“We admitted that we were powerless over our addiction, that our lives had become unmanageable.”– Step One, Narcotics Anonymous
This is not another junkie tale, another solicitation for online sympathies and digital cheers. Alright, I lie. It is all of these things.
I’m doing NA meetings every Monday and on Fridays I see my therapist. I don’t have a sponsor yet and although I bought it more than a month ago, today is the first time I have properly opened my Narcotics Anonymous Step Working Guide with the aim of actually doing the work. Reading the words. Taking it in and applying it to me, my life, my condition.
“I am powerless…”
God. I wish that was just another filthy lie. Like the ones I used to tell myself and the world about my drugs. But it isn’t a lie. I am powerless. I’ve lost control. Or I never had control. Maybe I just had the lies I told myself?
I’m clean now. I haven’t used drugs for seven years and two months. But here I am again, standing in front of the mirror, staring at the wreckage.
This time, I tell myself, this time, it will be different.
I mean, I quit drugs easily enough. Only fell off the wagon once, back on the 15th of April, 2012. I’ve been clean ever since.
Everything is s’posed to be fixed now, dammit. Everything’s s’posed to be fine. And normal. And not all fucked up and chaotic and a mess of obsessions, compulsions and lies to myself.
So tonight I am working through the first exercises in the Step Working Guides. Here’s my take on the work in progress I call “My Recovery”:
“What does the disease of addiction mean to me?“
First off, can we not call it a disease, please? Yes, I know – I know. SO many studies confirm it. SO MANY STUDIES.
I don’t subscribe to that term because I feel it gives me an out – a chance to sidestep accountability.
“Oh poor, poor me – I’m just the victim of a terrible disease, oh boo hoo! Woe is me!”
I detest the victim card. I hate it so much. And every time I say so, I get Well-Actually-ed up the ying-yang, by a bunch of pseudo-intellectuals parading around as Mr. Recovery, telling me I am wrong, and shame, my poor fellow addicts don’t need the judgement because life in recovery is hard enough.
Yeah. I get it. So why make it harder by using disempowering language like that…?
And then suddenly – boom! – there it is. Addiction is not just about obsessing, about compulsions and extremes, of a yearning for more. Addiction is fear. Addiction is hate. Addiction is othering. They are otherwise. You are otherwise. Me too, I am otherwise, different. Less. Less than. Worthless. I don’t work the same way.
Addiction is a disconnect. From relationships and self-care and health and progress and life. It is an attempt to escape the very things that I need in recovery. Discipline. Relationships. Friends.
Addiction is overthinking all these things and then trying to fix them by obsessing on their polar opposites:
So “I am NOT an addict who isolates, overeats and lives on my phone.” becomes “I will go out
every night of the week, meeting new people, I will count every calorie and measure every
step, I will delete all the apps off my phone”
“I only live for the moment, I deserve to enjoy the money I work hard for.” becomes “I will not
spend a cent, I will save it all and not go out, not go out, not have a life.”
Everything swings from one extreme to the other.
Addiction, then, is a total lack of moderation.
“Has my disease been active recently? In what way?”
Yes. Food. Can’t get enough of it in.
Yeah, I know – Narcotics Anonymous and here I am discussing my compulsive gluttony. But here’s the thing – though I have been abstinent from drugs, my disease – my condition – has become active in other areas of my life, specifically overeating.
A wise man I met in the recovery rooms in Cape Town always said “I am not addicted to drugs, I am addicted to more.”
I feel you, bud. More. More of everything. More candy and more cheese and great big trays of Salame Milano and bags of crisps, and juicy burgers and giant steaks and then when that’s all done, hell, bring me some more. When I hear people complain they are full after just a few bites, I want to yell “Well, you’re just not trying hard enough!” – because there is so much food, and I work with it and when I am isolating (another way this condition is manifesting in my New! Clean! Sober!TM life.) I match the hours of tedium with masses of junk food.
I eat until I feel sick, but the feeling passes like it always does and then I stuff more food in. If it’s in the house, I will eat it. And if it’s not – well, that’s what we’ve got Uber Eats for. My digital dealer, delivering my drug of choice to my front door fourteen hours out of every cycle of twenty-four.
So yeah, my disease has been active recently.
“What’s it like when I’m obsessed with something? Does my thinking follow a pattern?”
“I’m hungry. No, I’m peckish. I’ll just have a few slices. Better take the whole tray to my room so they won’t see if I decide to come back for more later. Not that I will, obvs, but you never know. It’s fine. It’s just this time. I’ll be better tomorrow, tomorrow I’ll go for a run and a swim, and I’ll do a keto meal plan, and a workout plan, and I will be better, I promise, I just need this now I need it I’m hungry ok FUCK YOU I’m shutting the door because I don’t need your goddamned judgement and fuck you, I’ll show you – I’m eating it all, AND the stuff I bought for tomorrow, so don’t say another word, ok.”
I know that reads like I’m talking to someone else, someone that’s here with me now, complaining about my overeating yet again. Except I’m not. All that venom is a reaction to my own inner bile spewing self-loathing. Calling out the “disgusting fat pig who is so fat and sweaty and shit at self-care and oh go on, you big fat piggy – have another bag of candy, you deserve every bit of hate you get…. “
“When a thought occurs to me, do I act on it immediately?”
Every single time. Even if it’s 3am.
“How does the self-centred part of my disease affect my life and the lives of those around me?”
I’m unhealthy and ashamed. My clothes don’t fit. My friends and family are worried I’m eating myself to death.
Hey, you know what? Yes, I’ve had those thoughts. Suicide by sour cream. If I just binged on bacon, rare steak and sour cream, ice cream and milkshakes, wouldn’t that speed up the inevitable? We’re all just passing time, waiting for God, anyway.
“How has my disease affected me physically? Mentally? Spiritually? Emotionally?
Same. Same as what I told you earlier. I’m heavy, unfit, ashamed, and unhealthy. Any meal could be my last supper, so to speak. It’s just a matter of time.
“What is the specific way in which my addiction has been manifesting itself most recently?”
I feel we’ve answered this, yes? It’s overeating. It’s obsessing. It’s a lack of control. It’s…oh… it’s powerlessness. Jesus. It’s goddamned powerlessness.
I am powerless.
Here we are again.
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