New addiction support group starting in Bangor

Posted May 02, 2011, at 3:29 p.m.
Last modified May 02, 2011, at 11:49 p.m.
Jane and Fred Newcomb of Owls Head will lead a new meeting in Bangor of the Nar-Anon program for families and friends of drug addicts.
Courtesy photo
Jane and Fred Newcomb of Owls Head will lead a new meeting in Bangor of the Nar-Anon program for families and friends of drug addicts.

BANGOR, Maine — Is your life affected by a loved one’s drug abuse or addiction?

Beginning this week, residents of the Bangor area can participate in a free, confidential support group just for the relatives and friends of addicts.

Nar-Anon is an established 12-step program that helps members draw loving, healthy boundaries in their relationships with drug users and to focus on their own serenity and personal growth. Although Nar-Anon draws its format and guidelines from Alcoholics Anonymous and its sister program Al-Anon for families and friends of alcoholics, it has no formal affiliation with those groups.

There are no dues or other costs associated with membership, and member confidentiality is a cornerstone of the program, according to group organizer Jane Newcomb of Owls Head.

“In Nar-Anon, we learn we are not alone,” Newcomb said. People often feel isolated from friends, family and other sources of support when a loved one is struggling with addiction, she said, “but the friends they make at Nar-Anon are walking the same path.”

The new Nar-Anon group will meet for the first time at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 5, at the Saint Francis Center at 294 Center St. in Bangor, near St. Joseph Hospital. The building is familiar to many area residents as a renovated former fire station. The group will meet weekly at the same time and place.

Bruce Campbell, chairman of the Bangor Area Recovering Community Coalition, said he is “thrilled” to have a Nar-Anon group forming in the area.

Campbell, who also serves as the director of the men’s program at the Wellspring substance abuse treatment and recovery program, said that even if an addict is in treatment, families and friends often need a source of education and support.

“We don’t have a real family-friendly system,” he said. With thousands of addicted individuals in the Bangor area, he said, there is real need for the kind of supportive and accepting environment created in 12-step programs such as Nar-Anon.

Jane Newcomb and her husband, Fred, have helped set up Nar-Anon groups in Rockland and Portland. Jane Newcomb, a special education teacher, said she was led to start the groups after realizing how many people in the midcoast area were struggling to cope with drug addiction in a family member.

“Our members are the husbands, wives, parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters of drug addicts,” she said.  “The foremost thing we believe is that drug addiction is a disease and that we as parents and loved ones have no control over the addict.”

Nar-Anon helps people identify ways in which they may be making matters worse instead of better and offers support for changed attitudes and behaviors, she said.

While some people affected by another’s drug addiction find the support they need in the Al-Anon program for families and friends of alcoholics, others feel more comfortable with Nar-Anon’s specific focus on drug abuse, Newcomb said.

At a typical meeting, members gather in an informal setting to discuss their experiences. Leaders often draw on selected readings to get a discussion started and keep it focused. Members do not have to speak unless they want to; many come just to listen and be in the accepting company of others who understand their distress, Newcomb said.

“People do find comfort at our meetings,” she said.

For more information about Nar-Anon, visit http://www.nar-anon.org or phone Jane Newcomb at 594-2801.

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