A Reality Check
An Assessment of a Narcotics Anonymous Meeting
On Tuesday, October 8, 2002, I walked through the doors of Reality House in Harlem to attend a Narcotics Anonymous meeting. I was totally unaware of what I was about to experience. What I expected to see was what I had been hearing about “those NA meetings”; you know, the ones where people show up high and introduce themselves as proud addicts. I have only been a fourth party witness to the struggle and pain of my uncle’s family when he was trying to overcome his addiction to heroine. Other than what was discussed behind closed doors, whispered during telephone conversations, or hearing the prejudiced term “junky”, I had never been closely involved with anyone else who struggled to overcome an addiction.
At the Narcotics Anonymous meeting, I entered a room that was adjacent to a small kitchen where a dinner of fried chicken, macaroni and cheese and collard greens was being served. The room was packed - standing room only. As I shuffled quickly to find a seat, I realized that there were about 50 people who were seated and who were eating and listening to a woman who said, “Hello my name is Sheila and I’m a addict. Here to speak for Sheila tonight is Deborah.” A woman dressed in a black knit dress began to approach the front of the room. She stopped to give a bunch of balloons that said “Congratulations” an older looking woman who was seated on the far right hand side of the room. I assumed that this woman was Sheila. “Hello everybody, my name is Deborah and I am a grateful addict”, she stated. “Hello Deborah”, the room chanted in response.
Deborah’s voice had the tone of long-time struggle and pain. From her speech we learned that she had not used drugs for almost two years. She abruptly paused and shared a recent experience. She related, “I’m not gonna lie to you, last night, my ass was on fire… I wanted to use”. She went on to express her feelings about...