Prescription Drugs and Painkillers in Alcoholics Anonymous

Submitted by on Saturday, August 17, 201312 Comments
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Prescription Painkillers are on the Rise in the United States

I see them in use at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. I see drug dealers peddling their pills at A.A. I see ‘Sponsors’ of new A.A. members nodding out in meetings and slurring out their version of sobriety. I see people using their Vicodin, Percocet, Lortab telling others how to stay sober (not mentioning their Rx’d help of course) and how great sobriety is; All the while with newcomers to the land of Alcoholics Anonymous gravitating toward them for the ‘magical cure.’

And as anyone with any experience in the Land of the A.A. Group will tell you, drug addicts hide out in A.A. Easy to claim, “No alcohol in 30 days” when a little help from ‘legitimate pills’ (or any mind-altering substance; marijuana, crack, heroin, meth…) can keep this technicality a well-hidden and non-conscience bothering secret. If you are a new A.A. member or ever consider going to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, feel free to use your intuitive voice, your HSP senses, or your logical mind to deduce whether you can rely on someone for guidance.

And with all that being said, this is not a post opposed to pain relief, painkillers or drugs. It’s not; I like drugs. I highly recommend them when it’s necessary or for benefit. I like my drugs in the form of coffee, artificial sweetener and preservatives in my junk food. I like drugs when I hurt my back, can’t walk, and a doctor writes out a script of Vicodin onto me. I love the drugs when I’ve just had eye surgery and the Percocet brings sweet sweet relief.

So, like I said, I’m not an anti-drug advocate but I am a disillusioning advocate.

To the universal theme, this IS a post opposed to illusions within any relationship that have otherwise sane people co-participating in relationships feeling like they might be going crazy (for no ‘apparent’ reason). So in a phrase, this is really a post about Codependent and Alcoholic Recovery, for discovering your own authenticity while trying to gain your sobriety in the process.

Rx Drugs - Hydrocodone and Vicodin on the rise

From the ABC Article: http://bit.ly/RxPainkillers

“It is unclear if Americans are suffering from more pain than ever, but they are definitely getting more prescriptions for it. The use of Vicodin, the most popular pain relief drug in the country, has grown dramatically from 112 million doses prescribed in 2006, to 131 million in the U.S. today, according to a national survey done by the consulting firm IMS Health.

Experts say most of those prescriptions are unnecessary. The United States makes up only 4.6 percent of the world’s population, but consumes 80 percent of its opioids — and 99 percent of the world’s hydrocodone, the opiate that is in Vicodin.”

This is a topic that I am impassioned about in order to raise awareness that JUST BECAUSE any mind-altering substance is PRESCRIBED by a doctor or is MADE by an FDA approved pharmaceutical company, it does NOT mean you or your relationships are SAFE if these medications are abused, misused, over-prescribed, or if they use their doctor as their best drug dealer, OR use their drug dealer as their doctor.

“My best drug dealer was my doctor.” ~ Heard in a Narcotics Anonymous meeting.

Is Prescription Drug Abuse Hallmarking Your Relationships?

The following behaviors or hints pointing to drug abuse or misuse can also be pointing to alcoholism. But because alcoholism has grown socially acceptable to ‘hide in plain sight’ people may not take the pains to hide it as well as their drug use.

Online: Do you notice when some of your online friends or family post erratic statuses or messages in social media? Do you notice personality changes for no apparent reason? One moment they are full of love, light, and frivolity while the next moment it’s like all sorts of hell has broken loose? Do they seem to have no issue starting online wars or provoking people into reaction? Have you noticed their browser cache (history) poking around at online pharmacies? Some people are more comfortable being high in the privacy of their home where they think no one will notice, but if they belong to social media it may be apparent they’re not hiding as well as they think.

Offline: Are their lives often in constant chaos? Are there tears without seeming provocation? Do they blame others for their problems? Is anger or YOUR walking on eggshells a hallmark of your relationship with them? Do they disappear from your life for periods at a time? Do you notice nodding out, slow blinking, or slurred speech? Has their make-up gotten ‘muchier’ or messier? How are their pupils looking? Has hygiene or grooming either taken a back seat or changed to reflect a stark difference for no apparent reason? Do they often have or complain of money problems? Do they look down with disdain at ‘other’ so-called drug addicts because others use ‘street drugs?’ Do you notice how often they’re at the ER or a doctor’s office?

Drug Addiction in Alcoholics Anonymous

Just because someone goes to A.A. meetings (or N.A. meetings for that matter), does not mean they are sober or even seek sobriety. Alcoholics Anonymous is a public place. There are no rosters. There are no dues. There is no roll call. There is no government entity regulating anything like the “Sobriety Police.” All it takes to be a member of Alcoholics Anonymous is a desire to stop drinking. That’s it. And if someone has no such desire to get off alcohol, they can still go to every single meeting – Open OR Closed – and pretend.

With rising prescription drug use (via doctor shopping, the internet, and street dealers) and the black market of street drugs reaching middle class suburbia [See TV: Orange is the New Black, Breaking Bad and Weeds], it’s sometimes seeming as if the primary purpose of some Alcoholics Anonymous groups are losing focus. There is a pamphlet for that focus entitled: Problems other than Alcohol. Don’t take my word it. [Never do that, despite what I say. Read it.]

Pupil Dilation and Constriction via Drugs

For purposes of Sobriety (and also  Codependent recovery), it doesn’t matter why other people are at an AA meeting. But for purposes of – again – your recovery, sobriety, and sanity it MAY benefit you to familiarize yourself WITH the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book and the Twelve Traditions, in tandem with Codependent Recovery literature. [I’ll post some suggested books in the closing of this post.]

Codependent recovery will teach you how to take care of yourself in the face of some of the sicker personalities you may encounter at A.A. meetings; The drug-addict pretending to be sober who has lots of helpful advice, the control freak who uses shame to manipulate you into doing something you’re not ready to do, the charismatic “A.A. Guru” whose identity is comprised of cliche and Cult Speak, the Drug Rehab ‘graduates’ who now know the secrets of the universe because they’ve not shot heroin in 14 days.

In summary when dealing with A.A. personalities: All that matters is that you not seek your sobriety or sanity through another human being who you feel, think, or see is not operating through a sane paradigm.

Trust your intuition. Trust your feelings. Trust your mind. Do not trust belittling. Do not A.A. Pamphlet - Problems other than Alcoholtrust weird cult phraseology. Do not trust group speak. Do not trust what a person says over what they do. If someone “suggests” a thing to you and it’s sitting like a knot in your chest, find the literature that supports it or ask someone else whose sobriety you respect. If there is no A.A. approved literature supporting an alleged A.A. tenet, AND it felt like bullshit or it stung – especially if you’re an alcohol – free HSP – disregard it.

I have zero tolerance for egos getting fat on the backs of the downtrodden. ~ Samsara

For many people, Alcoholics Anonymous is  [or in my case, was] the last stop on the block. But especially because of this reason is no excuse to go in blind and trusting just anyone to help navigate the beginnings of your new life. I have seen more people leave A.A. (as a whole) due to sexual predators, drug addicted insanity, or usually some combination of the two than I want to think about. Neither do I want you going in like its a landmine with danger lurking everywhere; Simply take the words I have written out here, read them once, put them in the memory bank of your noodle, and carry on.  Each A.A. Group is different but the A.A. Text and 12 Steps are the same. So if you are a member of A.A., make the distinction between the principles of A.A. and the personalities of A.A. Hold tight to those who speak the language of the heart and you will succeed in your quest.

RTFM, Read the Literature, Take Reading Suggestions

When all else fails RTFM. [Geek Acronym: Read the Fucking Manual]

Beyond Codependency BookIf you’re in A.A. (or want to be) and someone tells you you will get drunk without A.A. or their version of God, read the Big Book. If someone speaks down to you, read the Big Book’s There is a Solution. Get familiar with The Traditions.

And if you seek a sponsor or someone to assist you with navigating this new thing called sobriety, feel them out. People cannot transmit sobriety if they’re operating from a non-sober mind. Sure they can quote the Big Book but any cult follower can quote the manual; What’s the practical application in your life, though? What’s the practical application in THEIR life?

When things get tough, do they smoke a crack rock or pop a pill to numb it out or do they feel the emotions and walk through it sober? They most likely won’t tell you their drugs are what’s helping them because that would mean losing their A.A. Superstar status. (And the Ego needs stuff, primarily for you to think it has its junk together.)

Books to Help You Navigate

Meetings and people claiming A.A. Membership deviating from the 12 Traditions – while in an A.A. meeting – is why I expanded my meetings and my network of sane people through Codependent Recovery.

In defense of my sobriety is why I read the Big Book, the 12 and 12, When I Say No I Feel Guilty, the Four Agreements and Beyond Codependency when I first got sober. Of course, I had the benefit of a sponsor who was not just sober and obviously mind-altering medication free, but also was treating me in codependent recovery fashion all along. So I was already ahead of the game I feel like.

Recently I refreshed myself with Codependents Guide Through the 12 Steps when I began seeing my A.A. group supporting drug addiction as opposed to sobriety; Supporting sexual predators as opposed to sobriety; Supporting “thought reform” and all other sorts of “group therapy” as opposed to sobriety; And often disregarding the 12 Traditions in lieu of adopting a free – for – all attitude toward any topic whatsoever and adding weird versions of “Let’s play psychiatrist” into the mix. I am loathe to add that the newer people simply do not know any better due to what I perceive as a “Strung Out Sponsorship” by strung out people pretending to be sober. And so it’s for these guys and future A.A. candidates I want to keep A.A. as safe a place as much as possible. [And keep looking. When you find the one walking the talk, follow her.]

Alcoholics Anonymous Singleness of Purpose

Conclusion

It’s my experience and, Codie book author, Melody Beattie’s opinion also, according to one particular book of hers I read – that beneath every true alcoholic is a whole mess of codependency. And in my life patterns I have been able to see with clarity this is true to for me. I have seen my people-pleasing, eggshell walking, and naivete and confusion of people actually saying one thing but being or doing another. [I primarily ‘blame’ the HSP for the confusion since I notice not all people seem to suffer the same confusion.]

In my quest for sobriety, I had to Recover from Codependency at almost the same rate as I gained sobriety. For several reasons, I had no choice. Because this was the beginning of the end of Insanity, I was no longer willing to keep my comfort in exchange for healing my life.

“Better to walk through hell than to stay chained to demons.” ~ Samsara

“Better to walk through hell than stay chained to demons.” ~ Samsara

[ Living Samsara on Facebook | Codependent Recovery on Facebook ]

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12 Comments »

  • Trampas Graham said:

    I am shocked! I have attended AA meetings for about ten years now, and throughout that time I have encountered and experienced all of the behavior you mention in this article–and yet I am shocked because I have never read or heard another person speak out the way this article does. I have had a difficult time with sobriety, staying sober for three years and then continually relapsing for four (even while attending AA meetings) only to stop going to AA meetings altogether and staying sober for the last three years. Today, I go to an AA meeting occasionally (lately it’s been once a week) only to encounter the same cult-speak, let’s play psychiatrist, and you won’t stay sober without AA and if you do you’ll be miserable. The difference is that today I am not as affected by it simply because I have been sober for several years now. I finally found a therapist who understands my road, and what I have done with regards to sobriety, but even finding such a therapist took many, many tries. I just wanted to remark that your article was shocking, and I wanted to thank you for writing it.
    Recently I have found myself saying No to people in my life, and it feels quite empowering. I am thankful that I am no longer that desperate, quivering human being who would say ‘yes’ and people-please out of sheer fear and desperation, only to find myself in a worse predicament because I was trying to please some very sick people. Thank you again,
    Trampas G.

  • Samsara (author) said:

    Trampas, all I can say is that you have made my day.

    Okay I lied. :-)

    I also want to say my path is similar to yours with the whole “No” being empowerment and this too:

    “Today, I go to an AA meeting occasionally (lately it’s been once a week) only to encounter the same cult-speak, let’s play psychiatrist, and you won’t stay sober without AA and if you do you’ll be miserable.”

    My sanity cannot handle or ignore (anymore) the inculcation of the cult-speak and the everything else you mentioned and this article was just a matter of time [literally]; I could not have written it earlier because I was still dealing with resentments regarding the above. And yeah, so it took a few years to figure it out and then a few more to nail it out.

    Also I guess I wrote it because I’ve never seen it mentioned either.

    I have seen people refer to A.A. as a Cult {of course} and now I know why and can enumerate the reasons. But the problem, then, I could not reconcile within my mind until a few years ago was why – if I am so anti-cult (and I am) – WHY did I still go to meetings and why do I credit A.A. with helping me gain sobriety?

    I guess I was about a year sober (2004) when it occurred to me it WAS a Cult when – after a timely series of unfortunate cult-like events – I heard someone say, “If I don’t put my butt in this chair every single day, I am going to get drunk again.” So that when the Group-Speak reflected back their agreement I decided to stop going, left A.A. and stayed happily and joyfully sober.

    Secure in my sobriety and with my sponsor desiring of my participation in Al-Anon, I did that next. Gaining comfort in “people recovery” and an increasing comfort – like you – in saying ‘No’ I went back to A.A. to (see my friends and) be there for newcomers.

    As they say, “Ignorance is Bliss” so that with my new-found health (probably much like yours with your therapist) I saw even MORE dis-ease and impoverished souls just ping-ponging the hell out of itself.

    And I have no illusions that this article will start any mass movement toward A.A.’s fellowship health BUT I do have hope that like with you it may resonate with others who see the same thing AND, if we’re lucky, some newcomers may stumble upon it and not feel alone, isolated, or defenseless for when they see the train to Crazyland coming to take them away.

    Cheers to your well-earned sobriety Trampas!

    PS. I am also very much grateful I, too, am no longer that desperate, quivering human being who would say ‘yes’ and people-please out of sheer fear and desperation, only to find myself in a worse predicament because I was trying to please some very sick people. What a shit place to be in and only the Free know the difference. {{hugs}}

  • 4D said:

    There is a white elephant in the rooms!

  • Samsara (author) said:

    I very much agree 4D. Ignoring it, like in any good codie dysfunctional relationship, will not make it go away. Thank you for your comment.

  • Daniel D said:

    What a great post on Alcoholics Anonymous! I myself have been sober now for over 16 years, One Day at a Time, I love the part when you mention trust your gut, and if it feels like a knot in your chest get the literature to back it up. I actually sit down with my pigeons and warn them about who they share with and to trust thier gut when they here things. Great post!

    Daniel D
    http://AlcoholicsAnonymousRecoveryJewelry.com

  • Samsara (author) said:

    That is REALLY wonderful to hear Daniel. Thank you for not just validating this ‘witness to the problem’ but also for carrying the message. Thank you VERY much.

  • Kathy said:

    I discovered your website yesterday and have spent a good part of my evening reading through posts – each one resonating with my experience in recovery.

    I’ve been sober for eight months after drinking for 35 years. To say I’m having a spiritual awakening is an understatement. It’s a gift beyond my wildest imaginings. I’m doing the aa thing and am extremely thankful for a core group of individuals who have provided guidance, trustworthy friendship and true kindness. Very good people that work their programs and live life fully in and out of aa. I’m intellectually and spiritually tuned into the steps. I like the program and attribute my sobriety to it

    It’s the crazy making things I observe that had me questioning my sanity. Reading your story really puts my mind at ease. Yes there are some clearly unhealthy individuals in the meetings. Mental illness that isn’t immediately recognizable. Drug use resulting in erratic behavior. Angry people with 20 plus years of sobriety. I was so emotionally vulnerable when coming in I’m amazed I somehow filtered all that energy out enough to keep going until I was more mentally clear headed

    I’ve parted ways with two sponsors. Extremely difficult for me to do and I have continued to question my ‘thinking’. Like maybe I need to be more teachable like the last one told me. Now I realize how absurd it was for her to even say that. By definition were all teachable and learning along every step of the journey. She just didn’t like that I questioned what she was telling me. Her ego needed to put it back on me.

    I really appreciate your stating in one of your posts that we don’t need to be able to articulate a reason for knowing something is harming us. It’s enough that we know and can trust that. I have extremely strong intuitive responses to situations and people. I also have a very difficult time drawing any boundaries in relationships with people that are hurting me even though I’m self aware enough to see it happening. The lack of descriptive words keeps me paralyzed.

    I was questioning the whole program because of these negative experiences. I’m feeling much more positive about sticking with people that are supporting me and leaving the rest (and not feeling guilty about it!) The accessibility of aa changed my life in an instant. I can be ok with the messiness of aa keeping in mind it’s my recovery and trusting my internal compass.

  • Samsara (author) said:

    Wow Kathy!

    I really appreciate your stating in one of your posts that we don’t need to be able to articulate a reason for knowing something is harming us. It’s enough that we know and can trust that.

    I am very happy you appreciate that. I hope the message permeates to all.

    I have extremely strong intuitive responses to situations and people. I also have a very difficult time drawing any boundaries in relationships with people that are hurting me even though I’m self aware enough to see it happening. The lack of descriptive words keeps me paralyzed.

    Yes! You just told my story. This is why I went delving into the HSP Land (due to an introverted, yet aware and lacking words personality) and then eventually Codependent Recovery; My sobriety depended on gaining a clearer understanding of myself.

    This is beautiful to read: I was questioning the whole program because of these negative experiences. I’m feeling much more positive about sticking with people that are supporting me and leaving the rest (and not feeling guilty about it!) The accessibility of aa changed my life in an instant. I can be ok with the messiness of aa keeping in mind it’s my recovery and trusting my internal compass.

    It’s a Sunday morning and I really think you have already made my day. I really am unsure if anything could have begun my day better than to have my hot cup of coffee on this chilly morning and to read such a powerful message. I’ll raise a cup to you, Kathy.

    Much love & gratitude. Namaste.

  • Ed T said:

    As a practicing pharmacist (in more than one sense), I knew exactly which medications could be abused. I was addicted to alcohol, opiates, tranquilizers and sedatives. When I came to AA to escape prison, one of the old times always prefaced her sobriety date and stating she had not drank or used any drugs as a substitute for alcohol. At none months sober, I had to get several teeth pulled and the dentist gave me a prescription for Percocet. I took one dose, experienced minor pain relief and immediately started thinking I should hide, stay isolated and escape. I immediately flushed the rest of the prescription down the toilet because those thoughts were very familiar. I consider that experience a strong confirmation that any drug I abused before I got sober was not safe for me. Fortunately, in the last 26 years, I’ve found that normal pain killers like Aleve work well enough, even with significant injuries. I agree that there is not enough discussions in the rooms about the dangerous of drugs for the alcoholic.

    My wife, who only drank, is also an alcoholic and does not suffer the same reaction to painkillers as I do. She takes them as directed and only with great reluctance. With respect to drugs, I look at her with the same skepticism as people who would leave half a drink on the table.

    I love what you write about codependency. That has been the hardest part of my recovery. Simply not drinking or drugging is an important first step, but my challenges with stopping destructive behavior in relationships and with building healthy relationships has taken a long time. The first time I ever told somebody “no”, I shook very badly and I wanted to vomit. Learning boundaries while being compassionate is a very complex affair. I learned the most about myself when I started to study my relationships and the multiple ways I could destroy them. The more I learned, the more I could relate to the Christine Lavin song “Victim-Volunteer.”

    One phrase helped me early on. “Everybody does something for two reasons; a good reason and the real reason.” Although simplistic in most situations, until I admit to the real reasons, I always continue the behavior. I enjoy your blog!

  • Samsara (author) said:

    The first time I ever told somebody “no”, I shook very badly and I wanted to vomit. Learning boundaries while being compassionate is a very complex affair.

    THANK you! Thank YOU for saying that! I remember the same feeling; shaking on the inside (maybe outside, too), wanting to vomit, knowing I was going to get decimated. I was petrified of saying “No” to a situation I wanted and needed to say no to. But I wasn’t decimated and side note was, I did not vomit and in retrospect I get it would have been okay if I did. :)

    And in the beginning of Codie Recovery I had been mad enough to not need to worry about the compassion but today, like you say, it is indeed a complex affair because I am no longer mad. [Sometimes we do need to get good and mad don’t we? ;) ]

    At nine months sober, I had to get several teeth pulled and the dentist gave me a prescription for Percocet. I took one dose, experienced minor pain relief and immediately started thinking I should hide, stay isolated and escape. I immediately flushed the rest of the prescription down the toilet because those thoughts were very familiar. I consider that experience a strong confirmation that any drug I abused before I got sober was not safe for me.

    What a testimony.

    Thank you, Ed.

  • Brian said:

    Yea, lots of active drug users in aa. I like Talbots list of substances we should not use.see online. Any alcoholic who dn go through an addictionologist prio to even using pseudophed is a ——. The list is a tiered one.

    A lot ( most) people in recovery don’t really understand the dopaminergic theory ie n accumbens/ bra paths etc.

    I’ve been sober a year now. In and out since 84′. Diff this time is I’m working all steps and naturally as I’ve looked at my flaws, I’m looking at yours too. 1st 2 sponsors had 30 years and were on crack/ lortab still!!!.

    Now I have one who is on another rx dea 3. He still gives decent advice. I think to be successfull in recovery, we need to look at simalarities though. Having said that, crowd psyc. Is powerfull and we should not tolerate drugs ie dea 1-5 in aa. We should try to run people out soon as they le u know they take lortab, adderall/ klonopin ie dea 1-5 ( unless they want to quit.

    Aa will only survive if it integrates with modern disease concept. Ie alcohol, caffiene steroids dea 1-5”s, talbot list

    For me, you need to take a sponsors inventory and see if they use. Do they exercise and take care of self. Do they do drugs. I honestly would/ may consider a sponsor who understands program but is not and alcoholic. You/ me/ we need a sponsor who is abstinent from all mood altering chem.

    Of course the perv types are something else- rec to approach law enforc. W this one- quickly.

  • Samsara (author) said:

    Congratulations on your sobriety Brian. It sounds like that with your understanding and education, you’re a valuable asset to newcomers in AA who are told to *NOT* take others inventory (which we may or may not do anyway).

    I absolutely am going to make judgements about someone I want to sponsor me. To unflinchingly trust anyone’s words over or instead of their actions of hypocrisy is misleading or deluding myself – which I’d done enough of with alcohol.

    1st 2 sponsors had 30 years and were on crack/ lortab still!!!.

    They claimed they had 30 years while addicted to and/or high from mind-alering chemicals. It may be a small thing but I see so many people in the rooms of AA claiming themselves as members when – in truth – they’re not sober.

    And, for my sobriety, I must make this distinction lest I mislead those who come after me into thinking that one’s words (ego delusions) are more valuable than their actions (truth) when it comes to recovery.

    And this lesson I can bring with me through life.

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts here.

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