Denial, that old Egyptian river. It is the principle symptom of active addiction. This is why addiction is often described as the disease that tells you that you haven't got it. Denial often sneaks in after entering recovery. When I went in rehab my addictions were to what I called a beverage and little items I always referred to as medicine. In rehab I learned that a mood altering drug (MAD) is a drug. Still, in those early months of recovery in NA, various complaints came out of my mouth as though I was impersonating a stupidity generator:
"When I got clean there were no wine spritzers, and that was before Coors came to my state."
"In rehab I learned about a whole lot of drugs I never got in trouble with. Maybe . . ."
"I know a guy in Al-Anon who told me he goes to Al-Anon so he can get the program and he doesn't have to stop drinking."
And then I listened to my sponsor who quit Narcotics Anonymous and joined Alcoholics Anonymous so that he "could smoke pot and it would be okay."
That was a rough number of weeks for me, but not quite as rough as it was for my ex-sponsor. It took three weeks, but during that period his wife left him, he lost his job, he dropped out of AA, and he seems to have vanished. No one who knows him knows where he is. Perhaps he returned to the program. It's a hope. What he was doing so many years ago is what a famous country singer has recently referred to as being "California sober," which is defined as "Not drinking or using hard drugs, but continuing with marijuana and psychedelics." By that token I suppose "California Clean" would be putting down pot and mushrooms and confining one's use to fentanyl laced alcohol and compulsive gambling.
It was dangerous forty-one years ago when I got clean. Dragon smoke always comes in the form of denial: rationalizing dangerous drugs into that group of things that it is okay to use. The consequences now, in the end, are the same: The Graybar Hotel, the padded room, or the graveyard. The consequences today, however, come quicker and more severely. Way back alkies, potheads, methroids, and pill poppers on average had a good many years to collect data such as unemployment, wrecked relationships, heart attacks, liver problems, money problems, a tour or two in the House of Slams, and eventually all the freedom, joys, and infections to experience in curbside living. I can't say that we had it easy, but we had it more slowly.
Today's addicts, many of them, do not have the time to put together a war story for when they finally make it into the program. That is mostly because they are dead. The fentanyl miracle: For many it is a one-pop solution to all of one's problems. It may not work as quickly as sodium cyanide, it might feel better for a moment (I don't know. Dead dudes tell no tales), but it all winds up in a hole in the ground. On top of that is the well publicized abilities possessed by everyone to become whoever, whatever, and wherever they want simply by playing with words, particularly definitions.
Each person, you see, can develop his, hers, or its individual "truth." Such "truths" have little to do with empirical evidence, and anytime you feel the need to be called a terrible name, point out most of these "truths" have nothing to do with reality. I mention it here because in recovery from addiction, the addict cannot afford to play around with semantics. The recovering addict needs a firm grip on reality. There are some hard truths we have to live by if we want to live, grow, and be happy. If you do not know what these truths are, go to a meeting, call your sponsor, work the Steps. If you do not go to NA meetings, or you do not have a sponsor, or for some reason haven't gotten around to the Steps, it would appear to be time for a change. Don't pick up, go to meetings, ask for help. That is the beginning lesson in fighting the meanest and sneakiest disease on the planet: Addiction.
I pray for the best for everyone who reads this, but if you are an addict, if you are not on your own team, my prayers won't do you a lick of good. You can pick your age, your sex, your occupation, your lifestyle, and political leanings. If you are an addict, though, your disease has picked you and it does not care at all about the identity you picked. What you do about that in the real world will determine the kind and degree of fantasies you can bring to reality in the future.
Stay smart, stay safe, and stay clean. And if the idea of California Clean begins to look appealing, take a look at California's definition of "clean." Our brothers and sisters in the homeless encampments may be willing to give you a tour.