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The Narcotics Anonymous Group
In 1953, some addicts believed that there was a solution to their problems in adapting the twelve steps and twelve traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous to a new Fellowship. Narcotics Anonymous was formed and started as a single group. These addicts would hold meetings regularly to help each other stay clean. That could have been the end of the story but out of that desire to help each other stay clean came a purpose. The primary purpose of that group was to help other addicts achieve recovery. How to achieve that purpose was likely a mystery. There does not appear to be some formulation or clear directions to apply to each addict who arrives, but addicts did begin to recover, and the Fellowship grew.
It is an ongoing joke in Narcotics Anonymous that every new group forms out of resentment. Simple things like a disagreement over serving coffee or tea can boil over and result in one or more members of a group walking away in disgust and starting a new group. Despite internal bickering, many new groups formed, and the fellowship grew. Each group offered meetings in advertised locations and met regularly. By the 1980’s there were a thousand groups. Literature had been developed and the foundation of a service structure to service those groups had been laid. Some members believed that a book about Narcotics Anonymous could be written and it would contain the collective knowledge of what seemed to be working for others. This book was finalized into a draft that was widely distributed and approved by many groups under the name ‘The Basic Text’. As soon as the book was approved there was chaos. By 1990 there were 10,000 groups and a fifth edition of the Basic Text was available. Rapid growth, swelling bank accounts and demand for more fueled a raging fire of disunity. The Narcotics Anonymous World Services Corporation was formed but by then there were many groups who ignored the politics and manipulation of the service structures. Some groups continued to use the ‘Grey Form’ of the Basic Text and some produced a ‘Baby Blue’ version of the Basic Text. Groups continued to grow in numbers and was estimated at well over 30,000 worldwide prior to the pandemic. How many participate in the service structures that have emerged will likely never be known but a few structures have been well supported by groups.
Fellowships have started to emerge globally in many countries as the years have progressed. Iran and Brazil have large Fellowships that were started when a few members formed groups, translated literature and grew. The Narcotics Anonymous World Service Corporation, fueled by huge profits, has sought to take control of the intellectual property rights of the Fellowship. They work with the World Service Conference(WSC), which is a service body that seeks to unite all the groups under one umbrella. This arrangement appears to serve the service structures more than the groups. Many groups remain ignorant of these service structures and operate independently or as part of local area service committees.
When the COVID-19 pandemic overwhelmed the planet and facilities locked down, most of the groups in the world were forced to abandon regularly scheduled meetings. Thankfully, pioneers in the recovery community had established virtual Narcotics Anonymous groups online decades ago. The technology to connect and support each other was well established. Rapidly new groups were formed, and established groups transitioned to this environment by applying the twelve traditions. Long time members have marveled at the ability to attend meetings anywhere in the world, and newcomers searching for a solution to the disease of addiction are still finding their way into these new virtual rooms. Groups are flourishing and growing as members connect on a global scale. The phrase “We meet regularly to help each other stay clean” has never been clearer to me. Narcotics Anonymous has never been a self-help program in my eyes and has always been a ‘help others’ program. I believe that the solution to the disease of self-obsession is to learn thru the twelve steps and twelve traditions a new way to live that requires helping others.
Narcotics Anonymous continues to be groups of addicts who meet regularly to help each other stay clean There are more than adequate funds available and members everywhere are stepping up to be of service with time and financial donations as the virtual groups have become established. So why are some service structures struggling with finances and the NAWS corporation desperately trying to raise money? Tradition two in all versions of the Basic Text makes one idea very clear (Narcotics Anonymous, Basic Text, Tradition 2);
Those of us who have been involved in service or in getting a group started sometimes have a hard time letting go. Egos and unfounded pride and self-will would destroy a group if given authority. We must instead remember that offices have been placed in trust, that we are trusted servants and that at no time do any of us govern. Narcotics Anonymous is a God-given program, and we can maintain our group in dignity only with group conscience and God’s love.
Some will resist. However, many will become the role models for the newcomers. The self-seekers soon find that they are on the outside, causing dissension and eventually disaster for themselves. Many of them change; they learn that we can only be governed by a loving God as expressed in our group conscience.
Unfortunately, there are many meetings and events labeled as Narcotics Anonymous whose sole aim is to raise money for outside enterprises and service structures that are no longer reliant on group conscience. Some meetings are advertised as ‘Narcotics Anonymous’ but not actually supported by a group. Service structures have tried to offer support to some members exclusively by holding regular meetings but rarely attract newcomers. Newcomers that do arrive may find they have no voice at these groups that are not structured in line with the traditions. Newcomers can be left confused about what they are attending if the event is geared to fund-raising. Toxic cliques can form and become dominated by ‘members who remain abstinent for long periods of time whose dishonesty and self-deceit still prevent them from enjoying complete recovery and acceptance within society” (Basic Text, Chapter 7, Recovery and Relapse, all versions).
Tradition six in the Narcotics Anonymous literature says, “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.”
The home group I am a member has a global membership. We have a website and hold fourteen meetings weekly. Some of our members found the group, joined, and have stayed clean since they joined. I have never laughed or cried more than I have with my home group. Some of us have met locally and others only online. We are actively seeking to attract newcomers by using social media and carrying a message to the still suffering addict. Our membership is diverse, inclusive and surpasses all my preconceived notions of what a group could look like. We remain completely autonomous and have no desire to participate in any service structures currently.
Some groups have formed the Autonomous Region to question the management of the Fellowship Intellectual Property Trust created by the WSC and administered by the NAWS Corporation. NAWS remains secretive on many subjects and the petition would have allowed the courts to demand answers to questions that NAWS has avoided. Mismanagement of a trust is considered a crime but the courts decision was that the owner of the Trust ‘as a whole’ was Narcotics Anonymous groups. and the actions of the trustee (NAWS Corporation) could not be questioned unless it was by the entire Fellowship (The trustor). Despite the ruling, and important idea came from out; The Groups are Narcotics Anonymous, and the service structures are not. With the majority of Narcotics Anonymous Groups virtual, the failure of both the WSC and the NAWS Corporation to recognize them the future looks bright for those groups who continue to operate independent of the governance of the NAWS Corporation and the WSC. The NAWS corporation has failed to secure the support the groups for thirty years and relied too heavily on literature profits. Today, the Fellowship is almost entirely virtual with free electronic copies of all the literature readily available. Profits are now a trickle and the NAWS Corporation is struggling, while the Fellowship of Narcotics Anonymous has never been stronger both financially and in unity as members talk to each other and visit various groups on a truly global scale.