By Andru McCracken
When Tommy Gunn-Smith started thinking about a men’s version of Wine Ninjas or Wine Fairies, he was really just hoping to copy the program. The idea of someone anonymously dropping off a bottle of whiskey at his door during COVID-19 seemed like a great thing, but it didn’t take long for the idea to blossom into something completely different.
“There was something more needed there than just a whiskey basket. People actually needed help,” said Gunn-Smith.
Soon they were helping other men find work and fill people’s homes with groceries. What no one saw coming is how the BC Whiskey Wizards created a space for what many men have been told never to do: to ask for help.
“It’s a place where brothers reach out and help each other out,” he says. “People post about their problems.”
He says it’s sometimes it’s hard to express yourself without fear of judgment.
“it’s hard being a man sometimes … society expects strength.”
During the day time, Gunn-Smith is a rod buster or rebar worker for Ironworkers Local 97 and he recently opened up his own demolition company. He’s married with four kids, three from his wife’s previous marriage and he has another on the way.
“I was raised like any other man. Don’t whine. Don’t cry. Don’t ask for help. Just like thousands of men needed a group, so did I,” he said.
Gunn-Smith said he’d often get into yelling matches with his wife.
“We hold our emotions until it’s time to break, I would just sit outside by myself until I blew up with all the feelings.”
Now he, and others like him, are posting what they’re going through. The problems range from quitting smoking to anxiety, many men post about unhappy or unfulfilling relationships, being dumped. Some of the time they seek advice, and at other times, they simply vent. Gunn-Smith and others moderate the forum, they don’t allow members to get down on each other.
When someone posts something about an issue they are going through, lots of people post to say that they’ve been there and what they have done to cope, or even what hasn’t worked for them.
Gunn-Smith said he isn’t sure how far the group will go, but they are considering setting up a foundation to create a space for men, especially single fathers who find themselves without a place to be.
In terms of numbers, it continues to grow. It currently sits at about 4,000.
“Everyday I got people joining, left, right and centre,” he said.