It’s no secret that drugs and alcohol are big concerns on the Key Peninsula.
What’s not so well known is that there are local groups working hard every day to help people recovering from addictions stay clean and sober.
There are a couple of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) groups that meet regularly on the Key and, earlier this year, a group of local residents started up a Narcotics Anonymous (NA) group that meets every Wednesday at 7:15 p.m., and Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m.
They call themselves “In the Moment”and they meet at the KP Lutheran Church on the corner of Lackey Road and the Key Peninsula Highway, according to group member Anne S. (Members are identified by first name only, and some also add the first letter of their last name.)
Anne, who has lived in the Lake Minterwood area for 15 years, became addicted to prescription pain killers after she injured her neck.
“When I was in rehab, they told me that the only way to stay clean was to go to NA meetings,” she said. “I went to the two meetings they have every week in Gig Harbor and I was barely hanging on. I didn’t have the gas money to drive to Port Orchard or Tacoma.”
At one of the Gig Harbor meetings she met Josh T, and later another fellow showed up and it turned out that they all live on the Key Peninsula.
“They told me they were going to AA meetings on the KP and invited me to join them,” she said.
An AA member who volunteers at the Bischoff food bank was able to get a free meeting space for NA meetings.
It took about two months to do all the paperwork to get official NA certification for the new group, said Daniel M. “Josh filled out the paperwork and I went around looking for meeting spaces,” Daniel said. “We got a bunch of NA literature and books, and Chris at the food bank let us use their space for the first couple of months.”
“We knew it was going to grow,” Josh added, “so my sponsor, who’s the secretary of the local AA meetings, helped us get moved into the KP Lutheran Church.”
In the few months they’ve been taking place, the meetings have become very popular, Anne said. “Some of the Gig Harbor people actually come out here to our meetings because they say we’re really real out here. We’ve had more than 20 in a lot of our meetings,” she said.
The meetings are open to everyone. Nobody is ever turned away, Anne said.
“We always make everybody—even newcomers—feel really welcome. We hug each other and really share,” she said.
Ben C. attends every meeting. “It’s a safe place for people who have substance abuse problems and want to remain sober,” he said. “We gather together and share our experience and our strength and hope on how to stay sober and clean.”
Anne agreed. “And if you’re having difficulties or problems, you can share that and somebody else might share about how they got through that same thing,” she said.
There’s usually a topic—a message for the day read out loud from the NA book, “Just for Today,” that often becomes the basis for the evening’s discussion.
“And there are certain principles and guidelines that we follow that are kind of like a spiritual path to remaining clean and becoming a better person,” Anne said. “Everyone is a mirror to each other. I’ve learned so much there.”
“It’s a place for hope in recovery,” added Josh. “It’s changed my way of life because now I’m surrounded by people who are working a spiritual program and living life without substances and without getting intoxicated. And everybody connects with each other.”
“We do this together—staying clean and staying off drugs,” Anne said. “For me it’s like relearning to live life without drugs and learning to cope with life on life’s terms without drugs.”
They all agreed that it’s like finding a whole new family.
As with AA, there’s a spiritual aspect to Narcotics Anonymous. “In AA they use the word ‘God,’” Anne said. “We call it a higher power. It’s whatever you choose as a higher power.”
Ben, who said he was addicted to methamphetamine and heroin, went to six or seven treatment centers before moving to the Key.
“I moved out here from treatment and found these meetings,” Ben said. “I was a heavy drug user and getting out of treatment, one of the keys is building a sober support network with other likeminded people who are recovering. You build from that. That way you’re kind of among the herd. You get a new family basically. It’s about having a sober support network—other people in the program.”
“Addiction is a lifelong battle and the magic of AA and NA is addicts helping addicts,” Josh said. “There’s a lot of people, including ourselves, that can benefit from it.”
Group members also do a lot of volunteer work as part of their recovery.
“It boosts your self-esteem when you do positive things and help other people and start cleaning up the wreckage of your past and getting spiritually fit,” Ben said. “It helps your well-being all around.”
“There’s a nationwide drug epidemic that’s ruining a lot of lives and killing a lot of people. With AA and NA, there’s hope for people who are in recovery,” he added.
“The KP is drug central,” said Dan. “It’s infested with drugs and I used to be part of it.
“I want people to know that there’s hope and there are people out here that care. We’re all about experience, strength and hope. I personally have sat down and talked to families who might need help.
“It’s totally changed in my life and helped me take the negativity of my past life and make something positive out of it,” Dan said.
For information, visit na.org or call Anne at (253) 225-3800.