‘There’s a hand reach­ing to­wards you’

The Compass - - EDITORIAL - Pat Cullen

The Au­gust evening has turned chilly as I walk quickly along Car­bon­ear’s Pow­ell Drive.

I am grate­ful for the light that beck­ons in the dis­tance. I walk quickly to­ward the light and en­ter a room that is warm and strangely invit­ing. I won­der why I feel so much at ease. I guess it’s the at­mos­phere. The mood in­side that room is up­beat, the laugh­ter in­fec­tious, the oc­cu­pants cheer­ful.

The feel­ing of hope and op­ti­mism here is pal­pa­ble. I ac­cept a cof­fee and ex­change some small talk. I don’t yet know it and from out­ward ap­pear­ances I would never sus­pect it. But I am now in a room with a group of peo­ple who are star­ing into the jaws of hell.

I am in a room with five mem­bers of the 10 or 11 that make up the Trin­ity Con­cep­tion NARANON Fam­ily Group, peo­ple whose lives have been ma­nip­u­lated and some­times de­stroyed by an ad­dic­tion that is not even theirs, who have been driven to des­per­a­tion be­cause they thought they were help­ing a fam­ily mem­ber or friend ad­dicted to drugs, only to dis­cover they were not help­ing but merely feed­ing the ad­dic­tion.

No one here has to know the real name of the other or their re­la­tion­ship to the per­son ad­dicted, but from their con­ver- sa­tion I guess most are par­ents who love their chil­dren, sac­ri­ficed for them, some­times sac­ri­ficed to ed­u­cate them, shed tears of pride when their child landed a job with a six-fig­ure in­come and then shed tears of de­spair when that same child sank into ad­dic­tion and lost every­thing.

And they, as par­ents, were blamed. For it’s al­ways the par­ents. It’s al­ways some­thing they’ve done. More im­por­tantly and more de­struc­tively, they blamed them­selves. And in some cases they too lost every­thing, in­clud­ing, as one mem­ber put it, her “dig­nity”.

Now, with the sup­port they re­ceive from one an­other at Nar-Anon their lives are fi­nally head­ing in a pos­i­tive di­rec­tion. They are learn­ing to let go. They are no longer let­ting the ad­dict con­trol them by think­ing and wor­ry­ing about him or her day and night. They are learn­ing to think and care about them­selves and be­cause of this they are slowly re­gain­ing con­trol of their lives.

As An­gela ex­plained,

“I learned at Nar-Anon I have to let go, and it took me hit­ting rock bot­tom and los­ing every­thing that was im­por­tant in my life to fi­nally say I’ve had enough.”

They are re­pair­ing founder­ing mar­riages and re-es­tab­lish­ing bet­ter re­la­tions with non-ad­dicted fam­ily mem­bers and friends.

They want to help you do the same. They want you to come to their meet­ings but they want to dis­pel any myth that your prob­lems will be solved by at­tend­ing a cou­ple of th­ese meet­ings, for learn­ing to cope with the ad­dicted may be the most hellish ex­pe­ri­ence you will ever en­dure.

They will tell you that you are there to help your­self and not the ad­dict. They will un­der­stand when you tell them you re­fused to give your child money to buy food be­cause you knew that money would be used to buy drugs, and then lay awake all night won­der­ing if your child would hurt some­one to get that money.

They un­der­stand the agony you feel hear­ing your chil­dren con­demned as “garbage” when you know “they’re good kids. They’re just sick”. They will teach you not to be ashamed of the ad­dicted per­son in your life but they will cau­tion you about the dif­fi­cul­ties in giv­ing that per­son emo­tional sup­port and yet not be used by him or her.

They will teach you to dis­re­gard oth­ers’ opin­ions of you. They will tell you they un­der­stand and they will not judge you be­cause your ex­pe­ri­ences are their ex­pe­ri­ences, that you don’t have to go through this alone, you don’t have to keep tor­tur­ing your­self, won­der­ing if your ac­tions caused the ad­dic­tion.

Mar­ion: “The lit­tle bit of light, I could see it com­ing through the clouds when I first started com­ing here and now I can get up in the morn­ing. I’ve got a pur­pose. I don’t spend my day in bed bawl­ing and cry­ing be­cause I don’t care what peo­ple think of me any­more. You don’t have to walk in my shoes.”

They will un­der­stand the fear you feel at com­ing to a Nar-Anon meet­ing, be­cause that fear means you must ad­mit there is an ad­dict in your life and you are suf­fer­ing be­cause of it. They will also un­der­stand the stigma you feel is at­tached to Nar-Anon, that you don’t want to make your­self and your fam­ily the tar­gets of small-town gos­sip by be­ing seen there.

But they will urge you to rise above that fear, to over­come that stigma, be­cause they know the worst thing you can do is sit at home hop­ing the prob­lem will get bet­ter or go away. It won’t. Max will tell you not to de­lude your­self with “maybe I won’t have to talk about this, be­cause maybe they’re go­ing to quit. They don’t quit.”

As the ses­sion ends, I say some­thing about writ­ing a “reach out in the dark­ness” piece. A woman fin­ishes with “there’s a hand reach­ing to­wards you.”

That hand of­fers you hope, sup­port, ac­cep­tance and no judg­ment. It also teaches you to be kind to your­self and it will help you nav­i­gate the tor­tu­ous road ahead. If you feel you need that hand, please take it.

Anne Collins Brown started the Trin­ity Con­cep­tion chap­ter of the NAR-ANON Fam­ily Group in April 2014. She has a sib­ling who is a re­cov­er­ing ad­dict. She, her sib­ling and her fam­ily en­counter many strug­gles be­cause of that ad­dic­tion and she wants to help oth­ers deal with the strug­gles she knows they face.

There is com­plete anonymity at Nar-Anon meet­ings. The group meets at U-Turn Ad­dic­tions Drop-In-Cen­tre, 46 Pow­ell Drive, Car­bon­ear, each Wed­nes­day from 7:30-8:30 p.m.

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