Tyranny Of The 12 Steps
Coming clean without going clean and sober
Published October 5, 1999 in Scope

Idon't know when I became clean and sober for the last time.

See also...
... by Whorella
... in the Scope section
... from October 5, 1999

In my earliest attempts, I marked the exact minute that my recovery started. Each time was my last. Each time meant something. But after five years of constant relapsing, I didn't take note. In both Narcotics and Alcoholics Anonymous, they proudly admit that only one out of ten people who walk through those depressing basement doors will ever "make it."

Take a quick look inside the doors of anonymity to see why. On the newsgroup alt.recovery.na, you can watch the Clean and Serene slug it out over who's the most spiritual. Or how many meetings you need. Then there's the caffeine controversy: If you drink coffee, are you clean? Even the winners in these programs were once the most fucked up people in the bar and you think they'd have more important shit to bicker about.

Still, they did me a world of good ... to a point. I went to self-help groups, spiritual retreats, group and individual therapy. I collected Narcotics Anonymous key chains, had a sponsor and did not date men in the program (I was sticking with the winners). But one night in a therapy group for victims of sexual abuse, I finally realized I was fucked up and that was that -- so I might as well do drugs.

That was over eight years ago. I'd given sobriety three years and I was done. I admit, without those three years of being clean, I might not have the control to maintain. I snort heroin every holiday season. Drink liquor now and then. Do narcotics when my dad goes fishing and I can sneak into his house and steal them from his massive stash of prescription drugs. Most importantly, I smoke pot every day.

I'm every recovering addict's dream come true: I can do drugs and not end up institutionalized. And only because there was something more important than drugs in my life. I was an honors student in college, had my son and a host of reasons to keep my shit together -- and I did. And now I'm one of the few people in the relapsed community who continues to have contact with the clean and sober.

Two of my siblings have been clean for over 15 years, and I still see all my old sobriety buds at holiday parties. I try to appear detached and depressed so they don't look at me and think of getting high. I still argue with my sister. She says my life is unmanageable because I spend all my money on pot. When I point out that she spends as much on Beanie Babies, she gets pissed. She's investing. It's not enough that I have a big college degree and a great job.

So how do I do it? I've taken steps to be able to use drugs again. But come on -- heroin, crack? You're going to get addicted. If you still want to be able to party, you gotta be smart about your drug of choice. Don't take something you can't afford, or one that carries severe legal penalties. If you work my steps, maybe nine out of ten of you can get high again. The rest of you ... keep coming back. It works if ya work it.

  1. Admit you want to be able to drink again and are sick of hearing "one day at a time" while the Clean and Sober tell you you'll never be able have another beer.
  2. Admit you are an asshole who let drugs become more important than anything or anyone in your life, which is the direct result of being an ungrateful prick who thrives on setting everyone up with impossible standards, thereby assuring a steady stream of disappointment that provides the perfect excuse to not give a fuck about anything.
  3. Admit it's not your fault that you suck so incredibly hard. The fact that you are a dick means that you've sustained some major psychic injury that you are still reeling from. And yet ... it's yours now, buddy. Deal with it or die. And regardless of what you think in your ignorance, dying is not easier than being honest.
  4. Get real or get high. Ew. I feel so street-wise sayin' that. But I know all the therapy trends. Read all the books. Signed God contracts. Subscribed to the "Daily Word." The simple rule is: Don't be a dick. That way you can live with yourself and not have to obliterate your guilt. And you know when you've been a dick -- apologize and be more aware of it until it goes away. If no one is worth that effort to you, you're the walking dead. You will never be able to do drugs again. Go read the Big Book.
  5. People are recreationally using drugs all over the country. They are not being dicks about it. The drugs can never be all-important (even though I encourage a strict regime of pot therapy to help you not be a dick).

If you follow my steps, there will be a day that you can drink again. A day when you can smoke a bowl in the morning, and go to work and kick ass so bad you get to make jokes about smoking that morning bowl or the time you spent in jail for writing your own prescriptions.

Okay if you're in recovery right now, you're probably blowin' bolts. See, you're a dick. You think you've got all the answers and if I'm not living the way you do, I must be wrong. You'll never be able to drink. Or, wait, what if someone who's clean reads this and relapses and ends up dead? Well, there are a million reasons to get high in a day, so don't blame me.

Even in the program they say, "you're only as sick as your secrets." Come clean and you'll never have to be clean and sober again.

God has granted Whorella the serenity to avoid the drugs she can not handle, courage to do the ones she can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Amen.