Narcotics Anonymous Meetings Can Help Drug Addictions

Group Meeting

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Narcotics Anonymous, often referred to as NA, is a 12-step program where people addicted to drugs can find support in recovery. It is a group where people recovering from drug addiction can help each other pursue healthy choices. The NA literature describes it as a program "for addicts who wish to pursue and maintain a drug-free lifestyle."

There are local NA meetings available daily throughout the United States and hundreds of countries around the world. Members often find the support they need to stop using their drug of choice. Many people say it is a safe place to turn to when you need help to get clean.

What Is Narcotics Anonymous?

Founded in 1953, NA is a global organization of recovering drug addicts with 67,000 weekly, locally organized meetings in 139 countries.

It is a 12-step program similar to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and shares many of the same principles, practices, and philosophies. The goal of NA is to create a community where people with substance abuse issues help each other on the road to recovery. Meetings include people of every demographic and at various recovery levels, from many years to just a few days of being clean.

Like AA's "Big Book," NA uses a primary text called the "Basic Text." Members use this book as a guide for recovery and the fellowship, experiences, and advice of other members. It is common for a new member to develop a relationship with a sponsor. This person often has a longer period of being sober and feels comfortable helping other members work the 12 steps.

No part of NA is compulsory or required. Meetings are either "open," for members and non-members, or "closed" (for members and prospective members only). Visitors who are not addicted themselves are invited to attend open meetings.

NA does not focus on any particular drug. Instead, the purpose of NA is to share the trials and triumphs that come with addiction and recovery. 

There are also no costs to attend a meeting, and non-members are asked not to contribute to the voluntary collection of money that keeps things running. This allows the organization to remain self-sustaining. Non-members can, however, purchase a "Basic Text" from the group.

Anonymity is key to NA's success. Members understand and agree that what is said in meetings and who they see there stays there. Therefore, they do not discuss these details publicly. This creates an environment of security where everyone feels comfortable opening up and sharing their experiences and feelings.

The only requirement for becoming a member of Narcotics Anonymous is "the desire to stop using."

Does NA Work?

For many members of NA, the program is the only thing they've found that actually did work. Anyone who has dealt with addiction knows that it is a struggle that can seem hopeless at times. Treatment centers and rehab, therapy and counseling, and going at it alone do not work for everyone. For some, NA is a continuance of rehab in everyday life.

The community support and 12 steps found at NA meetings seem to be the missing link for many people addicted to substances who wish to stay sober. Of course, there is never a guarantee that you will never use again. However, as they say in NA, "We can do together what we could not do alone."

What to Expect at Your First NA Meeting

Everyone is nervous about attending their first meeting. However, you can rest assured that everyone in the room has been in the same place, and the majority are very welcoming to newcomers. Meetings vary a bit because the local members direct them, but you can expect a few common things.

You will hear the word "addict" often at NA meetings. This is how NA members refer to themselves. Addicts include those who use everything from heroin and cocaine to prescription drugs and a variety of other mind-altering substances.

Meetings typically follow one of two formats: speakers or open discussion. In a speaker meeting, one individual is allowed to speak to share their personal story. An open discussion is like a round table where everyone can share their own experiences in a limited amount of time. Often, a specific topic or a reading from the "Basic Text" serves as the foundation for discussion. 

As a newcomer, you may be asked to introduce yourself. When doing so, use just your first name, as this is part of the anonymous aspect of the group. Also, you do not have to say "I'm an addict" unless you feel comfortable doing so.

The only rules in a meeting are that drugs and paraphernalia are not allowed. Also, cross-talk is discouraged, and members—particularly new attendees—are encouraged to listen while others speak openly. It's also appropriate to turn off your phone and not have side conversations.

What About God and Prayers?

When you're new to NA, the talk about God and the inclusion of prayers at some meetings can be alarming, particularly if you are not religious. NA is not Christian or affiliated with any religion, government, or other organization, even if the meeting is in a church.

Within the twelve steps of NA, members are asked to admit they are powerless over their addiction and that their recovery relies on a "Higher Power." This can mean a variety of things and is a very personal decision. Some people choose God (in whatever form or belief) as theirs, and others do not. NA says that "ours is a spiritual, not a religious program."

Try not to let this deter you from meetings. Instead, ask a member about it personally, and they can explain further. 

How to Find NA Meetings

When you are ready to attend your first meeting, visit the Narcotics Anonymous website to find a local meeting. Meetings occur at various times of day and almost every day of the week. Depending on where you live, there should be more than enough options to choose from. Some may even occur virtually.

If you attend one meeting and are not too sure about it, go to another one. Every meeting has its own atmosphere, and you might find yourself more comfortable in one group than another.

That said, at first, it's hard to feel comfortable because you feel like the outsider or the newbie while everyone else seems to have it all together. However, this is not necessarily true, and as they say in NA, if you "keep coming back—it works." 

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