Wednesday, March 14, 2012
GROWING UP IN NA
A few of us were standing around in the hall of the hospice waiting for a dear friend in the program to die. Understandably, the mood was somber. One of our number had something his daughter had written and he read it to us. I asked her permission to reprint it here.
Twenty or so adults stand in a circle with their arms entangled. I wormed my way into the circle. All heads look to the floor. There is a moment of silence before they begin:
"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference."
Heads raise. Everyone smiles as they break their embrace.
Whether it be a church, friends, or relatives, everyone is born into a community. When I came into this world, my community was Narcotics Anonymous. My most vivid memories as a child were in church basements. Not on Sundays, but at night. I would sit in between my parents among the adults in the folding metal chairs. The smell of coffee and cigarettes wafted through the room as I listened attentively to the stories.
Among those stories, I have listened to a man once living on the streets who now owns his own barbecue stand, a woman with two children, no teeth, and Hepatitis C who still finds hope at every meeting, a woman with one lung who hikes four thousand foot mountains, and a man with one eye and stage four liver cancer who spends his free time tending to his honey bees. These people have demonstrated that although addiction does not have a cure, it is not a terminal disease. As a child growing up in this community, I have learned that setbacks are not all there is and a person never stops growing.
One would think that Narcotics Anonymous meetings are a place of despair and misery; but really, they are a place of empowerment, and hope. As a child, I used to hope that I would be an addict when I grew up. Hoping that one day I could participate in these meetings, myself. The truth is, though, I have gained so much knowledge and wisdom from Narcotics Anonymous without having to go through what it takes for most people to end up there. My parents have raised me in an environment full of recovering drug addicts and, surprisingly, they are all my role models. Not for what they did, but for what they have done and continue to do for themselves and others. These people have been in a harder place than I have and still came out the other end not only alive, but loving life. They have demonstrated the awareness, courage, and drive that it takes to become better people and a contribution to their community. As I grow up and move on from this community, I will take the lessons learned from Narcotics Anonymous and for that, I trust that every problem I face, I will handle with grace, maturity, and responsibility.
It was the beekeeper with the cancer, Uncle Jimmy, who was in the hospice dying of cancer when Hannah's father read the above to us. I've thought long and hard on it, but I cannot think of a better advertisement for getting and staying clean in the program of Narcotics Anonymous.