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“your best thinking got you here,” she sneered, and I felt small + awful
I am too tired to weave together a new word tapestry and so here is a thing I wrote a few years ago that has been on my website blog. This is the story of how addiction recovery is a religious abuse scam and a goddamned joke and I still harbour very much rage toward the people associated with the place in Abbotsford where I stayed. It has been 14 years and when I think about it I feel rage about how these narcissistic fcukwits treated people they said they were trying to help. It’s cruel cult. It’s a giant gaslight. None of it evidence based, too bad I didn’t know that at the time. However I had to go through all that to learn what I know now about nervous system regulation and trauma and self compassion.
In which the recovery saviour assholes essentially destroyed what remained of my marriage
When I “graduated” from a Fraser Valley residential addiction treatment programme — called a recovery house — after spending 6 months there and moved into transition housing to rebuild my life, I did not feel recovered. Half a year of Christian, abstinence-based, sex-segregated addiction ‘recovery,’ filled me with fear, self-doubt, and shame. We have a term for this—Spiritual Abuse. A disembodying emptiness and confusion seized me, it would not let go. I felt hollowed out by a lot of cognitive dissonance I could not express. In the aftermath of ‘recovery’ I lived a surreal suspended animation that lasted several years. An organization offering help to women in their most vulnerable moment, instead added a layer of trauma atop those already present in my life.
To this day I cannot stand to have contact with anyone associated with that place and I even hate looking at the word Abbotsford and certainly never want to go to that town ever again. Trauma is the gateway drug, so how odd and twisted that faith-based addiction recovery should traumatise its subjects. My blood still boils when I think of the smug and arrogant addiction counsellor who said some whack sh1t to us in group and to me personally and when I think about the staff dynamics I watched play out while I lived there. Of all the people who have abused me, both physically and emotionally, I hate these helping people the most—yes it’s unhealthy to have hate and I admit that I can forgive the spiritual abusers of the unrecovery community the very least of all the abusers in my entire existence. I mean all. That’s saying something, I do mean it with all my heart.
Imagine being a high-functioning, independent thinking off-the-charts introvert with Asperger’s Autism and having to live with 17 other emotionally and mentally distressed women — all with behaviour largely governed by varying degrees of passive aggression and narcissism — in a recovery house that controlled your entire life and blamed you for your suffering and didn’t give any fcuks about you or nervous system. Imagine you have deep emotional wounds, and your spirit feels like Swiss cheese; you crave stillness and a safe, private space to reconnect with yourself. Imagine you have no waking moments to yourself, no moments of stillness and privacy and safety. You live in this environment that screams unsafety and abused and you are commanded to “recover” and you are given 12 steps that some white American fcukwit wrote in the 1950s and told if you don’t do the things according to these steps you are wrong and a liar and flawed and you suck.
Imagine that the people who staff the mindfcuk unrecovery house smugly mock and berate you, daily — your best thinking got you here — in a bid to shame you into spiritual submission, while you emotionally thaw in your embryonic sobriety and wrestle some of the deepest existential pain you have ever felt in your adult life. No, assholes, a will to survive got me here, a will to survive unspeakable pain and trauma got me here — lots and lots of trauma drove me to suck The Devil’s Dick. Devil’s Dick is what they call smoking crack, btw. Everything I did with one goal in mind — survival. In retrospect I can say that, in my dark suffering moments of rage when I sought merciful guidance and a space for that rage, the addiction counsellors who judged me with cruel insensitivity had more of a heartsickness than I did in those moments.
Opting for addiction treatment seemed to mean forsaking lived experienced and discarding my life — all parts, including my marriage — as happens to those who embrace cult communities. Without my consent, the staff of the recovery house had my file closed with the mental health team following my case — I’d established a deep therapeutic relationship with the team over several years, and had to fight to even get a referral to the mental health team! Christian assholes basically cut off all communication with my mental health team, with my mother and family, and cut my husband and I off from one another. Divide and conquer, that’s what they did. Everyone had ideas about how Martin and Roxanne should be helped and no one gave the marriage that powered their spirits a chance. They fixed the car by removing the engine, is what the saviour assholes did.
The recovery house dismantled the system of support I had established for myself. My husband attending a Christian-based residential treatment programme in Vancouver, received counselling that instructed him I was his trigger. Assholes who never met me had all sorts of ideas about me, how interesting is that, huh? We each had taken the decision to stop using crack and turned to recovery programmes accessible to us, which offered to help. However, help came at a cost, and that cost was ourselves, our marriage. We had done so much to hurt ourselves and each other in our living hell. We never ever had a chance, not really. No one who called themselves an addiction counsellor, not any one of those entitled sh1tbags who are all about pretend recovery, gave any thoughts to the most important element keeping Martin and to a lesser extend myself alive—our marriage. We finally divorced two years after recovery and he hung himself four years later. The Christians didn’t think the crackheads’ marriage mattered and fcuk those Christians assholes for that—forever.
Fcuk every saviour asshole in that recovery world. You are not good people. God please help me not to hate you all, because I truly have hate in my heart for the experience I endured there and every single human being associated with it as I write this.
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I sometimes ask myself, could he have lived if recovery had been about our healing together, rather than validating saviours and the organizations they serve? I believe we could have saved our marriage had the help been available in the form and at the time we needed. The problem with being a vulnerable and marginalised person and asking others for help is you are giving them control over your existence — essentially they get to decide how to help you, and help typically becomes a messianic project centred around themselves. Everyone is an expert when you are the wretched one, and your experience counts for nothing.
What Does Stigma Feel Like?
When you feel desperate and unworthy of yourself you will hand over your life to well dressed Jesus people with giant egos and a messiah complex — you will do anything to survive. I sucked the devil’s dick to survive, how bad could it be, fellating the Jesus people? When I look back, I can see going to the recovery house as an act of self abandonment in a lengthy series of acts of self-abandonment. I spent several years in a state of perpetual drowning — everything I did; every rash, impulsive, unwise, egocentric decision I made; every betrayal I committed, every act of self sabotage and self harm I inflicted upon myself, was a floatation device, a life raft, I thing I crafted to stay alive. Like Forrest Gump, I kept on running. Also like Forrest Gump, wherever I went, there I was.
So — recovery, what did it look like? Some twelve steps invented by a dude named Bob Wilson in the 1950s were going to heal me, I just had to submit to Jesus, He would heal everything and if He didn’t it would be my fault. Seriously, how very Christian, though — Augustine would be proud to see his Free Will Doctrine applied so shamelessly. Joyce Meyers, AA Meetings, Big Book of AA reading circles, faux art therapy, pretend bible study, pointless group discussions punctuated by self righteous lectures and histrionic performance, a recovery community populated by narcissistic people wielding ego defence mechanisms like ballistic missiles — none of these things helped me recover. And, what was I meant to recover, anyhow?
All supports, interests, or pastimes we had prior to entering treatment ceased to exist. I never had a moment alone for the entire five months of my residency there — rooms are shared and there are three bathrooms for 18 female residents, all under the age of 40. “Treatment” consisted of 12 hours per day of forced indoctrination, the kind you would receive at a tent revival meeting. The food we ate, the time we awoke, the time went to sleep, the time we bathed, the times we ate, the people we shared intimate space with — everything happened to us, predetermined. We were regarded as passive miscreants in our own healing journey.
Over a decade later and I can still remember like yesterday when the counsellor with no history of addiction asserted her superiority in ‘group therapy’ because of it. I can still remember the other counsellors, too, with varying amounts of sobriety under their belts, blaming us for everything painful in our lives. These Christians spoke of an imagined god responsible for everything good, who is the only ticket to freedom and the path to salvation, while they blamed and judged us for our suffering. Residents cooked all meals and cleaned the house daily. We cooked for and served the staff, too. The most vulnerable, the most sick, the most low energy—we were doing all the things whilst the staff supervised, making sure we remembered how sh1tty we were for needing to be there. There’s another name that comes to mind for a situation in which a large number of vulnerable people are entirely controlled by a privileged master class of elites, for whom the vulnerable lowlifes do the hard labour + service. Yeah, I’m sure you can figure out what that word I’m thinking about.
Anyhoo. Everything — music, books, group sessions — was about the Christian god.
Victim-Blaming and the Colonization of Healing
Nothing about recovery addressed what was wrong, nothing touched on the tragedy and trauma I was escaping from — not one person ever asked me why I smoked crack to the point where I rendered myself near death and on the brink of homelessness. The narcissistic Munchausen’s-like phase my mum went through when she trotted me around to doctors during puberty when my periods were whack, the years of my childhood silently enduring sexual abuse at the hands of a close male relative whose wife told an 11 year old I provoked my abuser, the years of emotional abuse I suffered being an only child with jealous older step-siblings, the sexual exploitation by a man more than twice my age which stole the first decade of my adulthood, parenting a profoundly disabled child and then suffering the loss of that child, marital rape over a period of more than a decade, the domestic violence attempts on my life and the murder of my cat by my husband — no one asked me about these things that happened to me, these things that tormented me and drove me to suck Satan’s dick.
Why though? Why did no one think to ask the obvious? When I worked as an RN, asking my patients probing questions would help me to help them by a.) centring my care on them, and b.) trying to pinpoint the source of their discomfort. This is basic clinical inquiry. When my sons were wee and would mess up the first question I would ask— and not angrily, but tenderly and in earnest — would be why did you do it, what were you thinking, what were you trying to do? The key to solving any problem is to know what caused it to develop. This is how we learn and make new discoveries. This leads to innovation and transformation.
The addiction counsellors and support workers getting paid to help me recover my life never asked me this very important question because they didn’t care. They were cult workers, they served the cult not the wellbeing of clients. Saviours do not care what happened to you. Saviours never care what happened to you, they only care about saving you — on their terms, always on their terms. Saviours are self-centred and self-serving — they project their need to rescue onto the suffering individuals they are helping. Saviours use you to fulfil their own unmet needs—they pay for their needs using the suffering of others as currency. When you are suffering, you are prey to a saviour, who will eat you for breakfast, lunch and dinner if you let them. When I walked into that recovery house, I walked into a dystopian world, with Christian-flavoured Borg variants.
We are Borg, you will be assimilated, resistance is futile.