Left For DeAAd.
Mindfulness Meditation in Recovery
Left For DeAAd.
My introduction to twelve step programs was at the age of 19, after a suicide attempt had landed me into a psych hospital. Heavy hearted and devastated by surviving and my inability to kill myself, I was loaded up with medicine and given strict instructions to follow up with an out-patient program. I did, and discovered that at the time, the only program offered with my school schedule was the night-time 35 years and up Chemical Dependency program. This was okay, I thought, I loved drugs and alcohol, but I didn’t necessarily want to quit. I would go for the psychiatrist and the free pizza, and they’d fix me.
Arriving my first day, stupid and clueless I sat in the circle of an aged to perfection concession of lies and resistance. I introduced myself as Jay, 19 and here for depression. “Aren’t you here because of alcohol? Didn’t you drink the night you tried— ended up in the hospital? You’re here because you’re an alcoholic.” The counselor broke the ice and there it was, there was my first time hearing the word alcoholic attached to my story. I of course tried to defend myself and had not an inkling of a clue that there were pages in the big book designed to ridicule folks like myself who were “only fooling themselves”– the dishonesty of an alcoholic is one beyond measure and all things Holy! The room erupted in laughter– egg headed ego-maniacal middle aged men unified in a relief in my misfortune. “Keep coming back!” One man in the group yelled in his hands with his head down, and then threw his head back and roared.
This is how things went for the three months of my out-patient. I went to meetings and even helped set them up, I spoke to folks outside of the meetings and smoked cigarettes– gave rides to those who couldn’t drive, and even shared openly about my feelings in my outpatient. But, my reluctance to get a sponsor or take the steps was the catalyst for my outpatient graduation recap. The room went around and one by one told me how I wasn’t finished, that they’d pray for me, and there would be a seat left for me in any meeting I decided to crawl back to– if i I were lucky enough to make it back.
These were the friendly faces I was introduced to the 12 steps by, and this was the proverbial taste left in my mouth after my first impression of a program I hated by default. For years following I did try to force myself out of desperation and ignorance to finish– oblivious to any alternative methods, brainwashed by the messages of “this is the only thing that works,” “last house on the block,” etc..
For over 7 years I had tried to do things the “AA way,” and failed each time after just a few months of abstinence. I began questioning the theory behind abstinence. I decided that I could take benzodiazepines because I was a heroin addict and it wasn’t my drug of choice. I also retreated into a program for Buddhist drug addicts founded on the principles of Buddhism and addiction as a form of suffering. I began to believe that I could get clean and stay clean without the help of a twelve step program. Unfortunately, I began cheeking my medication and taking it all at once with a mix of herbal enhancements to accentuate the calming sedating effects of the medicine I was taking. Within a month I was shooting heroin again and now shooting other drugs like Meth to mix with it. I found myself on the street, Sunset Blvd in Hollywood sleeping on the same stretch of sidewalk I would beg for money on.
Intuitively, a thought was planted within the confines of my suffering mind. The thought began to sprout slowly that the power to change was inside of myself. This didn’t mean that I had all of the answers, it simply meant that I didn’t actually need a program to dictate how to live my life if I didn’t believe in the program. The message behind AA was beautiful once, and I believe if I were alive in the 30’s during the beginning I would have been one to shake hands with James Burwell, the man who added “as we understood him,” next to the word God on the steps. This, this thought, this random fact that I had held onto found its usage in my new outlook and determination to get clean without AA. In fact, the program I managed to escape into was founded by a man who had gotten sober through AA and now helps folks to find other means of recovery, stating the focus of AA has become increasingly to shame and control the newcomer; in older times the men who suffered and women who suffered were embraced. These days are over, so my friend now says, and I tend to agree.
I found my way into a program, I kicked cold turkey on a psych ward floor, and began being embraced by the kind folks who owned the treatment center I was lucky enough to have been accepted into. They kept me for many months, they helped me find a job, and they allowed me to search for purpose and meaning in my life. I chose meditation and Buddhist principles.
The principles, the 8 fold path, the 4 noble truths, as elementary as they are to Buddhism began to help me see my life as an obstacle course I didn’t have the slightest idea how to navigate. It began to make sense in a less religious and more spiritually guided view-point. Meditation helped me to become mindful and sit through feelings of discomfort or wanting to flee from the slightest thing that went wrong. Over 13 months later, meditation has taken so many different forms in my life. My meditation is gardening; my meditation is music; my meditation is being with my girlfriend; my meditation is driving and acknowledging my small place in this universe; the ability to help as many around me as I am able to help. Sometimes I help people because I’m selfish and I want validation, but most times I’m helpful because I remember the way backs were turned on me when I needed somebody to hug me and tell me everything was going to be okay in spite of how I felt.
The idea of a god now is becoming more and more relevant in my meditations; the empty space that fills my eyes mixed with a sensation of peace I’m starting to find more and more frequently throughout my life. This feeling I could allow to be called God, if somebody so wanted, and not be offended or resistant. I’ve lost the opposition in even the word God. I’ve even lost my opposition to the steps and encourage people to experiment with AA or any other twelve step program, because my journey has been one for myself. It wasn’t always this way. There were many times I had gotten injured or sick this past year, had my heart broken or was let down in some way and thought about turning back to heroin. There’s a place I can reside in my mind that never really wavers if I practice meditating frequently.
I’ve been to one meeting in the past 6 months because somebody who was newly getting clean had asked me to take them to their very first one. I did. I didn’t object, I didn’t identify as an alcoholic or an addict, I identified as support. I was embraced respectfully as somebody who wouldn’t “turn.” I like meetings, in the sense that I like the idea of a community of people much like myself, the problem is that the likeminded ones are a needle in a haystack and its so important for me to find the other lost ones– the other ones who have a glimmer of hope that is extinguished within a rigid structure that was never intended to be so rigid. The old days– the glory days of offering your couch to somebody who was in need– of buying somebody a meal and telling them to return the next day because you loved them and you were them once. Those are the nostalgic feelings I feel when I think of the way AA was probably intended. I grieve those days as a lost dream I had maybe dreamt in a stream of dreams universal. But I also know that my own journey is my own journey, and I take refuge in the peace that I’ve found knowing that I’m allowed to walk my path the way I wish to walk it.
To summarize. My name is Jay, I’m 27 years old. I haven’t done heroin, any other drugs or alcohol in over 13 months. I meditate on a daily basis, sometimes guided, sometimes not guided, and I have a code that I live by that helps me to be a better person. I talk about my feelings to professionals and friends, I never trust a man who tells me how good of a person they are, and I encourage anybody anywhere to find a way of life that works for them, program related or personal quest, and to believe whole hearted that no matter how they decide to change their lives or find recovery, that it will work and they will be happy so long as they try their hardest to change. I changed my life without AA, and I beg you not to go back to the way you were living just because you hate the twelve step model. There are so many ways to get off drugs and stop drinking, you only need to find one for yourself.