Monday, March 28, 2011

NARCOTICS ANONYMOUS

Narcotics Anonymous is based on the now famous twelve step program of Alcoholic Anonymous.  It is a support group that meets at regular intervals and anyone is invited.  When a member reaches certain miles stones in their recovery such as thirty days clean or sixty days clean they get a little something to remind them how far they have come in recovery.  Of course if a person is collecting too many thirty day clean rewards, something might not be working for them.

My introduction to the twelve step program was given to me when I was around ten years old.  My dad use to get the Readers Digest condensed books and one month the volume had a book in it entitled "Bill W".  Bill W was the man who set up the initial support groups that would lay the foundation for Alcoholic Anonymous and would later develop the twelve steps to help a person to a full recovery.  Fellow alcoholics sometimes refer to themselves when talking to other alcoholics as a "Friend of Bill".  As far as I knew at that age I did not know any alcoholics but the story told in that book brought some harsh reality to my understanding of the disease.  Lives wrecked, homes lost, jobs gone and a general sinking in the quality of life.  After reading this book I came to believe that the program may not able to help everyone but it was a worthy tool to be used in trying to sober up.  As a young man in my early twenties I had done my share of drinking alcohol but my consumption was more social and did not come near to the situations described in that book.  I am very grateful that I did not end up going down that road.

Several years later when illicit drug usage was becoming more the norm in society people began to see the same patterns that alcoholism brought to people.  Drugs were destroying lives, families and standard of living plus overdosing was bringing about deaths to those who were using the drugs.  The same pattern of denial was being used by the victims of the disease that they didn't have a problem and they had it under control.  To a person from the outside though, it was obvious that the usage was not under control. very much in the same manner as the alcoholics would deny having a problem.

As I grew into my forties it became abundantly clear that a friend of mine was having some serious drug usage problems and that the problems were getting worse.  I am not sure how it all started with him.  I knew he was on anti-depressants for awhile but he has dropped those for more serious and illicit drugs.  It was effecting his relationship with his family and he began having trouble holding a job down.  People would be coming looking for him to pay up on his drug purchases.

He was having trouble keeping any kind of relationship at all.  At best his relationships were rocky where things would be fine and dandy one day and the next day would find the relationship dropping in a free fall heading toward a crash at the bottom of a canyon only to turn around a few days later to a relationship that was back on it's feet.   I became concerned about him but wasn't sure what I could do.

I would receive phone calls every once in awhile from the people he was staying with asking me to come over and talk to him.  I would talk to him about taking his anti-depressants instead of the illicit drugs he was taking.  I helped him look for jobs every once in a great while.  The problem with helping him with a job was that I did not want my name associated with his name if the job fell through or if he was caught using on the job.  This association problem kept me from helping him with a lot of things.  I had a clean life, a good job and I was making it through life ok even though I was on a lot of the same anti-depressants that he was on.  The difference was I stayed on my medication and didn't combine them with other drugs that were meant to go with them.

He would develop a temper and lose it at the drop of a hat.  At times I was afraid to say anything to him for fear it might be the wrong thing and trigger even worse behavior than he was showing at the moment.  It was a very difficult situation to be trying to help him but always afraid of doing the wrong thing making things even worse.

Then one late summer and into fall we started to click a little better together.  He was getting straight once again only this time seemed different.  He seemed like he was finally fed up with the mess that drugs were leaving his life in.  I noticed that he began keeping jobs and eventually would return to school in an attempt to better himself.  His temperament was much better and it became easier to talk with him or even joke with him.  You could even joke a little about his past drug usage without ticking him off too much.  I really got the feeling that he was sincerely trying to clean up his act and get some sort of life put together so that he could live not only with himself but with friends as well.

He began going to Narcotics Anonymous meetings in a small suburb.  It seemed to be helping him and a few of his friends were going with him.  He was also making new friends at the Narcotics Anonymous meetings.  He went almost every week, just missing once in awhile because he was tired or had something else to do.  If he could be at the Narcotics Anonymous meeting though, you could find him there.

One week during this period he invited me to attend a Narcotics Anonymous meeting with him.  I had given him rides to the meetings in the past but had never gone in.  I hesitated a second then agreed to go in with him.  I was thinking it would be a good sign of support from me to him if I were to do this.  It felt right.

We walked up some stairs to a second story room.  there were about ten to twelve people there starting to sit down around the big table.  My friend and I sat down and he introduced me to a couple of his friends that were there.  When the leader stood up to talk and to begin the meeting the room got respectively quiet.

I looked around the table and saw people of both sexes, all ages, and all forms of dress.  They all seemed different from each other until they started telling their stories.  They would explain how they got into this mess, how they had been doing and how long they had been straight without using.  Sometimes they would admit to relapsing over the past week and the group would offer unqualified support for them in the coming weeks.  One after another the stories came out and they all had a similar ring to them.  Something had happened, they had been offered and tempted and then partook and found that their will was not strong enough to walk away from it.  Their lives seemed to be filled with so much confusion and pain that the drugs helped them escape from it all and make them feel that they were in control of something.  Everyone of them though admitted that deep down they knew the drug was in control not them.

Then it came my friend's turn.  He announced that he had been ninety days clean and everyone around the table applauded him.  I had no idea that he was going to make this announcement that night and I was proud of him.  I joined the group applause.  He then told his story including how difficult it had been over the past three months but he was feeling better about himself by the day.  The leader then gave him a colored key chain indicating ninety days of freedom.  He held onto that key chain tightly and ran his fingers over it.  I think it was a milestone he wasn't sure he would ever meet.

Then it got quiet and I looked to the person on the other side of me only to be met by their eyes. I then noticed that everyone at the table, including my friend and the leader were looking at me to hear my story.  In my mind I wanted to say "Hi my name is Bill (HI BILL) and I have been clean for forty seven years". and then listen to the applause and take a key chain of my own.  I could probably get seven or eight key chains for that but I realized that this was a serious group and it was important to them.  I was not about to make light of what they were going through or what they had accomplished.  I simply told them who I was and that my reason for being there was to offer support to my friend who was sitting next to me.

The leader looked at me a second and then thanked me for coming out.  Support is a very important thing for drug users and abusers.  He said my friend was lucky to have support like this and that it was a good thing I was there.

I felt very small all of a sudden.  All of these people sitting around that table in a fight every single day for their lives and their sanity and I was just there to listen and to let my friend know that I was proud of him for getting as far as he had in this process.  My friend really appreciated me attending the meeting that night.

After my experience with Narcotics Anonymous, I sincerely encourage you to attend a meeting of Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous .with a friend you know is having to fight everyday against substance abuse.  I think it is a way of telling them that you are not alone in this.  You give them a feeling of support that is all so important in recovering from substance abuse.  If you know someone who does suffer from abuse, probably one of the best ways you can help them is to support them and to let them know you do support them not only by words, but by actions.

Narcotics Anonymous Video

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