When the World Doesn’t Measure Up to Our Expectations

There’s some truly excellent personal development advice in 12 Steps programs. I feel this advice applies to everyone, not just those in recovery from addiction.

The Very Best…

Here’s a great example of the very best advice in Narcotics Anonymous. As you read this quote, I’d encourage you to see the ways in which it applies to your own life:

“There are days when some of us wallow in self-pity. It’s easy to do. We may have expectations about how our lives should be, expectations that aren’t always met. Maybe we’ve tried unsuccessfully to control someone, or we think our circumstances should be different. Perhaps we’ve compared ourselves with others and found ourselves lacking. The more we try to make our life conform to our expectations, the more uncomfortable we feel. Self-pity can arise from living in our expectations instead of in the world as it actually is.

When the world doesn’t measure up to our expectations, it’s often our expectations that need adjusting, not the world. We can start by comparing our lives today with the way they used to be, developing gratitude for our current circumstances. We can extend this exercise in gratitude by counting the good things in our lives, becoming thankful that the world does not conform to our expectations but exceeds them. And if we further cultivate gratitude and acceptance, what we can expect in the future is more growth, more happiness, and more peace of mind.

We’ve been given much in our lives; improving ourselves has paid off. Acceptance of our lives, just for today, frees us from our self-pity.

Just for today: I will accept my life, gratefully, just as it is.”

Extract from a “Just For Today” email from Narcotics Anonymous. I’ve made some minor edits so this applies to non-addicts too.

Isn’t that quote simply amazing! Such good advice!

… And The Less Good

Unfortunately, there are some NA ideas I disagree strongly with. Here’s an example…

“Our recovery must come first. Job or no job, relationship or no relationship, we have to attend meetings, work the steps, call our sponsor, and be of service to God and others. These simple actions are what make it possible for us to have vacations, families, and bosses to worry about. Recovery is the foundation of our lives, making everything else possible.

Just for today: I will keep my priorities in order. Number One on the list is my recovery.

Extract from a “Just For Today” email from Narcotics Anonymous.

The above may be true for most addicts, but I don’t believe it’s true for me.

This is one of the things I dislike the most about NA – it tries to lump together all addicts without making sufficient room for diversity.

Attending meetings, working the 12 steps, calling my sponsor, being of service to others… I can see the value in each of these activities.

However, I see them as merely useful, not essential.

There are other factors which help people stay clean. The NA way isn’t the only way for people to lead meaningful, productive lives. And yet, it claims that it is, which I find a little unsettling.

The Crazy Brain of a Drug Addict

My brain went to some strange places as I lay in bed last night.

It took over two hours for me to get to sleep… my mind raced thanks to a combination of strong coffee and fasting.

I thought mainly about my drug of choice (DXM) and how much I loved it. That drug filled me with joy, enhanced my appreciation of music and conjured up enjoyable hallucinations. Best of all, it made my life feel worth living.

I fantasised about being able to “use successfully” in the future. In other words, in moderation and without any damaging consequences.

Before I knew it, last night I was making plans for when I’d next take DXM. The main complication: I’d have to convince my wife to agree to me taking drugs.

Here’s a quick recap on some of my low points with drugs:

  • A few years ago, my wife and I separated temporarily, partly due to me hiding my drug problem.
  • The comedown from multi-day drug binges has brought me close to suicide several times.
  • I’ve been hospitalised due to drug misadventures 3 or 4 times.
  • After the last time I took DXM in mid-August, I was diagnosed with drug-induced psychosis which lasted for several weeks.
  • A few years ago, after one particularly heavy multi-day drug binge, my cognitive functioning was significantly impaired for several weeks. I could barely hold conversations. Even playing videogames felt too overwhelming. We weren’t sure if the damaging effects would be permanent – luckily they weren’t. My wife and mother in law slowly nursed me back to health.
  • My drug use has directly led to the destruction of several close friendships. Most of them still refuse to talk to me.
  • Oh and my mum was an alcoholic. She was in denial right up until she died… in her 50s, way too young. I don’t particularly want to follow in her footsteps.

After all that trouble, you’d be forgiven for finding it difficult to understand why I still wanted to take drugs.

People in a 12 Steps fellowship might say that my disease wants me dead. A more scientific explanation might be that in certain situations, I exhibit poor judgement and decision-making abilities… an inability to correctly weigh up pros and cons.

Last night, I realised my wife was unlikely to agree to me taking DXM again.

“That’s OK,” I thought to myself, “Just don’t tell her. In fact, you can buy some DXM tomorrow morning and get wasted. She’ll never know.”

For a few moments, that seemed like a truly brilliant idea.

And then, reality hit. What the fuck was I thinking?

Suddenly, it made perfect sense why some people anthropomorphise the disease of addiction. What sane person would possibly think this way? It must be the result of a demon, some conscious supernatural entity disguised in the shape of a disease.

Several months ago, inspired by Dr Jordan Peterson, I decided I wanted to “tell the truth, or at least don’t lie.” I could see the virtue in being as honest and truthful as possible.

I have committed to my wife that I will always tell her the truth. I won’t hide things from her, especially anything related to drugs.

Last night, I “played the tape forward” in my mind. What would happen if I got wasted on DXM?

Well, I’d tell my wife afterwards. She’d be extremely disappointed. I’d ruin the trust I’ve been working hard to rebuild. There’s a good chance she’d leave me and kick me out of our house.

My marriage: ruined.

My self-respect: in tatters.

Worth it? Well, you might find this hard to believe, but last night my brain was still trying to convince me that taking DXM again would be worth these costs.

What. The. Actual. Fuck.

Until this point, I’d been feeling giddy with excitement and anticipation at the thought of getting wasted again. Now, that feeling faded and was replaced with a deep sadness.

I get it now. Finally.

For a few brief moments, I’d been willing to put drugs ahead of my health and my marriage. Thankfully sanity prevailed.

I was reminded of the stages of grief, one of which is “bargaining”. I’d been trying to negotiate with myself to allow me to keep on taking drugs. But that new sense of sadness… that was “acceptance”.

I can’t take drugs again. Ever.

Even if I occasionally get the urge, my wife won’t agree to it. And I’m simply not going to betray her trust again.

I’m a cat who used up his nine lives many years ago. I don’t quite know how I’m still here. I have so many good things in my life, which I’m not sure I deserve after how I’ve behaved in the past.

Many other people in my situation would be divorced, homeless or even dead.

I’m fucking lucky.

Maybe this is what 12 Steps fellowships mean by “surrender” and “powerlessness”. I can’t take drugs any more. I accept that.

I’m guessing that every now and then I may need reminding of that fact. That’s why I have a sponsor. And it’s a good job I’ve committed myself to being honest too.

So, this has been a narrow escape, again. But at least I feel proud that I’ve made the right choice.

Today marks exactly 90 Days of me being clean from drugs. What a day!

F-You, 12 Steps

I both love and hate the 12 Steps.

After quitting the fellowship yesterday (“for good, this time!”), I went to another meeting tonight (again). And it was great, I loved it.

But there’s so much of the dogma and culture which I fucking hate. There are certain things I simply will not subscribe to, certain things I cannot bring myself to say.

I’m not going to mould myself into a starry-eyed 12 Step believer. I can’t fool myself into doing that.

But here’s what I love:

12 Steps is a community of (fucking crazy) people with a common problem, coming together to support and help each other.

And THAT is fucking golden. I just need to find ways of dealing with the rest of the 12 Steps annoying bollocks.

[Note: forgive my swearing, I’ve been fasting today and recently had a strong coffee. It’s having approximately triple the usual effect.]

Things I HATE About the 12 Steps

No, I will not admit I was powerless over my addiction. Tomorrow I won’t have used for 90 days – how the fuck is that powerless?

There is no God or Higher Power. It’s all me, baby. Call me arrogant or conceited, I don’t give a fuck. I got myself to this point, not God.

No, I’m not going to “surrender” or “have faith”. That’s an abdication of my intellectual capabilities. I can and will figure this stuff out, for myself. I will find my own idiosyncratic take on the 12 Steps which works for me. I don’t need to swallow someone else’s generic version, no matter how well-intended.

Most of the “stepwork” involved in the 12 Steps strikes me as mere busy-work. It’s something for addicts to aim towards which will give them a feeling of purpose in their lives.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of value to be extracted from doing the 12 Steps – it makes you into a better person. But it’s not the only way to get a feeling of meaning and purpose in one’s life. And it frustrates the fuck out of me that 12 Steps acts like some kind of religion or cult in this regard.

No, my disease doesn’t talk to me and it doesn’t want me dead. Diseases don’t have personalities.

I don’t even think it’s scientifically accurate to consider addiction as a disease (like 12 Steps insists). I’m certainly not broken. I’m just someone with a drug problem which got out of control. I can and will learn how to get it under control.

I don’t even think I’m an addict. Yes, I’ve done some fucked up shit that’s related to drugs. But I can also go months at a time without using. And most of the time when I used, I fucking loved it – it made my life better. That puts me a fair distance away from the heroin junkies who used every day, against their will, and didn’t even fucking like it.

Anyway, I kinda feel like I’m running out of steam now. The caffeine is wearing off.

There are plenty of other things I dislike about the 12 Steps. But for now, I’m prepared to simply ignore them.

I get a lot out of the social aspects of 12 Steps. It’s helping me to become a better person.

I just don’t need to swallow everything 12 Steps proclaims.

Mixtape Visualiser

I’m a drug addict.

Fortunately, thanks to the 12 Steps, I’m an addict in active recovery.

That means I can’t take drugs ever again, or I’ll be on the fast-track to divorce and homelessness, or maybe even jail, institutions and death.

Fuck, I can’t even drink wine any more.

Cheeky glass of Barefoot White Zinfandel? Nope.

Comforting sips of delicious port over the Christmas holidays? Not a chance.

I love exploring different ideas and experiencing new things. Something I used to love to do was to smash my brain into a different dimension with my drug of choice, DXM. I’d lie on my bed, headphones on, listening to my favourite music. And what I’d experience would be totally out of this world.

Music sounds even better when you’re fucked on DXM. It’s fucking awesome.

But, like I say, I can’t do that any more. Unfortunately.

So, what’s the closest I can get to being fucked off my face and exploring other dimensions inside my own mind, but without taking drugs?


I listen to this mixtape every day. It’s now my favourite piece of music ever.

Bless you, Flume, you take me closer to God.

My First Big Test

Last night I was tested, big time. It was the greatest test of my ability to stay clean since I last relapsed.

So, how did I get on?

Well, the good news is that I stayed clean. But it wasn’t easy.

When a certain set of circumstances co-occur, it can be very triggering for addicts. I felt powerful urges to use my drug of choice, DXM. Last night felt very similar to previous times when I’ve used. It’s like an automatic script gets triggered in my head… Events X, Y and Z have happened, it’s time to use.

It’s actually very humbling – it reminds me how powerful my disease can be. I can’t ever treat it lightly, it can sneak up on me at any time.

To keep myself clean, I distracted myself with food and videogames. And I had great support from my 12 Steps sponsor, my wife and a good friend.

Later, I had a strong urge to drink wine instead. I’ve been telling myself that I’ll be fine with alcohol because I never really had a major problem with it. It’s usually quite easy for me to just have 1 or 2 drinks and then stop.

But at my 12 Steps fellowship, we treat alcohol just like any other drug. And I can see now it was my disease of addiction trying to creep in through the back door.

You see, I know that last night I wouldn’t have just had a single, pleasant glass of wine. I would have downed the whole bottle in less than half an hour, probably forgoing a glass and drinking straight from the bottle. That’s very different from “normal” drinking.

I would have been substituting my urge to take drugs with alcohol. And that’s really not OK.

I mean, I did overeat a bit last night. And that’s not ideal… it’s still me acting out on my addiction urges. But it’s better than getting drunk, and it’s a hell of a lot better than giving in and taking drugs.

One of the things that stopped me giving in to my urge to drink or take drugs… I imagined the look of disappointment in my wife’s face. It’d kill me – she’s been so patient and supportive towards me. She deserves better.

Not only that, but I’d be letting myself down too. I feel quite proud of the fact that last week I got my “60 days clean” keyring from the 12 Steps fellowship. I don’t want to just throw all that away and end up back at Square One, full of shame and remorse.

Even this morning, I had to talk myself out of buying DXM. The urge was strong… but I beat it.

So – narrow escape. I feel humble. I can’t take my eye off the ball with my addiction. I need to stay on top of it every day. And I’m also incredibly grateful to have such good support around me, from friends, family and the 12 Steps fellowship. Thank you!

It feels a bit gutting to think I can never have a cheeky glass of wine again, a sip of Bailey’s at Christmas, or a glass of port.

But… I’ll get over it, it’s for the best.


My illness of addiction tries to tell me that drugs weren’t really all that bad for me. Every day, a sly little devil on my shoulder whispers seductively…

You can still take drugs. It’ll be fine, remember how much fun you had on drugs. There won’t be any bad consequences. You can learn to moderate your behaviour.

But the brutal, uncomfortable truth is that drugs nearly killed me. They made me isolate myself, I reached new depths of loneliness, and I wrecked many friendships.

The last time I went to Ibiza, I was utterly obsessed with taking drugs. I could barely think of anything else the whole time I was there. As soon as I had drugs in my possession, I had to take them. And I kept taking them, all night and into the next day, until I had none left. After a little sleep, I’d repeat the cycle.

Holidays are supposed to be fun, but my obsession with drugs totally ruined that holiday. I was in the party capital of the world and utterly miserable. I remember sitting in the hotel room crying my eyes out. I couldn’t believe how fucked my life was and how lonely I felt.

My life seemed pointless. I didn’t want to live any more. The one thing which made me feel good was drugs… but it was all a big fat lie.

Drugs promised me the world, but they very nearly took away everything valuable in my life.

Step 1 – we admitted we were powerless over our addiction.

Yes. I was. I am.

Drugs fucked me up. My life became unmanageable. Drugs were taking me on a fast track to the grave.

But now I’m claiming my life back, thanks to the 12 Steps.