Self-esteem helped her stay clean

An article written about Narcotics Anonymous in Honolulu, Hawaii, USA, with the cooperation of the O’ahu Public Information Committee.

Self-esteem helped her stay clean

By Lee Cataluna
Advertiser Columnist
Honolulu Advertiser

You would never look at Cathy and think “drug addict.”

She looks like the president of the PTA, the soccer mom who always makes the best snacks, the chairwoman of the big charity ball.

Cathy used for 13 years. For most of that time, she tried not to. She tried everything to quit: religion, medicine, psychiatry. She tried being married. She tried being married again. Each time she tried anew, she’d start with the best intentions. Then she’d slip, and she’d be gone.

“I even tried the ultimate: motherhood,” Cathy says. “I remember having this incredibly beautiful child … and then using. It felt like losing your soul — like, oh, my God, I’m losing everything again.”

She calls herself a “protected addict.” Family was there to help pick up the pieces and give her one more chance.

“I’m not what you might think of as ‘the usual’ in that I came from a family who loved and adored me. There was no addiction in my family. My parents were educated. They supported me and told me I could be anything I wanted to be.

“I had every excuse in the world. My marriage is a wreck. My husband’s not nice to me. I have low self-esteem. Give me drugs.

When there was nothing left to try, Cathy tried Narcotics Anonymous.

“It’s difficult to put into words how lucky I am,” she says. “It was just by chance I rolled into the meeting and the right people were there to meet me. They smiled at me. They welcomed me. If not for them, I’d be dead.”

The Narcotics Anonymous program talks of being “in service” as part of recovery. It was this idea put into action that helped Cathy get clean and stay clean the last 24 years.

“It started with my first meeting setting up seats. Then making coffee. Then working with my sponsor; she said to greet women as they came in. With each little thing, my self-esteem grew.”

Over time, Cathy started to apply the same principles to all of her life.

“Ten years ago, my mom was diagnosed with cancer,” she says. “I was able to move in and take care of her.

“The program talks about making amends. It was my parents’ wish to die at home. It was a phenomenal gift when the time came to have them call on me. It was the first time in my life when I knew I had the … right love to be of service. And it all started with setting up chairs.”

Narcotics Anonymous is a nonprofit fellowship of recovering addicts who meet regularly to help each other stay clean. The program is not run by “professionals” but by members. There are no dues or fees and NA is not affiliated with any religion.

NA doesn’t claim to be the solution for every addict in every situation. The only requirement for membership is the desire to stop using.

In this column on Sunday, an addict who got clean and stayed clean through incredible stress shares her story. For more information on Narcotics Anonymous, call 734-4357.

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