I don’t know how much sense the title makes to anyone else, but I will try to explain it. Excuse me if you’ve read my various takes on this before – it is one of those subjects I will revisit occasionally. The reason is this… Recovery has been easy for me this, the last time around. But I often say that I don’t have a formula, something that I can recommend to others. If I did, I’d present it and say that all you have to do is follow these steps to stay clean. But I don’t… It irks me. So this is an attempt to turn my personal experiences into some kind of formula, something that makes sense and can be repeated.
I’m now 3 years and seven months clean. There’s no chance that I will ever use again. But it wasn’t always like this.
I’ve written about the specifics of my cleaning up before, but will mention it briefly again… In my last stint using, I used meth for most of three years. I knew it wasn’t good for me. I knew I had to stop. Tomorrow. But tomorrow never comes. My son was in foster care, and I had a court order, and knew what I had to do to get him back, but I wasn’t doing those things. The longer this went on, the further he slipped away. If it went on much longer, I would have lost him for good. And yet, my usage was on the decline. In the last year, I slept every night, though not for very long.
Then my ex (and mother of my son) returned, with her daughter, who was three months old. I fetched them from the airport, got home, used some of the meth I still had, then threw the rest away and never used again. That was September 2013, and that was that. I’ve often given the little girl the credit for my sobriety, but that is an oversimplification. They stayed with me for about two years, and then left, but I remained clean, and did get my son back on my own. He’s been back with me for over a year. (Since 15th December 2015.)
After putting it off for so long, when I did finally stop, I made the decision not to use again. And that is what’s important. No bullshit, no excuses… No deluding myself that I was “powerless over my addiction and my life had become unmanageable”. Instead, I admitted to myself that I was always in control, that I had continued to use and make excuses to continue doing so for a long time. I took personal responsibility for that choice, and it wasn’t one single choice either by the way – it was thousands of choices to use and continue using.
To me, this is a more honest approach to that of following a 12 step program. It may be more difficult… The crux is, when you follow a 12 step program you are absolved of the responsibility. You get to claim that you were powerless. It’s a cop-out. It allows you to make the same pathetic excuse if you should fail and relapse. “It wasn’t my fault. I have a disease and I’m powerless”. Well, fuck that. It’s totally your fault every time you choose to use drugs.
By choosing to stop, and choosing not to continue making excuses not to stop, I was released from the supposed difficulty of staying clean. I could drive right on by the place where I used to meet my dealer, simply reminding myself that I had decided not to buy, and that this was a decision that I would not allow myself to change. Sure, it was difficult for a day or two, and a couple of weeks later it felt weird when my ex and her daughter went away for a weekend, because I was left alone and could have used without anyone finding out. But all I had to do was remind myself that the final choice was made, and that I wasn’t going back, no matter what.
The next thing I knew, I had not even the slightest interest in using meth. None. Thus I found myself in this position, struggling to explain how I got from there to here. So maybe part of it is this: I chose not to use, and I stuck to that choice. Whenever I had the opportunity to use, I reminded myself that the choice was already made. And that made it easy.
It might sound like I’m oversimplifying recovery from addiction, but I am not. The difficult part is admitting exactly the opposite of what 12 step programs claim, admitting that you absolutely are in control, and are personally responsible for every bad choice, and every consequence of every choice. The rest is easy. It’s a mindfuck, because it is the opposite of what they teach in most rehabs, but it’s the truth, although it may be a truth that’s more difficult to accept than the nonsense you learn in 12 step programs.
Unfortunately, this is so difficult to accept for those who continue to believe in 12 step programs, that some have argued with me. It’s been suggested that maybe I wasn’t really an addict… (No True Scotsman fallacy.) Well, I was. My addiction was severe, bad enough that I lost jobs, lost the right to care for my own son for a few years, lost most of my possessions at one stage, and lived with voices in my head for a few years. There is no doubt that my addiction was bad. OK??? I can’t express this much more clearly, and have grown tired of trying to convince those who don’t believe me. My way of doing recovery may be more difficult at first, because it involves no higher power (I don’t believe in any), no meetings, no calling anyone for help, and the outright rejection of most of what I’ve heard about addiction elsewhere. So at the beginning, it takes strength of will and character and confidence, maybe more than some people have. It also means facing the fact that there you are responsible for all the shit that you’d rather not face, which is humiliating. But in the long run, it’s working for me. And the long run is what counts. The meth cravings stopped after a year or two – in fact I can’t remember exactly how long it took, but they did. And when I log into Facebook and read the god-awful statuses from others about the importance of their relationship with their imaginary friend, it’s like they’re in some other universe.
Of course, since I rejected the premise of the first step of 12 step programs, apart from rejecting all of the other steps too, I also reject the notion that recovery is something I need to keep working on. The “work” for me was all in my head, and staying clean was a matter of changing my mindset. Likewise, in my opinion, “working the steps” involves never moving on, but instead remaining in a mindset where you never take responsibility for your past, but remain at risk. Getting back to the idea of making this formulaic, I’m still at a bit of a loss. My ex and her daughter provided the initial motivation I needed. So I did need help, something to kick-start my recovery… Something to get me out of procrastinating, that is having “one more hit” and waiting for tomorrow. After that it was all me. (“It’s all about me”. They even criticize that, as if my life isn’t about me. It fucking is.) It was all about sticking to my choice not to use. Although it was more difficult at the beginning, this approach worked out to be easy in the long run, because I do not work on my recovery (and I never have). I think about it, in terms of where I was versus where I am now, and I try to think of ways of helping others. And of course I write about it. Beyond that, I just live my life.