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Kokua Line

By June Watanabe

Wednesday, October 11, 2000

Recovering addicts
aren’t ‘bad people’

Question: I live next to St. Christopher's Church in Kailua where Narcotics Anonymous meetings are held. I think it is inappropriate to have such meetings in the middle of a residential neighborhood. What kind of monitoring is done? Sometimes groups of participants go outside to have smoke breaks and make a lot of noise. I've complained to the church, to the neighborhood board and to city officials, but with no success. Why can't the meetings be held in a more appropriate setting, away from homes, such as at Kaiser High School or Castle Medical Center, where other meetings are held?

Answer: It seems you've spoken to everyone except someone connected with Narcotics Anonymous. Call 734-HELP (4357) and ask to speak to someone from the public information committee.

Perhaps with more communication -- and understanding -- your concerns will be allayed.

"We don't want to cause any problem in the community at all," said a spokesman, who asked that his name not be used. "We don't want to have any controversy. We certainly don't want any more stigma attached to who we are than what we have already.

"People already have this preconceived notion (against N.A.), but basically, drug addicts ... it's like alcoholism or people with cancer. We have a disease. It's not like we're bad people."

N.A. has been in Hawaii for about 30 years, said the spokesman, a local businessman.

The organization holds more than 30 meetings a week at various sites on Oahu, but churches have proven to be the most accessible for participants, he said.

Fr. Cass Bailey, rector at St. Christopher's, said he has spoken with you several times and has tried to accommodate your concerns, including moving the group to a larger room on the second floor.

The group, which has been meeting at the church for at least six years, "hasn't really done anything to be kicked out," he said.

Minor complaints, such as about noise, have always been responded to adequately, he said.

"We think it's part of our responsibility of being a community organization to offer our space to community groups and this is one of the groups." Other groups include Alcoholics Anonymous.

Your complaint was discussed at a recent meeting attended by representatives from various N.A. groups. Each group is autonomous.

At St. Christopher's, leaders have been trying to get participants to come to meetings on time, leave afterward and not congregate, the spokesman said.

"To my knowledge -- and I've been involved with Narcotics Anonymous for almost 20 years -- there haven't been any incidences that have happened in any of our meetings anywhere in any community whatsoever. There definitely have been no laws that have been broken, or trespassing, or altercations or anything like that."

While some people may be referred by the courts, attendance is "strictly voluntary," he said. There are no fees and "we don't monitor. We don't take attendance or last names. The only requirement is a desire to stop using drugs."

If there were "any big problems, we would consider moving." But that would be the meeting group's choice.

He added, "There is a lot of good being done in that group (at St. Christopher's). They are helping a lot of people get clean and stay off of drugs and so far, there haven't been any problems. In fact, I don't recall anyone ever complaining about our meetings being too close to a neighborhood."

Need help with problems? Call Kokua Line at 525-8686,
fax 525-6711, or write to P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu 96802.
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