Adventures in Group Therapy

March 27, 2012


I went into that first Narcotics Anonymous meeting like I’ve gone into so many things: wide-eyed and daunted. One of the reasons I had picked this group, beyond the proximity to the homestead, was the size of the group. More people meant more anonymity.  “Nothing to see here, folks. Let’s keep moving…”

My reason for being there was far more mandate than free will. The preceding melodrama I shall spare you of, in lieu of a more intimate, individual conversation I would prefer to have with you. Consider it home court advantage. Let’s just say if you’re familiar with the scene in “Half Baked” where Dave Chappelle’s character goes to an N.A. meeting, you have a fairly good impression of my initial appraisal of the whole situation at hand.

I quickly learned the ropes and rhythms of the function. And although I resented the inconvenience and insistence upon it, another part of me began enjoying the sweetness and fallible, yet reaching human grace of the meetings. So many beautifully broken people. As odd as that sounds, you understand when you see the ones who use the opportunity to examine the pieces and start making different decisions about how they might fit back together. Some I will never forget.

Serving as the initial paragraph that grabs your attention, most meetings were started by a gentleman who typically sat straight-legged on the floor in the center of the broad circle. If you did not happen to see his Harley in the parking lot prior, there was a good chance you would feel as much as hear it at some point later that evening. He always sported the requisite black shirt, blue jeans, pointed boots, and wallet on silver chain. Think Mr. Clean’s resentful baby brother, all tattoo-bedazzled. He seemed to serve two important functions of the ceremony: to get people talking by sharing his own trials and tribulations of the previous week, and to demonstrate the format in which others were expected to do so.

Often up next was a woman who was not to be trifled with. She had had enough of that shit in her life and was going to be nobody’s fool from here out. She would often just vent about things that were pissing her off that week, which it soon dawned on me were the kind of things that often gave people reason to indulge their addictions, if they didn’t have some other outlet they could count on. Rage on, sister. Rage on…

Another regular who was well liked and often spoke only briefly was a woman a bit more on the demure and disappointed end of the spectrum. What she didn’t talk about I thought I could read for myself. The now permanent downturn of her lips betrayed a once popular and fun high school cheerleader in her small home town. She had married a hard-working, bitter man who drank for his own reasons, leaving her to drink for hers. At some point, perhaps when the children were old enough, she had made the terrifying leap out into the world on her own for the first time. Alas, she inspired men to want to protect her, too many overly so. Such a sweet soul finding it so hard to trust.

One other–character, I am inclined to say–that stuck with me was the rock star kid. His modus operandi was merely suspect at first, but confirmed with later performances. He would usually breeze in late wearing some cliche. This week might be leather jacket and Foster Grants propped on top of his head, the next more of a torn t-shirt and bandanna headband kind of thing.  Always accompanied by a young, pretty groupie (or two), though rarely the same one, it was perhaps no small coincidence that their outfit was always accessorized with his. Or was it the other way around? At some point he would do his slightly Shatner-esque bit that felt too rehearsed and designed to showcase how much of a twisted, sensitive soul he was. At least to his personal guest. He had-you know-feelings, man. These really, really deep feelings about stuff.

I rarely spoke during my allotted number of meetings. But I did listen, and I did learn. One of the many things I absorbed was the realization that what most of these people talked about were the decisions they were making on a daily bases. It surely isn’t that any of these people had a decisive point where they chose to become an addict. Putting aside for the moment whether we all have our addictions and determining virtue or vice can be highly contextual, I believe it is rather rare that decisions are so…decisive. I mean, you can make all the grandiose feeling decisions you want, but tomorrow you are still going to go for a spin in the big roulette wheel. Placing bets is all that you may have.

David Hume rather made a name for himself by skillfully lampooning our a priori assumptions of cause and effect based on our individual, empirical observations. But while I may be able to sit there and find reference to aspects of the situation in Hume or Kant, I was humbly grateful to learn from these good people that dramatic, declarative decisions are often a waste of time. It is the little decisions that you make on an ongoing, daily basis that add up in your life. And it is wise to remember that you are rarely stuck on a stretch of interstate in the arid panhandle of Texas without an exit for many miles. In fact, here comes an exit with fuel and a place to stay just ahead. What do you want to do?


This is my first time writing a response to Side View’s weekly theme. This week was “The Decision” , and in typical fashion, I’m late.

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11 Comments on “Adventures in Group Therapy”

  1. Eden Says:

    Brett, you have an amazing talent for encapsulating real people into stereotypes without making them lose their humanity. It’s kind of scary, really….but in a good way. 😉


    • Brett Myers Says:

      Thank you very much, Eden. I like them all and try to do them justice in the limited framework, here. I would prefer to respectfully move them beyond stereotypes with more time and space. Something I’m working towards…

      And thank you for the mention of “Three…” in your post the other day, as well. A very nice compliment… ¦-)


  2. uptonatom Says:

    One of your best. The ending is outstanding. Thanks.


  3. SidevieW Says:

    true, no one decides to be an addict, but the route is full on many smaller decisions that all add up.

    welcome to the weekend theme, come and play with us again, it;’s nice to have so many different posts around each theme


  4. nrhatch Says:

    (Here I am . . . in accordance with your master plan!)

    Fabulous post . . . great take on the theme. It brings to mind something I read and wrote about a while back ~> who we are NOW is the product of the choices we once made.

    I’ll be back!


  5. kateshrewsday Says:

    And what a great response that was, Brett. The little decisions: I must remember that in the coming months.


  6. The Hook Says:

    Sorry I haven’t been around much lately, but my book, The Bellman Chronicles, will be FREE to download on Sept. 10 – 11! Check it out on my Amazon Kindle page.. You won’t be disappointed. And if you can slip me a review, I’d be forever grateful…


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