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

Why would you write such a post? You really think like this? Why does it matter how many years you have with AA? Who said AA cures depression, bi-polar disorder, manic depression or any other emotional or mental disorder the person had when they decided to stop drinking. How do you know they are not being treated by a doctor, trying new meds or in the case of some taking meds but this is the best its going to be. Jesus, PIE, you have to be a better person then this post.
causeandeffect's picture

diablo.
"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
marietta davis's picture

Please point out within what pages or chapters of the Big Book we can find said "claim to cure" depression, bi-polar disorder, or other mental disorders. Very interested to know if I overlooked something.

I was perplexed. Who is Diablo?

Everyone knows you are Danny. Are you coming straight in here or are you using a proxy server Danny?
God damn it, get me a whiskey Bill W, Deathbed http://www.youtube.com/watch?source=patrick.net&v=Sdn3O6aaMNc
causeandeffect's picture

You're diablo, diablo.
"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

There are those, too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders, but many of them do recover if they have the capacity to be honest. BB p.58, How It Works
"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
DeConstructor's picture

As would throwing a handful of hydros on the floor and watching them like kids at a pinata breaking. (Make it rain NA style) The world needs to see this type of behavior. The world needs to see this face of an organization that considers itself unquestionable.
Ironic's picture

I hope you plan on never ever going back. I did this too, about ..hmm, about 6 months ago. It really is interesting to see it from a sober perspective. Lol it's like you think "I always THOUGHT this was crazy, but now that I'm sober I can really tell how crazy it is."

Well, I did change the title here from "Is it just me? Um, no, it is you, after all". Yes, it's very strange to see this from a sober perspective. It would be in any meeting situation, but to see it with the same exact group of people I'd seen it with a few years back, well, that was somehow just very enlightening.
jonnijoy's picture

"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." Persephone I think you answered your own question!! How could substance abuse be somebodys problem anymore if they have not used anything in 20 years? lol Its crazy isnt it? I pretty much have learned from myself and others that the root of our problems were not the substance. The substance was used to supress other issues like depression. Take away the drugs and or booze and you are still stuck with depression. I also believe that repressed anger causes depression. That is why I could not agree with the big book about Bills ridiculous take on anger. I used share that I thought this was wrong and somebody would always cross share back at me how we need to avoid anger at all costs without ever stating why, except that it could possibly lead us back to the drink. Dont forget most people in AA are not that deep. If they read it, it must be true.
jonnijoy's picture

JR says;"As time goes by the oldtimers with 20 and 30 years in AA are slowly being replaced with newer recruits who do illicit drugs also. I believe there will always be a divide between the two cults and AA being a more mature cult will try to always be on top, but many AA meeting are starting to allow the discussion of drugs at their rituals. It all depends on how entrenched the oldtimer AA members are at that location." Jonni says; Thats dead-on Jr. A few years back if you identified yourself as an addict in an AA mtg, theirs a good chance the place would have been up in arms. Things have changed over the years though and most the newcomers are addicted to drink and drug. I believe the oldtimers or at least the rational oldtimers understand this. I also believe that more and more rehabs are using the NA textbook instead of the AA bigbook. Most people going into rehabs have either drug problems or drug and alcohol problems. I would have to say the that alcohol is not the #1 reason for recovery anymore. I am currently in outpatient rehab and alcoholism is by far the minority.

Well, this may be neither here nor there, but I was finally told in rehab that I did not belong in NA, that I should go instead to AA. I wasn't just told this at rehab, but at the hospital I was at to detox at (the 2 hatters run that asylum). Then I was told this by counselors (quite a few of them) at rehab. Then by the patients when we'd get together to discuss which meetings we wanted to go to. Every single time. "You belong in AA, NOT in NA." I'd not been to AA at that point, and asked why I belonged there. The answer I got every time was always socioeconomic, always based in educational background. It wouldn't strike me as odd except that I've not really been able to drink since I was 19, and when I brought it up, I was told that all that is required is a "desire to not drink", and to lie and say that was my concern. I mean, I do manage a drink about once a year, but when you get giggly off of about 1/3 of a cocktail that's an entirely different drinking problem.

Perse, thanks for sharing about what it was like to go back to you're home group. It sounds like a nightmare of a meeting. Excellent reminder too! Now again it is even more unreal to me that judges would mandate or even recommend going to meetings. Or a counselor or a doctor. Yes, I know you can choose which one you go to, maybe AA or NA. Holy water though, this self help group has the NA stamp on it. To think this could be one of your first times at a meeting after hearing all of the puff and glory about XA. I’d be wondering if all of NA was as insane as this. It’s ridiculous that this continues. Allowing these meetings to continue while being known as secular group counseling, despite their obvious religious themes and paradoxical therapy, is bullshit. As most people know, that is my stance and firm opinion. But they are also unregulated and some are being “run” by violent and suicidal, actively sick, people. I don’t get how this is allowed either. What if there are only a few XA meetings in your area and they are all like this? What if you want to work the program and believe it would help you but cannot relate to the others except that you both have an addiction? From what I get from your post, Perse, there wasn’t much, if any, sharing related to step work or any sharing related to sobriety (how to accomplish it). Even spirituality. For those actively involved in the program or those that support it. What is your opinion about having meetings regulated? Ideas on how they could become regulated?
Pro Empowerment!

Avo--it's all like this here. Like I said, I was told to go to AA instead. To answer your question, this was a topic meeting, except that no one had a topic. Oddly, the other meeting I hit more recently was the same thing, basically the same topic, too. The topic was brought up by a younger, newer member, and it was what to do about a living situation while trying to get clean when sharing an abode with people who are using. He claimed his alternative was a homeless shelter. In the close to 30 shares, very little advice was given, though what was given was offered by very, very new people (try a sober living house, try to apply with them, talk to more people after meetings, go to 90 in 90). The longer standing members mentioned how powerless (there's that damned word again!) they'd be over their addiction if they were even in the same building as people who were using, but used that to launch into drugalogues (eh, sorry, they weren't really drunkalogues) about their present situations. And their violent offenses. Constant thoughts of suicide. And queen sponsor ranting about how it took all she could muster not to beat a woman half to death the previous night. For stroking her hair in an attempt to comfort her. Seriously, these were the eligible sponsors to these newer people, and are sponsors themselves, yet one of the women was ranting about "fucking newcomer girls". I wish I could take someone to this group, honestly, it was just that messed up.

Considering how the organization is run it's not surprising at all that meetings turn into this. It's crazy to think that what it "needs" is a guru or "Big Bill" to keep it, or get it back to the insanity/sanity that XA is used to! The gawdly clean time in that meeting or those similar is spreading backassward crazy logic. Yes parents, send your children there to learn about staying sober and about spirituality. Is "sponsor" even the correct word for what a sponsor is or does, in relation to the program? I wish I could go to that meeting with you. I wish there were people around here that I could go to meetings with.
Pro Empowerment!
marietta davis's picture

Why do you want or need to go to meetings? Why can't you go by yourself?
Ironic's picture

I'll return the sentiment of agreement, for I don't understand why anyone on this board would choose to attend a meeting (court order doesn't = "choose").

Troll speaking. No need to answer, just give her a verbal kicking...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

Verbal kicking? When are you gonna get around to that, ben?
causeandeffect's picture

You truly are crazier than a shithouse rat. Your online (and off line, I'm sure) reputation was in the crapper long before any of us had the misfortune of even knowing you exist. The Elan students you abused don't need any help from any of us. I have nothing to do with you beyond the sites you've incessantly trolled and stalked me at: stinkin thinkin, JREF and here. Why are you stalking us, danny?
"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

Speaking on Danny's behalf here. I don't think anyone would ever stalk you. Cause you are an idiot troll. As far as Elan resident survivors which Danny was for almost 2 years. There are 4 people (survivors) trolling Danny not including JR and yourself. I am so happy causeandeffect you helped me become aware of Danny. I would of never thought that so many cold and callous people could congregate in one place and attack someone as you folks did. Get some help.

"....a idiot...." - it's as distinctive as a fingerprint...lol
God damn it, get me a whiskey Bill W, Deathbed http://www.youtube.com/watch?source=patrick.net&v=Sdn3O6aaMNc

Danny "....a idiot...." - it's as distinctive as a fingerprint...lol Should read the post again I think you need glasses, Wayne K.

"As far as Elan resident survivors which Danny was for almost 2 years." - Did he die after 2 years or what?...lol. "As far as........" - ??? well - were waiting. What happened? How long before this one gets changed...lol
God damn it, get me a whiskey Bill W, Deathbed http://www.youtube.com/watch?source=patrick.net&v=Sdn3O6aaMNc
causeandeffect's picture

Jeez, I'd say he's really lost the plot, but he never had the plot to begin with.
"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

He corrected it. Too late!
"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

LOL
God damn it, get me a whiskey Bill W, Deathbed http://www.youtube.com/watch?source=patrick.net&v=Sdn3O6aaMNc

I should have said a meetings instead of "meetings". Maybe one or two and just to observe and listen. I don't feel I need one and it wouldn't be in search of support. In the past I've gone because I was told to or felt that I should because that was how "it" was done. I was either bored and zoned off or the opposite, tried to understand and get something out of it. I'd like to hear it now from a different p.o.v., mainly the shares. To see how they go and how they comment. Etc. I'm interested. And with all respect of course, I wouldn't lecture or bring on debate. I don't want to fuck with anyone's program.
Pro Empowerment!
Ironic's picture

You just said it. The reason I don't go to meetings (aside from the obvious) is that it is LITERALLY IMPOSSIBLE for me to keep my mouth shut the whole time. Whether it be in the clubhouse or out in the parking lot, eventually someone says something so insane that I either start laughing or start being condescending in some other way. So I just stay away :) I can see what you're saying about gaining insight from A diff POV though. Probably makes you grateful you're not a drone (for once) as opposed to super excited that you've "finally gotten it!"

OK, well, I have to admit. Mostly it was curiosity, curiosity about how (especially that group) it would look from my perspective of complete sobriety. Also curiosity as to how it would look not just through skeptical eyes (I already had those once I'd switched to AA and had left), because I've read quite a bit on this subject since my last meeting, same things everyone else has read here, so you all know the drill. Secondly, it was this overwhelming desire I sometimes have to be able to talk to a newcomer and NOT be spreading doom and gloom, but to tell someone what I would've like to hear when I was new. That it would all be OK, the anxiety is normal, and a (hint, hint) don't sweat it, I'm not actually even in any program. It's OK to not be. I didn't do that as much as I'd intended, but there you go. But admittedly, I had what the steppers would call a "resentment", of sorts. These disgusting bastards abandoned me when I most needed help after I was sent to them FOR help. Mainly Bitchy Sponsorpants, and I frankly wanted to see her reaction. And to see if she was as nutty as I'd thought back then when my head wasn't very clear, but even through the fog she seemed completely screwed up (telling all 12 sponsees that she'd "sucked dick for meth", gotten 13 year old girls addicted so they'd "run for her" and then insisting that we were "just like her", etc., would end up just like her unless we followed her instructions, the whole shebang...). Well, she is that messed up. And no longer together enough to even have a troop of ducklings, but only to vent her hatred of "newcomer bitches" in her share. I'll be honest, I didn't go to that meeting to feel better about myself, I honestly expected to be verbally ripped a new one. I can stand that, though. But it only happened AT MOST passive aggressively. I doubted I'd be attacked physically. What I didn't expect was to be stuffing my fist in my mouth by the ex-sponsor's share. I thought I'd be filled with righteous indignation, I thought I'd want to yell at her, tell her how awful it is to not call someone back and support them after what I ended up going through. I did, after all, DIE. However, she was so pathetic that it was all I could do to not laugh out loud. I couldn't kick the dog that was already dying in the gutter, I couldn't (and wouldn't) lower myself to the level of these people. So no, I didn't "forgive" these people, to let go of my resentment, the good ole 12 step way, I let myself outgrow it....and going to this meeting allowed me to do that.

It really brings up points of peoples remaining issues, after they have become sober. You must of felt like you were in the twilight zone. What incredible talk of violence from a sponsor. In front of all those young newcomers-how sad.

"I welcome all allies in the fight against A.A. hegemony" -Orange

www.expaa.org EXPOSE AA

NA DAYTONA- Violent Criminals Being Mandated to AA and NA Meetings
http://nadaytona.org/alcoholics-anonymous-votes-no-to-protect-members-from...

They are open meetings for the most part. It is well known that people come just to observe. Nothing wrong with that. Also to see how it would be to see them with a different perspective than before.

"I welcome all allies in the fight against A.A. hegemony" -Orange

www.expaa.org EXPOSE AA

NA DAYTONA- Violent Criminals Being Mandated to AA and NA Meetings
http://nadaytona.org/alcoholics-anonymous-votes-no-to-protect-members-from...

I'm more quiet Ironic. Although I understand how you might lol or be direct about a ridiculous share or comment, I can easily let it go like I'm not even in the room. I have changed though, and if a comment is directed to me or if I am asked, I will speak my mind. In group therapy (aftercare), for instance, my counselor was always pestering me about going to meetings and why not, etc. We had our long private talks and I told her that I would respect and support the decision of the others, but if she dug into me in their presence then she and they would get an earful. And they did. I don’t think that she thought I had it in me, she was used to pushing us all around. The confusing part was that she knew what my answers were, so why ask again? And again? And again? Maybe thought that I’d fold under pressure. It backfired on her though, because she ended up saying “Shhh, Sally – later”. She didn’t want the other girls hearing the truth. It turned out well in the end because I continued to change. I realized later that had I stayed in group I would have been too bothered by the gals after a while and unable to focus on my program. They discussed powerlessness and surrender too much. When one said that she finally realized that all the years she was sober without AA that she was a “dry drunk”, I cringed. I can handle a meeting two or now, just to observe and be analytical perhaps. I can share my experience, strength, and hope, too I guess. There is nothing wrong with being different. Like Perse said, it is OK if you're not working the program...That’s if I can get through the readings. Maybe I’ll be late
Pro Empowerment!
Ironic's picture

The last meeting I went to was about six months ago. I wrote a blog post about it I think. Maybe since you are older and wiser, your anger is more under control than my own. The sheer magnitude of my anger and sadness when I went to the meeting and really thought about the court-orders and the "powerlessness" and saw the guy I KNOW fucked with 13 year olds when he was 20 or 21..well, it was hard for me to deal with. It made me want to get high. I readily admit not all xA groups are highly abusive..sponsorship can get hinky super fast in any group, though. Also, I think about the time I wasted believing this shit! It makes me feel sad for being a dumbass and letting myself waste even MORE time thinking I was "powerless" over my "disease." and I wasn't even in the vicious cycle all that long. It makes me really feel for those of you that left the cult after so many years. Must have been very scary and isolating.

Well, first of all you made an excellent point. If it makes you feel like using, don't go, even just to observe!! And I didn't think, about half of the time it made me feel likely using too. I don't know how it would affect me now, because I don't believe or want to try and believe in powerlessness and crap. The fact that I’m older doesn't mean I’m wiser :=) Anger has been a problem for me since I left. In the past I was in good practice of shutting down my emotions. It was a protection type of deal. A meeting, when I’m ready, might be good exposure therapy. It’s not drastic like re-living a rape, so I think it would be healthy at the right time. Remembering the craziness is good for us right? Keeps us motivated. Maybe seeing it would be more helpful. I totally get the resentment about wasted time. And the wasted energy/being confused, and unnecessary emotional roller coaster. That is something which is very hard to get someone like my Mom to understand. She says she understands all of this, but her answer is “just don’t go anymore”. Yes, that’s for sure. But she doesn’t “get” what it’s like to be brainwashed and repeatedly lied to. It actually could have cost many of us our lives. Fucking with someone’s head when they are already sick is cruel. It was definitely not a time to throw in confusion about spirituality (God). Somehow this needs to be worked through. The anger, resentment, sadness over lost time. It’s not an easy process. Btw. Does the Subutex give you urges? The Suboxone it has the naloxone that helps block them. But if that’s just like an opiate I’d guess that you would constantly be getting a craving...My doc increased my dose again! It’s unreal, I think it’s going in the wrong direction. He thinks the added naloxone will help but I don’t think so. I just stash/stock pile what I don’t use. One (of many) things that really scares me is being left without. Withdraw scares me big time and I honestly don’t know if I can go through it again. How do you feel about it?
Pro Empowerment!
jonnijoy's picture

Avagadno my outpatient rehab is full (and im not kidding) of people taking suboxone for opiate withdrawals and each and every one of them prefer methadone. some make the switch. I personally dont know about opiates (never did anything for me). The ones on suboxone in group have that far-away look in their eyes and ramble on when they are asked to share. They used to sell them when they got their script but they are saying now that they come time released and cant even sell them unless you freeze them first, whatever that means. Hope this helps a little.

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