Abstract This paper is focused on discussing my personal experience while attending a local Narcotics Anonymous meeting. I knew going into this meeting that I had to go with an open mind, an open heart, and a complete respect for those around me. I understood that all meetings are unique in their own way and that their formats may not be similar to that of a neighboring location. From my research it seems it follows the same precursors as what you would exercise if you were looking for a good marriage counselor, you keep looking until you find the right one that works for you.
I found it quite interesting and very welcoming that they allow anyone to attend these meetings, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little nervous. This feeling of nervousness actually put me into a similar mindset that I believe, without lessening their struggles, an addict might be experiencing their first time attending. Narcotics Anonymous Meeting This particular meeting that I attended took place in a beautiful Lutheran church. The meeting had a very structured format that I admired and believed to be quite beneficial and nonthreatening to those who surrounded me in the room.
The administrator, or chairperson as they reference it, began the session with an open discussion that was very fluid and informationally based. He began with a statement that resonated with me, ‘We often say here at NA that no one comes through these doors of by mistake”. It was an interesting and quite effective way to start off the meeting. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference” (“The Serenity Prayer,” 1950).
The chairperson only recited the first four lines of the prayer, but it seems that is all that is needed. He then welcomed everyone and made note that is was important for first time attendees to understand that God will be referenced at all the meetings. He went into further detail about what they meant by God. He described a “Power” greater than ourselves that ultimately makes the impossible seem possible. I thought this to be brilliant. This approach would alleviate from intimidating those who may not believe in our one true God, and yet keep them focused on a “Higher Power”.
There was a seamless transition into the definition of the 12-Step program that NA follows, and how it offers an effective way to change an individual spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically. There was emphasis on how this is a difficult task to do alone. The speaker described how the NA fellowship supported one another in every facet to learn and actively practice a new found way of existence. Apparently this meeting was a “speaker” meeting which means that they have a member personally tell their story about addiction and how they discovered their way to recovery.
I found this part of the meeting to be extremely inspiring and motivational. I believe that it can only aid in the recovery process, not only for the individual, but for others within the program as well. “Grace is always a present possibility for individuals, but its flow comes to fullness through community” (May, 1988). At this point, the speaker described that this meeting would have open discussion and he motioned for anyone who would like to share, to tell a story, or just to say their name and a quick hello.
I just sat and watched. During the discussion session, a man, we will call him Dave, stood up to speak and seemed visibly shaken as he stumbled to the pulpit. It seemed like an eternity before a single word left his lips, but it felt like he had been talking for hours. His face was weathered and hung low to the floor. He seemed ashamed and all I could feel was empathy for him. I honestly believe I witnessed first had the pain he was experiencing without hearing a single word.
If this moment was the only thing I experienced within those walls, it would have been enough. Thoughts and Reflections It was not only and educational experience, it was life altering. I witnessed what Gerald May references as “Breakdown”. Once the addiction is realized, it brings on mounds of guilt, remorse, and shame in rancorous proportion to the enormous amounts of pride that proceeded it (May, 1988). I admired the structure and the attention to detail when it came to the rules and regulations regarding behavior.
With the open discussions, it was extremely structured, and I say this because of the specific rules attached to it. There is no crosstalk allowed during the meeting itself. I noticed that after each person shared everyone echoed “thank you for sharing”. It was enlightening to see just how engaged every attendee was when someone was speaking. It was interesting to see how much physical touch was encouraged as well. Hugging seemed to be the way to express hello, goodbye, and I’m here for you.
I noticed that most individuals showed up earlier than expected and stayed later even after the meeting had concluded. It seems that these structurally absent social engagements were just as important as the meeting itself. People were smoking cigarettes and exchanging numbers. I joined them for a smoke and noticed more smiles and supportive dialogue that mimicked what was expressed during the meeting. I was grateful for the experience and thankful for the amazing people that I met. I wished them all well and prayed for them as soon as my head hit my pillow that night.