Narcotics Anonymous chapter formed on Manitoulin Island

LITTLE CURRENT— Those afflicted with drug addiction face a daunting and usually lifelong battle where sometimes the world and events seem destined to overwhelm them. But it is not a battle they must face alone. A chapter of Narcotics Anonymous (NA) has recently been established in Little Current, sponsored by the Espanola chapter and supported by members from the Sudbury chapter as well.

“I am a member,” said organizer Jane Smith (not his/her real name, the organization is anonymous after all) of their motivation for starting up the chapter here on Manitoulin. “Narcotics Anonymous is a world-wide organization based out of Nuys, California with chapters all over the world.”

Anyone who wants to stop using drugs may become a member of Narcotics Anonymous, noted Ms. Smith. “Membership is not limited to addicts using any particular drug. Those who feel they may have a problem with drugs, legal or illegal, including alcohol, are welcome in NA. Recovery in NA focuses on the problem of addiction, not on any particular drug.”

Even the supposedly benign drug marijuana, long touted by advocates as “non-addictive” can be an addiction, especially with the potent versions on the streets today.

“Some people with an addictive personality will become addicted even to pot,” said Ms. Smith. “People start altering their reality and it can become a problem in their lives that they find they can’t break free from on their own.”

Mr. Smith explained that the key element is not the drug, but rather the personality that tends towards addictions. “Addiction is in the personality, not so much the drug itself.”

The basic premise of anonymity allows addicts to attend meetings without fear of legal or social repercussions, noted Ms. Smith. This is an important consideration for an addict thinking about going to a meeting for the first time. Anonymity also supports an atmosphere of equality in meetings. It helps ensure that no individual’s personality or circumstance will be considered more important than the message of recovery shared in Narcotics Anonymous.

According to the NA website, like AA, NA’s primary approach to recovery is “its belief in the therapeutic value of one addict helping another. Members take part in NA meetings by talking about their experiences and recovery from drug addiction. NA meetings are informally structured, held in space rented by the group, and are led by members who take turns opening and closing the meeting.”

“We are a self supported self help group that works on the same basic steps as Alcoholics Anonymous,” said Ms. Smith. Adding that NA meetings and other services are funded entirely from donations by the group’s members and the sale of recovery literature. In fact, financial contributions from non-members are not accepted.

NA meetings are held regularly at the same time and place each week, usually in a public facility. In the case of the Little Current meetings, they will take place at the Little Current Public School library every Thursday at 7:30 pm. There are two basic types of meetings, open meetings that are open to the general public and closed meetings for addicts only or those who think they may have a problem with the disease of addiction and are closed to the public.

The Little Current meetings will be of the open variety, at least to start. “Anyone with an interest in addictions is welcome to come,” said Ms. Smith. “All we ask is that what goes on at the meeting is kept confidential by those attending.”

NA operates on the principle of addicts helping each other recover and members meeting regularly to talk about their experiences in recovery. “More experienced members (known as sponsors) work individually with newer members,” noted Ms. Smith.

The core of the NA program is the Twelve Steps. Those steps are a set of guidelines outlining a practical approach to recovery. By following these guidelines and working closely with other members, addicts learn to stop using drugs and face the challenges of daily living without the crutch of their addiction.

While NA is not a religious organization and “does not mandate any particular belief system” it does teach basic spiritual principles such as honesty, open-mindedness, faith, willingness and humility that may be applied in everyday life. “There is a component that people believe in a higher power, but the interpretation of what that means is very broad,” said Ms. Smith, who said that the higher power component is more of a spiritual nature than any formal religious foundation.

The NA website notes that “the specific practical application of spiritual principles is determined by each individual. Recovery in NA is not a miracle cure that happens within a given period of time. It is a process, ongoing and personal. Members make an individual decision to join and recover at their own pace.”

“This is definitely needed on the Island,” said Ms. Smith, adding that she hoped that people afflicted with the disease of addiction from across the Island will be encouraged to come out and learn more about the support system provided by NA. The meetings will take place at the Little Current Public School library every Thursday at 7:30 pm and there is no charge for attending, although a free will offering is encouraged for those who are able to help support the program.