Angry Addict

I’m hoping that by sharing this here…I don’t fucking kill some newcomer at a meeting.  I just moved back to my hometown….again.  I am starting over with doctors, therapists, etc.  I have to START OVER every time I move.  For the past 10 years I have suffered from chronic pain in my neck and my back due to a freak incident while visiting a friend at a correctional facility.  I was attacked, not only once, but twice by an inmate who assumed I had purposely “pushed” his girlfriend (which I did not).  For the last 4-5 years the major cause of pain has been from 3 bulging discs in my neck that irritate a nerve that runs from my neck and down my right arm.  It hurts every minute of every day.

I am home again because I moved to Syracuse, NY to attend college at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry and because of the pain (being “treated” mind you) I could not keep up in my classes.  I attempted to hold out because this was my dream.  I was only making things worse by ending each semester with horrible grades and unfinished assignments due to time off and/or my inability to write, take notes,  read for long periods of time, and sit at a desk for hours on end…let alone getting there on a bus, lugging around all my books, trying to sit through lectures, and getting home on the bus.

I get to a place many many times where I feel helpless, hopeless and like life will never be worth living for me again (this is while being “treated”).  I am a resilient person and have been able to bounce back each time only to find myself in this place again where I feel dark, alone, and like giving up (my life).

I am 30 years old, on disability, and trying to survive for the last 10 years on $780 a month.  I am ALWAYS only JUST making ends meet.  So on top of the physical pain there is the stress of everyday expenses, not having money to just relax and have fun, and I am always pinching pennies.  When I don’t act frugally I suffer greatly from backed-up bills, lack of rent, etc.

I am also a recovering addict.

I had a few relapses over the last year after over 4 years clean.  I used from the time I was 15ish starting with marijuana and alcohol and I progressed and “graduated” to other drugs from there.  I am one of those addicts who TRULY believes I was born with this disease.  Since the day I was born I struggled and suffered emotionally and spiritually, feeling like I was alone, there was no one like me, I was going to live and die this way and no one cared or could see.  I also grew up in a situation where there was addiction and mental health constantly causing more than just minor problems in my life which only lead to more feelings of abandonment, betrayal and despair.

I felt EVERY emotion as raw as it could be felt, I took everything personally and I turned it ALL inward just hoping someday someone would magically become aware of the fucking hell I was existing in and take me away or fix me.  But then, I found drugs.  This did the trick for awhile and I even had “friends”.  This is not about the drugs though today so we will skip all of this.

I found recovery, was doing work on myself inwardly and learning to trust people, recognizing I was NOT alone and it was NOT the end of the world.  I was also dealing with chronic pain.  The fucked up shit I’m feeling today is that while everyone is telling me More Will Be Revealed, and Give it To God, and talking about the journey inwards (and wanting with all my heart to believe this)…I was held back by my constant struggle to find a solution for the daily suffering I was experiencing due to chronic pain.  To me, there was no hope, there were no solutions…sure I could be all peachy on the inside, get right with God, learn to make good decisions…and I even believe there is a Higher Power that can help fill the void I feel without the drugs in my life that I still to this day try and fill with a man to make me feel good, or busy-work, or drama.  I honestly DO believe that.

It ALWAYS comes back to this though.  I can pray my little fucking ass off, work towards solutions for the pain, see doctors, follow the right routes, be doing stepwork, staying away from vices, help newcomers, do service work, feel hope in OTHER areas of my life even sometimes feel some preliminary hope in this area, practice patience…but I DO NOT BELIEVE THAT THERE IS A HIGHER POWER WHO, BECAUSE I ALL OF A SUDDEN DECIDE TO LIVE RIGHT AND WITH ALL THE OTHER SUFFERING IN THE WORLD, WILL TAKE AWAY THE PHYSICAL PAIN THAT HAS STOLEN MY LIFE, MY HOPE, MY HAPPINESS, AND ANY CHANCE I EVER HAVE OF MOVING ON WITH MY LIFE NO MATTER WHAT ELSE I WORK ON OR HOW RIGHT WITH GOD AND THE WORLD I AM.

I get it, ok??  I am powerless.  People telling me  these things that they CANNOT identify with DOES NOT HELP!  Hello!!!!  Remember being in rehab and how it felt to have a non-addict therapist TRY and empathize with you??  It tells us in our own literature that the most powerful weapon we have…for addiction…is another recovering addict!!

So…what is a girl to do?????  Is there virtue in the fact that I suffer and have (sarcastic cutesy smiley faces, rainbows, and puppies attached) “FAITH” that everything will be ok.  Faith with the knowledge of no solution from that faith according to my own evidence and the LACK of evidence I see in other people in this area…is a lie.  Does it make me a better person to “accept” my lot in life when secretly I would rather die than to accept that the best possible life I could hope for for myself and now my unborn child is a spirited woman with so many dreams settling for $780 a month and no prospect of ever completing college or working in a meaningful job??

So uh…YEAH I want to use drugs, or men, or anything to make me feel good.  YEAH I am angry, resentful, and self-seeking…STILL.  YEAH I get how it is SO easy to place denial as a protection in front of those things that make “it all go away”, if even only for a moment (cause sometimes it TRULY is better than it not going away at all).  Yeah I get how I will justify the FUCK out of the things I do.  YEAH at this point in my life…AGAIN… I do not want to live or die.

And then, check this out, I also have a conscience that makes doing these things once I am aware of them impossible or painful if I cannot stop.  I also have a stubborn and very WILLFUL desire to, no matter what, live the BEST possible life I can live by doing what is right, not hurting other people or myself and following God’s will!!!!!

WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT?????????????  WHAT IS THAT JOKE ALL ABOUT???  WHAT A HORRIBLE FUCKING DISEASE!!!!!!!!!!!

 

We Do Recover: Part 2

Part 1

Part 2:

Hope On the Horizon

Alcoholics Anonymous history is relevant to the history of Narcotics Anonymous but we will not re-hash it at length here.  Without AA, there would be no NA.

The Grapevine

The Big Book

In 1939 AA published its Big Book and years later Bill W. (co-founder Bill Wilson) published a series of articles in a periodical called The Grapevine (which still exists today).  These writings brought about the Twelve Traditions:

  1. Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon A.A. unity.
  2. For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority—a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.
  3. The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking.
  4. Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or A.A. as a whole.
  5. Each group has but one primary purpose—to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.
  6. An A.A. group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the A.A. name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.
  7. Every A.A. group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.
  8. Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever non-professional, but our service centers may employ special workers.
  9. A.A., as such, ought never be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.
  10. Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the A.A. name ought never be drawn into public controversy.
  11. Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films.
  12. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.

The formation of AA and the development of the steps and traditions were necessary for the miracle of the formation of NA.

“In a 1954 article in The Saturday Evening Post there is mention of a recovering alcoholic named Houston S who received a job transfer to Kentucky in 1947.  Houston had sobered up in Montgomery, Alabama, AA in 1944.  One of the drunks he tried to help, a man called Harry,was using morphine as well as alcohol.  Although Harry had stopped drinking, he was unable to stop using morphine.  He was eventually arrested and committed to Lexington for mandatory treatment.

When Houston was transferred to a town near Lexington, he was reminded of his friend Harry and his drug problem, and felt that the principles which worked so well for alcoholics in AA could help the addicts.  Houston met with the medical director, Dr. Victor Vogel, and suggested that the AA model may work for addicts as well, offering to help start a group.  On February 16, 1947, the Narco Group, a group of inmates and patients, met for the first time at the Federal Narcotics Farm in Lexington, Kentucky.  One of the addicts who attended these first meetings was an addict named Danny Carlsen” (p. 18).

Obituary for Daniel L. Carlsen

At the same time in 1946 in New York, Dorothy Berry, a brigadier in The  Salvation Army, started working with addicts.  Danny Carlsen, who had been attending meetings of the Narco Group in Lexington was discharged and returned to New York.

In 1948 Danny Carlsen, Dorothy Berry, and Rae Lopez started a group in the NYC Prison System called Narcotics Anonymous.  Danny Carlsen eventually wrote a book called The Addict.

The first meeting outside of a prison took place in 1950 at a YMCA in New York City.  The group developed 13 Steps of their own and never adopted the Traditions:

1. Admit the use of narcotics made my life seem more tolerable but the drug had become an undesirable power over my life.

2. Came to realize that to face life without drugs I must develop an inner strength.

3. Made a decision to face the suffering of withdrawal.

4. Learn to accept my fears without drugs.

5. Find someone who had progressed thus far and who is able to assist me.

6. Admit to the nature and depth of my addiction.

7. Realized the seriousness of my shortcomings as I know them and accept the responsibility of facing them.

8. Admit before a group of NA members these same shortcomings and explain why I am trying to overcome them.

9. List for my own understanding all the persons I have hurt.

10. Take a daily inventory of my actions and admit to myself those that are contrary to good conscience.

11. Realize that to maintain freedom from drugs, I must share with others the experience in which I have benefited.

12. Determine a purpose in life and try with all the spiritual and physical power within me to move toward its fulfillment.

13. God help me.

The book The Junkie Priest was based on Father Daniel Egan, a NYC priest, who served as chaplain for these NA meetings

The group’s structure was similar to that of the Salvation Army.  There was a captain, director, and a chaplain (p. 19).  Besides detoxifying addicts they also worked to find addicts jbs and housing.  This version of NA survived until 1960 in locales where it could be sponsored by the Salvation Army.

The Early Years

Most people in the 1950s were enjoying the postwar boom years, listening to Elvis, watching the tv (a new invention), and living the American Dream.

The “Beat Generation” was a growing group of underground radicals who were anti-authoritarian and were characterized by their use of marijuana and methamphetamines.  They set the stage for the revolution of the youth in the 60s.

“Writers like Jack Kerouac and Alan Ginsberg, reacting against the growing surge of consumer capitalism in the U.S., would set the tone for a later generation’s call to “turn on, tune in, and drop out” (p.21).

In 1951 the Boggs Act and in 1956 the Narcotics Control Act imposed harsher penalties on addicts.

A mass migration of African-Americans from the Southern U.S. and Hispanics from Puerto Rico, the Carribbean Islands, and Central and S. America to northern and western cities occured after WW2. As European immigrants were moving out of the cities, Hispanics and African-Americans were moving in.  They moved into areas with preexisting problems with narcotics addiction and trafficking.  I emphasize preexisting so that no one will misunderstand the true nature of how African-Americans and Hispanics began to get such a bad rap and how wrong it is to assume that they are the problem.  They began replacing the European addict statistically (p. 21).  “Thus, the continuing stigmatization of addicts and their drugs of abuse now even further reflected class and ethnic biases within the community” (p. 21).

Fear of marijuana began in the 30s with movies like Reefer Madness.  People were told that

1936 film Reefer Madness, originally called Tell Your Children

marijuana use would certainly lead to heroin use.  Few measures were taken to treat the increasing use of heroin in post-WW2 America.  For example, Riverside Hospital for adolescent addicts was opened in New York.  It quickly closed after a study showing that less than 3% were abstinent.  This 3% were never even addicted in the first place.  They had been arrested on narcotics charges and chose hospitalization (p. 23).

AA was flourishing on the sidelines and alcoholics were finding sobriety and new lives and recovery in the rooms.  “It was through the hope that was at last being found by the suffering alcoholic that similar hope for addicts would begin to appear” (p. 23).

We Do Recover: Part 1

The following is inspired by the book Miracles Happen: The Birth of Narcotics Anonymous in Words and Pictures released by Narcotics Anonymous World Services.  Some of the content has been researched and added by the author.

Jimmy K

Incorporated in Chatsworth, California.  The photos in the book will be hard to reproduce but I will try my best to convey the overall feel of the literature as best I can.

The book is dedicated to the memory of Jimmy K.  “His tireless efforts in the early years of our formulation and growth laid the foundation for our movement (p. 7).”

Old pill bottles

Introduction

There seems to be this alternative: either go on as best we can to the bitter ends – jails, institutions or death – or find a new way to live.  In years gone by, very few addicts ever had this last choice.Little White Book

In 2007, there were over 25,065 groups holding over 43,900 weekly meetings in 127 countries.  The improbability of such a movement makes the existence of this God-given program an absolute miracle in the lives of suffering addicts.  There was a time in history when there were none to very few options for addicts who wanted to get clean.  Addiction itself, was a crime.  There was a time when it was illegal for addicts to meet together.  The “truth” about an addict was this: “Once an addict always an addict”.

Drug Use Before and In the Twentieth Century

Drug use has been around probably as long as humans have been around.  It has been used for medicinal purposes, for religious rites and practices, and for recreational purposes.

Wine was used at least from the time of the early Egyptians; narcotics from 4000 B.C.; and medicinal use of marijuana has been dated to 2737 B.C. in China. But not until the 19th cent. A.D. were the active substances in drugs extracted (FactMonster.com).

Ancient paraphernalia (Drug Kit)

Andean mummy hair has provided the first direct archaeological evidence of the consumption of hallucinogens in pre-Hispanic Andean populations, according to recent gas chromatography and mass spectrometry analysis.  Indirect evidence for psychoactive drug use in South America’s ancient populations abound, ranging from the discovery of drug equipment to the identification of hallucinogenic herb residuals in snuffing kits.

In Europe, Swiss Alchemist Paracelsus invented laudanum (opium dissolved into liquid form) in 1541.  It became a widespread curative potion.

Hmmmmmm.......

The use of opium became epidemic in 19th century Europe and in America.  It was commonly used in children’s medicine with cute labels such as “Godfrey’s Cordial”, “Munn’s Elixir”, and get this….”Mother Bailey’s Quieting Syrup” (p. 10).

In 1803, a German pharmacist by the name of F. W. Serturner successfully isolated the active ingredient in opium: Morphine.  Morpheus is the Greek God of sleep and dreams.  This is Morphine’s namesake.  The hypodermic was not invented for about another 40 years (p. 10).  The drug was effective and thought to be harmless.  It’s peak use was during the Civil War in which it is estimated that 400,000 morphine addicts were created in the army alone.

Old ad for morphine: apparently accepted for use as a teething aid

We now had patent medicines such as “Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup”, “Darby’s Carminative”, and “Ayer’s Cheery Pectorial” (p. 10).  They were particularly popular with older white women from middle and upper classes.  In 1900 there were an estimated 300,000 opiate-dependent people in the U.S.  At this point the affliction was looked upon with sympathy.  When immigrant’s began to have the same addiction issues these views rapidly changed.  Urban tenements and slums developed, poverty increased and so the poor more often turned to alcohol and narcotics.  Lower-class addicts brought the views on addiction to a new light and addiction was driven into criminality, dereliction, and hopeless despair (p. 10-11).

Criminalization of Addiction

Perhaps the earliest recorded example is the prohibition of the use of alcohol under Islamic law (Sharia), which is usually attributed to passages in the Qur’an dating from the 7th century.

Religious intolerance was a motivation for drug prohibition in Christian Europe. In a move interpreted as support for the efforts of the Spanish Inquisition against the Arabs, in a 1484 fiat Pope Innocent VIII banned the use of cannabis. The persecution of heretics in the form of witch hunts also gathered momentum around this time, and frequently targeted users of medicinal and hallucinogenic herbs. The Inquisition proceeded apace in Meso-America and South America, where peyote (péyotl), ololiúqui, toloáche, teonanácatl and other sacred plants of the Mexican culture were prohibited as works of the devil.

The first law outright prohibiting the use of a specific drug in the United States was a San Francisco ordinance which banned the smoking of opium in opium dens in 1875.  Even though the law prohibited the trafficking of opium, laudanum and other tinctures were allowed to persist in medicinal form.  The distinction between its use by white Americans and Chinese immigrants was thus based on the form in which it was ingested: Chinese immigrants tended to smoke it, while it was often included in various kinds of generally liquid medicines often (but not exclusively) used by people of European descent. The laws targeted opium smoking, but not other methods of ingestion.  This was followed by the Harrison Act, passed in 1914, which required sellers of opiates and cocaine to get a license. While originally intended to require paper trails of drug transactions between doctors, drug stores, and patients, it soon became a prohibitive law.  In 1919, the Supreme Court ruled in Doremus that the Harrison Act was constitutional and in Webb that physicians could not prescribe narcotics solely for maintenance.

Then, of course, we had the Prohibition on alcohol.  Most of us know this story so here is a link if you would like to learn more: Prohibition of Alcohol.

In 1936 the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) noticed an increase of reports of people smoking marijuana, which further increased in 1937. The Bureau drafted a legislative plan for Congress, seeking a new law and the head of the FBN, Harry J. Anslinger, ran a smear campaign against marijuana.  During this particular time frame, the media was swarmed with propaganda regarding the effects of marijuana.

Marijuana Propaganda

Marijuana Propaganda

Marijuana Propaganda

In 1972, United States President Richard Nixon announced the commencement of the so-called “War on Drugs.” Later, President Reagan added the position of drug czar to the President’s Executive Office.

In 1973, New York State introduced mandatory minimum sentences of 15 years to life imprisonment for possession of more than four ounces (113g) of a so-called hard drug, called the Rockefeller drug laws after New York Governor and later Vice President Nelson Rockefeller. Similar laws were introduced across the United States.

California’s broader ‘three strikes and you’re out‘ policy adopted in 1994 was the first mandatory sentencing policy to gain widespread publicity and was subsequently adopted in most United States jurisdictions. This policy mandates life imprisonment for a third criminal conviction of any felony offense.

After the Harrison Act courts refused to define addiction as a disease.  Addicts were driven underground and were subjected to street violence, diseases, arrests, convictions, and incarcerations.  Dispensing clinics were opened.  in 1919 thirteen municipalities had 44 opiate dispensing clinics aimed at detox or opium maintenance.  The government perceived these as a threat and had them all closed by 1924 (p. 12).  There was another increase in crime.  In 1929 Congress adopted The Porter Act.  Treatment facilities were established finally for addicts.  One was in Lexington, Kentucky and the other was in Fort Worth, Texas.  These were operational in the 30’s.

Lexington, Kentucky

Fort Worth

In the early years they primarily served as prison hospitals for convicted addicts.  Those who entered voluntarily were detoxified.  Treatment included “sweating it out” with hard work on the farm in Kentucky.

We now have employee assistance programs, hospital and residential-based treatment, and 12 step fellowships.  In the 30s and 40s doctors were threatened into not only stopping treatment of addicts but also into reporting them to authorities (p. 13).

William Burroughs' Junkie allows a peak into the limited treatment options available to addicts

At one point it was illegal for any two addicts to be seen together.  Addicts went even further underground where drugs were bought on the black market and the street or to complain of the “right symptoms” to doctors in order to satisfy their needs.

After WW2 addicts were put into two general categories: those addicted to pills, sedatives, barbiturates, laudanum, Demerol, etc.; and “dope fiends”.  The second category more often needed to obtain their drugs through illicit means (p. 16).

Searches, harassment, and incarceration were normal parts of everyday life.  Addicts and doctors who attempted to help them were seen as criminals.  These are the truths of an addict from this time.  We may not fully understand the words spoken by Jimmy K, that very few addicts DID have a choice like we have found today in Narcotics Anonymous.