Written By: Fiona Stockard
The Basic Text Broken Down – Part Two
Narcotics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who help each other recover from drug and alcohol addiction. It was founded in July of 1953, just celebrated its sixty-first anniversary, and boasts over 60,000 meetings worldwide.
NA’s central literature is the Basic Text. With a sponsor, the Basic Text, and a workbook, NA members work the twelve steps. Through working these steps, NA members learn that “Just for today, you never have to use again!” (xxiii)
Today, we’re going to examine Chapter Two of the Basic Text, “What is The Narcotics Anonymous Program?” This chapter breaks down exactly what NA is and, more importantly, what NA isn’t.
What is The Narcotics Anonymous Program?
The chapter opens with italicized text, which is read at the start of most NA meetings. In this text, it states, “This is a program of abstinence from all drugs” (9).
Many addicts, upon deciding to get clean, think they can still drink alcohol. This isn’t the case at all. In order to recover from addiction, we must abstain from all drugs, even alcohol. That’s right, folks, booze is a drug!
One of the things that kept me away from twelve-step programs for such a long time was my idea that they were these complicated, impractical, old-timey groups. Turns out I was wrong. NA declares, “Our program is a set of principals written so simply that we can follow them in our daily lives” (9).
Okay, I could wrap my head around a simple set of principals. Once I learned they were about god though, I again got skittish. “Maybe I don’t really need help,” I thought, while nodding off. Of course I needed help! I was just scared.
Fear not, NA addresses this reservation as well. “Though the principals of the Twelve Steps may seem strange to us at first, the most important thing about them is that they work” (12).
Well, I couldn’t deny my way of living was pretty crappy. Happy and well-adjusted people don’t normally end up homeless! If NA claimed to have a better way, and thousands of addicts in meetings backed this claim up, I was willing to give it a try.
The chapter goes on to lay out exactly what NA isn’t interested in hearing you share in meetings. “We are not interested in what or how much you used or who your connections were, what you have done in the past, how much of how little you have, but only in what you want to do about your problem and how we can help” (9).
You mean I can go to meetings and not have to worry about hearing a thousand war stories? My experience was that meetings were a place to talk about how much dope I did and how crappy my life is now. When I read this shouldn’t be, and wasn’t always, the case, I got a glimmer of hope.
So, if meeting aren’t for groaning and moaning about living a clean life, what are they for? This chapter says, “Our primary purpose is to stay clean and to carry the message to the addict who still suffers” (10).
This made a lot of sense to me. My primary purpose in life was now to stay clean. Hell, staying clean was already my main goal! How do I manage to stay clean? By passing this message of recovery to still suffering addicts.
There’s an important distinction to be made here. The recovering addict’s primary purpose is to carry the message, not offer therapy, money, or anything else. NA makes this abundantly clear by stating, “NA does not provide counseling or social services” (11).
This is important. NA isn’t a treatment center. They’re not a therapy group. They’re not a place to get advice on your marriage. Narcotics Anonymous is a twelve-step fellowship, devoted to helping addicts recover from a seemingly hopeless condition.
In fact, the chapter ends by echoing this idea. It reads, “Many books have been written about the nature of addiction. This book concerns itself with the nature of recovery” (12).
Much like AA’s Big Book, the Basic Text isn’t about addiction. Rather, it’s a vehicle to spread the message of Narcotic Anonymous. It’s a vehicle to spread hope to every addict.