Sadly, early on in my recovery from addiction, I was to learn that not everyone in Narcotics Anonymous follows the spiritual principles, Principles before Personalities, and sadly not everyone in the rooms of NA is anywhere near being, emotionally, physically and spiritually well.
For me early recovery was difficult. I was starving, skint and screaming trauma. I was having daily vivid trauma hallucinations and flashbacks as a result of my complex post-traumatic stress disorder. I was also visibly distressed by recovery and struggling to live clean.
I met ‘Dan’ at my home group, he was friends with some other ‘recovery friends’ I had made and appeared harmless enough, from this point I was totally blinded by my own naivety.
One day in the local coffee shop ‘Dan’ told me in order to recover I would need to share in meetings everything that had happened to me. He even asked me “what is it you are not sharing?”.
Encouraged by ‘Dan’ I was newly sober and openly sharing my extensive history of sexual exploitation. Unbeknown to me ‘Dan’ now knew all my vulnerabilities.
Dan played on my vulnerabilities, he would constantly text me. Wait outside my building for me. Offer to lend me money. Accidentally on purpose bump into me. Buy my friend and I dinner, hound me in meetings, all whilst trying to portray himself as some sort of knight in shining armour, who could share his identification with me so that he could try and form a close bond with me.
When I eventually plucked up the courage and rejected his friendship and his unwanted sexual advances he flipped his lid and later openly threatened me in public in front of my friends.
I was struggling and dragging my heels in recovery. I was clean but still in pain and to throw salt into the wound, I still did not know a single thing about recovery. I was just too damaged and too vulnerable to be navigating my sobriety around someone as emotionally disturbed as ‘Dan’.
I found going to meetings and his hostility directed at me to be uncomfortable, distressing and difficult to deal with. He would even refuse to make me a coffee in a meeting when he was the tea person. At one Friday night meeting, he even blocked me with his body from approaching the coffee pot.
I eventually relapsed and in the process of the relapse, I also tried to kill myself. Luckily, five months later I was sent to the Charitable Drug Foundation Focus 12, where I sought help and was safely loved.
When I left rehab I moved back to the area I had been previously living in. Unfortunately, it was still the same area as where ’Dan’ lived. He continued to bully me and share about me in meetings. In a bid to quell any future threats I made my way to the Police Station and gave a statement. ‘Dan’ was issued with a harassment order.
Still fresh out of rehab I eagerly bagged myself a commitment in a meeting on a Wednesday evening, only for ‘Dan’ to turn up and sit on the front row, smirking at me. By doing this he was now in violation of his harassment order issued to him by the Metropolitan Police.
Fearing for my own personal safety and fearing his total disregard for the law, I made the choice to leave the meeting and never return.
For me, it was time for a change of meetings. I knew I could not change this man’s behaviour and for my own protection and safety, I eventually moved to a different part of London.
Months after leaving the area I was told ‘Dan’ was continuing on his hate campaign against me in meetings. He desperately continued to try and portray himself as the victim and not the abuser. He would lie, slander and share about me in meetings and to other people in the fellowship. His malicious communications lacked both substance and/or evidence and were based on nothing other than malicious fantasy.
Unfortunately, I did encounter 'Dan' one more time on a Thursday night. He saw me walking down the street to the meeting and tried to block the entrance to prevent me from entering.
When I did take my seat in the meeting, I turned around and saw and heard 'Dan' talking on his phone loudly. He was talking to someone he called Peter. He said, "you know that nutcase I was telling you about in NA, she's just walked into the meeting". He ended his conversation by saying "ok Peter, see you in a bit". Needless to say, I felt vulnerable and left. That was to be the last time I saw 'Dan'.
Through recovery insights, I have learned that by openly sharing my trauma in mixed-gender meetings I was also opening myself up to the to the potential of further sexual exploitation and unwanted attention from unwell predatory men, who wanted to 'save me'.
Unbeknown to myself in my early recovery I was also in the throws of my undiagnosed emotionally unstable personality disorder that was characterized by my own enduring pattern and thinking, relating to people, impulsive behaviours and self-harming that were maladaptive and associated with increased risks to myself and my health.
The essence of my untreated emotionally unstable personality disorder was an attachment disorder on the background of difficult and disturbing relationships. The combination of my severe past multiple traumas endured as young as six significantly affected and impaired my personality development, especially in my formative years.
The self-harming aspect of my emotionally unstable personality disorder was less marked out, but medical evidence shows it can be exasperated during periods of increased stress as to those ‘Dan’ created.
‘Dan’s’ aggressive behaviour in meetings towards me only severed to open unhealed wounds from my violent past, making the meetings insecure, unsafe, and psychologically unhealthy and conducive towards my recovery. I would further argue that ‘Dan’ would not have treated a man in the same manner!
Due to ‘Dan’s’ unwanted attention, the environment that was touted as a ‘safe space’ was anything but for me and my complex, traumatic past and recovery needs.
‘Dan’behaviour proved all too much for me. I had not gotten clean to continue to be abused. I completely dissociated and cut ties with anyone in recovery I had formed a bond with and I went to meetings where no one knew me. I would never give my real name to my new recovery associates, for living in fear of ‘Dan’
I continued my meetings for several years hiding my true self, and keeping as private as I could.
While there are certain NA meetings that are women-only, the availability of these meetings is scarce at best. The next vulnerable young woman in my shoes may not be as lucky as me.
My experience further highlights that the #metoo movement is not isolated to powerful men, but also disempowered men using forms of abuse to re-empower themselves.