BELFAST — Starting Nov. 17, Nar-Anon Family Groups will begin meeting every Wednesday on Zoom, offering support for those affected by someone else’s addiction.

According to organizer Marie, everyone’s anonymity is essential and will be completely protected. “We use only first names,” she said. 

The weekly meetings are free and provide a sounding board for shared experiences and strengths, and hope for recovery. People will not be pressured to participate in group discussions, but may join in if they wish.

Since the holiday season is often a time people feel a sense of added stress, Marie said, she wants to get the word out right away.  “A lot of people get depressed during the holidays,” she said, with the expectation of doing more, getting presents for kids, or getting together socially. It is a perfect time to restart a support group, she said. 

Before the pandemic, Nar-Anon Family Groups met at the First Church in Belfast, UCC on Court Street, but stopped due to health concerns. Marie said the group has not had meetings since 2019, but recently has gotten requests to resume.

For Marie, it has been a 10-year journey, through several family members who have struggled with addiction. One relative, she remembered, was prescribed OxyContin. “She told me, ‘I knew I was addicted to that, the first pill I took,’” she said.

Doctors got into this, she said, trying to help people with chronic pain. “It came from good intentions,” she said. They have started changing their protocol now, according to Marie, offering guidance and letting people know it is an addictive drug. After knee surgery, Marie said, her doctor prescribed OxyContin and told her to use it only when needed, and to turn any unused medicine in to the Sheriff’s Office.

“Part of what we do,” she said, “is be more educated about addiction.” In order to gain experience of how other groups operate, Marie and her husband started attending meetings in 2017 in Augusta, and later branched out to Waterville and Bangor.

With the new meetings planned, Marie hopes to discuss elements from the 2018 book “Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors and the Drug Company that Addicted America,” by Beth Macy, which has been made into a Hulu TV series. Some topics include the importance of having Narcan, a receptor-blocking medicine that aids in opioid overdose emergencies, and knowing how to properly use it.

Also, friends and family should set boundaries for people in their care, she said.  They need to pull their own weight, for example, by helping out with household jobs that need to be done.

“I believe in you,” she said, is an important and reassuring phrase to hear. “They (addicts) need us to believe in them.”  Marie said it is also important to talk to somebody who has gone through what the addict is going through. 

Recently, she ran into a young woman friend of hers with small children who had been homeless. Her father had told her that if she were an alcoholic, he could help her, but because she was a heroin addict, that was different. She eventually met with a counselor who told her if she did not have a family support system, she needed to make her own support system.

Marie has worked in public assistance and addiction recovery, and said on average, for each person who is addicted, there are typically 24 other individuals affected.

Some people come to meetings, she said, angry or scared to death of getting something off the streets laced with fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. Some come feeling helpless and very stressed, she said. The support group will help people physically and mentally by encouraging healthy behaviors to combat stress.

The first meeting of the new Nar-Anon Family Groups Zoom meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 17, from noon to 1 p.m. To learn more, call 323-4970 or email marie.naranon2021@gmail.com.