My feelings about this assignment:
When first reading the requirements of this assignment I was quite hesitant in approaching group counselling sessions as I was not aware of any in my area. A friend of mine whom I had not seen in a while told me that she was in a rehab facility for a month and was attending an outpatient programme. This was fantastic news and just the opportunity I was looking for, not only was this what I needed for my assignment but it was also an opportunity for me to support her. I asked her if it would be possible for me to go with her to one of her meetings and she was too happy to have me go with her.
What is NA?
Narcotics Anonymous is a global, community-based organization with a multi-lingual and multicultural membership. They offer recovery from the effects of addiction through working a twelve-step program, including regular attendance at group meetings. The group atmosphere provides help from peers and offers an ongoing support network for addicts who wish to pursue and maintain a drug-free lifestyle. The name, NA, is not meant to imply a focus on any particular drug; NA’s approach makes no distinction between drugs including alcohol. Membership is free, and they have no affiliation with any organizations outside of NA including governments, religions, law enforcement groups, or medical and psychiatric associations.
Where is NA?
There are various meetings held all over RSA, you can have a look on their website to see where the closest meeting is, when it takes place and whether it is a closed or open meeting. This meeting was held at AKESO Crescent Clinic. This is a rehab facility, the meeting is held in a conference room inside. Once you walk in you will see that the chairs are placed in a circle and behind it are more chairs placed in a bigger circle.
The structure of the meeting:
Chairperson opens the meeting and advises that it’s an open meeting, meaning that anyone can join, i.e. family, friends and other support structures. He then allows all to introduce them moving from the left to right. Each individual stands up, gives their name followed by the words, and I am an addict. He then asks if there are any new comers and mentions that the newcomer is the most important person at any meeting and although it may seem confusing at first, to keep an open mind and keep coming back. He then proceeds to advise that there is one rule at this meeting: that no drugs or drug paraphernalia be in your possession. If anyone is carrying, they are to leave and come back without them. If anyone is carrying a cell phone to please turn it off for the duration of the meeting. He then asks that someone reads the preambles. These pamphlets have been randomly placed on various chairs prior to the meeting, if you have one; you have the option to read it or to ask someone else to read.
The preambles are:
Who is an addict?
Why are we here?
What is the NA Program?
How it works?
The twelve traditions
We do recover
At the meeting they then recognize specific landmarks in their recovery. 24 hours
24 hours to 7 days
7 to 14 days
14 – 30 days
30 – 60 days
60 – 90 days
90 days to 6 months
6 – 9 months
9 – 12 months
1 – 2 years
2 – 3 years
More than 3 years
People put up the hands and support is given by clapping for their achievements. He then asks whether there are any birthdays or landmarks that anyone would like to share. As they say how long they have been clean, tags are handed out for those achievements and the woman who is handing out the tags gives the person a hug. Below is a picture of the different tags that each addict receives for each landmark:
He advises the meeting that the views expressed by the individuals there, do not necessarily show the view of the NA and if anyone is interested in any of the official literature, the literature person will talk about it. The literature rep stands up and advises on what books are available
Just for today
How it works and why (12 steps and stories of addicts worldwide) Sponsorship guide
The step working guide
She explains what each book is about and the price so that if anyone would like to purchase the literature, you will be able to do so after the meeting. There are also various pamphlets that are available. The chairperson then introduces the topic he has chosen for the evening and interprets how the topic relates to his life and then opens the floor so that any of the addicts are open to speak. Only the chair knows what the topic is going to be for the evening. Once everyone has had their turn to share and before closing the meeting he asks: Is there anyone who still feels the need to share
Does anyone have a burning issue?
Does anyone just have an issue staying clean today?
They address these issues separately after the meeting.
Chairperson thanks all for sharing and reminds all that what they see and hear here remains here. The seventh tradition states that they are self-supporting through their own contributions. They then send around a donation basket where generous donations are requested. Newcomers and visitors are asked not to contribute and to consider themselves as guests. “Just for today” is then read, this is the last preamble. He then asks that everyone stands up and holds hands, all the addicts in the meeting and some guests who have attended before say in unison – “As long as I follow, I have nothing to fear”. The Chair then asks that we take a moment of silence for babies born into active addiction and addicts suffering inside and outside the rooms. The meeting is then ended with the serenity prayer, God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. Keep coming back, it works if you work it and work it because you’re worth it. Personal story of recovery:
I felt it was important not to share the stories I had heard in the meeting as per the request made by the chairperson. I was however able to find personal stories of recovery from addiction available on the NA website so I have chosen to rather share a published story instead. This is the story about Greg C, the topic: Letting Go:
On the 12th of September, it will be the 20th anniversary of my baby brother’s death. A good couple of years ago when things were running wild, I took him into my drug business and he was that kind of a guy, a stray dog, so I knew I had to take him under my care but I was happy to do so as he was a great guy. I just got back from Australia and it was a very successful trip and there was nothing in town so I went back to Cape Town. In hindsight, the three months before his death, I was already giving him a hard time about all the money that was outstanding but in my heart I knew that he had already used it and all he needed to do was tell me that he had used it and I wouldn’t have minded. So this Wednesday the 12th, I started my period of self-destruction. I called him and he hadn’t come down from my parents place and they told me that he hadn’t woken up. My whole life just shattered and it took me 10 years of self-destruction, hitting financial rock bottom and ending up in the emergency room for a heroin overdose and a number of 48 hours spent in prison cells to get over this. What was my struggle with this? Was I to blame for getting him into this drug world? Was it the guilt that I had treated him badly for the last three months cause if I knew he was going to die three months before I would not have cared what he used or what money he owed me cause I’d pay anything today to get him back. When I walked into NA 10 years ago, I came in like everyone else, rough and wounded. Still with that street bravado and they spoke about surrender.
It took me six days to get there; I cleaned and showered, looked in the mirror and then went back to my room to use again. Eventually when I got here, it was somebody’s 1 year anniversary. I was really tired of using about two years before I got here. That birthday meeting was the greatest motivation for me because someone was clean for 365 days. I followed all the steps they told me to do and then they told me to let go. It took me 6 years before I let go of the guilt and let go about what I felt happened with Rowan. It was the most freeing aspect of my recovery was when I was able to put that stuff down and move on with my life. The other things had all changed; I got myself a job and had good friends. It was tough; I made in a month what I used in a day. It took two years before I started seeing the materialistic things of this fellowship but I was still walking around with this baggage. It took me a good 5 nearly 6 years before I let go with Rowan and by that time I was fully living NA, I was completely involved for seven and a half years, whatever service came up, I volunteered in the fellowship. I had quite a lot of things to get over, had a lot of meetings where addicts wouldn’t pitch and I took that personally, I had to let that go as well. About two and a half years ago I thought it was time to move out of this fellowship and go and get myself a life and start living.
I managed to let go of the service stuff of NA but it was time to let it go and my sponsor thought it was time to let it go, I didn’t want to let it go, but I knew I had to let it go. I was still working for the same company and a lot of things were promised to me and that didn’t happen, so obviously I built up a lot of resentment there. I built this picture up in my mind that I always needed a lot of money to start up my own business and I suppose it was all fear and paranoia to stay in this comfort zone. Anyway, I stopped coming to meetings, only popped in every now and again when it was someone’s birthday, that sort of thing. Not being around, nobody asked me to share and slowly my connection to NA slowly drifted. One thing is for sure and that’s what was promised to me when I first joined and that’s if I follow the 5 simple rules that my need to use will slowly be lifted. Two and a half years when I left, my obsession to use had been lifted and I felt no need to use. Eventually after many years of frustration, I decided to throw in the towel where I was and forget my fear that I needed all this money to start a business. I left there, I bought a few cars and put them on a few friend’s stands and they were selling the cars for me and I was living a half retired life, going to the gym, go swimming, go do this and that.
Things still weren’t comfortable on the inside, I was still out of sink and I knew I was still carrying around a bit of stuff and slowly I was drifting into more insanity by not being connected to this place. And then it all happened at once, I knew I was insane, I knew I had to get back to a meeting. I’d heard and read enough of it to know that I had to get back to a meeting. I found a home group and at the same time found a car lot for sale, managed to buy it and put my cars on there and now I have a good business. I know that I have to show up, I have to tell the truth; I have to live with honor, do what I’m responsible for and leave the rest of the results to my higher power. When I look back at the ten years as I have been part of this fellowship, all the good things that have happened in my life, I’ve only realized that it happened after it did and I didn’t even know it was happening; which tells me that the only way I’m going to stay clean is to let things go, stay focused and stay plugged into this place. Love having my sponsor, I get an objective point of view for my life.
What actually happened to me 10 years ago and I only realized this a few months ago is that I was in the middle of a desert with a bag on my back with everything I owned and a bakkie pulled up and a man said, jump on the back, I’ll give you a lift. First thing I wanted to do is take control of the situation and ask are you going in my direction. The voice said – there is only one road. I got onto the back of this bakkie and I stood there with the heavy pack on my back for I don’t know how long on this ride. It was hot and heavy. The bakkie slowed down, and this voice said, I stopped to give you a ride, take the pack off, sit down and enjoy the ride. And no sooner did I do that and the scenery changed to the most magnificent view and I’ve been enjoying it ever since.
My concerns were what to expect and how to approach the meeting as I have not attended something like it before. I did not want to seem judgmental in any way as I have no idea what the reasons are for these people turning to drugs, only that they were looking for a way to stay clean. I know from what “Ally” has told me that they support each other and try to work through their problems and triggers together. My perception of what to expect and what I experienced was greatly different. I expected a counsellor to be present and do most of the talking as I have witnessed on the various interviews conducted on the UNISA DVD’s. This was not the case at all, everyone who felt the need to share did so and so much support was given to each person for the accomplishments that I felt an appreciation for such a support group. My discussions with “Ally” helped me tremendously to prepare for what I was going to enter upon. This was an open meeting where friends, family and other support people were allowed to attend; this made me more comfortable as I would not be the only new comer or outsider present at the meeting. This was definitely an eye opening experience for me. From the moment I arrived till the time that I left, I felt so accepted by all. I think I might even have had a moment where I felt that I wished I was an addict so that I could come back. This group was more than a bunch of addicts coming together to talk about their problems, they were like a family, talking and sharing, caring for each other and praising each other for their accomplishments.
I was truly moved by the experience and feel a better understanding for what “Ally” has gone through. I hope that when she feels the need to use that she will feel comfortable enough to talk to me and I will support her as best I can.
Conclusions about the helping relationship
I have to come to the realization that many find the support they need in groups. They feel comfort in knowing that they are not alone in this struggle. Many feel guilty for what they have put their families through and therefore I also find it important that the families also attend these meetings. This not only shows support for the addict but also helps them to understand what it is like to be an addict. I think it may be difficult for a family to believe what an addict says but when they hear it from many, it becomes more believable and easier to accept.