Remember the bit in Fight Club when Marla Singer starts attending a support group for survivors of testicular cancer? It was one of those bleakly funny moments that got me right in the gut the first time I saw the film. For Marla Singer felt like a not-too-far-removed version of myself in the first decade of the millennium.
When I first got clean I joined a club for people trying not to use drugs. I say club; it was actually a well-known support group, but it reminded me of the Brownies because we were always trying to help each other out, going camping en masse and eating a lot of biscuits. In the Brownies, you rather endearingly get awards for things like being able to walk in a straight line and put your trousers on the right way; things that most people your age can do with ease. In the case of my support group, this 'simple thing' was not taking drugs. A day at a time. A month at a time. A year at a time. Obviously we didn’t sew badges on our sleeves; a lot of people were trying to keep needles away from their arms, after all. But we got plastic keyrings, colour-coded according to days without picking up. Possibly so that we weren't a danger to ourselves or others.
I don't recall a time in my life when I ever felt more loved and accepted by a group of people. You didn't even have to be clean- you just had to want to get clean. That's a pretty low benchmark for inclusion in a group. Imagine a football team where the only requirement was a desire to get the ball in the net. It wouldn't make for great telly but those players sure would feel like sporting heroes every day. There was something about a group of people coming together for the purposes of good that was slightly magical, and I would recommend it to anyone who feels like the doors of the Last Chance Saloon hit them in the butt sometime ago. There's always hope.
I know it's fashionable to say that religion is the root of all evil, and I often find myself defending it. I don't ally myself with a particular religion, but I do recognise that having a tribe is essential to human happiness. Sometimes you won't agree with everything you're being told- in fact, I hope you don't agree with everything you're being told, for this is what human reason is for. But your tribe is out there somewhere, just like the little girl in this video. Maybe it's a support group. Maybe it's a religious community and maybe you just like to go into the forest and re-enact medieval battles.
I did, eventually, walk away from that particular group. I hadn't taken drugs since the 90s. I figured that if the advent of reality TV hadn't been enough to tip me over the threshold of a relapse, I would probably be OK. I wanted to start identifying more as a normal person and not a damaged one. I'm not sure if immersing myself daily in yoga- the physical practice of which involves making animal shapes with your body and then lying down afterwards pretending to be dead- counts as 'normal', but it works for me. Just like Marla Singer, who I can confidently say never developed testicular cancer...