I was full of nerves as I drove along Murdoch Drive towards the Greenfields Community Centre, just before the 6.30pm start, mentally preparing myself for the unknown.
Mandurah Narcotics Anonymous (NA) members allowed me to attend a meeting last Tuesday, as part of our Falling Through the Cracks series, to get an understanding of the support available to methamphetamine addicts in the Peel region.
NA is a not-for-profit organisation guiding and providing structure to recovering addicts, with a 12-step program and "fellowship" at its core.
Falling Through the Cracks - Week one coverage:
The one membership requirement was a desire to stay clean.
I wasn't sure what to expect. I feared imposing on their safe space. I was unsure how they would treat me and if I'd be welcome.
Would it be a clinical, sterile environment? Would there be any life in their eyes or emotion in their faces?
There was a group of about 20 people talking, laughing, with some smoking cigarettes, outside the centre ahead of the meeting.
As I tentatively approached, I immediately noticed the camaraderie and genuine friendship between these people.
I was warmly greeted as I approached the group.
To my surprise, members were everyday Mandurah residents you see walking along the street, or working at your local shop.
I felt ashamed I had thought the worst.
These people were no different to me, except they were struggling to stop using highly addictive drugs.
There was an NA meeting and an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting on at the same time in the centre, in two separate rooms.
When I took a seat in the NA room, it was hard to miss a large pink 'number one' helium balloon.
It was a woman's one-year anniversary of the day she stopped using methamphetamine, which I came to learn was a big deal for recovering addicts.
To celebrate the milestone, the mother brought her two children and partner to the meeting.
She couldn't wipe the smile off her face. Her children beamed with pride. Her husband shed tears. I felt lucky to have witnessed such a special occasion.
Each member was generous in congratulating the mother on her success and shared her joy.
The one-and-a-half hour meeting was led by a long-term member and structured with readings from motivational NA literature, citing of the 12 steps and sharing personal stories.
What amazed me was the sheer honesty displayed by each member when it was their turn to share.
And the complete acceptance and non-judgmental attitude towards everyone in the room.
Despite each person's different experiences, they all shared similarities in the struggles they faced every day of their recovery.
The hope in the room was abundant. Many laughs were shared. Words of encouragement were gifted freely.
Members could share anything and seemed to be accepted wholeheartedly by the group.
I have written endless stories on the devastating affects methamphetamine has on communities, having worked in both the Wheatbelt and Peel regions.
Many were depressing, and made me feel like there was no hope in tackling the overwhelming issue.
But, this group is an asset to the community and part of the 'solution' to the war on drugs.
I left the meeting feeling elated.
Saddened by the harrowing stories and angered by what some people had experienced, but thankful there was a support network providing hope.
A place where addicts can engage with others, who have become clean, which gives them the confidence to trust they can too.
For information on Narcotics Anonymous Mandurah meetings, visit http://wana.org.au/ or call 1300 652 820.