By Beth Lawrence
Treatment and support are crucial to recovery, and the same treatment does not work for everyone.
One addict’s path to sobriety may not work for another individual.
One program that emphasizes divergent paths for addicts is Narcotics Anonymous.
Narcotics Anonymous was born of Alcoholics Anonymous, but created with an emphasis on drug addiction rather than alcoholism. NA is a 12-step program that considers itself a recovery program, not a cure all.
Joe, not his real name, is Jackson County NA’s media contact and a longtime NA participant. He is sharing the story of how NA works because he is concerned that people don’t know the program is established in the area and that they have one more option to seek recovery.
“Our program, Narcotics Anonymous, offers a way, as a matter of fact it says in our literature that we believe any addict can stop using drugs, lose the desire to use and find a new way of life using the steps in our program,” Joe said. “I hear and I see in the media sources that there are a lot of people who suffer from overdoses and have very severe consequences of their drug addiction, and they don’t seem to be finding their way to our rooms ... there is another way out.”
The rooms to which Joe refers are the meeting rooms in churches, VFW halls, conference rooms and wherever Narcotics Anonymous can establish a place to meet and bring its message of hope and recovery to a community.
NA asks their participants to work through 12 steps that have them confront their addictions and the issues that led to addiction. Each step has an accompanying principal to underscore the meaning of the step and the work that must go into achieving sobriety. In so doing, the addict regains the ability to live a sober and typical lifestyle. Three of NA’s guiding principles are honesty, open mindedness and willingness.
The first step requires addicts to admit that they have an addiction and that they are “powerless” over it and admit that as a result of addiction their lives have become “unmanageable.”
The program also gives participants guidelines on how to live a sober life. The guidelines are based in spiritual principals that can give the addict a moral grounding. NA asks participants to believe in “God as we understood him,” but does not focus on religious doctrine.
Participants in NA who take the program to heart and know that it has helped them say that it works because the program focuses on the person and his or her behavior.
“Unlike many other many other programs, our program isn’t substance based. Our literature defines our problem as obsessive compulsive self-centeredness,” Joe said. “So, the principal behind the first step is honesty, and the most important component of honesty is self-honesty.”
Participants are encouraged to attend meetings, find a sponsor who can help them navigate the steps of the program and “keep coming back.”
A common misconception about 12-step programs is that an addict works the steps and is done. That is not the case. In order to maintain sobriety, NA believes that the addict in recovery needs to keep working the steps.
“Our focus has always been on working the steps and then working the steps again, and the reason is primarily because at this point in my life or at any point in my recovery I can only see and understand what I can see and understand at that point,” Joe said.
The program also works by “sharing” in meetings not only to work through one’s own emotions but to help other addicts understand that they are not alone. One idea behind the program is that the addict in recovery keeps their sobriety by giving it away, or reaching out to help others do the work required to stay clean.
Relapse does happen among people struggling to achieve and maintain sobriety. Much like recovery finding ones way back to NA’s rooms and sobriety is different for each person.
“I’ve seen relapses go for one day, and I’ve seen them go for multiple years. Do they find their way back? Yes and no. This disease kills us; some people don’t make it back,” Joe said.
To find a Narcotics Anonymous meeting in North Carolina call 855-227-NCNA or go to www.ncregion-na.org.