Admitting that you are powerless over the drug that’s the first, and for many the hardest, step users take when they come to Crystal Meth Anonymous.
Part of the 12 Step family of programs, CMA is an organization of former users that meet regularly to support each other in their ongoing recovery. Local CMA membership has grown significantly since the organization first arrived in Dallas in 2004.
Todd (not his real name) is a former addict who now sponsors several members of CMA.
“For a long time, I thought I could control my use,” he said. “People who get [to CMA] have to admit they do not have control, just like I had to.”
Once a new CMA member acknowledges his powerlessness over the drug, he is encouraged to immerse himself in the group and in the 12 steps toward recovery. It’s far from an overnight process, and in fact addicts are never really cured.
“It’s important for people to realize that you don’t go to treatment, go home and stay sober,” Todd said. “People need continuing support because this is a disease that lasts for the long haul. There is no known cure. You’re just in remission.”
It is in working the steps that members are able to remain sober, he added: “Any of us are but one day away from relapsing. But one day at a time, we can remain sober forever.”
CMA stresses abstinence from all drugs, including alcohol a tall order for many. The organization also suggests people “change playmates and playgrounds.” For most recovering addicts, breaking away from a social circle of drug dealers and fellow users is crucial to their abstinence. And since so many meth users tie the drug to sex, CMA recommends giving up the sexual activity that reminds them of their use.
Some addicts show up to CMA thinking they will learn to use correctly that they only need to find the right way to balance their use with the rest of their lives and then they will be able to function successfully, Todd said. It’s the same philosophy that new members of Alcoholics Anonymous come with the desire to drink like gentlemen. In both cases, they soon learn controlled use is not in the cards.
Todd estimates about 75 percent of the members who enter CMA relapse at some point. But he stresses, once they relapse, their chances of kicking the habit for good when they return improve considerably. “At that point, they know what happened when they allowed themselves to use again. They couldn’t control it,” he said. “So when they come back they are recommitted and that recommitment is stronger.”
Todd said roughly half of local CMA members have gone through inpatient treatment while the other half have completed outpatient treatment or simply kicked the habit on their own. He said while everyone’s needs are different and some people are able to successfully quit through CMA alone, the most effective way to kick meth and not relapse is inpatient treatment, followed by outpatient treatment and continuing support.
“I want to convey to people that there is hope,” Todd said. “A lot of people think that you just can’t get sober on this drug. It’s not true. There is a way out and you don’t have to use anymore. With effective treatment and working the program, people do stay sober. I did.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, May 19, 2006.