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Narcotics Anonymous is offering support closer to home – figuratively and literally.

The support group started in Oamaru in June after a “real need” was noticed by recovering addicts in the community.

Susan*, a member whose name has been changed to protect her anonymity, said people would travel out of town for detox or rehabilitation programmes, but there was no community-based support when returning.

There were groups in Timaru and Christchurch, but a lot of people in early recovery did not have the finances to travel out of town.

Holding meetings in Oamaru was a way of meeting the community’s needs, while helping one another “stay clean”.

Narcotics Anonymous also allowed people to support and be supported by others with a similar lived experience.

“I can’t do recovery by myself, Narcotics Anonymous provides a place of safety and non-judgement,” Susan said.

“It’s designed as a sharing meeting to help us recover from drug addiction.”

Rather than a professional health service or therapy, it was a means of “self-help” and finding “new ways of dealing with things”.

“I really wanted to be a part of something that helps strengthen my relationships with my family.”

The meetings could also act as interim support between professional counselling or services, which were often fortnightly or monthly, she said.

At the weekly support meetings, members would use a 12-step programme – similar to the one used in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) – and it was recommended to have a sponsor.

Susan owed her sobriety to AA, but it did not address all areas of her addiction.

or mood-altering substances such as methamphetamine, cannabis, opiates and alcohol.

“A lot of people don’t see that alcohol is just another drug, but it does a lot of damage to people like myself.”

She spent five years sober, but relapsed after the end of a marriage, death of a former partner and a car crash.

There were a lot of theories into why people became addicted, but the one that resonated with Susan was the idea that drugs were used to numb emotional trauma.

Yet that trauma would still be there when sobering up, she said.

A few years ago, Susan moved from her home in the North Island to Oamaru, giving her a chance to be who she wanted to be.

In doing so, she was able to isolate herself from previous “playgrounds, playthings and playmates”.

She also started therapy to address trauma she had carried for a long time.

Susan now regularly attends AA meetings and the weekly Narcotics Anonymous meetings to maintain her sobriety.

“Regardless of what drugs we used or how much we used or who we knew in using, there is a far more productive way of life without drugs.”

There was a lot of stigma surrounding addiction, she said.

Some people thought “once you’re an addict, you’re always an addict”, but Susan challenged that idea, referring to herself as a “recovering” addict.

“We can recover, and we can become productive members of society.

“We don’t say ‘recovered’ because it’s an ongoing process that doesn’t end.”

The weekly Narcotics Anonymous meetings would be held at Orwell Street Church at 7pm.

Those attending the meetings did not necessarily need to be a recovering addict – they could be children or parents of addicts, or professionals.

For more information about the group contact Leo on 21169-8530 or Kelly on 204127-6848.