One of the difficult aspects of recovery in the beginning was this idea of taking responsibility for my recovery. So many of the things that happened to me in my life felt like other peoples’ faults and I was at a point of hopelessness. Even my drug use was not my fault because using was the only relief from dealing with life; life was truly difficult. I was afraid and frustrated to understand how I take responsibility for my recovery but that I was powerless over my addiction. It seemed like a contradiction. I learned more about powerlessness by attending meetings and suddenly I was able to seek solutions outside myself. I started to see how the ‘we’ of the program worked. Feelings, behaviors, and beliefs slowly started to become manageable rather than finding myself locked in these repetitive abusive patterns that had previously existed.
Taking personal responsibility for my recovery was easier once I started admitting my powerlessness. A big moment in my recovery came with an understanding of a higher power. When I was young, I often thought that if a God or Higher Power existed, ten thousand children on the planet would not starve to death each day. How could any loving God allow that to happen? I I realized one day while talking to my sponsor that the children starve because I allow it to happen. Some people dedicate their entire lives to helping end hunger and we have lots of land to grow food. I could start making a difference today by taking responsibility. The Narcotics Anonymous Basic Text says, “Through our inability to accept personal responsibilities we were actually creating our own problems.” 1
I continued to do the work that was now my responsibility. I realized that I had significant challenges with my interpersonal skills, my mental and physical health. I regularly attended meetings and tried to get involved in being of service. It became clear to me that ‘we meet regularly to help each other’ meant that Narcotics Anonymous was not a self-help program, but a help others program. I believe that anyone can become a member if they have a desire to stop using. To be a member seems to involve more than just desire. The primary purpose of the Fellowship is “to stay clean and to carry the message to the addict who still suffers.”2
Being of Service.
I used to love being involved with service to Narcotics Anonymous by being a part of Public Information or ‘PI’. Addicts who are suffering need to know where meetings are and who we are as a fellowship. When I hit bottom, I learned about NA from a meeting list and an information pamphlet I was given by a health care professional. My gratitude today is translated into a passion. One of my first service positions was PI Chair. I was passionate about printing and distributing meeting lists. I wanted these things as many places as possible. When I took the position, the Area committee would print one thousand meeting lists for about a hundred dollars, and then we would fold them manually into a pamphlet. When I say ‘we’ I mean me because it was rare to get help, even if I sat at a meeting folding. On occasion when I was vocal, I might get help but often not. One thing that everyone seemed to have an opinion about was the prudent use of funds, so we saved the twelve dollars on mechanical folding. The actual folding was largely done by me. Frustrated, I paid the twelve dollars out of my own pocket and found my time to be of service was more productive. I was accused of running on self-will. Eventually, the local area was supportive of paying the twelve dollars. I learned a lot about myself but struggled with the ideas of unity. Being of service in NA seemed to be a struggle all the time. I eventually found a healthy support group and the opportunity to serve but it was difficult to find. Unity was in abundance in some places. Recently I read some literature from a South Florida literature committee.3
An N.A. Group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the N.A. Name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property or prestige divert us from our primary purpose.
At this point we need to understand what a related facility or outside enterprise is. To illustrate this, let’s look at what N.A. is… The Grey Book tells us that “N.A is a non-profit fellowship or society of men and women for whom drugs had become a major problem. We are recovered addicts who meet regularly to help each other stay clean. This is a program of complete abstinence from all drugs”. N.A. is what happens from opening prayer to closing prayer within a Narcotics Anonymous meeting. Anything else is not Narcotics Anonymous. Treatment centers, halfway houses, clubhouses are examples of related facilities. N.A. Home Groups may request to house meetings within their walls, but they are not Narcotics Anonymous. They are businesses that Home Groups may choose to pay rent to in order to hold a meeting at their facilities. Service centers and structures, Areas and Region services, sub committees and so on are NOT N.A.
Narcotics Anonymous is a simple program that has proven it is effective in the treatment of the disease of addiction. Members meet on a regular basis, strive to create a healthy environment where recovery from the disease becomes possible. We are told to share our experience, strength, and hope. We share the best of what we are. “The wider the base, the higher the point of freedom” is part of our literature too, so our primary purpose of carrying a message ensures we have a growing freedom from the self-obsession we lived in the past. When we bring our best, the unity shines as a beacon to the suffering addicts.
Our literature says that;
“Yet there are others, completely abstinent, whose dishonesties and self-deceits still prevent them from enjoying complete recovery and acceptance within society. Continuous abstinence, however, is still the best ground for growth. In close association and identification with others in N.A. groups, our chances for recovery and complete freedom in a changing and creative form are enhanced a hundred fold.”4
A haven for our worst behaviors.
At our worst, we have created an enormous problem. By lending our name to service structures, we have created a haven for the worst behaviors. Those addicts who continue to operate in dishonesty and self-deception find a home in the service structures that have borrowed our name. Some of us have experienced service structures that use the NA name to sell events, literature and the idea that Narcotics Anonymous is a self-help program. These structures, fueled by profits, offer the worst of what we are to the refugees of the treatment industry. Rather than promote freedom from self-obsession by teaching members to give freely of themselves, they sell our unity to those who conform.
Compassion is the strength that fuels our recovery.
When the COVID 19 Pandemic took hold of our planet, a miracle happened. Many service structures have disregarded for years the ability of members to carry a message in a virtual environment. Despite this, Narcotics Anonymous has a rich history of virtual fellowship to draw experience, strength and hope from. Many members took personal responsibility for their recovery by creating a safe space for suffering addicts to come. The disease of addiction is fueled by the fear that has grown worse in this dark time. The true spirit of Narcotics Anonymous shines on as a beacon. Each home group has become a point of light. Many are operating as completely autonomous groups without the diseased governance of the service structures that borrowed our name.
- Catalog No. 83-70346 ISBN 0-912075-00-7, Page 8, Chapter 2, “What is the NA Program” ↩
- Line Numbered, Copyright ©1982 by C.A.R.E.N.A. Publishing Co. , Library of Congress Catalog No. 83-70346 ISBN 0-912075-00-7, Page 11, Chapter 3, “Why are we here” ↩
- http://www.nauca.us/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/2016-Grey-Form-traditions-workbook-to-post-online.pdf, GREY FORM TRADITION WORK BOOK © 2015 (Work in Progress) Grey Book Spiritual Autonomy Literature Committee (G.B.S.A.-L.C) Grey Book Spiritual Autonomy Literature Committee (G.B.S.A.-L.C) ↩
- Line Numbered, Copyright ©1982 by C.A.R.E.N.A. Publishing Co. , Library of Congress Catalog No. 83-70346 ISBN 0-912075-00-7, Page 71, Chapter 7, “Relapse and Recovery”, preamble. ↩