Recovery memes that piss me off. You are not a victim. You are responsible for your mistakes. You are entitled to nothing, least of all trust.

I just saw this shared by a friend on Facebook:

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I’m not going to comment on her post this time because she seems to take my comments the wrong way… although I mean no disrespect.

Here’s the thing: I am absolutely not sorry for the person that I became. In six days, I’ll be two years and seven months clean (which is not very long compared to many other people, by the way), but I am not a different person. I’m the same person who made those mistakes, the same person who made some terrible choices. I am sorry for the choices I made, but admit I made those choices. Me, not some fucking disease. I admit that I caused harm to other people, and the fact that it was unintentional changes nothing. By admitting this, and by accepting that the consequences were my doing, I take responsibility for all my choices, the bad and now the good. I also take all the credit for rebuilding my life, my career and for being the best father that I can be. But I don’t hate who I was, because I am still that person. I also believe that failing to take personal accountability for everything, the good and the bad, would be a huge mistake. It would mean never moving forward. And it would probably mean almost certain relapse. I pity those who hate their past selves. I am, and I believe everybody else is, a product of all my choices and all my deeds. I learn from my mistakes, but do not shy away from them or pretend that was a “different me”. It wasn’t. That kind of attitude would lead to disaster.

There’s another one this same friend shared… I can’t find it, but it was more or less like a combination of these two, stating (paraphrased), “Don’t judge me. You don’t know what I’ve been through.”

(Note that I am only criticizing these motivational memes in the context of recovery from drug addiction. The same sentiments when expressed for other types of recovery – for example recovery from domestic abuse or from depression – would be valid.)

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I call bullshit on that one too. It’s easy to say, “Don’t judge me” and it’s even easier to say “You don’t know what I’ve been through” but what you’ve been through, at least in drug addiction, is irrelevant.

What you’ve been through was your own damn fault. When you choose to use drugs, and you choose not to stop despite horrendous consequences, you get what’s coming to you. Everything that happens to you is caused by you, so fuck you and your pity party. Your “disease” is not a reason to duck responsibility for your choices. Nobody needs to walk in your shoes to understand you because it’s all your fault. This is just another contrived motivational message, but also one that’s misguided. Oh, it’s very nice to share and you’ll always have friends who click like, but that does not change the fact that you need to take personal responsibility for your choices. Furthermore, it’s not just you who gets what’s coming to you, it’s everybody else in your life, which brings me to my next point…

As a recovering addict, you don’t get to tell other people not to judge you. That’s not how it works. People do judge you, and so they should. You fucked up, and you broke their trust. Judgement is one consequence of that, and one of the many things that you need to face. Trust isn’t always lost forever, but you don’t get to decide when other people should stop judging you. Being clean is commendable, but an attitude of entitlement is bullshit. Trust, and by extension not being judged, is earned, and that takes time.

Thanks for reading.

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About Jerome

I am a senior C# developer in Johannesburg, South Africa. I am also a recovering addict, who spent nearly eight years using methamphetamine. I write on my recovery blog about my lessons learned and sometimes give advice to others who have made similar mistakes, often from my viewpoint as an atheist, and I also write some C# programming articles on my programming blog.
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5 Responses to Recovery memes that piss me off. You are not a victim. You are responsible for your mistakes. You are entitled to nothing, least of all trust.

  1. Well said. One of the things I try to get my students to do in my classes is take responsibility for their actions. Most of them are so used to putting the blame on something\someone other than themselves that it can be hard for them to see that they keep choosing the same things. The common denominator in each situation is them. I think the biggest failing of 12 step programs is the lack of personal responsibility. It allows people to relapse and blame “the disease”. It removes personal power. Because if it is the disease, than there isn’t anything they can do.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jerome says:

      Yup, and that’s one of the reasons I hate 12 step programs. Step one is “I admitted I was powerless over my addiction; that my life had become unmanageable.”

      So the very first step teaches this concept of “powerlessness” and an attitude of not taking responsibility. Then it goes downhill from there.

      Regarding that friend of mine who shared the meme… I met her in rehab in 2009, and her boyfriend was in rehab for the 32nd time. She was not far behind. She’s now in early recovery again, and sharing those kinds of memes. It is clear in my mind that anyone trying to recover, and getting it wrong so many times (even though they are sincere – and I know they are)… that their approach to recovery, namely 12 step programs, does not work for them. Sure, that placebo works for others, but at some point they need to wake up and realize that it doesn’t work for them. But she doesn’t want to hear my criticism.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Jerome says:

      Now I see she shared a meme with photos and this text:

      I used to think that friends were the people you could laugh and talk to. Now, I know that friends aren’t that, they’re the people that touch your hearts. They’re the people you can share your secrets with, cry with, laugh with, and just have fun with. They don’t judge you or make you change. They accept you exactly as you are.

      It looks reasonable enough, but I still think it’s a dangerous attitude to have. Friends and family shouldn’t judge you, sure, but what constitutes judgement? It seems a little fuzzy. It seems to me that people who don’t like to take responsibility will define any constructive criticism as “judgement”. With this attitude, you can just write off everybody who tells you the truth that you don’t want to know, and hang onto the ones who don’t really give a fuck, or meet you in recovery.

      The sad truth is that real friends (and family) don’t always stick around. When they are betrayed enough times, they lose all trust in you and give up on you. But with work and long-term clean time, you can win them back.

      So it’s just another feel-good bullshit motivational message, but the underlying and unsaid attitude still involves not taking responsibility, not moving forward and trying to push all the bad things under the rug without facing them.

      Having said that, I don’t think my ex ever faced her past or her wrongdoings and she is about 3 years clean now. What works for one doesn’t apply to all, but for me, taking responsibility was an integral part of what makes me who I am, and allowed me to go on, emotionally and intellectually. Without taking responsibility, I fear I would have relapsed.

      But I do believe that kind of attitude is unwise, and hope my friend can stay on the straight and narrow. (I use the term “friend” loosely here. This is somebody I met in rehab in 2009 and haven’t seen since about March 2010 when I left. I suspect that she thinks my comments to her are judgement, but they’re not. But I also think that her and everybody else I knew from that rehab is so far down the rabbit-hole of believing in 12 step woo, I will never be able to convince them that there is another way to do recovery.)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Kristin says:

    Just stumbled across this. Thank you so much for your words. This is the reason a close loved one is still wallowing in her addiction. She refuses to believe its her choices that got her there. Glad to see you are clean and continue to be so. So hard watching a person kill herself slowly, without regard to anyone who is helplessly watching.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jerome says:

      Hi. I didn’t know it would happen but… I wrote this after realizing that this friend, whom I met in rehab in 2010, had relapsed at some point and was then recently back in recovery. She was a heroin addict and I’m sad to say that she died in August this year. I wrote about her and others at the time here.

      I totally forgot that I wrote this post about her attitude earlier in the year.

      Like

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