Last year I accompanied a Romanian psychiatrist on a visit to Castle Craig and we were introduced to a group of patients in the Extended Care Unit (ECU). It was an opportunity to speak with some of “the patients”. They were very friendly and open and asked us if we had any questions.
My Romanian psychiatrist colleague, Dr Gabi Cicu, wanted to know more about the spiritual element of AA. Like many people, he was rather suspicious about the need for God in addiction treatment and didn’t understand how it helped. (Many people turn away from AA for this reason and others assume that you have to convert to Christianity. This discussion has been going on since the 1930s when AA was first founded).
Dr Cicu had already asked this question and a Castle Craig therapist had explained that some kind of “spiritual” commitment was needed, a recognition of a “higher power”, but this isn’t necessarily religious. But it was the patients we talked to at the ECU who really brought this point to life.
C. M., one of Castle Craig’s ex-patients, picked up Dr Cicu’s question with enthusiasm. He told us that he was initially very suspicious of the “religious” aspect of AA and this had made him resistant to treatment at Castle Craig during his first few weeks. “But then I accepted it”, he said, “and I came up with a personal definition of my Higher Power.” He then produced a rather battered looking piece of paper and read it out. I was spellbound by the eloquency and power of his words and asked him to send me a copy of it by email. Here is the first part of it:
“My Higher power is a combination of the past, present and future. My Higher Power is the spark of energy, an electrical force that binds everything in the universe.
It flows through my brain, is directed to all parts of my body and is in everything I can sense.”
I have stayed in contact with C. M. and I am convinced that he’s a really good writer. He sends me short and rather brilliant poems – about alcohol, grief, his family and being in a psychiatric ward with a “dual diagnosis” label. This is what he wrote about getting to Castle Craig:
“When I first arrived at Castle Craig the gates loomed up and we passed the point of no return. Although my outer body said calm, my inner self was in turmoil as the demons of drink and drugs churned my stomach and my mind tried to comprehend the situation I had found myself in.”
And this is his poem about smoking:
Cigarette, cigar, roll up or fag,
Different ravings of a similar bag.
Restless fingers, quivering lips, all will stop once it’s lit.
That’s the powerful surge of the nicotine hit.
Plume of azure, spirals high,
Seconds to minutes as time flies by.
Inhale Benzine Cyanide,
Warnings too late for those who’ve died!
Alveolar blacken, lungs a straining,
Nothing can stop nicotine craving.
Your fingers, eyes, hair is yellowed,
Coloured by the smoke we’ve bellowed
Grow my children, don’t get hooked,
No babies teething, that tube you’ve sucked!
One day soon, I’ll try to quit,
Until then, just one more Hit.
C.M. has been home for several months now and he’s doing really well. Hopefully he will share more of his thoughts, experiences and feelings with us and maybe one day he will write his autobiography. I for one would love to read it.