It's a group no-one want to be part of because the only qualification you need to join is to have somebody else's drug addiction causing you pain.
The self-help group Nar-Anon has started meeting in Canberra to address the call for more support to cope with the toll of drug addiction on family, friends and the community.
Michelle and Allannah are co-coordinators of the Canberra meetings.
"The reason we're here is because we have family members who are addicts," Michelle said.
"I got involved because we had gone through several years of chaos and all the drama that brings, and there was no support. I felt really isolated."
"Everyone has a different story but they're also sort of the same. One person uses, the whole family suffers."
When Michelle found out about Nar-Anon, her first thought was why should she have to attend meetings when she's not the addict. But she soon changed her mind.
"You go to work and people ask how your night was, and you think, 'well let's see I'm dealing with psychosis, holes smashed in the wall, someone running off at midnight and you don't know where they are, you've been up since 2am and you've called the police. Should I really say that?' You just go, 'oh it was ok'."
Michelle said she was tired of bottling it all up, and decided to start the group, a 12-step non-religious program whose motto is, "We are powerless over the addict". Members meet anonymously to learn techniques to cope with an addict's behaviour.
Co-coordinator Allannah said she found it hard to talk to people about her experiences of loved ones with drug addiction for fear of implicating them in illegal activities.
"It's one of those taboo subjects," Allannah said. "Now I have somewhere to go that is safe and I can say whatever I want and it doesn't leave the room... It's a place to go and say what I needed to say, and not be judged and not have my family be judged for it, which is really important because a lot of people judge you if you have an addict in the family. I think that's really unfair because they're just people too. But a lot of people don't see it that way."
Allannah said it's empowering to see people who attend the meetings take back control over their lives.
There is a strict code of anonymity, only first names are used and even that can be made up, mainly because of the stigma of drug addiction and the impact that has on the addict and those around them.
Nar-Anon meetings are held at Directions ACT in Woden. For more information visit naranon.com.au
- This is part of a series by the Sunday Canberra Times exploring illicit drug addiction, the impact it has on families and the community, and what's being done to help.