How did you get to CA?
Numerous attempts at controlling my substance use weren’t working. I was unable to stop taking drugs. As a consequence I was caught stealing controlled drugs from my workplace. I felt beaten, lonely and confused. I was scared and didn’t know what to do. It had taken 15 years of escalating opiate misuse to lead me to the point where I felt sufficiently defeated to try something new.
British Doctors and Dentists Group
This led me to accepting a type of help that I had refused before. I had attended a few BDDG [British Doctors and Dentists Group – a support group for addicted medical professionals] meetings back in 2004 but had been unwilling at the time to consider attending any 12 step meetings. Things now felt different. I had arrived at a point where my desperation outweighed my cynicism and unwillingness. This was a “window of opportunity” moment and fortunately there were people around to suggest what to do next. I listened to what was said and took up the offer of help. A caring friend took me to my first 12 step meeting which happened to be a meeting of Cocaine Anonymous. It was July 2010.
What was your first meeting like?
I remember feeling self conscious and scared at the first meeting. I was looking at all the strangers in the room and judging them, feeling different from them, either better or worse than them. At the time I was full of self-hatred and guilt. I wasn’t like these other addicts and alcoholics. I should have known better and was a weak-willed idiot. They maybe had good reason for using drugs. I had no good reason; in fact I was totally clueless why I had ended up in the mess that I was in. I couldn’t understand why I had continued to take drugs even when the consequences kept getting worse. I didn’t know what was wrong with me and I thought nobody else knew either.
The meeting was very busy and I sat up near the back. I remember one of the group members coming up to give me some leaflets at the start of the meeting. He is now a good friend but at the time I felt anxious even talking to him. I don’t remember much about the main share but I do remember thinking who were these people speaking up the front? I thought they must be professional speakers and employed to talk down to the poor addicts in the room. I didn’t realise that they were the same as everybody else and were doing service for CA.
At the end they were giving out key rings celebrating recovery milestones. I was too scared to stand up and get a key ring. I also thought that even though I had about 20 days off substances, this was rubbish and not worthy of celebrating. All of my thinking during this meeting was self-centred. I didn’t understand that collecting key rings was of mutual benefit. Then a good friend suggested that if I collect my 30-day key ring I might help somebody else in the room. This was a foreign concept to me. This same concept is what drives many of my actions within and outwith CA to this day.
“One 12-step meeting was more than enough”
The fear continued at the end of the meeting and I wanted to leave and escape as soon as it was finished. There was a sense of relief when I was able to leave and get back to my car. There was another meeting on the Friday but I decided that before entering treatment the next week, one 12-step meeting was more than enough. This decision was fear based. The other meeting was at another venue, my thinking worried about who would be there, what would they do, what would they say to me, what if I was late or couldn’t find the venue – blah, blah, blah. My thinking was very good at blocking me from self caring actions.
After entering the treatment centre the following week I started attending 6 meetings a week. It was a combination of AA, NA and CA. I tried to get to the 3 CA meetings whenever possible.
[This interview will continue. Meantime this blog might also be of interest: Legal Highs and Cocaine Anonymous – both growing.]