“I didn’t even have the strength to commit suicide.” Who helps fight drug addiction in Bali and how?

Announcements of free, confidential, and anonymous assistance to drug addicts have been appearing more and more frequently in Bali. Stickers are noticed in cafes, fitness clubs, and gas stations. We aimed the camera at the QR code and found out who is behind this advertising and how anonymous drug addicts help each other stay "clean" on the paradise island.
Photo: Adobe
Two community members agreed to speak with us:
Tim, who lives in Bali and attends groups;
Victor, who lives in Moscow, attends groups, and helps develop the Balinese community.
Tim, are these blue stickers your doing?
Tim: Yes, it's probably a bit of a prank, I understand because not everyone will be happy that these stickers are plastered around. But I try to choose harmless places so as not to cause any trouble. I don't stick them, so to speak, on the store's operating hours or on important announcements, but I try to choose a convenient place.
Our task now is to inform as many people as possible that we exist and hold group meetings. And, I must say, the stickers work. Before, we used to place ads in Telegram channels for money. We would write that there are anonymous drug addicts in Bali, there are groups, please come, and give a link to the website. Usually, 1-2 newcomers would come per month. But when we started making stickers with a QR code that redirects to our Telegram chat, 5 newcomers came already.
Why do you need this?
Tim: It's a matter of survival for members of NA (Narcotics Anonymous). For example, I myself attend meetings, although I've been clean for over 20 years. That is, I haven't used drugs for over 20 years. But I want to have meetings nearby to live better myself.
Before joining NA, my life was completely destroyed. I didn't even have the strength to end it all. And you often think about it at the end of drug use because the suffering becomes unbearable. But even the attempts didn't have enough strength. There was no life left in me at all. I was zero. Like erased. And when, thanks to my relatives, after a rehabilitation center, I attended my first NA meeting, it was like I took my first breath and realized that I should try to keep on living. It was very powerful.
After regularly attending meetings for some time, I began to gain strength, strength to eat, to learn to walk again. Yes, my walking was poor. It was complete chaos. Honestly, even then, there were a few moments when I wanted to use drugs again. That's why it's called addiction. Drugs are just the tip of the iceberg. In reality, all the problems are inside, stemming from some sort of inadequacy. I suppose it's because of that inadequacy, although I'm not sure. It, this inadequacy, pushes you to compensate for it with drugs or other destructive actions. In general, with some strong feelings and experiences.
And despite the fact that the complete chaos began to retreat, I still wanted to use drugs, but I was lucky - either I wasn't given drugs or I didn't get them at the right moment. And then I found myself at a meeting again. And so for 21 years now, I've been attending meetings. And that's why I continue.
So yes, these groups are needed primarily for me, so that my life is bearable. That's honest.
Yes, opening new groups, telling new members about them - that's a noble goal, it looks like it, and of course, it is. I come, meet newcomers, support them, tell them. And at certain moments, I feel fulfillment, happiness, gratitude. These feelings were inaccessible to me before. I want more of this in my life. Right now, I have a lot of responsibilities, I'm an adult, I'm pretty old. But I still need this support in the form of NA, and NA starts with a meeting.
How many bands are there in Bali now?
Tim: Until recently, there was only one group in Bali. It opened 8 or 9 years ago. But in the last year and a half, 6 more have appeared. Generally, not much is needed to form a group - just at least 2 people meeting and starting to share something with each other, as it usually happens at meetings. But we help each other rent spaces or spread the word about the community to those who might find it helpful.
We chip in for the spaces, each contributing what they can, usually not more than 500 rupees per month. We usually gather in some cafe. In Bali, this isn't a problem; almost any place can provide a hall for an hour.
There is a website called "Transit". It's used not by newcomers but by regular participants. If they need to leave for another country, they open it and find where they can go abroad, they see the current schedule. If there is no suitable group in the chosen country, they choose a local meeting. To not interrupt their meetings.
Victor: It's important to add that regardless of the language, anyone can come to these groups. If there's a problem with alcohol, drugs, or any other substances, it doesn't matter. You can find the schedule and come. Nobody is turned away from such groups. That's the beauty of the community.
Any addict can find themselves in any country, in any city in the world, and they will be accepted. It doesn't matter if you're rich or poor, you'll be fed and provided with accommodation if needed.
Tim: Sometimes we also conduct groups in English when an Australian or someone else drops by. It has happened a few times. There are just a lot of them here in Bali. They come, and we communicate in English without any problems. If someone feels close and can't wait to attend a meeting, but the scheduled one is in a different language, they find another language group. And there they are, they found it, they come, and there are no issues.
The only restriction is if you are in an altered state, if you have used drugs or alcohol, you can stay, no problem, but you cannot speak up.
How intimate are the groups?
Tim: The groups I attend usually have 6-7 people. Sometimes 10. There are groups with 20 and 30 people. They're in Bukit. There's a big concentration there. Mostly guys, not many girls. Maybe about 30% less. And the age range is completely diverse. I'm 48. There are some older than me, but not many. There are many young people. Starting from 16.
Victor: The age range is roughly the same everywhere. But the groups in Bali are still small, even in Bukit.
It's probably difficult to maintain trust in such a large group?
Victor: It's challenging, but we have rules for conducting meetings. They are read out before the start. This includes specific rituals for different groups to express themselves. Despite the fact that we are all addicts with different histories and backgrounds, some are crazy and diverse, everyone sits down and respects and values what happens at the meeting. And it works.
How do meetings in Bali go?
Tim: Usually, we provide personal support for newcomers. If someone writes in the chat, they are immediately told which area we are in, where, and invited to the meeting. Do you want us to meet you? Do you not want us to meet you, just come. It's absolutely voluntary.
To attend, you don't need anything - just come. No money. The main thing is the desire. Many come and realize that it's not for them and then leave. Well, okay, it's normal. Someone comes and then sticks around for a long time.
Victor: We don't keep any statistics like, "a person came, we recorded them, and then we call them." That doesn't happen. The only condition is the desire to stop using. If you want to, we're glad.
Tim: Usually, our meetings start with a preamble read by the facilitator. It takes 5-7 minutes. The facilitator may also suggest a discussion topic, but it's not mandatory. Then, whoever wants to speak, does. The facilitator only keeps track of time to ensure everyone gets a chance to speak and that the rules are followed. It's important for us to only talk about ourselves, our feelings, experiences. Newcomers are also given a chance to speak.
If a newcomer comes, they can introduce themselves with any name, even a fictional one. And on such days, everyone talks about their first experience, how they got into NA, how they felt. Some sort of miracle happens at the meetings, and people feel better. Because of this empathy, there's a sense of spiritual fulfillment. And I no longer feel the urge to use drugs; I can live more comfortably without them.
Victor: We also have this amazing thing where when you come to your first meeting, you are given a keychain and a special booklet. In this booklet, each meeting participant writes wishes and leaves their contact information in case the newcomer wants to reach out to someone when they are struggling. There have been cases where people put these booklets away at home, and then after 2-3 years, they find them, call, and ask how to come back to us again.
What helps people give up drugs after such meetings?
Victor: Identification. That's what it is. And as we've already mentioned, it's about sharing others' experiences. Because at the meetings, everyone looks so beautiful, with nice haircuts, tanned, wearing expensive clothes. But then you hear their stories, and you realize that 10 years ago, they were in the same **** as you. The stories are similar, it turns out. There's something else.
My life was also destroyed because of drugs. I used intravenously for a long time. And when I came to NA through a friend, I expected quick results. Because that's how an addict thinks - you use drugs and you feel good. So here, I thought that I would stay clean for a while now, I would have a fiancée, a wife, a good high-paying job, a yacht, and a jet. But it didn't happen for a long time. But love came right away. On the streets, in my family, I was constantly making mistakes, being scolded, punished. But here they told me, "Dude, we're with you, don't worry. I've been there too, keep coming, call us, we love you."
And I thought, "Are you kidding me? How is this possible?" My dad, mom, everyone on the street said, "You're an idiot." But these people tell me, "It happens, come by, we love you, we'll help you, we had the same story."
And here I also learned what service is. We conduct meetings, mop floors, pour tea for people, visit hospitals with other addicts, share our stories. So being part of something big is incredibly cool. And if someone asks me to come out on Saturday or Sunday, I never refuse. I want to multiply this because it's what keeps me alive, and I don't think about drugs.
Do you provide medical assistance?
Tim: No, not at all. It's written in our traditions. We are not a medical institution. We don't have doctors prescribing medication. It's self-organizing psychotherapy. A spiritually oriented community. Therapy that occurs through the participants themselves.
Do you assist your clients with police matters?
Tim: No, anything that happens outside of the meetings is not our responsibility. The only thing we used to do before was visit local prisons because there are many people there who might need help with addiction. It's completely normal for us to go where there might be many addicts and talk about NA. But for now, that initiative has quieted down. Maybe we'll resume it.
And, by the way, we have open meetings, for example, for family members. So if there's interest and willingness, feel free to join.
Messages will appear here soon.
You can add one right now!