What was Narcotics Anonymous? (Part 2)

By rebelsmed 03/01/19
Narcotics Anonymous, addiction, recovery

Part 1 of this article explained how the changes to tradition 4 in the Basic Text used by Narcotics Anonymous came about and the underlying problems that were created.  Hundreds of thousands of man-hours and tens of thousands of dollars went into the creation of the Basic Text that was sent to the Fellowship in February 1981 and approved by the groups in 1982. Rather than accept the will of the Fellowship, some early members who were involved in creating the service structures that would serve the Fellowship modified the document.  The changes in Tradition 4 allowed the service structure to become exclusive and removed the rights of Narcotics Anonymous Groups to define how they carry a message and what, if any services were utilized. Tradition 9 states (published in N.A. literature, from its inception); “N.A., as such, ought never be organized, but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.” Because the traditions only apply to the groups, the only way that the existing service body could bring about those changes to the Basic Text was by violating Tradition 9 as it was originally intended.

Sue E, Chairman of the board issued a letter to the Fellowship dated March 1, 1983 that attempted to explain the reason for the changes (which was widely available at the time, and still in the possession of members from that time).

In tradition nine it states that NO SERVICE COMMITTEE OR CONFERENCE has the power to decide anything. It is our belief that this statement would negate the entire service structure of NA, and hence have the potential for creating anarchy within the fellowship. Finally the line stating that SERVICE COMMIITEES ARE NOT A PART OF NARCOTICS ANONYMOUS places the service structure outside of Narcotics Anonymous, outside of the traditions and hence not subject to the will of the fellowship. We believe that the inclusion of this material in the book would create immediate and long range problems for the fellowship, seriously threatening the unity of NA and therefore recommended to the WSO Board that this material not be included in the book.

The actual ideas behind this tradition are clearly defined in the original Basic Text published in 1982(Underlining added for emphasis);

Another point of confusion is the term organized, which has several meanings. Our Steps and Traditions are uniform and set in a specific order. They are numbered; they are not random and unstructured. Certainly they are organized, but this is not the organization of our Ninth Tradition. For the purpose of this Tradition, organized means having an administrative structure, and this implies management and control. On this basis, the meaning of Tradition Nine is clear. N.A. should never be run by bureaucracy or management nor controlled by individuals within an administrative structure. If we were to allow this, N.A. would surely lose the best it has to offer and choke to death on our insanities.

Even without this Tradition, organization such as this would be in opposition to our spiritual principles. A loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience would find no place within an administrative structure. How could a trusted servant manage and control? Service and management are contradictory. Government implies control, but our leaders do not govern. How could autonomy exist in an administrative structure? Specialization and professionalism are the basis of any management scheme. Any administrative structure, by its very nature, eliminated the possibility of autonomy. An organized N.A. is a contradiction in terms and any attempt to force organization on us would destroy us.

Tradition 6 states “An N.A. group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the NA name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, or prestige divert us from our primary purpose.” What becomes of the service structures we create when they are outside of Narcotics Anonymous? The service structures become task orientated and fully accountable to the groups they serve. Many service structures in N.A. are now using Consensus Based Decision Making in order to make decisions without having to consult with the groups they are accountable to.  It is possible for a service body to continue while having completely lost the support of most groups they are supposed to be accountable to. Service bodies believing they are Narcotics Anonymous become confused about their primary purpose, which is to be directly accountable to those they serve. It is the Fellowship’s responsibility to carry the message to the suffering addict.   

When an addict joins the Fellowship of Narcotics Anonymous, they become responsible for not only their own recovery but the recovery of other group members, and the task of carrying a message to the still suffering addict. That is the spirit of the Fellowship when they look at Step 12 and Tradition 5. When members abdicate that responsibility to a service structure, Narcotics Anonymous suffers. The literature they use, the format of the meeting and the atmosphere of recovery they create in the group is the best vehicle to carry the message to the suffering addict. ‘We meet regularly to help each other stay clean’ requires all members to have awareness of their problems and their ability to help others. they must learn to work together, in unity, despite differences. (Basic Text, all versions, preface) “The greater the base, as we grow in unity in numbers and in fellowship, the broader the sides and the higher the point of freedom. “

There is a concept called ‘Unity in diversity’. (From Wikipedia)

Unity in diversity is a concept of "unity without uniformity and diversity without fragmentation" that shifts focus from unity based on a mere tolerance of physical, cultural, linguistic, social, religious, political, ideological and/or psychological differences towards a more complex unity based on an understanding that difference enriches human interactions.

Some members of N.A., believing in the value of their personal recovery, attempted to gain control of the Fellowship by modifying the relationship between the Fellowship of NA and the service bodies. This would allow them to govern, a clear example of contempt that the early Fellowship sought to avoid.  As was pointed out in the original literature; ‘An organized N.A. is a contradiction in terms and any attempt to force organization on us would destroy us.’ This is what has happened in North America as sales of the Basic Text flatlined in the mid 1990’s and have remained unchanged since.

Groups are asked to support NAWS by only including corporate approved literature at meetings. Service bodies report difficulties in attracting members when unity is so easily achieved. New members fail to understand the underlying principles of the fellowship. They seek ‘self-help’ rather than ‘help others’; some show up only to get their court papers signed or worse, believe their continued abstinence is evidence that the program works. Tradition 1 says that ‘Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends on N.A. unity’. Evidence of the growth of Narcotics Anonymous is evident around the world as groups form and carry the message.


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