3: Religious Cult (Sort Of)

11/3/19 In this episode we talk about whether 12 step fellowships are religions, cults, both, or neither.

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recovery sort of is a weekly podcast
where we discuss issues around living
with addiction from the perspective of
two people and long-term recovery this
podcast does not intend to represent or
endorse the views of any particular
group organization or fellowship the
views expressed are solely the opinions
of its contributors be advised there may
be strong language or topics of an adult
nature alright here we are welcome back
to recovery sort of with Billy and Jason
today we’re gonna attempt to tackle the
topic of our 12-step groups religions
are they cults are they both are they
neither are they religious cults like
what are they exactly in in those sort
of terms because they have definitely
been considered that by certain
individuals and what does that mean for
them and of course as always I think my
biggest frame of reference is the
particular 12-step group that I have a
member of but I would imagine the rules
probably apply to most since they are
very similar in the way they run yeah
and one of the things I always find
interesting about these kind of
conversations it sort of falls into the
same category is is addiction a disease
and we hear these words you know like
disease has a very sort of vague
definition when you actually look up the
literal definition of the word it’s
pretty general and pretty vague and you
find the same thing with words like cult
or religion that you know they have sort
of multiple meanings and then there’s
sort of the more common understanding of
what generally people think of when they
hear these words so like for me when I
hear cult I immediately think of like a
negative thing it immediately falls into
like some some organization where
like a charismatic leader that convinces
you to believe some sort of ridiculous
agenda would ya and drink the
kool-aid or you know wait for the
spaceship or whatever and you know when
you actually get into looking up the
literal definition of the word you can
use the word cult in positive ways as
well it doesn’t always have this total
negative connotation to it right Game of
Thrones had a cult following right and
we don’t look at that as a bad thing it
just fit the definition of cult and you
know suited the needs of the writer in
that particular article so yeah it’s not
always negative and and religion
definitely I would say is not always
negative even though quite a few of us
might have that view of our childhood
religion yeah and same when I hear the
word religion I mean immediately what I
think of is like basically a bunch of
dogmatic beliefs that you’re sort of
told to believe by a group of people and
and like I’ve gotten a little more
open-minded about this I used to think
like religion is for unintelligent
people that really need to be led or
guided because they’re not smart enough
to make their own decisions um that’s
pretty arrogant thing to say but that’s
kind of the way that I always looked at
religion it’s like that’s for a
weak-minded people that need other
people to tell them what to do right and
so with religion I definitely look at
it’s a set of rules that people need to
follow that maybe aren’t always in tune
with the own beliefs of the religion
that’s it seems like they go against
themselves quite frequently the rules
and the beliefs and I’ve always looked
at people who religion seems like a very
easy way whether it was created for this
or not it seems like a good way of kind
of crowd control for people who don’t
have much you know to keep them from
possibly overthrowing the people that
have it all and so that’s sort of the
way I’ve viewed religion which isn’t
very nice either
yeah and there’s some some things in
like the Old Testament of you know the
Bible for example there’s a lot of what
we’re considered religious rules you
still see some of them practice within
the Jewish religion today and a lot of
them when you look
the basis of them what they really did
was help to prevent like the spread of
germs and eating unhealthy meats and
putting yourself into health risks so
you know obviously it’s it’s easy to say
like oh when you eat this thing you die
so that’s a sign from God not to eat
that thing like some of it they were and
they were practical rules that people
had come up with and almost like you say
is a way to sort a crowd control instead
of letting everyone experiment on their
own and figure it out it was it probably
easier just to say well God said don’t
eat this stuff because we don’t want
everybody eating this stuff and dying
right so I think a good place to start
for this discussion might be the
definition of religion and so we will go
to our true religion and our God Google
so the the first top definition of
religion if you just look it up on
Google search is the belief in and
worship of a superhuman controlling
power especially a personal god or gods
and so just going by that one particular
definition I would say that 12-step
groups do not qualify as religions
because we do not worship a particular
superhuman controlling power and I
actually felt the opposite I felt that
exactly describes with bellusci yeah I
don’t necessarily hold on I had that
same definition of they’re not tell you
so sorry I’m floored oh that’s cold
sorry I I don’t know why but when I saw
that I’m always amazed when people can
look at the exact same information as me
and we can see it from two completely
different perspectives and not I don’t
know why I’m amazed maybe it’s my
arrogance to think that obviously you’ll
see it my way
because it’s right but I definitely am
surprised by that and I guess worships a
little strong I don’t know that we
worship but I said if you sort of set a
belief in a superhuman controlling spat
of power especially a God but that’s
kind of what
happens in 12-step groups we I mean
there’s a lot of people that will tell
you that you can’t recover without a God
like you better come in and get a God
that’s what you need to do right away
you need a Power greater than yourself
you know that’s this god of our
understanding or else you’re like
you without that piece you’re
because you’re left to your own devices
which will fail you right because people
and they have you’re out you’re like one
to hate each other and kill each other
if they don’t have a god and they need
the threat of you know hell in order to
keep them straight know so look I might
be one of those people that believes
that God is very very helpful for
recovery I will say I’ve seen people
that say they don’t believe in God who
have recovery so it obviously doesn’t
apply across the board but I believe
it’s hugely important I guess my
distinction with this definition is to
me this is almost like the religion is
the place where you go to get this
worshipping of a superhuman controlling
power and I feel like a 12-step
fellowships says hey that’s a good idea
you should go pursue that somewhere else
like in this meeting place and this
fellowship that’s not specifically what
we do here here we give you good ideas
of things that can help you stay clean
and recover this is one of those good
ideas that maybe you should get one of
these religion things or something
similar but go do that somewhere else
and so I guess that’s where I make the
distinction of I don’t see the 12-step
fellowship itself being the religion but
more of hey religions probably something
you might want to think about or a god
is something you might want to think
about we’re just here to give you some
good ideas of staying clean but maybe
somewhere else go pursue that idea of
God yeah I would say so I’m a person
that wrestles with that idea of you know
sort of what like I use God for myself
in what I would call the lowercase G
version like God is in good order ly
direction right and we’ve talked about
this kind of stuff before like I don’t
believe that there’s a God or higher
power out there that moves us around
like you know chess players on a chess
board or checker pieces on checkerboard
like to me that’s not my understanding
of God it’s sort of that good orderly
direction if I live by spiritual
principles and apply these principles in
my life good things will happen and you
know it falls more into that kind of
thing there’s not this greater mystical
magical being riding up in the clouds
you know making decisions for what we do
or pushing pieces you know around so
that we suffer consequences or get
benefits of doing right or doing wrong
like I struggle with all that sort of
stuff so the God sort of capital G God
has always been an issue that I’ve
wrestled with in recovery I went back
and forth between sort of not being
believing in God at all when I first got
clean to go in the other way and being
involved with an organised religion for
a number of years and being I still that
was a great experience I met some of the
most wonderful best people I’ve ever
known in my life that were just
genuinely good caring loving people that
were Christians you know that we’re
doing God’s work in the world with it
and they believed in it and we’re kind
loving people to where I just found that
that I struggled with my own personal
belief in that and I don’t know that I’m
right – trust me I don’t by any stretch
of the imagination step of the
fellowship that we go to it talks about
our belief comes not from Dogma meaning
I don’t just believe because I have to
believe or because I’ve told a belief so
I always fall back on what I know works
for me and so at times I’ve fallen into
there is a greater God there is a higher
power and I will pray and do those
things regularly but what inevitably
what happens to me is then I fall back
and get super pissed at that God when
things don’t work out the way that I
should not for any action that I’ve done
wrong but just they don’t work out in a
good way
bad things happen in the world and if
there’s this loving God why you know and
the answers that I’ve gotten to those
questions talking to religious people
and non-religious people different
people none of them really have been
satisfactory to me right now and I don’t
want to get too much into my personal
beliefs not because I don’t want to
share them but more because that could
probably be an entire podcast on its own
but no I do fall more in line with a
universal energy that’s intelligent and
I do I actually just thought yesterday
about the different ways my life has
gone and the way I do feel much like a
chess piece placed in these different
places for an amount of time for a
purpose I don’t buy into the you know
punishment of right and wrong and all
those things my belief in that area is
probably more of the the yin and yang
where there is no good or bad or the
good and bad both exist together always
and that there is no like the good thing
happened or the bad thing happened
because I did the right thing or the
wrong thing it’s just things happened
and they were part of my life to guide
me to the next piece I was going to be
put in so I don’t know about that but I
just I guess just looking at this
definition in particular I think of if I
don’t wanted to get clean or find
recovery and I would have looked up how
to do that and I would have found a
website that said hey suggestions for
getting clean and finding recovery and
if suggestion three on that website was
hey maybe you want to find a God that
could be really useful for you or if a
therapist suggested it you know I would
not consider the therapist or that
website I went to to be a religion
itself I would consider that to be a
place that suggested maybe I should find
that and so that by that definition to
me I would say that 12-step fellowships
are not a religion in and of themselves
they might suggest people move in that
direction some in some other part of
their life but the 12-step fellowship is
not really a religion yeah but we have a
step that says we made it as
to turn our will and lives over to a
Power greater than ourselves and so I
guess you could say that doesn’t have to
be good but it sure sounds like it sure
sounds like you’re saying you need to
turn your will in your life over to a
superhuman controlling power to use the
definition like it and that’s in a step
and like for me the way a 12-step
fellowship works is that the steps are
the recovery so to me the steps aren’t a
suggestion I guess if you want recovery
I don’t I mean I know we say all these
are all suggestions but to be frank I
don’t think they are I think there’s
some you better do if you want to
get clean and actually have what I would
consider recovery right well so okay if
we go to the next two popular
definitions I have a particular system
of faith and worship and then the next
one would be a pursuit or interest to
which someone ascribes supreme
importance now definitely going by
number three yes 12-step fellowships
would be a religion by that definition
it is definitely a pursuit and interest
which is ascribe supreme importance in
one’s life if you want to be clean it
must be really important to be clean and
you must attend this meeting to get
there and that might not be the only way
for everyone but that definitely is what
I needed to do to find recovery yeah and
even in that definition when you you
know right below it gives you sort of
use it in a sentence it says consumerism
is the new religion well that’s another
one of those cases where we’re using a
more general version of that word you
know so you know technically you could
say yes it’s a religion because of this
third definition but I certainly don’t
think I’d say it this way the things
that I don’t think recovery does or
12-step fellowships do that separate
them out from what most people would
call organized religions are as you
mentioned they don’t force you to
worship or praise or do any of those
things in any particular way
there’s no real requirements or demands
that you you know tithe or that you
follow certain rules or tie things a
little up in the air with the donation
basket I know it’s not required but it
is suggested you donate a portion your
there’s nothing you would say there’s
nothing you would see in any of the
written literature that says you need to
give money there’s written in the you
know that you should be self-supporting
right and so if you’re gonna be a part
of an organization you should help it be
self-supporting but if you don’t you
know sort of no one’s counting I mean I
guess when I think of tithing like in
most religious aspects it’s 10 percent
is what’s cited in the Bible as far as
you know give ten percent of your income
you know to the church and then let them
decide what they want to do with it
right um I don’t know I’ve always
thought that that was pretty open but
then there’s you know the openness to
finder explore a higher power you know
that you want in recovery that I think
separates it from most religions you
know most religions are pretty clear on
like hey this is our deity here at the
top this is who we worship this is who
we praise this is what all this is for
this is the rules they laid down for us
and so you got to do these things and I
think for those reasons you know
recovery sort of pushes back against
religion so I’ve been to a Universalist
Church where there isn’t a particular I
guess universalism is a religion maybe I
don’t know but they don’t have a
particular God that you go and worship
everybody’s got their own right some
people it’s Buddhism or Hinduism or
whatever it is that you practice and
they just kind of grouped together to
worship and come together and and
fellowship really which i think is a
unique idea it’s more inclusive for sure
but I would say that that excuse my
understanding of whether 12 steps are
religion again so if it is a religion
now what it like are we Christian we’re
12-step Ian’s or like how do you
how do you entitle that are we apostles
of 12 steps or what so and not to go
down a big long road of the history of
stuff but if you go back and look this
is going back away so I have to refresh
some of my history on this but there was
originally the Oxford group which was a
religious group that had these six steps
for recovery and that’s sort of loosely
where the twelve steps came from right
so they were based off a model from a
religious group they were taken and
tried to sort of I don’t wanna say
separate out religion because obviously
in the 12 steps there’s no refrain from
the use of God I mean there’s and its
capital G in the steps that when you
look at it it’s a capital G God several
times in the steps it would be intra
I’ve actually thought about digging into
the history what history I could find I
know it started in a a you know
originally came up with the original
twelve steps and it would be interesting
to dig into the religion I mean the
history on that to see what context of
that was religious right so I know me I
I definitely am a proponent of we do not
force any religion on you we don’t
require you to have one I don’t
personally in my own life understand not
having some form of higher power right I
just can’t fathom the idea of it the way
I’ve watched my life play out but I
definitely I’m against when I go to a
meeting and maybe another fellowship
where they say a particular religions
prayer at the end that drives me crazy
I’m like how are you going to sit here
and say we don’t support any one
religion and you can do what you want
and then talk about heaven and hell and
you know forgiving our trespasses like
that’s a particular thing right there
that’s not across the board yeah and
recently there was a organization that
started in this area that is
specifically a religious 12-step
fellowship and there gentlemen explain
it to us in the way that they really
only difference was that their first
step says we admitted we were powerless
the things that separated us from God
and that our lives have become
so they take out sort of addiction or
alcohol or sex and love or you know
whatever food routing and they put in
the things that separated us from God
and they are very specifically religious
based you know so that’s interesting you
know wow that is interesting because
definitely for my personal belief system
I buy into that first step I don’t
particularly like it as a first step for
everybody seeking recovery I like our
definition of it in general feel like
ours is all-inclusive as well as that
one is but I if somebody would have told
me I had to believe in a particular
religion when I first walked through the
doors I would have left I don’t want to
believe in a particular religion I don’t
want you to tell me the rules of what my
god is and isn’t I don’t want any of
that I want to figure out what I want to
believe myself yeah my understanding of
God when I was using or belief whatever
you want to call it that the
misinformation and lack of faith and
lack of hope and lack of humanity that I
saw in my life when at the end of my
using you know I really thought if there
was a God it had to be a pretty terrible
thing because you know the information
that I came in was very skewed and
damaged because I was a sick and hurt
person probably mentally you know I
definitely wasn’t all there so that
ability to sort of come in and and to
hear people tell me at least what I
heard in the beginning was you don’t
have to believe in any particular God
you don’t have to believe in a God at
all if you don’t want to we’ll worry
about that later right now you just need
to come in and get clean and as you go
through the process of you know your
step work with a sponsor you can work
through whatever your beliefs are and
and so through my process of recovery I
feel like that’s what I’ve done I’ve
gotten to be able to explore some of my
beliefs to see what was dogma and what’s
not and what I believe and what I don’t
and to be okay enough to say yeah I
think this is the way that I want to
live my life you know right and so I
guess one of the things that I’ve always
that has allowed me to never even
consider a 12-step fellowship to be a
religion is that to me a religion tells
you who God is and how you need to
worship it and I’ve never gotten that
sense from a 12-step fellowship it’s
always been hey you get to pick what
your God has quality wise and attribute
wise and then you get to pick how you
talk to that God and what you do to
worship it and so to me that would be
the separation like I believe religions
force a particular God on you or at
least they only offer one particular
version or vision of God and a 12-step
fellowships doesn’t qualify as a
religion because it does not have that
yeah now would you say the words higher
power and God are the same are they
so I yes I think those two words are the
same I know our fellowship tends to also
say power greater then which I do think
can encompass a little bit more than
just God or higher power but I think God
in higher power pretty much one in the
same I I honestly prefer the term higher
power to refer to mine but God is one
syllable and easier to say so I usually
stick with that and I almost tried
occasionally comes I almost tried to
avoid God mostly for all the context
that comes along with it when you use
that word there’s some you know it’s
history yeah and there’s so people have
very rigid ideas in their mind about
what they think that means you know
personally to them so when you use that
word you know it’s not an open you know
like higher power seems to be a little
more open absolutely interpretation
where is God most of the time most
people feel like that’s pretty specific
and and that’s why I prefer the term
higher power it’s just annoying to say
four syllables when I can say one which
is laziness
my aunt’s a god the only other thing I
would say about the the question of
religion is I would definitely say all
the religions I know are built from the
top down like that’s the authoritative
structure and from the understanding of
12-step structure it is a structure
based on the bottom-up right so the
people at the bottom are the ones who
vote to create the rules in the
structure of the 12-step fellowship not
the other way around there’s not the the
highest power God at the top with Pope’s
or priests under it there’s no structure
level of people telling the lower people
what to do it’s actually the opposite
and so that also to me would separate it
from any kind of religious annotation
yeah well and I’m just thinking about
that for a minute to think how how that
role of like sponsorship and all that
plays in because I don’t know about you
but I’ve definitely heard stories of
sponsors that dictate to their spawn
seize on you need to call me every day
and you need to do this and you need to
do that and this is you know you need to
get up and go to work and you need to
have this job and I don’t care what it
is but you got to get it you know and
yeah no absolutely seems like there’s
but that’s not the Fellowship’s point of
view I would say that’s more personal
right location maybe ego no so thinking
about that like you know in certain
religions you can get excommunicated and
just completely barred and kicked out of
the religion right and we don’t have
that just with what you’re just talking
about I could suggest that a sponsee
called me every day and if they don’t
chances are that I’m not gonna fire them
from sponsorship but even if I did even
if I thought hey I’m not helping this
individual maybe somebody else would
help them better I’m still not gonna
kick them out of Na or any 12-step
fellowship because I can’t right there I
remember when they say they are and so I
I don’t know if religions have that
freedom to say you’re a member when you
say you are or if they dictate if you
remember hmm yeah I think that varies
for religion you know from religion to
I’m sure certain ones are a little more
like I was raised
like which is probably why my views on
God are all screwed up in the first
place I went to Catholic school and
everything so you know there were
definitely formalities and rituals and
steps that you had to proceed through
you know with confirmation and First
Communion and confession and you know
all those like steps that you had to go
through to be considered you know Kathy
had to be baptized within the Catholic
Church like there were definitely rules
in Catholicism to becoming a member but
we’ve been to other churches along the
way you know throughout life that
weren’t the only other thing I’d like to
say about organized religion is
Recovery’s giving me the ability to sort
of go in and listen to things with an
open mind and not just solely focus on
what’s bad about it but almost the
opposite like let’s go in and look at
what’s good about it and so as I’ve went
to different churches and checked out
different religions when I can go in
with an open mind and just listen to the
message what hits me most a lot of times
if you get past the sort of quirkiness
of some of the rules it’s like love and
compassion and kindness and you know
faith and hope and trust and you know
those principles are all there they’re
all the spiritual principles that we
learn about and practice in a 12-step
fellowship they just take it to a next
level with a set beliefs on why they do
whereas in recovery I’ve had the freedom
to sort of explore why I do it you know
for my own reasons
no and I and I buy into that there I
think a lot of religion is based from a
good place and and I do like the
principles that are spiritual that that
apply to them I just I guess my hang-up
a lot of times with religion is that
once you okay you have these beliefs of
love and compassion and empathy and
let’s help each other and lift each
other up and then what I see in practice
is those principles get forwarded by the
rules of the religion like oh you’re gay
you must die and go to hell like and I’m
like what the hell happened
we just loved everybody a second ago and
now we got a rule because we’re religion
and so now we’ll get down this road a
little bit so the two different churches
that I sort of belonged to in my
recovery at different times were both
the reasons they appealed to me or
because they didn’t do that right one of
them in particular addressed very
specifically those kind of issues and
said you know we look at it as what the
Bible teaches is a sin is a sin so
there’s no worse sin or no greater sin
if you’re out you know whatever you know
eatin grapes in the grocery store or
taking stuff that doesn’t belong to you
and stealing the toast I had this
morning and then that’s stealing and
that’s wrong that is no worse than you
know homosexuality or any of those
things so right you know that was the
appeal of that church is that they
didn’t differentiate you know and say
this sin is worse or that’s worse it’s
like we’re all sinners we all do wrong
at some point right and you don’t care
you know you know kick out anybody for
that we still love them we encourage
them to do right we try to help them to
do right so I guess they didn’t want
people to be gay she’s a little weird to
me which is probably one of the reasons
I left but but more accepting and I and
I think you know what I’m talking about
might not be the norm it’s what you see
on the news for sure because it’s you
know glorified and and you can sell news
with it and advertise me but I
definitely don’t understand like hey
let’s forgive the guy who murdered you
know 20 people but them gay people have
worried now they got to stay out of our
church so I think in closing I mean I
would say under the loosest definition
dictionary definition of religion
maybe 12-step fellowships qualify but
when you think of what most people think
of as an organized religion I would say
it is not yeah that sounds about right
to me and and now we get to move on to
the much more exciting world of cults
because that seems more exciting than
debating whether it’s a religion or not
so of course we’re going back to our
religious deity Google to find the
definition of cult and the first
definition would be a
system of religious veneration and
devotion directed toward a particular
figure or object and I probably should
have looked up veneration before I
started this but just going by that if
we say it’s not a religion I guess it’s
also not a cult right yeah by that first
one I would say definitely it doesn’t
seem like it the following definition is
a relatively small group of people
having religious beliefs or practices
regarded by others as strange or
sinister that’s an interesting
definition that you have to be regarded
as weird in order to be in a cult but
really the one I think that most applies
to what we’re talking about would be the
third definition a misplaced or
excessive admiration for a particular
person or thing and that becomes
interesting so it says misplaced or
excessive I wouldn’t say that a fondness
or admiration for a 12-step fellowship
would be misplaced for a person that has
been using drugs their whole life like
that might be a good place that they
really need to place their admiration
and with the excessive I could I could
see that so what are your thoughts about
the excessive admiration that people
could have for a 12-step fellowship um
to be honest I think in the beginning
it’s healthy for me what I understand of
addiction is I had a really obsessive
compulsive disorder that you know I used
drugs all the time that was the only
thing I knew of life and part of coming
into recovery was to replace a lot of
those old behaviors old beliefs old
practices I didn’t really know how to
have fun how to go to work how to
participate in life you know when I got
clean so I really needed something
someone somebody to sort of guide and
direct me so jumping in with both feet
into this fellowship and sort of looking
around be like
hey what are these people do how are
they getting pie what are their
practices what are they you know how do
they survive in this life that was
really healthy for me in the beginning
yeah from a therapy standpoint this is
where like the cognitive behavioral
therapy refer to a CBT a lot as it comes
into play like this is exactly what you
would do the opposite of what you’ve
been doing right you’d expose yourself
to new practices you would challenge
your old ways of thinking by trying new
things and this is where I think a lot
of effectiveness of 12-step fellowships
takes hold part of what I read this
morning about people who do have so
there was a lady that works on
deprogramming people from cults and she
was interacting with people that had
gone to AAA I believe in particular and
she said deprogramming people who felt
stuck in AAA was very similar to
deprogramming people from cults in the
sense that like when you first come the
cult type ways that they do of hey hit
90 meetings in 90 days show up here all
the time make this a priority in your
life and then there were people who had
gotten clean or sober that way and then
we’re scared to leave the fellowship and
try any other way that might work for
them because you know the things that we
say to people hey people who leave here
stop staying clean or sober or the
things you put in front of your recovery
are gonna be what you lose when you get
high again and so because of that she
felt like it had very similar attributes
to a cult in the way she had to
deprogram people from those beliefs yeah
for sure um
I know for myself though as I stayed
engaged in the process of recovery and
continued to you know practice the steps
and explore that what I you know found
was freedom to be the person that I am
and you know it’s sort of for me looking
around in recovery at the autonomy of
the people in the fellowship you know
you start to see like there’s all sorts
of people doing this all sorts of
different way
is there sort of some general
suggestions but the truth is the longer
you stay around you see those
suggestions work for some people and
fail for other people and some people
you know they only need to go to a
meeting every couple of weeks or once a
month or whatever works for them and
other people go to five meetings a week
and they still get high so the variance
you know of how we use and apply the
fellowship in our life it’s hard to
quantify that into one thing like yeah
my application of you know why I go to
meetings and what I get out of what I
would say the fellowship overall is
different than it was when I first got
into recovery absolutely absolutely
some of the other points she made that I
found interesting and had never really
considered before when she was
deprogramming per se from 12-step
fellowships she mentioned that there’s a
lot of you know she talked about the
thirteenth step issue of the the old
timer individuals that somewhat pray or
maybe the newer members who are just
trying to find something to believe in
and they’re easily susceptible to these
older members and then she mentioned how
sponsorship can sometimes take the form
and maybe this is sort of what we talked
about with the religion piece when you
mention a sponsor who forcefully tells
their sponsee what they need to do who
they need to call every day and all this
stuff and she likened that position to
the position of an abuser in a cult or
the main guy who dictates the rules and
you know you have to follow without
question in order to belong or you’re
shunned or kicked out if you’re not
working steps people are gonna judge you
if you’re living a certain way or
breaking other 12-step faux pas people
judge you and shutting you out of the
program and she likened those attributes
to being like a cult I have actually
probably seen all of those things happen
to people at different times so I can’t
disagree with that but I would also say
from my observation that if you take
every any organization and judge it by
its absolute worst people or worst
application and then say well the worst
people are the worst application of
these principles represents the whole
group you know you’ll find that
nothing’s good because you know in any
religion I believe there’s some great
people that are doing work for the right
reasons and then there’s other people
that are doing it for all kinds of wrong
reasons right or they’re just mentally
unhealthy themselves and they are think
they’re doing well but they really you
know sort of aren’t I would buy into
that greatly I would say the majority of
the thirteenth stepping that goes on is
not people maliciously trying to prey on
other know new members I think it’s more
of just people who still have issues in
an area of abandonment and looking for
attachment somewhere and they think they
find it in this new lustful loving
whatever you want to call it
relationship and then it doesn’t work
out and people get hurt I don’t think
it’s really a tactic from the beginning
that is meant to hurt anyone oh well
so I’m question yeah I’m gonna say it
anyway um so I was I guess you would say
thirteenth step by my wife hoping don’t
up yeah I feel weird saying that because
the way that I looked at it was
different but yeah so I when I first got
into recovery I had a couple of months
clean my wife had 12 years at the time
and we started dating the fact that
people made it so weird actually
encouraged me to work harder at my
recovery if that was the thing like
because I was like well I’ll prove all
you wrong and I’ll you know stay
healthy and stay engaged in recovery and
not you know allow this relationship to
become you know my higher power or my
recovery and so I still you know worked
adamantly on my own personal recovery
while I was in a relationship with her I
was lucky at the time that
you know my sponsor at the time was
supportive and sort of the best advice
he had to give me was to say hey look
you know anything you put in front of
your recovery he’ll lose so if you’re in
this relationship you know as long as
you keep your focus on recovery and
staying clean and doing the things you
need to do for your own you know
personal well-being whatever happens
with that relationship will be fine but
if that takes the place of your recovery
and things go bad you’re in trouble so
yeah and it’s worked out for us we’re
still married we’re still together we’ve
been together 19 years now so you know I
also know a very close friend of mine
that was a rehab romance that they say
never works out and they’re married and
they’ve been married longer than my wife
and I so I think they’ve been married 20
years or together at least 20-something
years right you know when you hear how
often that works out you know almost
never but they are and they’re married
and they’re happy and they’re together
and they’re both still you know clean
sober whatever the word you want to use
are bright and and there was a time in
my recovery where I was sponsored and
buying into I don’t want to use the word
that’s typically thrown around with this
but I was definitely a much more
stricter and a police version of
recovery that was going on in my head
and so I definitely said yeah you know
don’t do the 13 step it never works out
this is never and I spoken a lot of
absolutes Nevers always and since then
hearing stories about people who have
had successful rehab romances or 13-step
experiences where they’re married 20 and
30 years later I’ve questioned that I
still don’t think it’s the norm I think
it’s definitely the the exception to the
rule of it not working and and there are
times when I question you know what’s
the health of that look like at certain
points in time and but I can’t argue
with the evidence that it has worked for
some people and they seem pretty
generally happy in their life and so my
suggestion to new people is generally
always hey
relationships are a painful area right
relationships are a good replacement
when we get off of drugs so maybe you
don’t want to put too much stock in that
early on but I’m never one to say don’t
get in a relationship in your first year
or I kind of hope they don’t I think
they’re better off working on themselves
alone but it’s not for me to decide that
and I think all of it’s a learning
process and that’s where we feel stuff
and and go at it so I’m not of the
occult leader
sense that I need to dictate what people
do in their life yeah and some of those
things I mean there’s a couple we Begley
talked about this once before with these
cliches that people use and say all the
time that are they good or bad and and
that’s one of them this 13th step stay
out of relationships for a year I don’t
know about you but I have looked there
is not one piece of official recovery
literature that says not to do that no
there’s not that is just a rehab thing
that they taught you in rehab that came
out of everyone you know going to
treatment and treatment centers pushing
12 steps and they didn’t want people
sleeping with each other in rehab
because it looked bad so you know that
was this treatment idea I’ve also heard
it you know they say don’t make any
major changes in the first year of your
recovery that’s another like stupid
cliche because you really need to change
everything about yourself when I first
got in recovery I was living in a house
with guys that were getting high every
day you know my you know health and
general life skills were pretty abysmal
you know I needed to change everything
about myself I needed to get out of that
place I needed to get into a healthy
relationships with people maybe not you
know physical love relationships with
just developing healthy relationships
with people based on you know trust and
people that I could look up to and
develop some where they call them role
models of people in recovery like I had
to change everything about myself when I
first got clean so I hate some of those
cliche sayings I hate yeah I would so if
I had to guess the proportion of people
you know that get in a relationship
within their first year and that
relationship ends up being delayed
relationship there in there like
long-term and together forever it’s
probably tiny so I think maybe that you
know message is somewhat true in that
sense but I’ve also heard and believed
that nobody really knows if staying out
of a relationship for your first year
works because nobody’s ever done it
like nobody everybody seems to want to
be in some relationship whether even if
it’s not a romantic when you get in a
relationship with a sponsor you get in a
relationship with you know people in
your network these are the things that
keep us clean and those so-called
platonic relationships are still
intimate and still can cause the same
amount of pain like have a close
bestfriend sponsee brother that relapses
and tell me that don’t feel just like
getting dumped right have a sponsor put
your stuff out there you know that
doesn’t mean before unintentionally but
I had a sponsor you know say some
personal stuff I had said to him and he
told his wife who then told someone else
and you know it’s sort of that’s the way
that that went down and it was very you
know at the time sort of overwhelming
and and like wow this is how these
people are you know is difficult and it
that just reminded me of you know the
thing we talked about a little bit
earlier not to go too far down this road
but you know there’s a guy Johann Hari
and he does a TED talk about addiction
and he says the opposite of addiction is
not abstinence the opposite of addiction
is connection and his you know sort of
research and he wrote a book about it
how you know we need to develop these
relationships it’s these intimate
interpersonal connected relationships
that you know help us recover it’s not
just getting off drugs just getting off
drugs we all do that when we’re locked
in jail or whatever you know we can we
can get a minor breaks throughout our
using where we’re not physically using a
substance but that doesn’t break the
pattern of addiction right I think maybe
the dangerous portion of what we caution
against might be the sex portion which
you know releases a lot of the same
chemicals in the brain that drugs do and
can feel really good and be a
replacement feeling and to to chase that
could definitely be dangerous but I
agree I I don’t know that there’s any
way we can tell anyone how to live their
life and I think it’s our experience
that guides us forward and everything we
do so I’m not I don’t but I think we’re
way off for sure well the other thing I
would say about this this sort of cult
idea is recovery and meetings in the
feel and the flow of things varies from
area to area so you know I’ve had the
opportunity to travel a bunch of
different places and go to meetings all
over the country and different areas you
find that certain areas do things
differently they you know the the little
chants and sayings that we do are
different in different places you know
how we celebrate you know birthdays or
anniversaries or whatever those words we
use for those things are different
depending on what area you’re in oh yeah
so when we welcome a new person I know
in the area I’m from it’s like welcome
keep coming back it works and then if
you let go 30 minutes from there to
anywhere in any direction it’s keep
coming back welcome it works or
something like it it’s my words that I’m
like what how can it weird right here
where you’re 30 minutes from where I
live how do you say it differently some
people they celebrate their anniversary
by sher and some other places you know
45 minutes away you get a speaker to
come share for you and it’s very
different from place to place so does
that mean then we’re a bunch of little
mini cults that must be a bunch of mini
cults I remember when I when I first got
clean and I I don’t even remember
exactly what information I was coming
home spewing to my parents or whatever
but I remember my father saying it
sounds like you’re brainwashed
right now this is a guy who dealt with
me through all the stuff I stole from
him and all the using and he said it
sounds like you’re brainwashed and I
remember they kind of hurt right and I
took it to my sponsor and my sponsor
gave the the good old cliche of like
maybe your brain needed a little
right and I loved it I was like I can’t
wait to take this home and hit the old
man with this one and uh yeah maybe it
did right so I don’t know about brain
wash in the sense of like okay so early
on I probably did buy into a whole lot
of beliefs that I didn’t really inspect
or evaluate or decide if they were good
for me or not or had any basis than
anything I just heard them I was all-in
and I spouted them back out at everybody
that would listen right and people who
wouldn’t – and so over time I’ve gotten
a chance to evaluate what I really
believe matters and what works for me in
my life and what I can give to other
people out of that and what I ignore but
yeah early on I do kind of feel like we
sort of brain Marsh people a little bit
because they’re so ready to buy into
anything that’s not using you know that
life was miserable
yeah and personally I mean I’m sure
other people have different experiences
but I didn’t hear or never received any
information early in my recovery that
was detrimental or damaging to my life
right um I can definitely say that you
know if I when I did the things that
were suggested to me by what seemed to
be senior members or healthier looking
recovery people or people that talked
about recovery principles um my life got
better and that’s where we developed
this you know we sort of come in with a
vague amount of faith that like maybe
things are gonna or hope I guess of a
vague amount of hope that maybe things
can get better in my life maybe I can do
this – turning into faith where it’s
like hey if I practice these principles
things will get better because sometimes
it’s gonna get hard so I wondered we and
it talked about that in the definition a
little that people had to be practicing
their religion in a weird way in order
to be considered a cult and so we look
at these you know famous cults that we
know and possibly led by you know a
Manson or a Jim Jones
and we do say oh they’re cults because
they were going towards a negative end
goal right I know does that need to be
part of the qualification because I
agree with you I think that generally
most of the stuff we’re teaching is
positive things for your life whether
you know
it works out great or not they are
generally positive suggestions yeah I
I mean and that again gets back to the
literal definition versus the society
normal understanding of cult most of the
time when we talk about cult cercis
negative feel or negative vibe that it’s
you know sort of leading people down a
dark path of believing you know
unhealthy or dangerous ideology and I
definitely don’t get that from recovery
but from the loosest definition you can
find of what is a cult we probably would
be a cult yeah yeah I would say so
we’re like a positive cult with a
religion that doesn’t have rules and so
what’s funny is you know I get it like
12-step recovery is not for everyone
there’s a lot of people that I don’t say
a lot but there’s plenty of people that
come in and just this isn’t for them for
whatever reason maybe it’s because they
say God maybe it’s because it looks kind
of cultish maybe it’s because it’s too
overtly religious maybe they don’t fit
into large groups of you who knows you
know everyone has their own sort of
thing that works for them but what I
find fascinating it’s the the people
that will say like addiction is not a
disease want to use the most
closed-minded clinical definition of
disease but then they’ll say it’s a cult
or religion using the most loosely based
definition of religion or cult so it’s
like right yeah we’re gonna use the
loosest version of some words but then
the most strict you know medical
definitions of other words to suit what
we really believe oh well we gotta pick
and choose and make our point I’m sure I
do that too well so one of the things I
read earlier I don’t want to backtrack
too far I felt like we were wrapping up
a little bit oh well so the story I read
about this lady earlier who was having
trouble deprogramming from from her
fellowship she had gotten in and she had
like nine and a half years clean when
everything just kind of hit the fan in
her life and that’s when
she sought out this help to deprogram
and to leave the fellowship she was in
and she said man so I came in and I was
happy in the sense of like I had gotten
some freedom from the active using and
things were good but they were only good
because I was stuffing all the real
issues down while I worked this program
and she made it seem like the program
had forced her to stuff this stuff down
and then she was living these you know
she never felt like she lived the
promises I guess in AAA even though they
confused it and she talked about being
happy joyous and free which is not they
a fellowship to my understanding but I
just I could relate so much in the sense
that I got clean I worked steps I pushed
forward life got a lot better but at
nine and a half years I’d also hit like
a kind of breaking point in my life
where I realized I needed some other
assistance outside of you know na and
what I but what I took out of that was
something completely different than what
she took out of it I never felt like na
told me to stuff my feelings whatsoever
and that’s how you’ll be happy I took
out of it that na had guided me to a
place that was pretty damn good from
where I was coming from and then I just
needed some extra help and when I needed
that extra help it was actually other NA
members that showed me where to go to
look for it right like they had had that
experience too and they guided me in the
right direction again I didn’t feel
misguided by the program or the
fellowship into a false sense of being
happy and and through them guiding me to
another outside resource to find some
more happiness I I didn’t want to not
come back like I couldn’t wait to come
back and find people that also need that
outside help to guide them to that to
like there’s just that na didn’t
misguide me they just got me to a point
and they couldn’t personally do any more
for me with that area but they hadn’t
like ruined my life and I wouldn’t have
been better off not coming here at all
yeah and I’ve never seen anywhere that
says you know any 12-step fellowship is
a one-stop shop to fix every area of
life all the time I mean we all come in
here with different baggage and
different damage from our childhood and
different issues and things that we need
to work on the to my understanding the
12-step model is just a place for me to
sort of dig through what are my issues
what do I need to work on what are some
areas that I need to to work on my
character defects may be different than
your character defects some of them are
the same but what I struggle with is
different than what you struggle with is
with different than what someone else
struggles with I myself I’ve never at
this point in my life not saying it’ll
never happen but I’ve never had an issue
with gambling I’ve never had an issue
with sex I’ve never had an issue with
food so I’ve never had to seek outside
help for those issues I don’t attribute
that to the 12-step fellowship that I
belong to you know they just weren’t
areas that I had it may be something to
do with my upbringing you know I my
parents stayed married for 47 years I
grew up in a fairly healthy household
you know with two parents that loved and
supported us growing up I suffered some
abuse but it wasn’t at the hands of my
parents and they were loving and
supporting and caring to the best of
their ability so I came in here with
certain skills you know I had a good
role model of you know showing up for
work every day and showing up for your
kids and doing these healthy values so
you know I used my entire I mean I’ve
worked and maintained a job throughout
my entire addiction going to work was
never an issue for me now I got high at
work and I couldn’t work unless I was
using in the bathroom I guess you could
say there was some issues there
performance but yeah but I still showed
up every day so I didn’t come in like
hey I need to learn how to fill out a
resume or get a job or how to work how
do people show up for work every day
like those were skills that I brought
here right so the character defects and
the issues that I brought with me were
different than some other people right
you know so it’s not a one-size-fits-all
repair everyone’s life program I don’t
think no I just think it’s a program
fully useful suggestions on ways that
have worked for people to stay clean to
stay off of whatever particular problem
they’ve had that’s really the first
priority they need to get fixed up in
order to move into working on these
other areas that need some assistance
with that I think this is probably a
good place to wrap up I like how you put
n/a in that light or 12-step fellowships
in that light right there
so is 12-step fellowships are they
religions or cults I say who gives a
they’re really helpful yeah and
that’s I fall into the same place it’s
like whether you want to call it you
know it’s got some religious beliefs
maybe but does it really matter like
it’s gonna help your life I think I
don’t I haven’t heard too many people
that it’s damaged their life I’d like to
hear those stories just just to hear
them but I haven’t ever heard one you
know every time I find some of those you
know doing the rabbit hole of web
searching I’m always like you’re so full
yeah it’s just hard to believe the stuff
they say and any organization you get
involved with like say there’s gonna be
bad people everywhere you know and and
unfortunately this is a place where
there’s a lot of sick and unhealthy
people so you do have to keep your guard
up yeah we are we’re definitely shopping
in the denon Canal quite frequently all
right so with that thank you for
listening and we’ll talk to you next
so that wraps up this week’s episode as
always feel free to join the
conversation if you’re on anchor you can
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you’re welcome to email at recovery sort
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one word and I hope everyone has a great