When I pulled into the parking lot, the first thing I noticed was how full it was. I was so nervous. This being my first Narcotics Anonymous meeting, all I could think about was how everyone would be staring at me—I felt obvious and self-conscious.
Taking a very deep breath, I walked up to the door and pushed it open. “Here we go,” I whispered to myself. Not looking up, I found the first seat I could and sat down. I was glad to be in the back of the room. The smell of coffee was welcoming. I heard laughter and chatter everywhere. Looking over at the coffee area, I saw a small group hugging each other and someone was offering some sort of Danish pastry.
The facilitator then made an announcement and everyone found a seat. Someone sat down next to me, a woman a little older than me with dark hair. She smiled and introduced herself. I said hello back without giving my name. I remembered what my rehab sponsor told me and didn’t say anything I wasn’t comfortable with.
After some meeting announcements, the facilitator opened the meeting up for attendees to speak or share. Now that things were in motion, I felt comfortable enough to look around at the people that were joining this meeting with me.
The room was quite crowded and I saw people of all ages and walks of life. I saw a man who appeared to be homeless and his hands shook badly. A few seats away sat a woman with every hair in place, well dressed and covered in jewelry. An elderly couple held hands near the front row and a young man covered in tattoos and piercings shifted restlessly in front of me. So many people.
At first, no one spoke at all. It made me uncomfortable because the last thing I wanted to do was talk to anyone, let alone in front of everyone about my chaotic entry into recovery. Things like being arrested, court ordered rehab, my family’s shock and horror, etc.
Finally, someone stood and introduced himself. He said he was a meth addict. He talked about being clean for nearly six months, his week at work, the temptations that he had to overcome and his faith to stay on the path. When he was finished speaking, the facilitator and a few other people thanked him for sharing.
In between some awkward silences, a few other people repeated this pattern of slowly standing and telling their victories and battles with the addiction monster. I felt a sudden kinship with these people. I completely understood each of their stories. With a sigh of relief, I relaxed into my folding chair and listened with less fear and more interest.
A quiet whimpering caught my attention. Looking over, I see a man of about 40 years, holding his head in his hands. As people notice his distress, he stands slowly introducing himself as a recovering heroin addict.
He’s an average person—nothing fancy about his jeans or t-shirt. He had the regular black boots of a working man. As he begins his recollection of relapse, my mouth falls open. I’m trapped by his account because I have lived it.
A slow southern drawl accompanied by a sniffle turns into a full sob quickly. Being clean for the better part of three years, he recounts this past week of falling off the wagon. To him, the reason is pointless. All that matters is that he has sabotaged himself and disappointed his children. As he goes on, I begin to tear up. So do others in this big room, and I finally understand that we are a group of pilgrims on a path that no one else can understand. Even though we hold each other up, we are still independent soldiers.
This one man, so emotionally raw and honest, has gotten through to me. As I listen to him, I break down. Not only for him, but for me and everyone else that has been held hostage by addiction. I’m no different from any of these people in any way. I’m part of them, like they are me, and we do our best each day.
As he finishes his account, he is sobbing and almost inaudible but he is raw and true and wants to fix this mistake. Just like we all do.
I hope I can help him do this. I hope he and the rest of these people can do the same for me.