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PostPosted: Sat Oct 24, 2015 2:14 am 
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This article mirrored a lot of my views. AA and NA have a self-perceived and self-perpetuated idea that they are the only means to get recovery. But once you start to question the 12-step recovery paradigm, it's hard to go back.

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I’d been convinced by everyone on the planet that AA was the only thing that could protect me from drinking. I was also convinced that if I left AA, I’d relapse. If this SMART thing was legit, it may shatter all my previously-held beliefs. But I’m the kind of person who thinks if you can’t challenge your beliefs you shouldn’t have them in the first place, so I carted myself off to a meeting in downtown Los Angeles.


Check it out:

https://rehabreviews.com/like-go-smart-recovery-eight-years-aa/#prettyPhoto


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 25, 2015 12:53 pm 
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Hi Teejay,

I'm just bumping this up so more will see it. I'm an old AA member from way back and have no experience with SMART so no opinion from me about that one.

We have posted several non 12 step programs links here in the past. If you'd like me to post them again I will. Just say the word.

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 25, 2015 8:47 pm 
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I don't know if the specific program makes all that much difference. But in 1993, when I turned to AA with desperation, my desire to use opioids went away. The experience felt like a miracle to me, because I had tried to stop on my own, over and over-- and when I decided to truly give everything I had to that program, I stopped, even though I continued to work with opioids each day in the operating room.

The experience was so amazing that I've tried to understand the 'mechanism' of what happened from a scientific standpoint. I've come to realize that the perspective of powerlessness completely changes one's attitude toward a substance. I think about how a perspective toward a craved substance changes, if the substance is combined with cyanide, for example. Or I think about how a person views a favorite strawberry dessert, after breaking out with severe hives from strawberries. I think that for 12 step programs, the powerlessness is key-- and then other steps function to keep the person coming back, and to fill the void left when a person stops using or drinking.

I don't know SMART recovery as well, so I can't speak to it. But with 12 step programs, I see many patients disappointed with AA who never seemed to understand what is necessary to make 12-step programs successful. I find it very insightful of the founders of AA, that all of the requirements are described in the reading at the start of every meeting---- that people must give of themselves to the simple program. Some people seem to think they can just be 'educated', and still be the same person-- but just not use anymore. And of course, that doesn't work at all.

Step programs work for people who are ready to change who they are. But that is a tall order for most people... not to mention that even after change, the tendency is to change back as soon as attendance at meetings stops. Some people on buprenorphine complain about being changed by a medication... but much greater change is required for non-medication-based recovery.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 28, 2015 10:58 pm 
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That's a great article, TJ, thanks for posting it. Like Dr. J said above, I find the concept of powerlessness to be the key for me. Not just powerlessness over drugs, but over my mental illness, and over people and events that upset me. Relinquishing that sense of "control" has been crucial for my recovery.
I know that kind of thinking or perspective doesn't work for everyone. That's why I'm glad there's groups like SMART. Unfortunately, there aren't many meetings in my area. But I think the more options for recovering addicts, and the more places to turn (especially for free group support) the better.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 28, 2015 11:06 pm 
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The problem with suboxone patients going to AA/NA, and I think you've brought this up before Dr. Junig, is that suboxone takes away the desperation that seems to be needed to make 12 step programs work for them. It is impossible to generate that desperation when you feel like you have a brand new lease on life with suboxone. I would like to see groups like SMART incorporating the humbling, life-changing experience of doing step work in a way that doesn't feel unnatural to them. I wonder if it is possible.

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 30, 2015 9:28 pm 
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I attempted to pursue an NA / 12-step based recovery for a good 8 years. In that time I had mixed success. Most recently I had 18 months of total abstinence, with the assistance of a 6 month stay at an intense punitive therapeutic community, followed by 9 months in a supported accommodation environment where I did 3 urine screens a week in order to keep my accommodation. Despite attending NA nearly every day, I only stayed clean 3 months after living on my own. And yes, I was working the steps, attending regularly and doing the suggested things. And yes, I definitely had the "gift of desperation". Prior to coming into recovery I was nursing a massive heroin addiction, was homeless and even had a genuine attempt at ending my own life. I credit Suboxone with keeping me alive that day. I took an intentional overdose of heroin (over 1 gram in a shot that needed a large barrel syringe), a handful of Clonidine, Xanax, Valium and Propranolol. Despite my best efforts I woke up from that shot 10 hours later. Even though I survived, I definitely woke up feeling quite damaged. My arms kept seizing and twitching uncontrollably for weeks, I was instantly psychotic, and couldn't remember the names of my closest friends. However things gradually improved, and I think the reason I'm alive was the fact I'd taken 12mg of Suboxone 2-3 days prior, and I had just enough still in my bloodstream to block the heroin slightly and keep me breathing. Of course this is largely speculative.

Prior to my relapse in 2013, I had left NA and was on Suboxone for 3 years. In that time I achieved more in my life than I had in the entire period prior when I was relapsing in the rooms of NA. I went through a 6 month course of interferon and cured my Hep C. I was studying a bachelor's degree and averaging distinction grades. I travelled, got my diver's license, and fell in love twice and pursued healthy relationships. In that time my main supports were (a) SMART recovery and (b) this forum, along with my partner, family etc. Despite drinking manageably and not being clean by NA standards, I achieved more than I had since I picked up heroin.

Unfortunately, in the years before Suboxone as a chronic relapser in the rooms of NA, I found myself achieving very little. 12-step fellowships, unlike SMART and harm-min counsellors, encourage you to do nothing with your life while in early recovery except attend a shitload of meetings, stay away from women and work the steps. You're told to not look for work, to not pursue any education, and stay away from relationships for at least 1-2 years. Plus in order to get some momentum in an abstinence based recovery, most people need a stint in a long term rehab, at least for a few months and a minimum of 1 month (the longer the better really). This means giving up your home usually, putting all your stuff in storage (often relying on family to foot the bill), and dropping everything. Rehabs and sponsors even encourage you to drop any friends you may have who still drink, even if they do so manageably and your friendship with them is mutually therapeutic. Essentially every time you "start over" in NA, you start your life from scratch.

Needless to say I was sick of this endless cycle of starting my life over every time I relapsed and found recovery again. Because of it I was achieving very little in my life. And because of the nature of "powerlessness", every time I picked up I was so convinced I was doomed that I immediately gave myself to my addiction 100% until I hit a new rock bottom such that I was motivated again to find recovery. This pattern of use, in hindsight, was incredibly dangerous. In 2013 I even had this idea in my head that I needed to go to jail in order to find the desperation required to get long-term recovery in NA. This idea was partly put in my head by an OCM (older cleaner member) who said "maybe you need jail" to me after a meeting.

My most recent decision to leave NA and stay on Suboxone came after I had a hard honest look at my life over the last 8-10 years, and assessed what works best for my recovery. Though I had some really good times in "the rooms", I had achieved very little in those periods other than working the steps multiple times. And the pattern of relapse that came with the total-abstinence mindset was really quite perilous. The nature of a 12-step relapse is one where you're so convinced you're doomed and going to die, it almost becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. I could have died many times over. The fact that I lost 2 of my best friends in the last 2 years after they attempted total abstinence after a period on Suboxone reinforced my decision.

I also found myself increasingly questioning the dogma and quasi-religious approach of the 12-steps. And once you start questioning what you're taught in the rooms, it's impossible to not see the faults. The 12-steps, thanks largely to the traditions, but also the zealotry of its members, seems to instil this notion that they have a monopoly on recovery. And given that my last rehab was a non-12 step rehab, and I'd seen people get fantastic recovery from SMART in the past, I couldn't help but question this self-proclaimed monopoly. And don't get me started on the sexual predation, criminal and custodial type behaviour that's peppered through the rooms of NA. Some of the most "programmed up" and spiritual members in the rooms are the biggest perpetrators of this. I have a few stories that are quite shocking. And I only really became aware of these behaviours after I started dating a woman in the rooms.

Anyway, rant over. I'm going to the beach now!


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 31, 2015 9:36 am 
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TJ, I've been following your journey for almost 5 years and you have been to hell and worse. (I even remember you were staying with a female H dealer who owned a brothel? Or was that one of my opium dreams, lol). But seriously, there were times when you didn't post for months and I was afraid you weren't coming back. I'm glad you're here and doing ok - not ok, doing well!

One part of your NA account made my jaw drop, and I just wanted to say how different things are where I live, lest we scare away those who might want to try NA for the first time. You wrote:

"You're told to not look for work, to not pursue any education, and stay away from relationships for at least 1-2 years. Plus in order to get some momentum in an abstinence based recovery, most people need a stint in a long term rehab, at least for a few months and a minimum of 1 month (the longer the better really). This means giving up your home usually, putting all your stuff in storage (often relying on family to foot the bill), and dropping everything. Rehabs and sponsors even encourage you to drop any friends..who still drink"

I have most of my NA experience in Massachusetts and Connecticut, and in these areas they really embrace the idea of, "the sooner we face are problems within our society and every day living, just that much faster do we become acceptable, responsible and productive members of that society."

This means that most members pursue full time employment and/or education by around 90 days clean (if they even stopped working in the first place). There are those living in halfway houses because they are transitioning from prison, or very young. But the vast majority live on their own or with families, and many own a house or buy one in their first few years clean. They do suggest not getting into a relationship the first year, but that suggestion is widely ignored. And yes, staying away from friends who are using is suggested, but it's unrealistic to stay away from social drinkers, because that's just about everybody who's not in recovery!
Here's the biggest difference. Because of our insurance crisis, long term, inpatient treatment barely exists anymore (unless you have a lot of money or fantastic insurance). People go in to detox for a week if they're lucky. Most insurance only covers outpatient treatment. The state of MA just enacted a law requiring insurance to pay for 14 days of inpatient treatment when "medically necessary". This wasn't always the case - 30 day inpatient stays were the norm in the US until fairly recently.

Maybe I'm the exception, but both times I started recovery from scratch I kept the same job, but took time off. I've heard people call AA/NA a cult (maybe you did?), and if they tell you not to work, not to go to school, give up your home, drop friends, I can understand why you would say that!
Where I live religious fundamentalism is rare, as is NA fundamentalism (although there's always some fanatics). I guess a lot of it is cultural. The program is the "same" everywhere, but those who practice it and pass it down can be wildly different based on their culture and upbringing.

Definitely, don't want to start the 12-step debate again. Anyone can search the forum and read many threads of it. I'm going to an NA meeting tonite, and we go out for pizza after. For me, the community aspect of it is the most important. I was SO very isolated when I was using.
I try to hang out with "normies" too. But events often center on drinking. And I've sat uncomfortably with people (other parents) while they wrinkle their noses at alcoholics, and God forbid, drug addicts. And, trust me, "coming out" to your kids friends' parents is NOT a good idea..

Wish everyone the best! Do what works for you, and don't do it alone! :)


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 31, 2015 8:43 pm 
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Thanks for that Lilly. I had a suspicion things were a bit more integrative in the States. One of the main reasons you're advised to take time to "focus on your recovery" here is because we have a welfare system that allows people to take time off from their life. Many people in NA are on the disability pension, and others can claim sickness allowance which provides enough money to survive until they're well enough to work.

It also comes down to your sponsors opinion, which is unique to the individual. Most people in the fellowship where I'm from do a meeting a day for a year. Yes there's nothing in the literature that says "take a year off work", but it seems to be the recovery culture in my country to do so. This is moreso true for NA than AA. In AA living on welfare seems to be more discouraged. One of the main reasons for this culture of taking time-off is that having more money than you need to survive is often a trigger for drug addicts in early recovery. So living on sickness benefits means living on a budget, which means having no money left over to spend on drugs.

This approach to recovery isn't really a problem if you get clean once. But if you relapse multiple times, you can look back over your time in the rooms and wonder how much you really achieved, other than attend lots of meetings and work the steps.

We're fortunate in Aus to have many long-term facilities that only require payment by handing over your fortnightly welfare payment to the facility. These facilities are also heavily subsidised. And in my state, 12-step programs are considered religious, so therefore only private rehabs are 12-step. The three major long-term therapeutic communities are totally secular.

Yes I was living together with female dealer for a short while in active addiction. We were living in the back-rooms of an apparently illegal gay-sauna, and drugs were being sold out of the back-rooms. The owner of the place was an addict, so we got the master bedroom. A lot of drugs were used, and I did a fair bit of damage in that period. Then she got busted (I wasn't around when it happened thankfully) and locked up, and I found myself with a nasty big habit and no means to feed it. That was a dark time.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 02, 2015 9:19 am 
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Yes, I do remember the part about the gay sauna, and what you said straight young men were desperate enough to do to get drug money - people think turning to prostitution is strictly a female thing....but I digress.

Anyway, you got me thinking. We DO have a social "safety net" here, too, although it seems to get cut more and more every year. In recovery, I have seen a lot of dual diagnosis patients on social security disability. I've seen people use that time to attend a lot of meetings, work on themselves, do service work, and get job training or an education. (And yes, some sponsors suggest a meeting a day for a year, especially in AA). I've seen others sell 1/2 their Suboxone script, drink and use, gaming the system for when they might have to give a urine screen (and begging ME for a urine sample because I had the required bupe in my urine with no drugs).

And there are state run treatment centers for those with no income or insurance, but I hear that they are often sub-standard.

It was suggested to me a couple of times to go on SS disability, because my addiction and psychiatric diagnoses are well documented. I decided not to, because my husband was still bringing in a decent income, and also I've seen people identify themselves so much with the label "disabled" that they internalize it and never move back into productive employment. There are times I've regretted it, because there are job opportunities for people on disability not open to the public.

So I continue to plug away at my ridiculously low paying job, while working to get licensed to work another low paying job. But I'm exceedingly grateful for where I am in life. I'm one of the lucky ones that, first of all survived, got off opiates, got off maintenance and just for today am clean and in recovery. Also my family stuck by me, I'm mostly healthy and my mind is still functioning! It's a miracle really. Sorry I got so far off your original thread - but maybe by bumping it more people will see the article :). I love reading your posts, they always get me thinking.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 02, 2015 12:11 pm 
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Lily, this may seem weird, but I think that your battle is a very noble one. TJ, it seems that in Australia you can go in and out of the social support system with relative ease. I say relative because I know how difficult it is to do the same here in the states.

First off, even with overwhelming evidence it is difficult to get on disability and I have heard that you are often rejected the first time you apply. That is also true for getting on medicaid, which is the health portion of our safety net. Secondly, we have this crazy system with disability where you can get on it once and then go back to work and be off of it, but if you go on disability a second time you're on it forever. That is according to an acquaintance of mine who is on disability for the second time. She is bipolar and has major back problems. (It does seem that you need 2 or more documented conditions to be on disability.)

Anyway the system seems to be created to disincentivize people to get back to work if they can.

Which brings me back to Lily's noble quest. When you know the system and when you see the system all around you it is hard not to get sucked into it. That's my opinion anyway. To keep plugging away at a low-paying job when you know that all you have to do is apply (maybe twice) and you get a steady $1800 a month forever (that's what my friend's husband gets anyway because he has pulmonary hypertension that could kill him at any time and he cannot work), is a noble act. Now, living on $1800 a month is nigh on impossible, but adding that to an already decent household income is tempting. That is why Lily's quest to stay away from disability is really a noble thing. Instead, Lily, you are bettering yourself with getting licensed for what is, I assume, is a more fulfilling job, even if it's still low paying. I too have seen people internalize the label "disabled". I've seen it happen generationally, in fact.

I see you as fighting the good fight, Lily, and I hope you are proud of yourself for that. I hope that others in your life see the good in what you are doing and are proud of you too. :)

Amy

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 03, 2015 10:12 am 
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$1800 a month!?! I think I WILL go on it. Only kidding. Amy, you give me waay too much credit. For me it's also a false pride thing, where very few people know I'm an addict and that I have serious mental health issues. So I get to walk around acting like I have it all togther. Kwim?

Also, I think a lot depends on how much you've paid into the system over the years. My friend on SSD gets a small apartment in a bad neighborhood plus about $700 a month and $60 food stamps. I sometimes giver her toilet paper, toothpaste, soap, etc. because she can't get that stuff w food stamps & she's barely getting by. When she works, Social Security takes the amount she earned out of her disability check - so she gets nothing for it.

Another friend started working on SSD and she went to pick up her scripts, one of which was Sub, and found out she had been cut off because she made too much! She was out of Sub and her scripts cost more than she made that week! She ended up going to the ER so she didn't have to go thru WD. The system is fucked!

Sorry, I get carried away. But this is why I want to get into the profession of helping people. Also, I'm absolutely certain you didn't intend it, but I hope your comments on the social support system didn't make anyone feel bad about being on it...I know you support all of us on this forum who are in recovery and working hard to get our lives back on track.


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 03, 2015 10:35 pm 
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I also hope that! I was talking more about how the system doesn't give people enough incentive to get back to work. I gladly pay taxes to support the safety net available for people in need. And I absolutely don't think I'm better than anyone else. My thought is always, there but for the grace of God go I. I can also be a little bit of a heretic, but I am a follower of Christ's ideals and what he said according to the Bible. I'm not a Bible literalist, but I do believe that we are compelled to help the least of our brothers and sisters. My religious beliefs inform my politics. I continue to hope that the government and our elected officials make the effort to ensure that help goes to people truly in need. I like what Jon Stewart said once on The Daily Show:
"Why is it that if you take advantage of a corporate tax break you're a smart businessman, but if you take advantage of something so you don't go hungry, you're a moocher?"

So if anyone was offended by what I said, I apologize. But I still say Lilly is the kind of hero we need around here.

Amy

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 11, 2016 5:41 pm 
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Thanks Tj for posting the link to what it's like to visit SMART after attending AA for 8 yrs.


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