‘There’s a hand reaching towards you’
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.