Narcotics Anonymous Way of Life

~ 2012 Form ~

History and Origins


"What about the program that operates among addicts employing the same 12 Steps as AA?" This question was addressed to a Mr. William Wilson at the Yale Summer School for Alcohol and Drugs. His response evades the question but since the publication date would be after the Summer School, it took place in 1944. This is the earliest date we have referring to the beginnings of a 12 Step Fellowship for addicts.

(Page 472 Alcohol, Science and Society, C. 1945 Journal of Studies on Alcohol.)


"In 1947 an organization patterned after Alcoholics Anonymous was founded by patients of the federal hospital at Lexington. The founders called it Addicts Anonymous, and got help in getting started from members of an Alcoholics Anonymous chapter in a nearby town. The organization has the same basic principles of mutual help in warding off the threat of relapse governing the original AA group, which has scored impressive successes in saving many former alcoholics from falling off the wagon. Chapters of Addicts Anonymous have been established in several large cities. All ex-addicts are welcomed as members. So far, the results have been most promising." [U.S. Public Health Service - Public Affairs Pamphlet #186, September, 1952 - (Section entitled Addicts Anonymous on page 29)]*

Much time and energy has been spent in researching and documenting our origins. Danny Carlson in the late Forties and Jimmy Kinnon in the early Fifties surely played a role. Yet, isn't it obvious that NA is still being ‘founded’ today? Jimmy K. called himself a co-founder because he realized that we are all in this together. No single person is responsible for anything that happens in NA. Much of the recovery process is about getting away from seeing ourselves as separate and apart from our fellow recovering addicts. None of us wants to take the credit for God's miracle. Nearly everyone who reads this material has played some role in founding their local Fellowship. We are all founders and the only important thing about this is our gratitude and the experience that we have to share with others. The power of a loving God has found a way for us to stay alive long enough to get the basics of recovery. NA began when the first two addicts seeking recovery got together and found they could stay clean through their common desire. Only God knows where and when this occurred. Many say, "If NA did not exist, someone would have to invent it." This is what happened again and again. Some had ties with other efforts and some did not but they all deserve our respect and gratitude. If we go back far enough, we will find the future and the means to change it. Perhaps it is easier to see the principles when we do not know the personalities.

Another name has been added to the list of those who played key roles in the early days. This is Houston Sewell from Montgomery, Alabama. He went north in the late 1940's to Lexington, Kentucky to see what could be done about carrying a message of recovery utilizing the ‘new Twelve Step method.’ As of yet, we are unaware that anyone has come forward and claimed to have been the founder of what we know today as Narcotics Anonymous. Until a few years ago, Jimmy K was thought to be the only acknowledged 'cofounder' of Narcotics Anonymous. Since then, other names like Daniel Carlson have come to light. Many, many members have played a role in the founding NA, as we know it. The intense pressure out in the 'world' to spawn and operate addiction related organizations such as the criminal justice system and treatment facilities couples with the reluctance of recovering addicts to 'feed their sick egos' makes it real hard for the 'truth' to come out.

This may lack the clarity that ‘a fearless leader’ could give us. The blessing is that we also lack many of the limitations that are incumbent with individual leadership. Somehow, we get what we need - when we need it. God always seems to be on time. Thanks Jimmy! Thanks Daniel! Thanks Houston! Thanks to all you early members!

* The Saturday Evening Post - These Drug Addicts Cure One Another -_ By Jerome Ellison - August 7,1954 (page 22)

"In June of that year an inebriate mining engineer whom we'll call Houston `hit bottom' with his drinking in Montgomery, Alabama, and the local AA's dried him up. Houston gobbled the AA program and began helping other alcoholics. One of the drunks he worked with_____, a sales executive who can be called Harry was involved not only with alcohol but also morphine. AA took care of the alcoholic factor, but left Harry's drug habit unchanged. Interested and baffled, Houston watched his new friend struggle in his strange self-constructed trap.

The opiate theme of the narrative now reappears. Harry's pattern had been a roaring drunk, take morphine to avoid a hangover, get drunk again and take morphine again. Thus he became "hooked", addicted. He drove through a red light one day and was stopped by a policeman. The officer found morphine and turned him over to the Federal jurisdiction, with the result that Harry spent twenty-seven months at Lexington, where both voluntary and involuntary patients are accommodated, as a prisoner. After his discharge he met Houston, and, through AA found relief from the booze issue. The drug problem continued to plague him.

During this period, Houston, through one of those coincidences which AA's like to attribute to a Higher Power, was transferred by his employers to Frankfort, Kentucky, just a few miles from Lexington. "Harry's troubles kept jumping through my brain," Houston says. "I was convinced that the twelve Suggested Steps would work as well for drugs as for alcohol if conscientiously applied. One day I called on Dr. V. H. Vogel, the medical officer then in charge at Lexington. I told him of our work with Harry and offered to assist in starting a group in the hospital. Doctor Vogel accepted the offer and on Feb. 16,1947, the first meeting was held. Weekly meetings have been going on ever since."

"In further research by members of NA who live in "Houston's" home town of South Boston, Virginia, we come to find that his name really was Houston. Actually, it was Houston Sewell. His niece, who is well aware of what she calls "my uncle the founder of Narcotics Anonymous", has spoken to my sponsee on the subject in depth. Apparently Houston moved to Lexington for a job there and having tried to help his friend in Montgomery, Alabama get off morphine, he wouldn't let the idea go. The idea being that addicts could use the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and stay clean. He took this idea to Dr. Vogel who as stated above was the director of the only place addicts could go to detox in America in the 1940's. This was the Federal Detox Facility in Lexington, Kentucky. It is here that the very first documented seeds of addicts using the AA 12 steps for recovery was ever mentioned." - From a member in Virginia.

This Lexington Group, known early on as Addicts Anonymous, held regularly scheduled meetings and even sent out newsletters to members who left the facility and went back home. This newsletter, called "The Key" holds a very firm place in the foundation of NA as we know it. The minutes of the very first business meetings to start NA made direct reference to said newsletter. "Our purpose, taken from the Key, is to stay clean... etc etc etc.." The Key they referred to is this very same newsletter from Lexington and probably latter from the newer Detox in Ft Worth, TX, which was sending addicts back to Los Angeles and surrounding areas with the same seeds of 12 step recovery for addicts that were patterned in the Lexington Detox.

From this original Lexington Detox, a man named Danny Carlson who went through Lexington nine times, finally surrendered to the program and got clean. He went back to NYC and started something in late 1949 or thereabouts, known as Narcotics Anonymous. He and his sidekick/sponsee a woman named Ray Lopez maintained several meetings a week, I believe three, and even got the first H&I meeting going at Rikers Island. "This quote is from Time, May 1951, so it may be May 1950. Now, on the first anniversary of Narcotics Anonymous, Danny could report on about 80 addicts who had tried mutual-aid, group therapy. Six had stayed drug-free for a year or more; five more have been free for a shorter time. Ten are known to have slipped back into the habit; so, probably, have most of the 60 who cannot be traced.

Numerically, it was a small beginning. But the group in Manhattan (and others being formed in Chicago, Los Angeles and Vancouver) offered new hope to men who had suffered the agonies of withdrawal at Lexington or at the similar P.H.S. hospital at Fort Worth….."

The problems that may have plagued this small NA group were generally addressed in latter years when AA wrote the 12 traditions. This group did a lot of social welfare type working, getting clothes and shelter for addicts, helping them find employment etc. The had a Board of Trustees with Major Berry and Father Dan Eagan on it, but sadly no addicts were allowed to be on this Board.

Danny passed away with cancer after a few years and this left the fellowship in the hands of Ray Lopez - a dedicated member herself. Ray even got an office donated for Narcotics Anonymous which was in the same space as the Narcotics Division for NY City. The group faded away, and once the Rockefeller laws came into effect in NYC, that was the death knoll. It was illegal for addicts to congregate in the city. The interesting thing is that when the law was finally repealed, the 13th World Convention of Narcotics Anonymous, the largest congregation of addicts on the East Coast of America was held in the World Trade Center in the Wall Street District of NYC owned by none other than Mr. Rockefeller.

Writing about any history is in some ways an exercise in writing speculative fiction. There will always be the problem of sketchy and uncertain facts. Interpretation will limit the perception of historical events for people who did not live the experience. Even among actual participants, honest disagreements of recollection and viewpoint will occur. Those involved in the wonderfully complicated process of our evolution from using to regaining health and being more human will have different views on the same event. If this were to be simply an evolution of events, it would be simple to write and quickly accomplished. There is, however, a story that is more demanding. We hope that we have captured some of the difficulty as well as the excitement of the birth and growth of the largest source of help for the drug addict on the planet today.

Bill Wilson and the members at that time originated the Twelve Steps in 1939. We owe these alcohol addicts a deep debt of gratitude for having the courage and vision to formulate a recipe for recovery from addiction to alcohol. We have used their recipe with our own ingredients and we share a cake that we baked ourselves in our own kitchen with our own ingredients. If our methods had failed to keep us clean, there would be no question of founders. We would find it hard to ask these questions from our graves. Certainly, we need our sense of integrity and we have paid an awesome price to stand on our own as ‘a program of recovery from addiction.’ The long hard struggle for addicts to be able to live clean lives began some time ago and many good people paid a part of the price which has resulted in our being able to live clean today. That is of importance to many of us. More than anything else, we are grateful to these men and women. They endured struggles that we can only imagine. A handful of them may still be alive today but many have probably died feeling like their contribution was in vain! They had problems such as being arrested as they walked out of the door after a meeting as well as strong support from a few but indifference from the many. They have each made a contribution that encouraged others to carry on and helped them do so.

From the earliest of times, the members of NA had to fend for themselves. Against the pitfalls of addiction, we had to provide for our needs. We have photocopied material and done everything within our power to make our message available to addicts though writing, personal visits and any other methods available. There has never been a serious instance of intrusion from the outside. With our Twelve Steps in place for twenty years by the early Seventies, we have to wonder why it took so long to grow. One possible explanation is because personal initiative is somehow bound to be egotistical. What kind of egotism is it to criticize someone that is trying to help? Without willing instruments, even God must wait. Fear of personal criticism should not be allowed to block our way. Even today with all the growth and progress in NA, we sometimes have to wait for a long time for some simple needs to be met.

There were addicts trying to stay clean through the Twelve Steps in the early Forties. Already mentioned were the efforts to form something called Narcotics Anonymous as early as 1948. There are Saturday Evening Post articles on NA from the early Fifties. There are mentions of these efforts in several books and magazine articles. Brigadier General Dorothy Berry of the Salvation Army apparently played a strong supportive role to help meetings get started in New York City in the late 1940's. In 1947 Dorothy Berry provided meeting space for a group in a room at the Manhattan men's social center. In 1948 she offered Danny Carlson a room on Tuesday and Fridays in the Salvation Army building at 535 W. 48th Street . Danny relapsed & re-entered Lexington on The Narcotics Farm for his 8th & final time.

While he was there that time, he started attending the Addicts Anonymous meetings who's philosophy was based on the 12 Steps of A.A. Upon release started talking with other Alumni of Lexington & based on the 12 Step made a decision to restart what's known as Narcotics Anonymous, Many references to AA in the Lexington files refer to Addicts Anonymous, confusing many readers. The name is attributed to a man named Charles "Chuck" McGee .The Salvation Army made room for a meeting at it's 46 Street cafeteria.

Later the Mc Burney YMCA on 23 Street offered a meeting room where meetings were held twice a week . On February 25 1951 Danny Carlson incorporated the name & movement Narcotics Anonymous, Inc . Later that year a Booklet called "Our Way of Life - an Introduction to N.A."was published at the Rikers Island print shop inmate vocational training.

There were meetings in at the Federal Prison at Angola in Louisiana. Ft. Worth was another prison site that shared what was known of recovery at the time. Early meetings took place in Cleveland, Ohio and parts of eastern Pennsylvania. Meetings in Wilkes-Barre and Scranton endured through the late 1970's when NA again began to grow in the East. In 1953, there was an effort to start a new meeting in faraway Sun Valley, California. It would be unkind and inaccurate to leave out any of these efforts that contributed to what we know as NA today.

All these meetings are noteworthy. All played a role and none can judge with certainty which were 'better' than others. We can not even agree on meetings today! What works for some, may not work for others. What worked then was definitely different from what works today. The miracle is that the effort was made. In the Fifties, a man named Cy Melas was active along with Jimmy K. and others in Los Angeles, California. Cy was in touch with the NA Fellowship back East in Lexington and New York. These meetings may have survived in Eastern Pennsylvania or they may have died out. There were conflicts. Two hard heads with different experiences were bound to see things differently. Free addicts in an open atmosphere of recovery conflict so that more can be known. The fears of disapproval and inflicting injury are part of the jungle that lives outside the door of NA. The Twelve Steps of NA allow for correction of character defects and a process of making amends. Enforced indoctrination will never be a real part of Narcotics Anonymous. Eyewitnesses gave accounts of addicts being arrested leaving NA meetings. Others related stories of addicts going to other Fellowships, and having to sit in the back of the room for years, never being allowed to share. Amazingly, there are members among us today from these 'olden times.'

Very important was the publication of an early form of the White Booklet put together by the NA members in Southern California in Los Angeles. It was printed in the early fifties, perhaps 1954. This served our Fellowship as our literature until well into the early seventies. No other known literature has survived from the Eastern meetings except for a newsletter publication called the Key, a newsletter put out from the meetings at Lexington. In 1959, there was a week or two when no known meetings took place in Los Angeles. This was not the result of members resigning from NA. Each member had a good excuse, out of town convention, vacation and whatever, they had one thing in common: they were sure the other members would be there and take care of the meeting. This is actually one of the most significant things in our entire history because it triggered basic change. No more could anyone say it would work out on its own. A few members took personal responsibility and the results have been continuous meetings since then. Personal responsibility, sharing our experiences in recovery from our disease, and the willingness to do our part to help make it better for others are probably the three big building blocks for our entire Fellowship. Hope, faith personal commitment and self-less action resulted in slow but steady growth. In the mid-sixties, the White Booklet was expanded and stories were added to the back section. We were called a ‘hip pocket program’ because you could get our entire written message in your purse or back pocket.

Out of the time when NA ceased to meet in LA, the Parent Service Board was formed in the sixties to insure that there would never be a time when NA ceased to meet again. By the end of the Sixties, this Board had changed its name to the ‘Board of Trustees’ or the World Service Board (WSB). According to Greg Pierce who got clean in LA in 1970, there were twenty known meetings in the world. The World Service Office (WSO) was in Bob B's home downstairs and was later moved to the trunk of a car. After that, it found its address for the Seventies in a side room of Jimmy Kinnons home. The members of the Board of Trustees agreed to pay some on the rent but Jimmy K. bore most of the burden himself. The first World Convention of NA (WCNA) was held in 1971 in Southern California. It has continued to meet since then annually until the 1990's. Much of the early ‘business of NA’ was dealt with at the World Convention in the late 70's, particularly the newly formed World Service Conference. There were only three Regional Service Committees until well into the 1980's. In 1996, the World Convention went to a two-year rotation. Today, our 'business' is dealt with every two years at the World Service Conference and discussions are held at 'zonal forums' with no voting.

Terrific growth marked the Seventies and the Eighties. Friendliness and openness works. In 1973, work began on what would become the NA Tree, our first service structure. This was approved by the Board of Trustees (WSB or BOT) for use in 1975. In 1976, the first meeting of the World Service Conference (WSC) was held at the World Convention in Southern California. Its first act was to approve the NA Tree as its structural document. Several members have pointed out the humorous irony of the Conference approving the document that created it. In 1977, the second World Service Conference was held at the World Convention in San Francisco, California. Only one Regional Service Representative (RSR) showed up for the Conference, the one from Southern California. The RSR from Northern California did not make it. There were only those two regions at the time. Members showed up from Texas and Atlanta and the World Convention began to move all around the country until it began to be held overseas. The next World Convention was held in Houston, Texas. The WSC continued to meet in Southern California, at Valley College near Sun Valley.

The WSO continued to grow. Thousands of recovering addicts from around the country began to get the phone number and whenever there was a new meeting or trouble, a call went to Jimmy K., now the WSO manager. In the mid-seventies, there were only two hundred meetings in the world. Work on the Basic Text grew out of the WSC and the general interest from the growing Fellowship. The new service structure allowed a 'structurally correct' way for members to get involved without risking relapse that sometimes followed excessive personal involvement with projects. Over-involvement was considered a possible opening to self-will. The first World Literature Conference was held in Wichita, Kansas. It produced the Handbook for NA Literature Committees that was approved by the 1980 WSC. Input was collected and processed in open participatory Literature Conferences. The sites of these conferences were: Wichita, Kansas; Lincoln, Nebraska; Memphis, Tennessee; Santa Monica, California; Warren, Ohio; Miami, Florida; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Monthly letters went to a list of participants that grew to include two thousand NA members. These members who wrote the Basic Text also founded thousands of meetings all over the Fellowship. They backed up the structure and the structure backed them up. The book was approved in 1982 as the result of a ‘motion to approve’ made by the RSR from Las Vegas, Nevada. It was published as a hardback in 1983 and presented at the WSC. By the end of the decade, over one million copies had been sold. The number of meetings swelled to over twenty thousand.

The publication of our Basic Text allowed for a revolution of immense importance to our young Fellowship. Suddenly there was money in World Services, a lot of money. This put pressure on those entrusted to serve us at the world level in two ways. There was more to do and more to do with, yet the scale was balanced by the problems of money, property and prestige that were no longer a matter of program rhetoric. An office that grossed less than ten thousand dollars the year before the literature movement began in 1979 was now bearing the strain of millions of dollars. The strain alone created problems. They say there is a blessing in every difficulty and a curse in every blessing. Certainly, our radical, accelerated growth resulted in some painful disillusionment. Too often, personalities pushed aside principles to get in on the action. The emptiness of these apparent victories is vivid in hindsight. Those who did not give way to the fear and justifications of the moment are still with us today while others fell by the wayside. If you ever feel these strains, start talking about them with your sponsor and home group. The fresh air of discussion usually kills the fungus of self_will when it starts to make us believe that we run the show!

Hiring people to replace volunteer workers at strategic points of service created the potential for conflicts that were not foreseen or thought of as being possible by the leadership at the time. These professionals should be trained to avoid conflicting with Fellowship procedures. This period of discomfort ended with the failure of a new effort to write a book on the Steps and Traditions. It was called It Works: How and Why and went out to the Fellowship for approval in the mid-eighties. The task of writing had been turned over to a professional by the WSO, which was against the existing policies of the WSC Literature Committee. While the exact details are not yet clear, the Office Manager signed a contract under pressure with a professional writer the author who was to do the work. All this took place just two weeks prior to the WSC where the hiring of a writer was the subject of a published motion.

The Fellowship was dismayed yet gave their support for the effort. Thoughtful members were stunned. A lot of members who had been the source of solid support left the Fellowship or survived in a damaged form. It was obvious to them that the people taking charge were out of touch with the love and care that had built NA up to that point. When service is a matter of the heart, betrayal of principles for business purposes creates heartbreak. When the resulting Approval Form of It Works: How and Why came out, numerous errors of voice, feeling and content resulted in a ‘no’ vote at the next Conference. The conflict that was set in motion consisted of the Office, on one hand, trying to get out more ‘product.’ On the other hand, the Fellowship was trying to maintain the traditional group conscience processes. These processes were what had built the Fellowship up to the point of writing material to serve the needs of the worldwide Fellowship. The attraction of the message that was contained in the original Basic Text continued to draw in addicts from the world of active addiction. This was not enough and there were those who sought to control the copyrights on the material and made changes outside of the Fellowship's view. It is important that these incidents were perpetuated by as few as ten or fifteen people. Our disease is characterized by tunnel vision where something small can seem tragically important and widespread. Of the ten or fifteen, most were duped into the conspiracy by the ringleaders. The Fellowship continued to grow despite all these things. One spiritual way of looking at the whole mess is that it confined those involved in increasingly high profiles and kept them from reaching the great thing called the Fellowship of Narcotics Anonymous. The 'few' could get away with these things but they had to be 'oh, so careful.' This kept them within some boundaries while excesses continued. Possibly no single item could be more obvious than the 'Inventory' undertaken in the 1990's that pro-ported to answer the question, "What does the Fellowship expect from world services?" Interesting question to ask a Fellowship with an approved service structure who had recently written their Basic Text and started over ten thousand meetings. There is little point in raking over these old coals unless we are working to better the situation. Someone might suggest to take a careful look at the service structure outlined in the NA Tree.

Back in the 1980's, a housekeeping motion from the 1985 WSC to correct errors of grammar, spelling, tense, gender agreement, etc. was misconstrued to mean that hundreds of changes in the Basic Text were permissible if not absolutely necessary. The word ‘syntax’ was removed from the original motion lest it be expanded to mean ‘grammar.’ There was concern that the motion would get out of hand and result in abusive or unnecessary changes. A few sentences had already been changed from the original Approval Form of Narcotics Anonymous. The 1981 Approval form was universally available within NA and a free copy was sent to every registered group in the world, including overseas. The strength of the material to withstand the intense discussion and scrutiny of thousands of members, each of whom was free to input recommended changes is what Approval used to mean. Changes in a few sentences by a few members betrayed the faith of thousands of members who had surrendered in trust to the process. Everything in those days was wide-screen and full color! This is why the unauthorized changes made by a few people in positions of trust were so devastating emotionally and spiritually. such a big deal. These good members were carrying our message to the world and it undercut them terribly to have 'officials' betray their trust. The people at the world level who fostered these disorders knew less about what was happening than active members in the groups, areas and regions of NA.

The minor changes that were made from year to year were used to justify calling different printings of the Basic Text ‘editions.’ Usually, editions reflect substantial changes or major edits and require a new edition number to keep old material from being confused with heavily reworked, new material. The change of a sentence or two out of hundreds of thousands of words does not comprise a new ‘edition’ and yet we have had many. In 1988, the Basic Text was edited to make the work consistent with quoted changes in the Little White Book. This revised form of the Third Edition was called the Third Edition, Revised. When an editor was found to make the superficial edit of the Basic Text in keeping with the 1985 motion, the editor was given a manuscript of the Third Edition, a prior form that did not contain the changes made in the Little White Booklet by a well done, group conscience process. As NA members know, the White Booklet is quoted before each relevant chapter and there are quotes in the Basic Text that had also been updated. So this created a built-in problem from the start of the editing process. Nobody caught the error at the time. There were several glaring oversights like this at the time.

Either no one knows or will divulge who changed the instructions that were given to the editor. The editor, to the best of my knowledge, was a student in West Texas who was apparently unaware of the minefield he or she was stepping into. The instructions that were given the editor were to make a deep edit of the Basic Text instead of the instructions from the carefully worded WSC 85 Motion. The 85 Motion spelled out very carefully that the edit was to be minor, confined to verb agreement, gender, typos, and so forth. The word 'grammar' was taken out of the original motion lest it open the door to any and all changes an editor might deem helpful or appropriate. Amazingly, later examination showed the word ‘grammar’ had been re-inserted into the published minuted! The spirit of unity was great but over three years were to elapse before an editor was selected and no one suspected the minutes were adulterated.

While it is important to trust our trusted servants, when grievous errors occur, amends must be made. Bob Stone made a plea for understanding and acknowledged that the Office had been blinded by 'who' voiced the concerns. Just how totally this violates anonymity and makes plain the buddy system that had begun to replace our service structure is amazing. And it was so overwhelming that no one even mentioned it at the time. WSO employees and supporters had begun an 'us and them' mentality that is hard to break. Simple checks and balances would have prevented the initial small problems from escalating into major concerns.

The amount of $3000 was to be paid to the editor who in a generous spirit offered to either perform a deep edit or a light edit for the same amount. The offer of a deep edit was too much for someone in a position of trust and they forgot all about the conference motion and discussion to not do a deep edit. So, the die was cast because while the good members of the World Literature Committee worked long and hard, it was quite a while before simple things like having the wrong version of the Basic Text to begin with came out. The shear volume of comments, discourses, suggestions, changes, grammatical concerns went so far beyond what the WSC had asked for, it is astonishing that no one raised major concern outside the Committee. The World Service Board of Trustees was unaware of the deep edit and therefore had no opportunity to offer suggestions or announce the oversights. Possibly almost no one at WSO had any real idea. It was only later at the firm insistence of the World Lit Chair that the WSO began to check things.

No one thought to compare the work of the editor with the Third Edition, Revised. Therefore, the differences were handled as if they were the correct form of the work. Further, the changes were discussed and voted on by the Committee in a series of exhaustive and expensive conference calls with up to fifteen members in on the call from all over the United States but only one able to speak at a time. The changes were brought up, line by line, discussed and voted on prior to moving on to the next change. Participants were not given finals of the edited changes prior to the printing and distribution of the new form of the Basic Text, now in its Fourth Edition. So, they had no chance to review the changes to see if the votes held on the telephone had really been adhered to in the editing. Some members think there may have been changes beyond what the Committee voted on but we will never know. This should not have been done secretly. Where changes had involved twenty or thirty words, there were now changes in hundreds of sentences involving thousands of words.

The Board of Trustees was not given a copy of the work prior to printing despite repeated assurances to the WSO Board that this would be done. The entire Fellowship went into convulsions when the treasured phrases and meaningful lines were found to be altered or deleted. Not improved, not better grammar - just changed or deleted to suit a small group of people who were in on the changes. Even the members of the Committee were not in a position to appreciate the magnitude of the breach of faith that was committed by the World Service Office management and certain members of the WSC Literature Committee. This embarrassing situation resulted in either the immediate or the eventual dismissal of the culprits. The real fault lay with the general lack of care and concern. Secrecy, closed session processing, and the management system kept the excessive changes from the general membership, including members working at WSO. The reader of this material should realize that because of the openness that led to our rapid expansion, any member would have known at a glance that the WSC motion was not being followed. Addicts died over this. Many left NA forever. Far from angry disgruntled addicts who failed to work a good program, they were the most loving, kind, grateful and wonderful recovering addicts in the the history of the human race. Yeah, we survived but we have to tell the truth. This is why many members do not believe that the 4th, 5th and other future editions are valid Fellowship literature. Approval in those days meant the whole Fellowship saw the material in review or approval form long enough to develop an opinion and express that opinion in a service structure that required its representatives to vote accordingly. Today, votes do not reflect the wishes of individual members anymore. So, the kind of approval that took place with the Basic Text and many of the IP's just cannot take place under the existing system. They do not even call them representatives anymore. Curiously, the facts never really came out into the full view of the Fellowship.

Bob Stone, manager of the World Service Office and later, it's Executive Director, wrote a book: My Years with Narcotics Anonymous. He continuously refers to members who were informed enough and fearless enough to complain as the 'vocal minority.' How poorly he rewarded these good members for the time, study, and discipline it took to become an informed and fearless member in those days. When anyone in the written, approved, service structure got out of line or overstepped their boundaries, these informed members would speak up and expected their correction to be at least refuted, if no correction was made. Instead, "WSO policy" became "NA law." Members who thought differently were branded as radical, disruptive addicts who were probably getting ready to relapse. This denies them their full rights as members. This is not a very spiritual way to run a Fellowship. Also, WSO is not empowered to run our Fellowship. WSO was supposed to be our primary service center. People at the center do not realize how their centralist perspective can blind them to the overview. Detractors may appear to be malefactors. People at the center select information that supports their centralist viewpoint. Any other viewpoint is not allowed. Perhaps the single most revealing recorded instance of disclosure of just how far off base these matters can get comes from Bob Stone's admission of fault at the 1988 World Service Conference in Southern California.

The following transcription of the WSC tape is verbal input by Bob Stone, WSO manager to the 1988 WSC on the 4th Edition

The reason Chuck that I have asked for this opportunity to give my report specifically although there is only one part of the report that I wish to address is that it has a direct bearing or a significant bearing on the 4th Edition. There are two parts that I have to say concerning this matter. One relates specifically to the issue of the 4th Edition itself and one relates to my oral presentation at this Conference.

There is a relationship between the two and I wish to address the first one initially. Last year I conveyed to you, I hope, my fears and frustrations over the reality that exists of the two sides of NA. The two sides being ‘them and us’ whoever that happens to be in any conversation or any meeting having to do with the region or world level.

It is a tragic thing when it occurs and it has occurred with such frequency and severity that it has caused all of us some pain and some suffering and some problems in our areas and regions and certainly at the World Service Conference.

I am here to address that now from having experienced the ultimate failure in our ability to get alone and overcome the evils of that issue.

What that issue does is it blinds us, it makes us impervious to listening really to what somebody else is saying. And when we become impervious to what other people are saying, we do a disservice to the Fellowship and we cause additional problems. And that what has occurred during the last year. It has occurred over the 4th Edition of the Basic Text.

When the Basic Text was published as the 4th Edition last year, as would have been expected, a number of people decided that they should on their on go through it word for word and compare it with the 3rd Edition Revised to determine what they thought about this as a different publication.

This is an issue that is completely aside from the issue of whether or not a 4th Edition should have been printed and published in the way that it was. That issue I don’t care to get involved with at this time. I am concerned in the trail of events that took place as a result of this publication.

Some of those folks who did the word for word comparison were immediately disheartened, dismayed, angered, frustrated, hurt and a number of other adjectives I could think of in time. This prompted an immediate action on their part to bring to the world’s attention the problems they felt were centered in this because of its differences. Unfortunately, the "we vs them" syndrome entered into the discussion immediately. Because of how the alarm was raised - and in some degree because of who raised the alarm - other people did not as seriously as now seems necessary and appropriate to throughly study everything they were saying and determine its validity. When the issue hit the street it became immediately an issue of confrontation between those people who were saying something was wrong with it and disagreeing with its content and those who might have had a different opinion.

That blindness in my opinion now has been contributing factor in a error that originated two years that I have now to address. That blindness prevented all the people who got that manuscript from the committee that sent the manuscript out. It blinded them from bringing to the attention of all the rest of us and certain key people in particular what was specifically contained in there that had more validity than they themselves knew of or recognized.

And here’s how that works. We’ve discovered as a result of Michael Lee’s insistence that a word for word complete master be prepared.

Those discussions took place in January and February and my staff got assigned that task and we are doing it. It was slow work and we did not assign sufficient resources to do that until recently and what I’m going to tell you in terms of sequence has only occurred recently.


On Friday, not this last one but the Friday before, it was my tragic and unfortunate experience to learn that, my staff informed me, that there were places in the manuscript that was delivered to the editor for editing - and the same manuscript that was used by the Literature Review committee to review the work - that there were lines of text that had not appeared that were in the 3rd Edition Revised. Those lines of text in our review of the events that took place are relatively easy to understand what took place and we have included the twenty-five lines in the back portion of this report. We have underlined the lines that were omitted from the 3rd Edition Revised as the manuscript was prepared.

I cannot tell you or find words to express my anguish over this, and my fear, and just general displeasure. There is no excuse whatsoever for this to have occurred. Unfortunately, I would only tell you that if we didn’t make mistakes we probably wouldn’t be human. On the other hand, I can tell you that making mistakes of this type are simply not acceptable. And had we become aware of them at an earlier date, it might have been possible to do something else and perhaps other mistakes might not have occurred.

Had the alarm been raised last October and November, been raised in a way that rest of the Fellowship had not been blinded to its contents, we might have been following an entirely different course and having an entirely different discussion today. So, there’s two issues. One, and I am taking this one very calmly because in the last ten days learning the extent of this problem, I’ve had to go through a lot of personal growth and personal changes. Those are very hard for all of us to do and they are hard for me as well as for you. It is important, I think, to understand that these changes, uh, excuse my language, I’m ____.

long pause

I’ve attempted to explain on page 48, in a very short number of paragraphs, the facts of the events and I have not attempted to induce any language to this discussion other than the facts. If I had been more diligence in supervising the proof reading, it is possible that this error might not have occurred. I do not have any personal assurance of that or any guarantee but it has renewed our understanding of this enormity and preciseness of our responsibility to the structure.

We have made the corrective actions that we believe are necessary or laid the foundation for those corrective actions so that this will not occur again in the future. An example of the corrective action is to go back to how the 2nd Edition was produced in 1983. The book was re-typeset following the Conference in 1983 and published about four months later. When the book was type set it was done by a company known in California.

After the initial proofreading was done, a proofreading session was held in which members of the Board of Trustees, members of the Literature Committee and WSO Board of Directors participated in a word for word comparison of the manuscript. It is that manuscript where the majority of the errors were found, although there were some discrepancies during the following year,

But they found the major problems, the big problems were corrected and the 2nd Edition was then printed. Since that time we have not felt it was essential to have this kind of proofreading session. The tragic of this mistake clearly pinpoints again that we must return to that form of proofreading system to involve major service arms in such major publications as the Basic Text.

And that correction system alone I believe would probably be expanded to include to sending copies of the draft prior to its publication to other committees or individuals on a fairly limited basis who may be interested in doing a simultaneous proofreading who may wish to assist in this process. We believe that by gaining the Fellowships participation and assistance in this we can avoid the types errors that this ___________.

At the end of the report, as I indicated, there are the words that are missing, Typical, if you turn to page 232 or 238, it seems obvious that, when the typist was working on 238, their eye movement in some way as typists normally do from one place to another, and when their eyes fell on the words "I tried" they missed the next part and went right on to "I got _______." It is easy to understand how that mistake occurs The errors are generally of that type. There are some that are a little different but like I said, there is no justification for it. I am so sorry and have an inability to express how remorseful I fell over this error.

Thank you very much.

This concludes the verbal input given by Bob Stone, Manager of the World Service Office, the 1988 WSC on the 4th Edition.

These types of problems hide in the dark and derive most of their power from secrecy. As long as they can hide, they will endure. This material is not to blame anyone for past errors, it is our hope that bringing the troubles out in the open will help others in positions of trust not repeat the same errors, which are to an extent inevitable. Knowledge is our only protection. Bringing mistakes and errors out into the open is the only pathway to avoiding making the same wrong decisions in the present and future. It would be nice if these things did not occur but also unrealistic. We live in a world where many important truths are covered up or denied. In a spiritual Fellowship like ours, we learn to step past our fears and trust to a Loving Ultimate Authority to help us get realer and put our fear driven past behind us.

Recapping the material just covered, this is what happened. Starting with a motion was made to correct typos in the Basic Text during the 1985 WSC, it took two years to get an editor that suited the WSB and by mistake the editor was given a copy of the 3rd Edition instead of the then approved 3rd Edition Revised which contained newly approved material for the updated White Booklet. No one caught this. The WLC was secluded and no one from the outside was able to point out this problem at an early stage. There was an attitude in the WLC at this time that the Fellowship would only go after nagging details and delay real work. The editor was a devoted member of NA and offered to do a light or deep edit for the same price as a friendly gesture. No one told the editor that the WSC 85 motion allowed for only a light edit. The WLC chair jumped at the chance to get a deep edit at a bargain rate and so it was done. When the chairperson went further, they allowed for a series of conference call discussions with 13 members voting over the phone on each change throughout the ten chapters. No WLC review of whether the final draft reflected all these votes - or not - was ever made by members of the WLC or anyone else. Only the chair and vice-chair had the notations and they were kept from view. So, the Basic Text went to the printer with countless changes, most of which exceeded the enabling motion. This is why the Fellowship was in such an uproar. It is possible that Bob Stone’s tearful admission of fault was only a cover up and diversion to distract Fellowship attention away from the injurious changes to the book and focus purely on the twenty-five incomplete sentences. Unfortunately, the Chairperson took advantage of the moment to add three other changes where he differed with the Committee and so over ruled the group conscience of the committee on the floor of the WSC without even stating for the record what the substance of those changes were!

So, the hundreds of unauthorized changes slipped by the emotionally charged WSC where most RSR’s came with directives from their home regions to go back to the 3rd Edition Revised version of the Basic Text. Having the Regional Representative vote the group conscience of their home region was an important hedge against their being swayed or confused by orators or convincing speakers presenting material unknown or unavailable during the WSC Conference Agenda Report workshops held in the months prior to attending the World Service Conference. Letting our representatives vote their own conscience leaves the door wide open for crowd manipulation like this. A stable and well thought out service structure protects its trusted servants from being trapped in situations like this where major issues are at stake. Was Bob Stone smart enough to pull off something like this? As WSO Manager, he had received an advance from a non-fellowship source an advance of $250,000 for shipments of the new 4th Edition. He may have intuited a little public shame was a small price to pay for situation where he had a large inventory of books that would be un-sellable without approval by the NA World Service Conference.

Another sore spot that concerned many members who had participated in the writing of the Basic Text was that there was an original understanding that the price of the book would go down after a decent interval. The original price of $8.00 for a blue cover 1st Edition and $25 for a numbered red cover was suggested by Greg Pierce, the long time Trustee who had been such a great help to the Committee and all aspects of the effort. The entire world-wide Fellowship agreed to this in order to help our WSO expand into its new service demands. Although this had come up year after year at the WSC, everybody was convinced by WSO that to lower the price would break the Fellowship by the time the vote was taken. This picture was a far different one from the reality of the Spirit-based Fellowship potent enough to write the book that attracted the millions. This book was written anonymously and within all the peculiar boundaries that we set for ourselves in order to maintain our humility and recovery. More and more the general Fellowship was unable to understand the origins of the book, to appreciate the trust bonds that were made, to conjure up the tremendous effort, and to comprehend the personal sacrifice that it took to generate the Basic Text.

One way to try and get a glimpse of this energy in the simplest terms is by using simple mathematics. Some of the early Literature Conferences were attended by less than seventy-five or a hundred members. Some later Conferences had more members in attendance. In addition, many members worked a considerable number of weekends in local literature committees getting material ready for the next Literature Conference. The members who attended the Literature Conferences usually came from these local committees and carried their group’s conscience with them. They were asked to consider what members in meetings in their home area thought. This was expressed separately from their personal feelings and responses. In this way, the spirit of discussions in many local communities was brought into the deliberations on the writing of our Basic Text. A hundred members who were at a Conference might have come from seventy different communities, each with maybe fifteen to thirty members involved.

There were seven ‘official’ WSC Literature Conferences held from 1979 to 1982. Each Conference encouraged participants who came from all over the Fellowship to take home photocopies of the new writing as evidence to support the tales that the participants had to tell. Early experience taught us that the participants would have trouble conveying all the information they picked up in a week of these incredible working Conferences. Multiply a hundred people by twenty hours a day for a week and see what you get. They say it took 100,000 hours to build the first atomic bomb. With 2,000 addict hours a day, a weeklong conference might involve 14,000 on site. There were numbers of members working at home in local literature committees to top off the hours spent writing the text just during a conference week. Several large communities worked from Friday to Sunday several weekends in a row with thirty to fifty addicts attending. The miracle is that not only did the book get written; no one got loaded at a World Literature Conference. The pressure was intense, but it was good pressure. The love and compassion at the conferences were emblematic of the new Fellowship that was finally writing its Basic Text, after so many years. These open, participatory conferences were styled to include all members. No clean addict was ever turned away or kept from participating. One sixteen year old girl who helped with typing had to sit on seven big Memphis telephone directories to be able to reach the typewriter. At the Lincoln Literature Conference held in Nebraska, a cowboy from the Snake River rode into Lincoln on his horse to give us his story of becoming addicted in the trenches of World War II. Since he was illiterate, a young lady sat and wrote out his story as he told it. Those who were new to recovery were valued for their fresh viewpoint just as those who had long periods of clean time were valued for theirs. A tremendous bonding took place among members working on the book from all over the world. This openness and freedom can be felt when you read the original, unedited works. This bonding made the arbitrary changes by a management system horrific to the Fellowship whose unity and coherence is embodied in the Basic Text, Narcotics Anonymous. It is possible that the leadership at the time was still thinking of the Fellowship as the random attendees in small towns with little or no recovery over a year.

When the Forth Edition came out in 1987, it had thousands of unauthorized changes. Members, who were gathered at Jackson Mill, West Virginia for the True Colors Convention, sat and compared the Forth Edition with the Third Edition, Revised. Members took turns reading aloud from the Fourth Edition while ten members followed the reading with Third Edition, Revised in their hands. The first few variations weren't too alarming. Once the reading got into the chapters of the Book, it was obvious to anyone present that great liberties had been taken and there would be major problems. A call was made to the World Service Office and certain members in the service structure expressed their surprise at the notion that there were problems. A hideous era proceeded to unfold during which several competing versions, about what had happened and what the repercussions would be began to multiply endlessly throughout the Fellowship. It was self-evident that the changes had been made and obvious that they exceeded the scope of a motion that had been amended to remove the word 'syntax' in order to prevent excessive editing while correcting spelling and making other minor changes. Specifically, 'syntax' was removed from the motion lest it be considered as grammar, which would throw open the door to any sort of change. This is not what the Fellowship wanted in 1985. They just wanted to clear up any misspellings and errors made by the WSO in type setting the original or by the Literature Committee in writing the book. ‘Who had done what…and why?’ preoccupied the Fellowship. While the World Service Office justified its actions, the Fellowship was torn apart.

At the 1989 WSC, the voting participants approved a plan to restore a few deleted sentences and call it the Fifth Edition! This happened despite the fact that many Regional Representatives came to the WSC with specific instructions from their home regions to vote down the Forth Edition and restore the Third Edition, Revised. It would be tedious to reiterate here, all of the maneuvers that occurred at the Conference. What happened seemed to justify some of the fears of certain members: that 'World Services' was getting out of hand and acting on its own outside of the Fellowships' knowledge or approval. This type of irresponsible action is known as following a separate agenda, let alone extreme self-will! The difficulty that we experienced with this situation is that although the spiritual Fellowship can tell something is going on, we may not be able to correct the wrong. We have to go to extraordinary lengths in our efforts to deal effectively with this sort of wrongdoing.

One member from West Virginia (who had informed himself as to the many WSC minutes, reports, and guidelines) decided to take on the system. This member was known affectionately as ‘Grateful Dave.’ Where others had backed off, he made a point of infuriating the members in World Service until they could see no way out but to sue good old Dave in Federal Court. After all, he had caused thousands of copies of the Third Edition, Revised to be printed, sold, or given away all over the Fellowship. This infamous Baby Blue version of the Basic Text was actually given out at some meetings to newcomers instead of the usual white poker chips or key tags because of its low cost. It was Dave's metaphor to get across the point that the Fourth and Fifth Editions had never enjoyed the benefit of having been approved by the voting members of the NA Fellowship at the group level like all other literature up to that point in time. His often stated concern was that we have to be very careful in our written message. He believed that our literature should be within the reach of as many addicts seeking recovery as possible. Financial concerns should not outweigh the needs of those who would die of addiction because they happen to miss out on our message.

Efforts to avoid a lawsuit in the fall of 1990 were unsuccessful. Tempers flared in World Services and the intensity of the personal attack and venom was unparalleled in our history. How dare a member challenge the ‘machinery of World Services’ over the price of literature as well as questioning the correctness of printing the Fifth Edition that was never subjected to Fellowship-wide review or approval. Surely, he was profiteering and making money by printing and selling the Baby Blue. It became generally known that Dave was financially broke and was dying of another disease. Still, it was Dave's tactic to get the forces that had worked behind the scenes making the unauthorized changes out into the open and it worked. The viewpoint that key members ran World Services was challenged in a memorable way.

On January 3, 1991, Dave was called to Federal court in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The judge was the one who was responsible for putting away the French Connection’s New York dope man. Without repeating all the details, suffice it to say that the Honorable Judge Pollack could have easily ordered ‘Grateful Dave’ to stop printing and distributing the Baby Blue and that would have been the end of it. The Judge was so moved by the phenomenal effort of thousands of recovering addicts that he carried the case forward and admonished the WSO to fulfill their side of the agreement as well as Dave. Dave's case relied on the position that the Fellowship wrote the literature and therefore had printing rights. It also alleged that the WSO had no right to print literature that was not voted on by the ‘general membership’, hence the Fourth and Fifth Editions were illegal printings. The WSO took the opposing position that he was intruding on the copyrights. The WSO claimed that the work was ‘done for hire’ and justified this position by pointing to the money that the WSO had paid to the editor who had worked on the Fourth Edition.

Judge Louis Pollack, Judge for Federal District Court at Philadelphia, stated in his address at the end of the first day of trial that he dealt with people who were afflicted with our disease on a daily basis in his courtroom. He stated that we had stumbled on to something special but had evidently forgotten our primary purpose along the way. This opinion was definitely an unexpected and strange turn of events that forced certain members, who were in favor of pursuing the lawsuit, to rethink their positions. Some members who had opposed Dave were embarrassed when they began to find out more particulars. Many more had heard the rumors but never heard the truth. Grateful Dave died in the fall of 1992 with the fervent hope that the case would make certain members admit and acknowledge how their actions affect others. He hoped that this would result in affordable, ‘group conscience’ based literature for the Fellowship. Many members stand ready to challenge any and all efforts to make unauthorized attempts to do away with our traditional approaches to ‘service’ in NA.

It may sound like a lot of work and in many ways it is. If we do not take up for ourselves, who will? This dedication and commitment is what it takes for us to have our own Fellowship. It is hard copy evidence of our love, gratitude and devotion backed up by hard work, clear thinking and dedication. It is also enormously fun and has a lot of real life excitement rather than the alternatives. We get to spend our time with people who enjoy our company and frequently appear to be amused by our worst problems. They have been there and they have simple answers and suggestions that might work for us. It is scary to have answers after all the years of hopelessness. These clean addicts are growing in number constantly and are available in countries all over the world. We will continue to learn and to share the NA Way and carry our message to every corner of the globe. We, recovering addicts in NA today, are grateful to all of those who made the Program and our recovery possible. Many people loved us and wished us well even when we were difficult and undeserving. Living our life clean gives us some general idea of how hard it is to love us. The lessons that we learn by helping others teaches us that we have to give a little but we get a lot. Grateful NA members, who contribute of their time, and with their lives, can say, "It is only quantity that we give and fortunately, we get quality in return."

Purist Movement History

Dear Family,

Some thoughts on the history of the Purist Movement in by a founding member.

The Purist movement official got it's name from a small newsletter written by a guy named Jimmy D from New Jersey. He took the logo from my tee shirt, "BRING THE WORLD TO THE BEACH!" which was a bid shirt for WCNA 15 for Virginia. We lost to DC whose slogan was about unifying the divide between inner city blacks and the suburban whites. The tee shirt was black with a bright blue outline of the globe.

But the story starts long before that. In the early days of the Literature movement to write a book by addicts for addicts, there was a member named Jim M from Ohio who showed up at one of the first Literature conferences. Jim was a very intelligent guy and one of the first things he noticed was that hardly a single person attending identified themselves the same way. Hi my names Sue and I'm a dope fiend, my name's Bob and I'm a drunk and a junky, my name's Bill and I'm a drug addict. and so on. Jim was the guy who questioned folks about getting the words right. Meaning, that we needed to come up with a language that fit all addicts no matter what their drug of choice might be. This is probably were the original seeds of the purist movement were first formulated and they didn't even know that was what they were doing. It just made sense that using the term clean, would cover any substance, were sober only spoke of alcohol, or that calling ourselves addicts would strengthen our unity, rather than dividing us by our drugs, which we were no longer doing, for example, drunk and junky, boozer and user, slimy dope fiend. The term addict fit everyone equally whether your drug of choice was alcohol, heroin, or marijuana. It also leveled the playing field with no group of users being any better or worse than another.

The members of these literature conferences were becoming enlightened as to this new vision and another one that was talked about outside the working sessions. That one was about only attending NA for your recovery. Back then and even into the early 1980's, that was a very foreign idea. We had all gotten clean in AA meetings and had started a small handful of meeting in our areas or towns. Hardly enough to recover in, but a place were we could go once a week or so and feel free to talk about our drug usage. Our foundation and our recovery was in AA and we felt safe in their years of experience. NA was that other meeting that we could go to once a week and talk about drugs. Recovery in NA was just a dream for most of us. Yea, man, that would be cool to have NA every night. Some day!

Something that the key players in the Lit movement understood was that you had to bet your life on NA or no one else would! They began to become adamant about this stand and would leave these Lit conferences and NA conventions were they met up with each other and get pumped up, then would go back to their small NA communities and with the excitement they had gained by being around other like minded folks, would push the new message of one disease and one program to all the poor unsuspecting drunks and junkies back home. The results were mixed of course. One member said to my wife, well if it was so good back their in Georgia, why don't you go the hell back there! Many were intimidated and saw this new movement as a clear loss of power, as they had been ruling the roost for many years now. NA was more like counseling sessions with powerful personalities at the helm. I know, I was one just like that.

Back then, they came up with the name S.W.A.T which stood for Service Workers Attack Team! This was really the first organized, named purist group. They even made up tee shirts for you collector types. In discussions with the spiritual leader of the literature movement, Greg Pierce, several of the members he sponsored wanted to come up with a name and purpose other than SWAT. The discussion came around to a simple card and a simple name and a simple purpose. Greg said to me; "You don't wanna know what it started as.. smile!" I guess he toned it down a bit. It was called Anonymi, and it was simply a printed blue calling card that said: (I apologize, I can't find mine so I will do as best I can, and hope that someone will edit it correctly) "A worldwide NA home group who's trusted servants gather to gain the love and support they need to continue carrying the message in their home groups and areas. Its primary purpose is to disband."

Think about that, an NA home group who's primary purpose it to "DISBAND". The idea was that by getting this new information and becoming enlightened to a new view of NA, you would go back home and often times be met with scorn or worse by some members. You would meet up with other Anonymi members at NA conventions and re-charge your batteries to go back into the fray. I was given my card by my sponsor Joe P from Memphis, Tennessee who was one of the 4 key players in the literature movement. Greg referred to Joseph as the "Sgt. Bilko" of NA. Joseph wasn't a writer per se, but he could get stuff. Joseph would show up at a lit conference with dozens of copying machines and Greg would say: "Joseph, where did you get these? Wow!" And Joseph would say; "Don't ask!". Joseph was treasurer for World Lit as the Basic Text was being written and without his tireless and selfless service, this project would have probably taken many years, instead of the two that it did take to write. We as a fellowship owe him a huge debt of gratitude. His efforts to put together the lit conference at Memphis State University and his tireless efforts to stay on the job even after the week long conference, assured us that the Grey review form of the Text went out to all the addicts that they had addresses for.

The idea of an NA home group who's primary purpose was to disband, stood on the foundation that some day NA would be a strong vibrant fellowship. That most addicts would identify themselves as that. Folks would get and stay clean in NA and have no need to go to another fellowship for support. That us isolated members who were out their fighting for these things, would not be out their but simply a part of a world wide Narcotics Anonymous clean and whole fellowship. Today that dream is a reality for those of us who not so long ago could only hope and pray for... sniff sniff.

So the purist movement was actually made up mostly of sons and daughters of Anonymi and SWAT. With a few original members in the mix. The seeds of the movement were firmly planted at a late night rap session in Washington, DC prior to the WCNA 14 Miracles Happen convention in Chicago September, 1984. It was during this year that DC had a fund raiser for their bid committee. The cool thing about NA was that all the opposing bid committees showed up to support them, Virginia, Pennsylvania etc. They were so moved by this, as their turn out from the local fellowship was a bit weak and our coming to support them made the event a success.

Late night Saturday, a bunch of us Anonymi's/Convention/Service friends were gathered in a room at Georgetown University were the event was being held. We jokingly began talking about the do's and don'ts of being a purist. The word had been floating around for a few months by now. It came out of an article that the guy Jim M from Ohio had written for an early NA way magazine entitled "The unfolding of the fellowship". It asked "what about those folks that only go to NA meetings for their recovery and identify themselves simply as addicts. Are these folks radicals? No they are merely purists".

In our late night talk session, we came up with 24 do's and don'ts to be a purist. Some was for fun, some we truly believed in our hearts was the right thing and the only true future for NA. We had made our stand in Narcotics Anonymous and we were fearful that it might not become what we needed it to be to recover. We could no longer feel comfortable in meetings that were filled with confusing languages of recovery and mixed messages and quotes from AA literature... of course we could, we all had for the most part gotten clean in AA, but you know how the old saying goes" "there's nothing worse than a convert!" For it is usually the converts that are the loudest, strongest voices about a cause. We had for the most part, all been clean and sober for just a few months (or years) ago.

We had made our stand, we had bet our lives on NA and we were damned determined to see this work. Sadly we were a bit too determined and very forceful in our approach to NA language and the use of it in our NA meetings. We often would confront poor newcomers in the middle of the meeting, "it's clean, not sober!" Our text is basic, it's not big!.. Sober stands for short of being entirely ready! If you call your self an addict and an alcoholic, then put $2.00 in the basic as you're treating two diseases! And so on...

A friend of mine in England put it so well. He said: "We are the children of Alcoholics Anonymous. When I was a kid and I got to 16 years old, you couldn't tell me anything, I knew the right way, you were wrong, and I was angry. As I grew up, I got married and now I am an adult with my own family and I have a much different relationship with my parents, we are more like equals." Narcotics Anonymous had to go through it's growing up phase. It had to break the apron strings to AA and stand on its own two feet. Sadly we did it with the hostility of a teenager, rather than the maturity that we do today. Today it is so simple just to read an identity statement at the beginning of the meeting and let folks know what we do here in NA and ask them for the cooperation in this simple yet important matter. But that was then and this is now.

Jimmy D was at that meeting that night and felt inspired to go home and create. He came up with a simple purple bandana and a folded up little news letter called the Purist News volume 1, number 1. Jimmy says he had the bandana at Chicago. I know that the Newsletter was distributed at the 6th East Coast Convention held at Towson State University, Towson, Maryland in June of 1985, just prior to the World which was being held right next door in DC in September, 1985. Jimmy gave me a copy of the Purist News and like the rest of the gang, I went home and copied it like mad! It became our manifesto. It was the first thing in written form that spelled out what it was we that had become imbedded in our heats and minds for a long time now.

I took a big stack with me to the 2nd European Service Conference in England a few months latter. The host committee had a meeting on the pamphlet that I had put out on the table with convention flyers. They asked me if I would come speak to them about it, but I declined.. I was a bit of a chicken.. Braaaack! They voted that it was neat stuff but not appropriate on the table at the convention. They were right but I had gotten the word out, any way I could... tee hee. A few months latter, as I sat in a World International Committee meeting in California at the WSC, I was invited into a room for discussion. There was a long table of 14 World Level big shots and Bob Stone, the then manager of the World Service Office. Bob and I were on good speaking terms, having crossed paths at several events and our interactions were always pleasant and friendly. Bob started talking in a round about manner about how being at the central site of NA, he had to deal with all manner of things that come up, and then he whips out a copy of the purist news and forcefully tells me this showed up on the tables at a meeting in Denmark or Holland.. I thought to myself, cool! Bob wanted to know all about this movement and how organized it was, etc. I withered under Bob's attack. Bob, man, it's just a cool pamphlet that a bunch of us made copies and passed out. I put some out at ECCNA in London and it must have made its way to that group. Sorry. It was interesting that they needed 14 people to confront one member on this daring issue.. not! The reality was that they were trying to put a finger on a feeling and they couldn't. For it wasn't in a piece of paper, it wasn't in a few members who were vocal.. it was an idea who's time had come and there was no way for a small handful at the center of power to stop it from happening. It's time had come, and some of us were just a few steps ahead. Not that they disagreed with what we were doing, most every trusted servant at the World Level were pure NA members by now. Okay, a few old timer Californians were still going to always be clean and sober. They just differed in how it should come to pass.

They got their chance to heal this area of our fellowship and did a stellar job. George H and Lea G of Florida along with others at the center of power spear headed a movement to re-write the Little White Book and take out the denial and endorsements of the outside enterprise AA, which we had been reading in meetings every night. The White book used to state" We are deeply grateful to the AA fellowship for pointing the way for us to a new way of life". This is a great truth and it was moved to the front of our Basic Text but it was inappropriate to be read in a meeting each night, along with a Tradition that tells us not to endorse, finance, or lend the NA name to any outside enterprises. The task was given to the Board of Trustees to come up with a new version and they did an excellent job. They gave us the readings we have today, and explained why each change was necessary. It was overwhelmingly approved at the conference that year. This solidified us as a one disease, one program fellowship. Thanks Guys!

The Purist movement begins to splinter. During the next few short years, the folks at NA World Service Office started utilizing the funds that were being generated by the growing sales of literature to an ever growing NA fellowship. They traveled a lot to carry the message around the world. The group of folks I was in, which Bob Stone fondly referred to in his book as "The Vocal Minority" was becoming more and more ostracized from power in NA and more and more angered by what they saw as an inner circle of addicts with NA credit cards using fellowship funds for personal enrichment.

It's an interesting thought that we were labeled the vocal minority, when in fact we were in touch with a vast group of members across the entire fellowship. So we were hardly a minority. Our voices, loud yes, were being stifled at the World Level by a centralization of power in the hands of a smaller and smaller few. These were the ones who had their hands on all the methods of communication to the fellowship. They seemed to answer only to themselves.. so in reality, it was more likely that they were the true vocal minority.

It came to a head in a discussion at my kitchen table with my NA mentor, Larry North. Larry was a fusty old Irishman who brought the message of NA to me in 1982 when we were first starting our little NA meeting in the mountains of Virginia. Larry had some nine years back then and was involved in the literature movement, the area, the region and the world. We lovingly called him the old man. He knew everything there was to know about service and the Traditions: he was the king of Tradition Troopers. He also loved newcomers like nobody's business. He took you under his wing and showed you all the ropes and then some. Larry took me everywhere; we were like two peas in a pod for many, many, many years.

Larry was an accountant by trade and a damn good one. He handled accounting for large companies and could run numbers on an adding machine like nothing you have ever seen. As we sat in my kitchen one evening, Larry said; "The ultimate authority is not a loving God... the ultimate authority is the purse strings.. it's the money!" He was referring to dealing with what he saw as the abuses of World NA. We control them by the fund flow from the sales of literature. How do we do that, I asked? Simple, you see it only cost about $2.00 to make a Basic Text, and the rest of the money goes to feed the WSO. We can make a Basic Text in paperback that can be copied on a copying machine for about a buck or less. We give them away free or at very little cost. In this way we kill two birds with one stone. The first being that the Basic Text should be a lot less expensive so it can be freely given to newcomers and the 2nd is that for everyone of those texts that we give free, that is a lot less money in the hands of the World Gang! And so began the idea for a baby blue bootleg copy of the Basic Text.

The idea was to put items back into the Basic Text that had been taken out without group conscience of the fellowship, and to distribute them at cost or free. Most importantly of these edited items was two sentences that had been taken out of the text before it even had come to print. Upon reviewing the material in the approval form of the Basic Text, then manager of WSO, Jimmy Kinnon (our founder), had taken exception to two lines in the Traditions. He believed that they were in violation and conflict with the traditions and wanted to remove them. He knew that if he sent them back to the fellowship for discussion it would be another year before our book was published. He chose a second course of action and had a group conscience of The Board of Trustees Chair, the Office Board Chair, the Conference Chair and they all agreed to allow him to take out the following lines and print the Basic Text as amended.... in the 2nd and 4th Traditions.... it was written "what about our service boards, our committees, are these things NA. No, they are not NA, they are services that a group may or may not choose to utilize. And another line stated: "a service committee cannot decide, rule, dictate or censor". Well this service body decided, ruled and dictated to censor those two lines. Of course at the time, the literature folks were furious. The fellowship had studied every word and prayed over their decisions to vote on the book as it was. This flagrant violation of group conscience was wholly unacceptable to them. This one action created a rift in the fellowship that is still not completely healed to this day.

Some members in Miami, who more than likely took their cue from Larry North, printed up the first copies of the Baby Blue and began distributing them in large numbers. In the North, my friend Grateful Dave took the ball and ran hard and long with it as well. Copies started showing up in all manner of colors. The Georgia Peach, The Resentment Red from England, Pink, Beige and several variations of blue. There is even a site on the internet that shows all known copies. Search for "Baby Blue + Basic Text."

This is when the movement starts to splinter. This is when I took my ball and went home. I had been actively working steps for a while now and had given up my need to fight. I didn't have it in my heart to do something that would damage NA as a whole, even if I disagreed in my heart with what folks were doing. I had learned that those extra dollars from the sale of NA literature do a lot more than just provide travel and lodging for World Level Trusted servants. The money goes to translate the literature into foreign languages, to help our World PI efforts, our World H&I efforts, to make NA available anywhere on the planet. I knew there was no way to take money out of one part of NA without hurting addicts in some other part of NA. Dave grabbed me outside a workshop in Memphis on the Basic Text issue and said, "Come on, we need you in here. You got me started on this thing." I said, "Dave I'm sorry I'm just not there anymore." I tried to point out to him that the very people he was antagonizing over this issue were the folks he would need to be there for him when his Aids got worse. He told me he had been prayed over and that he hadn't felt ill since. That was the last time I saw my friend Dave.

He had decided to force the issue to court. This was his plan all along. It was a lose, lose situation for the World Service Office in that they would never come out a winner by taking a concerned NA member to court over the literature. It was actually a pretty brilliant idea. It all came to a head in a court room in Pennsylvania with a very wise Judge. The Judge first looked at them and said what are you guys doing here? I spend every day dealing with addicts that don't have the answer and you guys do! He motioned, after much back and forth, that if Dave would agree to stop printing and selling Baby Blues, that the World Service Office would put a motion into the conference agenda to have a worldwide vote of every individual NA home group as to which Basic Text they wanted. By now there had been 5 printings with the 4th edition being an editors nightmare and having lost pages due to inaccurate transcribers at WSO and no final proof read. The 5th Edition apparently still hadn't corrected all the missed sections.

The Office managed to stall and delay, and Grateful Dave's Aids finally progressed and he passed away. Along with him went the court case. There are those who still talk about taking up arms and getting the case re-examined.

I had moved around a few times and about a year ago, I was driving back to my home in Montgomery, Alabama. We had an NA club house with meetings twice a day. All the members only went to NA and all identified themselves as addicts. I was coming down the highway from Birmingham and it dawned on me that I couldn't remember the name of that group, what was it anonysomething... that we had all belonged to back then, oh yes, ANONYMI.

Apparently it had disbanded, as it was no longer needed.

In loving service,

Anonymi - peace _ 9.3.03

The Purist Movement was abused by members who took it as an opportunity to interrupt, yell and act badly during an NA recovery meeting - in the name of our Traditions. Looking back on it all, it probably gave many a newcomer - getting in touch with their powerlessness - a chance to blow off steam. As contrary as this was to our spiritual principles, it replaced in many cases the intrusion of alcoholics who were just as interruptive - but were not NA members. Legions of young AA members were accustomed to parading through NA meetings as though paragons of recovery among the great unwashed clusters of addicts. As the Purist Movement subsided, it left NA meetings that followed the NA 12 Traditions, worked the NA 12 Steps and made the difference for many, many addicts seeking recovery. This empowering of NA marked the transition from a weak NA Fellowship to a real force for recovery. Out of the sickness came the strength.



There is a rumor of long standing that some members in the early 1980's from California agreed to support the new book as long as they got to write another book on the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions. This book would parallel the AA 12 and 12 book. This is not the kind of rumor that can easily be checked out. Those 'in' on it would be slow to admit their participation in such an agreement. Still, the book that eventually came forth was called "It Works: How and Why." From an early draft produced at Fresno, California, called the 'Fresno Final,' the book went through a variety of steps before completion much later in the 1980's. A professional writer was engaged to edit the Fellowship work into a better form. This went out to the Fellowship for Approval before the membership got to see it as a review form. Changes in the way the book was being written added to the confusion. The Approval form contained errors that could have been corrected had the Fellowship had a chance to read and review the material. Because this was not done, and because many of the most serious flaws were in the first three chapters, there was no way to 'approve as is' and so the approval draft was trashed and a new approach was taken.

There is an amazing story of several informed members who opposed the material getting with members of the Board of Trustees and the WSO Board of Directors at the MARLCNA Convenference in Pennsylvania and going through the material together. To their credit, the members involved with world services could easily see the points of concern and this agreement paved the way for a new effort to get underway. We had to have a book on the Steps and Traditions.


There are several of the Twelve Traditions that have to do with keeping NA separate from outside issues and keeping NA as such from being organized in terms of management and control. This was seen as a problem in making radical changes to our service structure in the 1990's. AA has 12 Concepts and since we borrowed the Steps and Traditions from them, why not the Concepts. The presumption that our 12 Concepts bear some resemblance to the AA Concepts is a strange illusion. Taking a few moments to locate the AA Concepts and doing your own direct comparison reveals the fact they are very different.


Democratic principles are more than just talk. There is a real feeling of shared responsibility among members who take care of a group, an area, a region or the entire theater of world services. Micro-management to the side, having a say in what happens at the world level was very invigorating to the Fellowship in the 1980's. Even when the vote went against you, it was supported because after all, you had your say. Changing the 'representative' group conscience system to a 'delegated authority' that might - or might not - vote as directed by the members back home weakened NA considerably. After five years or so, you began to hear members identifying as 'addicts anda _____' again.

Perhaps in reaction to the aggressive Judge Pollack who kept the case open for several years, NA world services moved in a new direction. Under the guise of determining what the Fellowship wanted them to do, an 'inventory' was undertaken. This 'inventory' lasted about eight years from 1990 to 1997. From the day the Basic Text was approved in 1982 when the words, "The WSO can sue an NA member over copyright issues." were first spoken, the conflict began. The swirl of events surrounding the start up of WSO into a modern company created new forces arrayed against the spiritual Fellowship of NA. Since the main source of income was literature sales, WSO might be expected to regard monies spent to create new literature as seed money that would bring a handsome return. Almost overnight, a new crowd invested themselves in the newly expanded WSO basing their employment on resumes and work skills from the general market place. Few had intimate knowledge of where the Basic Text came from. All they knew was it was ultimately their job to sell it.

Good clerical services and proper accounting within WSO is both expected and required by the NA Fellowship. This has never been an issue. What is the issue is that WSO consistently seems to miss the main job a primary service center is supposed to do. Crossing the line from printing and distributing Fellowship materials occurs when the business staff begins to produce the Fellowship materials. Suddenly loyal dedicated informed members who challenge what they see happening become a threat to the corporation. Corporations are set up to be adversarial. After a ten or twenty year period, rapprochement becomes complex. Forced to oppose structural malfeasance, the members knowledgeable about the 12 Traditions are forced to conduct meetings with a minimum contact with the system. It is hard to work your program in a case like this. It is a clear that what is good for the Fellowship is good for the office but what is good for the office may not be good for the Fellowship.

It is not about clerical efficiency, employee policies, Seventh Tradition issues of protecting the Fellowship from itself. It is to involve and inform members so that they will be best able to see to their needs and provide whatever materials might be helpful in doing that. Shutting down the input and output capability is quite possibly a move towards efficiency that can be sold to a corporate board of directors. It can be charted just how much money and time is spent to 'get the word out.' It costs more if you have to produce paperwork, mail it to regions and supply them with information upon which they can make an informed and effective decision. What they seem to miss is the importance of keeping a 'spiritual fellowship' on the same page. In the past, this was done by the World Service Conference. Micro-management can easily turn into meddling. Helping when asked is more the NA way of doing things.

This is done not by direction but containment. Leadership grows naturally in the Groups, Areas and Regions. Like many other successful systems, our system works best when members closest to the action - service - are informed and experienced. A child in a family will never learn to change a tire on a car until they are allowed to try, unassisted, on their own. They will make mistakes, but they will learn. Otherwise, the controlling parent has to do it all. Just so, many of our 'world' level servants seem to think in terms of control rather than forbearance. Jumping in a 'fixing things' is a character defect. It presupposes that someone doesn't know what they are doing. Even if this is so, it is likely that if they are trying and not yet asking for help, they will eventually get it right. Isn't that what worked for us? Letting go and letting God is not just for staying clean. God can do many things.

The members who wrote the attractive message in the Basic Text not only took over the World Service Conference in the early 1980's, they went out and started all the meetings, areas and regions including many that still exist today. They were empowered by the information and experienced as no other generation has been in carrying the message and working the Steps. When world services seem to loose restraint in the late 1980's, they first launched a law suit against an individual member. With the support of an NA home group in Philadelphia, this member was not so alone as WS supposed. Next, an inventory was invented to ascertain exactly what the Fellowship wanted world service, particularly the WSO, to do. This somehow required shutting down not the Office but the WSC for seven years. At the end of this period, there were no WSC standing committees and a World Board had been implemented. Members working in the WSC Policy Sub-Committee years before had worked on the formation of a World Committee - but with checks and balances to keep the WS Conference and the WS Board of Trustees strong and in place in case WSO ever began to exceed their carefully written guidelines. The first half of the WS Policy Committees work on the NA service structure was approved as the 'Green' service manual, referring to the color of the approval form. Since the 'world' section was undone, it was called the 'Temporary Working Guide to our Service Structure.' The acronym for this is 'twgss.' The original NA service manual, the NA Tree, had been reduced to twigs - TWGSS! Since we were moving forward so quickly and since we did not, as a Fellowship, have experience with these things, world services eventually developed its own ideas, if members in world services did not have them already and engineer the inventory and structural changes.


The Superboard

Ask yourself: what group of NA members in the early 1990’s thought up the idea of a world board? All the money, all the functions and all the 'power' in the hands of a small group of members, less than twelve actually elected though guides originally allowed for over twenty. How was this the best idea we could come up with? Why did some of the members involved complain that parts of the guides they worked on had been left out of the motions or manuals presented at the WSC? The answer may simply be that just as in physics when a rock starts rolling downhill, it develops a momentum of its own. It will keeping rolling to the bottom or until something stops it. Even if there was a 'coup' type of take over, does this mean we are powerless today? What are the implications of the structural changes? Who gets the money? What is best for the Fellowship today and in the future? What is the difference between our world service structure and a private corporation held in a few hands without even stockholders to answer to? Is this what the Fellowship wanted or voted for at some point in the 1980's, 1990's or after the years 2000?

One member shares:

"I served as policy chair of a large regional service committee on the East Coast in the late 1980's. Having had some experience in service both locally and at world level, I collected all the minutes from the region, the motions in force separated out, the guidelines that applied to our region from the service structure, the motions in force separated into the sub-committees they governed (guidelines cease to be 'suggested' when they are voted on and approved by a service body) and contact information for all the area committees that belonged to the region. When I had it all together, I made up twenty notebooks and gave one to each area chairperson and one to each regional sub-committee chair. There was about an inch of paperwork in each copy. The ring binders allowed additional minutes and updates to be inserted easily.

"One by one over the next year, the notebooks disappeared. Finally, there was only one left and the regional chairperson wanted to make a copy, so I gave mine to him with the understanding that my original would be returned. This last copy never came back to me. I am sure there is some kind of lesson in this but for me, it can only be that God, not minutes, rule in NA. Those who think differently will surely act differently and I have no problem with that. But I think there is a possibility that an old spiritual lesson may apply here. That is that God manifests itself in ways that fit what people expect. God and the people will be here long after the minutes are dust. I am content to follow God's Will in this as in all matters of my life and will."

"Back to Basics" is a term used frequently in our recovery process. It allows someone to get back on track when they have become lost in the direction of their personal recovery. The answer to all our ultimate questions is to be found in our earliest beginnings when we had neither meetings, assemblies, committees or 'governing' bodies. It was our individual desire for recovery that started all this and it is our desire that will carry us forward. The answer will never be in good guidelines. Good guidelines can be ignored or motioned aside in the blink of an eye. The answer is in the hearts of good people and good people come from working the Steps. Working the Steps gives each of us conscious contact with the God of our understanding and that is the answer. Without this contact we revert to type and become the playthings of our compulsions and obsessions.

A former chairperson of the World Literature Committee shares:

"Some members believed it was impossible to type and copy the Conference minutes as we went from session to session. We had great trouble with this in our First World Literature Conference at Wichita. We were new and the minutes taken in the various sessions were almost impossible to recall and not clearly written. Thereafter we did the minutes as we went.

"There were instances where a regional secretary would 'create' a different version of a motion that passed. The minutes would be taken down in an undecipherable short hand and typed up later. Two months later, it was possible to convince the Committee that the motion carried in the wording in the minutes though the motion was clearly different. To prevent the possibility of this as well as other problems, we did the minutes as we went. Members in attendance were asked to read and approve minutes from the last session at the following session. This meant that discussions with motions from the morning sessions were on the table at your place when you got in from lunch. The afternoon sessions were at your seat at the beginning of the evening sessions. Copies of the minutes were also taped to the wall near the entrance of the building for members to view and discuss. There were never any problems with this procedure though loud voiced complained at first that it could not be done this way. As chairperson, I asked them if it would be ok for us to try.

"One of the lessons learned from Greg Pierce was that 'bureaucracy is the enemy of self-help organizations. Another similar lesson had to do with mailing lists. We found that the more copies of the list the better. When ever there was only one copy, someone would take it and hide it. The information was seen as 'powerful' and our members we soon learned were allergic to power. So, we made these little adaptations as we went along to keep the work moving forward."

These lessons were added to the Handbook for NA Literature Committees but the WSO never updated the Handbook in subsequent printings. They may not have printed any at all. But a thousand were printed and handed out to begin with and they got out to thousands of members. Members were encouraged to photocopy anything they needed to propagate Fellowship publications.

After the Basic Text was in publication and Bob Stone installed as manager, the term 'us and them' became common among everyone having to do with world services. This division is probably going to always exist. It is hard to get rid of even though some people seem to think that the use of the term itself creates the division. Actually, it is reasonable enough term because it describes two sets of people with different viewpoints. The Fellowship had been instructed for years that they were in charge of NA and had the final say on all questions through the same group conscience processes they had just used in writing the Basic Text and then going home to raise the local standards to those set in the new book. The results are spectacular growth wherein NA moved from a few thousand members to a few hundred thousand members.

Up until this time, no one took NA seriously. NA was called the Sister Program or the Backdoor to AA. Members in AA lived up to incredible standards and made a point of keeping their commitments. It was almost exactly reversed in NA. Despite an overwhelming presence of Young People in AA members dominating the sub-committees of the Atlanta World Convention, no one expressed dismay or surprise when those sub-committees overspent their budgets. After all, what can you expect from a bunch of addicts. In AA prices were kept down and no one overspent anything. After all, they were grateful to AA for saving lives. NA had no such heritage. There was some discomfiture among these interlopers when NA got their Basic Text. There play ground was gone and the Purist Movement made sure they understood things had changed a bit in NA.

By the end of the 1990's, NA was quite a different Program. The members and program at the local level appeared much the same. What was missing were two things: no one knew for sure what motions had been carried at last year's World Service Conference and no one knew what motions were to be voted on at the upcoming World Service Conference. Most members thought we still had a Board of Trustees and sub-committees of the World Service Conference. While some knew that the terminology for persons sent to attend the World Service Conference were now 'delegates,' not 'representatives,' members were not quite sure what that change represented. Members who complained about the changes were regarded as 'dinosaurs' although no one was quite sure how the new changes were any better than the way it was before.

Perhaps the best summation for all this was the one voice of a young woman in the Las Vegas Fellowship:

"Members here seem to agree that there is a problem but whatever that problem is, is lost on them. They regard it as an oldtimers problem. If anyone is going to deal with it, it will have to be oldtimers. These guys are fighting for their lives on a daily basis."

The situation is such today that there is no going back. We have to find something we can move forward to. Certainly it is possible to re-institute the information distribution and polling of members for group conscience. Democratic principles are so pervasive in the minds of people that members could be expected to step up to new opportunities to get involved and have a say in NA without much trouble. Perhaps the effects of 'bureaucratic deadening' could become known enough so that members would avoid making back room deals or 'orchestrating' elections or motions at the expense of the members spiritual condition. These solutions are unlikely because of the apathy that accompanies such problems. Also, infighting and jockeying for positions has wasted the time, energy and resources of some of our finest trusted servants. Many instigators of these changes from the 1990's are still in place and probably can't imagine a world without themselves in charge. If you wait for them to set things right, better get a good seat. It will never happen.


My WSO/WSC Experiences 1987_2004

I am an Addict. To begin with I wish to make it clear that I believe those addicts involved in service work at all levels do so in an honest effort to help others find what we have found. I was introduced to NA in 1983 through an H&I meeting inside a correctional facility. My clean date is July 26, 1987 so I have seen our service structure at a point in time where the voice of the group was held in high regard. We were blessed, many years ago, to have representatives who sought to carry the conscience of their respective service bodies (Group, ASC, RSC,) and truly serve the groups. The following information is what I can recall of some of my interactions with members and staff at the World Service level over the years. My dates are fuzzy and I hope that all who read this would help correct errors and provide substantiation and documentation of these events if possible.



I became a GSR in late '87 and by 1990 I was serving at the regional level. During my first decade in recovery I witnessed many things. I watched as a friend, who served as an RSR, became active in the World Services inventory process and the resolution group and eventually became employed by the WSO. As there are a few who fit this profile I feel that I am maintaining his anonymity. The fact that several NAWS employees followed a similar path substantiates my observations. I watched as the staff at WSO, Inc courted my friend. He was approached at the first conference he attended and groomed from that point forward for a position within the corporation. I find it interesting that many of our brightest members are recruited to work for NAWS INC. This is a good business practice and seems to be working well for the corporation.

The other side of the coin is that I was exposed to some of the corporate rhetoric of a "global vision", which seems to confuse many and distract from our primary focus of carrying the message through the groups. These changes in attitude have brought us to a point where the focus seems to be more on generating funds that assisting the groups who maintain our frontlines and are often the initial point of contact.


I attended a two-fold WSO Inc. event in Denver, CO; I believe it was in Oct. of 1996. This was near the end of the WSO, Inc. inventory process. There was a presentation of the upcoming literature discount changes and the projected impact and there was also a presentation on the structuring of conventions. I attended as our Regional Chairperson, along with our Convention Board of Directors Chairperson. Our region was exploring the feasibility of a RSO and our State convention was solidifying as a major annual event. The RSC chose to send us to the event with hopes of gaining valuable insight. I can only write of the presentation I received. WSO staff members communicated that the discounts to service offices would be eliminated, as the WSO, Inc. was no longer willing to subsidize these ventures. This was not an item open for discussion or input as many of those who attended felt it would be. Rather the decision had been made and the fellowship was being informed. I discovered that there were several regional service offices throughout the United States that were not paying their invoices for literature shipped from the WSO, Inc. and that many of these offices received an additional discount beyond the standard volume discount for purchases. Some of the debts were in the tens of thousands dollars. I also became aware that the sales of our Basic Text are the single greatest source of income for WSO, Inc. I then realized that the moratorium on changes to the Basic Text had caused a reduction in income at WSO, Inc., hence the necessity for the reduction in discounts. It was obvious that throughout the 1980's when we were publishing multiple revisions and perpetuating the belief that only the most recent revision was acceptable to be read from in meetings we were also generating a consistent income for WSO, Inc.

As a result of these changes in the discount policies at WSO, Inc., several Regional Service Offices were forced to close and the WSO, Inc. then serviced their customers directly. The rational was that if these changes in discount policies did not occur WSO, Inc. would soon be bankrupt.

The Resolutions Committee presented a similar rationalization for change in 1997 complete with the first ever layoff of special workers at the WSO, Inc. I was visiting southern CA when the pink slips were distributed. The mismanagement of WSO, Inc. was never even discussed as a possible rationale for the existing financial condition of WSO, Inc. at the time. The WSO, Inc. inventory process had stopped most of the group services previously provided by the WSO, Inc. This in_turn exhausted a large amount of funds on conference calls and travel for the working groups. This stall tactic, which was used to avoid addressing the directives regarding the federal lawsuit on the Baby Blue, was in fact the root cause of the financial disparity of the WSO, Inc. in 1997. This presentation by the Resolutions Committee also made clear the reasoning for the elimination of our successful literature development process in favor of a "fast food" style of development that provided several new income sources for the corporation in a very short time span. Expanding the product line had taken precedent over quality of material developed.


In the spring of 1997 I visited WSO, Inc., as it was known then, and the office reminded me of a small print distribution center. It was stale and plain on the inside and the staff had small offices to work from. The appearance was very modest and unassuming. Many employees spoke often of NA groups in other countries, almost as if there were a need to justify the existence of their jobs. I do believe that we should strive to carry this message on a global scale. It is just that in retrospect I can see that much of the information I heard was taught and eventually memorized. Though the sources differed, the message often sounded scripted and was presented as corporate rhetoric of a higher purpose and global vision. These dogmatic beliefs place the majority of our fellowship at a disadvantage as it portrays any group that complains of inadequate services or questions exorbitant spending as "not supporting our global mission" and therefore being "self-centered." This is similar to labeling those who oppose war as unpatriotic and works well when seeking to stifle organized resistance.

At the time of my visit the Resolution group was finishing up their proposals and the focus was on the upcoming changes in world services. As I mentioned before, the groundwork and financial rationalizations for change had been presented in Denver and now, almost 6 months later, the first ever layoff of special workers at WSO, Inc occurred. This was one event in a series that eventually lead to the adoption of the resolutions and the creation of the "Super board." The actual layoff notices were distributed the week I was visiting WSO and this had a dramatic effect on the overall tone within the facility. In addition, a special worker suddenly passed away that week due to an aneurysm while jogging one morning.

My interpretation of the Resolution Group's work and the general attitude at WSO, Inc. at that point in time was that the changes were a done deal, not that these items would be discussed by the fellowship and revised accordingly. Keep in mind that during the WSO, Inc. inventory process much of the services, which had existed prior to it, had ceased so as not to inhibit the inventory. This restriction of services freed the funding required to maintain the inventory process. Those of us who continued to put money into our home group baskets funded the charade. A major item of note here is that the majority of the local service bodies survived quite well without the world services during these years. This was primarily due to the continued production and distribution of literature that has always been the primary purpose of WSO, Inc. Indeed upon this initial visit I, like so many others before and after me, felt as though I had been to the mountaintop and visited the holy shrine. In retrospect, I see that the real shrines are every Home Group and service meeting that continue to fulfill our Primary Purpose. Even without the WSO, we carried on with our mission.


In the fall of that same year (1997) I attended a WSC meeting in Providence, RI along with our RSR to take part in the presentation of the Resolution Group's proposals. The general consensus was that the plan was rolled out on the East Coast to hopefully win their support of the restructuring. This weekend changed my view of world services forever. I have always been the quiet one in the corner watching and observing the action; and I witnessed things that disturbed me deeply. There were several workgroups organized to review portions of the plan and then we would all meet and present our interpretations to the group as a whole. I realized that by following this plan no single representative really had an opportunity to see the big picture, only the small pieces we were presented. A member of the WSO staff always presented the overview of the proposals to us. I also watched as many representatives would walk to the back of the room and consult with an older member prior to going up to the microphone to present their questions or statements. It was disheartening to see that a single member had that much influence on this process. By the end of the weekend it became clear to me that the decisions regarding the implementation of these dramatic changes to our service structure were already a done deal. The event in Providence was merely a walk through of the information so that those representatives who attended would leave with the impression that they had participated in the process. The proposals were presented at the following conference as initially written. These resolutions have since been implemented with the exception of "resolution A" which coincidentally was the foundation of the remaining resolutions. Note: In the 2004 CAR, just seven years later, NAWS, Inc. reported that there was no longer any need to implement "resolution A".

Following my disillusionment in Providence I resigned my regional service position, as it was clear that an agenda for the reformation of our service structure was in place and the course would not be altered. I accepted employment out of state and removed myself from active NA participation for several years. My personal experiences during my self-imposed isolation are better suited to be written of elsewhere. I honestly feel that all of us who participated in the traumatic events of the past 15 years believe we are doing what is best for NA as a whole and are usually not acting out of malice. When I came here, I was told our service structure ran from the group down to the world level and that the highest form of service was being a Home Group member. Our pyramid of service has been upended and, more times than not, I see our groups taking direction from the ASC, RSC and NAWS, Inc. because many current members believe this is how it has always been done. I received an email earlier this year from an addict who came into recovery after we lost our representation and he stated that we should view NAWS, Inc. as our "service sponsor". I was taught early in my recovery to only have one sponsor and trust his experience as if my life depended on it, because it does.


NAWS, Inc.

In June of 2004 I took my wife and son to Chatsworth, CA so that they could tour the NAWS, Inc. facility. I must say that the appearance has changed dramatically and it now resembles a world-class corporate headquarters. There are display cases in the lobby and artwork throughout the halls. Many of the items I recognized as those purchased from Betty K. (Jimmy's wife) back in 1997. It was nice to see our history out where others can view it. You can see pictures of several items in the Miracles Happen book as it was developed by WSO, Inc. to offset the expense of purchasing the items. This was not a WSC decision, but we (through our donations) paid for it and the delegates then voted to produce a revised history book shortly thereafter. The rhetoric of the staff, many did not realize I had been there in the past, was the same reiteration of global vision with an emphasis on translations and groups outside the U.S. that I had heard on my initial visit. I found it interesting that much of the staff had been removed from regular duties to assist with the recent conference. I believe that answering inmate mail or sending out starter kits would have been a higher purpose for these special workers. But they were pulled to the WSC to "train on how to run a WSC event" (the tour guide's description) .

I did meet an old friend in the hall and questioned as to what his job was now. His response was that NAWS had been "proactive" with the changes adopted at the recent conference and as a result his responsibilities had expanded. The "proactive" statement concerns me, as the implication was that changes had been implemented prior to approval, or direction, from the WSC. This mind-set reminds me of what I witnessed years ago and confirms that the conscience of my home group is a moot point in regards to the business matters of service bodies. Unfortunately many of the service body meetings I have attended in recent years reaffirmed that most committees serve themselves first and the groups are a secondary concern. The primary purpose of the groups, when looking at the actions of many committees, seems to be to provide funds for the service committees to spend.

Did you know that anyone could now make a NAWS donation online? There is a direct link on the NAWS homepage for donations. Another current news item is that the I.P. on "self-support" is on the work schedule to be revised. I guess we never can have enough literature about fund flow.



I can remember when only regions held conventions, they were few and far between and this helped to make it an extra special event. Currently many ASC's choose to hold their own conventions and the competition for the addicts dollar continues to grow, just look at all of the area conventions listed in the current NA Way. I have actually sat in committee meetings where the capability to generate funds from an event was the focus and justification of an event, rather than the ability to help the still suffering addict. Yet, many of the still suffering cannot even afford to attend the events we present in their name. The more I look around at our fellowship today, the more I realize we have lost our focus and are severely distracted by money, property and prestige. These were the very things that our predecessors spoke of and held true to the 12 Traditions to avoid. At several of our local service committee's the focus seems to be on group donations and fund-flow rather than assisting groups to better carry the message. All of this serves to motivate me to continue to share of our history with any all whom will listen. My hope in sharing NA history is that we will not have to repeat errors made in the past. NA cannot follow a corporate model and stay spiritual.

Many members have gotten clean in NA since the changes of the early 1990's. They have never been in charge of anything beyond their home group and possible their area. They are responding to the call to recovery found in the Basic Text. As elsewhere written in this book, you can't ride two horses at once. You can be honest and open while abusing your position of trust. The changes made in the 1990's were presented as if they came from the Fellowship when they were clearly the work of a Board of Directors of a corporation which was supposed to take its cue from the World Service Conference. We may survive this but we need to know what happened and work out a solution that does not cripple us. While many have experienced a degree of group conscience in their regions since the 1990's, they still have no idea what has happened. They don't actualize it is their book, their office and their Fellowship. That's still the truth because - they can walk away. Many have done so already. Members who are not power hungry are rapidly pushed to the side while pretenders speak in loud and convincing tones. It would take a real miracle for these things to change. We need peace makers and honest study materials with wide spread discussion to work out a more realistic way of getting things done in NA.

The thunderbolt revelation of having one big board to sort through and co-ordinate our resources so as the best meet our needs and aspirations as a Fellowship is not too realistic. Even if well-intended people do a great job and work miracles in our name, we the Fellowship are left out of the loop. As Socrates said, "The population that is deprived of knowledge of its technology becomes starved philosophically." Fortunately, addicts are so bright and optimistic, they have not seen what's happening on a broad scale. And in ways, they need never know. Let them work their programs and grow through the 12 Steps. Our recovery process has been carrying the load for the last twenty years. But you who read this will know the great love and consideration that has been given to our service structure. We know group conscience works to meet our needs and keep the Fellowship in a supportive, informed relationship with what's happening in their Program. It is very presumptuous for those who come to NA from the professions to delude themselves into thinking they know better. NA is streetwise and addicts have many ways to get around obstacles. It is better for all if we are up front and above board with all that we do. It is up to each of us to pray and do our part. By maintaining our conscious contact, we will be protected and guided around the most terrible obstacles. The disease of addiction waits like a bird of prey for us to get despondent, forget our miracles and fall into judgmental disbelief. God really is taking care of us. Service boards and committees that get lost in their own dust merely delay the good things God is sending us. Occasionally, where egos and temper tantrums get in the way, the delivery has to get rerouted, but God is always on the way to bring us our next miracle. Bad things can happen, and will happen, but our spirituality gives us ways to overcome our pain and disillusion and find our way through to the light.

The history of NA is not over. Great things happen when people are honest and open with one another and have the courage to step out on faith. With God's grace and our dedication, we will endure.

Many spiritual leaders from all faiths have warned their faithful of the dangers of money and worldly attachment. It is an axiom in professional detective work to 'follow the money trail' to find the perpetrator of a crime. We have to carefully separate the worldly from the spiritual. One of the last things Jimmy Kinnon was quoted as saying was, "I wish we had put the Long Form of the Twelve Traditions into the Basic Text." The meaning of this is the Long Form carefully makes clear the need for separation of business from the spiritual fellowship. This will always be our greatest problem excepting only our need to stay clean and work on our gratitude.


With due respect and gratitude to AA for breaking the ground. This adaptation is the beginning of a Fellowship-wide group conscience to include the information for the betterment of all. Along with the permission granted to NA for the adaptation of the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, surely this includes the Traditions Long Form and the Twelve Concepts. If it should be requested, we can create elaboration that would provide the same information to our own people. This attempt at an adaptation is just more straightforward.

Our N.A. experience has taught us that:

1.) Each member of Narcotics Anonymous is but a small part of a great whole. N.A. must continue to live or most of us will surely die. Hence our common welfare comes first. But individual welfare follows close afterward.

2.) For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority _ a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Where groups are lacking information or misinformed, problems will occur prompting solutions after the matter is brought to the attention of the group.

3.) Our membership ought to include all who suffer from addiction. Hence we may refuse none who wish to recover. Nor ought N.A. membership ever depend upon money or conformity. Any two or three addicts gathered together for recovery may call themselves an N.A. Group, provided that, as a group, they have no other affiliation.

4.) With respect to its own affairs, each N.A. group should be responsible to no other authority than its own conscience. But when its plans concern the welfare of neighboring groups also, those groups ought to be consulted. And no group, regional committee, or individual should ever take any action that might greatly affect N.A. as a whole without conferring with the World Service Conference. On such issues our common welfare is paramount.

5.) Each Narcotics Anonymous group ought to be a spiritual entity having but one primary purpose - that of carrying its message to the addict who still suffers.

6.) Problems of money, property, and authority may easily divert us from our primary spiritual aim. We think, therefore, that any considerable property of genuine use to N.A. should be separately incorporated and managed, thus dividing the material from the spiritual. An N.A. group, as such, should never go into business. Secondary aids to N.A., such as clubs or hospitals which require much property or administration, ought to be incorporated and so set apart that, if necessary, they can be freely discarded by the groups. Hence such facilities ought not to use the N.A. name. Their management should be the sole responsibility of those people who financially support them. For clubs, N.A. managers are usually preferred. But hospitals, as well as other places of recuperation, ought to be well outside N.A. - and medically supervised. While an N.A. group may cooperate with anyone, such cooperation ought never go so far as affiliation or endorsement, actual or implied. An N.A. group can bind itself to no one.

7.) The N.A. groups themselves ought to be fully supported by the voluntary contributions of their own members. We think that each group should soon achieve this ideal; that any public solicitation of funds using the name of Narcotics Anonymous is highly dangerous, whether by groups, clubs, hospitals, or other outside agencies; that acceptance of large gifts from any source, or of contributions carrying any obligation whatever, is unwise. Then too, we view with much concern those N.A. treasuries which continue, beyond prudent reserves, to accumulate funds for no stated N.A. purpose. Experience has often warned us that nothing can so surely destroy our spiritual heritage as futile disputes over property, money, and authority.

8.) Narcotics Anonymous should remain forever non-professional. We define professionalism as the occupation of counseling addicts for fees or hire. But we may employ addicts where they are going to perform those services for which we may otherwise have to engage non-addicts. Such special services may be well recompensed. But our usual N.A. "12th Step" work is never to be paid for.

9.) Each N.A. group needs the least possible organization. Rotating leadership is the best. The small group may elect its Secretary, the large group its Rotating Committee, and the groups of a large Metropolitan area their Area Service Committee, which often employs a full-time Secretary. The members of the World Service Conference are, in effect, our N.A. World Service Committee. They are the custodians of our N.A. Tradition and the receivers of voluntary N.A. contributions by which we maintain our N.A. World Service Office at Los Angeles. They are authorized by the groups to handle our over-all public relations and they guarantee the integrity of our principle newspaper, "The N.A. Way Magazine." All such representatives are to be guided in the spirit of service, for true leaders in N.A. are but trusted and experienced servants of the whole. They derive no real authority from their titles; they do not govern. Universal respect is the key to their usefulness.

10.) No N.A. group or member should ever, in such a way as to implicate N.A., express any opinion on outside controversial issues - particularly those of politics, addiction reform, or sectarian religion. The Narcotics Anonymous groups oppose no one. Concerning such matters they can express no views whatever.

11.) Our relations with the general public should be characterized by personal anonymity. We think N.A. ought to avoid sensational advertising. Our names and pictures as N.A. members ought not be broadcast, filmed, or publicly printed. Our public relations should be guided by the principle of attraction rather than promotion. There is never need to praise ourselves. We feel it better to let our friends recommend us.

12.) And finally, we of Narcotics Anonymous believe that the principle of Anonymity has an immense spiritual significance. It reminds us that we are to place principles before personalities; that we are actually to practice a genuine humility. This to the end that our great blessings may never spoil us; that we shall forever live in thankful contemplation of Him who presides over us all.

                                                    Adapted from the A.A. Twelve Traditions - Long Form.


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Reprinted from the 
Narcotics Anonymous Way of Life, 
Traditions War: a pathway to peace,
The Spirit of NA 
or NA Twenty Plus

being edited on this site.

Copyright © December 1998
Victor Hugo Sewell, Jr.

NA Foundation Group
6685 Bobby John Road Atlanta, GA 30349 USA


All rights reserved. This draft may be copied by members of Narcotics Anonymous for the purpose of writing input for future drafts, enhancing the recovery of NA members and for the general welfare of the Narcotics Anonymous Fellowship as a whole. The use of an individual name is simply a registration requirement of the Library of Congress and not a departure from the spirit or letter of the Pledge, Preface or Introduction of this book. Any reproduction by individuals or organizations outside the Fellowship of Narcotics Anonymous is prohibited. Any reproduction of this document for personal or corporate monetary gain is prohibited.