Sometime in July 2011, I attended my first Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meeting. Up until that point I had always claimed I could get clean whenever I wanted, just as long it was never the current day I was on. I was a man of “next’s”; “oh, I’ll get clean next week”, “next Monday”, “next month” …I was never “I’ll get clean now”.
I found NA by accident. I was sitting in a probation meeting, at the time when probation was being considered to be privatised, and they were wanting feedback from individuals like myself who had frequented the service. I was blabbing on about how we should see them less but get more off them in the way of gym and bus passes, all the while eating the free sandwiches, they had given me.
There was another lad there, one who is still a dear friend today. He asked me was I not sick of the life I was living? If he could show me a different way, would I take it? I looked him up and down. He had clearly lived a life like me, in fact, I’d find out his story in time, and it was worse. Yet he spoke much calmer and far more rationally than me. So, I responded “yes”, and he arranged a time for us to meet later that evening.
Not knowing what to expect, half hoping it was a party and a score of gear, I met him where we’d arranged that evening. At the time, I was living just outside of Newcastle. A judge earlier that year had given me a banning order on the city, which meant I was only allowed into Newcastle outside hours of curfew. Luckily my probation worker had given me a free pass this particular evening after hearing I was being accompanied.
As it turned out, the lad I’d met in probation was in recovery. He was not long out of treatment at rehab and now at home. I think he was 9 months or so clean at the time. While I hadn’t even managed 9 hours clean in years!
He took me to a meeting in Newcastle that was right around the corner from a police station I had spent many a night in. To think the solution was right around the corner and not once did a police officer tell me about it!
Anyhow, that meeting of coincidence in a Northumberland probation office changed my life. It was thanks to Narcotics Anonymous I found a new way of life. There was something about one addict helping another. The words I heard that night rang true, I related to just about everything. So many said things that rang true with me. Often, I said to myself “they are telling my story”.
Speaking and listening to others who had once lived as I had and now had found recovery left me with an overwhelming feeling of hope.
I kept returning to the rooms of NA. I feel like I grew up and matured as an individual. I was already 31 when I stumbled across the fellowship, but I had so much growing up to do. There were people there who showed me how to be a man.
How to act appropriately and get through anything clean, one day at a time and with my dignity intact. I’ve shared some powerful moments in those rooms and been held when I’ve needed it and returned it to others when they need it.
I always thought I was quite lucky I found drugs. Crazy, that isn’t it? My reasoning always was that drugs kept me alive long enough to find NA. As bad as the drugs were the sad truth is, I would have killed myself without them. They kept me alive and staved off the internal pain inside me until NA came along and presented a more long-term solution to living with myself.
I vividly remember my first meeting: that guy who made me a coffee on arrival. He wore a Hawaiian shirt, sunglasses and was about 30 years older than me. He’s still clean, recently celebrated 11 years clean and is my best friend in the world.
Then there was this person who hugged me at the door and encouraged me to receive a Just for Today keyring as a newcomer. Despite me not being clean, he told me that I earned one for having a desire. He’s still clean too, 12 years now if I remember rightly. We recently chaired our Area Service Committee together, him as chair and me as his vice.
Narcotics Anonymous has given me so much. I got educated while in NA. I’d never finished school, yet I started off with English and Maths. I finished with a 1st Class Honours Degree and additional Lv7 Masters Qualifications. Something I never thought I’d achieve due to my dyslexia and feelings of inadequacy since childhood. Peer support has been crucial through all of this.
I found love in NA. I learned to love myself (despite much resistance), and I learned to love in relationships, I learned the true value of friendships and today I love life. NA is really the family I turn to in times of need and guidance.
I’m employable and currently get to contribute alongside a charity which has values akin to mine. One that promotes recovery and helps those who are still caught in the grips of addiction. It’s nice to feel equal at work, and the director always makes me feel valued. I got a card the other day just to say thank you for the work we’ve done during the Coronavirus crisis. Imagine that!
Life is so different now. None of it would have been possible without the continual support of my sponsor, the fellowship and multiples of others in recovery and others who aren’t, who have encouraged me along the way.
Narcotics Anonymous not only saved my life but gave me a life beyond my wildest dreams. I only went out of desperation but stayed for the love I was shown.
I find peer-supported recovery the perfect solution to the grip of addiction. To speak to a group or a person who relates to my emotional issues makes recovery meaningful and appealing.
To connect to others in turn, helps me feel part of something bigger than myself and no longer alone. I still get professional help from a therapist who has a history of overcoming addiction themselves.
There are so many organisations today that employ people from a recovery background. Now we see how powerful a lived experience alongside professional qualifications can be.
We can access peer recovery in many forms. 12 Step fellowships and later specific targeted therapy was my chosen path. However, there are other ways out there, such as talking to a professional. If possible, I would say one with lived experience of addiction is ideal.
One thing I know is life in recovery is a world apart – and much better – from the pain of addiction.