an impossible task at first! As you well know, I had a tendency to camouflage these particular emotions with anger! To be honest I believe that I camouflaged almost every emotion and feeling with anger! It was just easier to be mad and pissed off about it, then do the necessary “digging” to reach the core issue which was more often than not hurt, for me! It was hard for this man to admit that a comment, accusation, or even something simple as a question, hurt this man’s Feelings! What the article here says rang true for me! As a main society tells us that we must be strong in all aspects of life, any sign of hurt, is nothing more than a weakness! As many of MARR staff know, hardheaded was something I wore proudly! It took a lot of repetition, and a lot of real men, guys I would consider were more in touch with their feelings, or at least farther along than me in the process of being able to identify their feelings! Once I got through my thick stubborn head the idea, or should I say truth, that real men get sad, they can be hurt, and this is all OK! There has been many times throughout my life, we’re being tough as I perceive the definition of the word served me well! The real miracle for me was once I realize that being a strong tough man also meant that I can openly express that something as simple as comment from another person, could hurt my big manly feelings! Lol! All joking aside the real Beauty for me, was when I could convey my hurt directly to the party that made the comment! As corny as it may sound, it was liberating! I guess it never dawned on me that I could simply turn to the person or persons that made said comment and “properly”express the hurt I felt! Now when I say “properly” just like in everything in life there is a right way and wrong way to go about things! Some of my old tough guy tendency would still like to rear their ugly heads. At first I’d would express that my feelings had been hurt but was then quickly followed by a statement that would inevitably hurt the person or persons feelings that made the original statement! I found that just like most of recovery, identifying and conveying my feelings properly was a process! You know how you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice baby, it all takes practice! Don’t get me wrong I’m still a amateur, still practicing, and I still make mistakes daily! The silver lining for me is I possess the tools to do things correctly today thanks to what Will and other MARR staff like him taught me, but I still have a choice, which tools I use the old ones, or the new ones! One Day. At a time fellows, thanks so much Will,Matt, Paul, and even Todd, love you guys and the entire MARR family! Keep up the good work y’all!!!!!!!!!

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