The Story of Narcotics Anonymous
Narcotics Anonymous was established in response to the success of Alcoholics Anonymous. NA provides support for those attempting to recover from drugs other than just alcohol. NA was officially founded in Los Angeles in 1953, and has spread to thousands of locations in 129 countries.
The only requirement to become a member of NA is a desire to overcome your addiction. NA groups don’t make a distinction between any type of drug, including alcohol. They also recognize that polysubstance dependence is common. Any addict who wants to recover is welcome.
What to Expect from an NA Meeting
It’s natural to be a little intimidated before going to a meeting, but just remember that everyone was once where you are. In fact, Narcotics Anonymous members are all recovering addicts who want to help others recover. You can rest assured that the group will provide a caring, welcoming, nonjudgmental environment.
Meetings are usually either discussion or speaker meetings. In discussion meetings, members share their personal stories of addiction and recovery as they relate to their lives. In speaker meetings, one or more members is asked to share for the majority of the meeting.
In discussion meetings, members may share as much or as little as they feel comfortable with, keeping in mind and being courteous of time constraints. New attendees aren’t required to share, though they are usually welcome to if they so choose. Sharing is done one at a time, and members are asked to only share their own experience and not comment on others’–conversations can be had during breaks or after the meeting.
Narcotics Anonymous and Religion
NA meetings are not based in any religion, but are rather grounded in spirituality. This refers to a higher power without defining what that is, as it can be different for everyone. Parts of the NA meeting usually include references to “God” and a prayer at the closing of the meeting. However, some people replace “God” with “higher power” or “good orderly direction.” The higher power aspect is meant to be a set of guiding morality and strength and is not based on any religion.
Terminology for Your First Meeting
Here’s a quick glossary of terms used in NA meetings, as listed in the NA official “Intro to NA” material.
- Addict. The term we use to refer to ourselves because we see addiction itself as the problem, rather than the use of a specific drug.
- Basic Text. The book that contains our core ideas, titled Narcotics Anonymous.
- Group. Members who hold one or more regularly scheduled NA meetings.
- Higher Power. Any loving force that helps a member stay clean and seek recovery.
- IPs. Information pamphlets about NA.
- Newcomers. New NA members.
- Relapse. When a lapse in recovery results in a brief or extended return to drug use.
- Sharing. Offering personal experience with addiction and recovery.
- Sponsor. Experienced member who offers guidance and support through the 12 Steps.
- Trusted Servants. Members who have service positions in NA.
“Closed” vs. “Open” Meetings
As in Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, Narcotics Anonymous meetings can be either “open” or “closed.” In open meetings, anyone may attend, including those who are interested in the group and how it works or who want to attend to support a loved one. Closed meetings are only for recovering addicts.
Deciding which type of group you would like to attend is up to you and what you are comfortable with. It’s also recommended to try several different groups and meetings until you find one that fits best with your needs, schedule and personality.
The 12 Steps
Narcotics Anonymous bases their treatment on the AA-established 12 steps. The only difference is that the NA terminology replaces references to “alcohol” with simply “addiction,” as NA doesn’t make a distinction between addictions. Read more about the 12 steps here.
Strength and Accountability in Numbers
One of the most powerful aspects of NA is the community. Because NA is made up of recovering addicts who take care of their own, meetings can provide a welcome environment of help and healing for newcomers.
Once a new attendee is familiar with the structure of NA and has established a relationship with the group, he or she can start looking for a sponsor. A sponsor is someone who is already established in NA and well-versed in the 12 Steps who can act as a mentor. It is usually advised to find a sponsor who also has a sponsor, so there are multiple layers of accountability.
Finding a Narcotics Anonymous Group
Are you ready to find a Narcotics Anonymous group to help you overcome your addiction? With more than 61,000 meetings held every week worldwide, there are many options that can fit your needs and lifestyle. Let us help you find an NA group today.
Narcotics Anonymous. (2007). An Introduction to Narcotics Anonymous Meetings. Retrieved on March 14, 2014 http://www.na.org/admin/include/spaw2/uploads/pdf/servicemat/2012Jun_Intro_to_NA_Meetings.pdf
Narcotics Anonymous. (2012). Information about Narcotics Anonymous. Retrieved on March 14, 2014 http://www.na.org/?ID=PR-index