We Do Recover: Part 2

Part 1

Part 2:

Hope On the Horizon

Alcoholics Anonymous history is relevant to the history of Narcotics Anonymous but we will not re-hash it at length here.  Without AA, there would be no NA.

The Grapevine

The Big Book

In 1939 AA published its Big Book and years later Bill W. (co-founder Bill Wilson) published a series of articles in a periodical called The Grapevine (which still exists today).  These writings brought about the Twelve Traditions:

  1. Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon A.A. unity.
  2. 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.
  3. The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking.
  4. Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or A.A. as a whole.
  5. Each group has but one primary purpose—to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.
  6. An A.A. group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the A.A. name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.
  7. Every A.A. group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.
  8. Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever non-professional, but our service centers may employ special workers.
  9. A.A., as such, ought never be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.
  10. Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the A.A. name ought never be drawn into public controversy.
  11. 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.
  12. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.

The formation of AA and the development of the steps and traditions were necessary for the miracle of the formation of NA.

“In a 1954 article in The Saturday Evening Post there is mention of a recovering alcoholic named Houston S who received a job transfer to Kentucky in 1947.  Houston had sobered up in Montgomery, Alabama, AA in 1944.  One of the drunks he tried to help, a man called Harry,was using morphine as well as alcohol.  Although Harry had stopped drinking, he was unable to stop using morphine.  He was eventually arrested and committed to Lexington for mandatory treatment.

When Houston was transferred to a town near Lexington, he was reminded of his friend Harry and his drug problem, and felt that the principles which worked so well for alcoholics in AA could help the addicts.  Houston met with the medical director, Dr. Victor Vogel, and suggested that the AA model may work for addicts as well, offering to help start a group.  On February 16, 1947, the Narco Group, a group of inmates and patients, met for the first time at the Federal Narcotics Farm in Lexington, Kentucky.  One of the addicts who attended these first meetings was an addict named Danny Carlsen” (p. 18).

Obituary for Daniel L. Carlsen

At the same time in 1946 in New York, Dorothy Berry, a brigadier in The  Salvation Army, started working with addicts.  Danny Carlsen, who had been attending meetings of the Narco Group in Lexington was discharged and returned to New York.

In 1948 Danny Carlsen, Dorothy Berry, and Rae Lopez started a group in the NYC Prison System called Narcotics Anonymous.  Danny Carlsen eventually wrote a book called The Addict.

The first meeting outside of a prison took place in 1950 at a YMCA in New York City.  The group developed 13 Steps of their own and never adopted the Traditions:

1. Admit the use of narcotics made my life seem more tolerable but the drug had become an undesirable power over my life.

2. Came to realize that to face life without drugs I must develop an inner strength.

3. Made a decision to face the suffering of withdrawal.

4. Learn to accept my fears without drugs.

5. Find someone who had progressed thus far and who is able to assist me.

6. Admit to the nature and depth of my addiction.

7. Realized the seriousness of my shortcomings as I know them and accept the responsibility of facing them.

8. Admit before a group of NA members these same shortcomings and explain why I am trying to overcome them.

9. List for my own understanding all the persons I have hurt.

10. Take a daily inventory of my actions and admit to myself those that are contrary to good conscience.

11. Realize that to maintain freedom from drugs, I must share with others the experience in which I have benefited.

12. Determine a purpose in life and try with all the spiritual and physical power within me to move toward its fulfillment.

13. God help me.

The book The Junkie Priest was based on Father Daniel Egan, a NYC priest, who served as chaplain for these NA meetings

The group’s structure was similar to that of the Salvation Army.  There was a captain, director, and a chaplain (p. 19).  Besides detoxifying addicts they also worked to find addicts jbs and housing.  This version of NA survived until 1960 in locales where it could be sponsored by the Salvation Army.

The Early Years

Most people in the 1950s were enjoying the postwar boom years, listening to Elvis, watching the tv (a new invention), and living the American Dream.

The “Beat Generation” was a growing group of underground radicals who were anti-authoritarian and were characterized by their use of marijuana and methamphetamines.  They set the stage for the revolution of the youth in the 60s.

“Writers like Jack Kerouac and Alan Ginsberg, reacting against the growing surge of consumer capitalism in the U.S., would set the tone for a later generation’s call to “turn on, tune in, and drop out” (p.21).

In 1951 the Boggs Act and in 1956 the Narcotics Control Act imposed harsher penalties on addicts.

A mass migration of African-Americans from the Southern U.S. and Hispanics from Puerto Rico, the Carribbean Islands, and Central and S. America to northern and western cities occured after WW2. As European immigrants were moving out of the cities, Hispanics and African-Americans were moving in.  They moved into areas with preexisting problems with narcotics addiction and trafficking.  I emphasize preexisting so that no one will misunderstand the true nature of how African-Americans and Hispanics began to get such a bad rap and how wrong it is to assume that they are the problem.  They began replacing the European addict statistically (p. 21).  “Thus, the continuing stigmatization of addicts and their drugs of abuse now even further reflected class and ethnic biases within the community” (p. 21).

Fear of marijuana began in the 30s with movies like Reefer Madness.  People were told that

1936 film Reefer Madness, originally called Tell Your Children

marijuana use would certainly lead to heroin use.  Few measures were taken to treat the increasing use of heroin in post-WW2 America.  For example, Riverside Hospital for adolescent addicts was opened in New York.  It quickly closed after a study showing that less than 3% were abstinent.  This 3% were never even addicted in the first place.  They had been arrested on narcotics charges and chose hospitalization (p. 23).

AA was flourishing on the sidelines and alcoholics were finding sobriety and new lives and recovery in the rooms.  “It was through the hope that was at last being found by the suffering alcoholic that similar hope for addicts would begin to appear” (p. 23).

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1 Comment

  1. Reread what anonymity in the program is really about, “The Eleventh Tradition tells us that, when we engage in public relations activity, we are to speak simply and directly of what Narcotics Anonymous is and what we do. We are not to make exaggerated claims about NA (It Works: How and Why pg. 150)”. You are probably the 100 millionth person that I have heard feel the need to bitch about not being able to control someone else’s behavior in the program as it relates to “personal anonymity”. Why don’t you concentrate on your own program and not what someone else is doing? I find that those who constantly obsess about what someone else is doing in the program are not as immediately successful as those who realize they are powerless over other people, places, and things.

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