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.
Be prepared to read aloud. One of the ways people feel more comfortable speaking is by 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, all take a stand and join the group. But the mothers 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.
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.
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.