ABU DHABI // An increasing number of drug addicts are learning to live a clean life through the addiction support group Narcotics Anonymous (NA).
The non-profit fellowship helps members achieve and maintain sobriety through guidance, sponsorship and encouragement.
“The Narcotics Anonymous message is that an addict, any addict, can stop using drugs, lose the desire to use and find a new way to live,” the group’s public informant, Mohammed, said.
NA was modelled after the Alcoholics Anonymous programme in the mid-1930s in the US, but is not a drug specific programme and has universal appeal to all who share the disease of addiction.
NA is not connected to any political, religious or law enforcement group and members are under no surveillance. Anyone can attend regardless of their religion, creed, sexual orientation or lack of religion.
Tamer, a recovering drug addict, facilitates some of the group’s meetings in Dubai. He has been living a drug-free life for more than a decade.
“The first NA meeting in the UAE took place 10 years ago. It was a group of two members who felt the need to start the support group. Two members and a will to stop using is all you need for a meeting,” he said.
The 110 active members, 91 per cent of whom are male, attend group meetings held by other members – all recovering drug addicts.
Meetings take place on a regular basis, at various times in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Al Ain.
Sessions are free to attend any of the open meetings held each week. “There are 110 addicts who attend meetings regularly. There are 15 NA meetings conducted weekly and in several languages. There are meetings in Arabic, English, Russian, Nepalese and Farsi. Some of our members have stayed drug free for 28 years,” Mohammed said.
NA is a 12-step process that involves admitting that an addict is powerless in controlling their addiction or compulsion.
With the help of a sponsor it reviews mistakes one has made in the past.
“It makes amends for past mistakes and wrongdoings. It teaches addicts how to live a new life, free from old unhealthy habits and ways of behaving and it gives back by helping fellow drug addicts,” Tamer said.
A key part of the 12-step programme is selecting a sponsor. A sponsor is a former addict who has time and experience maintaining sobriety who can provide support when a member is dealing with an urge to use.
Professionals in the addiction field hold widely varying opinions of the group’s value. Some see it as an extremely valuable resource for people seeking recovery.
“Anonymous support groups can be useful as people are provided with the platform where they can begin discussing and dealing with difficulties with others who have gone through, or who are going through, similar experiences,” said clinical psychologist Prathna Singh. “Connecting with others can help to reduce feelings of stigma and isolation, often associated with addiction. It can be reassuring to know that one is not struggling alone but instead can seek guidance and support from others.”
“There’s a therapeutic value that I’ve experienced of one addict helping another when I sponsor someone,” said Khalid, a regular at the group.
Not all addicts, however, stick to meetings. Some find solace elsewhere.
“NA is great, but it isn’t for everybody,” said Mubarak, a recently recovered drug addict.
“There are many paths to recovery and that’s OK. Many people find sobriety by going to a mosque or a church, by changing bad influencers in their life or by getting out of a bad relationship. In my opinion, the camaraderie is the common factor in NA and other paths to recovery. We don’t heal alone. “We all need somebody to hold our hand to help us through this,” he said.
There are no fees to attend NA meetings. They are self-supporting by those who choose to contribute.