News | Addicts helping addicts

A recovering heroin addict talks about Narcotics Anonymous and life in recovery

Amy G. has lived the everyday process of addiction recovery in Montreal, and as a recovering addict has necessarily lived the web of infrastructure and people that this process involves.

The McGill Daily: What sort of recovery organizations and relationships are you involved with?
Amy G: I belong to twelve-step fellowship, which are all based on AA – Alcoholics Anonymous. I go to NA which is Narcotics Anonymous, I’ve been to CA [Cocaine Anonymous] as well. I still go to AA too, even though I’ve never had a problem with alcohol…but at this point in time, most meetings are open to the fact that most people are cross-addicted.

I worked as a counsellor for a while, for three years. Because we’re a self-sustaining organization in the sense that it’s basically addicts helping addicts – I’m overtly that way, because part of my problem is I want to fix other people’s problems rather than my own. I’m very proactively involved in everyone else’s shit. There has to be a certain urgency and outgoing-ness toward others for this program to work. In that way it is sort of unique.

When I was in detox or whatever, predominately everyone there is a recovering addict and there’s a reason why. And the reason why is if you’re not, you don’t fucking know. That’s all. I don’t care how empathetic you are or how many books you’ve read…. If you haven’t sold your shit for crack, you don’t know what it’s like to sell your shit for crack. You’ll never understand that kind of sick contradiction within.

MD: What do you think of the support infrastructure in Montreal?
AG: I think a support, a therapy, a detox, or a drug recovery counsellor, anything related to that is going to be beneficial – fuck – therapy is going to be beneficial. You have to wanna get clean, and if you really want to get clean, you’re going to, within a certain amount of support and structure.

Obviously I can’t see how any [outside therapy or support] could be wrong, but as far as I’m concerned, 12-step programs are the way you interactively remain abstinent, and more importantly, work toward some kind of real sobriety.

Abstinence and sobriety are not the same at all. Abstinence just means I’m not using – I’m still a fucking asshole, I haven’t done shit to improve who I am, I’m terrified of the world, and I’m lying all the time – but hey, I didn’t pick up. Sobriety is when you actually have some kind of quality of life that you’re engaged in.

Most of the time I don’t feel I’m very sober – I’m abstinent. Sometimes I actually feel like I’m beginning to understand how to accept enough to allow some kind of sobriety in my life. You know I could qualify that by saying I look at most lay people – non-addicts – and I don’t think they have much fucking sobriety in their life. But who cares?
I understand the [fellowship] rooms are full of schmucks, just like outside the rooms. It’s like, so what? You can go in, and you can spend an hour and a half not using, where you will probably hear some shit that’s gonna help you, where you’re going to be with people who actually understand how it’s possible to sell everything you own for rock.

One of the key things about addicts is if they don’t move forward – they go back. You have to be proactive.

MD: How do you feel about media representations of addiction?
AG: I have a particular story. I started very late, I have a family – I think that’s part of the misconception and part of the way it’s being mis-shown in the news or in film. It’s because they want to break it down and say it’s swallow-able – and it’s not. Life is messy and that’s just how it is.

Often you’ll hear addicts in the room say how grateful they are that they’re addicts. And it is kind of mind blowing to hear someone who’s saying “I spent this much time in jail, and so on – and I am so grateful.” Not just for the program and the rooms, but just to have been allowed the chance to see, I guess. Because there’s nothing like crisis to eradicate the unnecessary.