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Another Voice: Nar-Anon offers support to families of addicts

By John Higgins

There is help for families suffering the effects of addiction.

“I don’t know what to do” is the battle cry of so many families whose lives have been turned inside out by addiction. We hear so much every day about the many deaths attributable to addiction, but sometimes fail to recognize the irreparable collateral damage that can happen to their families.

While there is no concrete formula to help addicts achieve certain recovery, there is help for their families and loved ones. That help can come from Nar-Anon Family Groups, a group whose spiritual principles are adapted from the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Groups meet generally once a week to find comfort, compassion and understanding from others that are in the same predicament. More than one person has come into the meeting rooms with a clipboard, prepared to walk out with a plan to cure or fix the addict in their lives. How we wish it was that easy. One of the tools that we try to send everyone home with is that they didn’t cause it, they can’t control it and they can’t cure it – otherwise known as the three C’s.

Families are being ravaged and torn apart by the devastating effects of addiction. It’s like a tornado; it can destroy everything in its path. Addiction knows no boundaries. The myth that only certain socioeconomic profiles are in the equation is utterly false.

We try to impart to those in attendance that the only factors they have control over are themselves, their own behavior and their own reactions. The term enabling is used, too, as many people unwittingly become part of the problem.

When we make it easy to continue using, the addicts have no incentive to want to stop using. The brain gets hijacked by the drug, and the desire to use supersedes all other instincts. Addicts tend to like extreme and dangerous behavior, and if we keep putting out a safety net to cushion their fall, they have no incentive to stop. Long-term recovery seems to be achievable only when the addict makes a firm and concrete decision to seek help at any cost, and reaches a level of desperation – desperation to find help.

The idea of a higher power plays a very big part in it. Many of those with long-term abstinence report having a strong faith in a God of their understanding, and a willingness to ask their higher power for help in staying clean and sober. The road to recovery takes lots of work.

It should be noted that anonymity is of paramount importance in the Nar-Anon rooms. What is said in the rooms stays in the rooms. Those in attendance must feel safe to share openly.

John Higgins holds the credentialed alcoholism and substance abuse counselor trainee qualification, and has been active in Nar-Anon ( for more than five years.