Essays & Commentary

Is it time for update?

 

 

The ‘God’ word has been a contentious element in 12-Step recovery as long as I have been involved.

In my experience those that thrive in 12-Step recovery are; either those that wholly accept the “God” element, (and for this group it may be fair to say it is a religious programme) or those who are able to move past the archaic language of the literature.

Many falter as they become preoccupied with the apparent contradictions between the claim that 12-Step recovery is a spiritual programme and the content and practices of this programme.

I have a great deal of sympathy with this latter group, and find statements such as, “They are just not ready.”, or “That’s the disease talking.” as a response when they challenge or seek to explore these difficulties, to be absurd and less than spiritual.

Is this blind acceptance of these apparent contradictions a clever therapeutic device woven into the fabric of the programme? I would suggest probably not.

At times, it’s a bit like the “in secret” where old timers nod and smile to each other as newcomers struggle to reconcile these difficulties while these same old-timers cling to the very cant that is one of the biggest stumbling blocks for 12-Step recovery, thus also rendering it harder for the many non-recovering, but nonetheless important, people involved, such as doctors, nurses, drug and alcohol workers, police officers, lawyers and family members, to fully embrace, endorse, recommend and support 12-Step recovery.

(A feature of many dysfunctional religions is blind adherence to that which is written coupled with conflicts that arise from interpretations of that which is written.)

Is it not time to put the 12-Step house in order? Is it not time to fully reflect the contention that this is a spiritual programme and begin to work on the archaic wording?

Is it not time to bring the 12 step fellowships out of the 1930’s and into the here and now?

 

Francis de Aguilar©2015

 

 

 

Twenty Four Years

Twenty-four years ago today I awoke to my first (intentional) day of abstinence from drugs and alcohol.

As I sit and write this in my comfortable living room I can’t help but consider where I would be if I had made a different decision that day.

Reduced to my carbon atoms is the most probable outcome. My wonderful son Jack would never really have known his father, he was two at this point, and so he would have forgotten about me. My amazing daughter Emily would not even exist.

I would not be sitting here in this great little house that we, my wife Ana and I, own, waiting for a team of builders to show up and begin to build an extension that we have been dreaming about since we brought this place in 1999.

Even if I had escaped the grim reaper I would have lost Ana and Jack and been back on the cobbles desperately attempting to negotiate terms of release with my addiction.

While it is axiomatic that the decision to commit to abstinence that day begun my journey to today, it’s by no means the whole of the story. Getting clean is easy; ask any addict or alcoholic, most have done it many times. My challenge was to stay abstinent, and even though my resolve that morning was strong, I had no real idea about how to maintain and support my… my what? I didn’t even have a name for it, I learned one later.

I was in a hospital bed when I awoke that morning, a specialist ward in a much larger psychiatric hospital. I kind of wish I could say that the staff and the program there were what gave me the tools that I needed. I had been there ten years earlier and the program was no different the second time around, I was back using three months later. As I recall I was just as determined the first time.

There was one key difference, though. This time round I was taken to my first Narcotics Anonymous meeting. It was there that I discovered that it was called recovery and that there was a way of maintaining and supporting it.

So twenty-four years on, I rarely attend meetings and have little contact with the recovering community but there is no doubt in my mind that without Narcotics Anonymous I would not have my life as it is today. Ah, the digger’s arrived; time to get on with living.

 

Have a nice day.

 

Why the word ‘Addiction’ should be banned.

Why the word ‘Addiction’ should be banned.

This is a word that causes nothing but trouble; it is a word that nobody really understands.

It is a word that some groups claim as their own and defend fiercely; it is a word that is denied by other groups with equal ferocity.

Such groups lay claim to it and then define it to suit, eschewing all other interpretations.

It is a word that is loaded with stigma, and fearful ignorance.

It is a word used by professionals to describe very different things, thus confusing each other and those they serve.

It is a word that is argued over endlessly; it is a word that now has no real meaning.

I have no intention of attempting a definition, nor do I claim to know its true meaning, despite having used it repeatedly.

My suggestion is that it be banned; erased from the language, because only then will those who brandish it, claim it, profess to understand it, offer solutions to it, treat it, use it as a derogatory term or an excuse, legislate to prevent it and then enforce such laws, say it does not exist or demand that it does, earn a living or a dying from it. Only then will they be forced to find new terms, that accurately describe whatever the hell it is that they are talking about.

Francis de Aguilar©2015

We need superman

We need superman

We’ve made this world a place so entangled with greed and intrigue, so mired in desperation that It’s become place where normal acts of decency get hailed as heroic, while despicable acts are normalised and justified.

Some fiercely rail at injustice, beating on the iron doors of power and wealth, barely making a scratch, while others watch movies about superheroes and comic book characters who fight a surrogate battle against evil, while evil in fact reigns supreme in the real word.

We drop pennies into boxes or cast off clothes into charity shops, we post inspirational quotes on our face book wall, some post facts exposing corruption, challenging oppressive regimes, revealing the plights and conditions of the oppressed, then carry on working, paying taxes and consuming what are often the fruits of the very oppression they oppose.

But the next news tells us that, despite the outcry, even more right wing governments have been elected, even more children are raped or slaughtered, even more babies die of starvation and disease, even more extreme groups rampage in response to western interference or as they call it defending freedom.

Even heroes like Edward Snowden and others who choose to reveal some of the darkest secrets of the powerful elite seem to have little impact, nor Nelson Mandela, nor Desmond Tutu, nor the Dali Lama, nor Ghandi. The list is endless powerful minds speak out, make films give lectures, write books and move hearts.

Yet nothing changes, or at least not significantly.

Could it be that those comic book characters are a form of prayer a desperate plea for salvation?

After all most of the evil in the world is carried out, if not in the name a God, then by those who state that they believe in a god, who is, it is usually rumoured, possessed of super powers, all powerful.

What we need is Superman, we need the Avengers to assemble NOW, Spiderman where are you.

I can see no other way this mess is going get sorted, no way all this is not going to end badly.

Our superhero who art in comics……………….come and fucking save us.

Red knows.

Red knows.

 

We the people, prompted by a group of celebrity entertainers, have raised in excess of £950.000.000 for Comic Relief since it began. The target for this year is to reach or exceed £1bn.

 

I tried to put this into some kind of perspective for myself in the light of the current tax avoidance scandal and the ridiculous fact that 1% of the world’s population own about 50% of it’s $263tn wealth, a wealth that incidentally has grown in the last year by $20tn, so that’s $1000bn in one year (so much for austerity then, for top 1% austerity is boom time).

 

The first thing that struck me is that most who donate to Comic Relief to raise this £1bn are those for whom tax avoidance is not an option really, as HMRC just take it from them at source, if they take too little they may prosecute you, if they take too much it’s your responsibility to know this and ask for it back. For those in the top 1% charitable donations are just another tax avoidance method.

 

I wonder if this obscene division of wealth might be contributing to the very problems that Comic Relief is trying to ameliorate with this money.

 

I also note that the war on terror has cost the US a staggering $1.6tn since 9/11 (that’s $337m a day) and the Afghan war has cost the UK £37bn. (that’s £15m a day).

 

Do we in some way contribute to this hideous con trick when we apply this ointment to sooth our conscience, as we text a fiver on our smart phones with a tear in our eye or drop £2 into a red bucket at the checkout before wheeling our weekly shop, that cost enough to feed an African family of six for about a month, to our oil powered car? Maybe we should re-name it Red Face Day in honour of this shame driven exercise.

 

Don’t get me wrong I am not saying Red Nose day or Comic Relief is a con trick or that the money does not do some real good, but I do wonder if we are not enabling those in that top 1% to continue accumulate wealth and power, to continue to abuse the poorest and most needy, to continue to create a world in which such deprivation exists that we need charities such as this at all.

 

At the very least we should acknowledge that such charities serve more than one function, one of them is to make us feel better about ourselves, we place a red nose on the front of our cars more to say to others “I am a good person who cares” than anything else. Another is to help release us from that feeling of being powerless to effect the plights of the world, and this of course serves the powerful and invested minority well, who in their quest to control all the resources of this deliberately benighted planet wage eternal war.

 

 

©Francis de Aguilar 2015

On Being Human

On being Human.

 

I find it confusing when I see how much we, humankind, can and have achieved, and yet we still manufacture and make profit from arms that can blow a child in half, that can flatten a whole city in less than a minute.

I repeatedly ask myself the question, is humanity inherently incapable of peaceful co-existence? History would suggest that this is so.

Somewhere our evolution has become distorted. My guess is that this is due to a spiritual deficit in modern society, a void that is increasingly filled with concerns material. This unhealthy focus on material wealth and power, it could be argued, becomes obsessional, becomes equated with the instinct for survival, this in turn begets the violence and, importantly, the rationalisation and justification of the violence.

It should be impossible to justify the killing and maiming of children, surely the ability to rationalise this is an indication of an extreme societal illness. If an individual where to cut a child into pieces and then attempt to provide us with a rational explanation of why they did this we would know that they were psychotic and proceed accordingly, yet when a state does it, large (and powerful) sections of humankind accept this as necessary, support it and enable it.

 

Evolved ?

 

Francis de Aguilar©2015

More

More.

My name is Francis; I am an addict, one of the ten percent. Powerless, control eludes me, insatiable, Francis de Appetite.

I would observe some of my fellows, puzzled at their ability to exercise moderation and self-control, how did they do that?

Meanwhile I buried myself in excess, asking; Is this about pain or abandonment, is this about low self-worth, maybe this is my response to a tortured childhood.
I wrestled with idea that I had a genetic predisposition, did I inherit this from my absent alcoholic father, was I taught this by my addict mother, or am I just bad, stupid and weak.

By now my entombment was near complete, I howled in desperation through the remaining gaps “I will die, and soon, unless this stops.” to any who may listen. Eventually I did get an answer, an invitation of sorts. How I wish that god had come into my life, how I would love to be able to say, “I saw the light.” But in truth I barely crawled into an idea, an idea that said I have a disease, an idea that said I could recover, an idea that asked me surrender to that idea!

Not such a bad idea as it transpired.

Things began to change, I tricked my appetite. I could not get enough of recovery; and thus immersed, I moved toward life. I strove to become one of the normal souls, using a simple set of guidelines to keep me safe, I roamed my world in a bubble of 24 hours and begun to build a life, to get the things that had thus far, eluded me.

Years would pass, I marvelled at how well I did. With 20 years of continuous sobriety accumulated I had donned the accoutre of wellness and achievement. Building for the future, a late starter in a hurry.

The pain; however, crept back disguised as circumstance. That sense of separation returned as, one by one, my efforts to secure a place in the world came undone.

This idea, now seemed somehow ineffective, almost taunting in its cant, it was as if it did not fit my current form, I was broken and this idea, it seemed, was the wrong tool.

Acquiescent and becoming enveloped in sadness, my body revealing the outcomes of past excess; I channelled my fading energy into creative pursuit. Oddly the responses to these efforts were a clue to the true nature of my predicament. Spurred on by positive feedback, I shared another tune and it got likes and positive comments easing my pain, morphine-like, art as currency. I of course, waded in, wanting More.

I wrote more, I showed more, I discovered I could use just words, Eureka! A new source of supply, whatever it was, I wanted More.

My name is Francis; I am an addict. My drug of choice is more. It always has been, more of anything!

Is there is more to this than meets the eye?

Where before I had seen myself as one of the ten percent, an addict, for whom control is not possible, I now realised I was a just specialist, with a limited repertoire in the pursuit of more.

Looking around me I saw nothing but greed.

I am one of the multitude that is relentlessly chasing more in a world organised by mankind’s infectious addiction to more. Upgrade, stock trade, war made, oil fuelled, More More More, Me Me Me.

At very turn, under every unjust rock, lies a trace of avarice. Heed the tale of the Golem, or is the rampage to far underway?

My addiction hurt those I loved and near destroyed me; however, mankind’s addiction is far less discriminating.

We are mankind you I, we crave power and yet are powerless in the face of it, willingly engaging in the collaboration and enabling process, or being stomped and crushed by it’s onslaught.

There is no middle ground here, either oppressed or oppressor. If you think your neither then you are one of the silent enablers of oppression and by default, an oppressor.

I find that I am one amongst an addicted species, but now I can no longer hide in the collective inward focus of the specialist’s club, nor be wrapped in the comfort and certainty of the, or any, idea.

What steps, what solutions, could offer mankind (or me) recovery?
Who will be mankind’s sponsor?
Where is our role model?
Does mankind need to reach rock bottom in order recover? (If so, surely we have been there several times over)
Who will hear mankind’s belated plea for help?

We have no fellowship, we, are no fellowship.

We are a species that feeds on greed and denial, the ultimate dysfunctional family that may well die alone as it continues to gorge, incapable of satiety or insight.

There can be no…, there is no saviour for mankind that is not composed of mankind itself. Neither book nor messiah, no fervent faith or fundamentalism, no popular passive loved up revolution.

Who or what will confront this collective denial? Expose the sham of voting for change, the monumental rationalisation of greed as good, of the inalienable right to kill to keep, to get more.

If not we, the cells of this rogue monster then who?

Could we be the antidote, the anti-chaotics, the answer to infection by Bacterium Avidity that suffuses our species?

Or will we succumb, and perish, mankind no more?

 

Written by Francis de Aguilar© February 2015

 

Afterthought:

I wonder how many likes this will get?