A federal appeals court in San Francisco ruled Friday that a parolee cannot be obliged to attend an AA or AA-affiliated program as a condition of staying out of prison. For those who believe that 12 step programs are indeed religious in nature, and that “the God of my understanding” refers to the Christian one, this decision may come as welcome vindication.
But what else is an addict to do?
I have attended 12 step meetings in support of a loved one. The god issue was always a huge sticking point. Seasoned 12 steppers always dismiss that sort of attitude as a form of resistance to The Program. For me, it is a resistance to pretending I believe in a higher power. I know and accept that I personally am not the creator of the universe; but I don’t believe in a higher power in the sense that I can’t surrender my will to “It” if it doesn’t exist.
I’ve read about one person who decided that the law of thermodynamics would be his higher power. I’m happy if it saved him from the tragedy of addiction, but I can’t think of anything similar for my own purpose.
So, if not a 12 step program, how can an addict break free of substance abuse? A book called Romancing Opiates convinced me that addicts (in particular, opiate addicts) are addicts by choice. Not victims, not slaves, but people who lack the moral fortitude to step out of the cycle they’re caught up in. Statistics based on American Vietnam veterans suggest that the majority who returned to the US as drug addicts were able to stop using without seeking outside help.
Those statistics are refuted by everyone who uses the addiction-as-disease model. They insist that the vets who got clean did so because they weren’t as badly addicted as the group that continued to use.
“The Heroin Diaries,” a book by Nikki Sixx of Motley Crue, was reviewed here by a writer whose main complaint about it was that Mr. Sixx was really only a coke-head and therefore not worthy of the respect due a real junkie (ie a real Suffering Artist.) It struck me as irresponsible as well as stupid to perpetuate the myth of the noble junkie. I even wrote to the reviewer in the hope of having a dialogue with him. He didn’t write back.
More recently, I read a piece in the New York Times magazine by longtime Times reporter David Carr, who has written an account of his addiction called “Night of the Gun.” His writing blew me away. His brutally honest depiction of his bad behavior is difficult to take, but it is certainly bracing and honorable. For some reason, though, the comments his excerpt provoked are mostly angry and bitter. I still can’t understand why, unless it’s the fact that he doesn’t beg for the reader’s forgiveness.
If you love an addict, or have an interest in addiction, I can’t recommend both David Carr’s book and “Romancing Opiates” highly enough.
If you are an addict, you are breaking more hearts that you can possibly imagine. Choose life, damn you!
If you are neither of the above, thank the god of your understanding for missing this particular bullet.