Notes on an NA Meeting

(Apologies for length. Cross-posted at my dinky little blog;)

Well, mission accomplished. I went back to a meeting at my former "home group", and while I knew it would look very, very different from my perspective of not being even in a semi-chronic state of relapse (rather, from the perspective of being completely clean for an extended period), it was more of a mess than I had thought it would be.

First off, I knew this was a very "sick" group to begin with, it was widely talked about in other NA groups at the time. I was actually "recruited out" of this group by other NAers for that reason. My former sponsor was a disaster, a woman who had 12 sponsees after she and her then-boyfriend rather took over the group a few years ago. At that time she had only 1 1/2 years of "clean-time", which is actually less than I have now, yet was the only eligible female sponsor for this group, which is one of the largest where I live and boasts the largest amount of court ordered members. I say this not to judge her smaller amount of clean-time, btw, but to point out that I feel in no way qualified to try and guide a vulnerable addict through to sobriety at this point in my life, as much as I'd love to help people.

I had no real inclination to speak to this woman, and that feeling grew during the meeting. She finally shared last, a few people after her former boyfriend (and previous sponsor of every male in that group), who revealed gladly that he was now facing homelessness and was suicidal. Despite his newfound interest in suicide however, he kept saying how many people he had called "in the program" to talk to about his "racing thoughts", his hopelessness, etc. Every one of them has told them to "read the basic text, man". And hit some more meetings (he already goes to 1 per day). All I could thing was, "Holy crap, this is your friend, he's effing suicidal, and you're telling him to read the basic text and hit several meetings a day? WTF??!?!?"

But......back to my former sponsor sharing. She stated repeatedly that the only reason she was there was to wish a goodbye to an oldtimer there who was to be moving tomorrow three states away. Then she launched into telling the room how she had had to use every bit of strength she had last night to---keep from "beating the shit out of this bitch and all she was doing was stroking my hair". After explaining about 10 times that she is just a "very, very violent person", she tried to explain that this woman wasn't really doing much, just stroking her hair. But she had a problem--she didn't fully explain this bit--with gauging motives of women and whether or not different women were "that bitch who fucked me up so bad". Therefore, "those newcomer women, those fucking newcomer women" should all just "stay the fuck away from" her. And yes, at this point I was wishing to my doorknob that I had instant replay so I could run it back and record this particularly enlightening drunkologue. Or was it an assaultalogue?

What the HELL?!?!? Who speaks like this? Ever? Let alone to a group that is supposed to be gaining "fellowship" from their words? Needless to say, she was not the first person to share about their problems with previous episodes or even arrests for "violent" behaviors or offenses. While everyone else nodded their heads knowingly at each of these confessions, I sincerely wished to become invisible. I didn't feel terribly warm and gushy inside with the three men who told everyone how they only had to serve anywhere from 20-90 days in jail (for "violent" offenses, unspecified). I was wondering about the five or so 18-20 year olds sitting in there eligible for sponsorship by these people who kept claiming that they'd not only use were it not for meetings but that they'd do much worse ("I'm just a VERY violent person!"). And that doesn't even touch on the talk of suicide!

Admittedly, it does make sense now, that this woman who hates other women to such a degree would've not cared one bit (or even returned a call, though I considered that a blessing, even then) about my life or her other 11 sponsees at the time. After all, she's just a "very, very violent person". I certainly am not going to harbor any animosity towards a woman who is so messed up that she can barely make it through a night without an assault & battery charge, I don't begrudge these people their different beliefs. Not if these meetings are all they have preventing them from killing themselves. That said, people who've been clean for years and years whose daily struggle is severe depression, violent tendencies, suicidal thoughts --well, let's just say that their biggest problem at the present is probably not their experience however long ago with addiction.

Admittedly also, this could be grandstanding. But if the newcomer is the most important person in the room, what kind of hope does it give them in their own "recovery" (and there were EIGHT people there with under 30 days all in the 18-21 age group!) to hear every oldtimer talking about not being able to escape from the destructive thoughts in their heads, the dangerous thoughts of suicide, constant threats of homelessness? If this is "serenity", I must've missed the proper definition.

So, my ex-sponsor ended her share by stating that she was grateful for this county's "finest", who had arrested her (for some previous violent behavior, I was inferring), that that was a blessing in disguise. Then made a final reference to "newcomer women". I had already passed during sharing, even declined to give my name (I didn't want to seem horribly disrespectful because I did NOT go to "crash" a meeting, merely to observe--but I still wasn't about to say that I AM an addict. Oh, no.). After hearing that though, I couldn't much speak at all. I encouraged the newer members best I could, told them not to lose hope, that if I could make it anyone could. I kept free of any other message. I won't deny that I felt much better off in having refused previously to "keep coming back", though. Thank the great doorknob in the sky, my life is far better for the path I chose.

Comments

Pennywise's picture

Right on, Marietta! I know that you are NOT a drone. It really is all about quality of life.

Have you listened to your Arnold ZeDVille today?
http://www.reverbnation.com/arnoldzedville/songs

marietta davis's picture

I find this whole topic ridiculous. Does AA/NA know better than you do, or better than your doctor does, whether you're using therapeutically or whether you're seeking a drug's mind-altering properties?

Pennywise, I was excoriated recently by another NA oldtimer and hammered to admit that I wasn't "clean" while on my last trial of an anti-seizure med a few years back, right around the time I ended up abandoned by these people. This guy heads up another meeting down the way. But my home group, the one I visited last night, went into full lecture mode to me and the relative who'd driven me there insisting that I was just "getting fucked up". I WAS "3 sheets to the wind", as they'd put it at the time, but what the hell else was I supposed to do? The med didn't work out, and I did heal (and coincidentally take nothing now, though I do that for me, not for some ideal put forth by others), but what are people who are barely able 2 years later to keep a place to live doing presuming to know more than a neurosurgeon, exactly?

Well, that's a rhetorical question if I ever saw one, but I'll hit "save" anyway.

Pennywise's picture

That's messed up. I'd try to just blow them off. You know what's up;)

Have you listened to your Arnold ZeDVille today?
http://www.reverbnation.com/arnoldzedville/songs

I do, actually. Just adding another tale to the coffer.

Penny come on. We can be sensible about this. Bill was not using LSD with the same intent David Crosby and Jerry Garcia were at the Haight-Ashbury house. This I know you know, Penny.

Pennywise's picture

Bill's intent was to alter his conciousness through intoxication. I think that's a big no no in NA.

Have you listened to your Arnold ZeDVille today?
http://www.reverbnation.com/arnoldzedville/songs

causeandeffect's picture

How can you be so profoundly stupid one moment then turn around and be so profoundly stupid the next?

"The ideal tyranny is that which is ignorantly self-administered by its victims. The most perfect slaves are, therefore, those which blissfully and unawaredly enslave themselves."
~Dresden James

causeandeffect's picture

Good point. I'm sure most steppers are unaware that he did, but attitudes are passed down from generation to generation, without them even knowing why.

"The ideal tyranny is that which is ignorantly self-administered by its victims. The most perfect slaves are, therefore, those which blissfully and unawaredly enslave themselves."
~Dresden James

Pennywise's picture

Thing is, if drug use breaks a sobriety streak, then the holy messiah of AA (Bill W.) was not sober for nearly as long as the legend says. Thus, AA Steppers have a vested interest in avoiding the topic of drugs. So it makes sense they would want to distance themselves from NA.

Have you listened to your Arnold ZeDVille today?
http://www.reverbnation.com/arnoldzedville/songs

Pennywise's picture

It's kind of like Jews and Christians. Just as Jews deny that Jesus was the Son of God, NA philosophy would deny that Bill Wilson was sober ever since the day he saw God in Towns Hospital.

Have you listened to your Arnold ZeDVille today?
http://www.reverbnation.com/arnoldzedville/songs

causeandeffect's picture

Too true. And yet they still never know why they hold these attitudes.

"The ideal tyranny is that which is ignorantly self-administered by its victims. The most perfect slaves are, therefore, those which blissfully and unawaredly enslave themselves."
~Dresden James

"The whole subject is controversial, and AA doesn't engage in controversies" Usual brush-off line I remember when the subject of drugs came up.

God damn it, get me a whiskey

Bill W, Deathbed

http://www.youtube.com/watch?source=patrick.net&v=Sdn3O6aaMNc

marietta davis's picture

"LSD was introduced into the United States in 1948. Sandoz Laboratories marketed LSD as a psychiatric cure-all and hailed it as a remedy for everything from schizophrenia to criminal behavior, sexual perversions and alcoholism. In psychiatry, the use of LSD by students was an accepted practice; it was viewed as a teaching tool in an attempt to enable the psychiatrist to subjectively understand schizophrenia. It was also showed great promise as a facilitating agent in psychedelic psychotherapy. In one study in the late 1950's, Dr Humphry Osmond gave LSD to alcoholics in Alcoholics Anonymous who had failed to quit drinking. After one year, around 50% of the study group had not had a drink -- a success rate that has never been duplicated by any other means." ~ NOT Wikipedia
(from http://www.neurosoup.com/schedule1/lsdhistory.htm) Share, anyone?

We are definitely not dealing with a fair and balanced membership here, when it comes to honest research.
Thanks marietta.

Pennywise's picture

Why does it matter? If a brand new drug was invented tomorrow that got you high, and an NA member used that drug to get high, then that NA member would not be sober, right? The novelty of the drug is irrelevant. All that matters, according to NA, is that the drug was taken to produce intoxication, correct? Bill used LSD for its intoxicating effects. Thus, if NA is correct, then AA is wrong when it claims that Bill remained sober ever since the day he saw God.

Have you listened to your Arnold ZeDVille today?
http://www.reverbnation.com/arnoldzedville/songs

marietta davis's picture

I think there's a fine line between looking to get high and looking for relief from an extant condition, one that stubbornly survives other methods of "treatment" or eradication. Of course one can cross over into the other, but who actually knows what was going on in Bill Wilson's head? Why, not even junior, who presumes to understand every detail of Bill's psychiatric, emotional, physical, sexual and social life (but does not).

Every drug is abusable. Every form of alcohol is abusable. I don't think keeping Bill's LSD experiments on the front burner is significant or moves anything forward. Taking LSD can be life-altering in a meaningful way, and it can also be nothing but hours and hours of obsession. It depends on what day one takes it and how that day's circumstances color the experience. But it doesn't have any impact on anybody here, really. You wanna be mad about the charlatan, fine, go ahead and rag on him about dropping acid. How is that going to change madated AA attendance or alleged violence in and out of meetings? Keep your eye on the ball and simmer this thing down to the essential gripe. Then mobilize and make your moves within AA, within NA, within your courts and legislatures. Bill's LSD use and infidelity do not make your point when you're trying to effect change.

Pennywise's picture

Marietta, in this thread, I was not ripping on Bill's LSD use. All I was doing was pointing out that, according to the tenets of NA, AA lore is incorrect when it says Bill was sober since the day he saw God. Thus, there is a tension between AA and NA theology in much the same way as there is a tension between Judaism and Christianity in regards to the divinity of Christ.

Have you listened to your Arnold ZeDVille today?
http://www.reverbnation.com/arnoldzedville/songs

There are no tenets that dictate using LSD for Emotional and Mental well being is wrong. The year was 1956 and LSD was 2 years old, a brand new drug brought into the market to cure several mental illnesses as alcoholism.
As far as AA and NA having a contentious relationship this is a fabricated story you are weaving here for conversation.
If nothing else Penny,you can spin the yarn.

I've told you before. You must not speak to sane people. You are too crazy for normal folk. Stick to abuse. How's Diane?

God damn it, get me a whiskey

Bill W, Deathbed

http://www.youtube.com/watch?source=patrick.net&v=Sdn3O6aaMNc

Pennywise's picture

Well then what's the point of NA if it is cool to get high (provided the drugs are new) to cure depression? Do you really think that any NA literature suggests that it is OK to use drugs as long as you are depressed?

Have you listened to your Arnold ZeDVille today?
http://www.reverbnation.com/arnoldzedville/songs

causeandeffect's picture

What it all proves is that the program doesn't make people "happy, joyous and free" even for wilson. Yet even though he knew this from first hand experience, he was still trying to sell it as such.

"The ideal tyranny is that which is ignorantly self-administered by its victims. The most perfect slaves are, therefore, those which blissfully and unawaredly enslave themselves."
~Dresden James

It's funny, one other thing I gleaned from the man who runs the meeting down the road from this one last night (talked to him a week or so ago) was that from the NA side of things the opinion was that it was the AAers who are OK with medications. For him, and some other NA hardliners (and oldtimers) around here, psych meds are absolutely verboten in NA but are supposedly completely acceptable in AA.

I frankly don't see the point of it (NA) if you stay miserable, and have yet to see a meeting full of people who aren't in full crisis mode. Or if you don't progress to a point in which you no longer glorify using in any way, shape or form. Or find "serenity". I don't say that to judge them either, but something is clearly not working in "the program", if only for this particular group.

marietta davis's picture

Actually, LSD was first synthesized in 1938.

I bet you really believe that too....lol.

If AA were still using acid I'd be at a meeting every day, this site wouldn't need to exist and oranges could be blue if they wanted to be.

God damn it, get me a whiskey

Bill W, Deathbed

http://www.youtube.com/watch?source=patrick.net&v=Sdn3O6aaMNc

You do know Bill used LSD to treat his depression during the 50's? This was the mid 50's not the mid to late 60's Haight-Ashbury San Fransico, Ca.

I used to wonder what the animosity was due to, actually, and tried to just ignore it. Then, for a while, I noticed a major education gap between the two and assumed it was socioeconomic. Then I was shocked at how overtly religious AA is compared to NA (I mean, seriously, the Lord's Prayer? If you come in from the NA side, that is quite shocking to see, especially several times a day in rehab, much less meetings.)

Then I realized both groups are filled with unstable narcissists who treat any and everyone outside of themselves and/or their group as competition. (Perhaps it's just my ears ringing with the, "those fucking newcomer girls".)

marietta davis's picture

Got a word for ya, Perp: therapy.

Exactly, Marietta! Narcissists should be in therapy! You should get right on that one.

marietta davis's picture

Oh, aren't you the clever little tart! I've had my therapy, thanks.

By the way, didn't I ask you to post a photocopy of your medical degree online? I want to know what kind of expert is struggling so hard to shit on me. All that talk about narcissism makes me wonder why you're pushing so hard to assign this "diagnosis" to me. I'm hardly concerned with my own adequacy; I'm not preoccupied with issues of power or prestige or vanity. Where does your misplaced impression come from? Do you believe I'm full of myself because I speak my mind? Because I bring my own experiences and observations to the table? Because I have no problem kicking your ass when you need ass-kicking?

What school did you go to? Let's see that sheepskin! If you post it I will never address you in any form ever again! And if you don't I will dog you like Cerberus.

"Oh, aren't you the clever little tart! " Just when I thought we were going to have a couple of hours without abuse. BSC - you are BSC.

Please don't come back with the "I was abused first". You are the TROLL!!!! It's your place to be abused. The only way to treat trolls is either to ignore them or abuse them. My only complaint is that you are getting off too lightly. You are not being abused enough. Come on folks - pick your game up. Danny is so thick it's funny, and billy is so incomprehensible I don't bother reading his posts any more, but you BSC are fucking evil. Any crap that comes your way is deserved.

God damn it, get me a whiskey

Bill W, Deathbed

http://www.youtube.com/watch?source=patrick.net&v=Sdn3O6aaMNc

marietta davis's picture

What made you think you were entitled to a couple of hours without abuse? I never indicated there was going to be any respite.

"The only way to treat trolls is either to ignore them or abuse them." Wasn't it about a week ago when you said you were not going to respond to me any longer and you were going to ignore me? What happened to that, ben? Aren't you the master of your own destiny?

Master of what I do - yes. You are a troll. You don't have to be truthful to trolls. They can be abused whenever and however anyone wants. Sub standard you see - lower class scum...lol. Unfit for normal company...lol

God damn it, get me a whiskey

Bill W, Deathbed

http://www.youtube.com/watch?source=patrick.net&v=Sdn3O6aaMNc

marietta davis's picture

No, what you mean is, "I don't have to [be: correction 3:22 p.m., 2/21/12 ]truthful . . . " And I'm seeing that.

Meds, BSC - MEDS - URGENT!!!!!...lol

God damn it, get me a whiskey

Bill W, Deathbed

http://www.youtube.com/watch?source=patrick.net&v=Sdn3O6aaMNc

marietta davis's picture

All I was doing was correcting your grammar, ben. Your post made no sense when you were assigning an activity to me when it was clearly meant for you. ("Master of what I do - yes. You are a troll. You don't have to be truthful to trolls." See how that doesn't make sense? It suggests that a) I'm a troll, and b) that I don't have to be truthful . . . It's just bad writing.)

It interests me how you retreat behind a false bulletin about a medical emergency instead of acknowledging when I have a genuine point to consider. You fail at every turn to carry on a discussion and instead resort to grade school antics like this one. You don't gain any credibility by doing so, and you miss every opportunity to discuss the points you disagree with. You resort to OPForum flag waving, no doubt looking over your shoulder to see who is noticing and approving. Have you done this your whole life, or is it just since you began posting on this forum?

Looks like you've chosen your dictator.

"I don't have to truthful....." - Doesn't make fucking sense. And following that "And I'm seeing that" don't make fucking sense. BSC.

What your saying is bollocks too. Your meaning would be written "You are a troll, you don't have to be truthful to trolls" - one sentence with a comma. Separate sentences are stand alone. You want to misinterpret them, that's up to you...lol BSC.

Even written as one sentence it makes sense, idiot. Being a troll (ie you) doesn't mean you have to be truthful to trolls. Even trolls can lie to trolls. Now get those meds down, you're losing it...lol

God damn it, get me a whiskey

Bill W, Deathbed

http://www.youtube.com/watch?source=patrick.net&v=Sdn3O6aaMNc

marietta davis's picture

Please, get back in your seat, ben.

Now, when you said, " . . . You are a troll. You don't have to be truthful to trolls," this is how it reads:

a) in your view I, marietta, am a troll. Got that? Disagree with that? OK.
b) Since you are addressing me with the first statement, it follows (grammatically) that you are addressing me with the second statement: "You don't have to be truthful to trolls." Now, your intent was to switch your viewpoint to your audience between statement a and statement b, right? In that case it would have made more sense had you said, "You are a troll. NO ONE has to be truthful to trolls." That way it would have been more clear that you were not instructing me that I need not be truthful to trolls.

"Even trolls can lie to trolls"? That's a flaccid save if there ever was one. If this is truly what you intended to say, do you mean I can lie to Danny? Of what value is that? And, just so you know, I don't lie.

Is exactly what a liar would say. The need to state it raises certain suspicions.

God damn it, get me a whiskey

Bill W, Deathbed

http://www.youtube.com/watch?source=patrick.net&v=Sdn3O6aaMNc

"to truthful" is not a verb Bat Shit...lol

God damn it, get me a whiskey

Bill W, Deathbed

http://www.youtube.com/watch?source=patrick.net&v=Sdn3O6aaMNc

..

God damn it, get me a whiskey

Bill W, Deathbed

http://www.youtube.com/watch?source=patrick.net&v=Sdn3O6aaMNc

..

God damn it, get me a whiskey

Bill W, Deathbed

http://www.youtube.com/watch?source=patrick.net&v=Sdn3O6aaMNc

JR Harris's picture

Sometimes when you find yourself in a particularly dangerous coven it is best to play "possum" and slowly exit with others. If she got up in the middle and left, the coven would have smelled a prospect who was leaving their coven and some of the more dangerous "trapper prospect hunters" would have tried to contact her friends and family to try to get her back causing all kinds of trouble. The gossip would have spread like wildfire and anyone who knew anything about her life would have tried to tighten the Spiritual noose around her neck tighter than it already is.

~You can not moderate the truth. Just don't lie, steal or make stuff up out of thin air and expect to get away with it without it being pointed out to you. It's really very simple.~

marietta davis's picture

How would they know if she was leaving or going to the ladies room or going to get coffee or going to make a phone call? So far I've read about two disgruntled attendees. Even in a small meeting they don't represent a majority. It pisses me off to read that you think women are so fragile. We're not. If we want to get up and leave, we leave. We don't blame our fear on a guy talking about suicide or a mouthy shrew trying to be the baddest ass in the room.

I'm really surprised - and dismayed - at how some women believe they are so tender that they can't exercise their own right to participate or not in these meetings. It's mind-blowing.

I don't think that's what everyone is saying, Marietta. It's more in the realm of common sense. I'm not afraid of these people. I'm also not fragile. I know that I'm not, but whether or not the people in a meeting do isn't my concern.

It's not exactly "mind-blowing" that you seem to think I should've gone in there and "pulled a Marietta", but don't mistake that for fear or fragility.

marietta davis's picture

I repeat:

1) Why did you go?
2) Why did you stay?

When I was attending NA heavily as a teen in the mid-eighties, 1.5 years of clean time was enough to be considered a guru. The most claimed time that I recall was 5 years and this was from Dave M., the predator I've previously mentioned. There was another with 3 years who was always the first to "share" and was the most dominant in the meetings, other than that very few ever had more than a year.

Dennis M.
"They are not at fault, they seem to have been brainwashed that way."

jonnijoy's picture

Ha ha Persephone, I have been at mtgs like that a few times myself. In NA you will not find big numbers of people with clean time especially in todays world with an opiate epidemic and crack still in the picture. So a crazy addict with over a year clean will most likely be sponsoring many people. Ive also found that the people who talk tough in meetings were actually the ones who were the least badass. The saying holds true in my experience that its the quiet ones to look out for. Being a recovered drug addict myself, I chose to go to AA instead (had a drinking problem also). I couldnt stand the bragging about how much dope you did or how many times you have been arrested. The more arrests, rehabs, time in prison you have, the better your story and the more respect you get. We all know each mtg has its own flavor and the lower bottom mtgs are going to be like you described. Not all NA mtgs are like that though. I have been to lots of them and have also seen decent mtgs with good people who are doing good in life now. There is way too much huggy-kissy crap at NA, along with way too much reading at the start of every mtg and when the chairperson asks "does anybody have any anouncements?" Forget it evreybody has something to say. I think its an attention thing.

LOL....yes, I went to AA after this group, actually for a time. Brief time though. AA here is much more sane, but only relatively.

It just reminded me of a woman I used to know who married a hardcore AAer out in L.A. who tried to attend meetings around here (AA and NA) when visiting family, etc. He kept being so shocked that meetings here are "soooo depressing!" and his wife would remind him that it's not supposed to be a "social club" like meetings (apparently) are in LA. Here, they ARE just flat out depressing! One of the most affluent AAs is not too far from this NA meeting (oddly enough), and that is almost MORE depressing. No grandstanding re: jail time, violent offenses etc., but the same strain of people who are discussing more the chronic severe depression they're suffering from. Which I'm not saying doesn't deserve empathy on its own, it does. I just always get the feeling that if you're barely able to not kill yourself, and are at that level after being sober for years (some of these people are on 20 years!), then me and others telling them to read about that "other" problem you have (really, HAD) isn't the best help they could be getting! If you want to kill yourself on a daily basis, hell, even if you just feel compelled to TELL groups of people daily that you want to kill yourself--and you're sober--then (is it just me? or..) the substance abuse doesn't seem to be the primary problem.

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