Dealing with addiction is a family affair — and families can help each other.
A Sunset Park native hoping to help the community address the rise in narcotics use in his old neighborhood and nearby Bay Ridge is starting a support group for the families of addicts.
The do-gooder will hold Nar-Anon meetings for families of addicts at Our Lady of Perpetual Help church starting on Oct. 8. Because addiction affects more than the user, the organizer said, support groups can help families cope with emotional struggle and prevent a loved one’s continued drug use.
“It’s a family disease, and it affects us just as much as it affects the addict,” said Tom L., who asked that his last name be withheld in accordance with Nar-Anon’s policy of anonymity. “You become an enabler. You think you’re doing the right thing, and you just enable their continued use. I have a son who’s in recovery, and we suffered his addiction for almost nine years. A few years ago, we had an intervention, and the interventionist told me and my wife we needed as much help as my son because of our emotional state.”
But there is little help for families in Southern Brooklyn — the only other Nar-Anon meetings in the borough are held in distant Greenpoint, said Tom, who now lives in Staten Island.
And drug abuse — particularly prescription opiates and heroin — is at an all-time high in Bay Ridge and Sunset Park, according to a local expert.
“I’ve been in the field 30 years and I have to tell you, it’s the worst I’ve ever seen in any community,” said Donna Mae Depola, who runs drug recovery facilities in Sunset Park and Bay Ridge.
Cocktails of prescription drugs are more popular in Bay Ridge, where users have a higher income and more choice, but Sunset Parkers tend to stick with cheaper and more-available heroin, Depola said. In either case, about one-third of the people she treats were using opiates, she said.
And the problem goes beyond southwestern Brooklyn. Opiate overdose deaths have steadily risen since 2000, and heroin alone claimed more lives than homicide in 2013 — the last year for which such data is available, police and health department records show.
Tom and a few other Staten Islanders will run the events at first, to train Sunset Parkers how the meetings should work, but after a few months, they’re going to have to keep them going on their own, Tom said.
“They have to take it over,” he said. “They have to want their own recovery group.”
Nar-Anon meeting at Our Lady of Perpetual Help (5901 Sixth Ave. between 59th and 60th streets in Sunset Park, tvrls