Family Wellness

10 Things To Expect From a Nar-Anon Meeting

June 29th, 2017
Man talks about his experience with addiction in a 12 Step meeting.

This blog was updated January 8th, 2019

The Nar-Anon Family Group is a long-standing worldwide fellowship that supports those affected by someone’s addiction. Its goal is to help family members understand that they cannot control the addicted person or their addiction. It focuses on helping family members practice self-care and realize the importance of their own well-being

In the face of a loved one’s addiction, it can be overwhelming for a family member to realize that they also need support. Denial and procrastination are common obstacles to seeking help, but knowing what to expect from a support group can ease the process. 

Below are 10 things you can expect at a Nar-Anon meeting:

1. Safe Space

Most Nar-Anon weekly or monthly meetings take place in community spaces like churches, organizations’ halls, or rented rooms in office buildings. To encourage open communication, a circle of chairs is traditionally the setup, as you may have seen in movies. Do not ever expect anything exclusive. It’s a free gathering that is welcoming to everyone.

2. Welcoming Atmosphere

Every meeting has a leader who will welcome you as soon as you arrive. They know you are new, at least in that group, since you may be attending others as well. They will ask you your first name and who brought you there, commonly referred to as the “enabler.” They know why you came, no further explanation needed. You will be reassured you are in the right place and be invited to take a seat.

3. Serenity Prayer

The Nar-Anon meetings are based on the 12 Step program. Therefore, the serenity prayer—which is repeated, chanted, and absorbed in all different 12 Step meetings like AA, NA, and Al-Anon—will be recited here too in the beginning and in the end. Don’t worry if you are not familiar with it. They will hand you a booklet with the mission, the 12 steps, a code of conduct, and of course, the famous prayer.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” — Serenity Prayer

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4. Icebreaker

Be prepared to read aloud. One of the ways people feel more comfortable speaking is through taking turns reading different sections of the booklet, like the “Newcomer’s Letter” and “Changing Ourselves.” There is something reassuring when you hear your own voice echoing through the room. Yes, you can speak up.

5. "The Family"

People attending the meetings come from all walks of life, backgrounds, and religious beliefs. You might feel awkward at first and think that you can’t relate to the cat lady or the restless punk rocker girl seated next to you. But there is a reading called “The Family” that, in a few well-crafted sentences, describes the lives of every single person in the room. It puts everybody in the same boat. That’s when bonding and healing begins. It reminds you that you are not alone.

6. The Moms

Fathers, siblings, wives, husbands, girlfriends and boyfriends, they all take a stand and join the group. But the mothers, with that forever-attached invisible umbilical cord, can’t be outnumbered. From changing diapers to packing up for college, the mothers have been there for every moment of their child’s life. And when addiction impacts their daughter or son, they are often the ones affected the most.

7. Positive Vibe

Sadness and despair can bring people together, but don’t expect the meetings to be depressing. It’s a refuge where people can be honest to themselves and others. During the first round of “open mic,” members are invited to share something they are grateful for. This sets an uplifting tone for the rest of the meeting.

8. The Stories

Finally, it’s time to share your story. You may choose not to. The key is to be humble. You will hear stories of recovery, stories of overdose, remembrances from a faraway past, or what happened that morning. Some will share coping techniques while others may reveal they are on the verge of a major breakdown. For newcomers, it is hard not to start crying. Catharsis is pretty much inevitable.

9. Spirituality

The Nar-Anon group is not affiliated with any religion, but they do address “God,” or whichever higher power resonates with you, throughout the meeting. Members are encouraged to let go any form of control over the addicted person and leave it to God’s will. This can be quite challenging, but the group believes that letting go of control is crucial to personal recovery. It is a spiritual group. Meditation and prayer are recommended as ways of seeking serenity.

10. Anonymity

The main foundation of Nar-Anon is that what happens in there, stays in there. No personal story should be broadcast, gossiped about, or undermined. You take a vow to protect your privacy and the privacy of others. But if you still struggle with the idea that people in your community will find out about your personal problems, you can always join a meeting in a neighboring town. Don’t be surprised if you make great friendships. That’s the power of people sharing their stories.


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5 Comments


Victoria on September 15, 2020 12:29 AM

how to find a local group

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    Anthony on September 15, 2020 9:25 AM

    Hello, Victoria! Although we're in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic and it may be hard to find a local group, we provide free virtual support groups. You can choose from one of our six types of support groups at a date and time that works best for you. These groups give you a place to talk about your experiences, learn from our counselors, and meet people who have gone through similar experiences. Thanks for reaching out, and I hope you find a group that works best for you!- Anthony

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Cynthia M Stubbs on September 6, 2020 8:11 PM

I just found this site. I don't know yet if there is a meeting near me but just to know of the possibility has enabled me to start breathing. I am on the edge of the cliff and ready to jump.

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    Anthony on September 11, 2020 9:44 AM

    Thanks for reaching out to us Cynthia, we are so glad you are taking the first step. Finding a safe space and realizing you are not alone is an important step in recovery. We offer free public virtual support groups[] (http://https://mountainside.com/community/events/support-groups) if you are unable to find a Mountainside treatment center near you. You can find a group most aligned with your situation and schedule where you can talk with people who may share similar experiences, get advice from our staff of experts, and listen to other people in recovery. - Anthony

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Fay on September 4, 2020 3:40 AM

I am trying to find a supply group for myself I am the mother of an addict I live in Louisville, ky Please advise

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    Anthony on September 4, 2020 12:28 PM

    We're very sorry to hear about your situation, Fay. While we do not have any treatment centers in Kentucky, we do have a free virtual Friends and Family Support Group that is open to the public which you can attend on Wednesdays at 6:30-8PM EST. Please feel free to join in on the conversation, get advice from our caring Mountainside staff, and hear from others who understand what you are going through. - Anthony

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Kay Lawrence on July 28, 2020 8:48 AM

I am currently dealing with three kids that use marijuana recreationally. My oldest kid is trying to quit. What should I do? How do I support them? How do I let them know my pain without stressing them more?

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Kat on July 21, 2020 7:47 PM

Beautifully explained.. I have been looking into these meetings and wanted a good idea on what happens on the inside before I dive in.. Thank you. This article lifted a nice weight off my shoulders.

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