Journey To The End Of Night
Adventures in Active Addiction and Recovery — A Philosophical Perspective

Jun
07

 In an earlier post I described my disatisfaction with the steps as presented in the literature of NA and AA (CA uses the AA ‘Big Book’). 

Don’t get me wrong here — I LOVE this fellowship.  My fellow NA members saved my life.  Nevertheless, as my head has cleared and I’ve matured in the program, I’ve come to believe some of the basic premises are simply unacceptable — complete and total powerless over our addiction, for example, and the notion that we were ‘beyond all human aid’, the idea that nothing short of direct intervention by the master of the universe himself could keep me clean, etc.  This is a bit too melodramatic for me.  I had a psycho-physiological problem.  I sought help.  My doctor provided medication and recommended I join a group of fellow addicts for the mutual understanding and support that comes from fellowship with those sharing a common bond of addiction and recovery.

I encountered this article while browsing earlier.  Why reinvent the wheel?  This guy has captured the essence of my thoughts, perhaps better than I myself could have.

 

Religious Bias In The New NA Literature — An Insider’s View
by Clifton John Walker
March 31, 1992

Reprinted with permission from
Journal of Rational Recovery; all rights reserved.

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  1. We admitted that we were powerless over our addiction, that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
    
— from: The Twelve Steps of Narcotics Anonymous 
 

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Most Narcotics Anonymous members are quick to point out that NA is “a spiritual, not a religious program.” At each NA meeting someone recites, “Anyone may join us, regardless of … religion or lack of religion.” The book Narcotics Anonymous tells us, “At some point, we realized that we needed the help of some Power greater than our addiction. Our understanding of a Higher Power is up to us. No one is going to decide for us. We can call it the group, the Program, or we can call it God….We don’t have to be religious to accept this idea” (page 24). In NA, we take it for granted that we don’t need to believe in God to work the program. I think the proposed new Steps and Traditions book may change all that.

 

It Works: How and Why, due in 1994, assumes that all NA members believe in God, leaving no room for other belief systems. It professes a very specific understanding of God, affecting those Steps that, on the surface, have nothing to do with God. It is difficult to explain bias like this to people who believe in God and who follow the popular understanding of the Steps; but to those who believe differently, this bias can stand out like a sore thumb.

The latest draft reveals a pronounced lack of sensitivity to the diversity reflected in NA’s membership. Every reference to higher power appears to mean only one thing: God. As a concession, they substitute some occurrences of the word God with phrases like “Higher Power” and “Power greater than ourselves.” Why bother!? In each case, without exception, they are talking about a personal, omnipotent deity. Other views of higher power cannot easily be reconciled with the ideas presented here.

The new literature presupposes a God with a set of standards that we cannot possibly meet. We appear to owe our happiness, our recovery, and our very existence to Him; consequently, we owe Him our loyalty, reverence, submission, and obedience. In other words, as long as we practice humility toward Him, our relationship with Him will be okay. We will be fulfilled, and somehow (this book says), we will not return to active drug addiction. People who believe in God should find this book very useful.

The religious bias goes much deeper than the descriptions of God. The meaning of each Step conforms to a single view of higher power — a “loving God.” Obviously, a nonbeliever will deal differently with the direct references to God, but what about the Steps that do not refer to God? Let’s examine this book’s theocentric interpretation of the first three Steps.

With God in the picture, Step One changes from a simple admission to an act of surrender. The exaggerated idea of complete personal powerlessness promotes, among believers, a stronger need to rely on God; however, a person who accepts the message of personal powerlessness but then rejects the doctrine of the saving grace of God is in big trouble. They may conclude that they are powerless to change. When this happened to me, I did not seek recovery again for six years.

For me, Step One was simply the recognition of my drug problem and admission of my need for change. Contradicting the idea of complete powerlessness, the Serenity Prayer encourages us “to change the things we can.” Step One continues to be a positive and motivating reminder to keep drugs out of my body.

In Step Two, this book characterizes recovering addicts as utterly incompetent individuals, conspicuously in need of a firm guiding hand in all areas of our lives. The most vivid examples include the counsel to follow a sponsor’s suggestions and to follow the advice heard in meetings. The book says nothing about first examining the advice to see if it makes sense. It says that “addicts staying clean is compelling proof of the existence of a [Higher] Power,” and tells us to “pray, even if we don’t believe.”

It Works never comes close to describing my experience: that we are people with drug problems who simply need some help. I had to be shown that complete abstinence is entirely possible, and is the only solution to a drug problem. I used positive examples to help germinate and maintain my desire to stop using. People taught me some tricks to staying clean. I had to stop isolating to look at the bigger picture. Only by dealing with others can I adjust my attitude, learn coping skills, and develop self-esteem. This is interdependence, and I learned it by working Step Two in a manner that seems realistic to me.

The Step Three commentary admonishes us to admit just how thoroughly self-centered we are. Any attempt to do things “on our own” is connected to our struggle “to force things to go as we want” in “fruitless attempts to control everyone and everything” — as if symptomatic of our rebellion against the authority of God. Our inability to become perfect and our unwillingness to surrender is contrasted against God’s perfect goodness.

Since the goal, here, is an admittedly unattainable “perfect harmony with God’s will,” we can never expect to complete Step Three. “It is a decision we can make perfectly, but not live by perfectly.” By saying this, we could rob ourselves on much needed dignity and degrade the integrity of the Steps. But, the book says, “without a willingness to make this decision [to allow God to work in our lives], there is no chance for recovery.”

As a nonbeliever, I simply cannot, in all honesty, work these Steps as described. Step Three was symbolic of a decision to change my outlook on life. I trust the natural healing process and allow my thoughts (my will) and my actions (my life) to begin reflecting this trust. As a bonus, I can work this Step completely because trusting the natural process (and doing all I can to aid that process) does not require any sense submission, surrender, obedience, or any quest for perfection.

I don’t know what to say to the NA Literature Committee. They appear to follow the will of a representative majority that precludes people who left the program because of the emphasis on God. If NA accepts the challenge to develop literature that can benefit a wider variety of readers, they will need to throw this book away and start over from scratch. Frankly, I don’t expect this to happen.

Clifton John Walker

Jun
07

I came across a fairly extensive collection of speaker tapes, mostly NA AA & CA workshops and keynote speakers from conventions. To the best of my knowledge — I’ve not listened to all these — they all work. Except — the one I most wanted to hear, Jimmy K., founder of Narcotics Anonymous. Bummer. Maybe I’ll get the file working in the next couple of days. It sounded all sped up, like Alvin the Chipmunk on Salvia Divinorum.  If you download it and somehow manage to make it intelligible, please, by all means, do let me know!

I have more but unfortunately their size exceed the maximum allowable by wordpress. Once I get my hosting service in order I plan to include a more extensive collection.

Anyways, I now have approximately fifty speaker tapes available for download from a variety of Narcotics Anonymous conventions, workshops, meetings, and other events.

Enjoy!

Jun
06

The anonymous fellowships, NA, AA, and CA, are programs of rigorous honesty.

If I were the most powerful man in the world, or the strongest, or perhaps even the most insipidly stupid, it would be easy to tell anyone and everyone the truth. What the hell would I have to fear? When power is real, that is, secure, power fears no truth. Truthfulness with subordinates is no great accomplishment. However, the two way street of honest and open communication runs solely between equals. In the rooms of the anonymous fellowships, where no one has anything on anyone, where clean time, service positions, the past, income, social status, etc. don’t give anyone a one-up on anyone else, where all that matters is the common bond we share — recovery from active addiction — we encounter a degree of honesty unequaled anywhere in the outside world. If the rooms were to become unsafe truth would cease to flow in them. I have never seen anyone hurt or damaged or put down for sharing honestly within these safe confines.

Anyone who’s ever fooled around with a tarot deck is familiar with the first card of the pack, the zero, or fool. In many packs he’s represented as a healthy looking young man, striding confidently forward, eyes focused on the sky, completely unaware of the fact he’s about to step off a cliff. Were I to carry into the world without the sort of rigorous honesty addicts share with one another, I’d be taking it one foolish step too far, and would soon take a great fall.

Why are Narcotics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous, and all the other anonymous twelve-step fellowships, programs of rigorous honesty? Because self-deception fuels addiction. It’s clear that we need to stop deceiving ourselves.

Nevertheless, I cringe inside when I hear the all too common stories of sponsors encouraging addicts to plead guilty in or otherwise not to fight beatable cases. Sure, some may have left our American Gulag in better shape than they entered but that fact alone goes nowhere toward establishing the validity of the system itself. Acceptance is commonly confounded with submission. Politics and social structures like our gulag mean little more than bad weather to me. I can’t control them — at least not without putting forth much greater effort than I’m willing to (I consider activism a less than futile — far better to focus on oneself, tend one’s own garden). The same holds for weather. It rained the other day. I didn’t resent the lack of sunshine but accepting bad weather does not mean I must submit to it by getting cold and wet, possibly sick. I threw on a parka, carried an umbrella, stayed dry. If I were small enough to dodge raindrops, I’d have done so.

So the question here is to whom do we owe this rigorous honesty, apart, that is, from ourselves? There are people in my life I cannot be consistently honest with because to do so would be to consistently shoot myself in the foot. I’d be hobbled for life. I have no problem whatsoever when it comes to withholding information from — even outright lying to — those who do not have what I consider my best interests at heart.

I will not take advantage of others by practicing deception but when it comes to my recovery and my life and to those near and dear to me I will protect myself and my own by any and all possible means.

Judges, juries, prosecutors, attorneys, executioners — let them do as they will.

We owe them nothing….

Jun
06

Since ‘Journey To The End of Night’ is so new, I’m short on content at the moment, but plan to post new articles on a daily basis, at least one every day.

Future articles already in the works include:

‘An Addict Named Webster Helps Define Spirituality’

‘The Snafu Principle: Honesty — To Whom Do We Owe it?’

‘Spirituality Without God’

‘Friedrich Nietzsche The Convalescent.’

‘Step Three Without Deity’

‘What They Don’t Tell You About Suboxone In The Treatment Centers’

and more…

Jun
06

My name is not important and I’m a dope fiend, been one for over twenty years – that is, until I bottomed out and checked into a rehabilitation center almost exactly 180 days ago today. Better check yourself here – if you want to read textbook program material you ought to just click off this page right now. I’m no Nazi! Although I know damn well I’m an addict and have been around the rooms of NA/AA/CA (Narcotics, Alcoholics, Cocaine Anonymous) some time now, I am not, nor will I ever be, wholly indoctrinated. Along with a number of other addicts besides myself, I have a lot of issues with the twelve step approach and with the literature in general that I don’t care to discuss inside meetings. Inside a meeting, members share – we don’t debate, criticize, question. So a whole plethora of questionable ‘truths’ are taken as given. Quite often I feel the message is ‘Here are the beliefs you need in order to recover. Believe it or don’t – your choice. But you can’t recover unless and until you do.” That’s fine for meetings which by nature are centered about applying the principles of the literature to daily life. Meetings are not philosophy classes. Nor should they be. However, I feel a real need to ‘step’ back and engage in a critical discussion, particularly with respect to the importance of God. Having worked the twelve steps once already myself, I’m not unqualified to do this.

My spiritual awakening took me back to atheism.

I might sound a bit harsh to the believers out there but try to look at it from my perspective for a moment. In treatment (I have never heard of a treatment center that was not AA based) I listened to counselors sound off ad infinitum about AA being a ‘spiritual not religious program’. On my second day they took us to a meeting downstairs. We closed with the Lord’s Prayer. That’s not even non-denominational, let alone ‘not religious’. Our culture is so steeped in Judaeo-Christian spirituality that individuals who’ve never been exposed to ‘alternatives’ (many of which I’ll explore here) tend to feel their principles are universal. Atheists and agnostics in the program are not only implicitly expected to change, like the guys in the stories who solve everything on their knees, but are expected to want to. That’s just not me.

The term ‘higher power’ frequently appears in the literature but is replaced in the steps by ‘God’ — except for in number two.  It’s easy to see where Bob and Bill were going with this — the restoration to sanity by a ‘higher power’ must involve coming to believe in God because when we get to step three suddenly the ‘higher power’ talk disappears and it’s time to ‘make a decision to turn one’s will and one’s life over’ to God.

As an atheist (right now the sole definition of atheist I want to get into is one who does not believe in the existence of anything even remotely resembling the judaeo-christian/muslim deity partaking of a ‘loving and caring’ nature — more philosophical and metaphysical definitions of ‘deity’ don’t merit the personal connotations the word ‘God’ bears) I think of this world as a savage garden, a beautiful, but for the most part, hostile, place wherein resources are limited, the competition over them endless and brutal, the only warmth, love, and compassion to be found that which we find it in ourselves to offer one another.

It’s important to state that my purpose here is constructive. My intent isn’t to bash the program but rather to be of service to addicts who may already be reaping the benefits this support system has to offer but are sitting on steps because the ‘god-talk’ turns them off. A fundamental tenet of my belief system is that spirituality and atheism are NOT mutually exclusive.

I’ve created this blog to share my experience of active addiction and of recovery, to provide information, links, and feeds to valuable resources, and to focus particularly on my approach, as an atheist, to the twelve steps. It’s not my intent here to argue for or against any particular form of spirituality but simply to share my own.

Furthermore, it’s important I mention that although I do speak as a member of a twelve step program, I do NOT speak as a representative of the anonymous fellowships. The views expressed herein are wholly my own. A man I hold in high esteem once said, “An addict with a great idea is a terrorist”. It is for that reason that I strongly encourage my readers — especially those new to recovery or still in active addiction — to seek out as many perspectives as possible, read everything out there on the net and in the bookstores, and discuss everything with everyone.

Be forewarned that, now and again, I find myself unable to resist engaging in off topic rants. I’ve just set the focus but will never hesitate to deviate from it, contradict myself on a near daily basis, meander here, there, everywhere, indulge myself in whatever musings suit my fancy any given day. Today, the above concerns remain foremost in my mind. I’ve got a lot of the vagabond philosopher in me and am as open and experimental about this stuff as I once was with mind and mood altering chemicals. You’ll see me bouncing all over the place — this is primarily the journal of a recovering addict.

Nothing more. Nothing less…

Jun
06

I prefer strong weather. I’d like for a tsunami to hit Japan next week. I express my preference by pissing in Lake Michigan.

That’s about how effective voting is. Never mind the flip-side of the same coin nature of our alternatives… A very muchness of the sameness presented as choice.

I’m proud to say that at nearly 35 years of age, I’ve voted but once — years ago, against my better judgment. A girl I’d been chasing wanted to go to the polls.

The only way to change the world is to transform oneself.

End of Rant….

Jun
06

The American Middle Class knows several fashionable usages for the notion of “being gainfully employed” First, there are the workers. These, steotypically, men, work, that is, perform repetitive manual labor with their hands. A step above the workers of the world and more safely ensconced within the confines of the middle class, stand the ‘white collar workers’. At the low end of the wage scale, these persons “have jobs”, “get paid”, and “work”. Another step higher leads us to the professions. These people “practice” the content of their respective fields, law, accounting, medicine, etc. They do not “work” but “have careers” and instead of getting paid they “earn salaries” or “make commissions”. The purveyors of The American Dream would have us all strive to roost as high as possible on this totem pole. Not that we all can, nor even want to. I’m speaking of ideals here. Let’s get down to Earth.

Most people work jobs. A job is something you’d rather not do. People work their jobs each day to survive. A job is a trap. Nine to five leaves little time nor energy to live. In their ‘free’ time workers get to do a little consuming of their own, eat, and sleep. Watch news. Get informed. Next day, the cycle repeats, feeding upon itself endlessly. Most people trapped in a dead end job will move on to a higher-paying but equally dead end job at some point in their lives and so the story goes even unto death. (Which due to heart healthy lifestyles and exercise programs workers roll about these hamster wheels years longer than ever before! Many think this a happy thing!) Some of us are not surprised when men “Go Postal!” The real surprise is that so many lack the spirit.

It’s transparently obvious. Unless man was placed on earth to click and clack attack a cash register, shelve items, and make fudge for rich folks, a person seeking self-realization and happiness will never find fulfillment in modern society, that is, in the workplace. Self-fulfillment is a trans-workplace, post-modernist phenomena. And it costs a lot of money or the willingness to live without much money and to set oneself apart from the mainstream.

It requires superior courage and drive to seek out and immerse oneself in an alien culture or sub-culture, to live alongside the workers and the automatons, but wrapped inside one’s own alternative reality.

End of Rant…

 

Jun
06

I’ve been using drugs for approximately twenty years, since mid spring or early summer of my fifteenth year. I utilize the present tense because today I still use one – Suboxone, the opioid agonist/antagonist preparation combined with Nalaxone. I’m grateful for the fact that today, when I speak of drugs, I use the word “drug” in the singular and not the plural form. I limit my intake to a single eight milligram tablet of Suboxone, one half in the morning and one half in the afternoon. For the purposes of this article, the why and wherefore of my drug use is not so important. I will mention, however, that my motivations have always been twofold: 1.) to manage and, when possible, eliminate chronic pain, ( 2. ) to get straight fucked up, real high, trip, have visions, ‘turn on, tune in, drug out’, see shit move, ( 3. ) to compensate for painful inadequacies.

Dope is expensive stuff, some of the most penny precious shit on planet earth. Excepting the more exotic phenythalamines, synthetic narcotics mostly unavailable in the U.S.A, and the rarer botanicals, I’ve used just about everything – in most instances extensively. There’s no street drug I haven’t been into at least briefly, though my crack fling was blissfully brief – just a couple days. Street drugs aren’t really my thing, however, although I’ve done my share. My true specialty consists of psychedelics and prescription drugs, schedules II, III, & IV – primarily narcotics, stimulants, and minor tranquilizers then anti-depressants, major tranquilizers, and synthetic testosterone preparations to support, synergize, enhance, and control effects and side effects.

Needless to say, I’ve spent a great deal of money courting the ghost of that beautiful oxycodone/amphetamine honeymoon near fifteen years ago today. It lasted about two to four years at the end of which period I had amassed four large cardboard beer cases chock full of empty prescription bottles. I kicked my first major habit at this point and, as I had been contemplating a lawsuit against the doctor I intended to claim had ‘turned me on’, I had the Pharmacy in Schedule II-Ville print up a record of all prescriptions I had filled within that four year period. The resulting paperwork filled over an entire ream of standard twenty pound bond paper – that’s a shade beneath five hundred pages of data. I’ll compensate for my tendency toward exaggeration with a conservative bias – as I don’t have the records before me, I can’t verify the facts ( and I shared like the overly generous motherfucker I’ve always been, didn’t take it all myself ) but it’s reasonable to admit to filling well over five hundred prescriptions in a four year period.

Co-pays varied over the years from a low five bucks to anywhere from twenty to fifty dollars and because I always managed multiple fills per month often paid straight out of pocket. At five bucks a pop it would have been a reasonable three or so grand. In reality it was likely more than ten. At full price, minus insurance coverage, I’d easily have spent between half a million and a million dollars. Compared to the Rx’s, the grass, hash, acid, psilocybin mushrooms, Hawaiian baby woodrose seeds were just a piss in the wind, financially speaking. Let’s say, maybe, four grand. Factor in drinks to a grand total of say $4500 bucks or less, likely less. As I said previously, I’ve, like most addicts, a tendency to exaggerate my consumption.

I managed to graduate with an honors degree in philosophy in the mid to late nineties. At that time I kicked the vicodin, percodan, and the amphetamines while ramping up the marijuana and my alcoholic intake. I worked as a bartender and a liquor store clerk/stockman and I devoted every penny to getting and remaining intoxicated for as long as humanly possible. I drank for free before, during, and after work at a Brew Pub but habitually purchased round after round for others. I skimmed the till and handed out free beers in exchange for large cash tips. I loved my job. The cocktail waitresses were pretty, the beer was free ( high grade micro-brew ), and pills were everywhere.

I discovered Methadone and the good times ended. Over a two or three year period Methadone, Ritalin, and dextroamphetamine probably cost me a few grand. Say three. This run lasted about five years. By then, I really knew how to work over a doctor. I set my sights high, always wanted the best. There’s probably another ten or fifteen grand here in costs – without factoring in associated medical expenses and associated costs.

It’s important I mention here that although I often enjoyed the fringe benefits of being on all these drugs – until my health declined to the point that life became hell — I have a legitimate chronic pain condition and so far as opioids are concerned was exercising my right to the treatment modality of my choice. Drugs were at the time the sole effective treatment for my condition. I am not so puritanical as to feel guilty over the fact that quite often I enjoyed my medicine. I’m living a different choice today but insofar as doctors and insurance companies, etc. are concerned, my conscience is entirely clear. Years ago I made inquiries regarding Suboxone at some of the most prestigious pain clinics. I was told the side effects were brutal, the pain control mediocre. These guys are so poorly informed. I not only control, but for the most part eliminate, with 1 Suboxone tablet the same degree of chronic pain for which huge quantities of other opioids proved inadequate. It’s unfortunate (and very ironic) that in order to finally obtain it, the other narcotics had to bring me within a hairs breadth of the grave, landing me in a treatment center run by a physician who does not believe it has any worthwhile pain killing properties!

As for how I’d have spent the money if I’d had it all to start with in one lump sum? On some extremely shady ( drug free ) shit most likely. It’s not something I think about though. I believe the real world is the sole possible one. That is, I don’t believe in possible worlds or any other possibilities apart from those that actually have manifested. This belief makes reality a lot easier to accept.

Jun
05