Dr. Dre’s seminal boast from his classic song Nuthin’ But a G Thang from the immortal 1992 masterpiece The Chronic always made me laugh. My grammar nerdiness always chuckled at the redundancy. But I’ve been thinking about the word ‘slipping’ lately because it’s one of those ubiquitous terms in my twelve step program.
Slipping is when an addict uses whatever substance or engages in whatever behavior that they are addicted to. The first tenet of the anonymous programs is that you are powerless against your addiction. So if you slip, it would seem to follow, it is not your fault. Your demon won that round.
But if you look at the Oxford English Dictionary of slipping is “The action or fact of sliding unintentionally for a short distance”. The key word there is “unintentionally”. Maybe there are addicts who unintentionally use. But I know plenty who don’t. Further, I know I don’t. There has not been one time in my life when I used that I didn’t know I was about to lower myself. There was not one time in my life when I did not know I was about to self-medicate myself and feed the insatiable darkness inside me. There is not one time when I did not clearly intend to do it.
Self-awareness, at least for me, is no help against self-destruction.
That doesn’t seem like a slip to me. That’s about as much of a slip as when Bill Murray’s suicidal character in Groundhog Day drops the toaster in his bathtub:
Maybe some people in the program would argue that the addiction pushed me to this intention. Maybe it did. Maybe I was completely at fault. Maybe we jumped hand in hand.
But regardless of who is calling the shots, I need to find a new word. I don’t think it works for me to attribute a lack of agency to my choices to give in to my disease. I’m not saying I give in always, But when I “slip” I’m not ignoring the puddle on the ground. I’m staring right at it and walking forward with no regard for myself or anyone else who might get wet.