All else is not NA

By rebelsmed 10/16/19
Narcotics Anonymous, addiction, recovery

By the early 1980’s, Narcotics Anonymous was starting to become a recognized solution for people who suffered from the disease of addiction. There were over 1000 groups worldwide predominately in the United States but also spreading to other parts of the world. A man known to many as ‘Bo S.’ rose to prominence within the Fellowship and with the support of many became the World Literature Chair. Bo worked tirelessly and with great personal sacrifice to help the Fellowship of Narcotics Anonymous distill the combined knowledge of the time into what could be the most significant piece of literature ever in the fight against the disease of addiction known as the “Basic Text”.  The effect was like a drop of blood hitting a pool of water; nothing would ever be the same again in the Fellowship of Narcotics Anonymous. By the end of the 1980’s Narcotics Anonymous had grown to over 10,000 groups, and there were many different versions of the Basic Text in circulation. A struggling corporation that would become Narcotics Anonymous World Services Inc. (NAWS for short) had formed and sought to take control of the literature production and rights.  Several of the original paragraphs that was reviewed and approved by the groups for printing became contentious and included this one; (Basic Text, “TRADITION FOUR- Each group should be autonomous, except in matters affecting other groups, or N.A. as a whole.” Approval Draft, published 1981)

"One might ask: Is this really true, are we truly autonomous, what about our service committees, our offices, our activities, our hotlines, and all the other things that go on in N.A.? The answer, of course, is that these things are not N.A. They are services that we can utilize to help us in our recovery and to further the primary purpose of our groups. Narcotics Anonymous is a Fellowship of men and women, addicts, meeting together in groups, and using a given set of spiritual principles to find freedom from addiction and a new way .to live. All else is not N.A. Those other things we mentioned are the result of members caring enough to reach out and offer their help and experience so that our road may be easier. Whether or not we choose to utilize these services for the benefit of a group is up to us, they are not thrust down our throats."


In March of 1983 Sally Evans, chair of the World Service Board issued a letter;


"…fact that the book as approved by the 1982 World Service Conference contain the following inaccuracies: In tradition four the book states that SERVICE COMMITTEES ARE NOT NA and later in the same paragraph states 'All ELSE IS NOT NA' clearly indicating that they are not a part of Narcotics Anonymous. The book further states 'whether to utilize these services is up to the group'. This would allow any group to do whatever the group chose to do and continue to call themselves an NA Group, leaving the fellowship no recourse but to allow them to do so. Any group could use any literature they choose to use in meetings. The use of literature other than NA literature in meetings has been a problem in the past. This is but one of many problems that could surface in the future should the book be printed as approved."


The World literature Committee were shocked at the unauthorized changes and revoked the rights of the service structure to print the Basic Text. What happened after is open to speculation and conjecture. There are a lot of opinions on what transpired over the next several years. Some experienced members simply walked away and returned to the roots of their recovery by supporting groups and local service efforts. Manipulation and control will always defeat kindness and generosity, but nothing is gained in the end. This is evident in the fact that NAWS Inc has seen zero growth in 30 years beyond the ever-increasing price of the literature they control. The significant international growth of the fellowship has come about because of the kindness and generosity of thousands of members like Bo S.


The question that never seems to get asked is why the groups approved the literature with the phrase “all else is not N.A.” This was no random mistake or inaccuracies in transcription.   Thousands of addicts wrote, reviewed and approved the original literature. A small group of individuals modified the literature. Perhaps one answer is to go back further, to the Little White Book, published in 1966 by Early Narcotics Anonymous groups; “This is a simple spiritual -not religious- program, known as Narcotics Anonymous." from the section titled “We Do Recover”.


a website offered this interesting explanation;

"Religion is a set of texts, practices and beliefs about the transcendent shared by a community and involves a relationship with God. Spirituality on the other hand is about a person's relationship with the transcendent questions that confront one as a human being. This may or may not involve relationships with God." [Transcendent - beyond or above the range of normal or merely physical human experience.]


Tradition 1 tells us that “Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends on N.A. unity” which I have always believed was the Fellowship’s welfare is ahead of my personal welfare and recovery involves sacrifices.  Those sacrifices I make are not about loss or suffering, but about generosity and kindness. These are some of the spiritual principles I practice in all my affairs.  If self-obsession is the core of the disease of addiction, then it would make sense that I adopt spiritual principles that defy that behavior. My desire is to stop using not just drugs but anything that can be addictive including money and control. The relationship I maintain with a power greater than myself is my source of strength. No service body can define what sacrifices I choose to make at any moment. The responsibility for my recover lies within myself. The choices I make do not exclude me from membership and the sacrifices I make become the help I offer. “We meet regularly to help each other stay clean” and all else is not N.A.  Narcotics Anonymous is a Fellowship and not a religion.


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