I was reading something that reminded me of the dreaded “Living Clean” NA book of drivel that some people like to read from in meetings… I recall that book being tiresome enough for me to have pointed it out in a meeting, despite my preference not to criticize the brain-dead to their faces. It’s that bad. The whole book reads like a contrived motivational message and conveys little substance – but in the guise of wisdom. There are a lot of words, written in the exasperatingly happy sentimental style of Reader’s Digest articles by bored senior citizens who get excited about growing vegetables. Those words are just words, worthless until you impose your own meaning on them.
Full disclosure: I have not attended a meeting in about seven months, and have no intention of ever attending one again. But something I read elsewhere reminded me of this, so I decided to seek out and download some of it, to see if it really is as bad as I remember.
So I found this, on page 127 of Living Clean… (“Approval draft”, whatever that means. Not sure if it’s the same version I’ve heard from before.)
A Spiritual Path
The steps are a path to spiritual growth. There is no separation between the “spiritual part” and the rest of our program. Just as the facets of a diamond are not separate from the stone, the spiritual aspects of our program are not separate parts; they are perspectives on the whole. It’s all spiritual. Our understanding of what that means may change over time.
Sometimes we think of spiritual principles as separate from the actions we need to take, but in fact they are connected. Spiritual principles give us a language through which we develop our values and learn to live by them. The principles describe our beliefs, our actions, and the reasons we act. Our relationship to the principles we practice is creative. We learn from day to day to use them in new ways, in new combinations, to better express who we are and to help the people around us. When we understand them better, we are able to act more consistently with what we believe. As we practice spiritual principles, we discover that this doesn’t “make us spiritual” at all. Instead, we are awakening to what has been going on inside us our whole lives. Spirituality is our natural state.
So there you have it. So much bullshit. I found that in twenty seconds after downloading the book (via the table of contents, obviously. I don’t read that fast). So it’s pretty random, and yet an excellent example of why I hate NA.
The language used is vague and open to interpretation. It starts with the dogmatic assertion that “There is no separation between the ‘spiritual part’ and the rest of our program… It’s all spiritual…”, then goes on to obfuscate what spiritual actually means. No surprise there really, because religious folk tend to keep god and spirituality vague and undefined. So to practice this program, the people who do so tend to reinterpret what spirituality means, and define their own higher powers. Working the steps involves years spent jumping through those mental hoops if you don’t happen to believe in any god, and then you forget all about your individual issues that caused you take drugs in the first place (except you don’t really forget – or work through your problems.)
In the end, working the program is nothing more than a distraction, and a poor one at that, but one that believers insist is the only way. So working the program as the true believers do involves wasting your life and your time on bullshit as quoted. That may work for some people but probably not most people. Maybe it works for those who are so desperate as to abandon their critical thinking facilities, and for some who enjoy enforcing the rules defined by their stupid program on others. Sadly that’s the way it is. Those who enforce the rules and are there to help others, who pass themselves off as caring, well-meaning people to family members and other loved ones of addicts, are often nothing more than bullies in a system where the adult addicts are forever treated like delinquent children, and come to think of themselves that way. Either that or they’re recovering addicts themselves and are true believers, which is even worse. They’re like well-meaning priests in a cult of morons, with faith that is infectious to the desperate and impressionable addicts wanting to be drug-free.
Furthermore, the second paragraph implies an argument from morality – the fallacious idea that we get our morals from a higher power. (“Spiritual principles give us a language through which we develop our values…”) That it is implied rather than stated directly is something I find even more sinister. Those who follow this nonsense often do not realize how deep they are in the realm of the imaginary; their lives and what drives them is a belief in absolute nonsense, and arguing with them becomes a waste of time and effort because they are often indoctrinated into the program and a way of thinking that is cult-like rather than of any real benefit. False hope may work for some, but not for all. I like to use the metaphor of recovery being something that anchors you to living and staying clean. But an anchor needs to be something real, not something imaginary. I can’t anchor myself to anything via a belief in nonsense.
Of course the believers will always say that I am not truly in recovery (No True Scotsman, anyone?) but I don’t care. (Two years and two months clean now, and as far from drugs as I can ever be.) What really gets to me is that I went into recovery a few years ago, and the first time I did not get it right. The reason it didn’t work was simple: I went into it expecting something tangible, something meaningful, something to help me live my life without drugs, and instead, I had to hear and read the kind of outright nonsense as quoted above, every fucking day.
It’s no wonder so many people relapse.
Pity the addict who has no choice but to rely on such a “spiritual” program. Pity the addict who is forced into it and is not an idiot, because only an idiot can believe the bullshit quoted above. But pity even more those who accept that 12-step programs are the only way to stay clean and sober, and abandon recovery altogether because of it. It is those people who are the victims of a system that can not work for intelligent people, and those people who are subsequently judged and seen as failures for rejecting the vile program. What is needed is more rehabs based on real science like psychology, and therapy such as CBT that actually works, rather than spiritual woo.
To conclude, if you are looking to stop using drugs and are not one of those people who can blindly accept the nonsense of 12-step programs, i.e. you’re not the type of person who can be indoctrinated into following a religion or cult, you’re in trouble, because that is the accepted way to do recovery. That is the situation you will find yourself in, and in my opinion, that’s why so many people do not recover successfully. Oh, you can try to go with it anyway… Work the steps and tell yourself it’s not bullshit; good luck to you. But my advice if you are an addict and are intelligent, is to find something else to anchor you to a life without drugs. Not NA, and definitely not the book of rubbish, Living Clean.