Narconon celebrates one year at Arrowhead
McAlester News-Capital & Democrat
By Doug Russell, News Editor
September 24, 2002
It's not easy to quit drugs, but it is possible. And in some ways quitting today is a lot easier than it was three or four decades ago.
Gordan Weinand knows that. He stopped using drugs in 1967 while an inmate at Arizona State Penitentiary, one of the first members of a group that eventually became known as Narconon.
"It's been an uphill climb," Weinand said. "It's not easy. There are a lot of ups and downs, but I discovered I had the ability to make things change and make things go right and that's what I've done since."
Weinand was among several hundred Narconon graduates, workers and supporters who attended a one-year anniversary celebration of Narconon Arrowhead Saturday night.
The first non-prison Narconon meetings were held in an old Los Angeles garage converted into an office. Five former inmates of Arizona State Prison drove there in an old Cadillac in the mid-1960s. "We actually had to buy lumber and shore it up or it would have fallen down," Weinand recalled. "Then we cute [sic] a 4-foot by 8-foot piece of plywood in half to make a 16-foot table."
From those beginnings, the growth of the Narconon program has been "totally remarkable," he said.
In 2000, the Association for Better Living and Education purchased the former Arrowhead Lodge from the Choctaw Nation for $1.9 million and began renovating it into a treatment center that officially opened for business in August of that year. The program moved to the Arrowhead facility from Chilloco, where it had been since 1989.
Since its opening, Narconon Arrowhead has had numerous graduates finish a treatment course at the center, according to Gary Smith, executive director. In fact, 99 received certificates of completion during a graduation ceremony Friday night.
Luke Catton, president of Narconon Arrowhead, called the anniversary a "milestone," since in one year the facility had gone from "opening to being nearly filled to capacity."
As the ceremony began, persons carrying flags representing 49 of the 50 United States and 15 foreign countries gathered at the front of a large tent while those assembled joined to sing "God Bless America."
State Rep. Ray Miller, D-Whitefield, who attended the graduation Friday as well as Saturday's anniversary ceremony, said, "It was most touching, or heart rending, I don't know the exact words to use, listening to addicts who have broken the downward spiral of addiction.
"It's so easy to be led into this lifestyle and so, so difficult to break the chain. ... I think we're extremely fortunate to have Narconon here."
"What makes this a special place," Smith said, "are the graduates and the people who are on the way to becoming graduates."
Drug addicts are "hard-headed, stubborn people," he said, adding when former addicts join together to help other persons kick the drug habit, they have a special kind of spirit and dedication, "the kind of spirit and dedication that will drive the drug problem out of existence."
"The program today is quite a bit different from what we had at Arizona State Prison," Weinand said.