As I have been studying men and recovery from addiction off and on for more than 15 years, I have arrived at some nascent ideas that I am sure are not unique to me, but are compelling nonetheless. In essence, something happens to us as men and women during the process of recovery from addiction that changes how we express ourselves at the foundation of our very identity, our gender.

Many of us remain unaware of this process simply because it occurs in the context of our recovery from addiction, and not in the context of our gender identity. That was definitely what I discovered meeting with the 30 men I interviewed for my recently published book, as well as the men I interviewed 15 years ago for my master’s research. These men became aware of this shift as they began to reflect on the idea that they were not the same men after recovery from addiction as they were before. While my work focuses mainly on men, my guess is that women would have a similar experience.

While writing my book (and my master’s thesis), one question I asked of men was, “How has recovery from addiction changed your idea of being a man?”, a common response was that they saw themselves more as human beings, and less as men. Said another way, they believed that society’s rules for being manly defined their lives and behavior less. They believed that they were first and foremost human beings, and the expectations of how they should act as men were less important, reflecting the idea to thine own self be true.

Generally speaking, this is a positive view. However, as I point out in the final section of my book, the danger of subscribing to this belief inevitably leads us to a default if we are not careful – a society that is defined by the dominant group. Without launching into a treatise on marginalization and oppression, we should not ignore the reality that certain people receive advantages and benefits in society simply because they belong to a particular category. Conversely, others get just the opposite – disadvantages and deficits – because they belong to another category, or in other words, do not belong to the dominant group.

In terms of gender, the default (or dominant) group is men, masculinity, manliness and patriarchy. Masculinity is the expectation, the norm, even the subconscious’ default for many men and even women. In order to prevent it from infiltrating our relationships in very insidious ways, we (men and women) have to be aware of this default. We can only begin to transcend it once we are aware of it.

Let me share an example from my own life: I was sensitive as a young boy. However, growing up in a violent, alcoholic home, I learned early on that it was not OK for a boy to be sensitive. Consequently, I grew to hate that part of myself because I saw it as not manly. I have since come to realize that it is a part of who I am and it doesn’t matter if others think I am manly or not. I have in fact realized that my sensitive nature is a great quality about me when I express it in a healthy way.

Ultimately the question I would like to pose to men is this: Do your beliefs and behaviors reflect the man you want to be in your recovery from addiction ? Are they what the people in your life truly want from you? Whatever his answer, it should be clear to a man that he will experience consequences, good and bad. On a moral and spiritual plane, we never really get away with treating others as less-than, inferior or any of the other disparaging things that we human beings do to one another.

Author's Bio: 

Dan Griffin, M.A., has worked in the mental health and addictions field for over 16 years. He is author of A Man’s Way Through the Twelve Steps and co-author of the groundbreaking trauma informed curriculum, Helping Men Recover, which looks comprehensively and holistically at men’s needs and issues in recovery. To get a free excerpt from his book and his curriculum, go to