That time I attended an NA meeting while I was as high as a kite

I still get insomnia sometimes. Normally it happens when I try to get to sleep, but my mind decides to replay some random memory from ten or twenty years ago, forcing me to relive events, conversations, stupidity… and feel embarrassed all over again for something that everyone else involved forgot about a long time ago. I wonder if this is normal? But this time, I found myself awake a half hour before my alarm would go off, reliving a particularly stupid decision.

There’s not much of a moral to this story. If you’re looking for inspiration, guidance, or wisdom, you might want to skip this one and move along because there’s nothing here but an unfortunate anecdote today, with one tiny point buried in it somewhere.

It was around January or February 2011, so I was a month or two back into active addiction, and would not clean up until September 2013. I’d been awake for around five consecutive days, using nonstop, and was at that point of madness that meth took me now and then. That is, I was out of my fucking mind. I wasn’t hearing voices and that wouldn’t happen for about another year, but sleep deprivation had kicked in a couple of days before, and the meth had kept me awake, in that weird state where everything seemed kind of surreal and nothing mattered.

It was a Thursday, early evening, and on Thursdays at 7:30PM there’s an NA meeting in Blairgowrie Recreation Centre, a meeting I used to attend for a few months. It was a small meeting, intimate with only about ten attendees, many of whom I’d known for a while. So for whatever reason, I decided to take one last hit and head on over to that meeting.

I was also hungry, so I stopped over at a McDonalds on the way. Then I showed up five minutes before the meeting, and ate it right there in the room. One guy approached and greeted me… I’ve forgotten his name, not that I would write it here anyway, but he was a guy who’d started attending only about five months before, together with his girlfriend. They’d both been CAT addicts and Megan had exchanged numbers with them. (Megan, who was gone, having left me shortly after she convinced me to use again.) The guy asked me how I was doing and I told him that I’d relapsed. He asked me when last I used, so I answered, “About half an hour ago”, while I laughed my stupid head off and gulped down the rest of my burger.

That statement sums up my state of mind that evening. I was cheerful and nonchalant, artificially so, because the drug was serving its purpose and suppressing my true state of mind – a depression and sense of hopelessness that they didn’t get to see. I’m not sure what I was thinking… Why did I attend that meeting? Maybe I was hoping that somehow, something would just “click” for me, and magically give me the motivation I needed to clean up. So I was there, even though I had promised myself never to attend a meeting if I was using. Or maybe I just needed some company and I was so high I didn’t give a fuck?

The meeting didn’t help me, and I probably didn’t do any of them any good showing up like that. The guy who chaired the meeting was someone I had asked to be my sponsor about six months before. But that didn’t work out because as soon as I realized what sponsors actually did, I couldn’t go through with it. Step-work is bullshit and I don’t do bullshit. I’ll return to this point again, but one thing I learned about myself that night was this: There are some things I won’t do. There’s a line that I don’t cross, and no matter how bad things may be, not even desperation will drive me to do certain things.

So thanks to me, it wasn’t much of a meeting. The man who chaired it spent most of the time talking, all the while looking straight at me. (Or maybe I imagined that. I was hallucinating.) He spoke of the usual bullshit that he spoke of in every meeting – the five pillars of recovery: meetings, sponsor, service, higher power and step-work. (Oops. I’ve written about this before.)

But my brain is a funny little creature sometimes… As high as I was, as fucked up, my criticism for NA was already pretty solid. As I listened to what was spoken, I knew it was bullshit. It was devastating to me of course, that the only way I knew to do recovery was a bunch of bullshit.

There’s nothing much more to say about the meeting itself. It was a full meeting, not an express one like the other meeting I used to attend. That meant that both meetings were exactly the same (a fact that always bemused me), except the full one had a break in the middle. So I stood outside during the break, smoking a cigarette and watching the stationary cars sliding backwards and forwards in the parking lot, which I thought looked super cool and also kind of creepy. (I mentioned that I was hallucinating.)

Then another guy approached me. I remember his name, but will call him Peter in this post. (Not his real name.) Peter had given a share about his three years clean, from heroin, a few months before, and he was a good guy. I knew his ex girlfriend too. He tried to talk me out of using. He told me that I’d end up “sucking cock” to get my drug. So I tried to explain to him that there were some things that I’d never do. And he didn’t believe me. Even though he was the second straight man I’d met in recovery who used to prostitute himself to other men, the shock of hearing that anyone would do such a thing was still hard to swallow. (Horrible pun. I’m sorry.) So I laughed in his face. As fucked up as I was, I was also still smart enough to know that Peter was projecting, and that I could never convince him that what he’d done in his addiction did not apply to me. Plus he’d put an image in my head that really didn’t need to be there.

I remembered Peter’s three years clean share. He got clean through meetings. He was desperate enough to clean up that he walked for two hours every day, and caught a taxi, then walked some more, just so that he could attend a meeting every day. But that’s the difference between him and me: desperation. I worked for my money and used it (or any credit I could get from a dealer) to buy drugs. I was neither desperate enough to do any of the things that he did to get drugs, nor desperate enough to accept the bullshit that NA offered as a cure for my addiction. I didn’t know then how I would clean up, but I knew that desperation was not something that works for me.

On the way home, I was pulled over by two cops who were looking for a bribe. They insisted that I was drunk, and that I should go over to the station for a breathalyser – an obvious bluff because they didn’t want to abandon their post which I assumed yielded some good bribes, but I adamantly stated that I was not drunk and did not drink; and was just tired. I also showed them that I had no money on me, so they let me go. (Actually I did have money on me. But they took the hint that there was no bribe coming from me, and I used that money to buy my next hit closer to home.)

As stated… not much of a moral here. I was never desperate to clean up, just as I was never desperate to get my drug. And I was incapable of being that desperate. If you are desperate and are looking for a magical cure for your addiction, and you believe in god, then maybe NA can work for you. But it was never for me.

Or maybe there is a deeper message here after all? Sure, I was never desperate, would never “suck cock” to get drugs. Hell, that expression is not part of my vocabulary. When I had no money and no credit, I didn’t use – it was as simple as that. But generally I had money because I could still be a half decent programmer no matter how high I was. I also wasn’t desperate to clean up, not desperate enough to be able to suspend my intelligence and accept an approach based on magical thinking… which did leave me in a predicament. At the time, I saw no way out, and I continued to use meth. I wish I’d had something, anything to tell me otherwise. Even a blog like this one to tell me to believe in myself and that NA is bullshit that I don’t need to be clean. But I didn’t, and so I continued to use for a few years longer, until I found my own way.

Why do I still remember this, from the start of my return to active use, almost six years later? Someone who gave me a lecture at the end of that same year claimed, when I admitted to using that day, that I would not remember our discussion that very evening. It doesn’t work like that, not for me anyway. I don’t know if it does work that way for some people, but even if it does, don’t assume that we are all the same… If you do, you’re just like my friend “Peter” giving useless advice.

Some of us get to remember and relive every bad decision, every embarrassing moment – even years later. Maybe that’s a good thing? There are some really bad experiences that I can’t forget, and it helps keep me from making the same mistakes. (But why must I relive them? That part sucks… the laying awake and resuming years-old conversations in my head, with people I am unlikely ever to see again.)


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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