Twelve Traditions Workshop
and Annual Halloween Bash!
The Washington-Northern Idaho Region of NA
St. Helens, Oregon, October, 1991
outline of cliff walker's workshop presentation
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With one or two exceptions, all references which contain
a page number are from Narcotics Anonymous, a.k.a.
the "Basic Text" 5th edition (this being the only NA book
in print at the time).The titles given are chapter titles.
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Twelve Traditions Workshop
My approach to today's workshop
(and most of all) not using drugs no matter what!!!
- I will try to share some thoughts I've had about the Traditions.
- I went over some of my writings, collected several things and put them in this outline.
- Most of this comes from my own personal experiences:
- believing that old line, "service work keeps you clean."
- trying to work Step Twelve as a trusted servant of the Narcotics Anonymous Fellowship.
- trying to give back what was freely given to me.
- trying to give, in the first place, what was not given to me -- freely or otherwise -- but that might have helped me have an easier time at all this.
- Some of you get something from some of the things I say.
- Some of you get real angry at some of the things I say, and get challenged or provoked enough to go do your own research by:
- getting pissed off
- trusting your own judgement
- not always believing their answers either
- upholding spiritual principles (as you understand them)
- checking out Higher Power
- making a reluctant decision to acquiesce to the majority opinion in spite of what your better judgement says
- remembering that NA service work is just practice for the real world out there
Because that's the bottom line in NA and nothing else really matters.
I've watched people get loaded behind service work issuesand it's just not worth it --nothing is that important!
My approach to recovery
- Honesty is my chief character defect.
- I am honest to a fault.
- Tact is not one of my finer points.
- I need to learn how to seek a balance.
- (At least I'm being honest about all this!)
- I don't follow directions.
- I learn everything by trial and error.
- This is the only way I know how to learn.
- I don't get along with others.
- I'm always in everyone's face.
- This is the only way I know how to relate to people.
- I am very skeptical.
- I never thought I was cut out for NA.
- I never thought NA was for me.
- I never thought NA would be able to help me stay clean.
- I am very stubborn.
- Stubbornness is another character defect that I've been able to turn into an asset of sorts.
- I'm still clean and I'm still here in spite of it all (perhaps because I'm so damn stubborn).
My approach to this outline
- Personal experience.
- I learn things by making mistakes because:
- I am stubborn.
- I am skeptical.
- I don't get along with others.
- I am not willing to follow anyone's advice.
- I am not "Mr. Tactful."
- I usually teach by sharing my experiences because:
- this is the only form of teaching I can relate to.
- the "Basic Text" is real big on this method.
- I will try not to talk about my experiences in NA service work today
- because of all those people in whose faces I got:
- As a gesture of amends to them.
- Out of respect to the principles of anonymity.
- because a former sponsor asked me not to.
- (You gotta start somewhere!)
- because the "Basic Text" is real big on this method and, like I said, I am not one for following directions.
- An obsessively vast amount of trial-and-error experience doing service work in NA.
- An obsessively vast amount of study in various NA reading material.
- Conference-Approved literature (two types):
- Recovery literature.
- Service handbooks.
- Literature that is no longer Conference-Approved.
- We do make mistakes -- even in NA!
- This stuff is useful to find out what doesn't work.
- Literature Committee review form material.
- This stuff is useful to find out where we may be going.
- The writings and recommendations of the NA Board of Trustees.
- Minutes from various committees and conferences.
- NA newsletters and magazines from around the World.
- An obsessively vast amount of curious inquiry to other trusted servants from around the World.
- The home group.
- The Area Service Committee.
- The Regional Service Conference.
- The World Service Conference.
- The World Service Board of Trustees.
- The World Service Office.
- Various subcommittees (at all levels of service).
- Public Information.
- Hospitals and Institutions.
- Conventions, Workshops, Learning Days and social activities.
- Asking anyone who ever visited my home group from another town.
- My Higher Power.
the steps and
The Steps are personal
- How I work the Steps is ultimately my own business.
- How I work the Steps ultimately affects only me.
- Working the Steps will give me a better perspective on the Traditions.
- Working the Steps will give me a better perspective on my own life and the world around me.
The Traditions are communal
- The Traditions are everybody's business.
- The Traditions are everyone's responsibility.
- How I work the Traditions affects the entire NA community.
- Working the Traditions will give me a better perspective on the Steps.
- Working the Traditions will give me a better perspective on my own life and the world around me.
Our common welfare should come first;
personal recovery depends on N.A. unity.
Our common welfare
- Our common welfare comes ahead of my personal welfare...
- ...but our common welfare should never come at the expense
of anyone's personal welfare.
- Focusing on our common welfare helps me to stay focused on my own goal of personal recovery.
- Unity is not uniformity.
- If two people always agree on everything, it's a good bet that one
of them is doing all the thinking.
- Unity will not ask anyone to conform to any situation they are not cut out for.
- Unity makes room for everyone, no matter who they are or what we think about their recovery.
- Unity is not competitive.
- "We work separately and together to help the newcomer and for our common good." ("Introduction" page xvi)
- We are united against addiction.
- We are not in a race against each other.
- We are not in a race against other organizations.
- The entire point of NA is that we can do together what we could never do alone.
- What can I do to promote NA unity?
- I can't make you do anything to promote NA unity.
- I can find out what NA is and surrender to it.
For our group purpose there is but one
ultimate authority -- a loving God as He
may express Himself in our group conscience.
Our leaders are but trusted servants,
they do not govern.
Addicts making decisions.
- The problem:
- "Higher mental and emotional functions, such as conscience and the ability to love, were sharply affected by our use of drugs." ("Who Is An Addict?" page 4)
- "By nature, we are strong-willed, self-centered people, who are thrust together in NA. We are mismanagers and not one of us is capable of consistently making good decisions."
- "There is often a vast difference between group conscience and group opinion, as dictated by powerful personalities or popularity."
- "We must constantly be on guard that our decisions are truly an expression of God's will." ("Tradition Two" pages 60 & 61)
- Our solution:
- "By working the Steps, we learn to depend on a Power greater than ourselves, and to use this Power for our group purposes." ("Tradition Two" page 61.)
One ultimate authority -- a loving God.
- Having God as our ultimate authority frees us from having addicts call the shots.
- By limiting that authority to "God as He may express Himself in our group conscience," we force our leaders to avoid doing anything alone.
- Our understanding of our ultimate authority is deliberately ambiguous. Since NA has no opinion about who God is -- or who God isn't -- no individual or group has the right to define which particular God is in charge.
- The Second Tradition does not place any limitations on my personal understanding of Higher Power.
- The "Basic Text" does not require that my personal understanding be that of a loving God -- this is only a suggestion.
- In matters regarding the NA community, I can agree to think of "our Higher Power" as loving, setting aside my personal understanding of Higher Power.
Conscience (gleaned from various "Twelve Concepts" drafts)
- What is conscience?
- Our innate sense of right and wrong.
- That internal compass we each may consult when reflecting about the best course to take.
- Conscience in an individual.
- By working the Steps:
- I revive my conscience.
- I learn how to exercise my conscience.
- By consistently applying spiritual principles:
- I become increasingly less motivated by self-interest.
- I become more and more motivated by what conscience tells me is good and right.
- Conscience in a group setting.
- People whose consciences have been awakened, come together to consider and resolve service-related questions.
- This is the most obvious example of bringing the spiritual awakening of our Twelve Steps directly to bear in the practice of our Twelve Traditions.
Our group conscience.
- We want the benefit of hearing as many opinions as possible before making any decision.
- We need to place principles before personalities:
- Because this is everybody's fellowship.
- Because the idea itself is more important to the discussion than whose idea it is.
- We need to give equal access to the decision-making process:
- So that we can all benefit from good decisions.
- So we can each contribute toward making good decisions.
- We should accept the outcome of any decision until the decision can be overturned (borrowed from ancient Pharisaic tradition)
- Acceptance promotes NA unity.
- Acceptance underscores the importance of access to the decision-making process.
- If we have a greater number of people involved in the process, we are more likely to make acceptable decisions in the first place.
- It is easier for me to accept a decision if I had ample opportunity to express my opinions.
- If I still disagree, I can always rest on the hope that the decision may someday be overturned.
- Tradition Two takes it for granted that we have leaders.
- Our tendency to oppose NA leaders.
- Opposition to leadership in general.
- (What can I say about that?)
- (Work the Steps?)
- (Outside issue??)
- This is a very real situation in NA service.
- We need to recognize when this is happening.
- Besides seeing it, there is little else we can do.
- Opposition because of the quality of work being done.
- Demonstrates a need to get involved in the process.
- Demonstrates a need for a personal moral inventory.
- Can I or someone else really do better?
- Is it really the job they're doing?
- Are there important factors other than quality?
- Gives that person an opportunity to get involved, and possibly learn
- What if the poor job is being done by a close friend? or (gasp!), a sponsor or sponsoree?
- Opposition to the individual in the leadership role.
- Compromise of "principles before personalities."
- Doesn't give our Program much credit for its ability to change people's lives.
- Our need to support leaders.
- No one can effectively serve the fellowship by themselves.
- What we could never do alone.
- The therapeutic value of one addict helping another.
- Our support will help trusted servants do a better job.
- They will have an easier time serving.
- We will get better results from their efforts.
- The place of leadership in the NA service structure, as practiced by our Twelve Traditions, does not contradict the idea that no member is greater or lesser than any other member.
- Some examples:
- willing to ask for help
- willing to take suggestions
- leads by example, rather than mandate
- willing to listen
- able to compromise
- able to stand fast on sound principle
- Skills that are helpful in some cases
- communication skills
- organizational skills
- discernment and foresight
- Why does it matter?
- We delegate responsibility to these leaders.
- Our leaders should be able to carry out responsibilities
- We need to be able trust that the job will be done effectively.
- We delegate the authority needed to carry out responsibilities.
- Our leaders should be less likely to abuse authority.
- We need to be able trust that the job will be done responsibly.
Servants do not govern.
- Some examples:
- taking things into my own hands
- exerting my will over the expressed will of the group
- doing service work my way in spite of the group's will
- No trusted servant has any authority that we don't give them.
- A trusted servant who pretends to "lord it over" other N.A. members does not appear to be taking the service position in trust. When this happens we need to:
- Take inventory first.
- Don't get judgmental.
- Things are not always as they appear.
- A trusted servant who pretends to "lord it over" other NA members does not appear to trust the Program's ability to change people. (Maybe they do, but it sure doesn't look like it!)
- We need to remember that service work is part of the recovery process:
- The work itself is important...
- ...but it's not that important!
Delegation of authority and responsibility.
- We can learn from the differences between NA and AA.
- AA needed to move away from delegated leadership and toward the democratic process.
- Bill W. and Dr. Bob successfully led the Alcoholics Anonymous Fellowship for many years.
- After Bob died, it took Bill a long time to convince the Fellowship to let go of his (Bill's) leadership.
- The Fellowship eventually took control of the AA Assembly in a democratic process.
- Conversely, it is taking Narcotics Anonymous many years to let go of the purely democratic process.
- We were born in the middle of this phase of AA's leadership struggle.
- We deliberately had no personalities as leaders.
- As a small Fellowship, at first, we had the luxury of being able to let each group vote on each issue.
- As we grew in the 1980s, we find it necessary to learn to trust our servants to make decisions on our behalf.
- The Twelve Concepts, if approved, will thoroughly address the issues of delegation and representation.
The only requirement for membership
is a desire to stop using.
- What is involved.
- Membership is not automatic.
- To be an NA member, I must decide to become one.
- Once I decide, the only requirement is a desire to stop using.
- (Of course, who else would want to be an NA member?)
- The decision is personal
- Only I can decide if I am to become a member.
- No individual or group may deny me membership in NA.
- I am free to leave if I want to (attraction rather than promotion).
- The benefits of NA membership.
- A kinship.
- A home.
- The right to practice the NA program of recovery.
(This didn't become important to me until some pig-headed individuals, groups, and committees decided that it was "in the best interest of the Fellowship" to deny me access to some of the opportunities Narcotics Anonymous has to offer.)
The only requirement
- Success is not a requirement for membership.
- Desire is not a measurable commodity.
- Stop using what?
- In NA, we mean the desire to stop using drugs.
- The suffering drug addict who comes to us for help needs focus, identity, and the assurance that there is a practical and realistic solution to their drug problem.
- We chart our progress with clean-time. (We don't give out keytags for cigarettes or celibacy etc.)
- NA is not a catch-all solution to every problem.
- NA has no opinion on the treatment of other problems.
- NA has no opinion on whether other problems are even rightfully called addictions.
- NA has no opinion about whether the Twelve Steps are an appropriate solution to problems other than drug addiction.
- It would be unfair to pretend that we do have answers to other problems.
- Unfair to our own members who came to NA to solve a drug problem.
- Unfair to those seeking solutions to those problems when our specialty is drug addiction.
- It doesn't matter which drug I used.
- NA was, at one time, for narcotics addicts only.
- We now retain our focus on addiction in general by not referring to specific drugs.
- NA has no opinion about other so-called addictions.
What this means
- We invite people to join, but we have no procedure for making people leave.
- If I look for reasons why you should leave, I may end up finding reasons why I should leave.
- If NA works, and if I am welcome to join, then I now have no excuse for staying loaded.
- I have the right to every opportunity NA has to offer.
- Anonymity (if I want it).
- Sharing at meetings (both the giving end and the receiving end).
- Service opportunities (Twelfth Step work).
Each group should be autonomous
except in matters affecting other groups
or N.A. as a whole.
The pyramid of authority: a one-way street
- The groups control the service structure -- the service structure does not control the groups. In other words, a group is autonomous, a committee is directly responsible.
- A group may develop their own, unique approach to NA recovery -- as long as they resemble an NA group by at least trying to follow some semblance of the NA traditions. In extreme cases, the service structure may remove a group's listing from the meeting directory. This is the only control the service structure has over an NA group.
- Many groups support the NA service structure with funds and volunteers -- or they can withhold that support as they see fit. The service structure, however, is obligated to provide the basic services to all NA groups within its geographical boundaries.
One difference between groups and meetings.
(The NA literature sometimes uses the words "group" and "meeting" interchangeably. The following differentiation is not universally recognized, but can be helpful in seeing how we affect each other in NA.)
- "A meeting happens when two or more addicts gather together to help each other stay clean." ("What Is The NA Program?" page 11)
- "A Narcotics Anonymous group is any group that meets regularly, at a specified place and time, for the purpose of recovery, provided that it follows the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Narcotics Anonymous." ("Tradition Four" page 63)
- In other words, most NA meetings are hosted by NA groups, but many meetings are informal gatherings.
- When addicts gather together to help each other stay clean, they can basically do whatever they want -- even if what they do is contrary
to the NA philosophy. Only when they ask to be listed in the NA directory, or otherwise publicize themselves as an NA entity, do they engage "in matters affecting other groups or NA as a whole."
Each group has but one primary purpose
-- to carry the message
to the addict who still suffers.
What is our message?
- "The message is that an addict, any addict, can stop using drugs, lose the desire to use, and find a new way to live. Our message is hope and the promise of freedom." ("Tradition Five" page 65)
- Other expressions of our message:
- The Steps and Traditions
- The entire body of NA literature
- Spiritual principles (not necessarily any particular list)
- The experience, strength, and hope of the individual addict
- The therapeutic value of one addict helping another
- The body of philosophy that is unique to Narcotics Anonymous
How is our message expressed?
- How it is carried.
- In meetings.
- Through PI and H&I presentations.
- In our literature.
- Via word of mouth.
- By demonstration, through the changes in our lives.
- Some attitudes involved in carrying our message.
- Attraction rather than promotion.
- We think our program works best if addicts make up their own minds about their addiction and about NA.
- We don't want to become a high-pressure sales force or a zealous missionary religion. This would:
- Divert our focus and energy from our purpose.
- Tarnish our credibility.
- Our message and Tradition Three.
- Anyone is welcome in NA.
- "We feel the ideal state for our Fellowship exists when addicts can come freely and openly to an NA meeting, whenever and wherever they choose, and leave just as freely." ("Tradition Three" page 62)
- We should look out for things that might offend the suffering addict right out the door.
- All addicts deserve a Narcotics Anonymous fellowship they can take seriously.
- All addicts deserve a Narcotics Anonymous fellowship where they can feel safe.
- The bottom-line should always be, "do you want to stop using drugs?" Nothing else should ever get in the way of our Fellowship's availability to an addict who wants to get clean.
- Our message and our place in the world of addiction treatment -- "a policy of non-affiliation."
- NA is only one of many methods to address drug addiction.
- We should never represent Narcotics Anonymous as the only method, or even as the only method that works.
- We have no opinion, pro or con, about any other methods.
- We need to keep in mind that our method is not universally accepted in the treatment industry. In other words, the Twelve Steps are controversial in some circles.
- In spite of all this, we are still obligated to carry our message of recovery.
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 need for independence -- a background comparison.
- Alcoholics Anonymous.
- When AA began, they came out of a parent organization, the Oxford group. It was important for AA to break ties with this group, in part, because it was religious.
- As AA grew, a whole world of sobriety clubhouses, detox centers, and other related facilities sprang up along side the Fellowship.
- Outside organizations, such as churches and hospitals, also wanted to ride the coattails of AA's success -- can anyone blame them?
- In order to survive, AA had to remain separate, independent, and to stand or fall on their own merit.
- Narcotics Anonymous
- Before the beginning.
- AA's focus on alcoholism prevented many addicts from finding acceptance and recovery in AA.
- Documents show that groups called "Narcotics Anonymous" existed in the 1940's.
- These groups were probably very closely affiliated with the local AA community in spite of the AA philosophy.
- One of these groups survived and eventually became the Narcotics Anonymous Fellowship we know today.
- The early years.
- The first group of our present Fellowship was originally known as "AA for Addicts."
- In July 1953, the General Service Office of Alcoholics Anonymous informed this group that they were in violation of the AA Traditions and that AA is for alcoholics.
- The Alcoholics Anonymous Fellowship finally agreed to let us adapt the Twelve Steps and the Twelve Traditions as our own. Also, most NA groups used the AA Big Book until our "Basic Text" was published in the early 1980s.
- Ever since, people have been trying to offer "guidance" to our little Fellowship.
- Fortunately we, as a Fellowship, have been able to learn how to work our own program; to stand or fall on our own merits; and to learn from our own experiences.
- Most of our experiences with the Sixth Tradition have been in dealing with our relationship to the Fellowship of AA.
Little Brother: NA's unique approach to the Sixth Tradition
- We have had to spend vast amounts of energy trying to shake the stigma of being AA's little brother.
- Our beginnings as a virtual clone of the AA program.
- We adopted the AA Steps, Traditions, and philosophy almost verbatim.
- We used the AA Big Book up until the early 1980s.
- Most NA communities lean heavily on the local AA community at first.
- As they grow, local NA communities plug in to the worldwide NA community.
- Our differences in ideology.
- The limited scope of alcoholism, versus NA's understanding of drug addiction as being all-inclusive and nonspecific with respect to any particular drug.
- NA's history of taking the alternate position on many issues and quirks that are controversial within the AA Fellowship.
- Not everything AA does is universally accepted.
- Many NA members see aspects of our program as a reaction against -- or an alternative to -- the AA program. Some see NA as an opportunity to improve on, or "correct," problems and limitations they see in AA.
- Practicing the Sixth Tradition is how we came to such a unique understanding of the Sixth Tradition.
- We needed to break free of our ties to AA in order to grow -- just like the Sixth Tradition teaches us.
- By doing so, we found out what we need to do in order to:
- keep from repeating our own mistakes.
- keep from repeating some of AA's mistakes.
- develop our own unique approaches to recovery that work for us.
Every NA group ought to be fully self-supporting,
declining outside contributions.
("Oh, the Seventh Tradition! It's like the commercial,
when it's okay to chat with your neighbor.
Then, when the show comes back on,
we'll all sit down, be quiet again, and listen.")
- We pay our entire way, as groups, areas, regions, and worldwide.
- We don't accept discounts, favors, or freebies from those we do business with, or those we rent meeting space from.
- This not only applies to money matters but to such things as cleaning up after ourselves at the facilities we rent, etc.
- We don't want to owe anything to anyone -- we especially don't want to owe anyone our loyalty.
- Our most valuable asset is our reputation -- our good name.
- If we can demonstrate our independence and our sense of responsibility to the communities we deal with -- in other words, prove to them that our program works -- this credibility increases the likelihood that the members of the community will send other suffering addicts to us.
- Suppose a church regularly donates free meeting space to anyone that qualifies, and suppose we qualify. Should we turn them down?
- Suppose the bank gives free checking to any and all nonprofit organizations that open an account, what do we do? Lie? Keep the cash in a mattress? And what do we tell the IRS?
- A balance:
- The "free" meeting space is very common. The groups usually make a token donation to the organization that owns the space and call it rent. As long as the group has discussed any foreseeable problems, it usually works. If there's controversy, take another look at it. Many groups could never afford what it actually costs to hold meetings. The liability rider for one Portland group is $2,000 per year. Churches and other facilities have been known to keep this kind of information away from NA groups.
- As far as checking accounts (and anything else, for that matter), that's up to the group -- especially if it's the bank's policy. It's not like they're giving us special treatment for being an NA group. Just don't bounce any checks, and don't snap at the teller.
Giving and the principles of anonymity. (These principles apply to giving service work as well as to giving money.)
- "We are not interested in ... how much or how little you have." ("What Is The NA Program?" page 9)
- "No member is greater or lesser than any other member." ("Tradition Twelve" page 73)
- "We cannot afford to let our members contribute more than their fair share." ("Tradition Seven" page 69)
- This can lead to problems revolving around attitudes like:
- "The group owes me something in return for all I've given"
- (this can happen when the individual is having problems)
- "Because of all I've given, my opinion and my will is more important and more valid"
- (this can happen when the group is having problems)
- This can also lead to other problems like:
- the group becoming dependent on one person's continued support
- the group becoming the extension of one person's personality
- resentments and controversy that may cost us our credibility, our independence, our effectiveness, and could even cost us some valuable members
- Any group that cannot financially support itself, with the burden distributed equitably among the members, needs to seriously re-evaluate its right to exist.
- No member should ever endanger his or her own financial situation by giving to NA.
- This is not giving -- it is sheer insanity.
- NA service is about giving back what was freely given to us. What we lack is not something we can give back! [black text added February 10, 2002]
- There are many other ways to give if you feel you must carry your weight.
The Seventh Tradition is a Tradition -- it is not a Step!!
- We apply this principle when we join together to form a Narcotics Anonymous group.
- If you bring this principle to your personal life, that's your business.
- The work-ethic is an outside issue.
- Please don't use the Seventh Tradition as a weapon against unemployed and disabled NA members. Such members already suffer enough, and don't need added stigma when they walk into these rooms. [black text added February 10, 2002]
- Most of us are very grateful for whatever H.P. has given us.
- When we carry the principles of the Steps and Traditions beyond their obvious, intended meaning, we bring ourselves close to that "grey area," and we risk being controversial.
Narcotics Anonymous should remain
forever nonprofessional, but our service centers
may employ special workers.
- A drug addict does not pay to get help from Narcotics Anonymous.
- NA members do not get paid to help others in Narcotics Anonymous.
- We help each other in Narcotics Anonymous. We develop our own message and write our own literature -- a program for addicts, by addicts.
- The opportunity to help others is just as important to personal recovery as the chance to be helped by another.
- Helping each other benefits those doing the helping.
- "We can only keep what we have by giving it away." ("What Is The NA Program?" page 9)
- "We strengthen our own recovery when we share it with others who ask for help." ("What Can I do?" page 56)
- "Our experience shows that many personal problems are resolved when we get out of ourselves and offer to help those in need." ("What Can I Do?" page 56)
- "We learn that service to others will get us out of ourselves [and] helps us feel a part of the Fellowship." ("What Can I Do?" pages 54 & 55)
- "We have all found that after sharing with another recovering addict, we feel better." ("The Loner -- Staying Clean In Isolation" IP #21)
- "He was willing to follow his sponsor's example, though, and get involved in H&I in spite of his fears. Not only was he well received by the inmates, who he came to realize were just like himself (only they got caught), he was also revitalized in his recovery." ("Hospitals, Institutions, and the N.A. Member" IP #20)
- "Working with others in an institutional setting, if approached with respect for our steps and traditions, consistently enhances personal recovery." ("Hospitals, Institutions, and the N.A. Member" IP #20)
- Helping each other benefits those being helped.
- "The ultimate weapon for recovery is the recovering addict." ("Why Are We Here?" page 15)
- "We felt that now the addict would find from the start as much as each needed to convince himself that he could stay clean, by the example of others who had recovered for many years." ("We Do Recover" page 85)
- "Although our minds told us that we would never make it, the people in the Fellowship gave us hope by insisting that we could recover. ("Why Are We Here?" page 15)
- "Letting others share their experience with us gives us hope that it does get better." ("Recovery And Relapse" page 79)
- "Sharing with fellow addicts is a basic tool in our program. This help can only come from another addict. It is help that says, 'I have had something like that happen to me, and I did this...' ("What Can I do?" page 56)
- "It is beneficial to allow others in the group to help us. In time we will be able to pass on what we have been given." ("What Can I do?" page 54)
- Helping each other with mutual support -- for the sake of unity, with an attitude of humility, and in hope of a stronger fellowship that is that much better equipped to help all of us recover and stay clean.
- "It is the joy of watching a person who was struggling to make it suddenly, in the middle of helping another addict stay clean, become able to find the words needed to carry the message of recovery." ("Step Twelve" page 50)
- "Sponsorship is a two-way street. It helps both the newcomer and the sponsor." ("What Can I do?" page 55)
- "For the recovering addict, there is no substitute for the fellowship of others actively engaged in recovery." ("Staying Clean on the Outside" IP #23)
- "We feel that our approach to the disease of addiction is completely realistic for the therapeutic value of one addict helping another is without parallel." ("How It Works" page 18)
Employing special workers -- an extension of Tradition Seven
- We pay our bills for:
- We employ special workers
- The obvious:
- clerical workers
- some printing
- What may not seem so obvious to some:
- committee coordinators
- group services
- copy editors for conference-approved literature
- Current examples of the grey area to be discussed this year at the World Service Conference:
- The Hebrew translations:
- A group translated the "Basic Text" into Hebrew.
- We also paid someone to do this -- now we have two.
- Some people have a problem with this, and so we will bring the issue before the Conference.
- Writing the Daily Book
- Some think a paid worker is doing more than just correct the grammar.
- The Literature Committee claims everything is being done according to a method that was approved by the Conference.
- If the Conference did approve the method, then there is no reason for controversy.
Treatment professionals as NA members
- Some appear to be exploiting the Twelve Step programs in order to generate clientele.
- Expect a lot of discussion and no clear answers.
NA, as such, ought never be organized,
but we may create service boards or committees
directly responsible to those they serve.
(The only Tradition which the fellowship practices
with any degree of consistency.)
(Though it's the shortest Tradition write-up in the "Basic Text",
Tradition Nine is the second longest portion of this study.)
- "Basic Text": "In this Tradition, 'organized' means having management and control.... A loving God, as He may express Himself in our group conscience, is our ultimate authority." ("Tradition Eight" page 70)
- The Board of Trustees will propose a more thorough definition of what we mean by "organized" in January. This will be sent to the Fellowship for discussion as a part of Tradition Nine in It Works: How and Why.
- What "ought never be organized" does not mean:
- Not organized does not mean disorganized, as in disorderly.
- The meeting format helps us have orderly meetings.
- The delegated authority and responsibility of our service structure is clearly defined.
- Not organized does not mean inconsistent.
- Our reputation and our good name is, as I said, our greatest asset.
- The community is more likely to send suffering addicts to a group if it is consistent and reliable.
- Portland H&I Committee enjoys a reputation across the State as a serious, consistent, and trustworthy body.
- They are allowed inside the Justice Center.
- They serve Columbia Corrections, a State facility.
- They serve Sheridan, a Federal facility.
(You don't just up and get permission to work in these facilities.
It took years of diligent, dedicated, and error-free work by
scores of people to reach this state.)
- What "ought never be organized" does mean
- No hierarchy
- The pyramid of authority:
- The groups control the structure
- The structure serves the groups
Boards and Committees
- What we could not do alone
- delegation of responsibility to meet our needs
- delegation of the authority needed to carry out those responsibilities
- Directly responsible
- Groups control the services
- the Groups established the services
- the Groups support the services
- the Groups can withdraw support from the services
- Groups elect the servants
- If the servants cause harm, we all are responsible for their actions; after all, we elected them.
- There should always be a procedure for removing officers
- The Rules of Order
- A set of procedures designed to give us as accurate a representation of our collective opinion as possible.
- We agree to use these game-rules to make our decision-making process as fair as possible.
- Among other things, we need:
- Equal access
- Due process
- Guidelines for votes and quorums
- Redress of grievance
- Public disclosure
- When we all agree to make our decisions using a certain set of game-rules, then it is much easier to accept the outcome of our decisions.
Conferences, Committees and Subcommittees
- The structure of Narcotics Anonymous
- The levels of service:
- The NA member
- Members get together to form an NA group
- Groups get together to form an Area Service Committee
- Areas come together at the Regional Service Conference
- Regions come together at the World Service Conference
- Service Boards
- The World Service Conference established the Board of Trustees to advise us regarding our Twelve Traditions. Two-thirds of this Board are NA members, and one-third are non-addicts who help us is special matters. Any NA member may write the Board of Trustees with a question about the Twelve Traditions and how they apply to recovery or service. The Trustees discuss and answer each inquiry.
- A Service Board established to control a Service Center is usually called the Board of Directors. For several reasons, Service Centers must remain separate from the fellowship. The Board of Directors forms a corporation according to the laws, and members of the Board are mostly Narcotics Anonymous members.
The Fellowship of Narcotics Anonymous exists as the levels of service -- members, groups, areas, Regions, and the World Service Conference. The Service Centers, are established by Narcotics Anonymous (usually regions) and are directly responsible to Narcotics Anonymous. But the Service Centers are not, in themselves, part of the Narcotics Anonymous Fellowship.
- The branches (that actually do the work):
- Each level of service -- including the group -- may establish a subcommittee to carry out a particular aspect of our primary purpose. The subcommittee is always responsible to the body that formed it.
- Any entity -- group, committee, conference, board, or subcommittee -- may establish an ad hoc committee. This is a temporary body whose purpose is to accomplish one particular task. When that task is completed, the ad hoc committee dissolves.
- The Subcommittees and their responsibilities:
- Public Information:
- I call PI the "desert island" subcommittee. If you only have the resources to form one subcommittee, Public Information is the one to form. Every other responsibility can be construed as belonging to PI's jurisdiction.
- With a full set of subcommittees, though, "the role of PI is to ensure that clear and accurate information about NA is available to the public." (PI and the NA Member IP #15) PI often, but not always, produces the meeting directory.
- In small areas, where the phone is an answering machine with meeting information, this is handled by PI.
- Any time you have volunteers taking calls, they should be trained to handle the circumstances that arise when suffering addicts (and others) call the NA Hotline for help. This is when a Phoneline Committee is necessary.
- Hospitals and Institutions is like PI, except H&I takes meetings to addicts and NA members who cannot otherwise get to a meeting because they are locked in an institution.
- The main point of Literature is to maintain a stockpile of NA literature and supplies and make it available to the groups they serve. When there is a Service Center this task, obviously, is delegated to the Center.
- Another important responsibility of Literature is to make the literature development process available to the NA members that the committee serves. Since literature development is secondary to literature distribution, it is being thought of more and more as the responsibility of Regional Literature Committees. I disagree with this trend, and strongly believe that our literature should be something we all have contributed to. My home group hosts literature review workshops each month.
- Activities organizes events for addicts to get together with each other and have fun in recovery.
- Activities also organizes fund raising events.
Narcotics Anonymous has no opinion on
outside issues; hence the NA name ought
never be drawn into public controversy.
- Any time we do something out of the ordinary, we may appear controversial. This is when we need to take a close look at our motives and our actions.
- Controversy is always a matter of appearance, because controversy is all in the mind -- all in the way people see things.
- This does not stop controversy from taking a very fierce toll on our Fellowship. The effects of controversy are very real.
- Sectarian religion
- Not so obvious, but understandable:
- Other methods of addressing addiction
- The legalization of marijuana, peyote, etc.
- Grey Area: "As close as it gets"
- Should people stop taking drugs?
- Is NA the best method?
Outside issues and the other Traditions
- This Tradition is related to the principles in Tradition Five
because anything other than our message could be seen, by some, as an outside issue.
- This Tradition is related to the principles in Tradition Six
because outside issues are usually connected to some cause, and taking sides will divert us from our primary purpose.
- This Tradition is related to the principles in Tradition Eleven
because our neutrality is crucial to our policy of attraction.
- This Tradition is related to the principles in Tradition Three because any appearance of bias on our part could drive a suffering addict right out the door.
- This Tradition is related to the principles in Tradition One
because sometimes our most powerful source of unity is the absence of controversy; and unity is our greatest source of personal recovery in NA.
- This Tradition is related to the principles in Tradition Twelve
because outside issues can be a source of identity and also a source of division. When we develop the humility to stop wearing our outside issues as "masks", it is easier to see that "no member is greater or lesser than any other member." ("Tradition Twelve" page 73)
Where we draw the line
- It is the Narcotics Anonymous Fellowship that has no opinion on outside issues; this does not apply to the individual NA member.
- The only requirement is the desire to stop using. We are not required to abandon our personal or social convictions.
- Many NA members develop very strong personal and social convictions as a result of working our program.
- One addict's outside issue is another addict's key to recovery.
- Drawing the line at various levels of service:
- We are very careful to avoid opinionated writing in our literature and other public statements.
- H&I committee members are encouraged to stick very close to the NA message, including avoiding the use of drug-specific language.
- Groups are encouraged to "conduct meetings that provide an atmosphere in which NA recovery can be effectively shared between addicts." ("The Group Booklet")
Tradition Ten does not limit what I am allowed to share in an NA meeting
- "We feel totally free to express ourselves within the Fellowship..." ("What Is The NA Program?" page 11)
- "Meetings keep us in touch with where we've been, but more importantly with where we could go in our recovery." ("What Can I Do?" page 54)
- "We respond to honest sharing and listen to the stories of our members for the message of recovery." ("What Is the NA Program?" page 10)
- "Addiction is a physical, mental, and spiritual disease that affects every area of our lives." ("Step One" page 20)
- "As our recovery progresses, spiritual principles touch every area of our lives." ("Step Twelve " page 50)
Freedom and trust
- We are, as individuals, responsible for contributing to an atmosphere of recovery while at NA meetings.
- This is part of our Twelfth Step -- part of our personal program of recovery.
- This ensures that newcomers have a greater chance of hearing a message they can take seriously.
- If we try to restrict what people can say at meetings
- We don't give people the freedom to do their own growing.
- We don't give the Fellowship credit for its ability to change people's lives.
- We could cut ourselves off from the chance of hearing something that may someday save our lives.
Our public relations policy is based
on attraction rather than promotion;
we need always maintain personal anonymity
at the level of press, radio, and films.
- "I know our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion, but what about all those television commercials for Narcotics Anonymous?"
- 1. Read the Handbook for Public Information Committees
- 2. Call your area PI Chairperson
- 3. Join the area PI Committee
- 4. Stay there long enough to be elected PI Chairperson and...
- 5. Join the Regional PI Committee
- 6. Get elected by your Region to join the World PI Committee
- 7. Work on the production of a public service message that distills the essence of your story of recovery
- 8. Get elected to the Board of Trustees
- 9. Answer dozens of letters each month from recovering addicts asking about those damn television commercials for Narcotics Anonymous.
- Our PI policy is defined by the PI committee.
Attraction rather than promotion
- Our method of recovery works best when the addict makes up his or her own mind about his or her drug problem. We do not diagnose drug addiction for anyone but our individual selves.
Anonymity is the spiritual foundation
of all our traditions, ever reminding us
to place principles before personalities.
- When I was a newcomer, I thought we said, "Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions" so that we could tell how new someone was by the way they pronounced anonymity.
- Later, as I got involved in service work, I heard a newcomer say, "Animosity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions." I think he hit the nail on the head with that one.
- Down the road, as my life began to stabilize and my interests began to expand, another newcomer said, "Anatomy is the spiritual foundation." Once again, I could relate!
- Humility is voluntary
- Humiliation is enforced
- Some groups say, "What is said here, let it stay here."
- I say, "If you don't want it repeated, don't say it in an NA meeting!"
Principles before personalities
- Don't beat each other up with principles!!
- Don't forget the people!!!
Definition of Anonymity:
- "No member is greater or lesser than any other member." ("Tradition Twelve" page 73)
the spiritual foundation
of each of our traditions
(a poem, of sorts)
"this shows how tradition twelve relates
to each of the other traditions:
i wrote this at 4:30 this morning"
| ||Tradition One
- No member is greater or lesser than any other member -- including me.
- When I practice humility, I look out for myself by helping others; and I look out for others by helping myself.
- No member is greater or lesser than any other member -- so together we look to God for our guidance.
- When I practice humility, the decision itself is less important than how well we carry it out.
- No member is greater or lesser than any other member -- so no one is more or less qualified to be here.
- When I practice humility, I don't need to judge anything about you.
By trusting you, myself, the program, and Higher Power; we can get down to the business of recovery.
- No member is greater or lesser than any other member -- and the same thing applies to groups too.
- When I practice humility, I recognize that everyone is unique, no one is special, and no one is insignificant.
We all have our place, and we are each responsible for our own recovery.
- No member is greater or lesser than any other member -- although it is the newcomer who is probably most in need of our time, effort and attention.
- When I practice humility, I trust that they, too, will soon stabilize and become one of us in the spirit of anonymity.
- No member is greater or lesser than any other member -- but as a Fellowship we stand alone and self-contained.
- When I practice humility I respect the independence of a Fellowship that allows its members the freedom to truly place principles before personalities.
- No member is greater or lesser than any other member -- so we distribute our burden between us.
- When I practice humility, I let each member contribute what they can. Then the Fellowship belongs to everyone.
- No member is greater or lesser than any other member -- we each help each other.
- When I practice humility I can trust that whoever is there when I am most in need is qualified to help me.
- No member is greater or lesser than any other member -- we have no authority figures except God.
- When I practice humility I recognize that only "positions" we have are that of Servant.
And by serving each other, we help ourselves.
- No member is greater or lesser than any other member -- and our ultimate expression of this fact is our neutrality.
- When I practice humility I no longer stand out as a member within the Fellowship, just as the Fellowship does not stand out within society.
- No member is greater or lesser than any other member -- so my own reputation is not really that important.
- When I practice humility I don't need to take credit for my words or deeds.
- No member is greater or lesser than any other member -- that is our definition of anonymity.
- When I practice humility I can admit that this one really stumped me.
How does Tradition Twelve relate to Tradition Twelve, anyway?