Category Archives: The 12 Steps

Crystal Meth Anonymous: Pros and Cons

 

Where else are you going to find a room filled with ex-tweakers, from all walks of life, every social bracket and sexual orientation, than at meeting of Crystal Meth Anonymous? 

I’ve heard it said by more than one recovering addict that, especially in those first few weeks, the only time they felt calm was at a meeting, only then did their mind stop racing. In the early weeks of recovery, you might find that meetings offer the same calming effect for you. Continue reading Crystal Meth Anonymous: Pros and Cons

Crystal Meth Anonymous — Pros and Cons

 

So now that you’ve stopped, how do you stay stopped? One way is to start going to Crystal Meth Anonymous meetings. I’ve heard it said by more than one recovering addict that, in their first few weeks, it was only when at a meeting that they felt calm, only then did their mind stop racing. In the early weeks of recovery, you might find that meetings offer the same calming effect for you.

It helps to remember CMA itself is not a “12 Step program,” but rather a “fellowship” of recovering addicts. Although CMA encourages you to use the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous to get and remain clean, you don’t have to have a sponsor or be “doing step work” to attend. As they usually say at the beginning of most meetings, the only requirement to attend CMA is the desire to quit crystal meth and live a sober life. Period.

Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of CMA so you can decide for yourself.

The Pros

You might not be a “crowd person” or “joiner,” but it doesn’t matter. You certainly don’t have to be either to get great benefit from a CMA meeting. Here are some pros:

You’ll meet living, breathing people who have been successful in quitting. This lets you know that, in fact, quitting is possible. It’s not just a theory, but reality. Also, if you have any questions about your recovery that this book doesn’t cover, most likely you’ll find an answer from someone who has gone through it before.

A meeting is a great place to make new non-using friends. Where else are you going to have a room full of people who are like you, addicts trying to quit? Most likely a using friend is one of your triggers. But the new friends you make at meetings should support you in trying to quit.

You’ll be able to “speak out” those thoughts you bottle up about using and recovery. It’s at meetings where you’ll meet someone who’s gone through what you’re currently experiencing—say, you just had a using dream and are feeling guilty because you enjoyed it. You can commiserate or, at the least, have a sympathetic ear. Also, “telling on yourself”—for instance, telling aloud about that impulse you had yesterday to phone your dealer, or whatever—is a great way to take your power back from your disease. Your meth addiction wants you to keep many secrets. It’s those secrets that will often take the newcomer out again.

If you have something you need to share, but don’t want to do it on a group level, then pick someone who has some time under their belt and go up to them after the meeting and say, “I really need to talk. Would you be willing to listen?”  Most likely, they will be honored.

The Cons

It’s rare that it happens, but the biggest downside to a CMA meeting is the same danger you have whenever you get a group of newly sober tweakers together—the possibility that someone might ask you to use with them. Again, it will probably never happen to you, but it’s the dark little secret that needs to be talked about. The meeting should be a sacred space, but the reality is predators exist. I’ve even known of a dealer who once came to a meeting in search of new clients. So remember, though the room is filled with a lot of solid sobriety, it’s also peppered with struggling addicts. Just a concern to keep in mind.

Some newcomers complain they feel “left out” because almost every person in the room already knows everyone. They greet with kisses or hugs, calling out to one another by name. Of course, the upside is that, if you stay around, soon you’ll be one of the people who gets hugged and called by name too. Meetings challenge you to get out of yourself, take risks, and meet new people.

If you are terminally shy, it will be more difficult. But only more difficult, not impossible. Perhaps have a non-using friend come with you to your first meeting. And, once you introduce yourself, you’ll never find a group of more accepting people.

Another common newcomer complaint is: “These meetings depress me because people whine and bellyache so much.” There’s always an excuse for what’s wrong with a meeting. Too many people. Not enough people. Too many tweakers. No tweakers, just a lot of AA drunks and me. Too many people share. Not enough people share. And so on. It’s at times like this when it helps to remind yourself: I have the one of the few diseases in the world that tries to convince me that I don’t have it. The disease in your mind is working overtime telling you: “I don’t belong here at this meeting, with these people.”

Other Fellowships – AA and NA

For various reasons, you might not be able to go to a CMA meeting. Perhaps there’s not one in your area or, say, it meets only once a week. Or, perhaps, being in a room full of former tweakers is too triggering for you.

I’ve met a few addicts who couldn’t go to CMA meetings because they always left the meeting with cravings. Something about the meeting triggered them profoundly. If this is you, then AA or NA (Narcotics Anonymous) will work better. Though, after enough time has passed and you’re not so easily triggered, you might want to try CMA again. There’s nothing like a room full of “your people” to make you realize you’re not in this journey of recovery alone.

A word about AA: Most AA meetings ask that you identify solely as an “alcoholic,” period. They ask that you keep your “meth addict” identity to yourself. This is because, in the early days before CMA or NA, many AA meetings were overrun by addicts seeking help. I know many tweakers who go to AA meetings and in their mind substitute “meth addict” for alcoholic. You’ll find the similarities between the meth addict and the alcoholic are many and the differences few.

Just attending the meeting is the important thing. You’re in a room with people who understand, people quitting along with you. A meeting reminds you, you are not alone.

Isolation is the big enemy. In general, I think any “clean and sober” gathering is a good thing.

Almost every successfully recovered addict I know will tell you they didn’t do it alone—in fact, they couldn’t have done it without the support of either family, friends or often “the fellowship” of CMA, NA, or AA.

I encourage recovering addicts to get involved in CMA, primarily to meet others whose goal is to live free of crystal meth. CMA is not right for everyone, but it’s a powerful tool available to you to help you quit if you can use it.

Click here to find a CMA meeting near you.

It’s Easier to Quit If…

 

Because of this website, I get emails from around the world (we’re read regularly by well over a dozen countries). Whether it’s a housewife from the American Midwest who is trying to quit with her husband or a concerned friend from France who doesn’t know how to help his addicted loved one, there is one common denominator amongst all these communications: powerlessness.

In the 12 Step program of Crystal Meth Anonymous it’s the first part of step one, admitting one’s powerlessness over crystal meth. Of course, the paradox here is that only by admitting our powerlessness are we then able to take our first steps toward a life free of meth, toward finding a power greater than the drug and ourselves.

If you’re reading this and thinking, “I’m not powerless over meth; I can do it in a controlled manner,” all I can say is be rigorously honest with yourself next time you use. Are you really in control? Did your using “run” last only a night, as planned, or did it extend into several nights? (And if you find you can do meth in a controlled manner, congratulations. I can’t. Haven’t met anyone yet who can control it for long, either. It may start off with you in the driver’s seat for a month or two, but, before too long, Ms. Tina has the wheel. That’s my experience, anyhow.)

In 12 Step programs, the addict admits personal powerlessness over whatever drug and then seeks access to a “Higher Power” that is greater than one’s personal addiction. For some this Higher Power is God. For others it is, literally, the rooms and fellowship of CMA, a group of former tweakers who, collectively, are stronger than the drug itself. This latter way is what I want to focus on here. If individual willpower isn’t enough, how do we quit?

We quit with the help of others.

I’m a big proponent of Crystal Meth Anonymous for many reasons, but the best is this: it’s at these meetings where you’ll meet living, breathing examples of people who’ve quit successfully. At the Saturday morning “Happy, Joyous & Free” CMA meeting in Los Angeles, there are often more than fifty people in attendance with at least 2 years or more of sobriety. (Its usual size is well over one hundred recovering tweakers.) At evening CMA meetings in Palm Springs, it’s not uncommon to find a person with over 20 years sobriety sitting in the room. And at the annual CMA Los Angeles convention, usually over 600 recovered meth addicts are in attendance.

A link to CMALA is here if you’re interested. I’m going again this year. I hope to see you there.

And if you live in a rural area where there are no CMA meetings, you can just as easily attend the meetings of Narcotics Anonymous or, the mothership, Alcoholics Anonymous. For now, I only ask that you keep an open mind to CMA and other programs.

The simple truth is this: no one is an island. It’s easier to quit if you have support for quitting. It’s harder if you’re alone. And harder still, damn near impossible, if you remain in the environment where others enable your using, instead of support your quitting. Get positive help and don’t try to quit with personal willpower alone. Admit your powerlessness over meth, find a meeting, and then it’s a lot easier to move forward. That’s how it worked for me, anyhow.

Recovery, Not Just Abstinence

I’m in Los Angeles for the next few weeks, getting some writing done and seeing old friends. There’s one person I love dearly who is still struggling with meth from time to time. He works in the entertainment industry, so he’ll have a film that lasts months and fully occupies (and satisfies) his life for its duration. He’s got community (the cast and crew), companionship (those with whom he shares a temporary rental on location), a meth-free environment removed from his dealer and, most importantly, a purpose to his life. He is participating in the creation of something larger than himself, a film.

Then he returns to LA and has months off before the next gig. That’s when he starts using again. “Just for a weekend,” he tells himself. “After all, I’ve got the time.” But the reality is he’s backed out of more than one job commitment because he couldn’t stop after that “weekend,” which turned into months. He’s missed many career opportunities. Still, magically, at one point, he puts down the pipe and syringe and says, “Enough. I’m done.” And shortly work appears again and he’s off, abstinent and happy with his career-filled life (the movie industry is pretty much 24/7 when you’re in production). But inevitably boredom returns during the next downtime and he begins to get uncontrollable cravings to use – just for a weekend, of course.

My friend’s story demonstrates perfectly the difference between mere abstinence and hard-won recovery. Often, when we first quit meth we think, “I’m doing this to quit my addiction. Once I’ve got the addiction out of the way, life will be great again.”

But many researchers and clinicians are coming to the conclusion that most drug use isn’t about drugs; it’s about one’s life. Abstinence means stopping our meth use, period. Recovery, on the other hand, means dealing with the feelings and thoughts that bring us constantly back to using in the first place.

Most of us used then abused drugs in order to escape or enhance or otherwise alter how we experience our lives. I remember my earlier months with crystal. It made me feel energetic, young, sexually free (uninhibited), I got a lean, cut body. Gym workouts were a breeze and I could get all kinds of work done fast. I felt as if was a superman in most respects. But, in fact, what I was escaping was clinical depression and no small dose of guilt about my career not panning out as I’d planned, among other things. The truth is my life before meth wasn’t so great (though there were some great aspects to it – most of which I eventually lost due to using).

It’s a profound thought: My addiction isn’t really about the drug, but about me and my life. For most of us, I believe this is true.

This is one of the primary reasons that 12 Step programs are so successful for those who fully commit to them and stick it out. Have you noticed that after Step 1, where you admit you are powerless over crystal meth and your life has become unmanageable, drugs drop immediately out of the equation. It’s all about getting wholly honest with your defects of character and then addressing the wrongs you’ve done not only during your using career, but during your entire life. Tall effin’ order. But as millions of alcoholics and addicts have proven, it can work. And, oh yeah, there’s that connecting to a Higher Power bit. That’s the underlying foundation to all the Steps, God as you understand It. Doing the work, and it is work, of the Steps changes a person. At the least, it makes one more humble and, usually, compassionate toward others.

The 12 Steps are not for everyone, but they sure work for many. If you’re one of those who just don’t “get” the 12 Steps of CMA or AA, you’re not alone. The best alternative is working with a therapist (hopefully individually and in a group) who specializes in addiction. I’d suggest looking at behavioral therapies (cognitive, dialectic) or something similar. The key is that your therapy focuses on changing your behavior. More than reliving a past childhood trauma, you need a therapist who’ll help you change your old bad habits and learn new skills for coping with life that doesn’t involve picking up the pipe. Once recovery and the new habits are securely in place, then comes the time to dig deeper into the psyche if you wish.

If you’re like many of us, you’ll find that abstinence alone isn’t enough. You’ll need something greater than yourself to help give you purpose – to fill that sense of emptiness within. Cultivating that purpose in life is what recovery is all about.