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Two join to help others out of pit

Austin men part of Narcotics Anonymous

By Nikki Merfeld

*merfeld@postbulletin.com

Two Austin men who've spent time in and out of trouble with the law are now working to turn those dark times into bright futures for others.

Wade and Robert are members of Narcotics Anonymous and ask that only their first names be used.

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In their efforts to help others, they have joined hands with nine other Narcotics Anonymous members to form the first chapter of Narcotics Anonymous Principle Defenders, or NAPD, Wade said. The group has members from Austin, Owatonna, St. Cloud and Waverly, Iowa, and is recognized by the Van Nuys, Calif., Narcotics Anonymous World Service Office, Wade said.

The members have notified the Austin Police Department of their chapter and are willing to assist where a caring voice is needed. Clad in black T-shirts bearing their chapter's emblem, they can be seen strolling local bars in their free time. If they see someone acting aggressively or abusing alcohol, they'll offer a shoulder and a safe ride home, Wade said.

"Our main mission is to be role models and carry the principles," he said. "We do not interfere with law enforcement. Our main thing is to get people to meetings."

"There are two things we say in recovery. Say what it was like -- share your experience -- and share your strength and hope," Wade said. "My dad sobered up when I was 15. I thought that was great for him, but I'd started using alcohol when I was 12."

When he first quit using drugs and alcohol in 1988, he didn't commit to the program, which led to a relapse.

"I might as well have been in bars drinking, because I had the same lifestyle," he said. Instead of abusing chemicals, he abused the program. He used his experiences to gain the trust of women who joined the group.

"I went on to an imaginary 13th step: 'You're new (to Narcotics Anonymous). Let's go out and have sex,'" Wades aid.

After brushes with police, a divorce and the loss of his own business, Wade said he realized he needed to change more than his chemical intake. He needed to change his mind by finding his strength and his hope, which he said he did two years ago.

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Robert, too, said he's had encounters with the law as well as failed relationships.

Because Robert has been sober only three months, he's an honorary member of NAPD. Once he achieves six months of sobriety, he'll qualify to be inducted as a co-founding member.

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