Common Misconceptions About Recovery, Part 1

 

This is the first blogpost in a series titled: Common Misconceptions About Recovery. Yep, at least two ways to interpret that title. The first goes like this: “Springing from his years of experience, Joseph reflects thoughtfully on recovery.” (That’s the interpretation I prefer and intend.)

The other read of Common Misconceptions About Recovery is: “Joseph gets in touch with his resentments about ‘the program’ and rants in a series of posts.”

Let’s lean toward the first interpretation. Though I recognize that some of the beliefs espoused by 12 step programs are out of date and, medically speaking, factually incorrect — still, Crystal Meth Anonymous saved my life back in 2011.

Even today, I usually go to at least one meeting a week for the fellowship and recommend all my clients do the same — particularly if it’s their first time at the recovery dance. And I love the CMALA conference every spring in Los Angeles. I can’t imagine my life without either.

Emersion within a community that focuses on recovery instead of using is crucial at the beginning of our recovery. And the only ready-made and easily available groups I know of that meet this qualification are the rooms of CMA/NA/AA. If the rest of ”the program” works for you — even for just the first year or two — it’s a great way to get clean.

Where 12 step programs drop the ball is with returnees who have relapsed… guilt and shame, threat of ostracization are too common and, frankly, negative reinforcement like this is pretty much the least effective way to quit… that’s science not my opinion. (The most reliable estimates are that 5-10% of all alcoholics who come to AA are successful with quitting — and so I’m assuming it’s about the same for us meth addicts.)

Misconception 1:

“An addict is an addict is an addict.” Or, less colorfully, if you are addicted to one substance (say, meth), you are an addict-in-waiting for all substances (say alcohol, marijuana, pills).

Well, to begin with, it’s not medically true — and plenty of scientific data bears this out. Just because your brain reacts addictively to meth, it doesn’t mean your brain will react the same way to all substances. That’s not the way the brain works. I know for myself, personally, I could easily have a cold beer with pizza and not drink a drop of alcohol more. I’d just enjoy the beer with the pizza, not set off a domino effect of substance triggers that ends up, sooner or later, with me sticking a needle in my arm.

The fact is, medically, I’m not an alcoholic. Sure, I’ve gotten raging drunk before, but most of my adult life I’ve been able to drink socially, especially when eating. This “an addict is an addict is an addict” belief is a 12-step tradition that is simply not borne out by the facts.

Now, this is not to say that the liquor cabinet is open so come and guzzle all you want. The real concern is this: When we smoke pot or drink alcohol, it’s much easier to suddenly think using meth again would be a good idea. It’s a fact: many a relapse with meth began with alcohol or pot weakening one’s vigilance.

One of my best friends and mentors in recovery says categorically:

“No, sir. I know for myself, I cannot have that one beer or one hit of pot. Not one. Because even if I didn’t go any further that night or for several nights, eventually I would, and so eventually I’d get roaring drunk and, then, as if by magic, I’m at my dealer’s doorstep. That’s not what might happen. It’s what will happen. So, I can’t ever afford to have a drink, not a single one.”

And he is 100% correct. For himself. (And many others, as well.) My friend is the first to always begin any advice or direction regarding sobriety with something like: “In my experience, for me…”

Bottom line, just because you are addicted to one substance does not mean your brain will behave similarly with all other substances. That’s a medical fact. And if you want some anecdotal evidence, here goes: in my experience, a significant percentage of recovering meth addicts drink alcohol and/or use pot socially or medicinally without either serving as a gateway to meth.

Actually, in my experience, marijuana is a common (and effective)  “exit” drug from meth. (But that’s a previous blog post.)

More to come. Please feel free to disagree with me if you want. If it’s true for you, then it’s probably true for someone else. Let’s talk about it. Open minds, open hearts. A great addition to anyone’s recovery.

Peace, and until next time…

Joseph

 

  • Harrison

    My first rehab experience was a secular 12 step. After a month or so clean at an aftercare meeting I shared that I had drank a non alcoholic beer with family, and was warned that I was on the verge of relapse, that that action was simply the disease looking for a fix. Sure enough I relapsed, but on meth not on alcohol, and was worse off than I was before I entered rehab. That aside I am not an alcoholic, I can drink socially or even alone and stop after one or two drinks and that will have no effect on whether or not I start shooting crystal meth. I relapse to crystal meth after long psychological battles that in my case have nothing to do with alcohol. My last relapse was after 5 months clean from everything, and I went straight to the needle. Maybe if I had allowed myself that glass of wine with dinner, I might’ve had the peace of mind to resist the craving that finally got me to text my dealer?

    • I know many people, including myself, who have used and continue to use medicinal marijuana just the way you imagine you might have. We can’t say for certain it would have prevented your meth use, but we know for certain that using pot as an “exit” drug (from meth or something as strong) is often an effective and safe way to quit. I know it’s controversial. But facts are facts. Don’t beat yourself up. Try not to be too angry at the bad advice you got from counselors and rehab workers… they probably thought they were giving you the best advice. Alas, they were not. Thank you for sharing this. I hope you are moving forward with your meth use disorder (I’m not going to call you an addict, that’s another misconception I will get to in a couple of weeks). Substance use disorder is chronic and can go into remission. That’s a fact. You don’t always have the disorder or disease. When in remission, you are clear of it. (Doesn’t mean we are foolishly tempting ourselves; but does mean we don’t have to define our very being because of a few years of heavy drug use.) How are you doing? Peace, Joseph

      • Harrison

        In the past 2 years I’ve completed 3 rehabs, starting with the one I mentioned that was secular “disease” based 12 step. At that time I had a job with insurance covering the cost of rehab. After relapsing and losing the job I eventually went to a 6 week program with a “non-disease” Cognitive Behavioral based approach, after another period of relapse went to a 90 day faith based program and eventually relapsed. I’ve been fortunate I guess to be able to study this disorder from every angle through these rehab situations. However I still am having flairups, and am baffled as to how handle this situation. One one hand I like using, on the other can’t live with the inevitable consequences. I don’t know if this is a physical disease or psychological disorder or just an undisciplined natural human desire to like getting high. Whatever it is has taken over my life in a way can’t ignore or hide it, it’s kind of like an invisible chimpanzee following me around persuading me to give away my lunch money and ruin myself in exchange for fleeting moments of euphoric pleasure.

        • Brittany

          I may be wrong, this is my opinion from going into my first rehab and have being a little over half a year I started to learn more about myself on this journey in my recovery. I honestly came to a sense of being brain washed a little after I finished the inpatient program. I felt like I had to do it the way they told me tI (it was advice for the most part) I felt like I wasnt going to make it in the beginning. People, places and things is one of many the things that I was so scared of I cpuldnt just up and go away due to financial reasons, children’s school/therapes, arrangements for not just for myself but for my little ones.. so as time went on and I kept quitting again and again I tried to keep myself of isolation and above water, I realized it’s not the people, the places and the things that make me want to use because I don’t talk to the same people like I use to unless I slip back for that day(s) which is only hi, bye then leave, when I pass the road now it doesn’t have so much of nagging feeling to turn down it (it use to baddd), and things.. I throw away the things I’ve used for that time no matter what it is and if I haven’t used for days and possibly forgot to throw something out from the last I don’t think on it and just do away with it..

          I’m not really sure if I’m on topic, I don’t really post things from my point of view… it’s a huge deal for me. Set me in the right direction on the comments.

          ~Britt

  • Bugs bunny

    I believe that marijuana is also a antidepressant to quitting meth but. Some social workers and law enforcement might not agree.

  • Brittany

    I may be wrong, this is my opinion from going into my first rehab and have being a little over half a year I started to learn more about myself on this journey in my recovery. I honestly came to a sense of being brain washed a little after I finished the inpatient program. I felt like I had to do it the way they told me tI (it was advice for the most part) I felt like I wasnt going to make it in the beginning. People, places and things is one of many the things that I was so scared of I cpuldnt just up and go away due to financial reasons, children’s school/therapes, arrangements for not just for myself but for my little ones.. so as time went on and I kept quitting again and again I tried to keep myself of isolation and above water, I realized it’s not the people, the places and the things that make me want to use because I don’t talk to the same people like I use to unless I slip back for that day(s) which is only hi, bye then leave, when I pass the road now it doesn’t have so much of nagging feeling to turn down it (it use to baddd), and things.. I throw away the things I’ve used for that time no matter what it is and if I haven’t used for days and possibly forgot to throw something out from the last I don’t think on it and just do away with it..

    I’m not really sure if I’m on topic, I don’t really post things from my point of view… it’s a huge deal for me. Set me in the right direction on the comments.

    ~Britt

  • Mysecret

    I have found that marijuana helps me. I’ve been EXTREMELY depressed, crying feeling hopeless and MJ helps with that. If nothing else, it helps me sleep to escape those feelings. I really hope this depression doesn’t last months, I don’t think I could bear it. But I will if I have to. I’m new to this and find being able to discuss it very helpful. I’m doing this on my own and have no one to talk to about it. Just reading everyone’s input and experiences is very helpful.

    • Hello Mysecret, I’m glad you found us. There is a post on using MJ as an “exit” drug from meth (as opposed to entrance drug) you might want to read. Get the book if you can afford to as it explains what you’re going to go through in getting off this drug. But if you can’t afford the book, at least 80% of the book is available on this website in excerpt or blog form. (Be sure and look at the “Contents” page under “Book” so you will have an idea of the ideal order… that’s the secret. Now you don’t need to order the book unless you want a really convenient way to access the material in an order that makes sense and is comforting instead of confusing. If you can at all afford it, get the book, as it just makes the whole process easier to grasp. Email whenever. We don’t have a very active discussion page, here, despite our 20,000 plus visitors a month. Try reddit for discussion boards or go to one of the “closed” crystal meth groups on Facebook. ¥ou can find some resources here:
      http://www.quittingcrystalmeth.com/resources-to-quit/
      Hope this helps. Don’t hesitate to email me privately at joseph@quittingcrystalmeth.com too. Peace, Joseph

  • Danny Gee

    100% true completely, I’m working on recovery as I type or speak ,I’m 27 and been off and on all this since I was 12 and reading this truth is bringing tears to my eyes.

  • Danny Gee

    My issue is also not being able to have the energy 2 complete many things that need to be done and that for from my experience relapsing is a lot easier to help

  • Danny Gee

    But at this moment I’m ready to finish quitting everything that needs to be quitted from down to marijuana and drinking alcohol after reading this thank you

    • I don’t believe you (said in a kidding tone). A person does total abstinence because they are in a 12 step (or some other) program — or, because they really desire a clarity that you only get with total abstinence. Total abstinence is the way to go for many, if you can. (You can.) But for those who couldn’t… try the pot to get you through those days and weeks and months meth-free. They are publishing research studies on marijuana’s efficacy with meth. You want it. Total abstinence is a special state to live within and it’s incredible. Go for total abstinence. You can do this, Danny. Peace –Joseph