Saturday, April 16, 2011

A reply to John

Here is a comment that John wrote about a recent post of mine:

Hi excuse me if I seem rude, but having had a little scan of the blog and some of the comments you've left on other blogs that I knock about on, I've a question for you.

You follow AA. You seem to have bought into it wholesale, but without being an alcoholic. You also say you weren't sure of whether or not your father was an alcoholic.

I understand that it must be difficult growing up in a household that is emotionally distant, and chaotic through drink. I understand how this leads in many cases to a life of addiction.

You seem not to be an addict, although you seem to have a predisposition to it with some of your behaviours.

If you are not an addict, why would you surround yourself with drunks/addicts and constantly discuss it? Don't you think you're just looking for an emotional crutch?

I've gone through NA, and I loathe it. I know it works for some, but I think it's phoney and cliquey, and substitutes psychobabble and Higher Power bullshit for actually living.

Surely you should be out living your life, and not worrying about recovering from a problem you don't actually have. I guess prevention is better than cure, but I think, perhaps, you're using AA to cover up some other issues.

I've no intention to offend, but I'd be interested in your answer.

I'll do my best to clear up an apparent misunderstanding regarding my affiliation in recovery. I attend Al-Anon which is for those who have been affected by someone else's drinking. My wife is an alcoholic in recovery through AA. I cannot call my father an alcoholic because he never defined himself as that. He may have simply been a heavy drinker. He eventually gave up drinking altogether. So I don't really think that he was a real alcoholic. Nonetheless there was alcoholism in the family since his sister and her daughter died from it.

The reason that I go to Al-Anon is because I have been affected by alcoholism for a large part of my life. I am neither an alcoholic or an addict. However, you are right in that I have exhibited many of the same behaviors of an alcoholic such as low self-esteem, control, fear, abandonment and anger. Those of us who have lived with alcoholism may have unmanageable lives, even though we are sober.

I am married to an alcoholic who does go to AA meetings. I occasionally attend open AA meetings which have helped me to have compassion for alcoholics. I like to hear the solutions in recovery. I am around people who are actively seeking those solutions. There is a saying in both AA and Al-Anon about sticking with the winners. The winners are those who are not enmeshed in their disease and who are living in the solution.

I have found that my life since being in Al-Anon is much more balanced than before. I used to totally focus on my career. Now I am enjoying a variety of activities without guilt. Life is definitely to be lived fully. I am doing that every day.

As far as your thoughts on NA, I have no experience. If you find that you are happy doing what you are doing and your life brings you contentment, then by all means go for it.

I read a bit on your blog and it seems that you are using heroin daily. If your life is good using, then you have found your solution. There are also those you are able to get clean without the help of NA. Not every one has the same journey.

John, I appreciate your comments. Perhaps I have cleared up some confusion regarding what Al-Anon is. For me, it is a life changing program.


  1. nice...i like how you respond like this when people ask questions...and it is about finding what works for you...and it obviously has...

  2. I don't know if this clears anything up for John, but it sure brings clarity to me. This is what recovery is all about, whether as part of a fellowship of like minded persons or not.

  3. I love how you are so non-judgmental. That is a rare quality. You are accepting.

  4. Some people do seem to go over the top with NA. On the other hand I've seen it work best for those whose problems were worst. As they say "it works if you work it" and you have to take the programme whole, not pick and choose from it or it just won't work.

    There used to be a woman who babbled on about her higher power every week, as if she had some special connexion with it others didn't and she did sound pretentious. If she meant God I wish she had said God. She would have sounded a hell of a lot less up herself.

    Far as I understand it the Higher Power is threefold. There's a higher power in all of us, a higher power in "the rooms" (another slightly annoying NA saying) which seems to be the sum total of a load of addicts doing all they can to stay on the straight and narrow... lastly there's the real higher power, the source of all power and that is God Almighty.

    I agree with John totally a lot of NA can sound very pretentious when it's taken on wholesale without any analysis or personal meaning. Just a bunch of phrases parroted out.

    Some people have suggested to me I go to three meetings a day. I was in the grip of a manic bipolar episode at the time and barely able to follow one meeting for more than five, ten minutes at a time. I was riding down paranoid and hearing voices and it was a real test of strength and patience just to make it down ~ and yet I was being told I need to go to even more meetings. One a day was enough and as I say I couldn't do any more than a few minutes of THAT meeting. Couldn't handle people sitting next to me, looking at me. Couldn't handle people. I TOLD them I was clean just sticking to methadone and having a couple of drinks a day and nobody would accept this truth they saw my hyperkinetic behaviour and assumed I was a crackhead liar. If they knew anything about me they'd know I loathe crack. I came to NA because I was addicted to heroin, heroin was the one thing that made life worth living for an entire decade. I just wish I had been listened to there and accepted for who I was and how I was, but I wasn't, and my esteem for NA has since plummetted. If they can't accept someone with mental health troubles then they can't accept a huge proportion of addicts because a LOT of us use to self-medicate diagnosable mental problems which in my case as so many others predated my drug habit by many, many years ...

  5. Syd, you are a true gentleman.

  6. Syd,
    I appreciate your response. I echo the feedback you've gotten from other readers.

    This dialog with John brings up a point. Many who are not affiliated with recovery think Al-Anon is a nickname for A.A. This is why, when I mention Al-Anon to others, I say I belong to Al-Anon Family Groups, which is its legal name.

    I also mention it's an organization for the friends and family members of alchoholics. The listener usually gets it, that Al-Anon Family Groups is a separate organization.

  7. Always nice to hear you share, Syd. It's about carrying the message...

  8. people are getting way too serious. i just published something and after reading this i am stunned. i am a member of narcotics anonymous. and i also have mental issues. i understand that there are those in the program who only give it lip service, and that may be the best they can do.

    i do not bash my fellowship. i belong here. i love what i am learning about myself and how this thing called life works. i am glad you are a small part of my learning syd. i don't think i would have had the grace.

    i am glad you are so open minded it helps me to be as well.

  9. one of the hardest things about helping new people is dealing with the pile of anger and negativity they bring with them. It is not attractive. Once they reach a real rock bottom they are usually more amenable, but often they remain quite bitter. I think I like the bitter and twisted aspect of the illness least. I suppose its like treating patients with brain tumors in that their behavior is affected, and you have to find a way to try not to take their anti social behavior personally.

    Yes impressive patience shown there syd :) You explain your position very clearly and understandably as always :)

  10. Such a clear cut response and description of Al-Anon. Thanks once again Syd for showing such grace.

  11. Hi Syd

    Thanks for answering, it's interesting; none of the groups or addiction rehabs have ever included non-users, or those that have been affected by loved ones using.

    On the odd occasion there have been non addicts or users there, they have been either pseudo-addicts searching for an identity, or do-gooders.

    I've a better understanding of your reasoning, and my apologies for categorising you with the pseudo addicts. From the comments above I see there are groups for non addicts (I class alcoholics as addicts also) who have been troubled; it's probably a good thing.

    I guess in some ways I have the typical "user's blinkers" in that I only really look at things from my point of view.

    Thanks for taking the time to reply, and for being so courteous about it.


  12. In response to Gleds, I have seen NA work for people with really bad problems, but I've never been able to buy into it. I'll post on it soon, properly.

    I think that there is virtue there, but for many thinking addicts, it seems intellectually wrong to abdicate all responsibility for ourselves.

    Tony O'Neill sums two things up perfectly for me in Down and Out. The pseudo addict, Matt, and the response to the step program.

    I also found it to be exclusive, those who were either nutnuts or from a background or life that wasn't based round the lowest form of use were not welcomed other than by platitudes.

    I think it works best for those whose lives contained nothing other than drugs, or have few ambitions other than being clean.

    Clean is great. I'm not, but my life is good. When I wanted to be clean, and when my life was chaos, NA didn't work for me.

    See you soon.

    Speak soon

  13. Guess John fails to realize that whatever works for you, works.

    For me the mission is peace not what someone else has, or is trying to be.

    John needs to open his mind to what HE needs not what others expect.

  14. Your response to John was spot-on.

    I have found it difficult for some people to understand that there is a truly wonderful life that doesn't include drugs or alcohol. I had a family member refuse to attend one of my family events where I made it clear there would be no alcohol. We all had a great time and that one person missed out on creating some really great memories.

    It is John's choice to have his herion's eye view of life -- I prefer the clear view so I can enjoy every single second and not miss a thing.

    I'm not an alcoholic, but being married to one creates it own fuzziness. In the early day, Al-Anon was my lifesaver and AA helped me understand.

    Thanks for your excellent post.

  15. Finding ones own path is the only path that works for the one doing the looking. I too went and read johns last post and to be honest, *shrug* I found Gledwoods comment of congratulations for stealing the 290 pounds a bit more disconcerting than the post itself.

    Dude you have you mental issue diagnosed now, the question I have is are you taking your meds?

  16. A response to Dad & Mom,

    Syd hit the nail on the head clarifying the misunderstanding I had. I didn't realize there was a difference between Al-Anon and AA.

    I'm pretty clear what I need; to be happy I simply need to be at the top of my game, provide for my family and look after myself. Most of my crazy days are over; my life now revolves around work, family and the gym; I'm trying to drop a couple of stone and get into fighting condition for a white collar boxing tournament next year.

    I don't really drink, I don't coke it up like most colleagues of mine, but I feel a lot of stress and choose a couple jabs of gear a night as my relaxation. Well away from my family; nothing illegal or dangerous goes near my home, I feel I should add.

    I have my way, my drug use is incidental other than the fact it can be dangerous and it criminalizes me for no good reason.

    You'll see above that my question to Syd was based on a misunderstanding, but had it not been, and had he been one of the pseudo-addicts, it would have been valid.

    Keep well, and be lucky.

  17. Wow! Your calm and measured response shows the strength of the man you are.

  18. I agree with Ms. Moon, as usual. You are one of the good ones, Syd.



  19. Syd,
    it has been a long time since I've read up on my friend's has gotten extremely busy over here this way. I've always admired how well you think out things before you speak...I think one of your gifts in life is Love. The true ability to love others as they are inside, not how they are on the outide. My pastor said something once that really made me think- that we are spirits, not bodies.

    Hope all is well and that you've been enjoying sailing...always wanted to try that. Take care!

  20. This is truly interesting to me...thanks very much for sharing it.


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