Carter: NA or AA?? : LUSENET : ER Discussions : One Thread

We have all watched the Carter *roller-coaster* ride for the past several months. Yes, the man is making a minute attempt to put his life in order...although, the attempt may not be well enough. So far, we are acknowledging the fact that Carter is going to AA meetings every day (we assume), for 90 days (3 months). Well...yeah, his time is up...we all know that. In the episode, "Rock, Paper, Scissors", Kerry simply told him to keep going to his meetings when she found out about his use (attempted use) of the drug Vicoden. So, yup...we must assume he is still attending the AA meetings. Now, Abby asked him earlier in the season as to why he does not go to NA meetings instead of AA meetings. He did not give her necessarily a straigh-forward answer and basically said, "the AA meetings are working for me". So, yeah, maybe they are working for ya, Carter. BUT....why would he not attend NA meetings rather than AA meetings?? John is not an alcoholic, he used narcotics. It would make more sense for him to attend meetings for narcotics anonymous, rather than an alocolic anonymous meeting, right?? One would think so, yet we are not John. My conclusion: John has not yet admitted to himself that he was in fact a narcotic addict. He is not about to stand up in front of strangers and say, "Yes..I am a drug addict." What is the difference between that and alcohol, though? Is alcohol a more respectable addiction? Does he believe that if he goes to an NA meeting, he will be faced with a room full of people that are just like him and are willing to stand up and admit their faults, while he is still in reference to them?? I just do not think that Carter has admitted to himself yet that he was, and still is to a degree, a lingering drug addict. Personally, NA would do him much better, I believe. Of course, from what we have seen...he is not overly active in his AA meetings, either.


-- Abby (, January 14, 2001


I think you're on to something here. Being an alcoholic is almost respectable these days, compared to drug use. Remember the patient of Cleo's, whose mother thought he was on drugs and was relieved to find out he was a drunk? There was a movie a few years ago, I think it was "The Player," where a movie producer said he was going to an AA meeting, even though he was not an alcoholic, because "That's the best place to make a deal these days." I really think Carter is afraid that he'll have to face up to the reality of his situation if he goes to NA instead.

-- Melinda (, January 14, 2001.

The simple facts are that AA and NA are both twelve step programs and have very similar steps. They are interchangeable to where an recovering addict or alcoholic can attend either one and get the support and same benefits that they need. The facts are that there are many more AA chapters than NA chapters and some AA chapters offer moredaily meetings while NA chapters only have one meeting per week. Many recovering addicts attend AA meetings because there are not NA meetings available close to where they work or live on that particular day. Carter was required to attend 90 meetings in 90 days as part of is initial requirements for returning to work. It would have been hard for Carter even in Chicago to find NA meetings available close to where he works or live. There would have been no problems in finding AA meetings close by every single day of the week. There would not have been any benefits to Carter going all over Chicago day in and day out to find the closest NA meeting which could have been many miles a way on a particular day when there was a AA meeting close by. With Carter's long hours as a resident, sleep time, study time for board exams, other meetings , commute time between work/home, and attending other required meetings, there were many days that Carter probably would not have had time to travel great distances to attend an NA meeting. Not to mention the additional stress of driving back in forth in Chicago traffic to attend such meetings. Keep in mind that it was over twenty fours without sleep combined with stress throughout that period that led to Carter having a temporary relapse. The additional time required to find meetings on certain days and the travel time would increase the stress level and cut into sleep or relaxation time which are very crucial to a recovering addict.

I think it makes perfect sense that Carter or any other recovering addict/alcoholic required to attend daily meetings would attend an twelve step program that is available every day and close to him. There are going to be recovering alcoholics and addicts found at a typical AA meeting. I think it makes sense to attend the same chapter meetind so there is some sense of familarity. It could not have happened with an NA chapter while Carter was required to attend daily meetings and they would not have been available for most of those days in a particular area. Carter could have attended one NA meeting a week and the AA meetings the rest of the time. I don't think it really matters which meeting he attended. Now that Carter's 90 days are up, I imagine at this stage of his recovery , he probably is required (or reccomended) to attend meetings 2-3 times a week. I think this is probably more conducive now in his recovery because he won't get burned out as much and he gets some free time to go to movies and start to lead some resemblance of a normal life. I would imagine that this would decrease the chanced of getting discouraged which could lead to increase chance of getting an relapse.

-- Brenda (, January 14, 2001.

Yes. NA and AA are both twelve step programs but you have to think of this in a psycological(sp?)way. Being at an AA meeting he can distance himself from the real problem. "I'm not a drunk. So I don't have a problem" He needs to be in a meeting where they're describing the same things that he went through and at an AA meeting he most likely not getting that. I could list a few reasons but the biggest one being the fact that he was using drugs illegally so it puts a different light on things since alcohol is not.

-- james (, January 15, 2001.

Good point James. Carter is deep in denial that he really has a problem. That's why he didn't see the need to tell Weaver. (As long as things are going well and she happy with me, why should I tell her?)

Also, I seem to remember that when Abby asked him why he didn't go to the NA meetings, he said something about there being a better class of people at this AA meeting.

-- Kate (, January 15, 2001.

I know a few recovering addicts that attend AA meetings. They have told me that there are quite a lot of recovering addicts at these AA meetings . They mention that they hear fellow recovering addicts share all the time at these meetings. They told me that it was much easier for them to find AA meeting than NA meetings. There were many times that NA meetings were not available most days.They told me that they went to some NA meetings when they were available, but they got the same kind of help there as they did with AA. Both of these people have been recovering addicts for at least 4-5 years now. They told me that it has been better for them recovery wise to find a place that they were comfortable at and could trust the other people there which made it much easier for them to share. They told me that it took a while to learn how to really share when they were in their initial stages of recovery.

While Carter may have been caught taking drugs the Fentynal illegally in the finale, he also had a valid presciption for pain killers. Most of Carter's drug came from legal sources prescribed by his doctor. It's not like he was going out and purchasing illegal drugs every day. Since Carter had such a very short addiction before getting help and he had a valid prescription, I doubt he took much drugs from the hospital in an illegal manner. It was bad for him to take them at all, but I don't think it is right to imply that he only took illegal drugs when that is just plain wrong.

Maybe, Carter did check out the NA chapter meetings closest to work and he did not feel comfortable there. It does not have to be for the reasons that you imagine.There could be other possibilties. Maybe, the people he saw there in the way they dress , acted etc. of the violent criminals he treated in the ER. Carter, as an recent victim of an brutal knifing would not get any benefit from such an meeting if he is scared or nervous around such people. Even if Carter had been comfortable at this NA meeting, it only would have been available once a week and he was initially required to go to daily meetings.

I do think that Carter could be getting more out the recovery process , but I don't think it was because he was attending an AA meeting over NA meetings. Based on my talk with a few recovering addicts and from what I have read. I think how we have seen Carter's storyline done and initial recovery is very realistic. If you add in the PTSD and other post knifing emotional problems you can see why Carter may be have a harder time opening up. I do think that Carter is trying to stay clean and wants to stay clean. I think as the weeks progress that we will see Carter get better and better in the recovery process.

-- Deb (, January 15, 2001.

I left off the word reminded in the previos post. Maybe, the people he saw at the NA chapter reminded him of the violent criminals he treated at county by the way that they dresses, talked, acted. Since he is a recent survivor of a very violent act. it may have made him uncomfortable there not because he was in total denial over his drug addiction ,but because he was uncomfortable there because it reminded him too much of his stabbing. When Carter was arguing with his gamma, he told her clearly that he alone was responsible for getting addicted ti drugs. Does not sound like it to me that he is in major denial that he has a drug problem. When he told Kerry, he did not make excuse for what happened. He did not even tell her that it occurred when he went at least twenty four hours without sleep plus had a lot of stress to deal with. He made no excuses at all even though we know that the lack of sleep combined with stress was a major factor in his temporary relapse. While I wish Carter was a bit more open in his recovery, I do think he is trying and is not as badly in denial as some of you suggest.

-- Deb (, January 15, 2001.

Hi guys, it's the Devil's advocate here...

Ok, first off...Carter would have had to do some "admitting" in rehab, in order to get out of rehab. He would have had to get up in front of a group in rehab and say "I'm John, and I am an addict". (and everyone would have answered "hi John!" in a bright and cheery voice.) Whether or not he chose to believe it is entirely his outlook. But he would have had to do it to get out.

Another thing, I think he likes to go to meetings with Abby, and she would be going to AA meetings. And it's true that there are more AA meetings than NA meetings.

Now here's where I play Devil's advocate..

How much are these meetings really helping him? Has he had any insight as to how and why he got addicted in the first place? I know the answer to that one-NO! He so much as admitted it to Abby when he coughed up the Vicodin. AA doesn't seem to be helping.

My problem with AA (and other programs like it) is that there doesn't seem to be any forum for dealing with the underlying roots of alcohol and drug addiction. There doesn't even seem to be a forum for admitting that the problems exist. The focus is on the "disease", something external, rather than the cause, which is usually internal. Carter needs to focus on what is going on inside him when he feels like he needs pills, rather than just "go to a meeting." If you just "go to a meeting" whenever you feel bad, you are just substituting one addiction for another. (And yes there are some alcoholics that do this. They have no life other than meetings. If it keeps them off the hooch, well, ok...but wouldn't it be better to address the bad feelings that make them want to drink in the first place? Maybe those bad feelings are trying to tell them something.)

-- S. Trelles (, January 15, 2001.

Hey Deb, You said about the lack of sleep and the strees of the day you can probably add hunger to that because when he threw up the bills there wasn't any food.

I'm also surprised that he isn't seeing a therapist. Who knows? Maybe he'll start seeing Kim.

-- James (, January 15, 2001.

Speaking of a therapist for John, he was (or possibly still is) assigned to start seeing one. At the beginning of Season 7, the rumor mill was floating out and about that Lola Glaudini was to play the role of John's shrink. We haven't heard anymore on this topic, however, it is still a major possibility. One will just have to wait and see and keep those eyes and ears peeled for new information.

-- Abby (, January 15, 2001.

James, I may be wrong, but I think I once came across the fact that Naltrexone caused a decrease in appetite?

-- samira (, January 15, 2001.

I don't think the writers actually stated that Carter attended an NA meeting (other than in rehab) or that Abby suggested one. She told Carter she thought that a different AA meeting site she had attended in the past had more addicts than the one she and Carter were currently attending. He responded that he liked this one and that it was convenient.

I think they are deliberately not showing Carter "share" at a meeting. I still think they are saving that to be the "Carter is truly on the road to recovery" scene.

-- N Wilson (, January 15, 2001.

Maybe TPTB are going to leave the "sharing" part of Carter's meetings out of the show, because the meetings are supposed to be anonymous, and they are going to respect that part of the recovery process. IMHO, I think I would be better to have him "share" with a patient who is in a similar position that Carter was in when he started using.

-- Jenn (, February 01, 2001.

I think you pople are getting WAY into this show, don't get me wrong, I love ER but you guys are analysing EVERY LITTLE DETAIL!

-- None of your business (, August 03, 2001.

Okay, "None of your business," (August 3, 2001 message), so maybe some folks do ponder "EVERY LITTLE DETAIL" and are "WAY TOO" involved in the show. But, that's the's FUN. By the way, and just what are you doing in this web site?...(Just kidding!)

-- Malik Fornay (, August 06, 2001.

Okay, I haven't had the time to read every single post on this board, but I wanted to throw my two bits in as an NA member. First of all, I'm sorry, but you are not going to convince me that Carter couldn't find an NA meeting on any given day of the week in a city the size of Chicago. For comparison: Nanaimo, BC, much much smaller, has two or three meetings a day seven days a week. You're telling me Chicago would have less?? I don't think so! Really, NA has been going for the last 50 years, even though for the first twenty years of its existence or so, many meetings had to be held in secret because they were illegal in the States (not so here in Canada, but it was established later here as well). So there is no chance that an NA meeting in a city like Chicago would be hard to find, that's bull.

Also, as someone else said, many addicts choose to go to AA. For some, its because AA allows them to continue using some drugs without any consequence, ex. losing clean time. For others, the size of the AA fellowship, usually bigger than the NA one in any given place, allows for more anonymity. Others find it more respectable. Still others aren't even aware that NA exists, because it doesn't tend to advertise as aggressively or openly as AA does - partly due to the fact that it is smaller, which means, since they're both self supporting, that NA has less money that AA does. Others go there because they get more out of the program spiritually, but then they are also many alcoholics who go to NA meetings for the same reason. So there could be lots of reasons why Carter wouldn't be attending NA meetings.

Also, back here in the real world, it is likely that there was resistance to the NA name being used on a popular TV show. AA tends to be much more out in the open in that regard. AA also encourages it more, whereas NA tries not to be open about celebrity members, and presumably would frown on the idea of a character being an NA member. The idea behind this is that we don't want people to associate NA with a particular person - say for instance that Aerosmith were publicly identifying themselves as NA members. Well, if you were a drug addict and you really hated Aerosmith, you might dismiss NA, even though NA has nothing to do with Aerosmith's music. The same sort of reasoning might be behind resistance to using the NA name on TV - because we don't want people dismissing NA or not giving it a chance just because they don't like a character or get the wrong impression of the program from a TV show. I don't know if this is the case, I'm just offering it as another possibility.

-- Kristin (, August 24, 2001.

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