Whether or not you will have an easy time using a 12 step process to overcome your addiction, let alone your depression, probably has a lot to do with how you react to something like this:

He told Gately to just imagine he’s holding a box of Betty Crocker Cake Mix, which represents Boston AA. The box had directions on the side any eight-year-old could read… It didn’t matter one fuckola whether Gately like believed a cake would result, or whether he understood the like fucking baking-chemistry of how a cake would result: if you just followed the motherfucking directions… a cake would result.

You start this process, if you are going to start it all, by acknowledging that you’ve tried to quit killing yourself with substances and that you have not succeeded. You aren’t going to do this by yourself, and that’s understood by everyone around you, and completely acceptable. Maybe the thing would be less of a stumbling block if they talked about an other power rather than a higher power, but you won’t get better on your own power, and that includes by trying to write (or even understand) the recipe yourself.

The 12 Step banalities actually can serve to help the inquisitive mind by mocking it and its efficacy.

Gately panics when the AA narrative is questioned by Joelle van Dyne, a new AA member. It is actually a very small detail that she raises, a grammatical concern about an AA cliche.

Her trouble is that ‘But For the Grace of God’ is a subjunctive, a counterfactual, she says, and can make sense only when introducing a conditional clause, like e.g. ‘But For the Grace of God I would have died on Molly Notkin’s bathroom floor,’ so that an indicative transposition like ‘I’m here but But For the Grace of God’ is she says, literally senseless, and regardless of whether she hears it or not it’s meaningless, and that the foamy enthusiasm with which these folks can say what in fact means nothing at all makes her want to put her head in the Radarange at the thought that Substances have brought her to the sort of pass where this is the sort of language she has to have Blind Faith in.

Joelle van Dyne isn’t going to get better unless and until she allows One Day at a Time to mean something profound that actually works.

So then at forty-six years of age I came here to lean to live by clichés,’ is what Day says to Charlotte Treat… ‘To turn my will and life over to the care of clichés. One day at a time. Easy does it. First things first. Courage is fear that has said its prayers. Ask for help. Thy will not mine be done. It works if you work it. Grow or go. Keep coming back.’

‘I used to think in long compound sentences with subordinate clauses and even the odd polysyllable. Now I find I needn’t. Now I live by the dictates of macramé samples ordered from the back-page ad of an old Reader’s Digest or Saturday Evening Post.’

You just have to Ask For Help and like Turn It Over, the loss and pain, to Keep Coming, show up, play, Ask For Help. Gately rubs his eye. Simple advice like this does seem like a lot of clichés… Yes, and if Geoffrey Day keeps on steering by the way things seem to him then he’s a dead man for sure. Gately’s already watched dozens come through here and leave early and go back Out There and then go to jail or die. If Day ever gets lucky and breaks down, finally, and comes to the front office at night to scream that he can’t take it anymore and clutch at Gately’s pantcuff and blubber and beg for help at any cost, Gately’ll get to tell Day the thing is that the clichéd directives are a lot more deep and hard to actually do. To try and live by instead of just say.

Addiction usually arises to mask or blunt some intolerable internal mental condition, but it soon becomes its own intolerable mental condition. You must solve the latter problem to have any hope of coping with the former.

In cases like these, your brain, thinking, is your enemy. Banalities are your friend, whether because they contain kernels of wisdom or just because they show that what works has no relationship to rational, logical cause and effect-type reasoning.

Learn to be stupid, would be the best advice I could give.

These clichés do the trick: your best thinking got you here.

Or, to put it another way, if your thought processes are a constant source of torment, then thinking isn’t going to be central to the solution.

And it comes around, eventually, that the actual stupid thing was to go on for so long under the misimpression that being smart wasn’t killing you. That it won’t kill you.

I mention all this because I don’t know how else to send a message that the 12 step program can save people I love, but not until they stop trying to understand how it’s supposed to work.

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