Traditions War: a pathway to peace


Deceased members full names will appear in this material to prevent confusion.

 The Tradition Wars: a pathway to peace

The purpose of this book is to open an avenue for all who have been burned by the lack of participation in our 12 Traditions.  We have seen members utilizing power in NA service to bolster their views, increase their power base, or simply to get rid of those who oppose their way of carrying the message.  These abuses can be found on any and all levels of NA service.  Sadly, they often lead not to disagreements and arguments, but to the very lives of NA members who leave the fellowship, use and possibly die. 

 Narcotics Anonymous service brings together an odd lot of people who's ideas vary as widely as the forms of drugs we used.  Many have a natural talent for structured service, analytical, cold, calculating, often times shrewd and cunning.  Many of their talents came from life on the streets were it was kill or be killed.  Survival of the fittest was the name of the game and often those that gravitate to the top of the food chain in NA service have honed those skills to an art form.

 On the other side are those who believe in self-less service.  Who have been taught to give freely expecting nothing in return.  They learn that giving this way has it's own reward, a deep sense of self worth and gratitude that is worth much more than gold or fame and titles. NA service often pits these two forces against each other, often with disastrous results not only for the individuals but for the fellowship as a whole.

 The Basic Text reminds us that honest sharing is the antidote to our diseased thinking.  The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off!  Some will be thrilled and thankful that the truth is being told, others may feel threatened, while others will shout loudly, how dare you?  We who write this book say back to them.. How dare you???  Sadly, some day down the road, we are all going to have a Judge Judy moment.  Probably when large sums of money have been diverted for personal gain, someone will say something like; "So, where were the checks and balances?  You dissolved the Board of Trustees, what were you thinking????"  The fact that members lives were saved by Narcotics Anonymous and they can cold bloodedly manipulate the system to create a closed none fellowship participatory system to suite their private needs is beyond belief.  It stagers the imagination that members who's lives were useless and pathetic, were loved back to health and sanity, and their response is to highjack the service structure and ostracize a loving God as expressed through NA individual group conscience is unfathomable!

 No one of us is completely without sin when it comes to tradition wars.  Many of us who cry the injustice of structured service, have been party to our own use of traditions as weapons in the war to purify NA.  How many members have we sent back out because they did not share our vision of NA unity.  We berated them for being sober and not clean, for sharing about Alcoholics Anonymous in "our" NA meetings, like we could truly own something that was God given.

 Early NA is littered with the bodies of addicts who never got clean because the fellowships had not yet written the traditions. Before the Traditions were put into written form, the principles still existed, so we can call them ‘spiritual violations. These ‘spiritual violations’ were very injurious to the Fellowship. Individual egos ran the show right into the ground, over and over and over again.  The first attempts at NA in NYC at the end of 1949 beginning 1950 was riddled with tradition violations.  Of course, they were doing the very best they could with what they had and sadly to say in 1950, they didn't have much.  Caring individuals, like Father Dan Eagan and Salvation Army Major General Dorothy Berry helped the fledgling group by creating a board of trustees for NA.  Sadly they would not let any addicts serve on this board.  The group extended itself to all manner of aid to it's members; housing, food, job assistance.  In it's waning years, the leader, a woman named Ray Lopez, had gotten a job working for the Narcotics Division of the city of New York.  Half her office was New York Narcotics the other half was NA.  You can just imagine the problems that ensued.

 As with most early fellowships, the death of the stronger member oft times meant the death of the fellowship, as in direct contradiction of the 12 traditions, one member and not the fellowship, was doing most of the work.  They were not "we" fellowships, but ones with small power centers at the top.  This is how NA in California failed in it's first attempt.  As most of us know, toward the beginning of the 1960's, the last NA meeting in the world had died.  It was quickly picked back up by founding members, including Jimmy K.  He was always adamant that NA was a “we fellowship” and not an “I” fellowship.  He always said; "there are no big shots here in NA – one shot and we’re all shot."

 Jimmy K maybe the most visible casualty of the Tradition Wars.  Sadly, his name is still used today to justify ongoing hostility and resentments.  You have to wonder what Jimmy would think about that.  He was a loving man who had many people speaking in his ears toward the end of his life and the end of his career in service to the fellowship as business manager of WSO.  Often times Powerful Men will be used by those around them to further their goals.  The fellowship begged and pleaded with Jimmy to come to the World Service Conference to give a report, while others played on his feelings of betrayal and fostered their beliefs that the literature committee was out to get him.  This was far from the truth.  The leaders in the literature for the most part owed their lives to Jimmy, as he sponsored several of them.  One member was his protege and probably one of his best friends.  Sadly those in the circle around Jimmy painted pictures of betrayal about Greg Pierce that just were not true.  Greg shared about the pain of going to his sponsors house and having the door slammed in his face. Why?  Because he fought to get a book written by addicts for addicts.  So too Greg Pierce, the man who wrote our 12 Tradition chapter of the Basic Text, the NA Tree, our first service structure, The Triangle of Self Obsession, Living The Program, an Approach to The 4th Step in Narcotics Anonymous, had been kicked to the curb for standing up for NA and our need for a book on recovery.

 The largest element of NA that was disenfranchised by the tradition wars were the die hard dedicated members of the World Literature Committee.  These members gave their ‘all’ for over 2 years to see that a Basic Text of Recovery from the disease of addiction in Narcotics Anonymous became a reality.  Many lost family, jobs, and gave countless years of selfless service so that addicts could recover and would not have to die from this wretched disease we are all afflicted with.  As changes were made to the Basic Text without true fellowship approval, a little piece of them died.  They had sweated over every single word in our book and to see a small handful of insiders would make change after change, hire professional writers to edit something they saw as near perfect and all with the flick of the wrist, or the strike of some keys on a word processor, did in years of diligent tireless selfless service.  Many have left NA and sadly will never come back.  We owe them our very lives, and this is how we repay them, by labeling them vocal minority, trouble-makers and malcontents, who have nothing better to do than tear down NA.

 This book is about any violation of traditions that led to or could lead to the death of even one suffering addict. As our literature states, "that (no) addict seeking recovery need ever die!".  The text also lets us know that "we are as sick as our secrets".  For these reasons we write and ask all to participate in the writing of the Tradition Wars, this is your book as well as ours.  Please go to the NA-HISTORY.ORG web site and input your views and your memories on these our growing years.  If you don't write it, it will never be heard!  This is your chance to have your say and make a difference for the health and well being of NA for years to come.

To move forward with this work, we will create an original document and let NA members from all over the world input ideas, suggestions, writings, critiques and do this as a joint effort. The way copyright law reads, contributing authors derive their work from originating author. This keeps the technicalities simple and opens the door to participation to any member, just as setting up a meeting place does for a recovery meeting. The Quest Forum and the information on the will contribute directly to the material along with any minutes, committee reports and correspondence we can find. Further, we will include eye witness accounts cited with first name and last initial.   Special thanks to Grover N. and Ron R. whose courage and vigor have inspired this work. We will add to this list of thanks as we progress. Gratitude to David A. of the Smyrna NA Foundation Group for originating the title in one of his incredible, colorful phrases.  

In Loving Service, 

Bo S.


Dear Fellow Members,

 Our editorial policy should be to present viewpoints and factual documents not otherwise available to help NA members think for themselves. I don't think we ever need to deal in radical rantings, but we should give ourselves the liberty to inform the general membership what has been going on the last ten or fifteen years. Many members haven't been clean that long - so they don't realize they used to have representatives that carried their vote. We are willing to take some time to avoid witch hunts and kangaroo courts. There has been enough of that.

 We pray as we undertake this effort for God's divine hand to strengthen and guide us so that our efforts will heal and strengthen our Fellowship.

 I went to a convention this past weekend, there was a NA history workshop that I missed so I asked some friends who did the workshop in the hopes that I might come away with a contact that I could get some material from.

 When I found out who did the workshop I walked up to the lady who had 25 years clean and told her that we were doing a NA history web page, her reply was ""who is we?"" when I mentioned some of the names involved with the NA history web site she instantly said ""I am not interested"" and turned her back on me.

 I was so deflated I did what I know how to do call a trusted addict and talk about it. I got some good feedback and went on and enjoyed the rest of the time I spent at the convention. I did buy the tape from that history workshop along with five others I like the six for five tape deals if your gonna spend five bucks per tape may as well get a free one, anyway I listened to a few tapes I really wanted to here Bob B. was great it took until today for me to get to the history workshop tape and after listening to this lady it made me think of the Tradition Wars topic what I came away with from listening to this lady was this. Yes there were casualties some people died and some of those that survived are still hurting and yet others worked the hell out of this program and got on with their lives.

 This lady made me realize that there were casualties on both sides of this thing, and just like we feel strongly about those we lost, there were people lost and hurt on their side also. So maybe just maybe when we start this project about the Victors of the Traditions Wars that we tell about whom got hurt on both sides.

 This is just this old addict trying to spark up some thoughts, ideas, and possibly get another part of our history told in a fashion that will bring about true understanding and maybe some healing.

 While listening to this tape as she spoke or starting to speak about certain things you could hear the pain she was reliving, that was the initial spark that prompted me to write this. I guess the thing we call empathy does work when you practice the spiritual principles of our God given program.


Ronald R.


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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