“Narcotics Anonymous should remain forever non-professional, but our service centers may employ special workers.”
Nothing seems to frustrate me more than arguing with the stupid opinions of others. I found it was easy in early recovery to be right about so many things. My preconceived notions about what, how, and why things are the way they are were carved in stone. It was difficult to be in a program that talked about ‘God’ when I knew there was no gods, but still I found myself at yet another meeting because I had nowhere else to go. There were a hundred discussions in my head about the nature of God in the beginning of my recovery. What was frightening to me was those addicts who studied and knew more than I about the subject of God. I was scared to admit I could be wrong, and the deepest shame was my own ignorance. Wrapping my head around the phrase ‘God of our understanding’ was a challenge but the love and compassion I experienced in Narcotics Anonymous gave me the freedom to begin question everything I knew. I wondered what the answers were and if I was asking the right questions of myself.
Being of service to others was valuable to my recovery from the beginning because it seemed to be a path out of self-obsession. Many of my feelings of inferiority and contempt were exposed as I tried learning more about this program. There were many layers to the difficulties that arose. Learning and talking about the Twelve Traditions provided a path away from personalities and the conflicts that arose, leading towards the application of spiritual principles. It was difficult to ‘be right about almost everything’ but allow others to influence the decisions that were made. Surrendering became more comfortable with the passing of time but the work continued.
We cannot afford to become complacent because our disease is with us twenty-four hours a day. If while practicing these principles we allow ourselves to feel superior or inferior, we isolate ourselves. We are headed for trouble if we feel “apart from” other addicts. Separation from the atmosphere of recovery and the spirit of service to others slows our spiritual growth. Complacency keeps us from goodwill, love and compassion.1
The worst professional to deal with is myself and there seem to be many like me. I remember hearing in early recovery that ‘the longer I’m around this program, the less I know.’ Despite this warning, I seem to want to form opinions and express them on every subject. Newcomers start to hear things like “men with men, and women with women”, “get a sponsor, work the steps”, or “join a home group” like they are commandments from God rather than suggestions. I have a desire to use my years in Narcotics Anonymous to validate my ideas about what works and what does not. Becoming a professional was a new drug. I struggled to have a desire to stop using my years and my experiences. This professionalism goes against the idea that we are miracles and only clean by the Grace of the God of our understanding. I have trouble accepting that while something worked for me, it might not for you. The worst form of contempt I can express is to deny you the lessons you need to learn by imposing my will.
We begin to pray only for God’s will for us. This way we are getting only what we are capable of handling. We are able to respond to it and handle it because God helps us prepare for it. Some of us simply use our words to give thanks for God’s grace.2
It was professional Narcotics Anonymous members who decided that the Basic Text created by open participation was wrong and made changes. The most disturbing changes was to tradition 4 and 9. Tens of thousands of hours over the period of two years had gone into the writing of this document by hundreds of addicts. They had distilled the best of what the Fellowship had to offer and sought approval from the groups in the early 1980’s. What was written in tradition 4 was that Narcotics Anonymous only existed in the groups and no service structure was required to function. The second change was that when service structures were created, they had no power over the groups. Unfortunately, professionalism had ruined what members had crafted. The Fellowship in North America became stagnant and stopped growing in less than 10 years and remains unchanged since that time. Overseas, away from the manipulation and control, individual members continued to form groups and grow, independently of the governance of the professional. Travel budgets exploded as the professionals sought to gain control of a global Fellowship.
When the pandemic engulfed the planet in early 2020, members quickly drew on the experience of others to rapidly deploy a massive presence online. There was no authority or decisive decision from a governing body to make this happen. The Fellowship responded simply in a time of crisis, and they quickly formed thousands of groups to support members and carry a message to the still suffering addicts that continue to emerge daily. In some places, members gathered in public spaces when they were allowed, and others defied all the rules to maintain their recovery and carry a message to the still suffering addict. Professionals Narcotics Anonymous members may reject these groups but the only authority required is the collective will of a group conscience. God in many forms truly will do for us what we could not do for ourselves.