I have a short story to tell.
I grew up in a really small town and hadn’t been exposed to anything stronger than Lucky Beer. When I was a young man (18) I moved to the big city in my parts to go to university. My parents tried to find me a place to live and got me a room in a block house near the school. I started off in the basement of this place sharing a kitchen, and bathroom with some messed up people. A wife beater, an ex-child molester(is there such a thing?), and this really wired electrician named Jim. The landlord knew I didn’t fit in, so she moved me upstairs after a couple of weeks. But I couldn’t avoid Jim. He was witty, and so I thought, full of energy.
I had a small Nissan Micra, and he needed someone to drive him around to job sites as he didn’t have a car (that should have been the first clue, a contractor without transportation!). So, he paid me $10/hour to drive him around(good money back then) and even help him on the job sites installing security systems in my spare time. But something wasn’t quite right. Sometimes he would come up with these odd stories. Like, he needed to pick up some parts later in the evening for an upcoming job, and wanted me to drive him there. I would park on some back street, while he went into a house. I would wait around listening to music and he would come out with nothing, but he would be wired! I had no fucking idea that he was high.
Turns out that Jim was an IV cocaine addict. To me, it was like he had just drank 10 cups of coffee. I really had no clue. He would ask to borrow money off me to get supplies for an upcoming job, and would promise to pay me back when the job got finished. I was too nice to say no. He of course was using the money to shoot up and keep his habit going. I guess not having a car to get to work, and doing drugs a lot kind of makes a steady income difficult. I can see now why he saw me as an opportunity! Gullible guy with car & money…Jackpot.
He would give me big hunks of hash as a bonus, but I rarely got paid real money. I didn’t know what to do with the hash, so I threw it out…
This went on for a couple of months til Xmas break, and off I went to see the folks. When I got back in the New Year, I had a call from Jim’s brother. Jim was in the hospital. That was when he told me that Jim had OD’d on coke. I was floored. Jim had felt really bad about screwing me over, and wanted me to visit him in the facility. I was just too nice to say no(see a trend?). So, off I went to this rehab place. It turned out that Jim had considered me a codependent(in other words, I was a naive idiot), and had me attend meetings at alcoholic anonymous, and narcotics anonymous. That is where I got exposed to the weird cult of AA and NA and some messed up people. They were all smoking like chimneys, and drinking tons of coffee at the meetings. Moving from one addiction to the next…
A lot of their stories were pretty fucked up, and everyone’s conversations sounded scripted. “Hi, my name is Jim, and I’ve been sober for 14 days.” “Hi Jim.” And so on. I really felt like I was in some back woods church, or they were all secretly robots or aliens about to spring a surprise on me. Lots of god talk, and reciting passages from the bible and some other books, and people confessing their sins. I politely stayed to the end of the group of meetings, and left fairly freaked out. I never saw Jim again.
A few weeks later, I got a call from Jim’s brother again. Jim was dead. I guess the group therapy didn’t help him. Jim’s brother felt bad that I had been screwed out of a bunch of money, so he let me take Jim’s TV as back payment. It wasn’t until later that I realized that I could have been hurt or killed hanging out with this guy. Driving around Vancouver with some high coke head, dropping him off at crack houses, and Jim probably carried around a stash on the way home.
That is part of getting life experience I guess, so since then I have been quite cynical when meeting people, and I suppose I have Jim to thank for those times when I don’t take crooks at face value. It probably helps me in my job as a lender! Thank you Jim.
The lessons I learned going into my 20s have made me realize that hard drugs are to be avoided at all costs, and that I must never become addicted to alcohol. I would be in deep trouble! AA and NA are too churchy for me, I couldn’t give myself to a higher power. Looks like it didn’t work for Jim either…
I don’t know if they are cults in the traditional sense, and I am sure that they work for some people. But it gets me to think that maybe there needs to be better programs out there for addicts to get help. Are there any other addiction programs that have a better success rate? Must it be that you have to pledge yourself to an imaginary friend to get through, or can you make it if you are well taken care of?
To end, here is a link to an article on the 12 steps of AA, and why AA may just be a cult. Cheers.
Mohr exposes the AA movement for what it really is: “a religious cult masquerading as a self-help group”. Like most people, I was generally aware of AA’s 12 step program but I had never actually read what the 12 steps entailed. They are as follows: