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The Comedy of Errors

"You’ve got nothing to lose and your life to regain" - A Cocaine Anonymous Member on His Road to Recovery

27 October 20 illustrations: Raphael Achache

No matter how far into addiction you may be, it’s not too late. We talk to one of the members of the Nottingham branch of Cocaine Anonymous, who wishes to remain nameless, about addiction and his own personal road to recovery...

Can you tell us a bit about Cocaine Anonymous?
Cocaine Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and the hope that they may solve their common problem, and help others recover from their addiction too. The best way to reach someone is to speak to them on a common level. The members of C.A. are all recovering addicts who maintain their individual sobriety by working with others. We come from various social, ethnic, economic and religious backgrounds, but what we have in common is addiction. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop using cocaine and all other mind-altering substances. 

What are the main differences between using cocaine recreationally and becoming addicted?
With alcohol and drugs, most people can take them or leave them. They have little trouble in giving it up entirely if they have a good reason for it. An addict is a person who has lost the power of choice over drink or drugs. I know that this sounds odd, but when I was in active addiction I could not stay away from drugs/alcohol even if I wanted to. I would try to stay away and be ‘good’, but sooner rather than later I would find myself wasted again. Usually I’d have some ‘reason’ in my head to justify it, but it didn’t really make sense to me even when I was living it. It’s a difficult thing to explain as it makes little sense and doesn’t match how non-addicted people can choose to use alcohol or drugs. This was a terrifying prospect to admit when I came into recovery. 

How does cocaine addiction differ from addictions to other drugs or alcohol?
In some ways they can seem totally different and not similar at all. But for people trying to get or remain clean and sober, the problems resulting from them are exactly the same. Of course, there are some physical, medical and social differences in addictions. Being addicted to any drug isn’t cheap but being addicted to cocaine can cause financial hardship quicker than others. It can be tempting to find ways and means to fund the habit which may or may not be legal. This can lead to more isolation and feelings of helplessness. But the end result, regardless of the substance, is that a person is unable to stop and their lives generally go to pot. We welcome everyone in Cocaine Anonymous, the twelve-step method that we use is the same for all substances and is equally effective for any substance addiction. 

Cocaine Anonymous in Nottingham was established in April 2014 – how have things changed since then?
Cocaine Anonymous has grown a lot since 2014. We started out with one group meeting every Tuesday and now – or rather before COVID hit – we have five weekly meetings. So there has been a big influx of people and a lot of people have recovered from their addictions. Families have been reunited and lives have been improved. It’s a wonderful thing to be a part of. As we’ve grown we’ve become more effective in helping people coming into Cocaine Anonymous for the first time. A couple of Christmases ago we had an event here in Nottingham where members of Cocaine Anonymous from all over the Midlands came here and met up with some great food and laughs so that was awesome. 

As to the problem of addiction, I shy away from saying whether it has gotten worse or not purely because I don’t know. Mankind has had problems with substances ever since the first coca leaf was chewed or the first rotten fruit was eaten and people liked the buzz. Some of us become addicted, not through our own choice, and some don’t. 

What is your own personal involvement with C.A?
I went to my first Cocaine Anonymous meeting in London in around 2010, I loved the energy and how full of life people were. They weren’t moaning or feeling sorry for themselves, they were happy within themselves and wanted to help others. I got involved with Nottingham Cocaine Anonymous in 2014. It was the third meeting of Cocaine Anonymous here and there were only a few people present. I started to help out and over time the meetings grew and new meetings were started. I continue to attend meetings to try to help others (and through that I’ve helped myself) and it’s a lovely part of my life today. The friendships that are made and the understanding that we have with each other is very special. 

I had wet the bed so often that there was a crust of dried urine on the bottom of the mattress

Can you tell us a bit about your own experiences with recovery?
Towards the end of my active addiction I was sitting alone in my room in a shared house drinking 7.5% cider (industrial produced fizzy liquid, it has never seen an apple in its life.) This was how I spent most of my evenings, drinking alone. I was 31 and hoping to become a nurse after spending my twenties being a salesman and wanting to do something more meaningful. I couldn’t turn up for class half the time because I was still drunk and was struggling with my mental health. Worse than that, I had an all pervading idea in the back of my head that I would mess up and never become a nurse.

The room permanently had the curtains drawn and was usually always messy. On the floor by my computer desk, where I spent most of my time, were empty cider bottles on one side and full ones on the other. I was too lazy/scared to venture out of my room to the bathroom so sometimes the empty ones became full again. On occasion, my system of left side for full ones and right side for the empty (or refilled) bottles would get confused and I would drink my own urine. There wasn’t much difference in taste. I would get to my room, close the door, put my phone on silent, watch movies with my headphones on so no one would think that I was home. And drink. I had wet the bed so often that there was a crust of dried urine on the bottom of the mattress.

By this time, I wasn’t a very good catch for any woman so I was single. Most of my close friends thought twice about calling or visiting me because it was too upsetting for them to see how I was. I would call my Mum and Nan when I had had enough to drink but not too much, or at least that was how I saw it. I used to hold them hostage on the phone talking drunkenly and probably not remembering too much about it afterwards.

The worst part about it was my mental headspace. I called it the ‘Doom Cloud’ – it would come and settle on me with a chill. It brought feelings of fear, impotence, a lot of self-hatred and, most of all, guilt. Guilt for the things I had done, guilt for things I hadn’t even done or guilt for the things that I had thought.

It was at one of these times I had the sanest, most logical thought I had had for a long time: there must be more to life than this.

Then, I realised that I had had enough. In time, I got help. I was lucky to have lots of help available to me. I started to attend twelve-step meetings. I met people in the same boat as me. I didn’t feel alone any more. I started to get a framework for living and thinking which guarantees my continued sobriety called the twelve steps. It is a long process and undoubtedly the most satisfying thing I have ever accomplished. It has given me a whole load more than just abstinence from alcohol and drugs.

Fast forward a few years and all of my relationships are vastly improved. I am now happily married and have a job which is of benefit to society. I have good and meaningful friendships. My health has improved but the best thing is that I haven’t felt the Doom Cloud for a long, long time.

How can people get involved with C.A?
Currently, we have one physical meeting a week and a wide array of online meetings. Everyone is welcome to come along to the meeting every Sunday at 6.30pm - 8pm at St John’s Church. You can also call us and someone who has had a problem themselves can talk to you. If you think that you might have a problem, please get in touch. You’ve got nothing to lose and your life to regain. It might just be the best thing that you ever do!

Cocaine Anonymous website

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