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The Commons
Voices / Viewpoint

Help for witnesses to a path of destruction

Drug addiction is a family disease, and Nar-Anon provides support for the family

Susan Avery advocates publicly for Nar-Anon Family Groups and the support it provides for families of those ensnared in addiction to drugs. The group meets at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital each Tuesday at 7 p.m. For more information, call 802-345-4145.

Originally published in The Commons issue #420 (Wednesday, August 9, 2017). This story appeared on page D1.

There are many things today that, more than ever, take our children and other family members from us and from their own precious lives.

As a mother who has watched her own children struggle with a myriad of addictions during the past 18 years, I have become committed to playing a role in helping other family members navigate through the devastation caused it causes and, in doing so, I have helped myself and my family.

Accepting that addiction is a disease is a concept that many do not find truthful. However, in my experience, addiction, whatever it may be — alcohol, heroin, oxycontin, gambling, shopping, or the like — is a disease that a person simply does not voluntarily invite into their lives.

My son did not wake up one morning and say, “Today I will become an addict.” Rather, it happened at his hand but not by his desire.

* * *

Help is absolutely available, from parents and friends supporting one another through Nar-Anon Family Groups. I do know that support from others who are personally living through or have survived this living hell is imperative to gaining a better understanding as to how to keep from sliding into a black hole day after day.

Nar-Anon Family Groups is only one aspect of fighting the scourge that we are facing, and it is a good place to start. The program is a companion, but separate, program to Narcotics Anonymous, having been founded in California in 1967.

Nar-Anon follows the Al-Anon Family Group program, and these support group meetings help relatives and friends of the drug abuser. Like alcoholism, drug dependence is considered to be a “family disease,” and family members should be encouraged to attend Nar-Anon meetings as soon as a drug problem is suspected.

Nar-Anon offers a constructive program whereby its members learn to achieve peace of mind and gain hope. They learn to accept addiction as a disease, to reduce family tension, and to encourage the drug user to seek help.

Commitment to attending as many meetings as possible provides the tool of education and a learned understanding toward managing your own life despite the behaviors of the addict in your family.

Again, gaining ground through education and a commitment to recognizing change can take place, and one can enjoy a better way of living. It will bring relief to you, to other family members who often suffer in silence, and to your addict as well.

* * *

You might not have a known addict in your family, but that does not mean you are not affected by the outcomes of addiction. The path of destruction is leading right through our neighborhoods — yours and mine.

Admittedly, setting boundaries is difficult and understanding detachment is confusing and is no easy task. As you work your own program, change will take place. Your child will pull at your heartstrings and try to manipulate you in ways you might not conceive. This is not your child; this is the all-consuming disease of addiction.

Through Nar-Anon, once the process of understanding addiction takes hold, families can begin to heal and to rebuild the core that in some instances has been obliterated under the strain of addiction.

I believe, too, that when strength is felt and individuals begin to gain ground, another commitment can form and that is called “paying it forward.”

When real stories of real people are out in the open (as we have now recently witnessed in our town), those front-line professionals will continue to gain insights to identify and develop strategies and a solid realistic understanding for the kind of support and help our addicts toward recovery and once again become healthy and productive members of society, one day at a time.

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