FREEDOM from addiction is the shared goal of a new community of people in Midland who understand the pain of dependency and come together through fellowship where the only requirement is the desire to stop.
Research shows addiction does not discriminate; there no guarantees who will become an addict and who will not; people who seek help come from many races, cultures, age groups, professions and backgrounds.
For those on rehabilitation and counselling waiting lists and others in need of help right now, there is a lifeline group for addicts seeking recovery.
Narcotics Anonymous (NA) is about addicts in recovery helping one another manage the disease of addiction that without long-term support, they are only one mistake away from a relapse.
NA emerged from Alcoholics Anonymous in California in the late ‘40s as a self-funded organisation offering a spiritual ethos without religion.
The group advocates self-improvement based on the core values of honesty, open-mindedness and a willingness to change, an approach adopted in more than 170 countries where NA meetings are a daily support for those who seek help with addiction.
In Perth, there are 31 NA meetings to choose from each week, with at least two available every day from Joondalup to Mandurah and the new Wednesday group in Midland.
During the meetings, addicts talk openly about substance dependency and learn from each other how to live drug-free and in recovery from the damaging effects of addiction.
There are no waiting lists or fees to attend a meeting and no one is obliged to talk; even drug-affected newcomers are welcomed into the fold.
NA members interviewed in an Australian membership survey in 2009 said attendance at meetings overwhelmingly improved their family relationships (86 per cent) and social cohesion (83.9 per cent).
The first verse of the serenity prayer (adopted from AA by NA)
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Perth: 9227 8361
National: 1300 652 820
NAR-ANON for families and friends
Angela 0423 771 834 or Sue 9245 2297
The Gazette interviewed two people who say they have found their road map to recovery through the NA fellowship.
Pseudonyms are used in this article.
NA service volunteer John is a 35-year-old father of two who has lived without drugs or alcohol for three-and-a-half years.
He was 21 years old when he first took an ecstasy tablet from a friend and in the years that followed ‘meth’ or ‘ice’ became his “drug of choice” along with too much alcohol and gambling in what he described as “the umbrella of addiction”.
“Growing up I was shy, a bit socially awkward, had low self-esteem; drugs took away every insecurity I had; they made me feel powerful and confident.
“As a child, I’d had a hip problem and when I was eight wore callipers for about a year.
“Through the NA’s 12-step program, I have learnt that the experience made me feel separate, different.
“And though I did well at school, was good at sport, I didn’t deal with negative things well and I became hypersensitive when my parents broke up.
“Through my teenage years I managed ok… when I came to NA meetings I was looking for answers; I wanted to know why I ended up the way I did.
“In the end, drugs literally brought me to my knees; I lost everything.
“I was about 25 when I started down the slippery slope and I had a few crises before I found NA.”
John held a job in senior management for many years but as he gradually lost control of his life, his need for drugs increased and heavy gambling added to his mounting debt.
“I borrowed money from my girlfriend, my sister; even my mum was affected…
“I couldn’t look myself in the mirror anymore; I kept crossing lines I had set myself.”
When found guilty of fraud, John had to repay $30,000, but even having a criminal record did not stop his downhill spiral.
“Just because I was trying to give up drugs didn’t mean my behaviour had changed… losing everything didn’t fix me.
“I hit rock bottom when one day I didn’t want to wake up…
“I had become a liar, a cheat, a thief, a manipulator, a criminal; I was hopeless.
“I don’t want the next person to go through that pain.
“I want people to know there is help out there; we’re not a secret society, we carry the message of recovery.
“The NA antidote to addiction is connection… NA has many tools to make recovery achievable.
“I need to keep reminding myself I’m an addict in recovery because as soon as I start to forget, there’s the red flag.”
John said many addicts attend four or more meetings a week to help stay on the right track.
It’s easy to sink into a self-obsessive state and when you go to meetings, you hear you are not alone.”
Through the fellowship, John said he has learnt about behaviours and become a different man, a man who has paid his dues and is committed to recovery.
“Everything in my life is amazing now and I want to be the best version of myself.”
John’s message for Ben Cousins:
“NA says recovery begins with surrender; in recovery failures are temporary setbacks and not links in an unbreakable chain.
“I feel for him because he must be in so much pain.
“Imagine what an inspiration he could be to others if he chose recovery.”
NA service volunteer Sarah was 13 when she took her first drug and by the age of 17, she had a severe meth addiction.
Sarah has been drug free for more than three years.
“I had a tough upbringing, a lot of anxiety and didn’t cope well with relationships.
“I can always remember having an addictive personality, lots of imaginary friends, which I now think was a coping skill.
“For me, alcohol was a stepping stone because it lowered my inhibitions.
“You know the person in the corner who never wants the party to end? Well, that was me.
“I had close friends in school but as I became more isolated, it pushed me into more hardcore groups and I gravitated towards them.
“Drugs made me feel superior, made me feel that I could handle it.
“At this point, I was managing to pay my bills and not get evicted, but as I became more drug dependent I couldn’t leave the house without taking drugs.”
By the age of 28, Sarah had realised she wanted to stop using, but found she could not cope without drugs and took more.
Suffering from borderline personality disorder, she attempted suicide and wound up in hospital.
“I was not offered any drug and alcohol counselling support while I was there, which is one of the reasons why I do public information service work.”
Broken and socially isolated, Sarah found her way to a rehabilitation program that lasted 10 months and she discovered NA.
For the past two years, she has worked full-time in administration.
“I’m really proud of myself; it’s a miracle that has occurred in my life.
“For the first time, I have an excellent relationship with my family, a real job and my employer knows my story.
“The gratitude I feel makes me want to give back; people need to carry the message that every addict can get clean.
“I’m living proof of that.”