Tuesday, July 22, 2008

On letting go of being an addict

I am so glad that after 11 years of being clean and working the Narcotics Anonymous program, you decided that you couldn't leave France without tasting French wine. Since we got clean together so many years ago, I want to tell you some of the things I have figured out after my much more brief - 3 years- stint of sobriety.

I am deeply grateful for what Narcotics Anonymous brought into my life- I honestly don't think I would have graduated from college had I not gotten clean. I learned a whole lot about myself in the process and what I learned continues to be applicable in dealing with myself and with others at home and work. That said, I think NA is a means to an end- not the ultimate solution.

So much of working with people coming out of or in prison, and especially those facing the death penalty is about redemption and grace. It is about not judging people based on the worst decision they ever made. I can't imagine being judged based on my worst decision(s). The thought makes me cringe and blush. I just don't think its kind or compassionate to hold people to this standard. Not that I'm saying we shouldn't be held accountable for these terrible decisions, terrible actions, but they do not in and of themselves define us as people. We are so much more than our worst moments.

You and I made a lot of really bad decisions when we were younger. But this is outweighed by what we have done and become since then. Frankly my dear, I just think you and I are both too smart to live a life of abstinence. Not that addiction can be "outsmarted", but we know ourselves well enough to be able to identify the red flags that may arise and take steps to address them outside of those rooms. One of my strongest commitments to myself is to never wind up in those rooms again- and that is enough to make me do the right things.

God, as I am writing this I realize I am sounding so cocky- such a know it all- and I don't mean to be. This is just something I've thought a whole lot about over the years. Not that I've gotten this all figured out- I definitely still have my occasional binges coupled with the worst hangovers ever where I can drink nothing but ginger ale and whimper a lot. But the difference is that I don't panic anymore that I'm gonna be back in that awful place that I was when I started in NA. Now I just call myself a dumbass and recall that gin does not a classy lady make.

Maybe you've noticed the difference in the treatment of addiction outside of the US? I did my women's studies thesis on women and addiction and that was one of the biggest things I remember- in the US the only real drug "treatment" that is available to most people is that found in 12 step programs which promote abstinence as an only option. Outside of the US, programs teach moderation, how to make healthy choices, and how to recognize when you might be approaching dangerous levels of your habit. The US culture is one of such indulgence that I I think moderation is impossible for most, but certainly not for all.

So I know you didn't ask to hear my 800 thoughts about NA and addiction and I hope you don't mind me writing them. I just really hoped that one day you would come to a place where you would feel confident in take the step to cut yourself some slack and enjoy some of the things that the world has to offer that we deprived ourselves from - you for much longer than I. I wish you all the best in these new steps and remain hopeful for all there is yet to come in your life.

No comments: