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 applies 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. 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 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 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 , , , | Leave a comment

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 | Leave a comment

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 , , , , | Leave a comment

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 , , , | Leave a comment

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 , , , | Leave a comment

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 , , | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Recovery | Tagged ,

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.

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

Dealing with life on life’s terms (Having a contingency plan to prevent relapse)

Last week I felt enormous sympathy for a girl in the family session I attended on Thursday evening. She was an inpatient there, on her third last day of treatment, and her parents were attending the meeting. Her father remarked that when he was young, he’d tried many different drugs, and he couldn’t understand how she had become an addict while he had no problem. Only problem with his speech; quite literally – was that he was slurring terribly and was difficult to understand, because he was drunk. (I’ve paraphrased him because he was too drunk to finish his statement, but everybody got the gist of what he intended saying. He also unintentionally made a great case for alcohol being a drug like all the others.) He smelled like a mobile brewery. The girl was embarrassed and in tears went to sit with the therapist rather than her parents. I spoke to her again on Friday after their NA meeting, and her parents had again turned up for a meeting with her therapist, with her father drunk once more. She has now left treatment, to live with relatives, not her parents, and I wish her luck.

Something that dawned on me recently, which I discussed in the group session, is that my recovery has been very easy this time around, at least from September 2013 when Megan returned. Oh, we do have our problems, just like everybody else, but for the most part my recovery has been a breeze.

But it wasn’t always that way. There were times in the past, when I first attempted recovery, when somebody who I thought was trying to help me instead made life more difficult for me. That person had Josh removed from me, and said many cruel things that came back to me, which at the time I perceived as “pressure”. My attitude at the time was, “If you treat me like I am using, I might as well use because it doesn’t matter anyway”. This attitude is not unique – in fact it came up in the group session of last week quite independently of my questions and share. Especially in early recovery, we are all at risk and may take any excuse to go back to our old ways.

Last November, that same person caused some difficulties for us, by finding a way to breech the visitation agreement we have for seeing Josh. I immediately thought of what he did before, and this time reacted altogether differently. The issue for me is, because my recovery has been so easy this time around, I may not be equipped to cope with difficulties. When they arise, there is a risk that I may return to my old ways because I am not used to dealing with certain kinds of difficulties any longer.

This was my main reason for checking into an outpatient program. My secondary reason is that I must do one anyway to comply with a court order to get Josh back, but the reason I chose to do this now was that I saw my recovery might be at risk. One thing I thought was funny was that this person claimed in private correspondence to me that he wants no relationship with me because I don’t respect his privacy, due to things I have written here. Of course I don’t buy that… He reads this blog to find ways of contorting my words to be used against me. He likes to take what I write as truth, but only when it suits him. That doesn’t work so well when I write about the ways he has made my recovery difficult, and prevented me from seeing Josh. I continued to write about this before when everything fell apart, but it didn’t help… nobody would believe me when I was using. This time, I’m not going to let that happen.

My questions to the psychologist who ran the group therapy session last week were along the lines of what to do; how to cope when things don’t go well… What if Megan leaves me and takes Aishah with her? What if we don’t get Josh back when we feel we should? What if Megan dies? What if my mother dies? What if something out of my control goes wrong at work and I lose my job? What if…?

The answer, it seems, is to have a sponsor. (Actually the original answer in my mind was to do a program, but my question was related to what to do when things go wrong after the program is finished.) It doesn’t matter that I don’t believe in the 12 steps. That’s my opinion and I’m entitled to it. I will remain skeptical and critical of the NA program… But having somebody I can call when things go wrong, somebody I can speak to or see, even if only once a week, will be a great help. So this is my current mission in recovery… find a sponsor again. (My last one didn’t work out too well.)

I don’t know if I can find one that I identify with, or one that’s perfectly suited for me, but maybe I can have a temporary sponsor for now. My plan is to find one this week. Then maybe later I can find someone who sees recovery more like the way I do. I would prefer an atheist… an antitheist atheist like myself.

I am more than ever before, totally opposed to religion. I need something real, something concrete to believe in, not a personal relationship with an imaginary friend, a placebo up in the sky.

To try explaining the type of delusional belief I am opposed to, lets try a little thought exercise… Imagine a hypothetical woman, whose husband had left her (apparently) for another woman. The children live with her but still have a relationship with their father and his new partner. Now imagine that she is deeply religious. Imagine that rather than teaching her children to get over disappointments, instead she builds a shrine to her ex-husband and has the children pray every night with her for daddy to come home.

What are we to think of this woman? Society teaches us to respect her faith, and maybe we should… I mean, if God exists, surely he could answer her prayer? She’s not a bad person. Of course, since this is a thought exercise, I ask you to include in your thoughts the enormous probability that there is no god. What should we think of her then? She is teaching her children to have false hope. She’s teaching them to escape, to pray to somebody who is not there in order for somebody else to make a different choice. She’s not teaching them to cope with life on life’s terms at all. Further, and without even realizing it, she is teaching her children that their father’s choice was against what God wants. She is teaching them that he is evil somehow, even if that isn’t her intention. Never mind that the reason he left her probably is more complicated than it appears, and the other woman is more a symptom of something deeper being wrong.

Having a belief in God is a way of running away from reality, reducing your problems into simple terms, ones that are both external and irrelevant because they aren’t based on reality, rather than facing them. There is no place for faith in my recovery.

After all, I see faith as an escape, a way of failing to deal with issues and rather making it “God’s will”; then praying for God to change His will, even when it involves other people and their choices. Escape from reality, whether that escape is into the pleasure landmine field of drug-induced euphoria, or living in Cloud Cuckoo Land and praying to a god that doesn’t exist and will never reciprocate, and living in the delusion that he does, is still an escape. Neither one is any more acceptable to me than the other (although religion, unless it’s taken to extremes, is generally less harmful).

Edit: In the first paragraph, I mentioned a girl in her “third last” day of treatment. I was wondering if it is correct to write that as “third last” or “third-last”, but it appears that the phrase might be colloquial South African English. Third-to-last is standard? For clarity: Her treatment ended on Saturday. The day I wrote about was Thursday. Right or wrong, I call that her “third last” day.

Posted in Recovery, Triggers | Tagged ,

SA Mobile Drug Testing… Located somewhere in the tropical Atlantic ocean off the Gulf of Guinea?

This is what happens when you let clueless developers build a website…

I was searching for local drug testing options when I found this… Surprising that their top two results for drug testing in Johannesburg are in Cape Town and Durban respectively, but to make matters worse, apparently their Durban mobile clinic can only be reached by ship, and is to be found (floating?) in the tropical Atlantic ocean, off the Gulf of Guinea. (Yes, geography was never my strong suit – I had to Google “Gulf of Guinea”.)

image

(Click the preview above to open the full size screen shot in a new tab.)

Posted in Funny, Programming | Tagged

More on drug tests (false positives and inadmissible results)

If you found your way here trying to find out how to beat a drug test, this post is not for you. (Ironically, considering the subject matter, your search result was a false positive.) Drug tests can’t be beaten. I’m not interested in people who are still using narcotic drugs. This post is intended for people who are clean and sober, in recovery, like myself, who have to do drug tests occasionally for whatever reason, who through their own misfortune, lack of common sense, or ignorance, may sometimes get a less than favourable result; be it a false positive or an inadmissible result. My definition of an inadmissible/indeterminate result is one where the second line, which indicates a negative result, is so faint that the person administering the test refuses to accept it as either a negative or positive result – yet it also isn’t an invalid result.

Actually, regarding the indeterminate results, I’d never heard of such an interpretation of test results until last week. My understanding is that a faint line is still a line, and such a result should therefore be interpreted as negative, but the person who administered the test didn’t see it that way. Seriously, if a faint line doesn’t count as a line, then there could be a lot of pregnant women out there in denial of their pregnancies, and mothers out there in denial that their children exist. (Yes; this is me being facetious, as I would have been if my test had come out that way.) But anyway, I can’t control how somebody else reads a test…

I only have one rule when it comes to drug tests:

  1. Never take any substance (medicine), even if it is prescribed by a doctor, unless you know with absolute certainty that the substance is both safe and will not produce a false positive result in a drug test.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But it isn’t really as simple as it seems. There are hundreds of substances that will give you false positive results. Hundreds. You need to realize that people take the results of these tests very seriously, even when they are wrong. Proving that you are clean after you test positive for something is extremely difficult to do, maybe even impossible. Thus it is in your best interest never to get into that position.

Let’s define what a false positive actually is… (in my own words as usual. Look up a formal definition if you like). It’s one of two possibilities:

  1. Some substance has a similar molecular structure to one of the drugs being tested for, such that the test can not differentiate between the actual drug and the similar one, and the molecularly similar substance is present in the urine in sufficient quantity to meet the minimum threshold that the test can detect. For example, Ranitidine, which is used to treat acid reflux, is documented to give a false positive result for methamphetamine. (See here and here.)
  2. A substance is grouped in the same “family” of drugs as a narcotic drug, and the test again can not differentiate between a prescribed, but harmless drug, and a dangerous one. For example, codeine will give a positive result for morphine (i.e. heroin) even though it will not produce a high and is safe to use as prescribed.

So following my one and only rule requires being open whenever any doctor prescribes anything, and having some common sense. Doctors generally know what they are doing, so if you are open about being in recovery, and question whatever is prescribed, they’ll generally know enough to suggest an alternative to something that may produce a positive result. But not all doctors are so smart. They’re only human, and are fallible just like the rest of us. If a doctor is uncertain, don’t allow them to prescribe whatever it is that they’re uncertain about. New medicines get marketed all the time. Doctors have to educate themselves on those new medicines. Most good doctors will probably not be comfortable recommending something unless they know both its efficacy and any side-effects… and they should have a good enough grasp of chemistry to recognize when substances might produce false positives, and even if they do not, the potential false positives are documented and easy to find online. And if you find that a doctor doesn’t know what he or she is doing, it’s probably best to find another doctor.

This is something that should not be taken lightly. The result of any positive may have devastating consequences, even a false positive. An indeterminate result may be just as bad. The people who administer such tests are accustomed to dealing with addicts who are using and will assume the worst. Just because somebody works in the field of addiction treatment, never assume that their knowledge exceeds the bare minimum required for dealing with addicts who are using. And if you need to have proof that you are clean before a court, it doesn’t matter that the indeterminate test result isn’t positive; since it also isn’t negative it can not count as proof of sobriety. In this case, you may be asked questions that have no answers, by somebody who doesn’t understand. You lose no matter what you say here. (Of course there is always the option of a laboratory test, which will prove your sobriety conclusively, but those sorts of tests can be expensive and may well be out of the price range of many recovering addicts.)

In the case of the person whose experience prompted my writing of this, an indeterminate result meant that they had to return for another test a week later, the outcome of which I do not know.

It turned out that person went to a dentist just days before the test. The dentist administered anaesthetic and gave them a medicated filling. They went back there to find out if this could have effected the test, and the dentist gave them a letter, but only for the anaesthetic, not the medicated filling. If I’d been in that position, and someone wanted to give me a medicated filling, one that releases some unknown drug into my system, I would simply not have allowed it, because I can’t research the possibility that an unknown drug will effect a drug test. Even when I have a prescription and have purchased the medication, I always research the active ingredients of whatever medicine I have before taking it. That is the sensible thing to do. My advice to everybody in similar circumstances is to do likewise.

Posted in Advice, Recovery | Tagged ,

A good memory: Blessing or curse?

A common theme that comes up in meetings when others share is that they remember how their drug use started out so awesome, but they don’t understand or remember how it got to be so terrible. They know how it started, and know how it ended, but when or how it progressed is a mystery because they just can’t remember. I don’t have that luxury.

I’ve never thought of my memory as special. I probably discard more than I remember. I often forget names almost right away, but I remember faces, most of what I heard or read, all movies that I watched in great detail, and any event that was significant in my life, or that I thought was important at the time. The difference for me is, it doesn’t matter if the memory is about yesterday (while I was, of course, clean and sober), or seven years ago while I was as high as could be… Both memories are just as clear; just as immediate in my head.

With each memory comes the full recollection of everything I felt and thought at the time. That is, I can wind back the clock to something that happened several years ago, and though I may not remember everybody’s names or what I was wearing, I do remember every choice I made, good or bad. I do remember and understand exactly what I thought and felt at the time, to the extent that I feel those emotions again while remembering. That is, I relive every experience as I remember it.

What this means is, every significant experience for me, whether it was good sex or bad sex, a good meal or a bad meal, every stimulating conversation, every heated argument, every choice that affected my life, whether the outcome was good or bad, they all stick with me. I can’t forget, even if I want to.

I don’t dwell on those memories all the time – usually I don’t even think of them at all. But history does repeat itself, in many little ways. There are thousands of times that I have been reminded of something from my past, and whenever that happens, a memory comes to the front of my mind to haunt me. Then, that night when I try to sleep, the memory and all related ones play back in my head, over and over for two or three hours before my tortured mind allows me to sleep.

Oftentimes those memories are of shared experiences, times in the past with Megan. But talking about them seems pointless… Whenever I have tried, she has forgotten those times and for her, it’s like they never happened. (Too many times, she would get angry because of my disinterest in whatever tickled her fancy at the time. That is, she expected me to support her, even though I’d witnessed her interest in other similar things in the past. It doesn’t help to tell her that she’s just going through a phase when she can’t remember that I’m right and this is just another phase… one I feel isn’t worth spending my energy on. On the other hand, things that happened in our mutual past, things that are important to me, things that influenced the way I saw us together and the way I perceived the world with me in it, are totally lost to her.) For example, there’s one silly conversation that we had… we were very high and it was our first night together (in April 2006). She said “Come we get married” and I replied “Why the hell not?”. I meant it, and even though I was very high at the time, I still mean it when I think of it. But she is not that same person anymore, and she forgot that conversation a long time ago.

Edit: OK – the above is a silly example, but it illustrates the basic point, and I really don’t think it’s relevant to write about any of my painful memories right now.

So when I hear somebody say that they don’t remember how times that started out so good ended so bad, I absolutely do not identify with them. I know exactly how it progressed for me. I could write a step-by-step guide on how to progress from a normal, productive member of society, to a casual drug user, to a regular user, to an abuser, to an addict who will not even be satisfied with 2 grams of methamphetamine every day.

I can never let go of some of the worst experiences of my life because I relive them when I remember them. It can also be depressing to remember the good times, promises that were made, love when it was still new, while at the same time remembering the betrayal, the sadness and the disappointments that resulted from it. Yet when I remember even the good times, it’s like I’m right back there again, feeling those emotions and living that experience for the first time; I feel the joy and the sorrow all at once.

Yet I am happy. It does often feel like a curse to relive some truly terrible things, but it’s also a blessing that I can’t forget them, because I can learn from my past. But why must I suffer so when I remember?

I’d love to hear from others who share similar detailed memories of their mistakes. I refuse to believe that I am unique in this way.

Posted in Recovery, Relationships | Tagged , ,

My test results 16-01-2015

Like last time, this is a scan of a photocopy. I don’t get the original since it’s a random test done as part of a program, and they keep the original in my file. Hmmm. Apparently my name is 16/1/15 and it was done on the date Jerome Viveiros…

Edit: If you struggle with the handwriting… it’s NEG (ative) for everything, except for the ones they don’t test, for which it is N/A. (I hate the stupid new WordPress editor. WTF does “Beep beep boop” mean?)

Test20150116-001

Posted in Recovery | Tagged | 1 Comment

Unexpected drama. If you think drugs are good for you, don’t try to do a program and then lie about using

I received an unexpected phone call from my therapist, who is also the therapist for the guy I wrote about the other day. I was somewhat surprised to see him in their NA meeting last Friday, after she told me last Monday that he was suspended from the program. I was even more surprised when he put up his hand at the end of the meeting, for 30 to 60 days clean, because I knew he was lying.

I don’t know what happened after that exactly – maybe they tested him too late, and he came out negative. But nobody should be allowed to continue a program after they refuse a drug test. Anyway, she called me yesterday to ask a favour… she has a meeting tomorrow, with the director of their rehab, because it seems that he went over her head and claimed that he wasn’t using (and they believe him). Since he admitted to me that he did use, she asked me to put it in writing. This is what I sent her:

Hi Amanda

As discussed, on Friday 2nd January 2015, as we stood outside having a smoke after the NA meeting, Niels told me that “I can still see the good in drugs”. He also said “In the seven weeks I’ve been doing the program, I used twice”. I responded by asking “Aren’t you worried about tests?”, to which he replied that he had used the previous weekend (27 to 28 December 2014) because he was moving… he was doing a lot of packing and needed something to give him energy. He also told me a story about a fire extinguisher in his garage which contained many (empty) packets of CAT from the past, which he found while he was cleaning up.

He said that when he came to see you for therapy on the previous Wednesday (31st December 2014), you asked him to do a test afterwards. He then took his son in with him and pretended that he couldn’t pee. According to him, you said that he shouldn’t be there with his son anyway, so it was agreed that he could return later for a test. He did not return that day.

Then, when he attended that NA meeting that week and Mandla asked him about it, he lied, making up a story about his car breaking down.

At the end of last week’s NA meeting on 9th January 2015, he put his hand up for 30 to 60 days clean. Another lie.

It should be very clear that I couldn’t possibly know all of those things, so it could only have come out of his mouth.

Why he told me… I don’t know. But it is not right for him to get away with this. I didn’t want to make trouble for him by telling what he said, but frankly I am concerned for his son. This is important to me because I am fighting to get my son back, and the thought of somebody in a similar situation manipulating the program, and potentially one day dragging his son into active addiction, makes me angry as well as sad.

I hope this is helpful for you.
Regards,
Jerome

I don’t know what will happen now. Her meeting is on Thursday and I hope it goes well. It was never my intention to get involved with somebody else’s problems, and I know that he will think that I “have it in for him”, but I truly believe that he shouldn’t be allowed to get away with this. It doesn’t matter if he tested negative later; the point is that he refused a test, and when anybody refuses to do a test in a formal program, if they get away with it, it undermines the validity of the program itself. I happen to be glad that I am also now being tested randomly. That’s the way it should be.

Also, what he said to me was something similar to a topic I have written about many times: That addicts think drugs give them energy. It isn’t energy at all to be psychologically fascinated with some activity… We call it tweaking or tripping when using meth, and I believe that his drug of choice is very similar.

Indeed, if you scroll down the linked Wikipedia article on methcathinone, you’ll find this…

Methcathinone is a beta-keto N-methylamphetamine and is closely related to the naturally occurring compounds, cathinone and cathine. It is also very closely related to methamphetamine, differing by only the β-ketone substituent and differing from amphetamine by both a keto and N-methyl substituent.

So it is a closely related methylamphetamine. One can assume that the effect of that drug on the brain is almost identical to that of methamphetamine, so CAT users are tweakers. In other words, everything that applies to tweakers, regarding the “energy” Niels thinks his drug gives him, applies equally to CAT. The “good” that he sees in the drug is exactly what he should be afraid of. He neither understands this nor is even trying to recover.

When somebody does an outpatient program, paradoxically (in that addicts generally cannot be trusted) there is a certain amount of trust involved. It is expected that the patient is absolutely committed to being clean, that their problem isn’t as severe as an inpatient, and that they do not try to use and get away with it while participating in such a program.

When I was in a similar situation to him (though not in a program), even though I argued that I still had the right to see Josh, as much as I wanted to see him and as difficult as it was, I made damn sure not to exercise that right. My reasoning was this: Any exposure at all to active addiction can put him at greater risk. This jerk is fighting for custody of his son too, and seems to think he can get it even though he is still using. He is putting his child at enormous risk. I have no feeling for Niels – and although I neither like nor dislike him, I think he’s stupid, but if I can help it, I will do the little that I can to help prevent his son from ending up a drug addict.

I do not believe that anybody who can say the things that he said to me is capable of being helped by an outpatient program. If I were in his position and were confronted by this, I would admit my lies, and beg to be allowed to do the inpatient program instead. That’s what I’d expect of anybody in that position who really wants help (and is unable to stop alone as we so often are). If he doesn’t do that at the very least, I seriously hope he gets what’s coming to him.

Also, I will not sit idle in a meeting where someone puts up his hand for 30 to 60 days clean when I know he is lying. It makes me nauseous.

Excuse me if this isn’t well written. I am emotional while writing it, and find this highly upsetting. I am passionate about few things, but one thing that’s very important, critically important to me, is parenting, but doing so while stable and sober, and doing everything I can do reduce the risk that Josh becomes an addict one day. If the statistics I read and wrote about the other day are true, then 90 to 95% of addicts who participate in a program do not make it, and that isn’t even taking into consideration the addicts who don’t (which I believe is most of them). Thus the consequences of exposing a child to drugs, when that child is likely already genetically predisposed to addictive behaviour, will probably be horrendous. It is a risk to be avoided at all costs. Seeing someone else pissing it all away and almost getting away with it makes me mad. These days, as a rule I avoid writing while emotional. Today I’ve broken that rule.

Update: Today my therapist went home sick, which means I have no idea if I should attend my therapy session at 8:30 on Friday morning. (I was in a meeting when she tried to call.) I’d hate to drive all the way there for nothing.

Worse still, since her meeting regarding Niels is supposed to be tomorrow, if it doesn’t happen, that could mean he’ll show up at the group session at 4:30PM tomorrow. This puts me in an unfortunate position… I didn’t want to confront him, but will probably not be able to hold back.

(In case it isn’t obvious, the reason I have been working extra hours most days is the hours away from work due to this program on Thursdays and Fridays. This is why I am so tired. But I did have a break from the group sessions over the holiday season, and now my therapy sessions, which continued as normal then, are being spread out so that the other sessions can catch up. This means that my “two month” program will run much longer than two months. Sometimes recovery can be painful; I just tell myself not to forget how much more painful active addiction was.)

Another update: (One day later) Thank goodness… They had the meeting; he admitted that he had used, and was expelled from the outpatient program but offered the option of an inpatient program. It’s unknown whether or not he will take it, but at least he was given the option. More than he deserved, in my opinion. (The most important part for me is that I won’t have to see his face and confront him at the group session this evening.)

Posted in Recovery, Tweaking | Tagged

So tired

Every day I wake up and all I want to do is go back to sleep. This is due, mainly, to my having to work some extra time in for the last couple of months. I try to get to work around 7AM and work between 9 and 10 hours most days, but it takes its toll. This morning I nodded off in the bath, and Megan took too long getting Aishah ready for me to drop her at crèche, so I was a little “late” and only made it to work around 7:25.

She suggested I take energy tablets (some sort of supplement she bought a while back) but I don’t believe in that. All you achieve by taking supplements or vitamins, is multi-coloured piss. I wish I could believe that there is something I can take to give me energy, but I know better. There is no substitute for good sleep.

In retrospect it’s quite funny. Just a few years ago, in the peak of my relapse, when I thought I had the drug use under control (because I was sleeping a little every night), I got by with one… maybe two… hours of sleep every night, then had to use meth every morning just to be awake enough to go to work. The hell I put myself through then – compared to being a normal kind of tired now; there is simply no comparison; but it still sucks being tired.

Posted in Recovery | Tagged

Interesting question – Can recovering meth addict relax and enjoy life?

It’s been a while since I responded to search strings that brought people here, and when I normally do so it’s to answer stupid questions. This one isn’t stupid at all:

Can recovering meth addict relax and enjoy life?

Absolutely! That’s kind of the whole point… (Warning – what follows is my opinion.)

Of course some might disagree. For many in recovery, recovery itself comes first; and by that they mean “working” the 12 steps and attending meetings, talking to their sponsor and so on. I don’t believe that, and as we saw yesterday, the steps are not even what works about the program. NA works by accident – mainly due to a feeling of camaraderie in the so-called fellowship. Following such a militant approach to recovery is actually harmful to most people who attempt it, because they are so distracted by the 12 steps and all the bullshit of the program, they never get to relax and enjoy life. (I could be wrong, but I’m guessing that’s where this question is coming from.)

Most drugs work as follows: They release huge amounts of dopamine into your system, producing massive spikes of perceived pleasure way above normal levels of dopamine-produced feeling in the brain’s pleasure-reward system, which give an intense sense of euphoria – a high – that makes you feel good and seems to take all your troubles away.

That doesn’t last, and when you enter into recovery, you may well be in a situation where normal pleasure no longer registers in your brain, and the only thing that makes you feel good is to use drugs. But just stay clean long enough, and normal pleasures do register again (when your brain’s hedonic system reverts from allostasis to homeostasis).

My “higher power” is now a combination of two things:

  • My family; those whom I love and who love me.
  • My idealized self; the perfect version of myself that I can strive for, but will always remain out of reach.

I focus mainly on those whom I care for, trying to be the best father that I can be, and the best person I can be in trying to achieve my goal of being as close to my idealized self as possible. (My idealized self is difficult to explain, but is based in part on my father, minus his faults, as well as an ideal version of myself, without my faults.) But I also take time out for myself, and I enjoy all the little things in life that I could not appreciate when I was using drugs.

At the end of the day, I am happy. Being happy, I don’t need to look for an unnatural dopamine fix, so I don’t crave anymore, and I have not the slightest interest in using drugs. What for? Why would I want to get some temporary fake good feeling out of a substance, and fuck up everything in my life?

But I sincerely believe that focusing too much on recovery the wrong way, such as by narrow-mindedly following the 12 steps with a militant approach, you don’t see the wood for the trees. You don’t get to enjoy life, but rather distract yourself from using drugs. Approach recovery that way, and you never deal with your underlying issues; never get past having to continue distracting yourself from using drugs; are never truly happy and can never move on.

In conclusion, I believe, and I must emphasize again that this is my opinion, that many recovering addicts don’t get to relax and enjoy life, because they focus too much on blindly following the program. They need to continue attending meetings and “working the program” because they have put themselves in that position. But expressing these kinds of sentiments will normally get you nowhere. The program as is, is accepted by most as the only way to recover. This means that questioning it when you have been ordered by the court to attend a program is not in your best interests. (And may even result in your suspension from a formal program.) I thus follow a program – I incorporate it into my life and make the most of it, but I am always open about my skepticism, and it will never be the primary focus of my life.

Posted in Advice, Higher Power, Meth, My life, Recovery | Tagged | 1 Comment

Someone debunked the 12 steps?

It came to my attention via the Skeptics Guide to the Universe (Facebook group) that a doctor has “debunked” the 12 steps.

Yes, there’s a lot of woo in the 12 steps, and I have been saying that it’s bunk for a long time. The bottom line of the criticism seems to be that the only reason such programs do work (for 5 to 10% of the participants) is that it’s not the steps themselves, but the feeling of camaraderie in the fellowship. Like I didn’t know that already…

I’ve written about the fallacies in the program before, and in the so-called research that is accepted as fact. But what to do about it? What I take out of this is that the program is not necessarily enough, but whatever it was that helped any individual clean up, whether it was the program or something else, that individual should just keep doing that. Do whatever works for you to stay clean. (And I’m glad that it wasn’t the program that helped me. In fact I was already clean more than six months when I attended a meeting this time around. And I did two meetings in my first year.)

Oh, and don’t pay too much attention to the comments on the linked article. Of course people who swear by the program will take offense. The fact is that it doesn’t help 90% of people who attempt it. The rest have their fellowship blinkers on, and every time it doesn’t work for someone, they assume that person didn’t take the program seriously or wasn’t truly in recovery. (No true Scotsman fallacy. I like this explanation of the fallacy too.)

Edit: Of course the doctor who criticized the program is selling a book, so take this with a pinch of salt. And he is just one person (whose book I will purchase and probably review here at some point). But I like it because his opinion is so similar to mine, and I have noticed many issues with the program for a long time. I hope that one day there is a better program, and that courts and society in general recognize that better program as the best way for recovery, but for now, and probably for many years to come, we are stuck with AA, NA etc.

Posted in Advice, Recovery | Tagged

Myths that we all believe

Today’s post is not about recovery, but is instead about critical thinking regarding a popular myth that most of us accept as fact, which I then relate to theism in the context of belief.

How many people reading this believe that we need to drink eight 8 oz glasses of water every day? I bet most do… The truth is, that’s bullshit. (If you look around, there is plenty of other information out there also refuting this myth.) So why do we believe it?

What it comes down to is, we are taught that myth at an early age when we are still children; then it is reinforced to us by adults – i.e. by people in positions of authority. After it has been reinforced enough, we accept it as fact and we do not question it; then in our own adulthood we teach the myth to our children, with good intentions.

Doesn’t this sound familiar?

Hint… It does. That’s exactly how we are taught to believe in God. It is how religious indoctrination works. Now you might say “Hang on a sec… You’re comparing apples and oranges”, but you would be wrong. I’m not comparing God to water – I’m comparing the belief in God without evidence to the belief that we need 64 oz of water per day, also without evidence.

Here’s the thing… We accept the myth about the daily water requirement without even having much reinforcement. Yet the belief in God is arguably reinforced a lot more, depending of course on how religious your parents are. But even people who consider themselves Christian, and not overly religious, probably reinforce the idea quite a bit.

We teach our children about God and Jesus; maybe we buy them children’s Bibles or colouring books, or DVDs; we teach them how to say their prayers every night, and maybe also before meals; we send them to Sunday School, and church services; weddings and funerals take place in churches. Then in our adulthood, theism is reinforced by millions of little figures of speech(1) that we either hear or say every day, further reinforcing that God exists, even though nobody has ever seen Him, and nobody ever will.

The fact is, we accept the myth about needing 64 oz of water with very little reinforcement at all, compared to the amount of bombardment we get with the idea that God exists. Think about it.

(1): For example, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”. I’d considered using that at the end of the third paragraph, but decided against it because the intended irony might be overshadowed by the conflict with the theme of atheism. There are countless other examples of phrases/clichés/idioms that we use frequently, which assume the existence of a theistic god, and reinforce the belief thereof.

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

Recovery without God?

There are many things about NA and AA that I dislike, especially the way the literature contradicts itself by saying that that NA is “a spiritual, not religious program” and then goes on to mention “God as we understand Him” – and every meeting ends with a prayer as everyone holds hands. Then again, maybe it’s not such a contradiction really… Spiritual? Not religious? Is that even possible? What if you don’t believe in anything spiritual at all?

I don’t have the answers, and in the meetings here, atheists are very much in the minority. I’m normally the only one, and almost everybody I know or meet is religious. Even my colleague, who calls himself agnostic, is not agnostic at all in my mind. But I did find an interesting link on Facebook this evening via Richard Dawkins’ foundation, to a slightly different take on recovery. Of course we have no such places here in South Africa (that I know of), but I found it interesting nonetheless. I think it will be a long time before fellowships more tolerant of atheism become mainstream, or even emerge here, but the fact that they exist somewhere is a positive. (Although I wonder if they can only exist in places like the US, where a considerably larger population guarantees that even a small percentage of atheists means a significant number, sufficient to fill rooms of such fellowships?)

Recovery is often difficult, but it becomes even more so when, as an atheist, you realize that a concept of God oozes into every crevice of the program, and into the perception of almost every other recovering addict you meet. Finding a suitable sponsor with similar beliefs, or at least one who can truly understand your point of view, is almost impossible. I haven’t found one yet, but maybe one day…

Posted in Recovery | Tagged , , | 9 Comments

Using drugs when you are participating in a program is like shooting somebody else in the foot

So now I’m a snitch. I’ll explain why…

On Friday evening, after an NA meeting, a man who I hardly know decided to confide in me, and told me that despite being in week 7 of an outpatient program, he “still sees the good in drugs” and has used twice in those 7 weeks. He believes that he can control using the drug, and it seems that in his mind it is OK to use it now and then. He didn’t say it, but he might as well have said that he wants to use it because he needs energy. I’ve written about that many times before so I won’t repeat any of that now, but it is safe to say that he is not ready to stop using.

I asked if he wasn’t concerned about drug tests, and he said that he had been asked to do one when he came in for his therapy last Wednesday, after using CAT the previous weekend. He pretended that he couldn’t pee, and he brought his child in with him, a child that he is fighting for custody of. So his therapist told him that he shouldn’t have his child there with him anyway, and they agreed he should come back later. Of course he didn’t return, and when he showed up for the NA meeting on Friday, and was asked about it, he told them a story about his car breaking down. (He thinks he’s clever; he knows that at 7PM there is nobody there to test him.)

His attitude horrifies me. Even though I can empathise a little, since I once thought (around four years ago) that I could use for a week and then return to recovery without consequences, that’s where my empathy ends. (And in any case, what I believed back then was wrong – that week marked a point just before I returned to active addiction for a long time.)

There may be good in drugs for some people, but not for addicts. I believe that I am a better person and have much knowledge that I may never have learned if I hadn’t become an addict and then gone into recovery, because in retrospect my life was just dragging along without meaning or purpose. But if I’d continued using, I have no doubt that my life would have turned out far worse than if I’d never used at all. So I am a better person than I used to be before all this, but not because of drugs. There were many factors involved, and recovery is one of the most important of them.

Also, taking your child to a rehab and making him wait while you see your therapist, and then letting him see you be tested for drugs, is wrong on so many levels. I don’t believe he is thinking at all clearly, and although he told me he “hopes not to use this weekend”, I’m guessing he did use, and I am not sorry I called them and told them that he needs to be tested. He’ll be caught sooner or later anyway, but his trying to fool everybody involved is only going to harm his child. Hence my title about shooting somebody else in the foot.

I’m not sure what will happen because of my phone call. Maybe he’ll be kicked out of the program… Maybe they’ll give him a chance to become an in-patient instead. (Clearly being an outpatient is not working for him.) It’s not my problem, but I can’t sit in a room full of people who want to recover, knowing that there is one person there just going through the motions, who could put everybody else’s recovery in jeopardy. Despite this, making that call stressed me out terribly; but I didn’t feel bad once it was done.

I’m not sure why he decided to confide in me… Maybe because he knows that I am skeptical about the program? So let’s get one thing straight: Skepticism is not about debunking shit. It’s about raising doubts, engaging in critical thinking, and considering evidence, or finding evidence if you are unsure. Being a skeptic doesn’t mean that you disbelieve in everything. It means you question…

Just because I’m skeptic of the 12-step program and the “research” that has been presented to me, and that I don’t believe in any concept of spirituality, doesn’t mean I am against recovery itself.

A quick update: I spoke to his therapist now, and he was already suspended from the program. It seems his refusal to do a test was enough to indicate that he was using, but she was glad that I confirmed it. And Niels, if ever you read this (though I’m sure you won’t)… It is stupid to use and try to fool everybody when taking part in a voluntary program. (What’s the point?) It’s doubly stupid to then go and tell a recovering addict that you are using. I wish you no ill will, but you are don’t seem to be ready for recovery. The consequences for your actions are your own; they do not reflect on those who caught you out in your stupidity.

Posted in Recovery | Tagged

Our local TV (SABC) truly sucks

Very short one today. This past Saturday, the 27th December 2014, as I ate my breakfast and waited for my other half to get ready so that we could fetch Josh (who is spending a week with us), I switched on the TV and watched whatever happened to be on.

This was SABC3. They played an insert with an interview with some woman who was predicting trends, regarding games and technology, for the upcoming year of 2011. This was followed by about three other short programs, all with the same broad concept of welcoming the new year and what to expect in 2011. I did a double-take… Like what, did I just dream the last four years? Maybe that storm was actually a time warp?

Seriously, how do you fuck something like that up? How do you select and broadcast local content that’s four years old on the subject of welcoming the new year? I wonder if anybody else noticed, or maybe I was the only one watching SABC3?

Posted in Non-addiction | Tagged ,

What critical thinking is not (Bullshit baffles brains)

Today I stray once again from writing about my life or recovery, to one of my favourite subjects: Critical thinking. In my life, being able to think critically is of paramount importance. It’s relevant to my recovery in that there is plenty of fallacious thinking in the “normal” approach to recovery, as well as in clinical psychology. But there is plenty of good in recovery too, and I’d be stupid to ignore everything my therapist says because woo is so prevalent in her field. Critical thinking allows me to question everything, to be skeptical of anything that is presented to me as fact without corroborating evidence, and if I am in doubt, it motivates me to research what I am unsure of until I can make a solid evidence-based argument for or against it. In short, critical thinking allows me to tell the difference between truth and bullshit.

Orac wrote a brilliant post mocking an anti-vaxxer. It’s worth reading for his sense of humour alone, but also because of the way he breaks down the absurd conspiracy mongering of someone who thinks he is a good critical thinker as he rants about the evils of vaccines and “Big Pharma”.

While none of us is perfect when it comes to critical thinking, because we all have our beliefs instilled in our childhood that affect our thinking in ways we may not understand later on, the man whose writing is criticized isn’t anywhere close to being a critical thinker. As a child, he was taught to be suspicious of vaccines; then as an adult his “research” involved latching onto anything that supports his preconceived worldview where vaccines are bad. (That’s similar to someone who is indoctrinated into religion as a child. Despite no evidence for what they believe in, they will “find” evidence that matches their belief and ignore/forget anything that contradicts it.)

I like to think that I am a critical thinker, and that even if I had been brought up being taught nonsense about vaccines like poor stupid Matt, I would’ve realized that what I was taught was wrong, but who knows? Here’s a little secret: I am a naturally gullible person, and possibly related to that, I tend to be too trusting of others. I had to learn to question everything I read or heard; skepticism did not come naturally to me but was rather a habit I had to work on to protect myself from my own gullibility. Due to my natural gullibility, when I first heard about vaccines causing autism, as well as when I first heard about the Nibiru cataclysm, I believed it. OK,  maybe stating that I believed it is a bit of a stretch, but it is fair to say that I did not have enough information to think critically about the things I read, so I could not form an opinion. Thus I did exactly what Matt did; I Googled for the answers, and found loads of information online.

The fact is, you can cherry-pick your data to suit whatever you want to believe, but it’s very easy to tell the difference between information and misinformation. There’s far more misinformation online than there is real information, but cherry-picking only the information that challenges known science is pure stupidity (of a variety known as selection bias).

Misinformation has many flavours (that all taste like shit) but is easy to spot. Here are a few ways off the top of my head:

  • Anything that challenges accepted facts of medical science (or any science for that matter), that has been proven by many years with published peer-reviewed papers, is probably bullshit.
  • Related to the first point, any one person who has an epiphany that sounds crazy, for example that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS, is probably crazy, and the epiphany is bullshit. The “lone ranger” is a fictional character after all.
  • Anything that’s impossible to achieve without violating the laws of physics is definitely bullshit.
  • Anything that claims there is a cover-up of some sort is probably bullshit.
  • Anything that uses anecdotes as evidence is probably bullshit.
  • Anything that starts with “I used to be skeptical (or an atheist) but now I believe” is a psychological trick to make you believe bullshit.
  • Anything that claims to be a miracle, and requires a payment from you, is worse than bullshit. It’s a scam. Ever heard of snake oil?
  • Anything written in ALL CAPS is probably bullshit. (And may well be written by somebody who suffers from a mental illness.)
  • Anything ranting and wildly verbose, obfuscated with complex language and redundant phrases, is probably bullshit.
  • Anything referring to people as sheeple is worse than bullshit. In a perfect world, there would be a reward for murdering people who follow David Icke.
  • Anything making wild statements about correlation and causation without linking to sources (or misinterpreting source data) is probably bullshit. (Misinterpreted data is not so easy to detect unless you are able to understand the data or the studies published yourself. That’s why it is important to read as much as you can about any study, even if you must find multiple independent reviewers.)
  • Any quote mining is always bullshit.
  • Anything that relies on logical fallacies alone is surely bullshit.
  • Anybody who claims to be able to cure cancer, Ebola or any other terminal illness with homoeopathy or any other scientifically nonsensical method is a bullshitter who is a danger to others. (In the case of Ebola, why not deliberately infect those people with the disease in order for them to prove the efficacy of their cures?)
  • Anything that uses medical or scientific jargon (or any other jargon) written or stated by someone outside of their area of expertise is probably bullshit. (For example, anyone who uses the terms “quantum” and “consciousness” in the same sentence, to sell you something, should be made to understand unconsciousness via a blow to the head.)

The last point doesn’t apply to criticism of woo and pseudoscience. You don’t have to be an expert in anything at all to be able to detect bullshit. You just need to be willing to question the pseudoskepticism and be able to think for yourself. (Eh… “Think for yourself” was my motto for years, until I heard about the skeptical movement and the popularity of the term “critical thinking”. Now my motto sounds quite corny. Plus it’s incorrect. We can’t always think for ourselves – sometimes we need a push and to pay attention to what others are saying/writing.)

Never accept anything that comes from a single source. Go find out what science says – don’t accept nonsense at face value. (And my definition of nonsense, implied by my points above, refers not only to medical pseudoscience, but also to anything written on any conspiracy monger, fringe or UFO believer site.) That’s not research; it’s gullibility, and there is no excuse for gullibility when factual information is easy to find. Anyway, this short (Fuck. It was supposed to be short.) post wasn’t supposed to be about what critical thinking is, but what it isn’t. Science denial and conspiracy/fear mongering is not skepticism, although many people seem to think it is.

Aside: To get a good picture of people who are not thinking critically, read the comments on this page. I’d never been to that site before, and just found it to populate my conspiracy monger link above with something relevant, but the comments are a great example of people with existing conspiratorial beliefs that find a way of applying the conspiracy featured to those existing beliefs. One commenter even takes the opportunity to blame the 13 families/bloodlines of the Illuminati. (Horrors!) I don’t recommend visiting such sites too often though, unless you want to lose all faith in humanity.

Posted in Conspiracy Theories, Non-addiction | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Decisions decisions

Just a little less than two weeks ago, on December 19th I spent half the day at SARS because they didn’t have my updated banking details. Yes, that’s how long it took. They requested that I update my banking details, and my doing so required four things:

  1. My banking details, from the bank, with a bank stamp.
  2. A certified copy of my ID.
  3. My ID itself.
  4. Proof of residence.

Number 4 was the difficult one. I’ve had no lease for three years and receive no utility bills since I pay the electricity to an estate agent according to an amount on a forwarded email addressed to the owner. I went to SARS with my vehicle finance bill, which is the only bill I receive via snail mail, and an affidavit stating that I do live at my address. Neither was good enough. (I’d decided not to bring the letter from SARS addressed to me because nobody likes a smart-arse.) They gave me a list of everything that they do accept as proof of residence and sent me packing. (This must be a common problem.) Luckily I did have one item on the list: An insurance statement. Funny… nobody asked for proof of residence when I applied for my two policies. I just wrote that shit down, and my physical address appears on the PDF that they email to me. So ironically SARS accepted my printed out email when I returned. (I could have faked that, you know?) Then I had to wait in the pre-queue for almost two hours, followed by the real queue for 5 minutes,  and spent a few minutes in a lady’s office, which went quite well until Aishah managed to throw her bottle and hit the woman square on the head. (A bored 19-month old is like a loaded weapon.)

Then on December 23rd they paid me out the money owed to me. Not as much as I hoped, but of course any extra money is always welcome.

I could do the sensible thing and set the money aside for a rental deposit on a new place, but I was thinking about buying a player to be able to play Blu-Ray disks, since I can only play DVDs. I can replace my home theatre system with a decent enough one, that plays 3-D Blu-Rays, for around R3000. Or I can purchase an internal Blu-Ray drive for my PC for around R1300; then rip the movies I hire or purchase, and watch them in HD anyway. Or maybe I can get both but that’s a little excessive. But what to do?

I use DVDFab to rip DVDs, and have a directory with too many ISO images from the last year of hiring movies. That was OK for mounting and watching them on the PC, but useless now because I don’t watch movies on there anymore when I have 55 inches of glorious HD in the living room. (I could burn them to physical DVD disks, but seldom do that.) I could rerip the mounted ISOs and convert them to mp4; then either copy them onto my external drive or get a router so that I can connect to the computer wirelessly. (Or figure out why I haven’t been able to get an ad hock wireless network set up on the PC. It was easy to do on Windows 7.) But anyway, that wouldn’t result in HD movies and is too much trouble so maybe I should just delete those DVD images, so Blu-Ray seems to be the logical way to go. But which option:

  1. 3D Blu-Ray player with home theatre system?
  2. Internal Blu-Ray drive so I can rip the movies to HD mp4/mkv?
  3. Both?

There’s probably another option, like an external BR drive… Whatever, I want to be able to rip movies. It’s so much more convenient playing them off a hard drive (which is plugged directly into the TV), even if they are then copies of disks I own. The TV has Android, and playing movie files involves rather unintuitively (Why the hell does the Windows Live Writer dictionary not recognize unintuitively as a valid English word?) going to the file system rather than selecting any of the input sources, but it plays them very well using the Android movie player, and I get surround sound with the TV’s digital audio output connected to the DVD player.

Whatever I decide, one thing that always amazes me is that DVDFab is not free. I know they have changed it now, and don’t believe they sell the version that bypasses copy protection any longer, but that doesn’t effect me because I always download a version of that software from torrent sites. There’s plenty of similar software out there that also isn’t free. I mean, how the fuck do you justify selling software when the sole purpose of that software is to make illegal copies of copyrighted material? At the very least, if you do sell such software, you shouldn’t be surprised when people bypass paying for your software (and circumvent your copy protection, which is exactly what you deserve).

Aside: I’m a software developer myself, and I do tend to give much of my code (that I wrote outside of work) away for free. But that code isn’t packaged nicely into applications; it’s useful code haphazardly thrown into an application that does too many things to be useful to anybody other than other developers, and is far from production-worthy code. My code written at work is certainly not written for free, and I don’t own that code anyway. I am not a hacker or cracker or whatever those idiots call themselves these days, and I do believe in paying for good software. But if software is written specifically to do something illegal, then I do not believe that it is justified to sell that software, and I do believe it is justified to obtain that software for free if you need it.

Decisions decisions… I hoped to be closer to making one after writing this, but I seem to be even further from one than when I started. Maybe I need to re-evaluate why I am obsessed with copying movies? I almost never watch them more than once, except for music and my favourite movies, and in such cases I always buy them anyway.

I apologize that this post isn’t terribly interesting… I have no good reason to express it here. The frustrating thing is, I couldn’t have this conversation with either of the adults at home either, since neither of them will have any idea what I am talking about. (As usual.)

Posted in Non-addiction | Tagged , , ,

Christmas Chaos

We didn’t see Josh until after Christmas, so he had to get a late present while spending a few days with us. It’s been pretty good… Incredibly chaotic for a couple of reasons… Since Aishah is used to being the only child, despite the fact that she spent the last week pointing at photos on the wall and shouting “Josh”, when he’s actually with us, she gets horribly jealous, and wants attention all the time. Josh, on the other hand, is used to being one of four children, so he’s used to playing with others all the time; thus he gets bored and wants attention all the time. Also, he too is horribly jealous, as well as homesick.

I don’t have many photos to share this time. Josh’s bicycle is red and black, although it looks pink in these shots that were taken in poor light.

Here, Josh “unwraps” his Christmas present. There was no way of keeping Aishah out of the shot.

WP_20141227_001

Josh tries in vain at the “bicycle park” (AKA Horwood’s Farm, Edenvale) to get his helicopter off the ground. It’s quite tricky to work and has 3 radio channels… so after I get the helicopter and transmitter successfully using the same channel, all he has to do is flick the wrong switch to get it to be “broken”.

WP_20141228_001

Here, Josh is actually posing with the bicycle stand in place, about to be attacked by Aishah who is abandoning her bike for the direct assault. (He can ride now, but I was too busy getting unexpected exercise and running next to him to think about taking any photos as he rode.)

WP_20141228_003

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

Rest in peace, my sad, gentle and generous friend

How quickly I have forgotten all my friends from my days in rehab. After years of active addiction and finding myself there, having lost everything, including my self worth and self respect, it was the place that I learned to love myself again. When I left, unlike the last few jobs I’d left (or been asked to leave), it was the one place more than twenty friends who actually liked me for me came to say goodbye.

How quickly I have forgotten those friends. One of them was a gentle giant, an overweight but friendly and generous man, who had suffered with addiction and depression. I was always in awe of his religious faith and devotion, even though I could never share his beliefs myself. He was a sweet guy, and one of many who had to go sleep in the lounge to escape from my terrible snoring, because sharing a room with me is never a pleasant experience. (I sleep though anything and everything, and will snore with volume that drowns out any thunderstorm no matter how many times I am woken and no matter which way I lay.)

On those rare occasions when he did manage to fall asleep in the dorm before me, he always had his fluffy toy lamb, named Lambert, to keep him company. Although nearly ten years younger than me, he was very much an adult, but nobody made fun of him for that toy – he was such a good person, nobody dared. Somehow it just made him more loveable.

I just read a message on Facebook written by his sister, stating that he took his own life. My heart bleeds for his family. I wish I had kept in contact with him and known how depressed he was. He was such a good person, someone who clearly did not realize how much his own life was worth living. The world was a better place with him in it.

Rest in peace, Mr. McAllister.

Posted in Addiction, Despair, Recovery | Tagged

24 December 2014 test results

Here are my test results from this morning… My surname (Viveiros) is misspelled appallingly, but that really was my piss in the cup; for what it’s worth.

Jerome-2014-12-24

Posted in Recovery | Tagged

My disappointment with Under the Dome, season 2

I jumped the gun the other day when I called “Under the Dome” the best series in years… This weekend I got to season 2, and now I am compelled to write about it again.

I know that TV shows and movies are a different medium to books, but even though I haven’t read the book, season 1 felt like Stephen King characters. His characters always have depth and rich back-stories, typically built in a few hundred pages devoted to each character in each book. Even the antagonists are often characters we can understand and identify with. Granted, building characters in a visual medium like a TV show is different, and the way the characters’ natures are revealed is different, but they got this right in season 1.

In season 2, everything changes. Suddenly we have characters behaving “out of character”, and a feeling that the show has become more episodic. Yes, it must be a challenge to adapt a book to a TV show, and you need to have some element of it being episodic, but this seems like too much of a change. It doesn’t feel like a Stephen King story anymore.

There’s one new character that really annoys me: The school science teacher, who has been studying the dome, and comes up with a plan to cull the residents of the town to deal with the problem of dwindling resources. She’s an atheist and a “skeptic”; at least she is a caricature of an atheist, a simplistic attempt at explaining the nature of such a person as is often perceived by the religious… Someone who has no moral values because they only “believe in science”. Stephen King is far too observant of people and how they think/behave ever to create such a shallow character.

The idea of the people with power deciding who lives and dies, in the face of limited resources, is a good one, and has been explored before in other movies as well as books. My issue is with the way this plot was explored, and the way the show seems to be turning into just another series that tries to keep the viewer’s attention with never-ending cliff-hangers, as well as unnecessary side-stories that do little to advance the main plot – episodes for the sake of episodes alone that serve only to drag the show along.

Of course I make these comments without having read the book, which I now must do. The series is not bad, by the way, it just isn’t as good as it was. I couldn’t leave it at my previous comments about the show, as I would hate to give anyone the impression that the show – in season 2 at any rate – remains as good quality as it was.

Update: I got the book! The good part of working in office towers located in a shopping mall… Two book stores here; the first I checked had never heard of this book, but Exclusive Books Beford Centre had one copy left, which is now mine. (Most peculiar… the Google maps street view preview image for the Bedford Centre link is completely wrong.)

Posted in Non-addiction | Tagged | 2 Comments

The pink stars are falling in lines

It’s such a stupid line; I just had to write it here.

V5igBdDI5Yk

Too bad I couldn’t find the above with text in English. Found it here.

My favourite series is now Under the Dome. Every night we sit and watch a couple of episodes. The only thing I don’t like about it is that I couldn’t find season 1 in HD. But as soon as we’re done with it, my season 2 download is HD. (It’s important on a larger TV screen.)

So if you haven’t seen this show, I highly recommend it. Stephen King was my favourite writer for many years, until I stopped reading fiction around twenty years ago. But I think I’m going to have to return to reading fiction again, just to read this book.

I’ve watched many series the last few months, but this is the only one that led me to feel compelled to write something about it.

Posted in Non-addiction | Tagged ,

Cravings revisited, and my doubts that addiction is a disease

The other night I had a using dream of sorts… I remembered it when I made my breakfast this morning. Not such an interesting dream really – it went like this: I sat down and ate a huge bowl of all-bran flakes.

That’s right… I was dreaming about food. So why am I calling it a using dream? The answer is simple. I was hungry. I craved food, so my subconscious mind presented me with a scenario where I obtained what I wanted. But recognizing that the dream wasn’t real, I woke up and had a decision to make: Should I get out of bed and have something to eat, or should I go back to sleep?

That’s what a craving is. We want something subconsciously. We dream about it; we salivate; we feel that we need it without even knowing this consciously. Cravings are not unique to addiction, but in our often narrow-minded approach to recovery, we like to think that they are.

The truth is, everybody craves all sorts of things, and cravings are normal. Every teen boy who has a wet dream featuring the girl of his dreams desires (Edit: Pun unintentional) is craving; but not every craving is or can be acted on.

So what’s my point? I’m still struggling to accept much of what I have learned about addiction, and whether or not it is a disease. Maybe it is and the difference between addicts and those who are not is that addicts are unable to resist their cravings? But that doesn’t feel right to me. It feels more like a line that was drawn… and is shifted every time I am closer to understanding the truth. Thus as my knowledge about addiction and recovery increases, so does my doubt about it being a disease.

I had great respect for Dr Kevin McCauly, but recently watched his Pleasure Unwoven documentary again, for the first time in four years. I was struck by something I missed when I first watched it… In the section where he speaks figuratively about the addict versus non-addict human brain, using the rocks in Utah as an example, he speaks of people who are not addicts, comparing their brains to resilient rocks that are not easily weathered by water, and addicts’ brains like porous rocks that are easily weathered and reshaped. Then he suggests that being an addict in recovery can be a positive evolutionary trait, because when we recover, we then pass on our recovered genes to our offspring.

Everyone else in the room looked really impressed, but not I. You see, genes don’t work like that. We can teach the wisdom we have gained, or try our very best to do so, but knowledge and life experience gained does not somehow get propagated to our children through our genes. (How could it?) When a medical doctor suggests nonsense like this, I am forced to doubt everything else he says. Now I’m sorry I watched that again.

And come to think of it, the documentary starts with his description of his own history, mentioning how his position as a doctor caused him to be skeptical of addiction being a disease. This is a commonly fallacious argument known as an avowel to prior skepticism. (Please follow that link as it is very interesting.) It’s when somebody tries to convince you of their pseudoscientific or otherwise dubious research, starting their story with “I used to be skeptical but…” which makes them look more credible, and their stories easier to believe. Also, as I’ve written before, I’m not sure of his choice versus disease argument, because his presentation of the “choice argument” looks suspiciously like a straw man. (Straw men are easy to construct by accident. For example, almost any argument I make against theism, using examples from any religion, can be framed as a straw man, simply because there is nothing tangible in existence for me to argue against. A negative is impossible to prove.) The logical fallacies in his arguments don’t mean that everything he says is untrue. After all, the avowel to prior skepticism is a powerful psychological ploy used in his introduction that makes his argument more convincing. It’s an easy mistake to make. But it does cast a reasonable doubt on the validity of his research, in my opinion.

In both places where I have relied upon information about addiction and recovery to be correct, they accepted Dr McCauly’s “research” at face value. If anyone knows of other research regarding addiction and recovery, please feel free to link to it in the comments.

Posted in Addiction, Recovery | Tagged ,

Stupid Firefox is pissing me off

Every time I navigate to any page that uses flash (on either my home or work computer thanks to Firefox sync) I get this:

Annoying01

So I went to look at my plugins. I get this:

Annoying02

OK, so click the Update Now link…

Annoying03

Right… version 11 to 11.7 have been disabled. I am using the latest (at this point in time) version, and last time I checked, 15 > 11.x. For those who do not understand the > (greater than operator), last time I checked, fifteen was greater than eleven. Maybe Firefox math is different?

Seriously? Idiots.

I don’t even like flash, and would prefer to use HTML5 everywhere, as I can do on YouTube, but some sites that I visit still use flash.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged ,

Is apartheid really to blame for our current power blackouts?

I’ve seen a lot of knee-jerk reactions by my white friends on Facebook… to the latest statements by Jacob Zuma. I don’t have a transcript of his speech, so I’m going to have to quote another website here:

“The problem (is) the energy was structured racially to serve a particular race, not the majority,” Zuma told delegates at the Young Communist League’s congress in Cape Town.

He said the ANC had inherited the power utility from the previous regime which had only provided electricity to the white minority.

Twenty years into democracy, 11 million households had access to electricity, double the number in 1994, Zuma said in a speech prepared for delivery.

Government was taking action to address the energy situation.

The development of the Medupi and Kusile power stations was being accelerated in order to bring them on to the grid.

“Projects in the region with the potential to produce power in the short term are being assessed and we continue to evaluate options with the intention to maximise all sources of energy including coal, gas, nuclear, solar and renewable energy options, Zuma said.

Many people are plenty pissed off by those flippant comments, and I can understand why, but is he really wrong?

I happen to know that twenty years ago, when I studied electrical engineering, this country’s infrastructure and capability to distribute electrical power was already thirty years behind where it should have been. I know this because one of my lecturers had been an Eskom employee for many years. In fact, twenty years ago he predicted the situation we have today. (Somewhere Mr Borril is saying “I told you so”.)

But I am sure that there was more than one person who knew what was going to happen… Mr Zuma is doing a great job of deflecting the blame, but not fully taking responsibility for the consequences of increasing the electrical power distribution for the last twenty years without addressing the known fact that our limited power stations would not be able to meet the demand.

He is absolutely correct that apartheid is to blame… at least it was to blame twenty years ago. He admits that double the households today have electricity, compared to twenty years ago. Thus it is no accident that the same limited supply is now being used for double the demand. Obviously that couldn’t possibly work, without even taking into consideration the known fact that the power stations were already struggling to meet half the current demand twenty years ago. (Maybe it’s a little-known fact. But I knew it; Eskom management knew it; government surely knew it.)

Excuse me for repeating myself; I’ve closed both of the previous two paragraphs with a statement about the same known fact… Not sure if it creates the intended emphasis or just comes off as annoying redundancy. But my point is this: It is not sensible to double the load while using the same supply, especially if that supply is already strained; then blaming the only logical outcome on the past. It’s a cop-out that insults the intelligence. You don’t need to have studied electrical engineering to know this. Seriously.

So what has been done in the meantime? Very little, I’m afraid. A few years ago, our electricity bills included a subsidy for poor areas, so that previously disadvantaged people would not have to pay for their electricity. That was a good plan, as long as provision was made for the extra demand, but nothing was done to increase the electricity supply. Zuma’s plan is too little too late. (And it’s not even his plan. He’s taking credit for something that is already happening.) Two power stations will not be nearly enough to fix this problem, a problem that should have been addressed some twenty years ago. Guesstimating it takes about twelve years to build one power station – and it surely does take less than twenty so my accuracy or lack thereof is irrelevant – if three were built simultaneously, starting twenty years ago, this situation would not be happening today. Make no mistake – we’d still be in trouble, but we would perhaps not be in the situation that we face now – with infrastructure that is effectively fifty years behind where it should be.

In conclusion, the answer is yes and no. We must never forget how bad the situation used to be: Over 80% of our population was oppressed and were treated as if they were subhuman. Twenty years is not long enough to fix everything that the old regime broke. I don’t believe it’s right for Jacob Zuma to blame everything on the past, taking no responsibility for the twenty years that could have been used to address our lacking power supply. But then again, the government had many other responsibilities. It’s an over-simplification to pin all the blame on the ANC for not fixing the mess that was created by the old regime. It also doesn’t help to cry racism and assume that all he says is untrue. It is not his job alone to fix it; we are all in this sinking ship together. Maybe we should quit complaining and criticizing destructively, and see what we can do to plug the holes. Or maybe it’s time to abandon ship as so many of my friends and relatives have done; I don’t know. But personally, I am still optimistic and hopeful that the situation can improve, and that overall South Africa is a better place than it used to be.

Update: Interestingly I see that according to LinkedIn, the lecturer I mentioned is currently employed as a senior engineer at Eskom. I take this as a good sign… it means that merit is now more important than skin colour. (Actually affirmative action never effected me anyway.) This is a good sign. I hope he doesn’t mind that I paraphrased his words from twenty years ago without permission. Anyway, I am not giving his first name. (And I’ve attempted to contact him. It would be great if I could get more information to validate my anecdotal memory of his words, perhaps including some real information that is current, rather than relying on my possibly flawed memory.)

Posted in Non-addiction | Tagged ,

A fantastic miracle cure for cancer

I just saw this shared on Facebook.

NigerianBullshit

And if you believe that, then I suggest you try a cure that I personally guarantee will really work… Try any one of the chemical compounds that contains the new miracle cure that kills cancer for real (and some other cells too but don’t worry too much about those)… it needs to have a cyano group; a carbon atom triple bonded to a nitrogen atom: CN. (Sounds harmless enough, right?)

It has a more common name, but never mind that… On the bright side, unlike the bullshit shared on Facebook, my cure is guaranteed to kill the cancer!

Posted in Non-addiction | Tagged ,

So how does an atheist in recovery find a higher power?

I attended one of the best NA meetings that I have ever experienced earlier this week, where a man shared his story on his tenth year clean. It was both humbling and inspiring to listen to somebody who went through so many terrible things, far worse than my own experiences. One thing that helped him in his darkest hours, such as when he shared three years clean only to go home and find that his wife had relapsed and died on the floor at home while he shared his milestone elsewhere, was his faith in God.

I don’t have that, and I will never have that. But in participating in meetings, the subject is raised often enough that it begs the question: What do I, an atheist, use for my higher power?

One person tells me to use “Good Orderly Direction”. Of course my first thought was: What a stupid, corny mnemonic! (And it is stupid.)

But then I thought about it some more… Mnemonics have worked for me twice before in the past. Many years ago, I learned to solve the Rubik’s Cube by studying the formulas in a book and memorizing them using mnemonics. I still have one that stuck in my head twenty years later: Real Turtles Love To Rest Their Legs, which stands for R T L-1 T-1 R-1 T L-1 (Right, Top, Left anti-clockwise etc.). I never told anybody that mnemonic because it’s so damn stupid, yet I remembered it precisely because it is so stupid.

When I was a child, my father taught me to play snooker, but I struggled to remember the order of the three balls at the bottom end of the table. My father helped me by teaching me the mnemonic: God Before You (Green, Brown, Yellow).

After discussing this with my colleague, I realised that good orderly direction may not be as dumb as I thought. It’s not only a mnemonic in that it spells out God, it also gives a clue as to what God represents: Order, direction, guidance, meaning and so on.

I can never profess to have faith, but rather than fighting with the faithful, I can substitute other things in place of God, things that their faith gives them, even if they don’t know it. I could argue all day about the fact that belief in God is essentially belief in magic, and once one has realized that, one can never believe again, but one can leave out the deity and the personal relationship with what is quite frankly an imaginary friend, and substitute the meaning, the order, and the direction that the religious have, without the delusional nonsense.

Posted in Higher Power, Recovery | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Is this what you’d expect from a world class African city?

The irony in City Power’s decision to use the “world class African city” logo appals me… This is not what I would expect from a city that’s anywhere near “world class”.

I’m not blaming anyone in this post. It just pisses me off that I cannot rely on what I consider a critical service, namely electricity, to be working. And they don’t even stick to the schedule. We had power outages on both days of the past weekend, despite no load shedding in this schedule. Of course it’s complicated by the fact that Eskom produces the power and City Power distributes it here in Johannesburg, and both have load shedding. The static label proclaiming that they are not load shedding pisses me off even further. Also, the web page from the screen shot below has a stupid bug – if you switch between stage one, two and three of the schedule by clicking the relevant buttons, it gets into a messed up state where it adds the same (duplicated) schedule items each day. As a developer who takes pride in my work, that offends me.

Oh, and I have no idea why there are three possible stages of load shedding with no indication which of the three is currently applicable. I can only guess that the static label stating that “City Power Johannesburg is currently not load shedding” is supposed to indicate what stage is currently implemented. But then I’m just guessing…

LoadShedding

Posted in Non-addiction | Tagged , , ,

The payoffs and costs of addiction and recovery

Recently someone suggested that I write about this, in the context of trying to understand why I am so dead set against drug use. So this is mostly for me, but I figured it might be useful for others too.

Introduction

The pros of addiction are few and are only temporary, while the cons are many. So I can tell you in advance that when you weigh the pros and the cons against each other, the decision not to use drugs is a no-brainer. Thus before you even read on, you should already know that if you are an addict, the costs of addiction are so much greater than the benefits, the importance of recovery and the need to stay clean should be a foregone conclusion.

I’ll try not to be too specific to meth, but it is the only drug I used regularly. This list is nowhere near complete…

The payoffs of addiction

  • Getting high. High is little more than a feeling of euphoria. This means that if you are sad or depressed, it makes you happy.
  • Instant gratification. When you take a hit, it activates the reward part of the pleasure-reward system in the brain. This is normally only activated after you experience something that makes you feel good, like good sex or a good meal. Taking a drug gets you the end result without you having to do anything. It short-circuits the natural process.
  • You don’t need to sleep for days at a time.
  • You feel alert. Even if you are falling-down drunk, a single hit of meth (or a similar drug) sobers you up instantly.
  • The drug also acts as an aphrodisiac.

Now for the costs. I could write a whole book on that, but I’ll rather keep this to a minimum, starting with direct costs of using the drug, then moving on to indirect costs and finally consequences.

The costs of addiction

Direct side effects

  • Getting low. Most narcotic drugs work similarly. In the case of meth, when it hijacks the pleasure-reward system of the brain, it takes a few days to use up all the dopamine in your system. After that, no more of the drug will make you happy. Instead, you come crashing down and feel depressed. Since drug-induced feelings feel just as real as others, you genuinely believe that you are sad. You cry your little eyes out and might even commit suicide.
  • Withdrawal from normal activities and social interactions. Since the drug gives you instant gratification without your having to do anything, you no longer need to interact with others or do normal activities that lead to pleasure. Slowly over time you withdraw from everything and everyone, and only the drug is important. This happens gradually and to a different degree for everyone who uses, but it does happen.
  • The feeling of being alert and having energy comes at a cost of your being unable to focus properly on any one task at first, and then after years of using, you can only focus on a single task, for days at a time.
  • After being awake for days at a time, you suffer side effects of sleep deprivation, including short-term memory loss. After crashing and using again, you can only perform at your peak for a day or two; after that your work suffers.
  • Eventually you suffer auditory hallucinations, also known as voices in your head. Most people who experience this are not aware of it, at the beginning. Some may never be aware of it. Either way, since the voices seem as real as real voices, even if you know that it is happening, you can’t always tell the difference; hence you start acting like somebody who is psychotic.

Indirect side effects

  • Paranoia. The drug makes you paranoid of everyone, but probably mostly paranoid about your partner, who you think is cheating on you. They may be, because like you, they are horny all the time, even when you are not together.
  • Thanks to your withdrawal and your paranoia, all your relationships break down.
  • You can no longer perform well in your work. Anything that requires you to see the bigger picture or take responsibility for a project on a high level is impossible, because your memory is shot. You’re also confused most of the time.
  • You act erratically at work and at home, and are prone to losing your temper over trivial things. You alienate everybody.
  • All your money is spent on drugs, so paying anything else becomes secondary.
  • Eventually you can no longer tell the difference between reality and the voices in your head. You spend more time at work trying to tell the difference than doing your work.
  • At some point, you use the drug to make you happy, for unhappiness caused by the drug itself. Of course it doesn’t last and the cycle continues.
  • You hate yourself.

Consequences

  • You lose everything. Your house, your car, your job; even your children eventually because you are incapable of taking care of anything or anyone. The only thing you can do is use, and the only thing you care to do is use.
  • Nobody trusts you anymore.

I could go on, but I think the point is made. If you reach that level, there is no choice anymore. Either you get into recovery or you go live and then die on the street. But even that could take a long time.

The costs of recovery

  • Admitting that you fucked it all up and that you can not stop using by yourself.
  • Having to swallow your pride and accept help. This means probably going to rehab and being treated like a child, and having to follow other people’s rules.
  • Some relationships that were destroyed in your addiction can never be repaired. This is extremely difficult to face, and can lead to depression. People judge you by what you have done, not what you are thinking, and sometimes no matter how hard you try or how sincere you are about your recovery, those people will never accept you again.
  • Having to give up people, places and things that are bad for you. This is hardly really a cost. Your so-called friends in addiction aren’t really your friends at all.

There really aren’t many costs to recovery at all. It isn’t always easy, but that’s your own fault.

The payoffs of recovery

There are so many, I really can’t list them all, so I’m only writing a few broad ones.

  • You get to love yourself again.
  • Everything that you lost, you can gain again. But it takes time and patience.
  • You have the capacity to care, to give a fuck about other people.
  • You can have normal, healthy relationships.
  • People respect you, and you respect yourself.
  • You can excel in your work.

Those may not sound important, but they are huge. Having normal relationships and being able to care about other people, even putting them before yourself, is so much better than living a life where your entire purpose is to get and use a chemical substance, one that will ultimately leave you empty and alone.

Posted in Addiction, Advice, Craving, Despair, Meth, Psychosis, Recovery, Relapse, Relationships, Suicidal, Tweaking | Tagged

On appreciating what we have

Gratitude is not one of strengths. Lately when not focused on my family, those who are important to me, or my work, I’ve spent my time thinking about money and about the struggle to get through every month. I take what I have and what I have achieved for granted. Because of that (and other reasons I’m not going into today), last night I attended my first NA meeting in several months. (I resisted the temptation to introduce myself as an ungrateful recovering addict. I’m almost proud.)

The thing is, it’s not like I feel that I need meetings. Far from it actually. I can’t explain why things are so different now, but this time my recovery has been very different to my first attempt. That first time, although I made it to nine months clean, and although I said I was determined to stay clean, all I really wanted to do was use again. In the end it was too easy for someone to talk me into using. But this time around, only the first two weeks were like that. After those first two weeks, I can honestly say that I have never even considered using again, and I know I never will. Even the using dreams stopped months ago (when I last wrote about one).

Why it’s so different mystifies me… because I need to understand why I feel this way now, and why I didn’t feel this way before. (Understanding will hopefully prepare me to deal with my feelings if they should change in future.) Somebody suggested I write about the payoffs and costs of both addiction and recovery, and I may do that for my next post. But the main thing I got out of that meeting was inspiration from others, and appreciation for what I have.

One man shared the usual nonsense, the militant approach to recovery where following the program is the only way to stay clean, explaining how he failed before when he didn’t take it seriously. He didn’t even realize, and I will never tell him, that his thinking is fallacious. He’s falling for the No true Scotsman fallacy, where every time anybody fails at recovery, you can just say that the person was “not truly in recovery”. (Redefine what it means to be truly in recovery every time. With this logic, you can say that nobody has ever failed by following the program, because they weren’t following the program properly.) As I looked around the room of between thirty and forty people, I recognized only two faces from the last time I attended that particular meeting some four years ago. One of those two people is approaching ten years clean (and chairs the meeting), and the other is three and a half years clean. But what about all the others from four years ago?

When I see others, some who have tried and failed many times, and some who have made a great success of recovery, it inspires me. Seeing how few of us really make it helps me appreciate what I have, and what I have achieved. But beware any who think that working the program is either enough or is the only thing you need do, to stay on the straight and narrow. You are only fooling yourselves. There are many who don’t make it despite “working the program” and it is a foolish risk to believe otherwise.

I’m not knocking NA because it does seem to work for many, but such a narrow-minded approach to recovery is not for me. I’m incorporating it into my recovery again from now on, but it will never be the most important part, and recovery will never be the primary focus of my life. It is useful in that I need to continue to grow and learn in recovery, as I do in life and in my work, but all growth cannot come from within. Learning from others, whether it is examples set and the lessons shared by other recovering addicts, or the insights into my life by a therapist, is a way of ensuring that my growth continues.

Posted in Recovery | Tagged

In addition to my previous post

The mocking tone was probably unnecessary, but that’s the way I am, especially when I am clean. Push me into a corner, and I’ll retaliate. Whereas in active addiction, I’d probably have let it slide.

The point is, I am sincere in that I want to remove references to the person in question from this blog, or remove entire posts where necessary if his name or anything personal about him or his family makes up the main body of the entry. But removing them is not so easy… this blog has 863 entries now, and any references to him may be months apart, spread out over four years. They’re not easy to find. Searching by his name leads to many false positives because the WordPress search results yield all words that start with his name. So a list of URLs would be greatly appreciated.

I also don’t like to read my old posts, since some of them for a time were written during my relapse. I really don’t want to know what shit I wrote. I can still write reasonably well while using – sometimes – but tend to forget to write about whatever I planned (because the plans in my head that are normally perfectly clear and detailed such that I can plan a post for days in advance without writing a word, get all jumbled up when in active use) and instead switch topics several times while leaving sections incomplete and omitting the main points completely. I liken writing on meth to telling a joke and forgetting the punch line… or maybe more like telling the punch line but forgetting the joke. Strangely this didn’t happen with technical writing. I wrote some of my best technical works while I was extremely high. But the blog entries here were a fucking disaster.

Posted in Recovery

To whom it may concern: I’m really not interested in playing your psycho games

After I asked very nicely for the email harassment to stop, I received another one today, demanding that I remove all references to him from my blog. I will try my best, but do feel it is unreasonable. I mean, you want me to look for vague implied references going back years, even though most of my readers are not even in this country and don’t give a flying fuck who you are?

However, I will write about any threats or stress that you cause me, in the context of your relationship with my son, in your capacity as his foster father. I wasn’t going to write about this, but you have brought this on yourself.

This nonsense started weeks ago when we were informed by Josh’s foster mother that his foster father, who is not even staying at the house, has insisted that I can not visit Josh there any longer, since I am a threat to his children. This is in breach of an agreement that we made with social services, where all parties agreed that we can visit Josh there twice a week. (We have been visiting him there for several months.) The threat, it turns out, was based on a cryptic reference where I criticized the foster father on this blog. Essentially I called him insecure and pretentious, but nobody besides himself would have recognized the reference. Apparently he also sent the social worker a defamatory email, claiming that I am using drugs. (Based on what?)

None of his behaviour makes any sense. What happens when Josh is back with us? All he is doing is causing unnecessary stress for us, and more importantly, for Josh. None of this is in my son’s best interests, so I will write about it. His actions betray his belief that we are not clean and that we will never have Josh back with us. Frankly, I don’t care what he believes, but as soon as he shares his beliefs with others that affect us, even if they are implied and hidden behind his verbose and lunatic email rants, I have to care.

All this comes after, months ago he demanded to be removed as foster father, then changed his mind, and now this bizarre behaviour. It is childish and annoying, as well as a terrible example for my son.

I have removed the latest reference to you, sir, so please feel free to let me know which other posts you think refer to you, so that I can remove them more easily. (I have gone back to November 2013 and found no references to your name, so please enlighten me.) I have no interest in writing anything about your personal life, and no interest in having any relationship with you either.

Also, I do not see how it harms your privacy to write about the unfortunate fact that you exist. Yes, Josh has a foster father, much like I used to have a dog. It is not rude to the dog to write that she once existed. Likewise, to mention that my son has a foster father is not in any way an invasion of privacy of that foster father. It may not be nice to write cryptic criticism of you that nobody else could ever recognize, but it isn’t harassment or an invasion of your privacy either. If you don’t like what I write, don’t read it. I will be more than happy to remove any and all references to your name. With fucking pleasure… It’s not like I tagged those posts with your name.

Posted in My life, Recovery