Dear Mr. SponsorPants,
I haven't had a drink in [well over six months] nor have I [done my other drug of choice] during that same time. However [not too long ago] I had to have [a minor medical proceedure] and was given percocet. It's not my first experience with that drug in fact I did have an opiate addiction at one time. I'm not taking percocet now but I am, on a daily basis, taking pills that contain codeine. I take between 20 and 30 in a day. Truth is I'm addicted and want to stop. When I quit opiates in the past I'd just drink like crazy through the four days of withdrawal. That's not an option this time. It is possible to taper off these things and really minimize the effects of withdrawal. But there are other problems. I'm feeling like a fraud at my meetings. I haven't told anybody about this because I figured it wasn't going to last. I'm not really praying or taking care of my spiritual life the way I know I should. I'd like to get back on the AA wagon - it's the dishonesty that's really killing me.
When 12 Step literature describes addiction as "cunning, baffling and powerful" it's not just a clever turn of phrase. You are, as you've admitted to yourself and in your email, in active addiction and that is a painful, terrible place to be.
And, not to put too fine a point on it, your life is in real jeopardy. This is not just a case of "getting your shit together" -- your life is on the line. Now, that fact rarely helps people get sober. If it did, the first time I was driving drunk and came out of a blackout heading for a tree (narrowly missing it) I would have thought, "Wow, I could die if I keep on like this! I better stop!" instead of what I actually thought, which was something like "Wow, that road is too hard to drive when I've been out. I better find a different way to go!" This was when I was 16 -- there were many other near-death, near-tragedy experiences along the way, and not one of them penetrated my consciousness enough to get me to stop. Because this is the "baffling nature" of addiction. This is the "curious mental blank spot" which the Big Book talks about. We are unable to recall "with sufficient force" the consequences of our drinking (using) -- in other words, the things which happen to us don't impact us nearly enough to get us to stop.
So although you did not mention anything in your email about driving under the influence or any other "major" risks, there are plenty of death certificates out there which read "fell asleep while smoking" or "head injury as a result of fall out of window" or a hundred other things where ultimately the coroner's report should say "addiction." I know what an old granny that paragraph makes me sound like -- but frankly, I've been to enough funerals to not really care.
Let me say the tough thing first, just to get it out of the way. Please know that although I am being direct there is not one single solitary molecule of judgment in this, because if you have poked around here you know that I was in a somewhat similar situation once.
Ready? Here it is:
When I feel like a fraud it is because I am not being honest about something important or with people important to me. And I'm sorry but that's what's happening to you in your meetings. You feel like a fraud because you are being a fraud. I know the fear of judgment, the ego, the desire to feel clean with it but the unwillingness to disclose, the concern that the people you're close to will be angry, or feel betrayed, or will reject you, or the hundred other ways addiction weaves a barrier made of fear and ego to prevent you from opening your mouth... but the only way to feel honest is to be honest. And until you are, I'm very much afraid that you blunt the force of your AA meeting experience. (Not to mention that under the best of circumstances I avoid things that make me unhappy, uncomfortable or cause me pain, so you're quite possibly creating a great scenario in which you eventually avoid meetings altogether.)
And if, on some vain level you don't want to "give up your time" -- a reason both silly and serious to a lot of people -- well, I'm afraid you're not giving up any time, because you don't currently have it. You're not clean, X. Yes, you haven't had a drink or done that other thing in more than six months but that's like saying I haven't murdered anyone in their twenties for the past six months, I've only been murdering people in their thirties.
So the first thing to do, before you get into figuring out how to detox or anything else, is to pick ONE person in your life and tell them the truth. It will be hard, so let me help you get started.
I have a secret and it's hard for me to say, so please don't interrupt me or freak out after I say it, just let me get it out I need to say it out loud. I've relapsed. I've been taking 20 to 30 X's a day, and they have codeine in them. So I'm not sober and I've been afraid to tell anyone that I'm using, so I'm starting with you. I need to get clean again.
My experience is that once I start telling the truth face-to-face, it is much easier to do it again. Easier is not "easy" but easier is better than not at all.
Next, I believe you need a medically supervised detox. You are right. Drinking your way through the detox is not an option, obviously. But as an addict in active addiction the phenomenon of craving is alive and working on you, and the idea of "tapering off" on your own... well, it is possible I guess, and I certainly want to be supportive of any plan that gets you clean again, but I just don't see it as the best plan.
If the idea of getting involved in some sort of medically supervised detox sounds like "too big a deal" to you, please scroll up and refer to the part about dying again. This is about setting yourself up for success in getting clean. Doing it on your own, in secret, or downplaying how hard it is to kick, is not exactly setting yourself up for success, in my humble opinion.
The part of you that says you should start next week, or Monday, or after you use up what you already bought, or anything like that, isn't really you talking. IT'S YOUR ADDICTION TALKING, doing a perfect impersonation of your own voice in your head. To people who are not addicts that idea may sound fanciful, dramatic or crazy, but you're an addict, you know exactly how true that is.
Which is why you need to start this by being honest, out loud, face-to-face with someone as soon as possible. Shining the light on that thinking in such a way shows it for the lie that it is.
If there is absolutely no kind of qualified health care professional available to you, for financial or other reasons, then a detox partner is what you need. Someone holding for you and giving you the pills on a schedule, tapering you off over a set number of days. But this is serious business, and it is much, much better to involve some kind of health care professional.
Last in what I'm writing but first in what you need to do is to ask for spiritual help. To people outside the 12 Step world this idea is tantamount to suggesting someone pray away chickenpox rather than go to a doctor. What we know is that we are not using a spiritual solution instead of doing other things, we are using a spiritual connection to help us do those other things. In this case, your first "other things" are being honest face-to-face with someone, and secondly being willing to take action right away.
If you pray for help, help WILL come. It may not look like you thought it would, or be the way you want it, but it will come.
Please do not delay. Remember some of your thinking about important things is upside down and backwards right now, because you are in your addiction. For most of us when we are where you are, it is 49% want to keep using and 51% want to get clean. Listen to that one percent of you that wants to live, and don't let it be drowned out by the conniving addict inside you.
You are not doomed to a life of using, or relapse. There are many days of freedom and happiness ahead of you -- days in which this painful, fearful, difficult time will actually be used to help other people get through their own problems with honesty and recovery.
Pray to God -- as you understand God -- for help. And know this:
Right now, after I finish typing this sentence, I am praying for God to help you too.