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Support group for family members of narcotics addicts shows members they’re not alone

Nok-Noi Ricker | BDN
Nok-Noi Ricker | BDN
A grandmother and Nar-Anon facilitator Jane Newcomb (right) walk into the St. Francis Center on Center Street on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2012, where Bangor's Nar-Anon meetings are held weekly to provide support to family members dealing with narcotics addiction. Meetings are held 6:30 p.m. Thursdays. "Are you suffering? Are you having trouble in your life because of a loved one who is addicted? There is help through Nar-Anon," Newcomb said.
By Nok-Noi Ricker, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — One of the people who regularly attends the weekly Nar-Anon meetings — a support group for family and friends of those addicted to drugs — is a retired officer of the law, who himself dabbled with drugs and alcohol when he was a youngster.

Now, at age 57, he finds himself dating a woman who became addicted to OxyContin after being prescribed the painkiller for back pain.

“She’s really a good woman when she’s straight,” he said last Thursday, sitting inside the St. Francis Center in Bangor where the Nar-Anon meetings are held.

He found a support system of people effected by drug addiction the first time he attended a Nar-Anon meeting. That support system keeps him coming back.

“The first night I came to this, a lady told her story and it was exactly like mine,” the man said. “I am not alone I found out.”

Many people feel isolated as they watch their loved ones deteriorate under narcotics addiction, said Jane Newcomb, Nar-Anon meeting facilitator who has a college degree in rehabilitation and has started similar groups in Rockland and Portland.

“People are afraid at first,” she said. “There is a big stigma around drug abuse. We’re really anonymous. That is one of the key facets of the program.”

Nar-Anon is similar to Al-Anon, the support group for people dealing with a loved one’s alcoholism, and the program uses similar literature and the familiar 12-Step program adopted by both Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.

The Nar-Anon family support program helps members create healthy boundaries in their relationships with drug users and to focus on their own happiness and personal growth, Newcomb said.

A big part of the support group program is teaching members that they cannot control the addict or change them, she said.

“We kind of get addicted to the addict” trying to help them and “we forget to live our own lives,” Newcomb said. “This program really teaches us how to get our lives back on track.”

Heartaches and worries that come from loving a drug addict can be overwhelming, and Nar-Anon helps members find a path, said a grandmother in the program, whose granddaughter is addicted to street drugs.

“I thought if I kept trying with her, I could help her change,” she said. “You can’t.”

The grandmother said the hardest part for many people, including herself, is realizing that they are powerless to change the actions of their addicted loved ones.

“My husband and I were both physically and mentally drained trying to help our granddaughter,” she said. “Through the literature and through the understanding of the disease and the understanding of the behavior, we learned there isn’t anything we can do besides love her.

“The only control we have is how we choose to react.”

Those who attend the meetings will have access to a variety of brochures that can help, Newcomb said.

“With the understanding that addiction is a disease, and the realization that we are powerless over it, as well as over other people’s lives, we are ready to do something useful and constructive with our own,” a Nar-Anon booklet states. “Then, and only then, can we be of any help to others.”

The Nar-Anon meetings in Bangor are held 6:30 p.m. every Thursday at the St. Francis Center, a renovated old fire station at 294 Center St., which is across the street from St. Joseph Hospital.

Those who would like more information about Nar-Anon can check out the nar-anon.org website or call Jane Newcomb at 594-2801.

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