Medical marijuana doesn’t cure breast cancer

I just read this interesting article by Orac, which is critical of medical marijuana and the claims that it treats breast cancer. In case you don’t already know, Orac is a pseudonym for David Gorski – a surgeon who specializes in breast cancer. So he knows what he’s talking about.

I’d go further than what he says though, and advise to stay away from marijuana even for recreational use. It can and does cause permanent clinical psychosis. I’ve seen it. Unfortunately most people are wilfully ignorant of this, and will remain so. Of course I have no evidence to back up my statement; this is purely anecdotal. So smoke it up, stoners… I don’t care about idiots anyway.

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No, I don’t believe in NOTHING

This past Wednesday, Josh told me that according to his foster father (my brother), I believe in nothing except myself. I assume he got that childish idea from reading this blog. No, I believe in everything, everything that is real, everything for which there is evidence.

The main difference between me and believers is that I don’t draw the line at rejecting all those other gods, like the Greek and Egyptian gods, and all other mythology that man has ever believed in – I reject just one more god; the god that I was taught of. I recognize that there is no difference between that and any other god, and none of them are likely to exist.

I also don’t believe in a spirit or soul, or that there is an afterlife. I don’t believe that any psychic or medium has any supernatural powers. There is no evidence to suggest that someone like John Edward is doing anything other than cold reading. In fact, I believe he’s a transparent con. There may be psychics who think they have powers and have good intentions, of course, but that doesn’t make it something to believe in.

If you can detach from your indoctrinated beliefs and from what you would like to believe, which is that you never die – never cease to exist, you might realize that belief in an afterlife is really quite silly. We are animals, just like all the others on this planet, but with a larger brain to body size ratio. Our consciousness is just what happens in the tissues of our brains. When we die, it ends. The idea that we, who typically live less than one hundred years, will go on to exist in some other form (that has never been detected because it does not exist) for all eternity, is ludicrous. To expand on that and say that a creator will punish us (also for all eternity) for not believing in him or not living life according to laws invented by a society that invented that god, is absolute madness.

Just because you believe in magical bullshit, and I do not, doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in anything. There is plenty to believe in that’s based on evidence. To disregard all of that just because others don’t share your belief in nonsense is more than mere oversimplification. It is stupidity.

The other day a colleague asked me what I would do if I found that all these things that I don’t believe in are real… Obviously I would change my opinion. My opinions are not based on belief; they are based on evidence. I have learned to reject everything that I was taught to believe in as a child. I didn’t reject them all outright, but as I grew up and understood that there was no evidence for the various things that I’d accepted implicitly as true and “known this to be so in my heart”, I began to doubt those things and eventually rejected them. This has taken years, and my opinions now, in my forties, and very different to, say twenty years ago.

Some people might argue that science is just theory, about many things we can not see, which is the same as religious belief in the unseen. But that’s not true. Science is theory based on evidence, and every theory is tested rigorously and disproved or improved if it is wrong. Religion on the other hand, is dogma, written down thousands of years ago and based on nothing other than our explaining things that we don’t understand with magic. It is not based on evidence at all, but on belief.

Posted in Non-addiction, Recovery | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Mocking some funny spam

As I wait for SQL Server to install, let’s mock this spam comment that my other blog received yesterday:

You should do some search engine optimization for this blog.
I found this post on 11 place in google’s search results.
You can reach goolge’s top-10 easily and increase traffic many times.
I know what can help you, search in google for:
Fuckallton’s SEO improve

(Of course I changed the name. My name rhymes with their one though.) SEO is a lucrative business all about improving your search engine rankings. It’s a business I’m not interested in but that’s not important. What is important is this: If this tool actually worked, everybody would know about it because they would use it on their own site. So advertising their crap software via unwelcome spam comments would not be necessary. So not only are they posting unwelcome comments to random blogs, they are posting unwelcome comments to advertise tools that don’t even fucking work. Idiots…

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I hate you, Windows Update!

I have a deadline today, and as of last night, this computer froze midway when rebooting after a Windows Update. Now my SQL Server doesn’t start any more. This error is in the event log:

Cannot recover the master database. SQL Server is unable to run. Restore master from a full backup, repair it, or rebuild it. For more information about how to rebuild the master database, see SQL Server Books Online.

I tried doing a system restore, which made no difference; then tried rebuilding the master database, which also didn’t work. This is fucking brilliant… teaches me to run SQL Server 2008 R2 on Windows 8.1. So now I am downloading SQL Server 2012. Meanwhile I can’t make any progress on my work.

I hate you, Windows Update!

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A note regarding someone who likes to use my writing against me

Throughout the time that I’ve written this blog, one person has often tried to use my writing against me. I don’t know if he is going to try that nonsense again, but there is an amusing double standard at play that’s worth highlighting.

The person in question is one of Josh’s foster parents. Whenever I have written anything about him, even though I believe it is important and affects Josh, it is demanded that I remove those posts. I am accused of defamation or invasion of privacy. So it seems that he would like to believe what I wrote about myself and use it against me, but not believe what I wrote about him. Is this fair?

For example, a few years ago I speculated that he was cheating on his wife. Then a reader, and mutual Facebook friend, commented and revealed the name of the alleged girlfriend, thanks to Facebook status updates and photos that he had seen. I took that and other posts down.

To add insult to injury, lately I have been asked to pay for therapy for Josh. In every case, I don’t get to deal with it until after his assessments are done. Each assessment contains an extremely biased history, with plenty of references to us and drugs, even though he has been in the care of his foster parents since he was around 18 months old. That is, no references are made to the divorce of his foster parents, even though it surely has had a significant effect on Josh.

One event that stood out was a few years ago, at family court. Outside the family court, the foster father ranted and raved to the child welfare social worker about a new employee at his work. That employee was his girlfriend. Then in the actual court session, he gestured for his wife to hold hands and they put on an act as if everything was fine. The divorce didn’t happen for a couple of years.

It’s not right to take the things I write about my life as literal truth, and everything else as lies. In fact, you shouldn’t always take what I write literally anyway. I’m not saying that my recent revelations are not true, but they might not mean what you think they mean.

Sometimes I write short argumentative essays to express my evidence-based view on a particular topic; be it an argument about religion/atheism or some other matter, generally related to critical thinking and scepticism, especially related to non-evidence-based addiction treatment programs and logical criticism of them. Sometimes my objective is to inspire others struggling with addiction by writing about the difficulties I have faced and overcome, and am facing currently. Sometimes I embellish. Sometimes my writing is allegorical (and I don’t always make it obvious because that would ruin the allegory). Sometimes I construct a narrative over a period of weeks or months. For example, I could not write about my current situation without first establishing context, which meant revealing exactly when and how I cleaned up, as well as how long I am clean. This provided the background for the narrative such that my current difficulties become that much more serious, and more emotionally engaging to the reader. (The potential loss of my original reason to clean up represents grave risk to my recovery, and it’s also a great story that’s meant to have an emotional impact on anyone reading it. But to write it took months of planning. In other words, these latest posts didn’t suddenly appear out of nowhere. I’ve been leading up to them for a long time. That doesn’t make them completely untrue although I am not above embellishment – the latest drama was instigated by me when I confronted Megan about things that I’d procrastinated over for months, but it does indicate a carefully thought out agenda as well as stability and method behind my “madness”.)

So to the person who might want to use my writing against me… That would be a mistake. Your own situation has been just as bad for Josh as well as your own children. Actually my recent writings are of a situation more than superficially similar to that of your own, which must have affected Josh. Unless you have a sworn affidavit from me stating that what I wrote is literally true, you have no right to try using it against me.

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Pope Francis performs magic trick that’s dubbed as miracle

It seems that the Catholic church is not above doing tricks to convince believers that their magic is real… in this case, liquefying the 600-year old dried “blood of a saint”. It’s a trick that’s been performed in a ritual going back a while, but of course scientists are not allowed to examine the blood directly. I found this article on Doubtful News here. The likely explanation for this Pope’s parlour trick is thixotrophy. A detailed rational explanation as well as the history of the trick can be found here.

sangennaro-blood

It’s quite amusing that if thixotrophy is indeed the explanation, simply moving the vessel around will be enough to liquefy the substance, so he can convince himself that he isn’t deceiving anybody.

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An interesting coincidence

Now I get a call from social development saying that they want to come inspect our place. They haven’t spoken to us for months. Anyway, there is nothing wrong with our place. Yes, we have problems, but everybody does. I don’t assume that there is no resolution for them. I do find this to be a strange coincidence and wonder if I should regret writing what I have written here.

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Sad

I’m sitting at work, too early. I got up as usual to take Aishah to crèche but Megan wanted to keep her home today.

I can’t understand how it came to this… Just this past Christmas, she bought me an expensive new wallet (albeit with my own money). Things had been going so well and without warning, everything falls apart. As usual, there are too many utterings of “I told you so” to count.

Before I left this morning, I informed her not to go ahead with the SIM-swap that she wants to do (Switch to micro-SIM to use my old phone.) because I have problems with my newer phone and need to use the old one again. I also informed her that she can’t keep the tablet that I gave her for her birthday last year. I’m still paying for it every month. This feels bitter-sweet because I gave it to her, assuming she was not going to use it to chat to other men right through the night other people at night, people I don’t know, and then lie when I ask who they are. But she certainly can not keep it. I haven’t informed her that I want her earrings back yet.

Mostly I am sad about Aishah, and the affect this could have on Josh. (Then again, he doesn’t even like Megan.) I wanted to be able to bring Aishah up… she is a beautiful, intelligent little girl and I love her dearly. This whole situation is unfair.

I still don’t know what will happen, but it can’t go on like this. I don’t know how exactly to get through this, but I will. I do have friends through NA. Although I don’t believe in their program, I do still go to meetings (always alone – she uses Aishah as an excuse not to go with me), and can reach out to them. I’m not thinking further than that right now.

Edit: She called me, very upset about my taking the tablet away. The thing is, I don’t want to. Am I stupid? Am I a fool to hope that somehow her aunt can talk some sense into her and by some miracle, things can still work out? I am overly emotional and confused right now. I don’t want to write bad things about her. I’m hurt and troubled by all of this and don’t know what to do.

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UNEEDMEMORETHANINEEDU

I heard through the grapevine… Today she visited a neighbour… the same neighbour where she snuck the other day to make a phone call… to whom I don’t know… maybe the same man whose name is now tattooed on her leg.

And she said something to that neighbour: “I feel so sorry for Aishah. She doesn’t have a daddy. She’s never had a daddy because her daddy died.” How can she be so mean? I think I have done a great job of being a daddy to that beautiful little girl for the last 18 months. But nothing I say or do means anything to her. I’ve been her gravy train for long enough and now she will move on.

Yes, her little girl’s biological father died… (Mean words deleted. Unnecessary.) He died of a disease that he denied. One of my objectives was to ensure that Megan doesn’t end up the same way; to ensure that she is taken care of and lives a long and normal life. I don’t think she realizes what she is throwing away. But when things don’t work out with somebody else, don’t come crawling back to me (again). Maybe one day you might realize who needs whom? Probably not.

(There isn’t a video for this song. A fan made one using the video for Taste in Men. I do love this song though, when I am in one of my darker moods.)

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Trouble in paradise

I’ve had a lot of issues at home lately. So much, that I ended up writing a post about it, publishing that post, and then deleting it (again). I can’t write details about the issues because then I’ll probably end up deleting this post too.

Lately my resolve is wearing a little thin. I can not live in a relationship without trust. Being told lies over and over again, and having to hear another lie every time I confront her about it, but never hearing the truth, is more than I can handle.

I don’t know how much longer this can go on. Actually it may very well end soon, and I don’t know where that will leave me. I was not able to clean up until a certain person came back into my life – actually her daughter. If she leaves, the reason that I cleaned up, the reason that I am happy, is gone. Maybe it’s bad that I relied on something external for my internal happiness, but that’s the way it is. I don’t know how I will handle it if they are gone, but at the same time, things can’t continue as they have been. Since they were the ones whose presence motivated me to clean up just over 18 months ago, there will be a huge temptation to use, without them. Actually there is a tremendous temptation already, but one that I can handle. It’s what will happen if I become depressed that concerns me. At the same time, I do not want to throw away 18 months of sobriety. (The longest I have made it yet in recovery.)

My reason for writing that this may end soon is that I explained to her yesterday, and made it very clear that if she can’t be open and honest, she can not stay. It’s an ultimatum of sorts: Do what’s best for us and the children, or leave. It’s that simple. But it isn’t so simple really… If she leaves, she takes her daughter with her. This is not best for that little girl, who is attached to both myself and Josh. And I love her like my own daughter. One would think the choice is obvious, especially with the court case to decide Josh’s placement coming up in June, but what’s obvious to me and to any normal person doesn’t seem to be obvious to her. I have done and said all that I can. What happens now is not my choice.

It feels as though everything I have believed in; everything I have relied on to be happy, is fragile after all and can be lost in an instant. I will have to redefine the meaning of “whatever it takes to stay clean”, and right now I don’t know exactly how I am going to do that. But I will do it. I will not be beaten by someone else’s deceit.

Posted in Addiction, Meth, Recovery, Relationships | Tagged , , | 11 Comments

Dangerous – Love this song

I just stumbled on this via a Facebook share… Dangerous, from the B side of Personal Jesus. I bought the 12” record of this back in 1989, but it was stolen (along with all my records) in my daze of active addiction. Good to find it again.

(Too bad whoever uploaded this to YouTube got the lyrics wrong… It’s “know I won’t come to harm”…)

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Good article on the irrationality of Alcoholics Anonymous (and 12 step programs in general)

I don’t have any time to write today, but thought it a good idea to share this: An article on the irrationality of AA.

Everything they write applies equally to NA. I have been critical of 12 step programs for a long time, but it doesn’t help to speak up about it to other recovering addicts, because then they will simply accuse me of not taking recovery seriously or being in denial. People who have accepted false hope as the only way, and even more so, those who make a living teaching it, are not open to critical thinking and realizing that such therapy doesn’t work. (When you have so much invested in the program, and I don’t only mean money, I mean intellectually and emotionally, you tend to resist change.) So it is good to see that more and more sceptics are writing about these programs, and exposing the bunk that they teach. I hope that evidence-based treatment takes their place one day – in fact I’m sure it will – but not soon enough.

Here are a couple of quotes from the article:

For J.G., it took years of trying to “work the program,” pulling himself back onto the wagon only to fall off again, before he finally realized that Alcoholics Anonymous was not his only, or even his best, hope for recovery. But in a sense, he was lucky: many others never make that discovery at all.

And

Nowhere in the field of medicine is treatment less grounded in modern science. A 2012 report by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University compared the current state of addiction medicine to general medicine in the early 1900s, when quacks worked alongside graduates of leading medical schools. The American Medical Association estimates that out of nearly 1 million doctors in the United States, only 582 identify themselves as addiction specialists. (The Columbia report notes that there may be additional doctors who have a subspecialty in addiction.) Most treatment providers carry the credential of addiction counselor or substance-abuse counselor, for which many states require little more than a high-school diploma or a GED. Many counselors are in recovery themselves. The report stated: “The vast majority of people in need of addiction treatment do not receive anything that approximates evidence-based care.”

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Even worse self-deception in recovery: Euphoric recall

A short post today because I don’t have much time to write it…

The other day I wrote about self-deception in recovery. To summarize, self-deception such as convincing ourselves that we achieved no good in active addiction, or that “My worst day in recovery is better than my best day in active addiction”, is a dangerous attitude to have. Fooling ourselves can lead to building false memories and putting too much hope in a program that really has no therapeutic value; then should we relapse (which absolutely should not happen but does happen), we might realize that we were deceiving ourselves in recovery. That realization could lead us to be disillusioned with all programs of recovery – which is wrong of course but the brain will play tricks like that on you when you use (because once we go down that rabbit hole, our brains are brilliant at finding ways to justify staying there) – and then we may fail to return immediately to recovery (or maybe we won’t return at all).

To me, it’s more important to have balance, to see things as they really are, to acknowledge when programs of recovery offer nothing but false hope and pseudoscientific nonsense (Never forget that psychoanalysis is a pseudoscience, not a real science, and much other therapy has the same problems), to acknowledge that recovery is not always easy, and that there were good things in active addiction, but that overall my life is much better in recovery than it could ever be in active addiction. I am able to be there for others in ways I never could when I used. I am healthier and have great confidence as well as self-worth (which sometimes borders on narcissism, but even that is better than self-hatred).

But a reader reminded me that there is a flip side to this kind of self-deception: Euphoric recall. Maybe it is to avoid that, that we delude ourselves about how bad active addiction really was. We also have a tendency to remember only the good things and forget the bad. Think of it like gambling. Gamblers tend to remember only their wins and forget their losses. They remember the wins and romanticize them, rather than doing the sensible thing: Calculate the sum of all wins and all losses. Since wins are positive numbers and losses are negative numbers, a simple sum will reveal that the overall total is a large negative number. Too bad we don’t have such an easy formula to see the bigger picture when it comes to drug addiction.

Actually I could never understand gambling. I went to a casino twice. Both times I spent R100 on tokens that I played in slot machines, and watched the money whittle away to nothing. I found it depressing and will never do so again. Drugs, on the other hand, I loved. I spent money on a product, in my case a packet of crystals, consumed them, and had an effect that I enjoyed out of them. That lasted for hours and allowed me to do whatever it was that I wanted during that time, whether it was painting, computer programming or pretending that I was a porn star…

See what I did there?

That’s how easy it is to make the mistake of euphoric recall. In this case I did it deliberately to make a point, but that’s how easy it is to make this mistake. Don’t do that! It is a terribly dangerous mistake to make. It’s also a type of self-deception, one that we don’t always realize that we are doing, and it is one that can and does lead to relapse.

It seems that unlike much of recovery, which gets easier as time goes by, this gets more difficult. That is, people who have been clean for a long time seem to make this mistake even more than those still fresh out of active addiction. (By a long time I mean many years.) I have seldom heard a share in a meeting, by someone with many years of clean time, where they did not make this error. There’s a fine line, somewhere after your share is inspiring, where you start to romanticize about the crazy person you were on drugs. It happens by accident, and without knowing it you make drugs look interesting to others, and maybe even to yourself. It also tends to happen in conversations after meetings. Beware of this error in judgement. People relapse even after more than twenty years clean.

Posted in Addiction, Advice, Recovery, Relapse | Tagged | Leave a comment

Step Seven: I did not humbly ask Him/Her/It to remove my shortcomings

I haven’t forgotten about this series. But since I rejected even step one, and the steps are progressive, they get increasingly difficult to write about with each step, and it’s hard to avoid repetition. This step says:

We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

Firstly, I am not good at being humble. The last homework task assigned by my therapist in the program I recently completed was the VIA Survey of Character Strengths. (On this site. I’m not linking to the questionnaire itself because it requires a login and will redirect you back to their login page.)

According to that survey, my top 5 strengths are:

  1. Fairness, equity, and justice
  2. Creativity, ingenuity, and originality
  3. Honesty, authenticity, and genuineness
  4. Social intelligence
  5. Judgment, critical thinking, and open-mindedness

Actually I was a little disappointed that critical thinking is only number five. Anyway, my lowest score on this survey, coming in at number 24, was Modesty and humility. So I suppose that if I were to ask a god to remove my shortcomings, this would be where to start? “Please God, remove my shortcomings. Make me more humble like I used to be. Make me a fucking doormat like I used to be. That way I can go back to being depressed, repeat my mistakes, and eventually return to drugs. No wait, on second thoughts: Fuck you, God. Go to Hell.”

That was a little rude… I’m sorry, but I do not believe in any god to take offense. And yes, I am not humble. But I used to be. I used to be very humble indeed, and look where it got me. Together with other more important factors it led me to toxic relationships and depression, followed by drug addiction. I am not humble, and that’s a good thing. I do however, put other people before myself, and that was the crux of my staying clean. But I don’t do so because of humility. I do so because I love and care for them, and want to be there for them clean and sober, because it is what they deserve. The bottom line here is that even if I believed in a god who could somehow fix me if I prayed to him, I would not want to remove this so-called shortcoming. But I don’t believe in any case.

Believing this 12 step nonsense makes no sense. It is a fine example of cognitive dissonance, which is the holding in your brain of two or more contradictory beliefs. In this case, believing both that addiction is a disease and that we should treat it with a spiritual program. Applying this to one’s life requires motivated reasoning, because that’s how you deal with being able to hold contradictory beliefs. In doing so, you make it a personal program that applies to your life, but I don’t see why you can’t work through your personal issues and be recovered without this 12 step hogwash.

Note: The motivated reasoning link above doesn’t link to a definition. Instead it is an article by Steven Novella that gives several detailed examples of motivated reasoning in practice. He’s written many articles on the subject, and even though I can’t find the one that I had in mind, I highly recommend this one. Motivated reasoning explains beautifully why people believe in therapy that doesn’t actually have any therapeutic value, why people tend to believe in magic water (homoeopathy) and other anti-science, and even why people believe in gods.

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Some things that I did while using meth

Drugs are bad. There is no denying that. They lead to all kinds of terrible consequences. But one thing that has always annoyed me is that in recovery, we look back on our times when we used as if it was all bad. We contribute to the general misconception that people using drugs are depraved and worthless individuals who can’t do anything right. In doing so, we allow people to think that the impression of all addicts as given by websites featuring the so-called “faces of meth” are real, and prevent them from seeing when real addicts are right in front of them.

Before, and even during the worst of my active addiction before I first attempted recovery, I also achieved some amazing things. I’ve mentioned this one before but will now do so again: My oil paintings. I could always draw, but would probably never even have attempted painting if it weren’t for the drugs giving me the confidence to try.

After my first nine months clean, I screwed up. It’s difficult for me to say when I was clean and when I wasn’t in the time before these last 18 months clean, and although I tried to stay clean, I failed quite miserably. I lied to myself, convincing myself that I was in recovery. This went on for around two and a half years.

In that time, I used much of the time, but it was different to before. I “maintained” my addiction in that I always ensured that I slept for at least an hour or two every night. This allowed me to perform reasonably well at work, although my personal life was a mess, and my consequences from using gradually worsened until the point where I had to make the decision to stop for good.

But before that point, during the phase where I lied to myself and convinced myself that I was in recovery, I created my programming blog. Now, looking at it, some of my top posts there were written while I was using. (In that time, I tweaked on programming in c# every night – mostly about learning the then new Task Based Asynchronous Pattern – TAP.)

Here are my top six posts there as of right now. In parenthesis, whether I was clean or high when I wrote each post.

Four out of my six top posts were written when I was using. I recall that I wrote them at home, and in fact was using while writing them. (The other posts are recent, and one written while clean has only recently surpassed the post in top place.)

I’m not bragging about what I could do when I was high. I did some pretty damn stupid things too. I am ashamed of my past – I am ashamed especially that I didn’t realize that I was lying to myself. But my point today is that we assume that people on drugs are not capable of achieving anything good. We assume that everybody on meth looks like the “faces of meth” but in reality nobody does.

In recovery, we also fool ourselves into thinking that there was nothing good in our times using drugs. This is a very dangerous lie to tell to ourselves, because should we relapse, we might realize that it was a lie, and then not immediately return to recovery. (Although in my mind, another relapse is absolutely unacceptable, and I do everything I can to ensure that it won’t happen.) Doing everything that I can to stay clean does not include fooling myself.

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Post deleted

My apologies to anyone who got here via a link to my most recent post, entitled “Whatever it takes (to stay clean)”. I deleted it because I figured that writing about my personal issues at home might be counter-productive and not do me much good…

I may change my mind and restore the post though, but only after adding additional info about another source of stress in my life, which does not directly influence my recovery, but for me any unnecessary stress is a problem that should be taken seriously.

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Funny spam

I haven’t received any spam comments on this blog for a while, but my other blog, which generally gets more than double the views per day that this one gets (even when I write nothing there for months – so it annoys me a bit), regularly gets some oddball comments. This one is so silly, I thought I’d share it:

The sole factor worse stands out as the folks who don’t come in any way. Positive, you don’t need to run to your vet each time Bunnydict Thumperbatch will get the sniffles (yes, rabbits do get colds, and yes, it is adorable). I know that vet visits are pricy, and hypochondriacs are just as annoying. An effective guideline to comply with is the fact that once you would head to the health care provider for anyone signs, so ought to your pet. Vomiting 1 time? In all probability fine.
[URL redacted]

I can’t figure out if the spam author loves or hates Benedict Cumberbatch, but they do seem to think his name is good for a rabbit’s name. Then it gets stranger… apparently sick rabbits are “adorable”. The occasional vomiting rabbit is apparently “in all probability fine”. This is followed by a URL to sell a product. Right, you are telling me, a random stranger that you found by randomly submitting to random blogs, that my rabbit is not sick, and therefore I should buy your product?

One has to question the intelligence of these people. If you can’t sell something through conventional means, surely automatic submissions of rubbish comments to random blogs is not going to fare any better? It’s not as funny as the SEO spam of course – which is funny due to the obvious fact that if their software did what they promise, they wouldn’t need to advertise via spam in the first place. But it is funny.

Posted in Funny, Non-addiction | Tagged | 2 Comments

Step Six: No, I will never be ready to have a god that probably doesn’t exist remove defects of character that I don’t have

I take serious offense to this step. It states:

We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

So which is it, disease or defects? I don’t believe that I am setting up a false dilemma when I say that it can’t be both. (Or am I? I don’t believe that it is either of those.) You can say what you like about these steps not requiring God. It makes no sense. They clearly state that we are broken, that we have defects in our characters, moral flaws that can be fixed through prayer and meditation.

I’m not going to read up on what true believers (of 12 step programs) say here. But I can make a reasonable assumption that if they do not believe in God, they sit with their sponsors and come up with ways to reinterpret this step to mean something other than its literal implications. In other words, motivated reasoning. I am not prepared to do that.

Actually, here is a great quote from Wikipedia’s article on cognitive dissonance that may explain why these programs appear to work:

The general effectiveness of psychotherapy and psychological intervention has been explained in part through cognitive dissonance theory.[25] Some social psychologists have argued that the act of freely choosing a specific therapy, together with the effort and money invested by the client in order to continue to engage in the chosen therapy, positively influences the effectiveness of therapy.[26] This phenomenon was demonstrated in a study with overweight children, in which causing the children to believe that they freely chose the type of therapy they received resulted in greater weight loss.[27]

In another example, individuals with ophidiophobia (fear of snakes) who invested significant effort to engage in activities without therapeutic value for their condition, but which had been framed as legitimate and relevant therapy, showed significant improvement in phobic symptoms.[28] In these cases and perhaps in many similar situations, patients came to feel better in order to justify their efforts and to ratify their choices. Beyond these observed short-term effects, effort expenditure in therapy also predicts long-term therapeutic change.[29]
(Emphasis mine.)

That’s a whole lot of words that could have been replaced with one: Placebo

I have many strengths as well as many weaknesses, many faults – as do we all. But they are not defects of character. They are merely qualities that make me the person who I am. Every strength can also be a weakness. Every weakness, every fault, can also be a strength with some effort.

When I am arrogant, it’s because I am superior to others in many ways. I am also inferior in many others. So what? How is it a defect to be arrogant and confident? On the flip side, I am shy and often doubt myself. That can be a good thing too, because I question every choice I make, often asking for others’ opinions before making decisions. Despite this, I was once accused of regularly asking for advice and then never taking it… Why should I follow every bit of advice given? Advice allows me to make an informed decision, but the decision is still mine to make, and my choice is mine, not the result of some defect in my character.

When I am vain, it’s because I am good-looking. I love what I see in the mirror (although I’m not pleased that I have to age and I try to avoid looking at my fat stomach). It helps me to believe in myself; it’s good for my self esteem. How is this a defect?

I try not to let my self-love give way to unhealthy narcissism; try always to be fair to others, all others, and to be a good person. I do have a “dark” side though, a mean streak that lends me to use my powers of perception and intuition, which allows me to read others so well, to attack others with vicious sarcasm that hurts deeply for many years. But even that has a flip-side, which is charm that allows me to say just the right things to make others feel good about themselves. For example, my favourite line is to tell a girl I have just met (or maybe leave it for the second or third conversation) how pretty her face is. It’s a line that never fails. Not to get anything for myself, but rather to see her eyes light up. This is a statement that can make somebody’s day so much better.

To conclude, I do not believe in character defects. The idea of this is patently absurd. What is a defect anyway? The group therapist at the program that I recently finished defined it as any trait that might harm our recovery, but I’m willing to bet that this is defined differently wherever and whomever you ask (which brings us back to motivated reasoning and cognitive dissonance). Defining any of our characteristics as defects is, in my opinion, a terrible mistake. We do not have defects; we have characteristics – some good, some bad – that make us who we are. I haven’t even gone into the deluded madness of being ready for “God” to remove those defects. That is no less insane than being an addict in active addiction in the first place. It amazes me that so many people believe in these steps, even though they are filled with outright nonsense.

I have no idea what to write about the next step, which is just a rephrasing of “defects” as “shortcomings” and an appeal to the white-haired magician in the sky to remove them. Even if we had such defects, asking an imaginary magician friend to make them disappear would not be the way to deal with them. But we don’t have defects, so what is the point?

Posted in Addiction, Meth, Recovery | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

I am not well Tod

Who’s Tod, you wonder? Let’s call him the gremlin in my Windows phone. That was the message I sent to work this morning, which was supposed to be along the lines of “I am not well today. Going to a doctor and will not be in”. But thanks to a combination of a spell check suggestion failure and some really messed up glass that I recently replaced on the phone with its new habit of selecting words adjacent to the ones I try to tap, that’s what was sent. (The phone screen is no longer cracked thanks to the new glass, but the touch-screen doesn’t work so well anymore.) Still, I thought it made a cool title.

Last night was my worst night in a while. Recapping from around 11PM… I’d decided to finish off some work that I wanted to do before Monday. I had two separate implementations of check digit validation code that I wanted to batch test against a collection of account numbers and compare the results. A simple enough task – the code was already written, and so it didn’t take long.

Then I banged out a quick blog post that needed to be written while the idea was still fresh. Not my normal type of post actually. I tend to prefer not writing while I am either tired or emotional, and last night I was both, but it needed to be written.

So finally at around 12:15AM, I could get into bed. But then things went downhill. I have a type of abscess called a pilonidal sinus (which I’m not going to link to descriptions of because all such articles contain photos that are truly disgusting). It’s my own fault that I’ve ignored this thing since 2001 – that’s 14 years – and every so often in gets inflamed and bursts. Last night was one of those nights.

If that was all, it would’ve been OK. But no, Aishah was not feeling well, and around the time I went to bed, she woke up and started screaming. She didn’t stop. Eventually I went to sleep in the lounge on the spare bed, only to find that it was so dusty, it irritated my skin and I itched like crazy. So I ended up laying on a duvet folded over myself, highly uncomfortable, and also away from our (electrical) mosquito repellent, with hundreds of hungry mosquitoes having me for their well past midnight snack.

Aishah finally went back to sleep around 3:30AM, which was just before a neighbour’s car alarm started screeching. We stay in a complex and the cars are outdoors right outside our apartment, so I could not fall asleep for a while still. I can’t say how long because I stopped checking the time after that. I did get some sleep eventually, but not much. So when my alarm went off this morning, I was exhausted and the decision to go to the doctor rather than to work was a no-brainer. (I am too old to function without sleep. Back when I was in active addiction, I did anyway, but not now. I won’t even try.)

To add insult to injury, treating the pilonidal sinus will need a surgeon and an overnight stay in hospital, which will cost more than a few thousand Rand. I’m not on medical aid, so I will have to get onto a scheme that will at least cover hospital bills before getting that sorted. Oh, and Aishah had a sinus infection, one that had already healed almost completely by the time we got her to the doctor. So I could have saved half the R735 that I spent on the two doctor’s consultations. (The coincidence of us both having sinus infections is just one of those weird bizarro coincidences. A pilonidal sinus is something completely different to the cavities around the nasal passage. It’s just a similar name.)

Here’s hoping that the rest of tonight will be better than last, and tomorrow will be a better day.

Posted in My life, Non-addiction | Tagged

The children who saved me and a truth I have been dying to tell for too long

These children are amazing. They are truly the reason that I’m still here, still clean, still sane.

We had a good day today. It was the first time in a long time that Josh was cheerful and played happily. It was also the first time he really played with his sister. She looks forward to seeing him so very much. Every day when I pick her up from crèche, she asks (usually by saying only his name) if we are going to pick him up, and when I say “Not today” she cries. Then last Thursday that changed. As I drove along, in a road that has two lanes going straight and a third turning right, which goes off on the route that I drive to collect Josh, she exclaimed “Josh. Way!”. This was an interesting change from her game of the last three weeks, which is to spot the busses and trucks. (“Bus!” or “Where bus?” or “Dere bus” and “Ruck!”)

She’s growing up so quickly, there are new phrases every day. Today she jumped on my lap and then squirmed around to reach for a potted plant on the table beside me. I said to her “You’re a little worm”, and she immediately countered, with a stern look in her eyes and the words “I’m not!”. That was the first time she’s said those words. Then later I sat at the PC to check on my video conversion batch process. Since the chair was angled such that she couldn’t climb up by herself, she peered up at me and pleaded “Up”. I asked why, and for the very first time to this question, she responded, with her first ever utterance of the words “Want to!”

Shortly before Josh had to leave today (His foster mother collected him for a change), he went to the bathroom, and Aishah approached me with the repeated question “Where Josh?” I really can’t get over her progress, and she still isn’t even two years old yet. (Not ‘til May.)

The day ended on a sad note, when I took Josh to his foster mother’s car outside. I carried Aishah with me, but when big brother got in the car, it was like her little world ended. She started screaming, and wouldn’t calm down for over twenty minutes. Back inside, she wouldn’t allow me to sit down. She tried pulling at my shirt as she pointed towards the front door, beckoning me to go and fetch Josh. She screamed and screamed, and would only be quiet when I picked her up and comforted her. Then she would not allow me to put her down and refused to even go to Megan. It had to be me. She had never behaved like this before and I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes too, but fought to keep them hidden so as not to upset her even more.

I really so love this beautiful little girl. She means everything to me. Well, almost everything – there’s Josh too of course. And this brings me to the truth I have been hiding for too long. A truth I have been dying to tell, but shame prevented me. Not anymore. No more lies.

The truth is, as hard as I tried to stay clean, for a long time my recovery was a disaster. I’d stay clean for weeks at a time, sometimes months, but always return to using. Mostly I used for months; then stayed clean for about a week, then carried right on using for months again. All the while, the cycle repeated, but the using phases got longer and worse.

This continued right until the day Megan returned. In fact, I collected her from the station, drove home, then used in the bathroom for the last time. She was terribly angry with me, because I had become so good at lying, I’d convinced even her that I was clean over the phone. Of course I couldn’t hide it in person.

So I used that last time, a good seven or eight consecutive hits – it must’ve been at least half a gram that I smoked right then, and then destroyed all my remaining drugs, and my glass “lolly” that I used for smoking meth. That was 18 months ago now, so I am only 18 months clean, as of last Wednesday, 4th March.

There; it’s out at last. For better or worse. This has some nasty connotations, of course. I continued to write even when I was using, though I seldom wrote about recovery back then. I also wrote some of my best programming blogs back then, because when I used, I used to tweak on programming at home, all night every night. Even that stupid header image on my programming blog was Photoshopped together while I was as high as could be and tweaking my stupid head off, just like I tweaked when I did my oil paintings. It’s not something I’m proud of, but at least it is out now, and I have no more lies. This was the only one.

I took some photos of Aishah today, and was going to publish them in this post, but no, her pretty little face deserves better than being in the same post as this revelation of my lie. I’ll save that for another time. Now that this is out, there are other things I can write about my early recovery; things that I’ve wanted to write but could not because my lie prevented me. Things like how I got through the first few weeks, what my fears were at the beginning, and how I got through them. I am blessed to have this beautiful little girl to care for. She, more than anything else, provided me with purpose, someone to love and care for and whom I saw every day. Without her, I would never have come right. It’s funny though. Everybody advised me not to take Megan back, but if I hadn’t, I would probably not be clean now.

And amazingly, most of these 18 months has been incredibly easy. My recovery has been a breeze, except for when I have been pressured into participating in programs that really do nothing for me.

Posted in Meth, My life, Recovery, Relapse, Tweaking | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Video Converter Frustration

I’ve been struggling to convert some videos that don’t play on my TV. Very annoying… It seems that all the so-called “ultimate” video converters I’ve been able to find online, whether they are branded Xilisoft, Imtoo, Wondershare, whatever… They’re all the same software underneath, with identical bugs and usability issues. They only differ in that they have a different user interface. None of them convert the files I’ve been struggling with. Right now I’m using the free AVC program, but it seems no faster than simply using ffmpeg. (My last resort, but one that works.)

So, for anyone who finds the same issues, if you just want to convert some videos to mp4, and you’re prepared to wait for a while, do this:

  1. Download ffmpeg from here. (The 32-bit or 64-bit static build.)
  2. Save it somewhere and run a batch file (.bat or .cmd extension) with contents something like this: (Obviously with your own directory names and file filter.)

@echo off
pushd “G:\Videos\Series\American Horror Story – Season 4″

for %%i in (*.mkv) do call G:\Tools\ffmpeg.exe -i “%%i” -q:v 1.0 -y “%%~ni.mp4″

popd

More advanced options are possible, of course. You just need to take some time to find out all the command-line options you can pass to ffmpeg. (I simply used the last batch file I’d created when I used to do this regularly a couple of years ago, one that uses the default options – more or less – for converting to mp4.) You can also specify the bitrate, the codecs to use for video and audio, the resolution, which streams to copy or convert etc. Discovering all the options is difficult though, but it can do everything the GUI shareware junk can do, and much more.

Update: After converting all the videos using AVC free, the quality of the video was great, but using the default settings resulted in hard-embedded subtitles in the video image. Not what I want at all. So now I am converting again, using the batch file as above, and the result so far is perfect. The files are smaller, and the subtitles are gone. (I could figure out how to copy the subtitles as a separate stream, but prefer to remove them, as my TV plays the first subtitle stream by default, which means having to switch them off every time you play a video.) But the point is, using ffmpeg from the command line is creating better videos than any of the video converter GUIs.

Posted in Non-addiction | Tagged

Step Five: Admission of wrongs is wrong.

I’m tired, so a short one today. Step 5 states:

We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

What more can I say that I didn’t say already in the previous step? In fact, a commenter expressed it more eloquently than I. The belief that we are broken people who need to continue this program for our whole lives, perpetually in a state of recovering rather than recovered, is in my opinion, why so many who believe it relapse. The fact is, there is no evidence that addiction changes the brain permanently in some pathological way. Thus no disease. No disease == nothing to treat. (Not that this program is a valid way to treat any disease.)

Come to think of it, a friend who attended rehab with me around Christmas 2009 once commented on this blog that the title is a lie. (A recovered meth addict’s blog.) He believed that he had a disease, and he believed that he had to work the program for the rest of his life, and criticized me for disbelieving that idea. Well, I guess he did work the program for the rest of his life, because he ended it on December 23rd last year. Maybe if he’d believed differently he might have come out of his depression, and still be with us. (He was one of the kindest and most gentle people I ever knew, and I think of him often.) We’ll never know.

So many times in meetings I hear others say that they relapsed because they didn’t work the program properly. (I’ve written about the No True Scotsman fallacy in recovery too many times already, and won’t go there now.) They then leap to conclusions saying that only those who are here (“in these rooms” – another phrase that I hate) make it. It is an assumption that you can not make. You do not have the data to make such a statement. Actually, the real data contradicts this. (There is no evidence that 12 step programs work at all, and plenty that it does not. This is not difficult to find out if you have an internet IQ above 20.)

And as for wrongs, I dealt with that last time. We don’t all become criminals in active addiction. I certainly did not. But even if we did, why dwell on what we did back then? Why not move on? Learn to make better choices – live a lifestyle that does not include drugs, which automatically excludes all those things you like to label as “wrongs”, and move on. Why work any program at all?

This time I will not get too much into God, to whom we are asked to admit these wrongs, but it does remind me of something: When I was eight years old and did my first confession, I made up some sins just to keep the priest happy. To “work this step” I’d have to do that all over again. I’ve grown up a little in the thirty five years since then, grown out of a foolish belief in God and magic, and I see no reason to keep up the pretence of belief just to fit in with other recovering addicts who believe in this 12 step nonsense.

Posted in Addiction, Meth, Recovery | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

No, all whites are NOT finally excluded from the South African job market

For the second time now, I’ve seen that one of my Facebook friends, who happens to live abroad, has shared this article with a title claiming that “All whites now finally excluded from the South African job market”.

I’m white, and working, so maybe I didn’t notice this happen? The company that employs me is owned by a black man, and he’s not even from this country. So what? I’ve never had any problems getting work, and I’m sure I wouldn’t have any problems if I started looking again right now. This is even after burning many bridges through several years of being a methamphetamine addict (which some people might say limits career potential). The article’s main point is that some new legislature will exclude white women from getting certain perks that only black people get. Oh, so I was already excluded from the market? Gosh. The black empowerment legislature also states that companies employ a certain number of black people. I don’t know the details, but I do know that these two subjects are conflated or merged into one somewhere in the article. That policy has never worried me. When I looked for work, I got plenty of interviews, even at BEE companies.

This is scaremongering, plain and simple. If you scroll down to the comments, and can stomach the words of gullible readers who take everything at face value, you’ll find a lot of racists using their collective common interest as a platform to make their hateful comments. Why would you be so keen to believe and share such rubbish?

When you read something like that, there’s no need to suspend your common sense. Ask yourself some reasonable questions:

  1. Is the title clickbait? (It isn’t. OK, next…)
  2. Is the title overly sensationalistic? (Yes. Why would a law exclude everybody in one racial group? The title is misleading and it’s statement is obviously untrue.)
  3. OK, so it’s criticizing the SA government. Is this criticism justified, or is it part of an agenda? (May be difficult to determine from the article alone. Proceed to final question.)
  4. Most importantly, look at the other articles on the same site. Do they all follow a similar theme? (Yes they do. This site is all about the “oppression” of white people in the post-apartheid South Africa. By calling itself uncensored it implies that the real news suppresses the truth. Besides an obviously racist agenda, we have a conspiracy here. Conspiracies are almost never true.)

It is clear from that website that they have a racist agenda. Racism always presents itself as something else. In this case it is uncensored news, with a “pro-white” agenda. Call it what you will; it is hate speech, anti-black racist bullshit. White supremacists don’t label themselves as such. Have a little common sense, please.

Yes, I have criticized the ANC quite a bit. I don’t like our president. I think he’s a criminal who got away with rape and stealing the taxpayers’ money. But it’s not because he’s black. The fact that he is black unfortunately gives racists an excuse to vent their hate speech. My criticism is always fair. I don’t identify only with other “white” people either, or with males only, or with heterosexual people only. I identify with people… Any site that is pro-white is really anti-everyone-else. (And in South Africa, probably mostly anti-black, maybe with a token “journalist” who isn’t white thrown in to give them some sense of legitimacy.) You can’t take anything they say seriously. Well crafted lies are, after all, built upon a foundation of truth. That’s what the article in question does.

Don’t believe everything you read.

Posted in Non-addiction | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Call it blackouts – not load shedding

Update: Shit. I didn’t check the date of the news article I found. This is from an old entry last year. So the start time of 12:30 was right by pure coincidence. I don’t know when the power will be back.

This euphemism pisses me off! Call it power outages or blackouts, because that’s what it is. The power is off here where I’m working. (Bedford Centre is shown by the red blocks in this image.) It will come back on at 15:30, assuming they actually follow their schedule. But this notebook has less than 2 hours battery life remaining, which means I am going to sit here with nothing to do, hoping that the power comes back on when scheduled.

Edenvale-Loadshedding

And incidentally, my home was without water for most of the time between last Thursday and Sunday afternoon. That didn’t even make the local news. (No, Johannesburg is not a world class city, not by a long fucking way.) I guess our failing infrastructure is now normal?

Posted in Non-addiction | Tagged

Step Four: I made a moral inventory of myself long ago, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with my recovery

As I work through these steps, the increasing numbers make decreasing sense to me. In other words, an inverse correlation. Plotted on a graph (I used this cute online graph generator) it might look something like this… (Of course this graph is for entertainment purposes only. I give them far too much credit. There’s no way the Y values should ever really be above zero. i.e. This graph is only a visual representation of my joke in line one. An accurate graph would be a straight line along the X axis, with all Y values equal to zero.) Cool… if you type “y = 0″ into a Google search, it will generate an accurate graph, except you can’t specify what the labels on the axes should be. I didn’t know you could do this.

graph

Step four says:

We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

This step doesn’t seem too bad in and of itself, but it is not meant to be taken alone. It sets up a theme and is linked to the two steps that follow. This step insinuates that we did things “wrong”, and it isn’t just about using drugs. This is about morals and sin. It intends us to be introspective and admit our wrongs to ourselves. Then the next step involves us admitting those wrongs to God and others, and the one after that assumes that we did this because of character defects, which God can remove.

Again, this directly contradicts the idea that addiction is a disease. I don’t believe that addiction is a disease, but that’s not my point today. This is a contradiction within the NA literature. On the one hand, these steps imply that we are bad, or amoral people, who have done wrong because of defects of character; on the other, different NA literature read in every meeting states that addiction is a disease. I don’t believe that either is true, but regardless, they expect us to believe that both are true, which is impossible.

What’s going on here is an underlying implied (and assumed to be correct) appeal to morality. It’s a surprise to me because it is a huge and obvious contradiction within the recovery culture. Also, this step setting us up to ask God to remove our “defects” is yet another reason that NA is indeed a religious program. (I have plenty more to write about defects, but will save that for the relevant step.)

This step assumes that we were bad people and asks us to examine ourselves to understand that, then follow that up in subsequent steps by asking God to fix us. I don’t care to even attempt to make this rubbish fit somehow into my life.

In my active addiction, I did very little wrong. I lied about the fact that I was using drugs, and for a long time didn’t even know that someone close to me was stealing things from my mother. But all I did wrong was try to hide how serious my addiction was (paradoxically after telling everybody about it – which was a little crazy). Yes, there were indirect effects on others to be considered, but the idea that I was amoral is fucking absurd. It is an insult to my intelligence to accept this 12-step nonsense.

Posted in Addiction, Meth, Recovery | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Another stupid question: How do you differentiate what’s real and not real from meth use?

Somebody landed here with this search string:

How do you differentiate what’s real and not real from meth use?

(Btw, “nonreal” isn’t a word, except in Mathematics where it refers to complex numbers. I assume that is not what’s being asked about. I always take the liberty of correcting grammar before posting search strings.)

Short answer: You don’t.

Long answer: Why would you want to? Yes, it’s rhetorical; I too didn’t want to stop for a long time, so I played that game, but it’s a dangerous game to play. Trying to come up with coping strategies for managing the drug-induced hallucinations (such that you can continue to use without being noticed) is stupid because those hallucinations could arguably pave the way for permanent psychosis, after which there are no coping skills that can help you anymore. You’ll end up living in a home for schizophrenics (if you’re lucky) and be out of it most of the time because that’s what happens when schizo’s take their medication. So you won’t look anywhere near normal any longer, and won’t be able to work or have any meaningful relationships.

(Actually it’s worth noting that the situation described above, or something very similar to it, is your most likely outcome if you live long enough as a meth addict. Either you’ll be a schizo on medication that leaves you half-asleep permanently – which is the alternative to experiencing delusions 24/7, or you’ll be a living zombie –  a pale shadow of your former self. The latter is the “better” and more likely outcome. That’s what you have to look forward to as a meth addict.)

So yes, I came up with a way, but I don’t recommend it. I could control the voices. That is, I could concentrate and focus on them, then change what they were saying, which allowed me to tell the difference between what was real and what wasn’t. But it meant that I was spending time and energy, which could have been spent on my work or my family, standing or sitting still and listening to those voices. Madness, considering that the voices go away if you stop using.

Otherwise, it’s impossible to tell them apart from real voices. Sure, you can figure out that although they appear to come from different directions and you really do seem to “hear” them, they are always the same volume, regardless of the distance you perceive. I did that at one stage. But the problem is, it’s your own brain creating those voices. As you learn to tell them apart from real voices, the part of your brain that creates them learns to create better voices, that sound more real to you. The more effort you spend on coping with the voices, the further you withdraw from the real world. So don’t play this game. The only way to win is to quit using meth; otherwise this is a game you will lose.

Conclusion

Even if you can find a way of successfully telling the difference between real voices and the ones in your head that are induced by meth, it will take time and mental effort to do so. While you may think that you’re doing OK because you can tell the difference, you are withdrawing from the real world to do so. This means that your responses to real voices are slower, and people will notice that you are distant and distracted. But the reality is that you can’t always tell the difference, and even knowing that the voices aren’t real doesn’t change the way they make you feel. As you spend more time coping with them rather than cleaning up so that they stop, you will eventually retreat into your own delusional world.

The “quality” of the voices is in any case progressive. It starts out as whispering in the wind (for example); that is you start out only imagining voices when there is background noise – it’s the part of your brain that recognizes patterns going wrong. But as time goes by, that progresses until you hear “clearer” voices, even when it is quiet around you. There may be things about those voices that allow you to detect that they aren’t real. (Maybe the perceived volume of the voices is wrong, or always the same regardless of the imagined distance. Maybe it’s always voices of particular people. Maybe they repeat the same key phrases too often.) But eventually it will progress from there too, and your effort to cope with them will allow that part of your brain to improve the voices until you can no longer tell them apart from real voices. Since the voices are coming from your own brain, they also “know” what it is that you fear, and make your worst fears a reality. (Thus they build narratives around your fears, narratives of paranoia which gradually build into delusions. Eventually you may hear everybody around you talking about you; conversations that confirm the delusions that you have come to believe.) The very act of trying to cope with them will likely end in your being permanently psychotic.

I have met several psychotic people over the years, people who got that way from using drugs… None of them was on the same drug, but that doesn’t matter – all narcotic drugs affect the brain in the same way. There is no known “standard duration” or safe interval that you can live with drug-induced voices before you become psychotic. It could happen at any time, or not at all – there is no way of knowing. But the realness of the voices is progressive; I know this from personal experience. It seems logical to me that the longer you live with and try to cope with such voices, the greater the risk of potentially permanent psychosis. Once that happens, there is no going back. You need to ask yourself if this is really worth the risk.

Posted in Addiction, Advice, Meth, Recovery | Tagged ,

This needs more seeders (Depeche Mode – Alive in Berlin)

Update: I originally wrote this last night while downloading; then trashed it because the download speed went to zero for a while. But it did complete. This is well worth the download. It’s the itunes version of the concert, with DRM removed and then shared. So the quality is perfect, although I had to convert it because my TV doesn’t seem to know what a .m4v file is. (I didn’t try simply renaming to mp4. Don’t know if that might work.) The torrent still needs more seeders, but I won’t be one of them because my mobile data is expensive. And yeah, technically I’m pirating something I should have bought – this is one of my favourite bands. I think DM don’t need my money anyway though, and the record companies certainly don’t…


I found this Depeche Mode – Alive in Berlin torrent on the new pirate bay…

Not too bad; it’s downloading between about 500 to 700kB/sec, which means I’ll have it in about 2 hours (5.72GB). But I feel disappointed somehow. There are only five people seeding this. Check out the trailers on YouTube. This is an amazing concert. And so much better than the more popular music nowadays. I must be getting fucking old.

 

Posted in Non-addiction | Tagged ,

Who wants to live forever?

I do! Time to start saving your money for your old age, assuming head transplants may be a reality soon.

Posted in Non-addiction | Tagged

What’s the big deal? It’s clearly black and blue.

dress-color-illusions-198x300

Steven Novella explains the optical illusion here.

But I don’t get what all the fuss is about. Megan sees white and gold. I think there’s something wrong with her eyes, because no matter how I look at it, all I see is black and blue.

What do you see?

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Step Three: No, I never made any decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of God as I understand Him. I understand that there is no god. Also, no fucking unicorns.

There’s not much to say about this dreadful step that I haven’t said already:

We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

Here’s a description of this step from the word of a true believer. The “central action of this step is a decision”… blah blah blah – a whole bunch of rationalization, some absolute shit about self-will and some bullshit that this “God of our understanding” doesn’t actually have to be a religious god.

I am sick and tired of bending over backwards to apply this bullshit to my life. Yes, I can say that I did make a decision. Absofuckinglutely. And I could somehow apply my own higher power to being a reason to staying clean, a motivational force that drives me to remain serene and drug-free. But what for? I’ve done that anyway, and I don’t need this 12 step nonsense for that.

Again, this is no more than a bunch of stupid rationalization to retrofit a program that clearly has religion ingrained into every pore of its self righteous skin, and overflowing with it, to something else. (Their kak runneth over.)

FYI: For those non South Africans who read this… since the urban dictionary link has nothing about pronunciation, “kak” is Afrikaans slang for “shit” and is pronounced “cuck”. (So it rhymes with cup, of course. I trust that I don’t have to explain the joke.)

It is absurd for me to agree that I must disregard my self-will… What does that even mean? I stopped using drugs because the consequences were so severe for those whom I love, I had to stop for their sakes. Unfortunately, my addiction was so far gone and I loved using methamphetamine so very much, I didn’t care about the harm I was doing to myself. That’s very bad, but it was because I cared about the consequences to other people that I stopped. And it was I who decided to stop. Me. I stopped for them, and months later, I found that I did care about myself again. That fucked up mind-set that I had is gone.

There is nothing wrong with my self-will now, even if there was in the past. I will not dwell on that. Also, my loved ones, who I have called my higher power, provide motivation, and I love them dearly, but I didn’t hand over my life to them or anybody else. I’m the one in control of my life. I make my own destiny.

But none of this matters in the context of this step, which is very clearly about handing one’s will over to a deity, a divine creator, a placebo in the sky. I hand my will over to nobody. Of course, if I want to be a smart-arse about it, I can say that I did hand my life and my will over to God, because there is no God, and when I say it, I’ll really mean that I handed my life and my will over to nobody.

Posted in Addiction, Meth, Recovery | Tagged , , ,

Step Two: I accept that there is no magical power greater than us, and I didn’t need to be “restored to sanity” anyway

OK, so I’ve established that although my life may have been unmanageable, which is of course ambiguous and open to interpretation, I wasn’t powerless over my addiction. Since I wasn’t powerless, maybe my life could be managed after all, once I stopped using drugs. Actually that’s exactly what happened.

So why go on and look at the other steps? As much as I’d prefer to ignore them because they’re all nonsense, I have to go to meetings and keep up the “working recovery” crap, or else it will be used against me. In that case, I may as well criticize. In other words: Why the fuck not? Step two states:

We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

These steps just get crazier and crazier. I’m an atheist, so I do not believe in any god, or any other power that created the universe, or any guiding force (or evil opposing force for that matter), or karma, or anything like that. However, I’m told that this doesn’t matter. I can use anything as my higher power.

Anything? Yes, it’s nice of you to say that, but this just doesn’t add up. If we look at the steps and the spirit in which they were created, they are clearly intended to mean God, as in a deity. You can use anything else, sure, but it’s a cop-out by theists to say that, when they know that anything else really doesn’t gel with the 12 steps. This is much clearer when you look at all the steps together, but I’m not going to do that in this series until the end.

What I did before was just go with the flow… Choose something else as my higher power. Then go on from there. But it still doesn’t add up. Doing so ignores another gargantuan problem with this step; the fact that it asks us to expect this higher power to restore us to sanity.

Excuse me, but I was never insane. Let’s ignore that too. Let’s say I was out of my mind, absolutely fucking cuckoo… I’ll ask my higher power, which in my case is my loved ones and my idealized self, to restore me to sanity. Please, my six year old son, help me be less crazy. Please, perfect me without my faults, help me make better choices. Pretty please. Hopefully the point is made loud and clear – this step is all about God, asking that white-haired magician up in the sky to fix me. It’s all about having faith in the divine, so let’s stop pretending it could ever be interpreted otherwise.

In any case, this step opens another can of worms. Those same people who tell me to “work the steps” also tell me that addiction is a disease. Apparently they don’t see the contradiction, so let me spell it out: This is not how you treat a disease; by appealing to a god, or any other random thing should you choose something else, to make you better. If I were sick, and went to a doctor; then that doctor told me to pray to get better, I’d soon find another doctor!

The facts are undeniable, 12-step treatment programs do not work. The linked research paper refers to AA, but the results are equally applicable to all such programs. To save you the trouble of reading the whole paper, here’s their conclusion:

These results suggest that current psychosocial treatments for alcoholism are not particularly effective. The improvements in drinking appear to be due to selection effects. Alcoholics who decide to enter treatment are likely to reduce drinking. Those who decrease their drinking are more likely to remain in treatment. Widespread acceptance of these results would have a profound influence on alcoholism research and treatment because it would shift focus away from treatment components and toward patient characteristics and beliefs.

To paraphrase, what’s going on is selection bias. (The linked paper was a reanalysis of the original data used in a study where three treatment methods were analysed, and the original results stated, against the evidence of the data, that the treatments were effective. So the selection bias here applies to the findings of the original study, which concluded erroneously that treatment is effective.) That is, people who have succeeded in staying clean happen to stay in treatment, which appears to confirm that treatment works. But the truth is, they only stay in treatment because they are still clean. Treatment is not the reason they stay clean. It goes on to suggest that treatment should instead focus on individual’s characteristics and beliefs. This paper is pretty damning of 12 step programs, and it was published a few years ago, but people continue to believe in such programs anyway.

To conclude, I don’t believe that these steps help me in any way whatsoever. Not only are they counter-productive and a huge waste of time, but the fact that they are accepted by most recovering addicts and courts as the only “correct” way to recover can be harmful to those of us coming into recovery who are atheists, critical thinkers or above average intelligence. They take the focus in recovery away from where it should be – the reason for each individual addict’s problems, and instead force us to distract ourselves from using while seeing our conditions through God-tinted glasses.

We are pigeonholed unrealistically. What “binds us together” actually prevents us from getting help for our real underlying issues as individuals. Thus in my opinion, people who blindly follow the program for years may distract themselves from using and remain in the same state where their problems are never solved. The jargon term “dry drunk” that originated from the program is thus ironic, because by blindly following the program you never truly solve your problem. In also creates a mind-set where people believe that being complacent, as in not working the steps, will lead to relapse, so they continue “working the steps” and distracting themselves rather than solving their problems. The risk of relapse is enormous if you approach recovery this way, and while it is reduced over the years, I believe that it is still significant even after many years of recovery with this approach. We do not suffer from a disease. We suffer from a behavioural disorder, and we should learn what it is that leads us to choose using drugs, as well as how to change our lifestyles and resulting behaviour to avoid making those poor choices.

Posted in Addiction, Meth, Recovery | Tagged , , ,

Step One: My life became unmanageable, but I was never powerless over my addiction

I’m an addict in recovery. I participate in a program, but that doesn’t mean I will shut up about the fact that I do not believe in the twelve steps, and do not believe that addiction is a disease. I participate in a program for three reasons:

  1. I have not yet found a viable alternative.
  2. I go to meetings, not for myself, but rather to speak to and inspire other recovering addicts. The weekly meeting I attend is at a rehab with inpatients.
  3. There are people who will hold it against me if I do not participate in a program. So I do, even though neither the meetings nor the twelve steps is what made me clean up, and neither is what’s keeping me clean.

Up until recently, I accepted step one as being true. Step one states:

We admitted we were powerless over our addiction, that our lives had become unmanageable.

But this site made me rethink my attitude to step one. Was I out of control? My life became chaotic, and I felt powerless, but feeling powerless and being powerless are two very different things.

Let’s step back a few years and see how powerless I was, or wasn’t.

I made choices every day; most of them bad choices while I was still using. But they were choices. When things got totally out of control back in Cape Town in 2009, I realized that I needed help. We, including our 18 month old son, were living with a dealer. We had no house, no car and almost no possessions left. My job was on the line, and I was barely holding onto it.

I accepted that the environment we lived in was unfit for a child, and that I couldn’t get him out on my own, so I cooperated with certain people to get him out of there. Then I came up with a plan for myself. That involved getting help from my girlfriend’s mother, and temporarily staying in a shelter. It wasn’t pleasant, but it was a roof over my head, a meal in my stomach and a hot shower every day. Also, I stopped using meth, and about three days later the voices in my head, which had become my permanent companions, disappeared completely.

I still had my job, and that situation was starting to improve. All I had to do was survive until the end of the month, and then buy or rent a small place for myself. After that, the plan was to get her out of the situation too. As long as I didn’t lose my job, I had medical aid that covered rehabilitation. I’d called them and found the details, and was ready to book her in if she was willing. But on the fourth day, while I was at work a relative had called the people who ran the shelter. He told them all about drugs; that I was using meth. He told them this even though he wasn’t living in the same part of the country as I was. Bear in mind also that almost everybody in such shelters are there because of drugs. (I recall an odd experience when I showered one night. The other person showering, a man in his early twenties, spent about two hours there talking to himself. The shower was right next to the room I stayed in so I heard him for long after finishing.) The main difference between me and the others at that shelter was that I wasn’t using drugs anymore, but the people who ran the shelter didn’t know that. The bottom line was that I had to leave – they weren’t even willing to talk to me, but instead trusted the word of a stranger in another province, who stated incorrectly that I was using. So it had come about that I must leave, and I was left stranded at night when I arrived from work.

I tried a few options to prevent going back to where I’d been, but they didn’t work out. So I had nowhere to go, and ended up back in that awful situation, living with my “girlfriend” and the dealer she was with. Of course I continued using. There was no way I could live in a single shared room with two people who were using without using too, and that lead to my losing that job, and being in a situation where I was very close to living on the street. I could no longer function, and there was no way of getting another job while living there. That was the lowest point of my life.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and you don’t get more desperate than I was. I had nowhere to go, and I only saw two options to get out of there:

  1. Kill the dealer. Go to jail. (Not really an option. I will never go to jail. Also, I’m not a murderer.)
  2. Manipulate the dealer into beating me up really really badly, and trust that someone, anyone, might actually care enough to get me out of there, and into rehab. (Actually I had someone specific in mind, of course.)

I went with option two. It was a long shot, but I’d been in contact with that relative and figured that I knew him well enough and this would be enough to get him to help me into a rehab. It was a huge personal sacrifice as well as a calculated risk and I had to swallow my pride, then use my sarcasm as well as a physical threat (which was a bluff) to provoke the dealer, and not fight back when he started hitting me – although I had to use my remaining strength to make him stop. (Taunting him into action was the easy part.) And it worked. (In my mind, it took strength to do that. I wasn’t fucking powerless at all.)

After rehab and staying clean for several months, I did ultimately relapse almost a year later, and return to active addiction. But during that time, I continued working and paying my rent, as well as providing a place for my mother to live. She’d be destitute if I lost my job and my place, but that didn’t happen. (So how powerless was I?) Eventually I did manage to stop, without another intervention, but by putting other people before myself. (Aside: Many other recovering addicts have expressed that they didn’t “get recovery” until they did it for themselves. For me it was the other way around. I couldn’t do recovery for myself, but it worked out when my primary focus was on other people, those I care for. That also means my “higher power” is my loved ones. I’m told that’s perfectly fine, but it doesn’t work with the 12 steps. I can’t pray to my loved ones. Heck – maybe I can? At least they fucking exist! Unlike God…)

Edit: That same relative had brought our mother up from Cape Town to live in a flat attached to his house. Then a couple of years later, he invented crazy allegations against her (false memories that he appears to believe) and kicked her out of his house. She had nowhere to go, and he knowingly forced her to live with me, knowing that I was in active addiction. (Thus I can never be sure if he ever really wanted to help me, or just wanted to look good to other family members. He no longer wants anything to do with me, which is a good thing.)

So I was already clean for some time before I started participating in any program. This has allowed me to view the program quite differently to my first time around. I didn’t go into the program feeling powerless – I went in with over a year’s clean time. Thus not feeling powerless and desperate allowed me to see the faults and all the bullshit in the program for what it is, all too clearly.

To conclude, I do not believe that I was ever powerless over my addiction, although it did feel that way. I was denied the chance to quit of my own will the first time around, denied by a well-meaning relative who accidentally undermined my plan to help myself when I could, but this last time around I have succeeded. And I succeeded without any program.

I never tell anyone that I succeeded by myself although technically that may be close to the truth, because the crux of my recovery succeeding was that it was for my loved ones, not me. So I may have done it on my own, but I could not have done it alone. (A paradox, but hopefully it makes sense.) Also, I remembered everything I’d learned in rehab from the end of 2009 and beginning of 2010, and applied it. I was fortunate that the rehab I attended didn’t only focus on the 12 steps.

I do participate in a program now, but for other reasons, not to help myself. The fact is, there is no evidence that the program of NA, including the 12 steps, actually works at all. There is no evidence that it is any better than doing nothing at all. More on that in upcoming posts…


If I feel that way inclined, I’ll continue this as a series, all tagged “casting doubt on the 12 steps” with the step number in the title… But some of them are so absurd, any critically thinking person should be able to reject them out of hand. For example, step 11 requires “through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God (as we understood Him), praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out”. And I’m told that my “higher power” can be something other than your god? Spiritual, not religious program, my arse!

Posted in Addiction, Meth, Recovery | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Sugar addiction? (Is addiction a disease?)

No time to write much today, but I did read a fascinating article on IFLScience about sugar addiction. It’s interesting because it explains the science of addiction, which applies to many substances besides drugs.

sugar

I disagree that addiction to sugar is really a serious “thing”… and I disagree with the notion that addiction is a disease, but I can’t argue with the science of addiction. Check it out… They also include a great link that expands on the method drugs use to hijack the brain’s reward pathway. Funny though, the more I read about and understand the science of addiction, the more I doubt that addiction is a disease. Yes, abusing drugs involves hijacking the reward pathway, but after you stop, the reward pathway recovers completely (in a couple of years). So how is it really a disease? After years of sobriety, choosing to remember only the good things may be suicidally stupid and lead to relapse, but it’s part of the way we (all) think – it’s normal. My logic tells me that’s not a disease.

A disease is a particular abnormal, pathological condition that affects part or all of an organism. It is often construed as a medical condition associated with specific symptoms and signs.[1] It may be caused by factors originally from an external source, such as infectious disease, or it may be caused by internal dysfunctions, such as autoimmune diseases. In humans, “disease” is often used more broadly to refer to any condition that causes pain, dysfunction, distress, social problems, or death to the person afflicted, or similar problems for those in contact with the person. In this broader sense, it sometimes includes injuries, disabilities, disorders, syndromes, infections, isolated symptoms, deviant behaviors, and atypical variations of structure and function, while in other contexts and for other purposes these may be considered distinguishable categories. Diseases usually affect people not only physically, but also emotionally, as contracting and living with a disease can alter one’s perspective on life, and one’s personality.

That’s Wikipedia’s definition of disease above. Except for the bit about “sometimes includes… deviant behaviors”, which is somewhat ambiguous, I don’t see how addiction meets the criteria for being a disease. (Wikipedia may be a bad example for this purpose. That definition is already broad and includes behaviours as well as some generalizations that do not seem relevant to disease. And the problem with a wiki is, anybody who reads this and disagrees can merrily edit the wiki definition as they please.) Abusing drugs or anything else that hijacks the reward pathway seems to me to be within the scope of the brain’s normal response to chemicals. Even our behaviour on drugs is the expected behaviour under the circumstances, so all the deviant behaviour of addicts can be explained as normal behaviour when the brain is placed under certain stresses. Even the way we forget about the bad times but remember the good times (of active addiction) is perfectly normal psychological behaviour (which can lead to catastrophe). It’s not nice normal behaviour, but it is a degree of normal. How can being normal be a disease?

Update: I am not the only one who is says that addiction is not a disease.

To conclude, I am far from alone in my scepticism of 12-step programs and addiction being a disease. It’s unfortunate that my interest in critical thinking causes me to differ so much with many of my fellow recovering addicts, but if I am right, and traditional addiction treatment is wrong, this scepticism is a good thing.

Posted in Addiction, Recovery | Tagged

Some misinformation debunked

Last night I stumbled upon some cool info graphics debunking some commonly held fallacious beliefs. Check them out here.

Here’s a couple worth commenting on, in my view:

image

Yup… this idea seems to be a conflation of Christian mythology with Greek mythology. Hades rules the underworld; therefore Satan rules Hell, right? Wrong. Actually it gets more complicated than that – Satan started out as a good guy, and he never falls in the Bible. That happens in a bunch of other documents that were never accepted as part of the Bible. Satan in the Bible isn’t actually evil; it’s his job to tempt, and somewhere along the way the interpretations of his role changed and he got conflated with some other gods, including Hades, and became evil. How he became the red-skinned horned devil, a bogeyman to scare naughty children into behaving better, I don’t know.

I’m probably not going to publish a third part in my “There is no bogeyman” series… It would have expanded on this a little, but requires some actual research on the history of the devil, and I just don’t see the value in researching such nonsense.

image

This one has pissed me off for many years. I started shaving young, not because I wanted to, but because it’s not cool to have a moustache and goatee in junior school. People make fun of you, and some of them are teachers.

There was a special class in our school, reserved for those who had learning problems and so they were well above the average age. People were starting to treat me like one of them (or maybe it was in my mind alone, but I looked a bit like one of them), and one teacher in particular was on my case every day. So shaving was the only way to make that go away.

And no, shaving didn’t make my beard grow faster… At twelve years old, I only shaved once a week, just my moustache and the hairs on my chinny-chin-chin. By thirteen, the rest of my beard appeared. And shaving couldn’t have stimulated that growth, because it wasn’t even the part of my face that I’d been shaving. So by the time I was fourteen, I was shaving every second day. At fifteen, I had an adult’s beard and shaved every day. (I still have a heaver than average beard. It grows more in a week than many other men grow in a month, which sucks but it is what it is.)

Of course for years people would tell me that it grew because I shaved it. (Wrong way around, you fucking morons.) No 12-year-old shaves for shits and giggles, especially not one who is lazy and would rather wake up ten minutes later. The truth is, I just hit puberty early, which is why I was built like a sixteen year old when I was twelve, and could win the 100 meter sprint without effort.

Interestingly, according to the Wikipedia article on puberty, the onset of puberty in a male is indicated by the first ejaculation around age 13. Mine was early in the year at age 11.

Excuse the rant… The common misconceptions reminded me of this long-forgotten pet peeve.

Posted in Non-addiction | Tagged , , , ,

I just stumbled upon this New Age Bullshit generator

No time to write anything today, but I have something funny to share. Even better than the random Deepak Chopra quote generator, (You know, it disturbs me that I misspelled his name and it was autocorrected – that just feels wrong somehow), is this New Age bullshit generator. Check it out! Clicking the button on the top of the page generates a whole article of New Age bullshit. (They should create some for religion, other pseudoscience and medical quackery too.)

Update: I missed this initially – here’s a link to a blog post by the author of the New Age bullshit generator. I’d call him a kindred spirit, but that might give the wrong impression. Haha.

Posted in Funny, Non-addiction | Tagged , , ,

On education and stimulation of children

The series on the devil is getting a little too serious, so it’s time for an interruption. But a short note on Josh and his fear of “going to the devil” if he’s naughty… I don’t know where this came from; I’d be surprised if either foster parent taught him this, and I hope that if he has asked them about it, they take it as seriously as I have. Of course they won’t answer his questions the same way I do, by saying that there isn’t a devil. (I don’t think so anyway.) I can’t complain – they have done a good job of raising him, although I would have done it differently. I wouldn’t have allowed the hypocrisy of Christianity… prayers at meals and bedtime, Sunday School, Mass and all that bullshit, while it’s somehow OK to tell his mother “I don’t like you because you’re brown”.

Edit: When Josh says the above he laughs, but it’s like he’s not serious while he is serious. As an overly sarcastic person I know that there’s always some truth buried in every little joke… And it’s frustrating. He doesn’t seem to get that he is half “brown” himself. So my genes were somehow dominant enough that you look white, but you are coloured kiddo… (And that’s not a bad thing. You don’t burn in the sun like I do. You have the best of both, plus you look white, which is sadly still an advantage even here in South Africa.)

Moving on, in two days Aishah will be 21 months old, and I’m amazed at her progress. She now often wakes up before my alarm rings, to announce “Hungry” and “Eat!”. This means that she often gets two breakfasts, one at home and another at crèche. Her other favourite word is “TeeBee” (TV). She’ll bring the remote to us anywhere and demand to watch it, and now has a sufficiently long attention span to sit still and in front of it for a while. It’s getting to the point where we will have to start imposing limits. (Some of it is useful though, especially when she starts singing along with ABC and other nursery rhymes.)

She’s a very clever little girl, and I have to start finding better educational toys for her. She has one of those wooden puzzles with pieces containing numbers zero to ten, but it’s too easy for her now, so maybe it’s time for more advanced puzzles and toys.

She also has an endearing new habit, which can be annoying when I’m tired… If I’m laying on the bed and she wants me to play with her and her toys in the lounge, she’ll stand at the foot of the bed and call me with “Come!” while motioning with one hand towards the door. She won’t shut up until I follow her.

She also has the strange idea that every page on the internet should feature a photo of Josh… This came about because my FB profile image and and other pages where I’m logged into FB, Google or WordPress shows an image of Josh. Now neither of us can sit in front of the computer without Aishah joining us on the chair. If there is an image featuring Josh, she will shout “Josh!” repeatedly, and try to climb on the table to touch the screen. If there isn’t an image of Josh, she will shout “Where?” repeatedly, even louder. (She never seems to tire of the Find the Josh game.) Either way, using the PC when Aishah is awake is difficult. Come to think of it, she has also learned to hit the Windows logo key on the keyboard, and loves to make it switch between the desktop and the tiles. Of course she knows that if she can’t find Josh, he’s on my user tile, so she can always resort to that and then proudly congratulate herself by yelling “Josh” triumphantly.

I’m really enjoying playing with and doing whatever I can to guide this very bright almost-two-year-old. I’d love to receive any suggestions on ways to stimulate her learning and her vocabulary even further. Feel free to make them in the comments.

Posted in My life, Parenting | Tagged , , ,

There is no bogeyman – Part Two

In yesterday’s post I contemplated Josh’s six-year-old belief in the devil. (Josh is currently in foster care, and although I see him twice a week, I have no say in his upbringing – for the time being.) Maybe belief is the wrong word; acceptance would probably be better. After all, that’s what indoctrination is all about: teach somebody your doctrine when they are really young, since children will trust whatever they are taught to be true, and grow up with a resultant unfalsifiable belief. As adults, they then use motivated reasoning to perceive everything in terms of the indoctrinated belief, because that belief is accepted as absolute truth and never questioned. So what starts as acceptance becomes belief that is held onto despite all evidence that it has no basis in fact, and the grown child then indoctrinates his or her own children. This person has faith, and they feel it is their duty to pass that faith on; they are sincere in their belief and quite unaware of the brainwashing effect of indoctrination, and many such people may read this without getting it.

Yes, no doubt you’ve noticed that I’ve written something along those lines before, many times, because that’s how indoctrination works, and that’s why people like Richard Dawkins despise it so much. I hate it; I hate that my son has to be exposed to it; I hate that almost everybody I know believes in “doctrine” that was written down thousands of years ago and has no basis in reality. But there’s nothing I can do about it. However, I took even more offense when I realized that my son is afraid of “going to the devil” one day, because bringing up a child using fear is despicable, and no matter how you feel about your religious belief, it doesn’t matter because the devil as perceived in modern Christian cultures doesn’t even come from the Christian Bible (AKA doctrine).

I never believed in the devil. Every year when I was a child, our Sunday School (St Pius X Roman Catholic Church in Plumstead) used to have a costume party, with prizes, and I always went as the devil. I never won any prizes though, but the point is, I always thought the devil was a huge joke. Of course I was never taught that if I was a naughty boy, I’d go to Hell and suffer eternal damnation with the devil torturing me. For fuck’s sake – maybe if I had been taught that early enough I’d have been able to let go of my indoctrination and turn to atheism much sooner.

Instead, my Christian faith was rooted in love: Love your neighbour as yourself, etc. Not fear. That and my admiration for the parish priest, which turned out to be an appeal to authority in my mind, made it very difficult to let go of my indoctrination. It’s difficult to see the bad in a belief system that’s grounded in love and goodness; it would certainly have been easier if I’d been taught nonsense sufficiently crazy for my child-brain to reject.

As a young adult, I liked playing Dungeons & Dragons. I find it interesting that the character alignment Lawful Evil relies on fear of consequences, as well as the obeying of laws. Yeah, the fundamentalists will no doubt counter me by saying that D&D is evil incarnate anyways… but I don’t really care for the opinions of loonies. (D&D is just a role-playing game, but I like the description of the lawful evil character alignment here. It’s well thought out and it isn’t difficult to compare that alignment to people we know who behave that way in real life. That is, they are lawful because they fear consequences and may even misuse the law against their “enemies”, but are not good people.) The point is, when you teach somebody to be “good” by fearing consequences, especially the damned devil, you’re not teaching them to be good; you’re teaching them to be evil… To be loyal and true, to work within the law, but to have no compassion for others outside of your gender/race/faith and get away with it because you work within the constraints of the law. This reminds me of  someone I know who has always been a racist, homophobe, malicious hateful jerk, manipulator and all-round pious Catholic.

Conclusion

All that I’ve dealt with in this part of the series, is what you teach a child when you teach them to be good using fear (of the devil, or of consequences). It isn’t what you think it is. I haven’t dealt with the devil himself. That’s for next time… (Again, assuming I write another part. These posts weren’t planned; I just started typing and they came out this way, almost like they wrote themselves.)

Posted in My life, Parenting, Recovery | Tagged , ,

There is no bogeyman – Part One

In last few weeks, Josh has been much better behaved when visiting us, so maybe my negative view of his future was overly pessimistic. There is one part of his current belief system that concerns me though: His belief in the devil.

Twice in the last few weeks he has asked me about the devil. (In case anyone doesn’t know the history, Josh will be seven years old on April 2nd.) The context is, he explains to me that he means to be a good boy, but sometimes he is naughty, and he is afraid that he will “go to the devil” because of it. He also asks me about God… For example, “How deep is the ocean?”, followed by “Can you stand there?” (No) and then “Can God stand there?”. These questions are difficult to answer, as I don’t want to state categorically that there is no god. He understands that I don’t believe in god, but at his age that doesn’t translate(*1) to an understanding that maybe it’s because there isn’t any god.

Since he is still in foster care, I can’t tell him exactly what I believe, because it will just be contradicted and cause him more confusion. However, I will not shy away from expressing that if you must teach a child to be good by teaching him to be afraid of the devil, you’re doing it wrong.

We should be taught to be just and fair, to be honest and truthful rather than deceitful, to love and respect our fellow human beings, regardless of gender, culture, race, belief, or sexual persuasion. We should be taught to do others no harm, and we should genuinely care for all our fellow members of humanity. How to nurture that care and respect for each other in a child is beyond the scope of this piece of writing. It is simply my intention to state that I am sure it can be done, and as parents it is our responsibility to do so, but all of this can be achieved without gods. Furthermore there is no place in my mind and in what I would like to teach my children, for a devil, and it is especially wrong for a child to be raised to fear the devil. It makes me nauseous that he has been taught this fucking nonsense.


*1: This is interesting. It’s not that different to the reasoning of an adult who has been indoctrinated, on hearing that I am an atheist. That is, they start with the assumption that God exists, and understand my atheism as simply that I don’t believe in God. But the initial position is always that God is real, and such a person (as me) doesn’t believe in the “obviously real” god; then reason from that point onwards. (This default position is wrong. One should always start with the null hypothesis.) This reasoning comes down to dismissing every idea that contradicts our belief, no matter how logical or reasonable, and not even considering the possibility that there may really be no god. It also means that throughout our lives, even if we learn facts that prove our belief is based on outdated superstitious nonsense from thousands of years ago, most of us will prefer to hang onto our beliefs and discard the facts. It gets more complicated with age of course, but this and the belief in the red-skinned horned devil lies at the core of the indoctrinated mind. That is, the core belief is a childish one, even in adults. I will explore this further in my next post on this subject, whenever that may be… (or if ever that may be. The Part One in the title was mostly to motivate myself to get around to it).

Posted in My life, Parenting, Recovery | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Broken critical thinking

It’s funny how the comments on so many sites have turned into wars between atheists and theists; funny because of a couple of things:

  • We atheists are vastly outnumbered.
  • Most people don’t let the facts get in the way of their belief. (They never change their opinion, but rather cherry-pick the “facts” that support it and discard the rest.)

I don’t partake in such arguments, because they are a waste of time and energy knowing that those I would argue with only want to have their say, and will not pay attention to my words, and will never even consider changing their opinions. One of my strengths has always been that I do keep an open mind, and have changed my opinions many times over the years. The whole point of discourse is to learn from others; therefore circular arguments achieve nothing and should be avoided at all costs.

Of course I do express my opinions about atheism/theism/religion here, but that’s different. If anyone makes an argumentative comment that opposes my point of view but also teaches me that I am wrong, I’ll be happy, and change my opinion accordingly. (It’s almost like the scientific method, but not quite. I probably have many opinions or beliefs that are based on my emotions rather than evidence.) But that hasn’t happened yet. I have sometimes received the (same old) religious arguments that teach me nothing, and will always react to those depending on my mood at the time, which is either to “crucify” the commenters with my words, or lead them on to making ridiculous enough comments to crucify themselves. Hateful comments will be deleted or edited such that they ridicule those who write them.

The above was supposed to be a single introductory paragraph, and is not even right on topic for the intended post – don’t know why I do that sometimes… This post is mostly about the critical thinking failures in others that I’ve read recently while reading some other blog/article comments.

In the last two days, I’ve read comments by three different people (atheists) who call out the No True Scotsman informal logical fallacy as an explanation for those who have religious faith, in the context that nobody’s faith is the same as that of another.

According to my understanding, that’s an incorrect application of the No True Scotsman fallacy. Here’s the example of this fallacy from Wikipedia:

Imagine Hamish McDonald, a Scotsman, sitting down with his Glasgow Morning Herald and seeing an article about how the “Brighton [(England)] Sex Maniac Strikes Again”. Hamish is shocked and declares that “No Scotsman would do such a thing”. The next day he sits down to read his Glasgow Morning Herald again; and, this time, finds an article about an Aberdeen [(Scotland)] man whose brutal actions make the Brighton sex maniac seem almost gentlemanly. This fact shows that Hamish was wrong in his opinion but is he going to admit this? Not likely. This time he says, “No true Scotsman would do such a thing”.

It’s quite clear what’s going on in this fallacy. The person redefines the group as a whole in order to exclude an individual. This is why I use that fallacy as an example of the foolishness of those who have “faith” in the 12-step program of recovery from addiction. Every time someone fails to make it in recovery and relapses, no matter how well they were following the program, true believers in the program can assert that the individual was not truly in recovery (or not serious about recovery). That way they redefine what it means to be in recovery, in order to exclude the individual. They can then continue reading and believing the literature that claims that nobody who follows the program fails.

Another example of this fallacy was when around a year ago, a relative accused me of not being a true atheist; his reason being that he thought I believed in the paranormal. Yes, I used to believe in the paranormal when I was a child, but I have grown up since then… But wait, why am I defending this view? This is also an example of a false dichotomy or false dilemma, where he presented two “opposing” points of view as if they were representative of the overall picture. They aren’t. Being an atheist doesn’t subject me to your silly rules which are part of your cognitive dissonance that you use to justify the beliefs in your head. The only thing I need to be an atheist is to disbelieve in a theistic god. (And as it happens, I also don’t believe in the devil, demons, goblins, spirits, souls, chakras, unicorns, the tooth fairy, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, an afterlife or any of that bullshit.)

Yesterday I read the comment of someone who presented a false dichotomy that we must either believe in God or aliens; which was pointed out to the person. (There seem to be many with that belief.) Here’s the problem: If you believe in a physical God who created the universe, he’s not from around here. That makes him an alien by definition, albeit an alien from another universe. If you don’t believe god is physical at all, but is rather an unfalsifiable being that exists outside of the bounds of the “physical realm”, then how could he create it? Either way, you have the same problem: You can’t accept science and insist everything must have been created, but you still don’t know who created the creator. And you don’t want to know the true answer: We did.

Posted in Non-addiction | Tagged , | 8 Comments

Don’t be controlled by things that you can’t control

I recently realized that I now know three men who all have issues with anger management. Two of them have much in common, while I don’t know enough about the third.

The two who have much in common also have many more differences, but today all I want to consider is their commonality. One is a relative, and one is not. (Yes, I just contradicted the previous clause. This is to set the context. Also I don’t want either of them to be angry because “He’s writing about me!”. My intention is to analyse anger in everybody, myself included.) Both tend to send angry emails that get them into trouble, although one is aware of the issue while the other isn’t. The one aware of the issue is also aware of his anger management problems (and is working on them as far as I know); the other doesn’t have a clue.

But they have more in common than just the symptoms of their anger management blunders: Both are highly intelligent people; both are ambitious, driven people; both take meticulous control of their financial affairs; both have plans, objectives – clear goals – years in advance, and both regularly make their goals a reality. Lastly, both of them are very hard workers – striving to achieve perfection in their professions, often working long hours and making some personal sacrifices along the way to achieve their objectives.

I’m not like that. I’m lazy by nature – too lazy. I have to tell myself every day to get off my arse and get on with what I need to do. I have to remind myself what my goals are, and how I need to achieve them, and I have to force myself to think about those things because it doesn’t come naturally. So I don’t spend any mental “energy”” thinking about those things naturally… i.e. my goals and how to achieve them, or any impediments to those goals. I don’t spend any effort on that unless I force myself to.

But I do still get angry; just less than the others, and it fades in a few seconds. I get angry when things that I would like to go my way, do not go my way. In other words, when I can’t control things that are out of my control. It’s a paradox. It seems to me that this is what we all have in common. When you try so hard to control everything, then you might fail to realize that some things, some people, are not yours to control. Then everything and everyone becomes an impediment, an obstacle that is preventing you from moving forward. It’s an illusion that’s only “visible” as long as you continue to spend mental effort focusing on it, being consumed by it, and being controlled by it.

Getting back to the third person I met recently, who also has a problem with anger management… It was last Thursday at the outpatient program group session, and he’d had a bad day that ended with him sitting in traffic for too long getting there. He was so consumed by anger, it effected the session, and the therapist took it out on him.

But one thing that came out of that group session was that I’d had an even worse day: I had an SQL query to work on for generating a report, using a database I’d only ever touched twice, and had been working on it most of the previous day. I’d even worked on it at home between 11 to 12PM, then woken up extra early to get to work by 6:30AM so that I could continue. Then I found my car battery was dead, so a neighbour gave me a push-start to enable me to drive to work. This allowed me to finish my report by my deadline, but left me stranded with no way of getting to that group session. Eventually I got help from that same neighbour, and bought a new battery (for R795) and had it fitted just in time to leave work at 3PM for my group session. Finally thanks to load shedding, even though I gave myself plenty of time, one traffic light on the corner of Victory Road (and Rustenburg I think) caused me to sit in traffic for too long, and fume with anger during the drive, only to arrive just on time.

But my anger dissipated as soon as I arrived there, whereas his increased. For me, it was like… Poof – Anger gone! I’m happy. And I was happy and cheerful, while he let his anger, let the things that he couldn’t control, control him. So it’s easy to say of course, but try to find a way of letting go of those external things that should never and can never be in your control. It makes everything more pleasant for you, and for everyone around you.

Note: I’m oversimplifying of course. It’s not so easy to let go, and sometimes we can’t do it by ourselves. No offense intended, and this time I mean it. (Unlike this “essay” on Wikipedia. WTF? That must be the shortest essay I ever read…)

Update: Haha! I just updated that Wikipedia “essay” linked to above. It now contains a second clause in parenthesis. Let’s see how long it stays that way. And just so you don’t have to follow the link, the entire “essay” is quoted below (where the parenthesized bit is my edit):

As a general rule, if you’re using the phrase “no offense intended”, you are in fact, being offensive. (Of course, the original author of this “essay” intended no offense in this statement.)

Posted in My life, Non-addiction, Recovery | Tagged

Hilarious parody of anti-vaxxers

No time to write anything today, but have a look at this brilliant parody of the anti-vaccination movement. “Having the brakes removed from your car is a personal decision”.

It’s true: engine braking was once the norm. And back then, I’ve heard there were a lot fewer automotive fatalities (and there were none involving brakes, because there weren’t any brakes!). Mechanics get paid to service our brakes; they make our cars sick (brakes can warp your rotors) and then charge us money to repair them. Everyone knows that mechanics, as a class, are crooked — why wouldn’t they do this if they could get away with it?

The government wants to force you to have brakes, but brakes or no brakes is a personal decision. Do your research and make your own decision, for you and your family.

Also this.

Posted in Non-addiction | Tagged ,

Stupid things that people who are not addicts do

One of the most common search terms that brings new readers here is “stupid things meth addicts do”. The search term itself betrays an astounding misunderstanding of the nature of addiction, a dangerous ignorance that most of us share, one that in my case may have been fundamental to my becoming an addict in the first place, so therefore I have switched the subject around a little…

We’ve all seen the faces of meth. I don’t need to tell you, but will anyway, that those faces are taken from police mug shots of career criminals through the years of their addiction. (Somehow it never strikes anyone as significant that even the before photo of such people is often also a mug shot. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been arrested for anything; never even when I used meth every day for around seven years.) They’re used by various websites with the intention of being a deterrent to prevent the rest of us from becoming addicts, or so it would seem. The truth is, if that is even their intention, they fail quite miserably.

I’ve known many meth addicts over the years, and only two of them looked anything remotely like those people in the mug shots. Their names were Trevor and Shirley, although my names for them were Punch and Judy. They looked almost like some of those mug shots, of people who had been using meth for less than ten years, but Punch and Judy had been using for over thirty years. Even so, they weren’t remarkable enough for anybody to notice them. Judy had worked close to the bank where my mother worked, and gone there to do her banking for several years. She knew my mother by name, but my mother did not remember her.

Searching for faces of meth or for stupid things that meth addicts do indicates a profound ignorance of what it is to be an addict. It indicates that you think they are worthless, that they are literally worth less than you; that they are stupid, low-life scum. In reality, we all use substances in one form or another, whether they are alcohol, prescription drugs, or illegal drugs. And if we make the mistake of using crystal meth (or any one of several equally dangerous substances), we will almost surely become addicts, because we don’t see how it really is… We think that addicts are those stupid others, unlike us. Our ignorance insulates us from the harsh reality. I know many people who tried crystal meth, and only one of them (to my knowledge) did not become an addict.

So while you look for addicts doing stupid things, you won’t even notice the addicts who are right in front of your noses. Most of them live in active addiction for years before their problems overwhelm them, or they just get used to sacrificing every relationship, every possession, every bit of sanity they have, to get their drug.

So while you look at the caricature-like faces online, and search for addicts doing stupid things, you won’t notice that people like your family doctor, whom you trust implicitly, may be a morphine addict. He may be walking a tightrope, and one day his addiction will lead to tragedy for one of his patients and a subsequent malpractice suit, where he loses his licence to practice medicine, which could land him in rehab. There he will appear to do well, until he leaves and overdoses on street heroin.

You won’t notice the 23 year old daughter of your church-going best friend, who looks lovely as she leaves for work every day, to go to a massage parlour, where she gives married men “pelvic massages” and blowjobs to earn money for her drugs. She convinces herself that what she’s doing isn’t illegal – she’s providing a service. She’s not a prostitute because she doesn’t let them fuck her. But, oh… she will.

While you search for those low-life’s online, you won’t notice that your divorce attorney seems unusually tense, and you won’t realize it’s because he’s high on crack cocaine. You won’t notice that the plumber you hired to do your bathroom is drunk and should be too inebriated to stand up, because he’s masked it, hidden his drunkenness by snorting huge amounts of cocaine.

The truth is, you are so insulated by your own ignorance, you may not see the harm in trying meth just once, because you have a friend who uses and they seem to be doing OK. And if you do that, you will find out the hard way that everything written in this post is true, but you might not live to tell the tale.

Posted in Addiction, Advice, Meth, Recovery, Tweaking | Tagged | 1 Comment

Issues

Despite getting some extra cash in the latter part of 2014, my financial woes are still ongoing. (Eh? The Live Writer dictionary insists that “ongoing” is not a valid word. Strange.)

I did decide not to waste the money, so my woes aren’t as bad as they were, but they’re still bad. For instance, my debt from the car I no longer have (from the old days of active addiction in Cape Town) is no longer with attorneys – it’s been handed back to WesBank Vehicle Finance, but there’s still a substantial balance to pay off. In December, my pushy broker called me several times to try to get me to agree to increasing my insurance premiums… I do think insurance as well as my RA is important, but he always called at a bad time, so I never had the chance to explain to him that my expenses have increased while my salary remained constant. It’s cool that my premiums are less “loaded” than they were (because I was honest about my history of addiction when I opened them), but increasing them now will only leave me in a position where I will default on the payments sooner or later.

My other half still doesn’t have a job, and finding something seems like less of a priority for her than it was before. Her aunt offered to fly her to Saudi for a vacation, and as good as that would be, it’s only going to serve as yet another excuse for her not to get a job. (Although I may not be being fair. I don’t know the whole story.) At least my mother is out of our faces for a few weeks, in Cape Town on vacation… which was my Christmas present to her.

We need to move to a bigger place so that Josh can live with us, and with me paying all the expenses alone, that’s more difficult than it should be.

Then there’s Josh: He is extremely rude and disrespectful to us, ever since the visitation agreement for us to see him at his foster mother’s house was breached. There seem to be some deeper problems than that, and I believe that he is very confused… He effectively has three homes now, and his foster mother doesn’t encourage him to understand that we are his parents and Aishah is his only sister. He still calls his cousin his sister; she understands, but he doesn’t want to.

His foster mother realizes that he has issues at school, but I don’t believe that she knows how serious his issues really are, and her solutions, such as him seeing a psychologist, doing therapy and play therapy, are in my mind based on woo which is not going to address his real problems. His real problems are being swept under the carpet. I believe that he needs to be with us, and he must learn about the danger of addiction, starting soon. I foresee that if he isn’t with us, he is going to rebel against his foster parents eventually, and by the time he is a teenager, he will end up on drugs. I believe that his chances of not ending up that way are much better if I can teach him, with him staying with me. Yet if he isn’t with us, and does end up on drugs (mark my words – he will end up that way), we will be blamed anyway. Ironic, depressing and annoying. So I am very worried about Josh and I don’t think anybody sees where his behavioural issues will end up, and how to sort them out, apart from myself.

Edit: Perhaps it’s worth adding for clarity that his issues were caused by us, at least initially. He was conceived while we were both using methamphetamine, and that continued through his mother’s pregnancy, and the long term effects should not be underestimated. I do, however, believe that not all of his behavioural issues are our fault. His upbringing comes into play; he is confused because he is torn between two families, and there are other issues I’d rather not write about. Also, I don’t believe that the good intentions of his foster mother are going to achieve her intended result. He needs to be with his parents, and with my knowledge of addiction and the huge risk it poses for him, I feel that I am the one who should ensure he doesn’t end up an addict himself.

I also have strong feelings about the way outreach programs in general don’t teach about the dangers of addiction itself, but rather focuses on substances. (I don’t remember any such drive from my youth where the focus was on the dangers of addiction, or on the random way in which anyone who uses may become an addict.) In my mind, the focus of educating people about drugs misplaces the priority, and fails to inform us where the real danger lies. If more of us knew the risks before we ever used any drug, maybe we wouldn’t have tried it. But those feelings can be the focus of a different post.

Posted in My life, Recovery | Tagged ,

A link to an article that makes much ado about nothing, but does beg the question: Is it time to stop using Facebook?

Somewhere down an interesting clickbait trail yesterday, I tripped over this way overgrown article about saying goodbye to Facebook… Ja, it’s Huffpost, but still… The guy featured in the article said goodbye to the evil FB because the feed presented to him wasn’t “organic”. Are we so dependent on our “digital identities”? Really?

Edit: What I am referring to by clickbait is those sites where, after following a link on FB, all you get is a “cover” page with nothing but links to articles, except they aren’t really links to articles. These normally generate revenue for a site via some sort of affiliate program using referrer information somehow; then you’re forced to click again to open up the real article. This feels like hiking to me because it leads to many tabs full of links to so-called viral articles – hence the clickbait trail metaphor of the first paragraph. That kind of clickbait is tolerable sometimes, but there are others that I truly hate, like the ones with link titles along the lines of “Man loses mind after yet another clickbait video false promise – You won’t believe what happens next!”… Those ones lead to pages that promise videos, but only after you like them on FB and spread the false promise to all your friends.

I don’t like FB very much anymore, but for different reasons to those of the man in the article. When I started using it, it was about reconnecting with people I’d lost contact with, and felt like a convenient way to rekindle some sort of distant digital version of a relationship, with the safety of it being virtual and distant. (Unlike real “friends” who might overstay their welcome in my home, I can disconnect with FB “friends” by logging off.) But now I don’t use it the way I used to. It’s a place where links to my blog posts automatically get shared. It’s a place that has replaced that yearly chore my parents had to endure, of sending Christmas cards to people seen so long ago that I didn’t even know them, except that now it’s birthday wishes. Endless fucking happy birthdays… I cringe every time I log into FB and it’s yet another long-lost acquaintance’s birthday. (It’s always somebody’s birthday.) I used to post birthday wishes, but they don’t mean anything anymore.

FB is also the place where I get to read amusing shares by other atheists, and follow links to articles written by sceptics, that I have nearly always already read (because I’m subscribed to their blog feeds). But more than that, it’s a place where I am constantly annoyed by people sharing hoaxes and religious nutcases sharing their inspirational woo. And then there’s the clickbait. I had to unlike George Takei because the account in his name posts endless clickbait every day. I don’t think he has anything to do with that account anymore. You know, there’s a line somewhere between interesting trivia and useless, annoying shit. I don’t always know which side of the line I’m on, but most of the stuff on FB crossed over to the stinky side a long time ago.

So the way I use FB now is, log in, then scroll down for links to articles that look interesting; maybe take a minute or two to post snarky comments to people sharing hoaxes or inspirational/religious bullshit; then log out. (Of course I no longer read the motivated reasoning initiated replies to my sarcasm, which I assume will include specific bible versus or whatever shit the person uses to further explain their mindlessness false beliefs.) I also get some revenge on all the FB gamers by sharing the progress of the one and only game I play on my home computer. (Despicable me: Minion Rush. Originally I downloaded it for Josh, but I’m not too bad at it myself. Currently on level one hundred and eighty something… needing 8 more fruits to progress to the next area of the jelly lab.) I’ve never had any kind of delusion of a digital persona there, and don’t really understand what it is that people do when logged in via the smart phone all day.

Sure, I have one or two friends I care about there, and just the other day I took the time to chat to a friend who has recently come back to recovery, but mostly it’s an annoying pile of rotting marketing mumbo-jumbo and a window into the retarded reality of most minds. I’ve been in two minds about whether to stop using FB for a long time, but I haven’t had the guts to say goodbye to it yet. I still do get to connect with old friends and relatives, and do still see some good in FB (although I haven’t made any new friends there in ages), so I won’t be closing my account just yet. But to anyone who actually cares about their digital footprint, here’s to me sticking my digital foot up your digital arse!

Posted in My life, Non-addiction | Tagged

Good question

Somebody got here via an internet search asking this oddball question:

I snort an 8 ball of meth every 7-8 weeks. Am I an addict?

Only you can answer that question for certain. I can only make an educated guess, but what I can tell you is that the frequency you use doesn’t make you an addict. The consequences do. So you need to ask yourself, what are the consequences of using every 7 to 8 weeks? If you have consequences, any consequences at all, and you carry right on using anyway, you’re probably an addict. And I’m going to guess that since you searched about addiction online, you are facing consequences. That makes you an addict, and it means the time has come for you to seek help. Reading this or any other blog isn’t going to help you. All it can do is inform you, and maybe inspire you – but only rehabilitation can help you. Good luck.

Posted in Addiction, Advice, Recovery, Tweaking | Tagged

A brilliant YouTube channel for nursery rhymes

I was looking for decent quality nursery rhymes (videos) to download for Aishah… because the one I got last time when I selected the top torrent turned out to be a bad idea… Then I found this great one:

Everything on that channel is excellent quality. I download from YouTube using Firefox and this addon, which allows downloading HD video when available, so it can be used, for example, to download HD music videos from any of the Vevo channels.

Posted in Non-addiction, Parenting | Tagged

No, Mary Magdalene did not marry Christ and birth a holy bloodline

In the last year and a half or so, my interest in scepticism has taken me to interesting places, in that an initial interest in critical thinking and debunking has led to a quest for knowledge in a wide range of subjects. It started with religion, mythology and conspiracy theories, then broadened into the paranormal, then aliens, then pseudoscience, science denial and finally real science. Since there’s always a rational explanation for everything, after I started learning what those explanations were, I found myself learning way more about real science… science-based-medicine in particular, than I could ever have imagined. After software development, science-based-medicine as well as the debunking of medical quackery is currently my main reading interest online. Funny, back when I was a teenager my (step) grandfather always told me that he wanted me to be a doctor, and now I’m sorry I didn’t ever take the idea seriously. It’s too late now of course, and I don’t think one can study medicine part time, but at least I can continue to read and learn from scientists and doctors who know so much more than I ever will.

I do however, continue to read about the other subjects related to scepticism that started me on this path. One of them is fringe history, where believers take mythology literally and stir their often inherently racist ideas into a pot simmering with conspiracy theories. This also overlaps with one of my other interests, which is the fascination with trying to understand why it is that people believe what they believe, and how it shapes their world-view and their behaviour. Maybe a few years of methamphetamine-induced madness was enough to kindle my interest in other types of madness, so I like to have a gander at the world through the eyes of such maniacs.

Jason Colavito is an American writer/editor/historian whose writing on various sceptical subjects often fascinates me. Recently he wrote about the crazy belief that Jesus Christ married Mary Magdalene, resulting in a “holy bloodline” of their descendants. It doesn’t matter that I don’t believe Jesus was the son of any god, because I don’t believe there is a god, but I do find it interesting nevertheless. Also, in a moment of meth-induced facetiousness a few years ago (in 2009) when I still lived in Cape Town and worked for a company called Korbitec, I once told a co-worker that my real name was “Jerome Christ” and that I was a direct descendant of Jesus. It never occurred to me at the time that anybody in their right mind might actually believe such nonsense about themselves. (No matter how you look at it, it’s the ultimate statement of a racist with a massive delusion of grandeur. “I’m superior to you because the blood of God runs through my veins…” You must be seriously fucked up to believe that about yourself.)

Anyway, what it comes down to is that the myth wasn’t born until around the tenth century, so for around 1000 years after the death of Christ, people in the same area where the holy bloodline myth is so popular, used to believe something different. I don’t know what that tells you, but it tells me that somebody made that shit up

Posted in Non-addiction | Tagged | 3 Comments

No, my recovery is not at risk

Just a quick update… Funny how sometimes I write something that I think is perfectly clear, but that’s not how it gets read. My colleague read this recent post where I explained why I am doing a program and was surprised because as far as he can tell, I am doing very well in my recovery. It seems that my post was unintentionally ambiguous, so this one is for clarification… in case he wasn’t the only one who read it that way.

My recovery is not at risk. I don’t crave any more and haven’t for a long time. I am absolutely certain that I will never use again. However, it is in my nature never to trust any situation to be as it seems. It is my nature to be cautious, as well as sceptical and suspicious. (Actually caution and scepticism weren’t always in my nature, especially not caution… but they are now.)

My recovery has been almost too easy this time, so easy that when difficulties arise that remind me of the past, I question why it is that I can handle them now, whereas I couldn’t before. So my contingency plan is simply to ensure that if ever my life isn’t going as well as it is now, in the event of difficulties that I do not foresee and are out of my control, I have something extra, a coping mechanism to ensure that I will stay clean no matter what. I don’t feel that such a contingency is necessary, but having one can only be a good thing. Actually that was what I meant when I wrote contingency in the title, but I should probably have clarified it better in the post body. That was the context of the post – my recovery isn’t in trouble; on the contrary it has never been better than it is right now.

Posted in Recovery | 2 Comments

My life is tiring

It’s been a long day. (Tuesday 27th Jan 2015; although you’ll probably see this on Wednesday or Thursday, depending on when I finish writing it.) My sponsor-hunting is not going as well as I’d hoped.

The one man I’d hoped to get as a sponsor is already sponsoring six others; the other I tried expects me to go to a meeting every day for two years and for my life to revolve around recovery. Without even considering that I can’t do meetings on Wednesdays (when we see Josh), my priority is my family, then my work. Recovery in the form of a program is something I fit in wherever possible, and even though I take being clean very seriously, fitting everything else around meetings and a structured program would actually take away from my time with my family… It would take away my very reason to recover.

Also, working over nine hours most days is tiring. By the time I leave the office, all I want to do is eat, then play with Aishah for a while, and get to sleep. It’s even an effort to write, but I enjoy writing, and don’t have to drive anywhere to do it. Last night once again, despite being exhausted it took a couple of hours to fall asleep because my insomniac brain wouldn’t let me stop thinking. Then today I started the whole process again.

So on Thursday I have to tell the psychologist who runs the group session (and demanded I find a sponsor in one week) that I don’t have a sponsor yet, despite looking for one, which means I must again be accused of not taking recovery seriously, and resist the urge to tell her that she’s talking bullshit. All I can do is be honest, and describe what I have been doing, which is going to meetings, sharing, stating that I have been complacent in my recovery and went several months without meetings, and that I am looking for a sponsor. I then ask for anyone interested to speak to me after the meeting. (I try to get my share in right at the end of the meeting, just before they close it, so nobody can forget me.) So far it hasn’t worked, but this evening one man did tell me that I am doing it the right way.

I had a really scary conversation before the latest meeting… Having arrived thirty minutes early, so that I could chat to other early arrivals, I spoke to a man also from Cape Town. We were swapping stories from the old days, and he told me that he used to run a restaurant in Sea Point. One story was about how he was caught using in the middle of the night by the surveillance cameras, after he went there to make himself a snack and use. Another was about how he got meth for free from the police officer who checked their liquor license, and even went to the police station and smoked meth in the man’s office. I pressed him for a name (with the intention of writing it here, though I didn’t tell him that of course), and the one he gave me was Captain Schwartz. (That’s the way he pronounced it… as in I see your schwartz is as big as mine.) I have no idea if he was telling the truth – I never thought that anybody might be using meth in their local police station.

It turns out that this guy lives close to where I live, and walked all the way to the meeting in Norwood… quite a distance. I made damn sure not to be anywhere near him after the meeting, as I don’t want to be in the situation where somebody expects me to give them a lift frequently. (Also, he’s kind of creepy, and I wouldn’t feel comfortable with him in my car and my wallet lying right where he can reach it.) He says he’s been clean since last August, and maybe it’s true… I don’t know. But he has these weird glassy eyes and a face that’s still too gaunt, and my gut tells me not to trust him. Does that make me a bad person? I hope not.

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Two things: In case you didn’t notice, all faith healers, psychics and mediums are con artists. And some information about lucid dreaming.

It amuses me every time yet another psychic or faith healer is exposed as a con, but people continue to believe in them. No evidence has ever been produced to verify any psychic or paranormal activity, because it isn’t real. This is why James Randi’s challenge will award anyone who can prove such powers $1 000 000 (One Million Dollars). The prize used to be less, but that was many years ago, and he might as well make it billions of dollars because it simply can’t be done.

Doubtful News got the title right, but the article they linked to got it wrong. They say the man was “masquerading as a faith healer”, which makes no sense at all because every faith healer is a fake.

On a related note, Steven Novella shed some light on what goes on in our brains while lucid dreaming. I find this interesting because it is the most likely explanation for so called astral projection. Many people believe that they have out of body experiences, while they are most probably just lucid while dreaming; in other words they are aware while dreaming and may be able to control their dream experience. I was fooled by this myself, believing one experience of my own was an astral projection for years until I learned better. The fact is that nothing anybody experiences while they are “out of their body” is ever verifiable by anybody else, because they aren’t really out of their body at all.

To elaborate on astral projection… It has never been proven to work at all under controlled conditions. And if it were real, it would be easy to test. For example, simply have a subject sleep next to a locked room, and ask them to leave their body and enter the room, then have them describe the room’s contents afterwards. Invariably, just like when somebody such as Randi tests anybody who claims to have magic powers, they will find all sorts of reasons to justify why they can not tell you what’s in the locked room. This is because astral projection isn’t real.

The person will likely explain something along the lines of the astral realm being abstract or that they can’t perform some physical tasks, such as reading, while disconnected from their physical body. A true believer will rather make excuses like that than believe the obvious truth, which is that they never went anywhere, except in their own head; therefore anything experienced during “astral projection” is imagined – no interaction happened with the real world. The reality is that dreams are often abstract and there is no part of “consciousness” that leaves the body. The “astral body” is just a product of the New Age spiritual movement – something that many people would like to be real but is not. In fact there is no evidence that any kind of spirit or soul exists. Even so called Near Death Experiences (NDEs) are simply the way the brain responds to a lack of oxygen.

Novella’s article (on lucid dreaming) also mentions other hybrid brain states (between wakefulness and REM sleep) such as hypnagogia – waking dreams; and how they may be caused by stress or sleep deprivation. I found this interesting because I experienced such states on more than one occasion when I was in active addiction, and never understood until now what their significance was. It’s too easy to assume brain damage caused by drug use, when the reality is not as serious. (It is serious in the long run, if you subject your brain to sleep deprivation continually, but many effects that we assume to indicate brain damage are just short-term affects of sleep deprivation.)

Hypnagogia, which actually refers to that state between being awake and falling asleep, also explains what I thought were psychic visions I had as a child. One that I had when I was three years old did appear to come true almost exactly, some twenty years later. I only remembered that particular “vision” because I had it every night for weeks, each time repeating in a loop like a video set to repeat. When I was younger I simply never considered the more logical explanation: That it was just a dream, a random sequence of events, and that when it “came true” that was a mere coincidence. Twenty years is a long time, long enough to reinterpret any similar sequence of events as being similar to the one “foreseen”, such that I may even then have altered the original memories so that the dream events I recalled more closely resembled the real-life events.

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