Traditions War: a pathway to peace



 Sunday, June 27, 2004

 Shame - Guilt - Fear 

 Traditions Wars:

a pathway to peace


NA Fellowship Work in Progress


 Cover Art

 The Phoenix is a legendary bird whose tears have the power to heal. The Phoenix can resurrect itself from its own ashes. When addicts get clean and stay clean, they begin to resurrect themselves from the ashes made of their lives. The twelve primary feathers represent the NA Twelve Steps of recovery. We look at the past with shame, the present with guilt and the future with fear. Recovery changes all that!


copyright © 2003

Victor Hugo Sewell, Jr.


June 12, 2004 version from Draper, Virginia


NA Foundation Group
1516 B Live Oak Drive
Tallahassee, FL 32301



To all that we lost during these times of spiritual conflict. If you are alive, clean and have no hatred in your heart, you are victorious not only over your disease but also our historical episodes.

Begun in February as the Victors of the Traditions Wars, in April we moved to change the name of our new book effort to The Traditions War: a pathway to peace. The phrase was part of a sentence spoken by a member sharing in the Smyrna NA Foundation Group. We had not thought of what happened as a war before, but it was. People were hurt, some died, the conflict was real. That seems to cover the action, the fire fights, the victims, casualties, victors and all levels of conflict from cold-warism to outright attacks. We do not mean this as a literary spin on real war. We mean this as the Japanese say, "business is war." Our conflict has been very real and our members seriously injured by deliberate actions, justified by confused members who had no better guidance to go on. We love our members better. We don’t hate them better, control them better or punish them better. Our purpose is to bring the conflicts out into the open first and then to recommend alternative ways to deal with situations that have the kind of give and take we need in a spiritual Fellowship like ours. You know, where everybody and their friends are right about just about everything. To get everyone on the same page, we need some more pages.


P R E F A C E 

If you have been a member of NA since the late 1980's, and have gratitude in your heart and hatred towards none, you are victorious over not only your disease but also our historical episodes. Naturally, as a Fellowship, we expand for a while numerically and conceptually –  then we contract. Our numbers follow this increase and decrease of conceptual breadth and depth. The Tradition Wars is the name we are giving to the conflict between those who think NA is set up like a business and those who feel NA is a spiritual Fellowship. Many of us believe the spiritual dominates the mental plane by including so great a number of factors that go well beyond our field of perception.

This is why we 'turn it over to God.' You can sense things of the world with sight, hearing, tasting, smelling and touching. Things of the spirit are perceived in another manner on a different, wordless, level. There are other good members who have trouble relating to the spiritual and are more comfortable with the material or mental idea of a Fellowship of clean addicts who follow a path of action that while confusing seems to have good results, especially as to staying clean. Many times in this work we will refer to WSO or the business-like members. This is inevitable in dealing with issues and the written word. What we don’t mean is that we hate the members or fail to see and value their viewpoint. It is upsetting and troublesome to many people to have to deal with the spiritual because it seems so intangible and unresolved to a person focused on things of the world. The Tradition Wars have had to do with the violation of our Second, Third, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth and Ninth Traditions. Of course, any violation involves them all ultimately but for purposes of our considerations, we will deal with these first, through time and referencing published minutes, reports and correspondence along with eyewitness accounts.

We are fortunate to have talented, grateful members who are motivated to work on this book in harmony and with the goal of inclusion of various viewpoints. As someone pointed out recently, we don’t think there are serous casualties on our side alone. Having many written materials should hasten the work and allow us to reflect on the entries. Many reports and documents have flooded the NA landscape and there are too many to present them all. We will attempt with the help of an all loving, all-powerful creator to present samples representing experience and viewpoints from all sides. Of course, we know this is a difficult thing. Recovery has accustomed us to miraculous. It is no secret in life that when you are exerting your full effort on behalf of someone in dire need, you are able to step beyond your normal boundaries. Someone on the sidelines would not see or understand that prayer gives people extraordinary energy and the ability to do what is not normally possible. It is a mistake to think they are doing it ‘on their own.’ 

Since we don’t want money or personal credit for our work, it is obvious that others figure we are nuts. It is just that it isn’t fair to take something where God does all the work. Giving all credit to our Loving God is no exercise in deception. It is the simple truth. It is important that those who would work with us understand..   Love is the flow of spiritual energy between people who care about one another and are open to that caring. As NA has grown, there has been a hope among many of us that the deep, abiding love would eventually be acknowledged. It certainly took a lot of love to keep things going. Policies were pushed aside when they seemed inconvenient. Members were wasted where they fell out of favor with the business ‘‘leaders’’ who began to take over world services. We see a far reaching self-fulfilling prophecy downgrade membership in NA to prevent their having a say in what happens in NA. The original, attractive NA enhanced members and expected great things of them. This was uplifting and surprisingly many members were able to rise to this level of expectation.  

“As I watched in the late 1980's the results of WSO's secret publication of the 4th Edition Basic Text from my front row seat on the Board of Trustees, I was appalled that my Fellow trustees were not upset. Some trustees seemed to be in on the unauthorized changes. Unauthorized means the motion that called for the light edit specifically removed the word ‘grammar’ lest it be interpreted to allow for editing beyond spelling, tense, gender and verb agreement. [Look this up and quote exactly! - Ed]  This created a system of ongoing tension between those who knew what happened and those who did not. Obviously, much was being done outside the approved service structure, leaving out the members who were following the rules and giving ascension to those willing to break them. The level of damage was so great to our spirit that the perpetrators could not be easily chastised or removed from office. It was a fundamental breakdown of our system. Even to speak or write about it today gets one tar brushed for being in the know. While all this was going on, I prayed there would be a time of reckoning, so the membership would understand that they have to take interest in what goes on at world level and let their will be known! Otherwise, you can just wait for the next big surprise to be thrown at us.

“I have three obligations here. First to my own spiritual integrity, second to my friends who died during these times or lost their spirit and third to you - who would know the truth and pitch in to help us continue and expand our recovery process in Narcotics Anonymous.  Even now in these quiet days, I wonder if they are up to something? Are there new betrayals in the works? Or have they settled down to do their jobs in perfect trust and faith to the NA Fellowship. Since the new WSO is styled as a business corporation with little required reporting, no outside audit done in years and delegates who vote how they 'feel' that day, and not representatives who vote the conscience of their region, you can bet there are some nasty surprises ahead. There is a tragic side to human nature that just wants to tear down something beautiful. Like despoilers attacking a religious shrine, it is almost as if they hate the serenity and peace of others and so attack their symbols. The work of years can be torn down in a day. If there is nothing untoward going on, well I am concerned for nothing. If there is, my apprehension only lowers the impact of betrayal. It doesn't prevent it. The point is, I should not have to worry about being betrayed in NA. Nor should anyone else. We can surrender and play by the rules. It gets so twisted that to be forthright and correct is to be deemed dumb and out of it. A world of recovering addicts has had its hands tied for about twelve or thirteen years now. It was in trouble before that. But like the complex inter-workings of an automobile, all the parts have to be in place and in working order for the machine to run. A new Fellowship has grown up wherein members are left out of processes, allowing themselves to be diverted by the carefully presented policy motions that have as their main effect neutralizing and immobilizing the creativity and curiosity of the Fellowship. What makes it all funny and allows us to escape the mess is that by distancing itself from us the supporters, world services if finally setting us free to begin again advancing the processes they seek to control! Discipline is creative - control is deadening.” – Bo S.  

To prevent this unfair diversion of Fellowship attention and money, we have to develop a firm understanding of the 12 Traditions of NA. Some things are not ok here. We need to praise our steadfast members who do the daily miracles by setting up the meetings and conducting the services of groups, areas and regions. We have to continue the study we began when we got clean as we continue to pass on what we have learned thus far. This chain of learning and encouraging others must not be broken. It is not spiritual or OK to say God will take care of it. Do we need a rash of new funerals to remind us what happens when we don't do God's Will? People in a valley dying of small pox better get serious about vaccination if they want to live. God inspires and gives gifted people the ability to develop the vaccine, it is up to the doctors and nurses to get it out to the people who need it in time.   While many carry into recovery notions that wrongdoers need to be punished, that won't work very well in NA. If someone makes a mistake, deliberately or by accident, chances are they didn't really understand that their actions would result in the death of some of our members. While we pay a terrible price to learn these lessons, we don’t have to pay additional pain and agony by punishing the ‘culprits.’ We don't have to vent the anger we feel towards ourselves for not maintaining the learning days and discussions that should prepare our members to lead recovery meetings.

It takes work and study to learn the importance of really sitting down and explaining membership to someone new. The Twelfth Step is the key Step to NA peace and unity. NA is a self-correcting program. We also warn our members that sometime, somewhere, somehow, we will be thrown off balance and it will make using drugs seem like a good idea. With our disease that is absolutely certain to happen. It may be a business thing, a love affair, a service committee deal. Whatever it is, your package is on its way. Will you have the spiritual force and energy to ward off the obsession and compulsion or will you star in one of the early death scenarios that remind the rest of us to do our duty?  Dot Tally of the Pittsburgh Fellowship once said, "Addicts have three requirements to live: food, shelter and someone to blame it on." All us addicts are like this to some degree. Learning to take personal responsibility is the same as saying we find ways to take actions to bring about the good things we want and minimize the things we don't want. Spread out over a Fellowship wide scale, it takes a lot of gratitude and devotion to do what we do. In our NA Society, we each play a vital role, sometimes only known to us. As we share and transmit what we have witnessed and what works for us, room is made for us to learn and experience new things.  

I want members of NA to know the miracles we have enjoyed. If some of our members have climbed to the tops of mountains in our name, every NA member should know about it and feel good. How we solve our problems and get help has to be learned because it is not in our nature to do these things well. Usually an addict will be real good at two or three things at the expense of everything else. We have a lot to share and be grateful for in NA. I know I am not alone in this desire and my knowledge of the miracles we have seen.  It should be noted that there are many types of corporations and industries that are creative and make themselves attractive by engaging and involving their members, stockholders or employees in their processes. Corporate does not have to be cold and exclusive. Many flourish by establishing and maintaining an air of openness and fair play. When things go wrong, they make an openhanded evaluation and renew their commitment to quality service or whatever their business is. One of the irritating aspects of the past twenty years is the many times we have been betrayed by orators who cover corporate mismanagement and tampering with Fellowship practices under the guise of 'good business.' Terms like streamlining and cost efficiency are used to describe curtailing services that members want and need. Duplication of services is a term used to eliminate vital checks and balances.  In NA, it is never 'good business' to leave the Fellowship feeling left out.  

In Loving Service, 

Bo S.

Hit Counter hits in 2004!


Reprinted from the 
Traditions War: a pathway to peace
2003 Form

Copyright © December 2001
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.

Last update January 12, 2006