One thing I haven’t talked about in-depth yet on the Fearless 5 podcast is my past as an addict.
I do not consider myself “still an addict” or “always an addict.” I’ve been sober from alcohol since 2013 and haven’t used drugs since 2001. I don’t consider myself, as the popular language goes, “In recovery.” Just because it’s popular doesn’t make it correct or appropriate. Even when I still worked in the rehab industry, I adopted saying, “I am a retired addict, because I don’t do that crap anymore.”
I refuse to crap all over all my hard work in sobriety by continuing to call myself an addict or describe myself as, “always in danger of using again,” or being, “Always two steps away from a fall.”
OMG. Saying one is always, “a step from a fall,” is so dramatic. So shaming. So counterproductive.
The reason I bring this up is because a friend encouraged me to talk more about my unique take on recovery. My take isn’t really unique. The fact that it came from working in the rehab industry for 4.5 years is probably the unique part. I used to be a hardcore XA person. I’d quote you the “Big Book” and tell you what page. I was the dream employee in the rehab industry, always hammering home the cause, doing all the things, holding court at endless AA halls. Gross.
Then I saw a personal hero go down in flames.
I’m not even sure they even relapsed, but they found a way to self-sabotage into such a sad downward spiral we could no longer be friends. Then I learned that there are no heroes or gurus. Then I got into attending online meetings in my carless phase (which deserves a podcast of its own honestly). I found Refuge Recovery — the book and the online meetings, since there are still no meetings about Buddhist-oriented recovery where I live. Then Noah Levine, the creator of that program, went down hard over multiple accusations of sexual misconduct. In the #MeToo era, no less. I stopped attending meetings and threw the book away.
The endless stream of 12-step dogma had taught me to be afraid of going out on my own, that I was sentenced back to my former life of booze, drugs, and debauchery if I left the “safe harbor” of “the rooms.”
But those meeting rooms weren’t safe at all.
The healthier I became mentally and emotionally, the more I saw those “rooms” for what they really were. They were full of ego, gaslighting, abuse, stuffing emotions for nonsensical reasons like, “Anger is a liability! You’re renting space in your head to someone else! Anger is resentment and that leads to drinking! If you’re angry at someone else, something is wrong with YOU!”
No, there is something wrong with tone-policing others’ anger and emotions. What a bunch of crap. That’s not how anything works.
So I left. I just stopped going to all that stuff. I got rid of all the 12-step books, the codependency books, etc. I traded them for doing real work on myself.
I’m re-parenting, journaling, meditating, and doing yoga like a mother. I have deep issues — like anyone else. (Or I wouldn’t have become an addict in the first place). But I am more willing to work through them now. I’ve become able to recognize what they are — and the 12-step fueled rehab industry doesn’t do that.
I trusted myself and my gut, which told me to leave. My gut told me I’d find better information elsewhere. That there’s actually science to this getting-over-addiction thing. And addiction is something we are meant to get over, get past, and leave IN THE PAST. We do not have to label ourselves as “addicts” for our lifetimes.
I can think of nothing more wasteful.
Don’t take my word for it. If you’re trying to get better, do your research and look for things with a success rate. Look for other ways. I’m so tired of a system in which we tell people they need to repeatedly go to rehab to get well. If they’ve gone 17 times, maybe it’s the rehab that’s broken and not the person. Look into the science of changing habits, CBT, The Freedom Model, or your mental health. I can’t tell you how to do it. I just want people to start using critical thinking again. I think if people do, they will see a lot of the “system” for what it is — a system.