I’m in Limbo

Last night in my nightmares, I couldn’t breathe properly. I shifted awkwardly between asleep and awake, laying thinking of one memory in particular that haunts me – my mother on that Tuesday night before I dropped her at the hospital on Wednesday morning; my mother sitting at the dining room table after walking from her bedroom to the lounge, just a few meters being enough to leave her out of breath, sitting there panting with her head in her hands. I laid there thinking that, and then shifting back to sleep where I dreamed that I was the one struggling to breathe. Then I woke confused, uncertain if this was a dream or if I really did struggle.

I’ve started wondering if this was really a sensible time to quit cigarettes. My last smoke was quite late on Thursday night, but the craving has been quite intense since then. But it’s not just craving – I’m angry. This anger flares up in response to tiny things that should be insignificant. I don’t remember ever craving meth like this, but I am craving a cigarette. The part of me that wants it begs and pleads, insisting that all I need is one; that I can bum from my neighbour, Mervin downstairs, who normally bums from me. But no! I shut those thoughts down each time, by playing back that mental image of my mother, sitting there with her head in her hands as she struggled to breathe. I hear her voice, as she called me on her last day, a week ago yesterday, to tell me that they would try to drain the fluid from her lung using a needle. I thought I’d see her later that day. They were supposed to help her, not suddenly kill her! That’s why I’m still in shock. And I think of how she died not two hours later, but also that she might have lived much longer if she’d quit smoking sooner. I need to quit and not give in to any cravings, so that I can live longer, for my son.

So I have motivation, but it’s hurting. The more I think about it, the more it hurts.The grief and sense of loss is otherwise not as bad as it was a week ago. It’s still bad, but it’s OK. But the not smoking thing is really fucking me up. Even my sense of the passing of time is different without nicotine. I don’t know how that can be, but some annoying tasks, such as pulling off from a traffic light… seem to take much longer now. The waiting for the lights to change from red to green… seems much longer than it needs to be. I used to take a lot of smoke breaks as well, sometimes before and after doing just about every little thing. Now I have all this extra time and no clue what to do with it.


I quit smoking, and some clarification on why I don’t debate theists (again)

Two unrelated subjects today, but both were on my mind as I tried, in vain, to fall asleep last night.

I’m done with smoking cigarettes

I’ve tried half-heartedly to quit before, but was always quick to give up. In fact, I’ve often wondered how it could be that I gave up meth easily more than five years ago, but cigarettes were the one addiction I held onto.

But I think I have an answer: Just like five years ago, when I had motivation, I have motivation now. It’s a week ago that my mother died of complications trying to treat lung disease, most likely cancer caused by smoking. So just like when I quit meth, I am quitting cigarettes “cold turkey”. No pills or cigarette alternatives, no 12 step program – not that they do that for smoking cessation, but I am comparing this to quitting meth… No “just for today” nonsense because this is for life.

I hope this gets easier because I am craving a cigarette right now. But that’s OK; I craved meth for a day or two as well (after quitting at the end of a week), and then it got easy the next week.

Why I’m not going to debate you; the theist who attempted to initiate a debate yesterday

I’m not going to write who it was or quote fully. Long term readers might be able to figure it out, but that doesn’t matter because it absolutely does not apply to that one person only.

First of all, I do not get “defensive when criticized”. It’s avoidance. When you try to push me into a debate, I politely back off. It’s not defensive and I am quite capable of being aggressive as my arguments are good. But I don’t want to. I see no value in debating you after already explaining my position multiple times, only to have you stampede into yet another attack on me while caricaturizing my position.

I am not arrogant about this. To condescend and accuse me of arrogance when I do not believe I have a personal relationship with the creator of the entire universe, is more than a little ironic. Look at yourself a little closer.

As an atheist, I do not say, “There is no god”, at least not as a start to an argument. That’s a possible conclusion. Unlike you, I would never start with a conclusion. I reject the claims that gods exist. I don’t accept them, and I don’t make a counter claim that a god doesn’t exist. To accuse me of claiming to have special knowledge is dishonest after I have explained this literally every time you or anyone else tries to push me into a debate.

Since I was also indoctrinated in my youth, I understand the theistic perspective. When the arguments used always caricaturize my position, and with the type of arguments used, it is clear exactly how many theists think:

  1. You believe you “know” god exists, but won’t admit that.
  2. That is, every argument starts with the implicit assumption that god exists. Everything else (that isn’t about some straw man of atheism) is then using motivated reasoning to continue believing what you already believe.
  3. You assume that atheism is some kind of polar opposite of theism, so you project this opposite claim that “there is no god”.

Since the theist not only starts with his conclusion, but also argues against himself in the form of a twisted projection of some kind of assumption of what atheism is, and ignores everything I say, there really isn’t much point to debating.

Even when I did debate in the past, it was never to win. Watch or read any debate and pay attention to those who observe and support the debaters, not only the debaters themselves. In almost every case, both parties believe they won, and both groups of supporters believe their candidate won. Belief bias is strong.

I go into a debate with an open mind, and am always willing to learn. But there’s nothing to learn in debating someone who begs the question, someone whose premise assumes his conclusion to be true. You’ve lost before the debate has even begun. That wasn’t always a reason for me not to debate, but years of wasting my time have made it so. I used to debate anyway, ask leading questions and try to get my opponent to reveal their assumptions, bring the intellectual dishonesty in their arguments to the surface so that others might see it. But that got boring when every theist debater made the same assumptions and used the same arguments, while none of them are self aware enough to realize the assumptions they make. Or honest enough to admit what having faith really means. (Faith is belief despite no evidence. If you are truly honest about this with yourself, you would realize that it is not something that you can rationally debate.)

Edit: Typical… This cigarette craving is driving me nuts so I forgot to include one of the points that whirlpooled ’round my head last night as my insomnia dragged me over into the new day… Lastly, I am not insecure in my beliefs, unlike some people. I’ve written about this many times and that need for my point of view to be understood is less urgent than it used to be. There are years worth of material going back on this blog and anyone who wants to know my personal view, anyone who actually knows me in real life, can read it here and understand it better than I can ever tell you in words.

So don’t try to force me to debate, please. Save your arguments from ignorance and your circular reasoning and your gaslighting of my life and my beliefs or lack of beliefs.

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.)




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.



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.

Why Aishah is important to me

Let’s try this again… Hopefully this will be my last post on this subject for now, and I will try my best not to write bad things about Megan.

Background: Megan is my ex, and the mother of Josh, my ten year old son who is with me. Aishah is Megan’s daughter, so she’s Josh’s half sister. In September 2013, they moved in to my apartment, and on that day, I quit using drugs. (Meth.) Somehow the beautiful little three month old baby girl was my motivation to be clean, which has left me feeling guilty for years because Josh didn’t motivate me the same way.

I waited a year, and then with one year’s sobriety I took part in the two programs that were stipulated by a court order to get Josh back, as he was in foster care. I took Megan along and we did those two programs together. Eventually I did get Josh back (on 15 December 2015), but by then Megan had moved away. She only stayed just short of two years, then initially stayed close by for a year before moving to Cape Town.

Recently they stayed with us again for just over three months, with Aishah now five years old. These are some of the many things that Aishah did, making it impossible for me to stop thinking of her:

  • Every day, she waited for me to come home from work.
  • In the first two weeks, we had a “bring your kid to work day” at work, so I took both Aishah and Josh. They had worksheets they were given by the receptionist, who Aishah called “teacher”, having all the other children follow suit.
  • For weeks, Aishah would carry on writing on those sheets, saying she was “doing homework”. She stashed them under the bed, where they were forgotten.
  • Every day, she’d ask me, “Are you going to work tomorrow?” and try to convince me to stay. We used this opportunity to teach her the days of the week. She knows them well now.
  • Even though she’s old enough to eat on her own, she’d insist I feed her, or wouldn’t finish her food.
  • Every night, she’d insist that I brush her teeth, or that she brush teeth with Josh and I.
  • After they were here for a month or so, she decided that she preferred to be bathed by me, not “mommy”. Actually it was like this for most things while I was at home, even brushing her hair.
  • She’d sit beside me when I played Diablo 3 on the X Box One, demanding that I “Sit back” so that one arm could go around her.
  • She played too. At first, she had to “finish all the bounties (in a town)”, and then she learned about key wardens and infernal machines, which she called “keyboards” and “machines”. She could navigate to any act to find the key warden, play it, and then go back to Act 1 to open the portal to the infernal machine. She also played standard nephilim rifts, but didn’t quite master the greater rifts which have a time limit. Sometimes some of the maps would confuse her or some of the monsters would frighten her, so she’d want my help. Also every time I levelled up, she insisted on putting my Paragon points on for me.
  • Every evening I play Diablo shortly before we all sit down and watch whatever series we are watching. (I’m a creature of habit.) While I play, my mother makes me a cup of coffee. Aishah loves coffee and would often drink half of mine. Megan did not like this, just like she didn’t like me giving Aishah soda at night. I don’t see a problem with such things… Sugar rushes are a myth, and if giving children what they want, but not doing so excessively, makes them happy, why not? After all, a happy child is… happy.
  • Sleeping arrangements were awkward, since my mother has the children’s room. My room has a queen size bed and a single bed, one for Josh and one for me. At first, the plan was for me to sleep in the queen size bed with Josh, so Megan and Aishah would sleep in his bed. But Aishah wanted to lie next to me. Both children wanted me to turn to them, so to compromise I’d lie on my back, with one arm around each of them. Then they’d fight over who could put their hand on my chest. Another compromise – they’d each get a turn on alternate days. After Aishah fell asleep, Megan would move her to the other bed; then she’d sneak back to me in the middle of the night. Last night I slept like that, reaching out my right arm to where Aishah used to be.
  • I’d take both children to the park, and Aishah would love me to push her on the swing.
  • Every day, she wanted me to play hide and seek with her.
  • When I get tired over weekends, I put my glasses on the table and lie down. She’d pick them up, bring them to me, and say “Put on your glasses”, meaning she wanted me to play with her. Other times when she was tired, she’d say “Take off your glasses” and then take them off and put them on the table, showing me that she wanted me to lie down and nap with her.
  • Every day she asked when it would be warm enough to swim. I took her to the pool, and she’d just play on the steps, waiting for the time when I could swim with her, but they left before that time could come. Even on the last day she asked me about this, and I had to tell her that she wouldn’t be here. (It is warm enough now.)

Those are just some of the things that I remember. No doubt I have left out many others. I literally can’t do anything without thinking of Aishah, and it breaks my heart that they left so soon.

For reasons that I can’t understand, I’ve been blocked on Megan’s phone now. Before these three months, we used to call them every night, so that I could speak to Aishah, and Josh could say goodnight to his mother. Now he can’t. Effectively she has blocked her son too and it breaks my heart.

Here is Aishah playing on the steps at the pool:




And here she jumped on my shoulders while I played Diablo:


She was settled and happy here, and our bond was unbreakable. I love Aishah. I can’t look at these photos without crying, and I can’t fathom why this bond had to be so abruptly and cruelly broken. It’s not right.

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.