The U-Turn addictions centre in Carbonear hosts a Narcotics Anonymous meeting every Wednesday evening for those affected by the drug abuse of family members.
The first in a three-part series. Personal details have been changed to protect the identities of the families involved.
Drug abuse affects many people, and not always as users.
Whether you find prescription pills in your son’s backpack or a baggie of cocaine in your sister’s pocket, you are going through something many others are also experiencing.
The hardest step for those who witness drug abuse in their family in the Trinity Conception region is walking through the front door of the U-Turn addictions centre in Carbonear for the first time to seek help, said Kerri, a relative of a drug addict.
Kerri and six others recently gathered for the weekly meeting of people with a family member addicted to drugs. It consists of parents, aunts and uncles, sisters, brothers, grandparents and children of drug addicts. Anyone with a family member addicted to drugs is invited to attend. It is completely anonymous.
The Compass was invited to sit in on a meeting to share the experiences of those in the group.
The members briefly say hello and welcome each other back before officially starting the meeting with a moment of silence. It is followed by the serenity prayer, the reading of the 12 steps and 12 traditions of narcotics anonymous, and finally, the daily reading. It only takes a couple minutes, and the group begins opening up.
On this night the group is small, and everyone around the table believes there should be many more locals attending. They say the issue leading to low attendance is the shame and embarrassment felt by those who have drug users in their family.
“I’d say about 95 per cent of people in this area that have addicts in their lives probably have had everything growing up,” said Lydia, the mother of a drug-using daughter.
She continues by saying it’s an expensive habit to get into, and not everyone can afford it. Those that can afford it are not stereotypical drug users — they’re upper-middle class, functional working members of society, she explained.
Everyone at the table agreed.
Kerri opened the discussion talking about how it has been like to live in a family with someone addicted to drugs. She explained how many people blame the parents for the behaviour and for the drug use. She dismissed the idea entirely.
Colton and Mary are the parents of two children using drugs. One has been in trouble with the law in the past, but has recently begun detoxing. The other is actively in recovery. On this day Mary is emotional. She feels like there’s a weight on her shoulders because she can’t find one of her children the help they need. Colton tries to console her.
“You start questioning if you’ve done your job as a parent,” he said. “I don’t remember his life being that rough.”
Colton explained how many of the memories with their children are happy ones, filled with camping trips and sports. He believes there’s nothing they could have done differently when raising them.
Although she shed tears, Mary refused to believe she is responsible for the behaviour.
“They didn’t come with instructions,” she stated.
Lydia explained she gave her child everything. The youth was successful in high school and post secondary, but was offered Percocets from someone one day as an adult. That began the downward spiral.
“I know 300 or 400 addicts that come from the ‘cream of the crop’ here in Carbonear,” she explained. “But people connected to them believe it has nothing to do with them. Well I tell you, one day it’ll knock on their door.”
Everyone in the room has their own story. Each one tried numerous times to get their loved ones help. Each one tried to educate them. And all those who are parents confirmed they warned their children about drugs when they were growing up. But none of that mattered. They all still began using.
“You know what it is?” Colton said. “Too much money and too much pressure.”
It is obvious that each person’s experience having a drug addict as a relative is different. Some are calm and relaxed, while others are frustrated and angry.
After the first 30 minutes, discussions delved more into personal experiences. The group began to open up.