A Word by the Founder
On August 29, 2012 Formers Anonymous held its first meeting in Racine, WI. The founder and Chris M. sat at the table alone. We opened the doors once a month to start. Since then, we have held weekly meetings in Racine, WI., Kenosha, WI., Chicago, Il, Milwaukee, WI. (one is an all woman’s meeting) and in Waukegan, IL. We also have held meetings in the Racine County Jail and in two prisons in Southeast, WI. Currently, we are in prisons and taking strides to open into several other correctional settings, treatment facilities, cities, states, and other countries. We have Skyped in formers from all over the country and world to attend meetings.
Further, we have been recognized by drug/treatment courts in three counties, as well as by the mental health consortium board in Milwaukee. A Federal District Attorney wrote Formers Anonymous a letter thanking us for our contributions to going conferences. It has been shared that many so-called offenders are requesting Formers Anonymous over other self groups routinely through corrections.
Why does Formers Anonymous exist? What are the benefits and whose are they? How are we the same or different to other anonymous groups? Who or what gave us the right to take this path? Is it working? How do we know? All these questions are important and were considered long before the first group was even held.
Thousands of interviews were held with many others including those in a process of change or recovery. These ideas presented here were shared. As you will see for yourself the answers to most of these questions resulted in understanding and discovering one thing…there was a need.
There was a need to use what not only our predecessors have learned or discovered but what other professionals, researchers, academics, and social service providers had learned and discovered. Perhaps even more importantly what other anonymous people had learned and discovered for themselves. Even what the founder had learned and discovered for himself was found to be a shared idea and need by many others, thousands and perhaps one day millions.
Who should be curious about us? Anyone affected by street life, crime, violence, and addiction. Who benefits from our program?
All of society.
As to who gave us the right?
It was innate. We are all born with a right to live in freedom and the privilege to do that together. To experience many meaningful relationships that are genuine, kind and intimate…free of judgment and exclusion. As such,we take you as you are, as early in your process as you will have us, for as long as you can endure us.
FA honors and acknowledges our victims, direct and indirect, near and far. To honor them we engage in each relationship we establish and are grateful to have through transparency. We are willing to shed our guilt and shame in exchange for healing and growth. Knowing that this will allow us to grant our forgiveness, invest in reconciliation and ultimately perhaps be gifted our redemption. The brothers who lost a father to a hate crime have embedded themselves with Formers Anonymous and stated, “being here as restored our faith in a persons ability to change.”
To make a difference in this world you have to be one thing…and that is different. Different from the people who would persecute you, judge you, deny you, abandon you, kill you, lie to you. The founder suggests that through practice of spiritual principles such as transparency, empathy, and compassion all relationships and all things may become possible. Despite the fact that there are no promises we find reason to hope and dream again of better days and others to share them with.
The founder believes that in order to overcome your past you must find language that embraces the future. We are a group of criminals and addicts. By calling ourselves formers we are practicing transparency and simultaneously reaching for our strengths and freedom.
We are acknowledging our past but heading for our future. We live in this moment as imperfect human beings but satisfied that we are in a process of progress, not of affliction. True integrity of change and recovery is not about containing your beast. We cannot exchange one cage for another to find freedom.
To embrace freedom is to love all the parts of you. Trusting that one day you will have reached a point of moving beyond your past and ailments. The biggest question out there is not about the past, a disease, or action…it is ‘Who am I’ after all the labels are stripped, all the roles are taken away, and all the lies are shed.
Who am I?
The founder hopes that FA provides a path toward discovery of the answer to that question. Above all else…to each their own.
Sammy Rangel MS, CSA