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Narcotics Anonymous steps up to keep members connected through online meetings

Staying connected with support networks is important during COVID-19.
Staying connected with support networks is important during COVID-19. - 123RF Stock Photo
CORNER BROOK, N.L. —

The Newfoundland and Labrador Area Service of Narcotics Anonymous (NA) has stopped its in-person meetings due to restrictions on public gatherings as the province works to lessen the spread of COVID-19.

But it hasn’t left members to cope alone. The group now runs its meetings though Zoom, an online meeting service.

Sarah and Mike, not their real names, are two NA members who have been availing of those meetings. Sarah is from the Avalon area of the province and Mike is from central. They’ve both been members of NA, a spiritual-based 12-step recovery program, since 2017.

The first meeting Sarah attended was with a friend who was struggling at the same time. Sarah had tried many times to quit using on her own and through therapy, but at that meeting she realized she’d found somewhere she had probably needed to be for a while.

There were other realizations — that she hadn’t dealt with why she used, that it just wasn’t one drug she was addicted to and to maintain her recovery she needed to abstain from all substances.

“I found the difference between clean time and recovery, and NA has given me recovery.” - Mike

Before NA, Mike could stay away from drugs for periods at a time and then start reusing. He admits to not really being all in when he first started attending meetings.

“I was kind of just going to the meetings and didn’t get involved in the group as much. I didn’t get involved in what the program actually had to offer.”

After a while he slipped and started using again. When he returned to NA in 2019 something changed. He got heavily involved in the program, taking suggestions of members who had clean time.

“I really wanted to know how they did it and I opened myself up to some suggestions,” he said. “I found the difference between clean time and recovery, and NA has given me recovery.”


Stress of COVID-19 can lead to increased alcohol and substance use


When the COVID-19 pandemic brought an end to the in-person meetings both felt some fear.

“Addiction is a lonely business,” said Mike.

Sarah said the meetings are huge part of someone’s early and ongoing recovery.

“I have to keep daily maintenance of that.”

Even three years in she still attends a majority of the in-person meetings.

“Now my friendship circle and social circle are members of the program … that understand me, who know me, who know what my struggles are. Not having that connection is hard." - Sarah

“Just to get that reminder of what I needed to do.”

So, without them there is a fear of relapse. More than that there is a loss of connection with people.

“Now my friendship circle and social circle are members of the program … that understand me, who know me, who know what my struggles are. Not having that connection is hard,” she said.

While a newcomer to the program, Mike said NA was the first time he felt a part of something. And that is something other newcomers and even longtime members could miss.

Fortunately for Mike and Sarah, and members everywhere, NA was able to step up quickly with the Zoom meetings when the in-person meeting were cancelled. Sarah said the area service had been working on online meetings for some time as a way to bridge the gaps that exist in communication within the province.

The meetings are open to everyone and run the same as in-person meetings.

“We have that little bit of socializing before and after the meeting that gets us back to not feeling so alone in this isolation,” said Sarah. “We can talk about anything that we’re struggling with. Or just have a joke and carry on like we would normally do at in-person meetings.”

Mike adds it's all about connection, especially because drug addiction is so isolating.

“Maintaining that connection within a group is huge. And it’s been working really, really well.”

In some ways he said the anonymity of the group is increased online.

“You have control over whether you want to use your camera, you can turn it on, you can turn it off, you can make up a name if you want.”

He said meetings that would have 20 to 25 people attend in-person now draw upwards of 40 online.

“This might be unearthing something for the future.”

Twitter: WS_DianeCrocker

Find an online meeting at www.nlareana.ca

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