I’ve been a grateful member of Narcotics Anonymous for over half a year now. Since being in NA, I’ve relapsed once (on prescription meds, as accidentally as one can do that) so I’m currently in my 90 days to just under 6 months phase.
Before stepping into NA, I only knew what I had seen on TV. And while they got it right a lot of the time, they also got a lot wrong. And it’s unfortunate because I think a lot of people don’t know how to approach their first meeting. So let me help you out by listing some common misconceptions and giving my experience of NA.
#1 : “NA is only for hard-core drug users.”
Not at all true. Any amount of usage where you feel you are at a point where you need help validates you to be there. In fact, there are even groups out there like Al-Anon who are there for family members and loved ones of addicts specifically and are “closed” to addicts – it’s a safe place to share no matter which meeting you’re attending.
I’ve had some decent conversations with people who came to NA because of weed, and while my DOC was heroin (widely considered to be more “hard-core” than other drugs), he had every much of a right to be there as I did. NA is for people who have a problem with drugs. They care not of how much you used, who you used with, or what your active addiction was like, but instead focus on the details of your recovery.
#2 : “Everyone at NA just talks about drugs.”
Again, not true. We’re not a bunch of sad people hanging around talking about “the good ol’ days”. Not on your nelly! In fact, it’s actually discouraged. As you attend meetings, you find the general conversation is about life and those every day things we addicts fought against dealing with through active addiction. It’s about helping one another and showing support. It’s making jokes with friends made in recovery. It’s all of this and more.
Sure, I won’t lie. There is sometimes some light-hearted “euphoric recall” that happens on occasion, but it’s certainly not the norm enough to say “all we talk about is drugs”. In fact, I probably only know a handful of DOC‘s of friends I’ve made in recovery. It just simply doesn’t matter what you used. The fact is, we all used something, we all got to the same point of realizing we are powerless against our addiction, and we all came to the same point in our lives which brought us to NA. It’s where we go from here that matters.
#3 : “You have to speak in the circle.”
Nope. Not so. The newcomer is the most important person at our meetings, but honestly you can attend meetings for months and never share your story. Sharing your story, however, is encouraged, but don’t be scared. This is how one addict best helps another addict. Knowing that someone else has been through what we’ve been through, and more importantly, how they got through it is how we learn and grow as recovering addicts. The same goes for daily struggles.
What is shared in meetings is confidential, and there are a few rules like no drugs or treatment centers to be named, and we don’t cross-talk (ie speak directly to another member in the circle) instead calling on and sharing only our own experiences in recovery.
For what it’s worth, I did speak at my first meeting. In fact, I cried. I was so alone by then and so broken, and I needed help. That night I came away with phone numbers of people who cared about me in a way I never felt before. I felt accepted and I never once felt judged, even to this day, relapse and all.
#4 : “NA is a religious group.”
Wrong again. When I came to NA I also thought one had to become religious in order to fulfill one, if not all, of the 12 Steps but this is not the case. NA encourages spiritual connections with a Higher Power, and that can be a Higher Power of your choosing. But this Higher Power only need be a loving and caring God of your understanding. Some choose to find strength in the rooms and the people within them. Others look to a new God. Some find religion they had once before lost. Some choose to find strength in Mother Earth herself. Whatever your choice, the spiritual side of the program should not be ignored. Whether you believe in religion as a whole or don’t, our connection to spirituality goes back thousands of years. We need that connection.
#5 : “You can sleep with your sponsor.”
While I suppose you could, it’s heavily discouraged. NA encourages you to find a sponsor of the same gender identity as you, so sexual tension does not interfere with recovery. It’s natural, and we can’t help who we are attracted to, so let’s not set ourselves up to fail before we’ve even begun. Keep Sponsor-Sponsee relationships strictly professional, or even as a close friendship, but just don’t cross the social boundaries that are there for a reason.
If you’re at all like me, you might find it difficult to find a sponsor of the same sex. I looked for months and didn’t find the right one. I’m not one for female friends in general, even from back in High School days, so it was very daunting to me to approach females and ask for sponsorship. But this could be the friendship that changes all future friendships, so give it a chance. It works if you work it.
I think that about covers the major misconceptions. NA is a place where one can feel accepted and I truly wish more people could experience the greatness that is the result of the 12 Step Program. It really does work if you work it “so keep coming back it, works if you work it, so work it you’re worth it!”