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Starting an MM Meeting in Your Community

INTRODUCTION

The Moderation Management program (MM) benefits greatly when individuals committed to change can share their experiences in face-to-face (f2f) meetings. Bringing Moderation Management to your community is not only a service to others, but will also help you control your own drinking.

Your meeting will be an independent discussion group that finds guidance in the on-line materials at moderation.org and in publications describing the moderation management approach, especially Responsible Drinking (2002) by Rotgers Kern and Hoeltzel. Our national organization, Moderation Management Network Inc., does not have chapters or legally-defined affiliates, but you may use the "MM" designation as long as your group's practices are consistent with the purposes set forth in the MMN corporation charter.

You probably need a core group of at least three individuals with enough commitment to keep holding meetings for several months even if there are times when nobody else shows up. At all costs, avoid the situation where a new participant arrives at an announced location to find a locked door!

Minimally, you need a public venue, a designated time to hold meetings, and a commitment by you and your co-founders that at least one of you shall attend each meeting to serve as a discussion leader ("facilitator").

MM meetings should be open to the public on a drop-in basis.

MM meetings are usually held once a week for one hour. If that is not possible, bi-weekly or monthly meetings have proved to be beneficial in some communities.

THE MM FACILITATORS

MM is a layperson-led support group. Though professionals may help you get started, the strength of MM lies in individuals helping one another by sharing personally experienced methods and plans for moderating their drinking problems. MM facilitators should satisfy these qualifications:

1. . be at least 21 years of age (or minimum-purchase age).

2. . not have been charged with alcohol-related offenses within the last six months, nor be currently under court-ordered abstention or rehabilitation programs.

3. . have a good understanding of the MM program; for example, by working through the materials referenced at the moderation.org web site.

4. . have completed at least one 30-day period of abstinence.

The supreme qualification for establishing a f2f group is your commitment to creating the group that will help you as much as others to achieve moderation in your use of alcohol. Equally important is to find cofounders who share that commitment so that the burden of holding meetings even when no outsiders appear does not rest on your shoulders alone. Do not hesitate to discuss your specific situation with us at live@moderation.org

If, however, a facilitator should find that his own drinking is slipping out of control, he must temporarily relinquish the responsibility of serving as discussion leader to others.

HOW TO RUN A MEETING

1. Welcome everyone to the meeting, and describe its purposes and procedures. Suggested readings are available at moderation.org

2. The meeting usually begins with a "round-robin" where each member in turn describes the type of drinking problem that brought him to the group, the plan he is currently following, tricks and tactics that have proved useful, and the circumstances (if any) that have led recently to "blow-outs" or other failures of control. It's best if one or two of the more experienced members speak first. When discussion comes round to a newcomer, he or she should be offered a copy of the MM trifold (can be ordered from the moderation.org web site) and invited to share what brought them to MM, in whatever detail they are comfortable with. They may also wait until later in the meeting to share their concerns if they wish.

3. The moderation guidelines and the initial 30-day abstinence are almost always key points of discussion. The facilitator should make sure that newcomers are familiar with their details, and understand that they are general recommendations, not preconditions for participation. As recommendations they need to be applied and interpreted to individual cases, with helpful questions and strategies shared by the more experienced MMers in the group.

4. When the participants have gotten to know each other, cross-talk is often useful and may be encouraged, though the facilitator must manage things so that the full diversity of opinion in the group gets expressed and nobody "hogs the floor". This is a matter of personal style, however, and some facilitators will prefer to minimize cross-talk.

5. If the meeting is well attended the facilitator should move discussion around the circle fast enough so that the last person to speak has at least five minutes. If time remains after the round robin, the facilitator should be prepared to introduce general questions or issues likely to prompt wide discussion. Readings from the moderation.org web site may be used for inspiration.

6. Pass an envelope for voluntary contributions before the close of the meeting. (Expenses to be covered include room rental, outreach expenses, and donations supporting the national MM services such as the website, the mailing lists, and other resources that benefit the local meetings.) Conclude with a closing statement such as the one included in the readings available at the moderation.org web site.

PRACTICALITIES

1. Most often our meetings are scheduled for 7:00 to 8:00 on a weeknight, but remember that you and your co-founders will be attending more often than anyone else, so give realistic consideration to your own convenience.

 

2. Because donations are voluntary and your group must be self-supporting, look for a meeting place with little or no cost. (Some suggestions: churches, libraries, YMCA/YWCA, health clubs, community centers, colleges and schools, hospitals (try the community relations department or the social services department). MM recommends AGAINST meeting in private residences. If nothing else, a coffee shop with unobtrusive wait staff can work initially.

 

3. Once you are meeting on a regular basis, let us know at live@moderation.org and we will add your city to our national listing of f2f groups. Typically, contacts are listed by first name with an alias like "stlouis@moderation.org" that forwards mail to a real address. Using this alias, people who go to the moderation.org web site can contact you directly. Once you get started, most of your new members will find you through the web site.

4. The first few months can be pretty lonely, so be prepared. This is a marathon, not a sprint. There will inevitably be meetings where nobody but you, the facilitator, shows up. Bring reading material!

5. It would be desirable that at least one of your facilitators has used the abstar drink counter and can recommend it to others. Many members have found it to be the most useful resource offered by the moderation.org web site.

6. Participate in the MM_Facilitators on-line group. This is a yahoo group mailing list of meeting leaders throughout the world. We discuss ideas, policies, and tricky situations.

ON DEMAND MEETINGS

At times facilitators who are trying to establish a group in a city are unable to assemble enough co-founders or attract enough drop-in participants to make it practical to convene regular meetings that almost nobody ends up attending. In such cases a facilitator may schedule meetings "on demand" - i.e., times and places for meetings will be arranged ad hoc by email. The city should be listed in the f2f directory as described above in Practicalities (3); the facilitator collects inquiries and organizes meetings when sufficient interest has accumulated.

 

Growing Your MM Meeting

LEADERSHIP

If you are the only one who does all the work, and for some reason in the future you cannot attend regularly, your group will fold. From the moment you start the group, and even before when you first talk to people about organizing a future group, get others actively involved. Here are some ideas on how to build leadership within your group:

         Ask other members to lead the meetings often.

         Ask others to help you with specific tasks, such as distributing fliers; gathering contact information for local newspapers and magazines; researching which city, county and state directories the group should be listed in. Try to match your requests to the members who have an interest in that particular area, such as publicity, or research.

         Build on existing friendships within the group by asking pairs or trios to take on projects together. If members seem reluctant to take on a certain responsibility alone, ask two people to work together. For example, you could have two people work on writing a public service announcement for local radio stations.

         Express appreciation to those who have helped you during the meetings, so that everyone will realize what is getting done.

         Relate your own experiences as to how to approach a task (or ask another member to do so) in order to de-mystify the project and make it more approachable.

GROUP DYNAMICS

The following suggestions will help your group provide a non-threatening, supportive environment where people can share their experiences in order to help each other overcome a common problem.

.      Again, share leadership. If you, as the first group leader, have a strong personality, take on most of the tasks, and are always leading discussions, you may not only suffer from early burn-out, but the group can become one-dimensional.

.     Set up the meeting chairs in a circle, or around a table to encourage participation, and to symbolize that everyone in the group is equal.

.     Encourage people to talk about their own experiences, their own challenges and successes. Remember: This is self-help - not therapy.

.     Make newcomers feel welcome. Offer newcomers a trifold brochure before the meeting starts. Ask for a volunteer to introduce newcomers to the group.

.     Many people get a handle on their drinking problem and get on with their lives, and thus don't need to attend regularly, but remind members - before they reach that stage -- how motivating it is when old-timers return after several months' absence to let the group know how they are now conquering the world. It's a great way to give back without a huge time commitment.

PUBLICITY / OUTREACH

Building attendance is always a challenge for a new group. Expect sporadic attendance to start. Don't despair. Brainstorm strategies to get the word out. Consider changing time or location, if needed. Gradually, attendance will grow from sources like these:

.       The main office: We receive calls and letters from people nationwide every week, and will refer those from your area to your group.

.      The National Web Site:  This is the most complete and current information on the growing and developing MM community

.      Local newspaper articles/paid for advertising/radio/flyers: Some local papers offer free or low-cost ads. Remember that some people can take months/years to respond after reading about your group. Sample emails for PSAs and similar requests are posted to the facilitors' list.

.      National media: Every year MM appears in several national newspapers, magazines, TV or radio shows. Since our Web site was established in September of 1996, we have requested that reporters include our internet address.

.      Phonebook/yellow pages: Though the group leader's or other member's personal phone number is sometimes used initially, your group may consider a separate local phone number if feasible, starting with an inexpensive voice-mail service, then progressing to a regular phone line. A yellow pages listing is very helpful.

.      Directories: Your group should be listed in any local city, county, and state directories covering substance abuse, and MM is in several national resources.

.      Professionals: As more professionals learn about our program, you will begin to receive referrals from local health care providers.

.      The court system: We are receiving requests for information from probation officers and judges, and several treatment clinics that provide counseling for people who have received DUIs have referred clients who are first time offenders.

.      Other support groups: RR and SMART regularly refer people to MM who express a desire to try moderation first, and some AA and WFS members do also.

.      Word of mouth: The best referral there is.

Or write to us anytime.
Use our convenient Contact Form: live@moderation.org