NA Meetings Available on Zoom

It has been difficult during the pandemic to find NA Zoom meetings. I decided to compile a listing and post it on my blog, and provide a link to my friends who are participating in a drug treatment court program. Each of these meetings are sanctioned by Narcotics Anonymous and will count toward any weekly meeting quota. Most (if not all) of these meetings provide verification (typically in the form of an email to your inbox which you can then forward to your probation officer. Just ask the chairperson of the meeting regarding how to receive a verification.

Remember, you can do it!
Steviebee77

Morning Wake Up Group of Narcotics Anonymous
Saturday
07:00 (7:00am) EDT – 08:00 (8:00am) EDT
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/2134996571
Chester County, PA

Mugs not Drugs
Saturday
08:00 (8:00am) EDT – 09:00 (9:00am) EDT
https://zoom.us/j/5463636379
Big Lake, MN
ID 5463636379 No password needed.

Carrying the Message Around the World
Saturday
12:00 (12:00pm) EDT – 13:30 (1:30pm) EDT
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/79162981566?pwd=SlkrM3RVUHRORkMrTVFXMC8wUEFxQT09
City of Brotherly Love, PA
password: jftna

Honest Beginners
Sunday
10:00 (10:00am) EDT – 12:00 (12:00pm) EDT
https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/703237349
Joliet, IL

Just for Today
Bridgeton, NJ
Sunday
10:00 (10:00am) EDT – 11:30 (11:30am) EDT
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/9400801538
Bridgeton, NJ

The “After Noon” Group
Sunday
13:00 (1:00pm) EDT – 14:00 (2:00pm) EDT
https://zoom.us/j/722207704
West Chester, PA

Newcomers
Sunday
14:00 (2:00pm) EDT – 15:30 (3:30pm) EDT
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/2045349460
El Paso, TX
password: RecoverE (Please Note: the last letter must be a capital E)

Start the Day Off Right NA
Monday
09:00 (9:00am) EDT – 10:00 (10:00am) EDT
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/183339330
Atlanta, GA

Hugs Not Drugs
Monday
13:00 (1:00pm) EDT – 14:00 (2:00pm) EDT
https://zoom.us/j/82422942328
Houston, TX
password: JimmyK
[From Steviebee77: This is a great meeting. Might see you there!]

Mugs not Drugs
Tuesday
08:00 (8:00am) EDT – 09:00 (9:00am) EDT
Big Lake, MN
ID 5463636379 No password needed.
https://zoom.us/j/5463636379
[From Steviebee77: I enjoy this meeting as well. This is Mugs Not Drugs, not Hugs…]

Waking Up Clean
Tuesday
10:00 (10:00am) EDT – 11:00 (11:00am) EDT
https://zoom.us/j/266540613
Reno, NV
password: 457382

Keeping It Real Group of NA
Wednesday
08:30 (8:30am) EDT – 09:00 (9:00am) EDT
Tel: (848) 777-1212, 5574929#
NJ

Any Lengths Group
Wednesday
12:00 (12:00pm) EDT – 13:00 (1:00pm) EDT
Richmond, VA
Password: AnyLengths
https://us02web.zoom.us

Keeping It Real Group of NA
Thursday
08:30 (8:30am) EDT – 09:00 (9:00am) EDT
Tel: (848) 777-1212, 5574929#
NJ

Mid-Day Miracles
Thursday
15:00 (3:00pm) EDT – 16:30 (4:30pm) EDT
https://zoom.us/j/5786365647?pwd=Vy9QYWV6MzhJMm9DSGg2ZEJBNmdxdz09
Kennewick, WA

Keeping It Real Group of NA
Friday
08:30 (8:30am) EDT – 09:00 (9:00am) EDT
Tel: (848) 777-1212, 5574929#
NJ

The 12 Steps of NA
Friday
19:00 (7:00pm) EDT – 21:00 (9:00pm) EDT
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/727210620
Detroit, MI
ID 727210620

Contact Numbers

SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357) (also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service) is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. Callers can order free publications.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Hours: Available 24 hours. Languages: English, Spanish.
Learn more 800-273-8255

For immediate emergencies, call 911. Another resource is the Poison Control emergency number: 1-800-222-1222. This is a free and confidential service open 24/7 to talk to a poison and prevention expert.

Recovery 2019: The Year in Review

From the Recovery Advocacy Update blog of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation originally posted on January 7, 2020.

Hazelden Betty Ford Banner with Woods Background.jpg

As Americans reflect on the past decade, the much more defining story, of course, was the opioid crisis, which fueled an unprecedented overdose epidemic that has barely begun to abate. Drug overdoses claimed a mind-boggling half-million lives in the 2010s and devastated countless others, while exposing the inadequacy of our nation’s overall approach and commitment to preventing and treating addiction, and supporting long-term recovery.

Amid the tragedy, we saw the beginning of positive change in addiction-related public attitudes, perceptions, policies, practices and systems. Hazelden Betty Ford has helped lead the way with many changes of its own. They began using opioid-addiction-treatment medications in 2012, and became a strong advocate for comprehensive care that includes medication options, psychosocial therapies and peer support. They emerged as a leading voice for breaking down barriers between the medical and Twelve Step communities.

Hazelden Betty Ford also transitioned to an insurance model so more people could access care; evolved away from the 28-day residential standard to a more individualized approach that enables people to stay engaged longer over multiple levels of care; launched a new era of aggressive collaboration with the broader healthcare field; made the evidence-based therapy “motivational interviewing” core to a more patient-centered clinical approach; initiated a new, innovative system for capturing and acting upon patient feedback throughout the treatment experience; developed new recovery coaching options; and much more. In addition, the foundation spoke up vigorously about the need for ethical and quality standards in recovery, and continued to support related industry reform efforts. It was a decade of big change for them, and they will likely evolve a great deal more in the 2020s, as they have consistently done since 1949.

Broader changes to the many systems that affect people with addiction are coming more slowly, but things seem to be pointed in the direction of progress. Indeed, most addiction specialists want addiction prevented and treated, rather than stigmatized and criminalized. The question arises, though: Does that mean it is wise to fully legalize and commercialize more addictive substances? Or are there policies and approaches in between that promote public health better than either extreme?

In the new decade, marijuana will be a case study and likely a defining story. The experiment with full legalization looks troubling so far. State-level data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health finds that marijuana use in “legal” states among youth, young adults, and the general population continued its multi-year upward trend in several categories. New data and studies come in weekly, it seems—consistently showing cause for greater public health concerns. One of the foundation’s 2020 resolutions is to help ensure the facts about marijuana and the risks of expanded use get more attention.

One big concern, for example, is that marijuana vaping by teens surged in 2019, signaling that more adolescents are using the drug and consuming highly potent vape oils, according to new government data and drug-use researchers. Federal regulators are paying attention. They shut down 44 websites advertising illicit THC vaping cartridges, part of a crackdown on suppliers amid a nationwide spate of lung injuries tied to black-market cannabis vaping products.

The outbreak of severe lung injuries may have peaked, but cases are still surfacing, and the agency is urging doctors to monitor people closely after hospitalization, due to the risk of continued vaping. One Harvard graduate student writes, “I nearly died from vaping THC, and you could too.” Marijuana and vaping are both among the issues coming up on the campaign trail, and recent polling released by the National Council for Behavioral Health shows strong bipartisan agreement among registered voters in New Hampshire that the federal government is not doing enough to address mental health and addiction in America. Mental Health for US, a coalition trying to raise more awareness in the campaign, held a recent forum in New Hampshire. Watch the livestream replay here.

In Washington, the White House hosted a summit of its own on efforts to deliver mental health treatment to people experiencing homelessness, violence and substance use disorder. Watch Part 1 of the event, Part 2, and the President’s remarks. The Administration also issued its long-awaited vaping policy last week, with the FDA banning fruit, mint and dessert-flavored vaping cartridges but continuing to allow menthol- and tobacco-flavored cartridges as well as all flavored e-cigarette liquids. Many worry the guidelines don’t go far enough.

Since the foundation’s last update, the President also signed a $1.4 trillion spending package passed by Congress, averting a government shutdown. The package maintains funding levels for most areas relevant to the field of addiction counseling, with modest increases in a few SAMHSA grants as well as at the CDC and at the National Institutes of Health. Most notably, the legislation gives states more flexibility in spending State Opioid Response (SOR) grant funds; specifically, they’ll now be able to use the money to also address the growing problems associated with addiction to meth, cocaine and other stimulants. Here’s a thorough overview from our friends at the National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors.

If you are interested in more information about these topics or the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, please visit their website by clicking here.

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use disorder and want more information or help quitting, please contact your local AA or NA chapter, or click here to visit the National Institute on Drug Abuse official website. You can also scroll back to the top of this post and click on the COMMENT bar to open an dialog with me. I will be glad to speak with you any time.

Make Me

The following is a poem I wrote in late December 2019 as I contemplated decades of  bondage to addiction; powerless, struggling but never changing; telling myself the same false reality day after day.

who-drug-addiction-affects2-1-500x326-1.jpeg

At times I’m
Just a step away—
One bad choice, ya know?
Leave or stay?
It’s a long journey back
To what’s true. 

Every year
I see what you took,
But the hook is
I played a part too. 

My song, unsung,
Choked me,
Held me back;
Kept me there
Instead of here,
Year after year. 

But your power
Is an illusion—
A trick to make me stay;
Pushing, pulling, shoving me
Into
A box.

Wherever I look, I
See black;
You attack hope and
I answer with affirmations
That fall to the floor.

No more,
Please!
Tired of my own voice,
Exhausted by endless choice,
After choice,
After choice,
Everything staying the same.

© 2019 Steven Barto

The Addicted Family

It is not surprising that the disease of addiction affects families too. They don’t sleep. They don’t eat. They become ill. They blame themselves. They feel rage, overwhelming worry, shame. Many people keep their suffering to themselves. If your child had cancer, the support from your friends and family would flood in. Because of the stigma of addiction, people often keep it quiet. Their friends and family may try to be supportive, but they may also communicate a subtle or unsubtle judgment.

Imagine the family of an addict as a mobile hanging from a ceiling. In the center is a paper-doll figure, which represents the addict. Smaller dolls float around the central figure. These smaller figures dangling off to the side represent siblings of the addict. They’re on the periphery, helpless, but inextricably tied to the moods and whims and drug-taking of the central figure. Two other figures hang precariously between the addict and his or her siblings. These are the parents. Sometimes, one of the parental figures hangs closer to the addict, seemingly between the addict and the other parent. This is the enabling parent, propping up what the addict does; making excuses; bending over backward. Yet trying to keep everyone all connected to one another.

The first thing for the parent to understand is it’s not their fault. There are addicts who were abused and addicts who, from all accounts, had ideal childhoods. Yet still many family members blame themselves. Another thing they do is try to solve it. They hide liquor bottles and medication and search for drugs in their loved one’s clothes and bedroom, and they drive the addict to AA or NA meetings. They try to control where the addict goes and what they do and who they hang out with. It’s understandable, but it’s futile. You cannot control an addict.

An addict can take over the family – take all of the parents’ attention, even at the expense of other children and of one’s spouse. Family members’ moods become dependent on how the addict is doing. People become obsessed. It’s understandable, but it’s harmful. They become controlling in ways that they never were before, because they are so afraid. People lose their identity because nothing matters except their addicted spouse or child or parent or whoever it is. There is no joy left in their life.

For all their tears and heartache and desperately good intentions, most families of addicts are defeated in the end. Addicts persist in their self-destructive, addictive behavior until something within themselves – something quite apart from anyone else’s efforts – changes so radically that the desire for the high is dulled and ultimately deadened by the desire for a better life. This was truly the situation in my family. Despite being able to quit drinking, smoking marijuana, and snorting cocaine, I struggled with an addiction to opioid painkillers. My family tried everything, including holding a family intervention. When I relapsed twice following a 21-day stay at a rehab facility, they washed their hands of me.

This does not mean that families have no role to play in the miraculous process of recovery. On the contrary, families can have a powerful impact on their addict’s struggle for recovery. Studies have shown that addicts who feel connected to a family that supports their recovery (even if that family is just one person) have a better chance of staying clean than those who believe that no one cares. However, there is a catch. The families themselves must be healthy if they hope to have a positive influence on their loved one. Although this may seem self-evident, it is easy for families to lose sight of this truth as the disease of addiction threatens their own mental health.

The process of addiction creates an alternative reality in the addict’s mind. Thinking becomes distorted and values get twisted as the search for the next high takes precedence over every other consideration. To this day, I find it hard to believe how I lost complete touch with God and with right behavior. I rationalized stealing and abusing narcotic pain medication because of the level of physical pain I was suffering, but I failed to see that I wanted to control my addiction. I wanted to have mastery over my pain. I didn’t want to “feel” anything, let alone constant physical anguish. Of course, as I sought to justify my continued drug use, I essentially put my pain under a magnifying glass.

The more enmeshed family members become in their addict’s life, the more twisted their thinking is likely to become. As a result, their efforts to help the addict grow increasingly futile, and their own well-being is compromised. A relationship that many professionals call co-dependency is established, harming both the addict and his or her family. To prevent this unhealthy relationship from occurring, or to extricate themselves from such a relationship, families must arm themselves with as much knowledge about addiction as possible. They must understand what they can do to support the recovery process and learn successful strategies for coping with addictive behaviors. They must recognize common mistakes that may actually prolong addiction and avoid getting trapped in unhealthy patterns.

I realize none of this is easy. Not for the addict. Not for the family. Addicts’ families walk an unhappy path that is strewn with many pitfalls and false starts. Mistakes are inevitable. Pain is inevitable. But so are growth and wisdom and serenity if families approach addiction with an open mind, a willingness to learn, and the acceptance that recovery, like addiction itself, is a long and complex process. Families should never give up hope for recovery. Nor should they stop living their own lives while they wait for that miracle of recovery to occur. For me, I have to be just as patient and understanding of my family’s need to pull away, recover, and heal as I need to give myself, if not more. Ultimately, both the family and the addict have to accept the things they cannot change, as well as courage to change the things they can.

10 Spiritual Tips For Recovery

Your freedom from addiction must first be gained in the spiritual realm before it can be experienced in the physical and emotional realms. Take to heart the following tips as you walk down the road to recovery.

#1 The time to begin your recovery is today. “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.” (Hebrews 3:15)

#2 Realize that recovery is a lifelong process, not a onetime event. “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” (Phillipians 3:12)

#3 Pray daily for victory! It is through prayer that God protects you. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” (Matthew 26:41)

#4 Read your Bible every day in order to get strength from God. “My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.” (Psalm 119:28)

#5 Meditate on Scripture to fight against falling into sin. “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11)

#6 Attend church every week to worship God and grow with others. “Let us consider how we may spur one another toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another.” (Hebrews 10:24-25.)

#7. Share your struggles with caring loved ones. “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” (James 5:16)

#8. Have confidence in God! Prioritize growing in your relationship with Him. “Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)

#9 Depend on Christ’s strength to stay drug free. “I Can do everything through Him who give me strength.” (Phillipians 4:13)

#10. Know that permanent change is possible. “Nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37)

“Hello, I Am Your Disease”

I hate meetings. I Hate higher powers. In fact, I hate anyone who has a program of recovery. To all who come in contact with me, I wish you suffering, and I wish you death. Allow me to introduce myself. I am the disease of addiction. I am cunning, baffling. and powerful. That’s me. I have killed millions and I am pleased

I love to catch you with the element of surprise. I love pretending I am your friend and your lover. I have given you comfort, haven’t I? Wasn’t I there when you were lonely? When you wanted to die, didn’t you call on me? I was there. I love to make you hurt. I love to make you cry. Better yet, I love to make you so numb you can neither hurt nor cry. When you can’t feel anything at all; this is true gratification. And all that I ask from you is long-term suffering. I’ve been there for you always.

When things were going right in your life, you invited me. You said you didn’t deserve these good things, and I was the only one who would agree with you. Together we were able to destroy all the good things in your life. People don’t take me seriously; Fools! Without my help these things would not be possible. I am such a hated disease, and yet I do not come uninvited. You choose to have me; so many have chosen me over reality and peace.

More than you hate me; I hate all of you who have a 12-Step program; your program, your meeting, your higher power. All of these things weaken me, and I can’t function in the manner I am accustomed to. Now I must lie here quietly. You don’t see me, but I am growing bigger than ever. When you only exist, I may live. When you live, I may only exist. But I am here. And until we meet again, if we meet again, I wish you death and suffering.

Family: The One True Constant In My Life

So many things change in our lives. Our address. Our income level. Our mood. Our tolerance and acceptance of others. We are in constant flux. Some changes are subtle, while others are profound. Earth shattering. Some of us have to change our last names (as in when we marry). Others have to change their approach to life in order to adjust to their surroundings. Many of us find our faith in God to be in constant fluidity. Some days we’re very much in tune with God, and other days we’re in complete doubt. I can’t tell you how many times my faith has wavered over the years.

I was unfortunately quite the young hellion while growing up. My behavior was, at times, reprehensible. I discovered booze and drugs at age eighteen. Being in an altered state seemed to be a way to avoid fear and uncertainty. I loved being drunk or high. But the alcohol and marijuana changed my personality and my behavior. Morals became a thing of the past. I started out on a pathway to destruction that landed me in prison for three years at age nineteen.

The one true constant at that time was my family. They traveled hours to visit me every month at the state correctional facility. When I was granted pre-release to a halfway house in the last six months of my sentence, my family allowed me to come home to visit on weekend furloughs. Initially, I had been visiting with my wife and daughter on furlough, but she decided she wanted a divorce. This was a truly unexpected change in my life. I had been writing letters to my family on a regular basis while incarcerated. I had renewed my faith in God, and often shared my feelings about Jesus in my letters. When my wife asked me to stop coming home on furlough, my family allowed me to come home to visit with them.

There were many changes over the years since my release from prison. I went through a divorce. I started college. I dropped out of school and got a job at a Pizza Hut. I became a shift leader and then an assistant manager. But again, drugs became part of my routine. I started smoking pot again and discovered cocaine. My drug use ultimately cost me my job as assistant manager. Although this was a self-inflicted change, I was truly shocked that I was once again facing failure.

I had met a woman in college and we became very close. There was a lot that would change over the ten years we were married. We became parents at a fairly young age. Two wonderful sons. Because I could not seem to stop drinking and getting high, and was therefore not willing to do whatever it took to improve my life, my second wife filed for divorce. Once again, a major change.

This ridiculous behavior continued for decades. I drank and did drugs for thirty-seven years. As you can imagine, there was not much personal growth in my life for decades. Quite the contrary, there were many changes and numerous setbacks. There were far too many stops and starts in my sobriety. I started attending Alcoholics Anonymous in 2001 after nearly being evicted by my younger brother. (We were sharing an apartment.) I did well for a number of years, but had several relapses. I managed to stop drinking and smoking marijuana in 2008, and haven’t had anything since that time. Unfortunately, I developed an opiate addiction, which started when I was prescribed narcotic painkillers for chronic back pain. When I couldn’t get enough pills on my own through various doctors and pharmacies, I started stealing painkillers from family members. I was not able to quit on my own. My family conducted an intervention this past December, and I agreed to go to rehab.

The most amazing thing is this: I just spent Easter Sunday with my siblings, my mother and my aunt. Everyone was genuinely glad to see me. They had forgiven me for my actions, and welcomed me back into their lives. Despite all the ups and downs, starts and stops, and lapses in sobriety over the my life, my family was still in my corner. They were the one true constant in my life. For that, I am extremely grateful. There is only one way to thank them. That is to live a sober and generous life. An honest life. To make amends by my actions.

I know now that many of my failures and unfinished projects, especially writing projects, were due to my addiction. My lack of creativity and courage were because I was nearly always drunk or high. In the beginning, I thought writing while drunk or stoned would allow me to write in a deep and profound manner. Funny, but many of my writings made absolutely no sense when I read them the morning after. Guess I thought I could be the next Hemingway.

Deciding to start a blog has been one of the best decisions I’ve made since deciding I wanted to be sober. I am writing at a deeper level. I am consistent, writing a blog post nearly every day. I am getting at the root of things on a creative, sober and spiritual basis. God has blessed me with a muse I can connect with. God is the Great Creator. As Julia Cameron writes in her fantastic book “The Artist’s Way,” we need to allow our inner child to express himself. We’re all creative. We all have hidden talents. I believe life truly begins when we learn to let those talents shine.

I feel like I contribute something today. And for a recovering addict and alcoholic, that is a tremendous thing. I believe my blogging exercises are slowly peeling back the many layers that have built up during my addiction and my being miserable. I think I can finally share my experiences, my ruminations, my talents with those around me. I believe only good can come from blogging. From expressing myself. From getting at the root of who I really am. Of what my purpose for existence is. I feel truly blessed by God, and I am very grateful for my family.