Thursday, February 21, 2008

thanks, Parker

Thanks, Parker, for commenting. You win a (yet to be determined) prize for being the first person to comment!

I have been mulling over your thoughts and I'm glad that we can agree, disagree and even agree to disagree - and yet still be members of the same lifesaving group. (That's AA for you kids who aren't following along!)

I don't agree with everyone in AA. I don't have to. I bet I'd love hearing Parker's lead, or to hang out with him and his pals at the "meeting after the meeting." As long as my heart and mind are open, I am going to learn something from him.

Anyway, I still feel like a stickler about the traditions and how I see them sometimes being twisted and bent. But I also know that the line between alcoholism and drug addiction is getting thinner and thinner.

I've sponsored a few women who didn't identify as alcoholics at all - one was a heroin addict and another a crack addict. Neither of them are sober today (to the best of my knowledge)
- and that's not my fault. I shared my experience, strength and hope with them, tried to guide them through the steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and one stayed clean for a while and the other never seemed to be able to get it.

Was that because I don't identify as an addict? That is, that my substance of choice -the one that really did me in- was alcohol? Who can say... not me.

It's unfortunate, I think, that NA (narcotics anonymous) is such a crap-heap. I've never heard anyone say anything good about it. In my earliest attempts at getting sober, I went to NA for a while, thinking that I'd be better able to relate with the leather-jacketed, hyper-tatted punk rockers that I saw there. As it turned out, they hung out in a bar and shot pool. Every time I would hang with them, I'd check out early to hit the liquor store to go drink alone. I didn't use drugs during that time, but I continued to drink just as much as usual.

NA will never have the kind of healthy members it needs to sustain new folks if those who have been clean for a while (through whatEVER program) don't go back to help. If nobody ever goes in and says, "This is not a pickup joint! This is about life and death!" maybe it just stays the same. I don't know.

Years ago, there was an OA member who came to my AA women's meeting occasionally. It was a closed AA meeting, but I guess the oldtimers felt that it was okay for her to be there. I could NEVER relate to what she shared and I don't know if she could relate to us, but there she was, talking about food cravings followed by totally unrelated shares about... yeah, you guessed it: alcoholism.

I suppose the bottom line is that the OA woman was helped. None of us were, perhaps, but she was. And for a self-centered alcoholic like me, maybe letting someone else be the only one who benefits from something is a benefit in itself.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

is "a drug-a-drug-a-drug"?

When people tell me, "a drug is a drug is a drug," they are almost always defending the notion that AA should be open to people whose "substance of choice" is a drug, not alcohol. You know that I think open meetings should most certainly be open to those who aren't yet sure, or who might have a problem with alcohol... that sort of thing. ("The ONLY requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking.")

Last summer, I had a Big Book study group at my house. The participants were newer members of AA and lived at a local recovery house for women. They got upset about the singleness of purpose once, telling me such things as: "That's discrimination!" and "It's segregation!" and "If it helps drug addicts, they should be able to go, too!"

So I started to list some existing and made-up "-isms" and said, "Should those people feel free to attend closed AA meetings, too?" Do you think you can help the person with food issues? Sugar issues? Heroin issues? Sex addiction? Perhaps a grown man who feels that AA can help them not have sex with 6-year old girls? The person who is a work-a-holic... can you help that person?

At what point do you think we draw should the line? When you think about sharing (exchanging) experience, strength and hope, with whom do you think about sharing it? With people who will be able to relate? Whose own E, S & H you will be able to relate to?

When we broaden the membership of closed AA meetings, we water down not only the message, but also our ability to really help one-another.

Can I understand, in a way, the cravings of a crack addict? Sure I can. How does the crack addict feel about my cravings for alcohol? I've been told (by crack addicts) such stuff as, "You had it lucky - your substance is legal. You didn't have to feel ashamed about going to the liquor store to get it."

Well, those words are true, yet I did feel ashamed when buying booze. Ashamed, in fact, to the point of going to a different store each day. And not only ashamed about buying it, but of sitting on barstools being "cute" in order to get men to buy it for me when I was broke. And don't for a minute think those men were being kind-hearted and generous - there was most definitely a price for the booze they bought me and it included my body, my self-esteem and my self-respect.

I digress. I am not against helping people in need. If a friend told me that she was depressed, I wouldn't send her to an AA meeting, I'd recommend she see my therapist, maybe a psychiatrist for meds. If you told me that you couldn't stop coughing, I wouldn't tell you to go to an AA meeting, I'd suggest you see a doctor.

I can empathize with the depression and the cough, I've even experienced them. But my primary experience, strength and hope is not in those areas. It's in the area of alcoholism.


Sunday, February 10, 2008

the only requirement for membership...

At a recent meeting, a new woman introduced herself as an addict. In fact, when I was introduced to her before the meeting (like "New Girl, meet Sober Girl - she's been around for a few 24 hours...") she told me that she's not actually an alcoholic - she smoked crack.

"Aah," I said. "Have you been to any NA meetings yet?"
"Well, a few," she answered. "But I like AA better."

I suggested that she keep trying NA meetings -in addition to OPEN AA meetings, just in case it turned out she might also have an alcohol problem- so that she could meet people with her same problem. She shrugged and said okay.

Up in the meeting, she suggested the topic: She felt like she was suddenly so angry, how could she keep from erupting at her mother and two small kids?

Because she introduced herself as an addict when she spoke and (probably) because she mentioned in her share that crack was her drug of choice, it was pretty clear to anyone paying attention that this girl considers herself not an alcoholic, but an addict.

Here's where it gets sticky:

As people around the table shared on her topic, they seemed to edit their comments to include the part where she's an addict. For example: Keith said, " for me, calling my sponsor, going to meetings and praying really helped me to stay sober. Or, I mean, clean."

Another person did the same thing, changing "drinking" to "using." And on and on it went. My companion and I are both sticklers for the singleness of purpose and so while neither of our shares were mean or sharp, we did both emphasize alcohol in our shares.

After the meeting I said, "You know what? I think we [meaning just about everyone at the meeting] just made it too comfortable for a non-alcoholic drug addict to be in a closed AA meeting." My companion agreed.

I truly believe that by allowing non-alcoholic addicts to settle into AA, we (of AA) are preventing them from getting well.

Ray O'Keefe told a story that illustrates why I feel this way: If you took 100 pounds of cocaine and dumped it on a table in the supermarket and walked away, in a day or two, you'd have 100 coke addicts; if you left out hundreds of bottles of booze and walked away, when you came back, you'd have just a few alcoholics.

In other words, not just anyone becomes an alcoholic - there has to be some set of SOMETHING in place for it to happen (be it nurture or nature or both). Anyone can become addicted to an addictive drug.

Therefore, a drug is NOT a drug is NOT a drug (my counter to the ever-popular "a drug is a drug is a drug.")

The addict needs to talk to someone who gets being an addict. The alcoholic needs to talk to someone who gets being an alcoholic. They are related, those two diseases, and yes, both are addictions, but they are still very different.

So I say to all the alcoholics out there: Let's please help our friends, the non-alcoholic addicts, and direct them gently and lovingly to NA meetings.

Blogged with Flock

Friday, February 1, 2008

there is a solution

As many times as I've read the Big Book (of Alcoholics Anonymous), I'm always glad to read it again - from start to end, or picking it up anywhere in between.

I was just looking at the chapter, "There is a Solution," and this stood out:

"If you are as seriously alcoholic as we were, we believe there is no middle-of-the-road solution. We were in a position where life was becoming impossible, and if we had passed into the region from which there is no return through human aid, we had but two alternatives: One was to go on to the bitter end, blotting out the consciousness of our intolerable situation as best we could; and the other, to accept spiritual help. This we did because we honestly wanted to, and were willing to make the effort."

(You can see it for yourself here.)

Let's hear it again: ACCEPT SPIRITUAL HELP. Accept. Acceptance is key.

According to my Big Book Concordance, accept is noted in 23 places in the Big Book; acceptance is noted 15 times.

Think about it.