If you find meaning in the voices in your head, you have two problems…

Urgh. Sometimes it pisses me off that I wrote that old post about how meth voices in your head start with pareidolia. It was intended to be an informational post, with a hint of dark humour, but basically just some anecdotes from my unfortunate years of living with meth addiction and hearing voices.

Back when I was a tweaker and heard voices, I assumed that most people who heard voices figured out that the voices were only in their heads, just like me. After all, I figured that out while high, paranoid, and delusional. (And I do mean delusional… Delusion is unavoidable when the voices seem so real. ) I assumed most, not all, because in those first few years when I was still a sociable tweaker, I did meet other tweakers who clearly heard voices and did not know it.

But reality came knocking in the form of a post where the comments never end, written by people smart enough to reach my blog after searching for meth voices, but who remain convinced the voices are real. To make matters worse, it’s not only meth-heads who find the post, but also others who hear voices and seek answers but do not want to accept the answer that the voices are internal to their minds.

I can not emphasize this enough… There is no meaning to be found in the voices in your head. No religious meaning, so you are not being contacted by gods or demons or aliens; no conspiratorial meaning, so no government or shady organization is trying to control you – and mind control is not a thing. Any meaning you perceive, anything at all, is delusion. There’s no shame in that, but if you hear voices and find meaning in them, you are delusional. Realizing it is key. It is better to be delusional and know it than the alternative, because that gives you the power to seek help. I am not qualified to advise you on what kind of help you need… I can only say that if the voices are induced by hard drugs as mine were, you need to stop using those drugs. Beyond that, the sensible thing to do is seek help from a mental health professional. I’m one of the lucky ones who didn’t need help because the voices stopped after I stopped using meth, and also every timr I stopped even for a week or so. I remain interested in the subject because I did live with them for several years, which leaves me empathetic to others who experience similar symptoms.

If you hear voices and are convinced that you have tested them scientifically and concluded they are real, or believe others in your household also hear them, or that you recorded them and can hear the voices when you play back the recordings, all of those things are part of your delusions. You simply can not trust your own thoughts about the voices. You don’t know the difference between the voices in your head and the conversations you’ve had with others. Every conversation that confirms them to be real happened only in your head too. If you play back recordings of the voices, you are just listening to white noise and hearing voices that aren’t really there… again. That’s how audio pareidolia works.

I’m writing this because of recent comments I received by someone who is absolutely convinced that the voices are real, to whom I responded only to have him or her claim to have tested the voices scientifically. I see no point in continuing that conversation. This is not something to debate. There is never meaning to the voices and when you claim that there is, you don’t convince anybody, you just come across as a crazy person. Unfortunately the last sentence is probably not entirely true… you may well convince other people who also hear voices. You may find an online echo chamber of people who also hear voices and share similar conspiratorial or paranoid views to yours, since there are some common threads among those who think the voices are real. That is not a good thing.

Seriously, I am out of ways of expressing this… The voices in your head are never real and there are no exceptions. There is no evidence for you to present to anybody to convince them that the voices are real (because they’re only in your head), and you are not special, not some inexplicable exception for whom the voices are real and do have meaning. Seek help before it’s too late. You are not alone. There are many people worldwide who live with voices in their heads. Help is available if you look for it, but arguing with some guy on the internet to try convincing him your voices are real is not the right way to go.


Update: It’s worth mentioning that pareidolia is when your brain interprets random patterns as something distinct. (This can be audio or visual.) With audio pareidolia this often means hearing distinct sounds, such as voices, in white noise. It just so happens that’s exactly how meth-induced voices start, but over time your brain gets “trained” to do this all the time. Vague voice-like sounds, such as the “cross-talk” described by the commenter in the linked comments on my old post, make way to fully fledged voices saying distinct things. (Add to this being high and paranoid, or mentally ill and paranoid, and you get delusion as a natural side effect.) This is why I can presume that hearing voices when you play back recordings of them is just an example of pareidolia again.

Interestingly, there is an entire bunk field called electronic voice phenomena (EVP) where believers actually listen to white noise and interpret the “voices” they hear as spiritual voices. They even use devices based on the idea of Frank’s Box to trigger the pareodolia. Such devices deliberately use either radio scanning or other means such as randomizing sampled voices in software to provide the audio source. Thus their entire field is based around assuming that voices they deliberately create in noise are somehow voices of “spirits”, which I find hilarious. So besides the people who live with either drug-induced voices in the heads or voices caused by some sort of mental illness, there are also people who are otherwise healthy but go out of their way to listen to generated white noise to find meaning that isn’t really there. There’s an overlap, of course, but people tend to be secretive about their drug use so it would be difficult to determine how prevalent drug use and/or mental illness is in EVP practitioners.

A related term is apophenia, which is the perception of connections between unrelated things. This often manifests as conspiracies. Maybe now you can see why I am interested in all these things…

 

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A recovery cliché I loathe: My worst day clean is better than my best day in active addiction.

I may have written about this one before, but I’d like to draw attention to it again. The statement is a lie, a “feel good” fake aphorism that recovering addicts tell themselves, typically while sitting in a circle sharing platitudes in an NA meeting.

Thinking like that isn’t just bullshit; it’s dangerous bullshit. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that even if we replace ‘day’ with ‘year’ in that statement, it remains bullshit. I loathe recovery culture in general, and back when I attended NA meetings, I’d hear platitudes like that one all the time. Honestly it made me sick because I am not the type of person who can just go along with bullshit because it makes people feel good about themselves. I found myself speaking up in meetings to contradict their pretend aphorisms more and more, and it is one of the reasons I stopped attending those meetings nearly four years ago. (I don’t miss them.)

I have no problem with comparing my worst day clean to my worst day using. That would make sense. But my best day? For fuck’s sake, why??? My best day involved being in love, having no responsibilities, having left my depression behind and for the first time in years, feeling good, confident, and alive. My best day was also around day two of a three day nonstop sex marathon and it was probably the high point of my selfish life. My best day, in retrospect, was the day I had the most pleasure in my life, after leaving a deep depression, and was arguably one of the best times in my life. My worst day clean was recently when my mother died suddenly last month, and I would have to be retarded to say that it was better than my best day on meth.

Drugs have benefits. They can do a lot of good. It is stupid to pretend otherwise. If they didn’t do good things for us, we would never have continued using them after they led to less desirable consequences. That is precisely what makes them so dangerous. They seduce us into depending completely on them and steal our very lives away from us. Who among us don’t know somebody who can’t have a good time without cocaine, but who is not considered an addict?

To deny the good that drugs did for you in the past simply because it suits your current narrative is to blind yourself from seeing the bigger picture. What if one day you relapse? In that moment, that second after the first hit, you remember the good things that drugs did for you in the past. It all comes back in the rush of the high of that first hit. It shatters the lie that your worst day clean was better than your best day high. And with that lie exposed, you might very well decide to leave recovery behind forever. Support built on a foundation of lies is not support to rely on. But if you don’t lie to yourself, if you acknowledge how much good the drugs did in your past, that first hit doesn’t have to go on. Even if you relapse, you can take back control and realize that the good feeling is fleeting. You can pull yourself right out of that hole. But if your recovery is based on false hope, on comforting lies, one relapse is the end.

But there is another way to look at this lie recovering addicts tell themselves. Another famous phrase they like to dismiss in recovery is “It’s all about me”. Ironically, to believe that your worst day clean is better than your best day high, it really must be all about you. If you truly aren’t concerned only with yourself, then some of the worst things that can ruin your day, or month, or year, are about other people…

Loved ones die. Relationships end. Marriages fall apart. Partners cheat. Children can be taken away even when you are not at fault, for example children you love, of a partner who leaves you, but who are not biologically yours. Those are only a few examples, but there are many more. Your worst day when you’re clean isn’t necessarily about you, but could instead be about others you care about. Thus your worst day clean can crush you in ways that bad days on drugs never can. You worst day clean might compare to bad days high, but to suggest it might compare to good days is simply an example of a statement that relies on sounding clever as long as you don’t really think about it.

In summary, this is why I could never stick with NA and a 12 step program. Besides what I have written about before, in terms of a higher power, which I do not have, such programs are always built on self deception and comforting lies. Such programs are built on bullshit. Not all of us can feel happy when we sit around in a circle listening to clever sounding bullshit to make us feel good – sorry! (Actually I seriously wonder if such statements are believed because of the “Deepak Chopra effect”… That is, when people hear a statement they don’t understand, they assume incorrectly that the statement is wise, just like clever statements that they don’t understand. But the truth is some statements are not “beyond” understanding – they are simply nonsense. This is probably also why people think Jordan Petersen is an intellectual rather than an idiot spewing pseudo-intellectual nonsense.) My life has to be built on something real. If comforting lies work for you, then kudos to you, but don’t repeat the hideous lie that your worst day clean was better than your best day using. Rather be honest with yourself.

Beating addiction–Part 1–Definitions and ground rules

It’s been a week since I gave up cigarettes. I’m not going to claim that I have it beat yet – I’m not even experiencing all the benefits of this healthier lifestyle yet, but tentatively it is looking like success. Tentatively it looks like my formula for beating addiction works. It’s looking like something I should write down in a form that others can try to reproduce. But not yet… Maybe I should wait until I’m at least a couple of months free of the cigarette addiction. In the meantime, this introductory post will lay out some ground rules, to give context to my sobriety objective and thinking around the subject. (“Objective”, singular, not plural, is not a typo.)

The objective of beating addiction

  1. Abstinence. Successful and lifelong.

There is only one objective. I’m not going to write a bunch of trite inspirational nonsensical platitudes about how you must make fundamental life changes, and blah blah blabberty bullshit.

Abstinence is about no longer using the drug. If you stop the drug, you stop getting the drug, using the drug, protecting the habit, lying about getting and using the drug, and so on. None of those things need to be the goal. Stop using the drug and those things will happen automatically. Keep things simple.

You don’t need faith

Nobody needs a higher power. Faith is belief despite no supporting evidence. A faith based approach to sobriety takes the focus away from you, the person with the problem, and externalizes your problem. It takes away your personal accountability, and takes away all the credit when you get sobriety right. That’s why, when I tell somebody I’m five years clean from meth, and they reply, “Praise God”, I always reply with “Fuck your God. Shouldn’t I be thanking him for my meth addiction?”

Forget about ‘Just for today”

Even on my first day clean, I never once said “Just for today”. This is for life.

There’s no such thing as a “dry drunk”

If you’re not drinking alcohol, you can’t possibly be drunk. Likewise if you’re not smoking meth or snorting coke, you’re not a junkie.

People who tell me I should “work on my recovery” invariably don’t work on theirs. Asking your imaginary father in the sky, or the fairies, or the fluffy unicorns in cloud cuckoo land, to help you, does not count as working on anything. It counts as false comfort and delusion. If you have faith in something, that’s great, but don’t fool yourself into thinking it helps you stay clean. And whatever you do, don’t impose that on anyone else.

This goes back to my only objective… If you abstain, you’re going to “work” on recovery anyway, because all the things you need to do to stay abstinent will come to you naturally.

Relapse is NOT ok

Back when I went to meetings and spoke to other addicts, I became aware of this mindset where relapse is OK. It is not. Relapse must be avoided at all costs. It isn’t a natural part of “working” on recovery. It’s a mistake. It‘s not the end of the world, and it isn’t a reason to give up – if you do relapse. But don’t go into this with the idea in the back of your head that everybody does relapse, which makes it acceptable somehow.

Therapy is good

Don’t knock talk therapy. It helps immensely to be able to talk to someone about your problems. You can’t think of everything by yourself, and a good therapist will give you insight into your life from a perspective that you may never see.


That’s all I have time for today. Further posts in this series will have a similar title and be tagged with beating addiction.

Facing the mirror – was it difficult for you?

After a recovering addict with her own blog linked to me (here), I’ve spent some time reading her blog. It’s well written and interesting, but I must confess my failure to identify… It’s been more than three years since I attended an NA meeting, and I haven’t been following any other recovery blogs. As time goes by, I find myself further and further removed from other addicts, even those who take an alternative approach to recovery. It makes writing about recovery incredibly difficult. I do so anyway because some people have said I can be inspiring, so I feel like I have an obligation to those who are still struggling with addiction, as I was for years, if for nothing else other than to let them know that one can change completely from being an addict to being someone without any remaining interest in using drugs; this is contrary to the oft repeated notion that we remain addicts who must work on sobriety for life as if addiction is a chronic condition. (It isn’t. Not for me, therefore there must be others who feel the same way. Right?)

When I first wrote about my addiction, I could do so with candor because I detached myself from the reality of living with addiction. I found that a good way of writing about horrific experiences because being detached meant I could be open but not feel vulnerable or ashamed. I’m no longer merely detached… I just don’t feel it any more. I identify neither with a desire to use nor a desire to “work” on being sober. There is no drive to strive to be clean without a corresponding desire or temptation to use substances. Sometimes I feel like an imposter because this doesn’t feel like an achievement – I’m simply living my life.

(Apologies – that introduction was longer than I intended, and the intended point of this post is going to be short.) This isn’t the first time I have not identified with other addicts… Back in 2010 when I went to rehab, the group counselor asked us to do an exercise called “Facing the mirror”, which sounds like exactly what it is.

Everyone was asked to go to the front of the room when it was their turn, and individually face the mirror. I don’t know if it was because she introduced this as a difficult task, but some people, who had been in the rehab for longer than myself (they ran a rotating three month course – but also did long term rehab of up to two years) absolutely could not face the mirror. Their shame and self-hatred was of such severity that some refused even to try.

I went to the mirror, and was like… “Hi, you good looking guy. Hey everybody, look at me! I’m beautiful!” Honestly, I did suffer with self-hatred at the lowest point of my addiction, but that faded instantly when I escaped my situation, and I never had an issue with my looks, even when I looked like death warmed over. Well, maybe my issue is narcissism. Or vanity. Sorry not sorry. It’s important to love yourself, especially if nobody else will.

So I wonder… is this “facing the mirror” thing really a big deal for recovering addicts? Maybe it was there only because the counselor primed the residents into that view by telling them it was? My Google searches on the subject are not getting decent results, and instead I’m finding nothing related to it.

Are you a recovering addict and was facing the mirror a big deal for you, and if so, did you eventually get over it? Help me understand… Is this about shame, self confidence, self esteem, self-hatred… what?

“It’s important to admit that you have a problem” is not a cliché. Here’s one reason why.

Excuse the clickbait-like title. But it’s not clickbait. If it were, it would list 40 reasons in a slide show format, with each page increment generating revenue for some twat somewhere.

Work has been hell for me lately, because one person has not been performing. The rest of us have taken up the slack, and there have been disastrously revealing progress meetings every day. It all came to a head yesterday with a client facing demo that went sideways.

I don’t believe my colleague is on drugs, but that doesn’t matter. This has all been a reminder back to when I was in a similar position in 2009. I’m not going to reveal any more details about then or now. Suffice to say, it ended badly for me. (The rest of this post is not about my colleague, but about addicts such as I was, and why it is important to seek help.) When something is very wrong but you aren’t open about it and don’t ask for help, there will be consequences.

Here’s what I should have done, and what I advise anybody in such a position to do: Go to HR, or to your boss in a small company, and tell them you have a problem. Admit that you are doing them a disservice by continuing to work and that you need time off to get the help you need, be it personal time, therapy, or rehab.

Of course that’s a risk. You might lose your job anyway. (Even if your country has a law stipulating that employers need to help employees who admit to such problems, you are still admitting to misconduct, which is probably a fireable offense.) You might lose your job, but you probably won’t. People appreciate candor. People respect you for telling the truth and taking personal responsibility for your problem. People do not appreciate denial and lies, especially if it hurts them financially, whereas someone who admits they need help demonstrates that they are taking responsibility and shows that they can be trusted. It shows a willingness to accept wrongdoing and to correct it.

In my case, I had medical aid, and could have gone to a three week fully paid rehab. That doesn’t sound long enough, but in reality it is more than long enough to get off meth. In the end, I did that myself (got off meth, I mean – no rehab and no “safe” place away from the reality of everyday life), but only four years later, over a weekend, and had to suffer at work through my detox, mood swings, and cravings. (Quitting without rehab is possible, but I don’t recommend it unless you know you can. I knew I would succeed because once I make up my mind, nothing stops me.) But if I’d followed this advice I’m giving in retrospect, I would have been nine years clean now rather than five.

The truth is, when you don’t seek help, you do harm to your employer and all your colleagues. You aren’t doing any good by staying at work. You don’t even care about your job. You’re probably paranoid and afraid of people knowing the truth, but mostly, you carry on working because you care about your drug. And that’s all. Your salary is important to you because it buys you drugs, and effectively you’re saying “Fuck this job and fuck my responsibilities”. In doing so, you deserve to be fired, because you are a liability and cannot be trusted or relied on.

Faces after meth

A few years ago, I stumbled on the so-called “faces of meth” online, with disgust.

The faces of meth, as usually presented, are a bunch of mug shots showing people after they were ravaged by years of meth abuse. Subjects in such photos are normally career criminals and/or people who spent years living on the streets. They exist normally with the pretense of being a deterrent from meth use, but really are nothing more than an excuse for low life arseholes to laugh at the misfortune of others.

Ironically, besides the fact that those photos are often so far removed from reality that everybody who uses drugs will actually ignore them, and removed just enough such that people tempted to use drugs will think “that could never be me“, they are often not even truthful. For example, the “before” shot of a pretty teenager before she goes down the road of meth and prostitution… probably shows her after five years or so of meth addiction, because most users start young.

Anyway, I thought I’d switch things around a little, and show you photos of myself, both at the worst of my addiction while at the lowest point in my life, and also now, at five years and one month clean.

My faces of meth

These were taken in May of 2008, with my son when he was one month old and I was 36, and in August of 2008. (Yes, he was born with all that hair.)

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My faces after meth

And these were taken earlier this evening, 8th October 2018. Note that there is a ten year age difference. Josh is now ten, and I’ll be 47 in exactly two weeks.

There’s aren’t even great photos. I suck at taking selfies.

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A disturbing search string

Somebody got here by searching for “would meth get kids as horny like it does adults”.

Firstly, that kind of moronic grammar really gets to me… “As horny like“? Really? Secondly, you should go to your local police station and ask there. Seriously, paedophiles deserve to be killed. So do rapists.

The last week or two, I’ve seen men (and even some women) defending rapists and rape culture. I’ve also seen numerous examples of prominent people blaming victims. It’s all over social media and it makes me sick.

I didn’t intend writing this. It’s just a response to all the shit I see all the time. For the record, a woman can walk down the street buck naked at 3AM, and she still doesn’t deserve to be raped. It’s never the victim’s fault.

Yes, using meth leads directly to voices in your head.

Every so often I see more search strings that lead people here as they try to find out if meth is causing the voices in their heads. It is. My most popular post on the subject is this one. Intended to describe how the voices start with audio pareidolia, the post goes a little further than just that. I suggest you read it as well as the comments, but also, I’d like to add some info around that subject today.

I like to think of myself as a rational, reasonable person, so before I first used meth, I researched it. At that time, around 2005, I didn’t find anything about it causing voices. That’s a pity. Maybe I’d have been sensible enough not to start if I had known. Anyway…

  • Not everybody who uses meth will hear voices, but you have no way of knowing for sure if they do…
  • Not everybody who hears voices knows they hear voices. Some people are oblivious or get delusional right away.
  • When they first start, the voices come and go, but the more you continue to use meth, the more they come and the less they go. Eventually you will hear them all the time.
  • If you don’t stop using meth soon enough, the voices can be permanent. They eventually will not stop even if you quit the meth. That’s why it’s really important to realize that the voices are a sign that your drug problem is serious, and that you need to stop before it’s too late. I can’t emphasize this enough… If you hear voices that aren’t really there, it means that something is going wrong in your brain. This is something to take seriously.
  • You can cope with the voices by controlling them to a limited extent. For example, if you’re paranoid and the voices are saying bad things about you, you can make them say nice things about you. I don’t recommend this and I’ll explain why further on.

If you read the linked post and the comments, you’ll notice that there are a lot of “me too” kind of comments from people who have experienced similar voices. That post has taken on a life of its own in the comments and I’ve left commenting on because it really shows how serious the problem is. There are also people who have lost the plot a long time ago, people who tell you the voices are from god, or demons, or government mind control, or whatever they believe in their psychosis. There are also loved ones of addicts who explain how they have tried to help but to no avail. And there are people who have stopped using meth but still hear voices.

The only time I recommend finding ways of coping with the voices is when you have already stopped using meth, but the voices are permanent. In that case, there are things like a “hearing voices network”. I don’t know where in the world they are and what they do. I know only that they exist. Good luck to you.

But if you’re still using meth, and hearing voices, quitting meth is the only thing to do. I don’t recommend controlling the voices, and here’s why…

The human brain is terrible at multitasking. Multitasking as we know it is a myth. For example, imagine that I have two programming tasks at work. They’re different projects. One is a WCF service written in C#, that uses XML. The other is a Node.js project in JavaScript, using lots of AJAX and JSON. To switch between them, I have to remember the difference between the programming languages used, what frameworks and API’s are involved, what the names of methods, variables and so on is, where to set breakpoints, how each program flows, what features or bugs I am looking at, and so on. Every time I switch tasks, I also have to switch context, and that takes time. The more tasks you have or the more often you switch between them, the more context switches your brain must perform, because you can only focus on one task that takes concentration and effort at a time. The reason you get nothing done if you have too many tasks to work on, is that you end up spending more time switching context than you spend working on the tasks themselves.

Coping with voices in your head is the same. You use your conscious mind to cope with them, whether it is to control and “listen” to them or some other technique. Every time you do so, you effectively context switch to an internal mental task. You disengage from the real world, from everybody and everything around you, and focus on this internal pointless task. Since you hear voices all the time, this means you spend most of the time disengaged from the world. From the point of view of everyone around you, you are doing nothing. You’re zoned out and staring into space, like a zombie. (This is on top of the already numerous symptoms you display from using meth. Pupils dilated, tense and grinding your teeth or cracking your jaw, twitchy, edgy, itchy, irritable, confused, either moody or abnormally and noticeably cheerful and silly, probably not talking too much because you have tolerance for the drug but still probably unable to sit still – or the opposite and not moving at all but focused single mindedly on a single and repetitive task, and so on.) You really do stick out like a sore thumb when using meth. It’s not the paranoia – people really do know something is wrong as you draw attention to yourself. They might not know what it is but they do know something is not OK.

Even if you don’t try to cope with the voices, you will end up “listening” to them, thinking about what they say – it doesn’t matter that you know the voices aren’t real. Hearing them leads to responding to them, directly or indirectly. Even trying to ignore them requires conscious mental effort, and as you hear them more and more while you continue using meth, you further disconnect with the world around you. The longer you go on doing this, the more often you forget that the voices aren’t real. (Sometimes it’s impossible to tell the difference. For example, I’d become paranoid and convinced that everyone I worked with was aware of my drug use. I’d hear them talking about me from elsewhere in the office. I’d hear it in their actual voices, as if from various distances and directions. “Voices in your head” does not suitably describe what you think you hear.) Eventually you will lose yourself in delusions and psychosis.

So this is my advice to anyone hearing voices from using meth: First stop using meth, and then, if the voices don’t stop after two or three days, seek mental help.


Obviously I’m oversimplifying here when I write “first stop using meth”. It’s not so easy, but then not losing your mind is one hell of an incentive to stop. It was for me.

The danger of treating addiction as a disease

When you treat addiction with a 12 step program, it’s about as useful as treating a driver who drove into a tree by talking to him about the tree. Why did you drive into this tree? Is it because the tree is green? Trees are good for the environment, you know? Let’s sit together and pray. Maybe write a letter to the tree and say sorry. Let’s go to a meeting and sit with lots of other people who drove into trees and talk about the trees.

My analogy is absurd, but accurate. As in my analogy where the problem dealt with is never even the driving, let alone finding out whatever caused such reckless driving, when you work a 12 step program, it’s never about your choices, let alone why you made those choices. They say, “look at the similarities rather than the differences”, and sure, we are all similar. We all fucked up in the same way. We all got dependent on drugs, felt isolated because we isolated ourselves, and once dependent, all developed the same sort of problems as a consequence of our behaviour. By looking at our similarities, we do nothing about our actual problems or their root cause, but sure, let’s sit together and ask a higher power to fix us. Or just talk to the fucking trees.

It only makes matters worse to then say, “But addiction is a disease”. If you have a disease that can’t be cured, you have a wonderful excuse not to stop using drugs, or to relapse and deny any accountability. “I can’t help it. I have a disease.” Well, boo-fucking-hoo.

Likewise, when you return to meetings, it is with the usual excuses… “I wasn’t working the steps properly” or “I wasn’t truly in recover” (Yeah, and you ain’t a true Scotsman either), but that doesn’t mean shit when the steps don’t address your real problem anyway. Relapse isn’t exactly encouraged, but it is taken as par for the course, so they condone it.

Make no mistake, addiction is a disease, but not for the reasons you think. Recently I found this out after asking the question on Skeptics Stack Exchange. Is addiction a disease? The answer surprised me but I accepted it because it is technically correct…

Addiction is a disease not because of evidence, not because of it being any kind of sickness, not because of it being a medical condition (It isn’t), but because it is defined as a disease. That’s all. It’s a disease because enough people have a problem with it, because the definition of addiction and disease itself are vague and open to interpretation, and addiction had to be catalogued as something.

Unfortunately that means two things:

  1. As long as addiction is assumed to be a disease, it will be used as an excuse either not to stop using drugs or to justify relapse, because you externalize the problem and never take personal responsibility, as well as fail to even try addressing the root cause of your behaviour.
  2. There are people who will use it against you. No matter how long you are clean, even if it is several or many years with no symptoms of addiction and no interest in using drugs, there are people who will claim that you always have a risk of relapse because you have a disease and can never have control, and these people will dismiss everything you say, and use it against you in any way they can.

I can’t do anything about the second point. As for the first point, my advice is not to assume it is a disease. It can’t be treated as one anyway, because there is no medical treatment for addiction. In the end, it doesn’t matter if addiction is a disease, a chronic condition, or something else, but treating it as a disease only leads to problems.

Clean time is not nearly as important as not giving up

At the end of last week I wrote my five years clean post and shared it on Facebook. One of my friends there, someone I care about even though we have never met and she is in another country, congratulated me and also mentioned that she had relapsed recently. This made me feel bad.

I always feel like a hypocrite when writing about clean time. This last five years have been easy, and when somebody congratulates me for my “hard work”, I always want to point out that I haven’t worked hard on this. Sure, I took part in two programs in order to comply with a court order to get my son back (and succeeded), but I did not start either of those programs until I was already well over a year clean and already confident that I would stay clean.

So I feel hopelessly unqualified to give anyone advice. I don’t know how I did this. I did struggle before. Those last three years were horrible. I remember one day in early 2011, I was in my flat alone, pacing up and down, telling myself, “I’m not gonna buy. I’m not gonna buy. I’m not gonna buy”… for four hours. Pacing from the lounge to the bedroom and back, repeating that line over and over again. And then I did buy meth, and I kept doing so until I quit in 2013.

I was high almost every day (and night), with an occasional six to seven days clean just to see my son, because my brother and his ex (who fostered him) wouldn’t let me see Josh unless I tested negative. Then I’d stop at a dealer and buy more on the way home. So if you can stay clean most of the time, and only use occasionally – the opposite of me in those three years… then you’re doing better than I was. Never mind clean time… just keep trying.

I was struggling just like every meth addict who struggles, and how I got from there to here, how I transitioned from someone who could not imagine not using, to someone who has no interest at all in using and who never craves… I do not know. If I were a religious man I might say, “God flicked a switch in my brain”, but that answer, which involves no thinking, doesn’t mean anything. I could tell you, “It was time. You have to be ready to stop” but that answer is trite and untrue. The real answer is I don’t fucking know.

I was no less of an addict than anyone else, and I am not special. Although I don’t understand how I really quit and stayed clean so easily, what’s important is that it wasn’t always easy for me. I struggled too, but my struggle was before this five years clean. This is why I don’t consider them such a special achievement. Achieving clean time when you have no interest in using drugs is no big deal. It’s getting there that’s the difficult part. If you are struggling, as I was, don’t give up. I don’t really understand what I did right, but if you are struggling and you keep trying, you can succeed too.


Update: Worth adding… Megan is also clean. After we went to rehab in 2010, they recommended long term rehabilitation for her there. (Two years.) I took a lot of flak for ignoring this recommendation, and my family members were quick to blame me when she relapsed. But despite that, after we both relapsed and split up, she cleaned up before me. That makes her six years clean. She is religious, unlike me, but she doesn’t do meetings either. So that’s two of us who cleaned up… We didn’t get it right straight away, but we did eventually get it right.

I know of many others, people in atheist and skeptic groups, who used to be addicted to drugs. And most of them quit without the conventional (12 step) approach to recovery. What I’m trying to say is that recovery is possible, and has been achieved by many people, most of whom are outside of “the system”, outside of NA, AA and other 12 step programs. Most importantly, outside of any area where statistics on recovery are collected. Any statistics you read about the small percentage of people who stay clean… exclude most people who stopped using drugs. Any person who tells you, when it comes to quitting drugs, that “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results”, literally has no fucking clue what they are talking about. When it comes to quitting meth (and other drugs) and staying clean, it is crucial to ignore everyone who says you can’t do it, and just keep trying.