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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Three Fold Disease – Three Fold Recovery

If you're coming to find help through our program, then you've already tried everything else. You've tried “getting a job” most likely. You've probably gone through some kind of education or vocational training to get working at something else other than the sex industry. Most will have already tried a “geographic” solution – moving to another town, or even country, thinking that will change things. Some have tried “marriage, divorce and desertion” even. Even more of you will have tried religion, psychiatry, and some form of “self-help” including taking medications. Others have even gone to the extreme of committing themselves to some kind of residential treatment and isolation.

We are not the first stop for those trying to leave the sex industry – but the last. If you're coming to our program then we know already you've tried “everything else” and it's it didn't work at all, or the measures you took weren't quite enough. I say that because when I found a support group for “ex-sex workers” back before the creation of this program yes I found women who had left the sex industry. What I didn't find were women who were “happy, joyous and free” in those new lives. In fact, some of their misery paled leaving the sex industry showing the industry was not their problem any longer.

So you're coming here to try a 12 step process. Meaning we are NOT 'religion, psychiatry, a bank, an employment agency nor a school”. So this book isn't about those things. But that doesn't mean they're to be neglected either. Whether we suffer from a form of the disease of “addiction” is something the experts will have to decide. What I do know is that we suffer from SOMETHING which is truly “physical, mental and spiritual” in nature.

Thus our solution is going to require a three fold approach also being “physical, mental and spiritual” in design. When I was taken into my first Narcotics Anonymous meeting back in 1985 – I knew immediately I'd found my solution. A solution summed up better than anything I could ever dream up on my own which as illustrated so effectively in the pyramid symbol that is the NA symbol we've included it here in this book. So well I had this symbol firmly planted on my bathroom mirror for most of my early years in recovery.

I was told by elders in recovery I respected all of my solutions to life's problems could be found within this pyramid which represents the “Universal Program”. This program in other words applies to the disease of addiction itself in any form as to it's solution. The saying “the wider the base the stronger the foundation” is something I truly live by. In my own personal 10th step, I take a regular “inventory” to see how well I'm not only flushing out this symbol of what “living the program” represents, but I also use it to help me structure everything about my life taking into consideration “the common welfare” of SWA itself. I've learned “what's best for the group is what's best for me”. Truly as long as the “ties that bind us together are stronger than those that would tear us apart all will be well”.

Narcotics Anonymous expanded the Alcoholics Anonymous program to be about the disease itself – not over one particular “symptom” represented by alcohol. Merely abstaining from alcohol is only the beginning of the process called “recovery”. The same holds for us who have found drugs, alcohol, even prostitution or the sex industry itself is not the root of our problems. We all know our programs were present long before we “took that first transaction” or even had it taken for us. Not when we can be clean and sober working in jobs completely outside of the sex industry and still in the grips of our dilemma. The one which fascinates yet repulses us at the same time to the things which destroy us.

This is why we say going to meetings, even “working the Steps” isn't the same as “working a program”. For us, our solution is nothing less than leading a spiritual life. If one had cancer, simply going to the doctor's office wouldn't be a way to put the disease in remission, even a cure. Even taking the medicine the doctor prescribes isn't a complete solution. Because without a lifestyle change even cutting the cancer out would simply result in a regrowth of the disease's symptom.

One of Alcoholic's Anonymous' saying “half measures avail us nothing” is true for us when we've reached this fork in the road. We can carry on to the inevitable ends of “jails, institutions and death” or we can realize we're at the point where we “can't live with or without” the life we'd come to know in the past.

Einstein said “we can't get out of something using the same thinking that got us into it”. When you've realized you're at that point of “surrender” where you can give up your own thinking for yourself which got you here - then we can help.

This is where you need to “clean house”. It's absolutely pointless to even begin to discuss living a life outside of the sex industry if you're drinking like a fish, taking recreational drugs, or drugs not prescribed to you for a life-essential situation. If you don't have a clear mind how can you possibly change your whole life for the better? For that matter, how can you even properly determine what is a problem vs. what's not unless your mind is clear?

This isn't a “condemnation” of social drinking or recreational drug use. Those are all personal choices. What it is however would be if you were to come to us saying you wanted to be in the Olympics. This would require extreme physical training and conditioning. You need to have a clear mind in order to go about effecting change in your life. For this reason, we are going to suggest at least for the first year in this program you abstain from all forms of mind altering chemicals and substances that are not absolutely essential for the functioning of life. This is whether you consider yourself an “alcoholic” or an “addict” and applies to everyone.

Feeling depressed? Anxious? GREAT! It's only when we're in pain and unhappy do we make dramatic changes let alone even recognize we need to. Our bodies were built to feel pain. The purpose is to prevent destruction. If you were to put your hand on a flame you would recoil because of pain. If you were not to feel pain when in contact with the flame – you'd wind up burning your whole arm off, going into shock and possibly even dying. Pain was created to tell you to stop or remove something not good for you. It tells you to remove your arm from the flame. The flame itself isn't bad. Our arm just doesn't belong there. The problems for us come when trying to force ourselves into situations or relationships which aren't healthy for us. Pain tells us there's a problem and it motivates change.

Then again, for most of us we've lived in such lack of touch with reality we may start experiencing pain or discomfort as a sign of another type of underlying problem that's been ignored or neglected for most, if not all, of our lives. Many addicts for example think they're “falling apart” when entering recovery because of medical problems which appear once they get clean.

However, many of those problems were there all along. Just ignored because of the drugs or the lifestyle. Most of us weren't exactly surrounded by very caring people who helped us get proper medical attention. The only way to tell what is what is to get a complete physical from head to toe. One not clouded also with recreational drugs and alcohol altering your test results. Also, how can you plan the rest of your life unless you know if something is seriously wrong or not now?

Over the years, we've noticed a lot of common problems among our members. First, a vast majority of our members come to us having an undiagnosed issue connected to the thyroid. A slow thyroid, combined with a lack of B6 which also typically happens because of stress, can mimic the symptoms of bipolar disorder right down the line. While Lithium, or some other psychiatric medication, might manage the appearance of the symptoms it certainly isn't addressing the underlying source of the real problem.

Not all thyroid tests are the same either. My own thyroid issue went undiagnosed for years until I took the more sensitive test. So please make sure you're getting this thoroughly examined carefully with the most sensitive test possible on the market. This also explained my tendency to gain weight that fueled my eating disorder, along with my tendency to feel “depressed” when I wasn't in a constant state of crisis. With over 90 % of us having this issue, it can't be emphasized loudly enough for you to get this checked out thoroughly when coming to our program for help.

Over the years I've seen many of us not able to maintain a life outside of the sex industry because of undiagnosed very simple problems. Take for example a member of SWA who couldn't work a job because she had constant diarrhea. No matter how many pills she took to try and plug herself up, she just couldn't get that far from a toilet. Turned out she had something called EPI which is a problem related to her pancreas. Removing glutin from her diet, along with taking digestive enzymes at meals, combined with probiotics daily and her symptoms were resolved entirely.

I've also learned how a family history of having “syndrome X”, a genetic inability to get enough B-complex vitamins, dyslexia and ADHD have also created problems for me maintaining a job, a stable housing record, even holding onto long term relationships. My body used to produce tiny cysts on my ovaries flooding me with too much estrogen. This of course led to mood swings. Those mood swings created physical stress which robbed my body of the B-complex vitamins.

This then created the exhaustion which made it difficult to wake up early in the morning for school or work. My ADHD would suck me into a book or movie keeping me up all night making it even harder for me to stay on any type of regular schedule. Finding a way to live a life which wasn't based on a criminal lifestyle meant I had to start addressing all of these physical problems. When living as a prostitute, I didn't have to worry about things like getting to bed on time, waking up with an alarm clock, and being in a coherent state of mind by 8:00 in the morning but it's a very real issue in recovery.

I've had to first of all change my eating habits and this included taking nutritional supplements daily. I even learned that what brand of supplements I take can have a huge impact on me. Once I thought I was literally losing my mind but it turned out the manufacturer of my thyroid medicine was at fault. I learned about this when the recall on the prescription went out. Turned out they weren't producing the medication properly and this was why I was having symptoms again despite taking it as prescribed.

I even learned B12 is destroyed when taken orally so I've had to make sure to get a sublingual form of the vitamin or eat foods rich in B12. If I don't, my body aches so badly I can't hardly walk. I've had to remove all processed foods, especially white sugar and white flour (along with glutin) from my diet to control the mood swings before my body went through the “change”. For ten years I even suffered from “periomenopause” which also affected my ability to maintain some kind of balance emotionally. Yes it's hard to keep a job when you're telling your boss to “kiss your ass”. For that matter, I've seen men in the program also go through their own hormonal changes what with low testosterone, or even the hormones transgenders take. So this isn't an issue for just the women in this program to examine.

Because of coming to grips with just how dramatically the dyslexia, the ADHD, and even my having a high IQ have affected my life negatively, along with why I truly can't just live life “like everyone else does”, I've been taking classes in how one can function easier in our society with these issues. I say this because I've learned the very things “wrong” with me are the very things which are why I would be considered a “survivor” were this 100 years ago. So these things aren't something “wrong” with me or “bad” in and of themselves. I have to be careful to say that not to beat myself up about these things.

For example, my ADHD is the mark of a hunter which back in the times when people lived off the land this was a survival skill. I have a lot of native American in my blood line and thus my chemistry is structured differently than someone who isn't. My ability to convert food into fat would have allowed me to live in times of great famine which were common decades ago. An especially useful thing to have when living off the land again as my ancestors did.

So there's not really so much “wrong” with me as much as I just need to learn how to work with my body that's built to survive in a society which just doesn't exist for me any more. I remember reading somewhere that a popular snack food was killing deer. So I'm just not “built” for modern society. But neither am I interested in moving to the mountains of some place like Alaska either. But even this is a personal choice I'd like to add. I could very well decide to go live off the land to balance myself somewhere if that's what I so chose to do. But because I'm choosing to live in an American city – these are the adjustments I'm going to just have to make in order to function properly.

As for “abstinence” which falls under the physical category of our program - in Alcoholics Anonymous you stop taking in all forms of alcohol. In Narcotics Anonymous, you stop all forms of drugs which aren't something you need to take to sustain life. You have to cease all forms of “mind altering” chemicals in order to be “clean”.

As for our program, you are to not “take that first transaction”. We go by the 7th Tradition of being “fully self-supporting” as to the source of our income and support. This is also why we don't believe in building residential treatment programs for our members. We don't take what we don't earn and we don't give for what's not earned either. Thus we maintain a balance of power necessary for any healthy relationship and create a model for living our program also this way.

Does this mean you can only live off money earned in the form of a paycheck? No. Being “self-supporting” means just that – you aren't looking for a “free ride”. In other words, you earn your keep in one way or another for what what you receive. This does not mean through any type of sexual services however. While yes you might be married, and yes your husband and you together decide you might not be source of financial income for your household – this still does not absolve you of the need to be “self-supporting”. How? There are many ways to contribute to the functioning of a household other than just cash. Being “self-supporting” does not mean we're always the one paying the check.

We live in a world where you might be an artist or musician and live off the money earned from your performances. You might even have a “patron” who supports you creating more of your art. As long as you're using that support to create your art – this is a balanced relationship where each party is truly carrying their weight. Yes that's far from a stable weekly paycheck as for a source of income but it still meets our guideline of being “self-supporting”. As long as this relationship isn't based upon the exchange of sex, or sexually related activities that is.

You might become a trader on Wall Street and thus your income could be derived entirely from speculation or investments. If for example you have investments, or property, or other sources of income which don't require you “work” and receive a “paycheck”, you're still abstaining from all forms of exchange for sex, or a sexually related activity. That is as long as your business isn't a legal brothel, a strip club, or a porn production company however. That would mean you're still deriving your money from the sex industry and thus does fall outside of our guidelines whether legal or not.

Even if you're a ward of the state living off a social security or disability check each month, you either paid for the right to collect that check through your taxes, or you're providing a source of “economic stability” to our society by taking that check. Either way you are contributing to something when taking that money. Even if you were confined to a bed 24/7 in a nursing home and the state were paying for all of your care, you're still supporting our economic system by providing jobs for those in that home. Since it's not a form of sexual exchange then you're still considered “self-supporting” by our standards.

Maybe you're a student and working your way through school. I myself did stay with my grandmother for my first six months while I put myself through a trade school to learn computers. I still however “traded” her for this room and board not only through cooking, cleaning and running errands for her while living with her. I further was also repaying her investment in me by staying clean and complying with the terms of my probation by not engaging in any form of crime while living under her roof. I also got out of her home and into my own apartment as soon as physically possible once I got a job. Once I got my first paycheck, I was packed up and into my own apartment so as not to overstay my welcome. There is a difference between “help” and “dependence”.

For every rule there is the exception. Sometimes we find ourselves in a situation where we might need to go into something like a “witness protection” program in order to fully leave the sex industry. We might have small children we have to protect by staying inside for a time period away from sight. No this isn't the time when you refuse financial aid and insist you're going to go out and get a job. Even our Steps talk about making amends “only when to do so would not injure others”.

So the primary rule of thumb here is to make sure whatever we do is not harmful to ourselves, nor anyone else for that matter. Remember, our “common welfare” also is what comes first. These are the situations where you might have to discuss them with your sponsor, or even simply turn them over to “God's will as it may express itself in our group conscience”. But even in witness protection you're “earning” your keep through your testifying against someone who is harming other people and thus society. If you glance again at our pyramid above, you'll see we're trying to maintain a position of support to our society also as well as our own individual needs. It's all a matter of balance at times.

So whenever you're not sure if you're being “self-supporting” - just go over your questions with your sponsor. That should resolve any question in your mind. Remember, there's no such thing as perfection here – just progress. As long as you're staying out of the sex industry, and trying to be “fully self-supporting” without any form of sexual exploitation or manipulation, then you've earned the right to take a chip for another day of “time” in our program.

We all know the mind can play “tricks” on us. It's been said the disease of addiction is one of “perception”. I know if I told you to drink a bottle of poison you'd say “hell no”. You'd refuse because you “know” that's harmful to you. But yet when we look at our lives we see we've done just that – done something we knew was harmful by first convincing ourselves it wasn't. To do this meant convincing ourselves of all kinds of things using some of the craziest types of rationalizations, denials, and justifications ever thought of in the human mind.

Our mind does that because we can't possibly drink the bottle of poison knowing it's poison and still think we're “sane”. The admission of insanity is something every truly “crazy” person tries desperately to avoid admitting. Yet the Second Step of our program talks about being “restored to sanity” because we have twisted our minds almost entirely inside out before hitting a bottom. Twists that must be undone if we're to truly find recovery.

When studying things like hypnosis, we learn we're way more easily manipulated than we might like to believe. If you don't know what I mean by this, I encourage you to review some tapes made by Derren Brown. They include experiments such as the “Heist” where he “brainwashes” perfectly ordinary people into robbing an armored truck at gunpoint all while thinking it's entirely “their idea”. The experiment where he was able to take another perfectly innocent ordinary person and have them pick up a gun to try and murder a celebrity all while also thinking it was “their idea” further validates our minds can be less of our own than we realize.

I once saw advertising experiment where they demonstrated by the clever manipulation of the environment they could also accurately predict the items one would choose when asked to pick while thinking the choice was being made entirely out of the “free will” part of the mind. Such an experiment was beautifully illustrated in the Will Smith film “Focus”. In the scene where his character showed how he could manipulate his target into making a “choice” of a specific player during a wager we see he'd been in control of this other man's mind of all along.

Now does this mind control mean the victim is “crazy”? Absolutely not. In fact, it shows they have a perfectly “normal” mind that we were then able to manipulate using scientific methods proven to be effective in that manner. But yet the behavior might appear on the outside quite “crazy”. Once planted, these types of “programming” don't go away on their own. Actually they become more embedded with time. For example, if I'm bitten by a small dog as a child that fear is likely to soon grow into a fear of anything that even closely resembles a dog. I might find myself as an adult not wanting to go into the pet section of the supermarket, even avoiding the homes of people who own dogs. Again, does this mean I'm “insane” if suddenly I find I can't walk past a pet store without breaking out into a sweat? Or does it mean I have a perfectly normal mind that was subjected to certain stimulus that I'm now exhibiting the signs of?

Let's also be realistic here. Many of us have endured horrific abuses and trauma. Most of us do suffer from post-traumatic disorder to some degree. Sometimes trauma endured over long periods of time can throw the delicate chemical balances in our minds and bodies off. If you combine this trauma with recreational drugs we took to cope, or even forced upon us, then the damage to our minds can be significant. Brain scans have revealed some of us even have organic damage which may never be healed.

Combine this with possible chemical imbalances in our bodies which might be present, and yes some of us may in fact truly be considered “insane”. When my own daughter had a 26 pound tumor on her left ovary, it caused her body to be pumped full of hormones. This in turn caused her to hear and see things which weren't real. Yes she was technically “insane” until this tumor was removed and her sanity thus “restored”. But no amount of therapy would have helped her until the tumor was removed because the source of her problems were organic.

This is why to find recovery, one must first start with the physical search for any organic causes of problems with a medical professional. Even someone in a completely healthy physical body however could find things have been planted in their mind operating like a computer program in an endless loop. This could have been planted by a pimp's deliberate “brainwashing” or “turning out”. Maybe from repetitive messages done to us by a predator “grooming” us for manipulation. It could even be from marketing messages we were exposed to over and over again while watching TV while in a trance like state induced by drug use. There could be a 1000 different sources or reasons for something to be creating “crazy” thinking and behavior in us that we're completely unaware of let alone able to control or terminate by ourselves.

But we must remember we are a 12 step program. We are not doctors nor psychiatrists. Meaning while we get a physical from a doctor to check for any organic sources of disease or malfunction, we must also do the same for our minds. However, at the same time we must realize as a 12 step program we limit our discussions about “insanity” as the universal definition of when one is “repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results”.

So for our purposes, let's start by first identifying what those “same mistakes” are. What is it you keep doing over and over again and getting the same undesired outcome? This ties into what we were “powerless” over enough to drive us into this program in the first place. This repetitive cycle s what is making our lives “unmanageable” no matter how much we try and control the outcome to turn out differently.

Our Second Step clearly states “We came to believe a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity”. This Step does not require leaning on a spiritual source just yet. You may turn to God, or a Higher Power, or some spiritual principle you believe will “restore you to sanity”. But it's not necessary just yet. A “power greater” can be anything bigger than just yourself. Meaning it could be the group, your sponsor, a psychiatrist you've enlisted the aid of, or even a medication. Because anything above, and beyond, just you is thus “greater” than just yourself.

We're not doctors nor psychiatrists. So we're not discussing any type of clinical form of “insanity” here in this program. What we're talking about is truly the insanity of “repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results” which is the very embodiment of any “addiction”. As you clear out the garbage from your body, your life, your mind, etc., then all kinds of change is going to take place.

But no matter how much you might change, there are going to be certain patterns which are going to remain unaffected. For example, the alcoholic who keeps drinking. He might marry, divorce, get rich, file bankruptcy, move to another country. But what remains no matter what else changes is the thought they can drink followed by the same destruction, or even worse, than before.

So while we encourage you to get a complete physical to look for any health issues causing you problems when coming to SWA, we also encourage you to do the same with your mental health of course. Then for our program we want you to examine where those destruction patterns lie for you so you can then be “restored”.

Let's say you hit yourself over the head with a hammer over and over again. Having someone take the hammer away from you, only to have you replace it with a wrench – is not “being restored to sanity”. Nor is cutting off your hand so you can't pick up the hammer either. Let's not forget finding someone else to hit you over the head with their hammer isn't “sane” either. It's only once we have interrupted that process of hitting ourselves over the head with a hammer in any form or any manner that we couldn't seem to stop by ourselves no matter how much we wanted to stop – that's when we've truly been “restored”.

I will never forget as long as I live a cartoon I once saw where Sylvester the cat went to attend a “Bird Anonymous” meeting. The room consisted of cats trying to resist their urge to eat birds. Let's face it – it's a cat's “nature” to want to chase, play with, and eat birds. They have no more control over it than they can stop breathing. Thus is the nature of an “alcoholic”.

Before the invention of AA, alcoholism was a 100 percent fatal disease. Bill Wilson, their founder, even went to consult with Carl Jung, one of the greatest psychological minds in history about how to stop drinking. It was Carl who told him there was “no hope” and that one of “his kind rarely stopped of his own volition”. There's a series of letters between them on file at The Jung Institute I personally found enlightening. It was in these letters they discussed the alcoholic was searching for some kind of “spiritual connection” in their pursuit of the “high” they were getting from the substance.

There used to be a saying “once an addict always an addict”. The same saying used to be applied to us. I remember hearing “You can't make a housewife out of a whore” growing up even. Implying someone “like us” never truly changed their ways. The problem with this however is that 2 and 2 does always equal 4. But I've found in many of our situations – we're not the one putting the 2 in front of the 2. While we're the ones winding up with the 4's.

In my early recovery, I was told over and over again to keep “working my steps” so I would “have a spiritual awakening as a result of these Steps”. When I would ask why this was so important to have them drumming this into my head so urgently, I was told it was because until I did have this “spiritual awakening” I would most likely return to my old life and ways. Remembering I'm like Sylvester trying to stop chasing birds. f I'm the same person, then I'm going to have the same results. Many religions, philosophies, and even medical science pretty much agree if nothing changes – nothing changes.

But what is a “spiritual awakening” exactly? I was referred to a book “The Varieties of Spiritual Experiences” by William James for more clarification. This book did cover a lot of the different ways people felt they had truly “seen God” or knew there was a higher power in the universe. I myself was haunted by concerns my own experiences were but “hallucinations”. The product of drugs or a damaged mind. So I continued to push for answers as to when exactly or how you'd know what you were experiencing wasn't just some LSD flashback or an upset stomach.

Experts told me what makes the difference between some chemical imbalance and a “true spiritual experience” is a transformation. I once heard this saying “for an alcoholic not to drink is like teaching a fish to ride a bicycle”. No a fish can't ride a bike. But if the fish has a “spiritual awakening” and suddenly finds they now have a set of legs – well then that's the difference between a true spiritual experience and the fish merely hallucinating he can ride a bike.

Now this doesn't mean the spiritual part of our program is limited to that one profound earth shattering life changing “spiritual awakening”. Especially when there are things that literally go “bump in the night” science is only now beginning to come to grips with. When I was 13 years old my house started experiencing all kinds of strange paranormal phenomena. My mother knew she was completely out of her depth and started searching for information. We were extremely fortunate Dr. Thelma Moss was running a Paranormal Research Dept. out of UCLA back in 1973.

We were living in Whittier, California at the time which was quite a drive to UCLA for me to be submitted to testing. So my mother literally packed us up and relocated us to where I could be closer to the whole “scene” that was going on back then. She submitted me to their research experiments but this wasn't really explaining much to us about what was going on at home. It certainly didn't teach us how to have all of the light bulbs and TV sets in the house stop blowing up every time I'd get too emotional. Nor did it explain how I seemed to know what was going on in locations I wasn't physically present to see with my eyes. Some call this now “remote viewing”.

Sometimes things happen to us we just don't understand. Things we don't want to talk about to just anyone for fear they'll think we're “crazy”. This fear can cause secrecy, even extreme isolation. Especially if one is trying to run from something they don't understand. I bring this up because I too have found many things I didn't want to talk about with my sponsor, or anyone for that matter, outside of certain circles for fear I'd also be carted off to a nut ward. Certainly not things I'd tell a psychiatrist.

It's why I found the 5th Step so truly freeing. Many people talk about how when they confessed horrible crimes, even sins against nature, to their sponsor for the first time and they said “oh yeah me too” - they were able to let go of huge emotional burdens. What I've found in the years I've been in our program is the same thing. .For this reason, I've also learned to ask other SWA members about what's going on in their spiritual life they might not be talking about with anyone else either.

When I hit about four months clean, and out of the sex industry, I started having horrific nightmares. In these night terrors, I was seeing three men with chain saws coming after me with everything they had. These chain saws were even cutting through walls in buildings, and coming through doors to get me. Nothing I did to run or block them was saving me from the constant running I was having to do to flee for my life from them. The hard part was I'd wake up still seeing these men still coming after me. It sometimes took me a few minutes to realize I had just been dreaming. It got so bad my manager threatened to evict me because of the neighbors complaining about my screaming at night!

I told my sponsor about these night terrors. I hadn't been going to any NA meetings because I was also struggling with migraines and what I later learned was the Chronic Fatigue Virus back when it was called “Ebstein Barr” because it was so new back in 1985. This was before I created our 12 step program originally called “Prostitutes Anonymous” also. I just was too tired after going to school, working, then commuting through LA traffic to go sit in a NA meeting.

Paul, my first sponsor, told me the dream meant it was “time to start working a program” including hitting some meetings. When I asked how maniacs with chainsaws chasing me meant it was time to start hitting meetings, he told me “the three men represent the physical, mental and spiritual nature of the disease from which you can't run, hide nor protect yourself from who are trying to kill you”. The fact the dream was waking me up and I was having trouble differentiating between my dream state and reality meant my mind was warning me by waking me up from sleep I was truly losing control over my “disease” even though I was clean.

I was progressing at that time into a dark “funk” not unlike the depression which Jimmy Kinnon found himself in when he had his “spiritual awakening” telling him to create NA, and even Bill Wilson suffered from throughout his life also. The NA Basic Text refers to it as “when you realize you can't live with, or without drugs . . “. Here I was clean and not living life very well without them. I had a fantastic job in a very prestigious law firm, I was making good money, living in a nice apartment, had a good car, my health was pretty good other than the fatigue, and I was even on track to get into law school.

Everything seemed to be fine on the outside. So why was I having these night terrors and feeling like I absolutely hated everything about my life even down to the clothes I had to wear to work which I felt were just another costume. I started talking to everyone around me and no one seemed to have any answers how to get out of this dark depression I was sinking deeper into the better my life became on the outside. While I was used to pain, abuse and misery I didn't have a clue how to cope with my new success. Paul dying when I hit 13 months clean was just the last straw. I was now alone again.

I literally cried out to God to help me find my way out of this dilemma. Once again, I found myself waking up screaming in terror. It was almost midnight on a Friday night. There was no way I'd go back to sleep with my adrenaline pumping like that. I put on my house shoes and padded into an NA meeting.

The NA World Service Convention had been going on that weekend, and three men were visiting town. One was Grateful Dave as he was called. The other two were Greg Pearce and Bo Sewell. I now call them the “three wise men”. I didn't share anything at that meeting because I didn't think anyone would understand what I was going through. I mean should I complain about nightmares while others were there trying to get through their second day off heroin?

As I was getting up to leave, Dave came up to me and said “The monster is really taking you for a ride isn't he”. I asked him what he was talking about. I'd never met this man before in my life. He told me “I can see the disease in your eyes and it's whipping you like it's bitch isn't it?” I hadn't heard anyone really talk about anything but drugs in the meetings so I wasn't sure what he meant by “the disease” at first. Then Greg and Bo came over and invited me to go to coffee to talk more about what they also could see in my eyes that night. Mind you I had about 18 months clean from all drugs but they could see I was the one truly “suffering” at that meeting that night from the “disease” as they called it.

I spent all night talking to these men about the nature of addiction and recovery. This led to more and more phone calls as they each went back to the east coast after the convention. As they introduced me to more and more people who worked a “different' type of program than what I was surrounded with in Los Angeles, I knew I needed something “more”. Social acceptability does not equate recovery and despite my outside success, and even my time off drugs and away from any crime, I felt I wasn't going to make it through life without getting more of what these men had. I felt it so strongly I quit my job, sold everything I owned, and went to go live in a basement in Atlantic City in 1989 just so I could spiritually apprentice back there among this group of people.

I had been told a tale of how Jimmy Kinnon, NA's founder, had been locked out of his own office at the World Service Office. I learned Greg Pearce was at one time Jimmy's “right hand” writing much of the pamphlet's at meetings, along with answering most of the letters which had come into NA from newcomers around the world for many years. That Bo Sewell had been the man who had organized the writing of the first edition of the “Basic Text”. If I hadn't padded into meeting in my house shoes I probably wouldn't have even met them.

When I was asking why was it people with this much recovery and knowledge all seemed to be living back east while the office of NA was located in Los Angeles, I learned when Bob Stone had taken over the position of Executive Director, NA itself was in the process of being “hijacked” by financial interests.

Interests who were not only clouding up the message of NA in southern California back then, but had further driven those from the “old school” of NA back east physically through shunning, intimidation and smear campaigns. Greg and Bo told me of meetings they'd gone to on the west coast where they were attacked by men throwing rocks, physically assaulted, and of even having a man come after them with a knife at one meeting. So many of those who didn't want to adapt to these changes going on within NA had been forced to relocate back east in order to even be physically safe.

This meant if I wanted to study under them, and experience the process entirely, not only for myself, but also so I could transmit this recovery through our 12 step program, then I needed to leave California and become part of this process.

Which they gave me in spades. I had no more than been picked up at the airport and taken home when the process itself began. I say that because when I landed in Atlantic City, I was then taken to my new basement apartment, and put into a big arm chair. A chair I then didn't leave for the next three days while Grateful Dave, and two other recovering addicts, proceeded to perform on me what's commonly referred to as an “exorcism”. Other people familiar with religious cults might call what was done to me a form of “deprogramming”.

Whatever it was that was done to me over the next three days – the bottom line is I emerged from that arm chair after three days an entirely different person. Whether the toxic things I cast out of me were spirits of demons or destructive beliefs implanted in me by the abusers in my past – who knows. I do know I've participated in this process with others who sit now in that figurative chair – and seen things in their eyes that you can't explain in physical terms. Neither could they. M. Scott Peck is a psychologist and author who wrote more about this process in “The People of the Lie” in fact. So these are not unique experiences for those who are seeking positive transformation and healing in their lives.

This is why one of the first things I ask new callers to our hotline to talk to me about are things they might think they can't talk about for fear of me thinking they're “crazy”. I've heard stories of all kinds of things haunting our members from literally haunting their homes, stories of dark entities, all the way up to stories about alien abductions. My own daughter's father, who once was a male prostitute, and even a pimp for a while, once told me he started doing drugs after an alien abduction happened to him in Puerto Rico when he was only 13 years of age.

There must be some validity to these experiences or Dr. John E. Mack, a prestigious Harvard Psychiatrist, wouldn't have published a book standing behind the theory he believed the people he had studied to be in fact suffering from some kind of post-traumatic stress from exactly the type of kidnappings and tortures they'd described had happened to them – that they were not victims of hallucinations or insane in the sense of not being in touch with reality. Even the church has exorcists, so there is a spiritual world out there, even a “paranormal” one, that is very real while yet still not fully explained or understood.

Just as it defies science when an alcoholic who should have died drinking had a “spiritual awakening” out of which Alcoholics Anonymous was born. Just as how someone like me, someone who a prosecutor once called a “career criminal” has now been without drugs, without any type of crime, or income from the sex industry, since January of 1985. For some of us, the “spiritual” world is even more real than the so called “physical” one.

Which is why sometimes we need to talk about these things openly in the program. When I have a woman I'm sponsoring telling me she's living out in the middle of the desert, afraid to drive, isolating herself from society, and living off a disability check because she believes she's “demonically possessed” and her children have been “victims of alien abduction”, than simply writing her off as “crazy” isn't helping her to find the promises of this program about being “happy, joyous and free”.

Now maybe she is absolutely “nuts”. Maybe she does need medication. Then again maybe she doesn't. Whatever the case, if she is applying the tools of this program to her life, in whatever state it's in, then she's no more “crazy” than someone who is putting toxic drugs into their system while saying it's “not going to harm them”, or going back to a violent pimp who has promised he “will change”. All of us can be “restored to sanity”, have a “spiritual awakening” and “carry that message to those who still suffer” if working a sincere 12 step program. 

(copyright 2016 all rights reserved J. Williams)  

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