AA versus Harm Reduction. Seneca’s Sickest Burns. Marcus Aurelius’s Art of War. Rage Against…Pretty Much Everything.

Welcome to the only wellness and sanity blog that drives its readers stark raving mad. And I am, of course, the person least qualified to write it. My Native American name would be ‘Skin Too Thin’. Eclectic, Bi-Polar, no anger management, I’m the only artist to have split with themselves due to ‘musical differences’.

I should be over instant flare ups and pointless bickering. But would the Stoics have been so damn philosophical if they’d had internet feedback? Never mind Seneca’s Epistles we’d have Seneca’s Sickest Burns, Marcus Aurelius’s Art of War. Zeno’s On Landing the First Punch, Cicero’s Kill ’em all, Let Zeus sort ’em out.

I was informed that I’d be ‘in trouble’ if AA responded to my last blog. What? Some sheep are going to bleat at me? And why can’t they respond? Because alcoholics can’t be trusted with anything. Great. So you can’t criticise 12 Step, despite its very high failure rate, or its reliance on belittling recruits and herding the flock with with oft-repeated slogans – a mind control system also used by Chinese Communism and religious fundamentalists.

This came from a dear friend still enthusiastic about Erhard Seminars Training, EST. Which involved what is now termed abuse: breaking and rebuilding newbies, who were called turkeys, and a lot worse, for the first weekend. You got the enlightenment in the second weekend – and it wasn’t cheap. This programme is maybe quicker than a Zen monastery and perfectly acceptable if you’re submissive: I’m not. (Except, occasionally, during some therapeutic intimate procedures when I was far too ‘toppy’ for most orthodox dominant facilitators, summed up by Spencer Woodcock’s Fetish Times cartoon: ‘I might be your slave but you’re not going to be boss me about.’)

Shouldn’t I be indulging my critic in Socratic dialogue? No, this is a Thousand Year Reich of Rational Tyranny – No God, No Higher Power and we might even be unkind to earthbound deities, such as Alain De Botton. (Why did I once rudely and stupidly address the people’s philosopher as ‘baldy’? When I’ve had a shaven head since 92 myself? After enjoying many of his books? Must be my legion of demons. Some of whom are more persistent than a milk-seeking moggy. Sorry Mr De Botton and, again, Mr Terence Blacker. It is part of a mental disorder but still shouldn’t have happenned.)

Higher Power not needed Harm )

Boring but necessary disclaimer, in case I get attacked by another 12 Stepper – you can get a great deal of help from various programmes but they’re only as good as the people in them. They differ widely from place to place.
I could never quite avoid enthusiastic evangelicals but at least I never experienced Hollywood 12 step which involves microphones, applause, people joining just to meet important film people, and, across America in general, people who are there unwillingly as a legal sanction.

I dabbled in AA and NA over three decades, getting an occasional boost but doing most of it alone. I was never convinced, not for long. I was still shocked when a Doctor told me AA doesn’t work for everyone. How can he say that? Isn’t it the way. the truth, the light?
It can be.
But I can’t be hypnotised and I don’t take orders. Which is no doubt reprehensible if you like the hair shirt, or were raised Catholic.

What worked best was my wife asking me to stop: she was pregnant with our first child. I managed eight and a half years continual sobriety – apart from two beers to redirect a troublesome acid trip and one beer during an especially aggravating Christmas with the in laws. Just ONE beer? someone asked, clearly used to the pressures of Stressmas – although they may not have experienced, as I did, a sister in law running from the Christmas preparations into the snow, screaming for a divorce. She reappeared eight hours later to find that her husband’s present was a self help book entitled (rough translation from the German).’Openness in Marriage – One speaks: the other listens’. The ‘thank you’ and ‘you’re welcome’ were a little strained. As we sat around the Christmas tree among discarded wrapping paper and the wreckage of that marriage my father in law held up a glass and said, entirely seriously, ‘So, despite it all, a totally successful Christmas’.

Was this ‘Fake it to make it’? one of the 12 Step slogans I was recently dismissing? Which can work. If you want them to. There is a lot of good in the 12 Step programme but the sheer volume of horror stories related on orange-papers.org tell another story. People need to know the antidote to bad experiences and alternative recovery options.

My current abstinence is enabled by vanity – flatter stomach, not looking eight thousand years old – and the need to avoid the Grim Reaper. There’s also a fanatical penny-pinching delight in what drink no longer costs. This works better – for me – than pious homilies and holding hands with people with whom you have nothing in common. And I’d rather drink green tea with lashings of fat-busting lemon while watching Ray Donovan. You can keep stewed builders tea and a glum browse of 1930s tracts about taking a moral reinventory and the importance of ‘keeping regular’.

And after many years with ketamine and MDMA, alcohol just feels like an expensive lobotomy. On the very rare occasions I succumb to drink the hilarity and relaxation window is soon gone, leaving just dumb aggression – which could have serious legal consequences now I’m running out of Police cautions. Even words on the internet can now get you a custodial sentence.

Link shows possibly inflammatory cartoon of AA member doing research (unconscious drunk on floor) contrasted with Harms Reduction member researching at computer, jotting down information.
Perhaps harsh – let’s not forget ‘Whatever works’. If you’re happy submitting to the group, God or a higher power then get on your knees as recommended by some 12 Steppers. I’ve done it. The handful of meetings I attended helped the eight and a half years abstinence. But the hair shirt doesn’t suit me. I’m standing on my own two feet.

Health and strength to the people for whom it works but if you don’t want to be guilt-tripped by uptight slogan-junkies other options are available.
Whatever works.
You could even mix the different approaches. Might make a good cocktail…

Upside of Robin Williams’ Suicide? Orange Papers. Communal exorcism for recovering 12 Steppers

Sincere condolences to Robin Williams’ family and friends. Many thanks for much entertainment and enlightenment.

In the wake of this tragic event a Doctor wrote, ‘Depression is a terminal illness’. Thanks, mate. I was already massively bummed out – for if Robin Williams couldn’t fix it then who can? The Quack might have put that a little less bleakly. Well, I’ve been on death row for more than fortyfive years now.
I’m aware there may be no cure for depression, not for everyone, not all of the time. But it can be managed. Unfortunately I’m about as much use as a BBC middle management drone, without the salary or the job security. Although, like them, I have this position for life.

Robin Williams’ death hurt, especially coming at a time of particularly grim world news. I had a wallow in gloom and doom. Then a Facebook friend mentioned that the troubled star had been back in AA. It hadn’t worked and look what happened. Is their policy of belittling and breaking down new recruits correct? Is it even safe, if you’re especially vulnerable? (My own guess would include a possible anti-depressant malfunction, which can also trigger suicidal thoughts). She cited Orange Papers, an online resource where people seek abstinence or moderation through logic and scientific analysis. Mostly they have a blast sharing 12 Step horror stories, a sort of communal exorcism.

So, sorry to be selfish, but I was guided to something positive as a result of his death. (You could also say, to be appropriately respectful to a great man: he is free of pain, he lived ten lifetimes in one, he excelled in more ways than he could initially have hoped for, he grew as an artist, he helped many people not just with his work, he experienced reciprocated love, and he had children, which is most of what the universe wants us to do. All in all, one of evolution’s finest products.)

While we’re bitching at 12 step it’s worth mentioning the rational variation: Smartrecovery.org – all the benefits of group recovery without God Junkies preaching and leeching. 12 step may work for you, although there is no statistical evidence to prove it’s any better than willpower. You’re more likely to meet a Christian vampire getting high from spreading the gospel. Hey! Physician, heal thyself. Get a dopamine hit from something else. Model trains. Mini golf. Cultivate your own garden.

So if you feel you have been used or abused by 12 step groups, or if it didn’t work for you and you want to know why, a veteran will tell you all you need to know – and sometimes more 🙂 – at http://www.orange-papers.org/ Also on Facebook.

If you’ve been affected by suicide, particularly the inexplicable choice made by someone who had everything to live for, find a sympathetic friend or a professional who can help. Don’t read Night Train by Martin Amis – which just muddies the waters, unless you’re determined to top yourself, in which case fill your boots.

This short, clumsy novel is deliberately inconclusive, and the ending doesn’t make sense, in the unlikely event you can work out what is actually happening. Art imitating life? Or just shoddy and slapdash? – what you’d expect from an experimental writer whose chief concern is looking clever. H’mm, more than ten years since I read it and I’m still furious.

LIFE AFFIRMING FINISH. (fade up happy music. Cue dancing girls) Currently I’m feeling mildly positive: exercising more, just got a big SAD light therapy lamp (only £50 + p+p as opposed to the £100 I paid twenty years ago.http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B000YSDHZ8/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o09_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1, hardly any drink or drug use this year, further improvements to my diet. Things are getting better, despite the serious long term challenges, And I’m convinced that pumpkin seeds are improving, ahem, male vitality. (Could be the zinc.)

Maybe depression is a terminal illness. But remission feels good. You’ll have to drag me aboard the Night Train. I’m not buying my own ticket.

http://www.smartrecovery.org.uk/ ‘We help people recover from addictive behaviour and lead meaningful and satisfying lives.

Our approach is secular and science based; using motivational, behavioural and cognitive methods.

We run a network of self help meetings and also partner with care professionals.’