“Hi my names Steve and I'm an addict.”
What a load of rubbish hey? I remember the first time that I said those words. I was stoned out of my face (on pot), had drank 2 cans of lager and then wondered into my first NA meeting. I sat for 90 mins and listened patiently, as the other members shared their “experience, strength and hope”. I waited for answers, but none came. At the end of the meeting, I was the only person who had not yet spoken, and there was still a couple of minutes of sharing time left. 10 or so expectant faces turned and looked at me. I guess I felt obliged to open my mouth.…
I told my story(briefly), that I had been off of heroin for nearly 2 months, that I had been kicked out of treatment, and that I was now looking for some support in achieving my goal of staying clean. It was only later that I discovered that to them, clean means complete abstinence from all substances. I picked up my 30 day key ring and then ran out after the serenity prayer so that none of them could hug me (I had heard about this hugging business, what a bunch of weirdos!!).
I returned a few days later, as I thought that surely I must have missed something. There must be more to it than just a bunch of weirdos sitting in a room talking incessantly about God and powerlessness, sponsors and taking inventory. I was right, there was a lot more to it, but none of it was gonna help me get clean. I kept going, but regularly voiced my opinion that I didn't believe in God, or that I thought that this part of the program was untrue, stuff like that etc. I was assumed to be sick, if not a complete lost cause. I don't think that many people held much hope for me, especially as I stated that I was just there to stay off of heroin.
As well as this, I saw 1 man completely ostracised from the group. I heard a “respected member” slagging him off and purposely attempt (and succeed) in preventing him from getting any service. I asked other members what was wrong with him, and they all agreed that he was a nutter, sick. He would not help the group (surely the group was there to help him, not vice versa?).
After a few drinking bouts that went a bit tits-up, I decided to get “properly clean” and got myself a sponsor. I tried to work the steps, but could not bring myself to put much effort into doing so, as they made so little sense to me. I still don't really understand what step 1 is about!!
Anyway, i drank again. Several times. After attempting to do it “their way”, and failing, I found that going back was a humiliating experience. Although faces always had smiles on them, underneath I knew that the other “addicts” were thinking “OK smart arse, ready to stop ya stinking thinking and do it properly this time? Or are you really a lost cause?” Eventually I resolved to do 90 in 90. I lasted about 7 months this time. I attended AA meetings, as other addicts said that I had a problem with alcohol, and there are not many as NA meetings in the UK, unless you are in London.
I still refused to believe in God. I remember hearing one member state that “If you have managed to get clean without inviting a higher power into your life, then you are not a real addict. … ” I asked if this meant that I wasn't a real addict, seeing as I never prayed and didn't believe in God. He smiled and repeated what he had just said. Never mind all their bollocks about “the only requirement for membership” etc. I had had my “inventory taken” and had been declared a non-addict (obviously my 3 years of heroin addiction was not criteria enough). This attitude permeated around the rooms like the smell of a bad fart.
I also saw many people slagged off behind their backs. I remember a whole “group conscience”, which lasted for over an hour, being devoted to discussing a member who had been accused of 13th Stepping (sleeping with an addict who had less than a years clean time) NA liked to regulate the sex lives of its members. I really object to that, to anyone judging other people's relationships. The person concerned understandably got angry and began to shout and threaten violence, after someone equated him to a rapist. Remember, this is a consenting sexual act between 2 grown adults…
I have gained a stalker, a man who tried to help me, and now that I have left insists that I see him once a week. I lack assertiveness, and have been unable to tell him to leave me alone. I justify this by saying that he helped me, that he gave me my computer (the one on which I am typing this), all sorts of reasons. But the truth is that he creeps me out. I am not sure what interest he has in me now that I have rejected the entire program, but I can't help but think that he has “feelings” which go beyond simple friendship. Maybe not gay, maybe just a sad old man. But I know that the relationship is strange.
I remember the day that I left. I was talking to a friend about how NA and AA were cult like. I had come across something on the internet, and whilst I had not thought about it too much, it had struck a chord. My friend didn't believe me, so I went home and looked it up again. I came across the Orange anti AA web site. What I saw was like an epiphany. It reminded me of what I had first thought of NA when I went in. I realised that I had been “brainwashed” by people sicker than myself. I stayed in the next evening and read more and more and more about the true nature of the 12 step religion. I resolved to have a drink.
I have the following to say on that matter: I have rarely drunk to excess. I had a problem with heroin, and nothing else. I feel that my drinking has always been under control. My life has certainly not become “unmanageable” since I started back on the booze. I have 1 or 2 cans most nights. At the weekend I may go to the pub, I may not. I certainly am a million miles away from any sort of “rock-bottom” with alcohol, as I was with heroin. Some people can drink, others cannot. I personally believe that it is not a problem for me. If it ever does become a problem, i will stop drinking. I will not need to invite a higher power into my life to do so.
When I left NA, I told some friends about what I had found out. People that I had sat in meetings with, whom I had personally 12-stepped. I was told that I was sick. I have been pretty much ostracised from my buddies in NA. Some stay in touch, but mostly i am ignored. So much for the unconditional love that I was supposedly offered. One person even told me to “die alone” please. I have also had many people try to invite me back. I guess they figure “once a sucker, always a sucker”, and that I am still a ripe prospect for their cult.
In the UK, NA is the only “self-help” group available for drug addicts. No SMART or any of the other rational recovery groups are available. If you are lucky, you may find yourself in a Christian rehab. Other than that, there are methadone clinics. …
I truly despise the 12 steps. Having read other peoples horror stories, I am convinced that AA/NA are pretty much the same in both countries. The Americans are of course much louder in their meetings (when have you known the Brits to get enthusiastic about anything? We can't even run away from a terrorist attack without displaying our renowned “stiff upper lip”!) Apart from that, you can expect the same thing here as you can over there. It is not a pretty sight. …