In the fourth part of my interview with Tom, a doctor in recovery, he explores the ‘full-on’ nature of the CA programme, the interface between his professional approach and his experience and is clear that recovering people ‘have a responsibility to share how we recovered’.
What’s the approach to the programme in CA?
More than a few people have suggested that CA meetings can be a bit full on. You cannot avoid hearing the solution and what “suggestions” you need to follow to recover. I believe it is hard for somebody to just coast along in CA. There is a sense of urgency about the need to get involved and engage with the programme. Feedback suggests that some have left CA for this reason. CA is never going to please everybody.
An easier /softer format would obscure the reality of the situation. The hard truth for many newcomers is that they will relapse unless they take on board the suggested programme of action.
CA will always welcome back those that stray and relapse but the message will remain the same. No doubt there are other ways to recover from addiction but CA has to have no opinion or business with outside matters.
What is associated with success in the programme?
Those that recover generally become involved with a home group / service, sponsorship and socialising within the fellowship. These are the three sides of the sobriety circle/triangle –Recovery, Unity and Service.
We cannot force addicts into recovery but we have a responsibility to share how we recovered. This is our duty in meetings. I didn’t know this to begin with. Newcomers naturally will share all sorts of things in meetings.
However as somebody who has experienced the wonder of this programme, I don’t see a meeting as a forum for me to moan, complain or generally dump all my problems. I have a sponsor for that sort of thing. Hopefully he will quickly shine a light on my self obsession and encourage me to work the programme when I fall into this victim trap. As much as my ego would like to control what happens in meetings, I accept that I don’t have that “power”! I can only lead by example. I only keep what I give away.
How does the CA take sit with professional approaches to addiction?
I spent a year at University studying addiction. This course focused on the different theories of addiction. The only thing that became clear to me is that nobody knows for sure why people become addicts. Some theories jarred with my own experience, while others seemed closer to home.
I continued to engage in Cocaine Anonymous through all of this “education”, even when some experts and research suggested it may not be necessary. This was a little threatening at the time but now I value this process.
We are limited as human beings, research and theories are limited, Cocaine Anonymous is limited in what it can do. However the steps promise to remove the mental obsession to use drugs and this has been my experience. I can only share my own experience. All of my own personal evidence suggests that if I (my ego) decides I don’t need to do this stuff anymore I will end up in trouble.
What about the disease model?
The theories of addiction are interesting and it was helpful at the beginning to view addiction as a medical disease, especially as I came into this process with a highly logical scientific way of thinking. As my thinking processes have changed and my perception has shifted, I no longer feel the need to define this condition as a disease.
The word disease was used as a metaphor in the Big Book, the author was clear that this was a condition that manifested because of a spiritual malady and it was not the business of AA to label the condition in medical terms.
Addiction doesn’t fit easily into any one category.The medical model has benefits and drawbacks. I see addiction as an expression or coping strategy for human suffering, addiction manifests as a solution to the potential emptiness of human existence.
We are born to experience suffering as human beings, there is no escaping the reality that we will experience pain and loss and ultimately die. The suffering that occurs is a consequence of our attempts to avoid the pain of human existence. Our obsessive compulsive thinking and behaviours provide a transient respite from this reality.
“A Spiritual Malady”
Personally I became addicted to drugs but my addiction runs far deeper and manifests daily as a “spiritual malady”. The “spiritual malady” as described in the AA big book is at the core of my condition. This doesn’t fit easily with a neurobiochemical model of addiction.
A victim mentality is unhelpful and obstructive to my recovery, if I have a chronic disease or illness then how can I recover? Labelling helps human understanding and provides a sense of control but this may also draw me away from the truth. We try so hard to understand things but sometimes an acceptance that the human intellect is limited may be required.
CA has provided me with a non rational, non intellectual profound personal inner experience. It defies adequate description by simple words.
[You may want to read the other parts of this interview by clicking on the links below]