I attended a local Narcotics Anonymous meeting held at the Salvation Army building in my hometown. Upon entering the meeting room, the few people that were in the room did say hello to me, however, no one asked me why I was there. I was left alone to choose my seat wondering what was next. Eventually, a middle-aged man entered the room. I soon learned that he was running the meeting. He asked if it was my first time there. I told him that it was and before I could explain my presence I was handed several brochures and asked to read a laminated sheet when called upon. He quickly moved on with his meeting set-up duties. So, being a bit nervous, I chose to sit quietly and review the materials given to me. As others entered the room, I noticed that many were in probably in their twenties and then some in their thirties, forties, and beyond. Some were well dressed and others poorly dressed, coming from all walks of life.
There were more men in attendance than women. It was obvious that many of them knew one another as they were having conversations. Some brought their small children probably not having babysitters or able to afford one. Once the meeting started, it moved along according to an agenda. Others had been given materials to read as I had. As people were called upon to read what was given to them, I realized that these materials were read at every meeting as they all seemed to have them memorized and recited along with the reader or when the reader came to certain parts of the reading, they had a response. Once the Who is an Addict? and, What is the Narcotics Anonymous Program were read then everyone introduced themselves by first name only – Hello, my name is _______ and I am an addict. The group responded with, Hello, ________. Following this, members read Why are We Here?, How it Works, The Twelve Traditions of NA (my reading).
At this point in the meeting, the leader asked for volunteers to share their recovery stories. I was then asked to share my story. This is where I explained that I regularly attend Al-Anon meetings and was attending the Narcotics Anonymous meeting for a school project and apologized for the confusion. Everyone was still very receptive to my presence. It was even explained to me that it is suggested that those attending Al-Anon attend an Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous meeting at least once. After all stories were shared, announcements made and chips given out for benchmark of sobriety, the group formed a circle holding hands and recited the Serenity Prayer together to end the meeting. Two things that I felt were effective about the meeting were the readings and the sharing of stories. The memorization of the readings told me that those members attend regularly and take their recovery seriously.
The other thing that I felt was effective, and most significant, was hearing about each person’s addiction, struggles, failures, and successes about their recovery and the advice they had to share. It was very moving. It helped to relate to and better understand my boyfriend’s addiction to drugs and alcohol. It was also comforting to have confirmed that the addict or those close to the addict who are affected are not alone in this disease. Some admitted that they were there because it was court ordered, which was quite a few. I could definitely tell those who were there and took their recovery seriously versus those who were there because they had to be and did not take their recovery seriously. I honestly did not find anything that was counterproductive or ineffective about the meeting. I thought it was run well and efficiently.
I do think though that the leader should take a bit more time to speak to someone who is a newcomer and find out if they are there as an addict, visitor, etc. and not assume that they are there because they are an addict. As I stated previously, I found the meeting to be very moving. It was very helpful for me to be able to hear all those different stories about how people became addicted, came to realize that they need help, how they are working their Twelve Step Program, keep their families together, take care of their kids, and how they are trying to survive each day by working their program.
I cannot really say that I was surprised by anything that I heard in that room. It has impacted my view of those with addictions by learning to better understand them and not be so quick to judge them and ask why they cannot stop. As I have learned from my boyfriend’s recovery, from attending the Narcotics Anonymous meeting, and attending my own Al-Anon meetings, it is not that simple. I definitely have more patience and compassion for people who suffer from addictions.