NA Members from All Over with Twenty Year of More Clean Time
ďLet our clean time tell our storyÖĒ
Victor Hugo Sewell, Jr.
NA Foundation Group
6685 Bobby John Road
Atlanta, Georgia 30349
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..
Table of Contents
Marietta, Georgia USA
Titusville, Florida USA
Papago Reservation - Tucson, Arizona USA
Florida Keys USA
Hagerstown, Maryland USA
Houston, Texas USA
Los Angeles, California USA
Portland, Oregon USA
Ruckersville, Virginia USA
Appleton, Wisconsin USA
Marietta, Georgia USA
NA Heaven GOD
Seattle, Washington USA
Draper, Virginia USA
Atlanta, Georgia USA
Easton, MD USA
This book came from a discussion I had with a sponsee
Chip A. who is a long time counselor at a major treatment center in Smyrna,
Georgia. He was telling me that with some regularity professionals were still
speaking of NA from podiums as if it were a second class, small, recovery
program with few members, locations and only superficial recovery. This was not
the first time this had come up but for once, we talked about a solution.
Letís do a book about ongoing recovery, people with long terms of complete
abstinence in NA. So brainstorming a little, I told Chip we could take speaker
tapes, transcribe them and come up with a book almost overnight. By not editing
the stories, we simplify the whole processóand retain the freshness and vigor
of our real stories. We say we are miracles all the time but we really are
We would not have this book, or have it so quickly,
without the positive responses to a notice put up on our nawol.org website.
Almost overnight, we had several members and one non-addict, offer to help with
the labor of transcription. Nothing good happens fast and nobody makes it alone.
We are blessed to have such a wonderful Fellowship and this writing is built on
their gratitude and ours. Speaker tapes from NA conventions are already in
public domain, so we donít have to worry about that. They pass the test of NA
by having shared, usually much more than once. And what they reveal is a way of
life for addicts who are not using and growing spiritually.
We hope to include the stories of members all over
the world with long clean time. The world wide web allows instant, almost free
communication and we need to get on it!
Now, you know where this book is coming from. It is
coming from you, the grateful members of NA. Thank You!
This is a Fellowship friendly publication undertaken
by members of the NA Foundation Group. I am acting as a trusted servant to help
our Group bring this project to fruition. While we want the world to know that
the 12 Steps of NA work for addicts and result in an awakening of the Spirit, we
also know that the recovery stories in this book may serve as encouragement to
those who would follow our path.
If you or someone you know has over twenty years
clean in NA, please send in your/their recovery story to be included. It will be
out policy to decline any story from a member who does not want to have their
story told in this way. We hope to include as many as a hundred or more stories
so that the reality of our recovery will be known both in our NA world and the
wider world that surrounds us.
In Loving Service,
An Only Child
I am an only child and grew up in Atlanta, GA. When I was young I wanted to have a brother or sister and often felt that something was missing as a result. I always had a lot of friends when I was a kid. Iíve always wanted to fit in, to be accepted and liked, and to feel a part of.
My parents had many great qualities and passed along some good things to me. Among those good things that my mother passed along was a belief that God is loving rather than punitive, as some believe God to be. She also helped to demonstrate the importance of developing and maintaining relationships with other people. She made it a point to show that enjoying your life is important. My father was very sociable. He taught me to play guitar, to be loyal to true friends, and to persevere even when life is difficult. All of these things have helped me in my recovery. Although my parents passed along these and other good things to me, my home life was unpleasant at times.
My parents were friendly and loving towards each other some of the time but they also fought with each other often and this made me feel very uncomfortable. That uneasiness at home made a big impact on me. At one point I wanted them to divorce to end the turmoil. At the same time I didnít want that to happen because I knew somehow that their divorcing would disrupt how I made sense of the world. During all of that, I felt somehow responsible to fix them and I felt like a failure because I couldnít do it. Ultimately they did not divorce and Iíve always been glad that they didnít.
My using began when I was about five or six years old when my friend and I took beer secretly at a social gathering at his house. Even though I initially didnít particularly like the taste of beer, I liked the thrill of doing something I was not supposed to do as a child. I eventually learned to like beer and other types of alcohol, particularly the buzz that it gave you. I drank, smoked marijuana, and took LSD throughout my early adolescence. I enjoyed sports, especially football, and I loved to draw and to play guitar when I was younger, but using drugs became more and more the focus of my life. I discovered heroin when I was fifteen and that feeling was something I chased for the rest of my life until I finally got clean at 29 years old; I never felt that way again despite years of trying.
I had the predictable consequences of an adolescent who used some type of drug every day Ė good grades going to terrible grades; old close friends being exchanged for new friends who used heavily; decrease in interests like sports, art and music and increase in getting, using and finding ways and means to get more drugs.
I left home during a big argument with my parents when I was seventeen and moved to midtown Atlanta with some friends who were pretty major drug dealers. At the time that seemed like a good idea; a nice change from living with parents who were struggling to deal with an addicted teenager living in their home. The fun ended pretty quickly because I kept getting arrested for drug possession. I finally went to court for multiple drug charges when I was eighteen. I was convicted of felony drug possession on one of the counts and was placed on probation. I probably wasnít sentenced to time in prison because my dad stood up with me in court and asked the judge for mercy. I later had to go to another judge to answer for the other charges, and again my dad went with me, asked for mercy, and the judge sentenced me for another felony drug charge. He made my not going to prison conditional upon my either working or going to school.
I foolishly decided to work instead of going to college. I got a job as a janitor so I could have the money to keep using and not move too far away from my connections. Deciding to work instead of attending school, when I could have gone to college instead, turned out to be a bad decision in many ways down the road. I did learn a lot about life and how things work as a result of that decision, so I guess things happen sometimes for reasons that we donít understand until later on down the road.
The rest of the using part of my story simply illustrates the progression of my disease. From age twenty to twenty-five I worked at a music hall that had well-known musicians and comedians performing nightly. I could use freely at work and I saw this as a nice perk. Unfortunately, being an addict on my way to hitting bottom, that turned out to not be such a great thing other than perhaps contributing to my hitting bottom sooner.
I got hepatitis during that time from having used dirty needles previously. During and after the hepatitis nightmare, I stopped using alcohol and all other drugs completely for several months. I went back to work at the music hall but it was hard to stay clean in that environment; there was a lot of using going on around me.
I didnít know one single other person with a drug problem who was trying to not use during that time. Itís interesting that the first NA meeting in Georgia took place in August, 1974, near my home, and during that period that I had stopped using. Unfortunately I didnít know about the meeting. I feel certain that I would have gone to NA meetings if I had known that there were other addicts trying to stay clean somewhere near me.
I tried to stay stopped by avoiding my heroin-using buddies, but all of my other friends drank and smoked pot. With the social skills I had to work with, I pretty much had to hang out with those friends to have any kind of social life. At times I would just isolate because it felt uncomfortable to be the only one not using. Eventually I gave in and started using a little, convincing myself that I could handle it by using in moderation. Of course that didnít last long and I was right back into active addiction again rather quickly.
I got married later on and the music hall closed. We moved up to Nashville to get work in the music business but returned to Atlanta after a few months of not finding good jobs in Nashville. I was using daily while in Nashville and continued to use daily upon return to Georgia. I hurt my back during the move and was prescribed codeine for back pain; that was the spark that relit the fire of my opiate addiction, and that led to my surrender within four more years.
In my life prior to becoming addicted, I functioned pretty well, that is I made good grades in school, I had friends, I had interests and hobbies, I cared about others, I cared about myself, and even though I certainly had problems, I was pretty happy for the most part. In active addiction my functioning deteriorated over time. I did ok for quite awhile even though I was addicted. I got arrested but I bounced back and kept using. I got fired from jobs but I got other jobs. I lost relationships but I got other relationships. I lost more and more because of the alcohol and other drugs, but I was always able to rationalize and blame and justify continuing to use.
Those four more years included the birth of my son, my wife leaving me over my drug problem, giving me the ultimatum of her and my son or the drugs, choosing the drugs, and feeling like a real loser Ė truly unable to stop using even though I desperately wanted to stop. I got a job at a rental car agency and was dealing to support my habit. I was using copious amounts of drugs around the clock, wanting to stop using, but I just couldnít do it, and I tried hard to stop.
One afternoon I came home from work and found the house completely empty; everything gone that was there when I left that morning Ė furniture, dishes, pictures off the walls, everything, including my wife and son. It hit me hard, but I kept up the good addictís persona of rationalizing my using even more, blaming her for my woes, and trudging on towards the cliff at the end of the road. I quit my job at the rental car place, started dealing full time, and isolated from the world completely. I walked around the house at night with a .357 magnum, feeling like a trapped animal, scared, desperate, wanting to stop using but having no way out that I could see. I later moved out of there and was living in an apartment and in motels, paranoid all the time due to the dealing lifestyle, and in desperation I moved to my parentsí house to try to get away from that lifestyle. As it turned out, I simply took the addiction there with me Ė used constantly, all day every day, only leaving the house to sell or buy more drugs.
Now that Iíve been clean for a while, I can summarize all that with saying that using was fun at first but it got bad over the years and never really got any better. Towards the end, it quit working at all, that is, using stopped doing the positive things that I thought it used to do for me. I tried to make it work but ultimately I couldnít do that.
I had reached the point of hating myself, hating my life, and being unable to look in the mirror, all because of my addiction to drugs. I was desperate for help but I was afraid to stop using; I didnít think I could live without my drugs. Even during the last part of my using, the drugs would give me at least brief periods of escape from the misery that my addiction was putting me through, but at the end, I got only brief moments of escape or so it seemed. Actually I was aware deep down that the drugs didnít work any more; they didnít give me any pleasure any more; it was all pain. After I entered treatment I remember thinking of myself as ďa pitiful creature.Ē
One night during that time my son was staying at my parentsí home, and I was up shooting heroin and cocaine ďspeedballsĒ all night. I looked at him sleeping and it hit me like a ton of bricks that Ďhe doesnít deserve a father like this.í I couldnít stand to look in the mirror, I couldnít stop using, and I didnít know what to do. I started writing that night and later my mom found what I had written. She asked me what she could do to help and I asked for treatment. My parents facilitated that and I found NA there at the treatment center. I found some hope.
Now in recovery, I can have good friends and be a decent human being. Thatís quite a contrast to that totally self-obsessed person I was in active addiction. During treatment, I returned briefly to a job with a previous employer, and then was able to get a different job utilizing my skills as an artist, hand-painting cans of flavored popcorn for stores in malls. After that business closed, I had about a year and a half clean. I went directly into an entry-level clinical job at a treatment center working with adolescents Ė my sponsor and my doctor when I was in treatment worked there, and the administrators agreed to let me work there on the condition that I get my GED high school graduation equivalency certificate and attend college while working there (the job required a degree). That job has turned into a career in which Iím now into my third decade.
Even though it was difficult at times, I found early recovery to be mostly enjoyable because of the new friends I made in NA. They really reached out to me and made me a part of their family. They taught me how to ask for help and that asking for help was ok. I met my sponsor at a lunchtime meeting that took place at an NA clubhouse during the workweek while I was out looking for a job. During and after the meetings I found that I could relate to him, so I got up the courage to ask him to be my sponsor. That relationship lasted for sixteen years; he passed away in 1999, clean, from cancer. I immediately got a new sponsor, someone Iíve known since my very earliest days in the program, and whom I have always loved and respected. From my work as a counselor, Iíve seen many relapses because someoneís sponsor died, relapsed, moved, etc. and the person never got another sponsor. I didnít want that to be my fate, so I got another sponsor right away and that relationship in ongoing today.
I learned the value of doing service work from the beginning. My sponsor who has since passed away and the man who is now my sponsor both worked together at a sign shop across the parking lot from NA clubhouse where the lunchtime meeting took place. They and others around back then were heavily involved in writing NA literature, including the Basic Text and IPís, as well as doing other service work in the fellowship. They had me plunge right in and I got to help with some of the literature work as well as becoming GSR of a Thursday night group. I did artwork for flyers and T-shirts, became an area activities committee chair and then a regional activities chair, and helped to make coffee, set up chairs, welcome newcomers, and whatever else needed to be done. Being of service to others has helped me immensely in all areas of my life, and has certainly contributed heavily to my staying clean for quite some time now.
After about a year and a half clean, after realizing in my Fourth Step earlier that not completing high school and going on to college really affected my self-esteem, I thought about going back to school. However, I really didnít think I could do it. Fear of failure kept me from doing it for a while. I was encouraged by some people to go get my GED and go get a college education, so when the treatment center job offer came up, I finally said, Ďwhy not at least try ití and it turned out that I could do it. It took me over eleven years, but I eventually got my Masters degree in psychology and today I am a licensed professional counselor. I can thank NA and the people in NA for encouraging me to go back to school when I didnít think I could do it.
I remarried when I had about five years clean, and I also thank my wife for sticking with me through those tough years of getting through undergraduate and graduate school and the sacrifices we had to make as a family to make that happen. She is a beautiful, spiritual woman and I am a lucky man to have her in my life. We are coming up on our twentieth anniversary later this year.
My family is very important to me today. Active addiction took me away from people, one by one, including my family, until I was totally alone with my drugs. Itís different for me today. We have two fantastic children, both of whom I am very proud. My relationships with my wife and children are honest and filled with the normal ups and downs that relationships have, but I must say that, to me, the ups far outweigh the downs. My relationships with other family members are pleasant ones, with no residual effects of my addiction of which I am aware. Iím not trying to paint a rosier picture than is actually the case; if there are people who are harboring resentments about my past of over twenty years ago; they are keeping those to themselves. As far as I know, I have made all of the amends from my time of active addiction that I need to make.
The 12 steps have taught me a way of living that has truly improved my life. Under times of high stress, or sometimes for reasons I canít even recognize until later, I can still end up in that self-centered way of thinking and acting. However, at least today I have a better ability to recognize it when I am thinking or feeling or acting in a way that is self-centered and that cause character defects to emerge and cause pain to me and to others. Because of the Steps, the help of my Higher Power and my new associates, I can recognize when Iím living in the problem rather than the solution. I can then stop what Iím doing and try to practice the spiritual principles that will help me and those around me. Sometimes I have to make amends for damage that I cause now, and like anyone else, I donít enjoy that. Having a commitment to staying clean and working the Steps makes me live my life in such a way that I try very hard to not cause damage as I go through my day.
I must add that there are some other things that I feel are a big part of my recovery being able to remain intact over many years. Exercising, eating right, and getting enough rest are also part of the healing of mind, body and spirit that needs to take place for good recovery. Our Basic Text speaks of addiction as being a disease that affects us physically, mentally and spiritually. Recovery is all about not using and healing in all of those areas. Regarding the Ďphysicallyí part, I feel that taking care of my body is equally important as taking care of my mind and spirit; itís all part of the same human being Ė mind, body and spirit.
I started exercising regularly after I gained a substantial amount of weight following stopping smoking. I stopped smoking when I had four years clean and I had about seven years clean when I started exercising regularly. I have kept that up since then and as a result Iím in pretty good shape. I was able to start studying karate after I started getting in better condition and have been practicing martial arts regularly for over sixteen years now. Sometimes itís hard to go to the dojo after a hard dayís work and I want to go on home and sit in front of the TV, but I usually go anyway. Sometimes itís hard to go to the gym and do strength conditioning, or go for a run or whatever, but if Iím not sick, I usually just do it. Afterwards, Iím always glad I did.
Eating right and getting enough rest can be challenging. I was a fat kid and have struggled with a tendency to not eat in the right way all of my life. Learning to eat reasonably is an ongoing process. Itís one of those things that make a difference in how I experience getting older in recovery. Itís the same with getting enough rest. I do better with some structure in my life, and having a general time that I go usually go to sleep is part of that.
Balance is something that I strive for in recovery. Iím now in my mid-fifties. Keeping up with old friends, making new friends, maintaining relationships with immediate and extended family, my Program friends, my karate friends, my work friends, and other people from other walks of life, is something I strive for. I say please prayers in the morning and thank you prayers at night. I pray and meditate daily throughout the day. I practice Steps and principles of steps to the best of my ability each day, particularly Steps One, Two, Three, Six, Seven, Ten, Eleven and Twelve. I do Fourth, Fifth, Eighth and Ninth Step work as needed, and I find that by practicing the other Steps to the best of my ability regularly, those Steps are getting shorter and less necessary to formally work as frequently. Practicing the principles of the Fourth, Fifth, Eighth and Ninth, i.e. courage, integrity, love and discipline respectively, is something I strive to do in my daily life.
I love the NA Informational Pamphlet - The Triangle of Self-Obsession. It so beautifully illustrates addiction, how it affects us using or not using, and that practicing spiritual principles gives us relief from the pain of not practicing those principles. I love clear directions. I once complained to my sponsor that ďRecovery is so painful.Ē He corrected that with, ďAddiction is painful; recovery is relief from the pain.Ē He also said once when I was lamenting about something ďDonít work the steps as long as you can stand it!Ē I got the point. Donít use, go to meetings, pray, meditate, work steps, practice principles, reach out to other addicts, and things go pretty well.
We are not perfect, and donít need to try to be. We need to not take life too seriously. We need to work our programs to the best of our ability. We need to not use no matter what and to seek help when we get stuck in that endeavor. We do this a day at a time - a minute at a time if needed. We need to keep our recovery our top priority. These are the things that Iíve been taught by those who came before me and that have served me well over the years so I will pass those on here. I love NA and hope to be attending meetings when Iíve a hundred years old and beyond. As long as I donít use, I have a chance to see that happen.
I have come to believe
that addiction has been with me always. As far back as I can recall I was
thinking and acting like and addict. I was adopted at age 3 and my first memory
is being introduced to my parents. From that day forward I was different, I was
unique, I wasnít like you because I got to choose my parents and you didnít.
Like the good addict I would become I ran with this single thought and the rules
no longer applied to me. When I was eight years old my adopted family moved to a
part of the country where alcoholism was rampant and my father began drinking
again after 20 years of sobriety. I proceeded to spend the next nine years of my
life being the sole communicator in my family. All that I seemed to hear was
Lester go tell your Dad this or Lester tell your mother this or but Lester you
donít understand what it is like. Being an only child I have time for using.
When I turned Seventeen, while away from home on my senior trip, I used my first
drug (tobacco) and immediately fell in love. This was soon followed with
alcohol, marijuana. Later that year I moved away from home when I went to
college. Here I started experimenting with amphetamines. College lasted for one
semester. Then I dropped out and got job selling encyclopedias. This lasted a
couple of months and on May 4th 1970 I enlisted in the Navy. Here my disease
rapidly progressed extending itself to include hallucinogens and anything else
that might alter my state of being. Being the good addict that I was, I fell in
love with every drug I ever took and would continue on this road to
self-destruction for the next 17 years.
During this period of my
life I lived to use and used to live. Often telling myself that I was enjoying
life the end results were always the same, lost relationships, lost jobs, and
lost dignity. Then in 1983 (having just turned 32), a series of miracles began
to occur in my life. Miracle 1: I found myself Homeless in
Portland, OR living under a bridge and eating out dumpsters, a wino at age 32. I
then proceeded to explore this new way of life for the following two winters and
in the spring of 1985 I came too one day and realized that I could no longer
continue living this way. My life had been reduced to an animalistic level and I
was sick and tired of being sick and tired. Miracle #2:
I asked for help. I told a friend that I could not go on living this way and He
called Detox for me. Thus began my journey to Recovery.
In April 1985 I went into
treatment. At this point of my story I need to mention that about half way
through treatment. I started using again and continued to keep it secret until
after I left treatment. They used to let us out in the mornings to go to an AA
meeting a few blocks away and while on these excursions I soon found that a
certain crowd, out side the meeting place would be getting high on pot before
going into the meeting and it wasnít long before I joined them after all I
still believed that pot was not a drug. I somehow managed to keep this hidden
from the treatment people and in July of 1985 (having completed phase one of the
treatment program I was transferred to a halfway house. After arriving at the
halfway house I landed a job, the 1st I had had in over 3 years. After receiving
my 1st paycheck, (thinking I was well) I moved out of the halfway house and into
a house full of addicts. Upon getting my 2nd paycheck I moved into the tavern
across the street and proceeded to learn a lesson on insanity (repeating the
same mistakes over and over again and expecting different results).
Monday, June 31, 1986, I
found myself too hung over to go to work so I called in sick. I knew I had to
detox so began detoxing myself and started to check around for an out patient
treatment thinking I might be able to save my job. Tuesday, July 1stóstill
detoxing I called in sick again; made arrangements to return to halfway house. I
took my last drink at approximately 2am July 2nd 1986. I then get up at 5 am and
go to work. Still detoxing, I confront my supervisor with the truth about my
addiction and am placed on probation pending the out come of my attempt to find
recovery. July 4th 1986 now abstinate for 2 days, though still detoxing I
re-enter the halfway house. This time around I had insurance so I decide to stay
for 6 months. Once again I had to get that proverbial piece of paper
signed and at 1st I started going to AA meetings with the rest of the
crowd. However I did manage to refrain from getting high outside the meeting
house. By now I had pretty much convinced my self that a drug was drug and that
I did not matter which drug I started using 1st, they all eventually
took me to the same place, making my life unmanageable. Then one day while on
the bus going to work I met two ladies, one of which was reading the big book of
AA. She was someone I had gone through treatment with a yr. earlier and was now
coming up on 2 yrs clean. The other lady, the cute one, was reading the Basic
Text of Narcotics Anonymous. I immediately started bullshitting her, telling her
How I am in recovery also, blah, blah, etc. and she invited me to an NA meeting
that was just a few blocks from the halfway house I was staying in. So on the
following Saturday I took my little piece of Paper and went to an NA meeting.
She was not there but the person who would later become my sponsor was. At
my 1st meeting of NA I heard someone tell my story and I knew that I had found a
home. I went back to that meeting a second and then a third time just to hear
this person share. At my third meeting I asked him to be my sponsor. The empathy
that I felt in this meeting was new to me and every time someone shared it was a
though they were telling my story. These addicts had what I wanted, they had
found a new way of living and were willing to share that way with me, another
addict, and my recovery from addiction begins.
My Clean Date is: July 2,
1986 (the day I quit using). I found my 1st home Group and Sponsor when I had
about 8 or 9 days clean. I attended my 1st H&I subcommittee meeting when I
had 30 days clean. I joined the H&I Committee when I had 90 days clean. At
two yrs clean my sponsor relapsed and I had to find a new sponsor, which I did.
Then at 3yrs clean my original sponsor came back to recovery and after he had
been back for about 6 months I asked him to be my sponsor again. He still had
what I wanted, Knowledge of NA, the Steps and the traditions. He had
thirty plus yrs of on again off recovery. He always said that he was
sicker than most and his past kept catching up to him. He had originally gotten
clean in NA in southern ca. in the early Sixties and knew many of the founders
of NA. Even though he was never able to accumulate substantial amounts of clean
time he always returned to the fellowship that gave him freedom and life as he
knew it. If there were no meetings in the area the happened to be in he would a
start one. He agreed to sponsor me again and I kept him as a sponsor
until he died from cancer when I had 10 or 11 yrs clean. I have since gone
through several sponsors. For my first 4 yrs of recovery I attended 2 to 3
meetings daily and was Secretary of a meeting for five yrs. Also, I started
another meeting and did H&I and area service. I started attending Regional
Service when I had 3yrs clean and also served on the Merchandising committee for
the World Conv. for 1 yr in my 4th and 5th yrs of recovery. I think it was in my
3rd yr of recovery that I learned a most valuable tool. I learned that I could
work the steps any time at any place over any given situation allowing me to get
on with my life.
day I got fired from my job. Then I found myself walking down the street in
Portland, Oregon, jobless for the 1st time in recovery. While walking down the
street my 1st thought was "Why ME?" Then it occurred to me that it was
my time for this to happen. I then went to a noon meeting and talked about my
getting fired. Next, I went home and started writing by that evening I was at
Step 5. I picked up the phone and called my sponsor. By mid-day the following
day I had gone through all 12 Steps and within 2 days out of the blue I had
received two phone calls from people who had heard that I might be in the job
market. Both were companies I had previously worked for and both had job offers.
one of them was the job I had quit because of stress.
I then proceed to tell both companies
that I would interview with them and then I was going to take one week to make a
decision as to who I would go to work for. Both companies agreed to these terms.
True to my word I interviewed with both and then took a week off to decide. In
the end I went back to work for the company that I had quit because of stress,
and stayed with them for another nineteen years.
What was different? During the interviews I learned the art of negotiation, something that would never have occurred tome a month earlier. I was able to re-negotiate conditions and went back to work as a part time employee making the same hourly wage that I was making when I quit.
In my 6th yr of recovery I would meet that special someone who would become my wife. I met her at a Regional Conference of Narcotics Anonymous. Kristie and I got married on Jan 17th 1992. On September 20 1992 shortly after my 6 NA Anniversary our daughter Tiffany was born. Suffering from complications at birth Tiffany would live only 5 months. During this time of my recovery I did very little service work and only made it to meetings whenever I got an opportunity because for 3 of those months we had Tiffany at home and she required 24 hr. around the clock care which Kristie and I provided with the help of a nurse who would come to our home 2 to 3 times a week. Fortunately, I had good INS. At the time and my place of employment was there for me. When they found out about Tiffany they gave me two yrs sick leave with pay retroactive when combined with earned vacation came to 30 days off from work and when I returned to work I was allowed to work a min of 20 hrs Per week at a schedule that I chose. And this lasted until Tiffanyís death. When Tiffany died on February 19, 1993 my entire world seemed to collapse in front of my very eyes, but once again NA would be there for me. Through working the steps, going to meetings and doing service work and using my sponsor along with having my stepchildren come to live with us. Both my wife and I were able to stay clean through this period of our lives and return to living a life with some normality. Life having taken itís toll on our marriage, it lasted until Dec. 97, at which time my wife broke the news to me that she was leaving and that there was no saving our marriage. Once again my world seemed to crumble and once again the fellowship of NA was there for me.
Shortly after she broke
the news to me we discovered that her eldest daughter, my step daughter who was
now living with her natural Father had been diagnosed with Ewingís Sarcoma, a
rare form of bone cancer found only in adolescents and almost always fatal.
Andrea was fifteen yrs old at the time. So our Divorce was put on hold. Still
being on my INS., We brought Andrea to Portland so that her mother could be near
her and had her placed in a hospital near us. The Doctors here confirmed the
diagnosis and began treatment, which involved a stem cell transplant followed
with radiation. Andrea went into full remission only to have the cancer return a
year later and this time it had spread throughout her body. Andrea died on the
day before her 17th birthday on May 4th, 2000. During the time that Andrea had
lived with us, we had been at odds most of the time with me being the other man
in her Mothers life. However, I am pleased to say that during her last two years
we were able to get know each other and have a good relationship. Also it was
during this time that Andrea was able to come to terms with her disease and
accept life for what it was and learn to enjoy life to its fullest (coming to
terms with her own demise and finding the ways and means to make peace with the
God of her understanding and those around her. What a gift to be able to
witness such a miracle, I learned a lot from her and will forever be grateful
that she got to be apart of my recovery. In experiencing Andreaís life and
death I was able to come to terms with Tiffanyís demise and see that all of
the pain of grieving that I had put myself through was a product of my own
self-centeredness in not wanting to let go of something that I loved so dearly.
With this realization I was finally able to let go and give both my daughter and
step- daughter to a God of my understanding.
death I got my divorce papers in the mail and my now ex and I went our separate
ways. She has since remarried. I havenít. For along time I hoped and prayed
for reconciliation. Then I finally accepted that our divorce was to be permanent
and by now we are no longer in contact. Life continues to go on.
1998 I was permanently laid off when the place I was working at sold the
branch that I was working in. I then went to school at business computer
training institute to learn my way around a computer, do word processing and
such, only to find that after graduating I could not find a job in that field. I
was forty-eight yrs. old at the time and for every interview I went on there
would seemingly be 100 twenty year olds with more qualifications than I had and
guess who got the jobs,
I still continue to go to
meetings at least 3 or 4 a week and still do regional Service. I became
Archivist for our Region. And on a local level I have switched from H&I to
PI. I have tried several Sponsors since my Sponsor died and am currently looking
for a new one. I do have a large support group and my old sponsor taught me to
always be able to turn to my support group in case of the absence of a sponsor,
which I do and he also told me that I work the steps the 1st time around wit a
sponsor and after that I work them with those I sponsor and I also do this. He
also helped me come to believe a simple fact that I have had proven to me over
and over again that nothing happens in Gods world by mistake and It took what it
took to get me to where I am at today and that in the same respect it will take
what it takes to get me to there where there is at. Today I want to go there.
So for the next 4 or 5
yrs I bounced around with several minimum wage jobs and finally in June of 2004
when the fast food place I was working at lowered my hours from 18 to 9 hrs a
week. I said enough is enough and I called a sponcee of mine who had relocated
to Florida a year, earlier for the same reason, (he couldnít find work in
Portland in his field). He told me that there was plenty on work here in Florida
and that he had a place I could stay at and car I could use until I got on my
feet again. So I borrowed money for a plane ticket, moved to Florida and have
been working since. I now do shipping and receiving at a tractor dealership
I arrived in Florida on
my clean date July 2, 2004 and immediately went to a Convention on NA. I then
went to live with a sponcee of mine who had come to Fl., a yr., earlier for
similar reasons. I immediately started going to meetings here and became
involved in Service at an area level. I started going to casual labor seeking
employment and on my 2nd or 3rd time out I went to work for the company I am
currently working for. My hire date was Aug.10, 2004. I soon found a home group
and became involved at the Group Level. Continued involvement in NA helps keep
me clean. I have friends today old and new who care about me as a person. My
life is good today and rich in recovery. It has by far exceeded my wildest
expectations. I recently had the privilege of helping start a Foundation Group
(for more info on this go to nawol.org).
We are currently doing a Step Study using the NA Way of Life book and I am
gaining a whole new perspective on the Twelve Steps of NA and how Recovery
affects all areas of my life. Life is good and Higher Power is great.
The above paragraph was
written on March 27th 2006. Twenty ĖThree months have since passed I now have
a sponsor with 33yrs clean in NA. I am still with the company that hired me when
I 1st came to Fl. The foundation group that I started is still going.
I still have my same NA Home group. I now have several sponsees and
grandsponsees here locally, and I have since become Area P.I. Chair. I am now
approaching 22 yrs of Recovery in N.A.
I am not free of
misgivings about N. A. as a whole. I can see what I perceive as mistakes that we
as a fellowship have made. I can also see the vast amount of good that we have
done. Were it not for the fellowship of Narcotics Anonymous, I clearly believe
that I would not be here today and in all probility my addiction would have
taken my life yrs ago. I believe that N. A. is a (God given fellowship)
and as such cannot be destroyed. This is not to say that it will not evolve. I
believe that a power much greater than myself will direct us keeping us right
where we are supposed to be. I have found that my life in recovery in N. A. is
constant journey that is forever providing me with new opportunities to learn
from my mistakes and to grow spiritual, mentally and emotionally. Quite often I
do not immediately comprehend why something is happening at the moment, but
without fail I always seem to discover why it happened somewhere down the road.
A friend of mine once
told me that there are three types of people in NA. There are those who want
someone mainly our trusted servants to lead the way for them and there are those
who believe that the Groups should dictate our actions and those who could care
less as long as they have a meeting of some kind to go to.
Without going off on a
political rant, I tend to go with the second opinion believing that our groups
are at the top of the pyramid and that everything
that occurs in the course of N.A. Service must be motivated by the desire
to more successfully carry the message of recovery to the addict who still
suffers. I have seen the results of members of our fellowship when they become
corrupted with Power derived from the accumulation of money , property or
prestige I have also seen the results of members trusting in the process
and one addict telling another to keep coming back, It works. All of this
at times may seem confusing and contradicting, but I have found that in
attempting to adhere to our principals and practicing our 12 Steps and applying
our 12 traditions to all areas of my life I continue to grow as the process
unfolds. With each step I get a little bit closer to becoming the person that I
am capable of becoming.
Beer for a baby
"I started drinking when I was 18 months old," Angel said as he sipped coffee in a secluded back corner of Cafe Mekka in Nevada City.
"I was raised on the Tohono O'odham Reservation in southern Arizona, where drinking is a social ill," he said. "My grandfather put beer in my baby bottle, and he would take me to the pool hall, where some thought it was 'cute' to see a baby drinking beer. When I got older, the taste of alcohol was soothing and familiar. I was comfortable in bars. We're all products of our environment."
Angel's family moved to San Jose, where his childhood drug and alcohol addiction escalated to heroin. At 12 years old, he was a courier for a drug cartel.
"I'd take the brown packages and put them in brand new backpacks and deliver them. And when I made my deliveries I'd get tips, like $20."
It wasn't long before Angel and a friend decided to try the mysterious drug that people seemed so happy to receive. They sat in his garage, broke open a package and dipped their fingers in and tasted it. The pure white powder was bitter, but the boys kept "tasting" it. When Angel woke up, he was in the hospital. He had overdosed on heroin. He was 13 years old.
"That was the beginning of the end. When I went to court, my older brother told the judge that I had fallen in with the wrong crowd, and I promised the judge I would never do it again. It was the first lie I ever told to a judge - but not the last one."
A teen heroin addict
A full-blown addict at 13, Angel turned to crime to make ends meet and pay his rising drug costs. He describes his drug career as a learning experience: "I learned about things like extortion and strong-armed robbery." His next "learning experience" was prison. He was sentenced to seven years for trafficking, weapons and conspiracy to sell drugs. He made the easy transition from using and dealing drugs on the outside to using and dealing drugs on the inside.
"I used drugs every day in prison," he said.
When he got out, he tried to kick his habit. Again and again. "I was in and out of detox clinics 42 times in an 18-month period. I was using alcohol, heroin, cocaine, Tuinal, sleeping pills, LSD and other hallucinogenic drugs."
At the age of 26, Angel was done. The party was over. The drugs didn't work their magic any more, and he really didn't see a reason to live. It was December 1976, and Angel was high. He had made it to yet another recovery house, but they didn't have any beds available, so he passed out in the gutter out front, his mind churning with thoughts of suicide.
A helping hand
One of the workers at the recovery house - himself a former addict - saw Angel in the gutter and decided to try to help him. He rounded up some other recovering addicts and they took Angel to the man's house. He sent his wife and daughters packing to a relative's house so the group of men could begin their work: baby-sitting Angel around the clock as he detoxed from a ferocious heroin addiction.
It wasn't a pretty task. As they talked, Angel threw up. For 10 days he was sweating, shaking, his body riddled by cramps. The men talked, and gradually, Angel listened. He really didn't want to die somewhere, face down in a gutter. These brave men understood what he was going through - because they had gone through it, too.
For the first time, Angel had hope. Someone cared about him - even if the "someone" was actually a group of grizzly ex-addicts. They took him to 12-step programs like Narcotics Anonymous, where Angel began to listen, and, a day at a time, slowly rebuild his life.
"I learned about living. I learned what my disease was like - what it did to me physically and emotionally. People told me they'd love me unconditionally and that they would be there for me. It was the first time in my life anyone had ever said that to me."
When Angel hit bottom, he said he was spiritually bankrupt. Becoming clean allowed him to find some spiritual values, including Native American wisdom. At 6 feet, 3 inches tall with a black ponytail under a black felt hat, he looks imposing until you hear his soft, clear voice asking yet another question of his interviewer.
"Why? Why do you do things? Everyone asks an addict 'why?"'
Angel turns the corner
He sits up straighter when he describes what his life is like now. His large brown eyes grow bright as he acknowledges he is a positive, responsible human being. He's a father, and a grandfather, and a loving husband. Now, he lives to help others.
"Way too many of us are lost. We're not your enemy - we're your children. People need to talk to each other. We're no different than you are; we just had it a little tougher."
The Grass Valley resident, who is retired from the state of California, is also a blues broadcaster on Nevada City's KVMR-FM (89.5). His program, Lil' Angel B's Blues Cafe, is on alternate Thursdays from midnight to 4 a.m.
What ex-addicts have to offer
Angel, who is usually positive and upbeat on all matters, says he's tired of people discussing the county's drug problems but avoiding the ex-addicts who may have some answers for them.
"Why aren't we invited to speak at service clubs? Why can't we be a part of the (Nevada County Community) Leadership Institute?"
Angel and others who have battled substance abuse addiction aren't waiting for the government to set up clinics and halfway houses. They reach out to one another, helping however they can, sharing solutions. They invite addicts to detox in their living rooms, take them to Drug Court and sit beside them at 12-step programs. They give them hope - and teach them responsibility.
Many of Nevada County's ex-addicts went through the Community Recovery Resources program, or CORR, and there is now an alumni association of former drug and alcohol addicts.
"The Recovery Community here is like one big family," Angel said.
"If somebody disappears, we know it. We take care of our own. And we have to try harder - it's too easy for them to go back out there. They're afraid of living and afraid of dying."
have attended meetings in Atlanta and my area of South Florida for the past 25
years (since 1983). Service
work, conventions and strong alliances with other recovering addicts have
helped me to realize that I am a part of something much bigger than myself and
my own problems. Here are some of my experiences during this time in NA.
home group in the Florida Keys, Clean Conchs, now holds five meetings a week
in Tavernier/Key Largo. It is the only meeting group within forty miles in
either direction. Clean Conchs was started by Tammy F. and held at the Burton
Memorial Church in Tavernier on a Saturday night in May of 1983, only one week
before I attended my first meeting. There were between one to three members
with a couple of people from another fellowship coming down to offer support
to get us started.
had a rough start to my recovery and was put in long term treatment in Atlanta
for a year where I picked up my one year medallion. At that time NA groups did
not have metal medallions. We used blue poker chips engraved by year and home
group. My birthday meeting was held at a clubhouse, and as was their custom,
they made it special for me by giving me a chance to pick the topic, the
people I wanted to share and who gave me my medallion. Everyone who spoke said
something about the ďbirthday person.Ē
I returned to the Keys, the Clean Conchs meetings were being held in the
garage of an un-air-conditioned Chevron gas station. Our group had only a few
members so we traveled together by car to Marathon, Homestead and South Miami
(forty to ninety miles) to have an expanded fellowship. Over the next months
we had our meeting moved from place to place: from the gas station to the
Senior Citizen Building and Convalescent Center on Plantation Key and to the
Ambulance Building in Key Largo.
early meetings were held using the only available literature, the White Book
and several I.P. pamphlets. There was no Basic Text in our area. Meetings
consisted of Ďwar storiesí and because of how small a group we were, we
clung to each other for our lives. We traveled to Miami for fellowship
functions such as picnics, dances and the 24 Hour Room. There was a workshop
held in the Keys led by out of town members in which we were able to give
input for one of the I.P. pamphlets.
got so enthusiastic about having our meetings grow to seven members that we
had elaborate refreshments. On Wednesdays we had coffee, decaf, tea, soda,
cookies, cake and punch to choose from...all this for just seven people.
1987 Clean Conchs got a clubhouse. It was a store front office upstairs at the
Vaughn Building in Tavernier which we arranged for by forming a corporation to
rent and insure the room. Board members donated large amounts of money to keep
the room open. The rent in 1987 was $600 a month plus yearly insurance. We
grew to thirty members which swelled to fifty on weekends as visitors came
down from Miami for support. I was treasurer of the corporation and saw it
become harder and harder to collect enough dues to keep it going. The
corporation conflicted with the NA Traditions of being self-supporting and
lost the room in 1992 and our Clean Conchs NA group almost died out. For three
years, I and another addict met three days a week at the Spirit and Truth
Church on Plantation Key in a small office room. We had three to four members
and it never seemed to grow. We traveled when we could to other groups to
expand our experience and fellowship. In 1995 we secured a room at the Keys
Jewish Community Center in Tavernier. For ten to fifteen years our meetings
were stable with about six members plus visitors who came and went.
2007 membership really grew. Newcomers started taking responsibility and the
group really started to flourish. Now we have five meetings a week: three at
the KJCC, one at the Rusk Clubhouse and one at Marinerís Hospital. We have
about twenty-five members that regularly attend all of the meetings. WE have a
group activity to fellowship together almost every week. Some of the female
members meet separately to work the NA Steps together. In May 2008 Clean
Conchs will be twenty-five years old. When we started in 1983 we belonged to
the Dade Area Service group then we joined the rest of the Keys in the
previously formed Conch Republic Area.
Conch Republic Area was sluggish too. It held a convention, The Last Resort,
in Key West at the Casa Marina Resort annually for five years but that died
out in the mid-1980's. Then the Conch Republic Area started an annual
Spiritual Retreat in 1998. This is now a major very popular event drawing
people from many areas of the country to our resort setting for a camping
weekend with food, fun, excellent speakers and workshops on spiritual growth
in recovery. It originally started at Knights Key, in Marathon, and went that
campground closed it moved to KOA on Sugarloaf Key.
the Keys are a string of islands 112 miles long, its groups are isolated
Florida Keys have their unique struggles because of their isolation. Isolation
that is a lot like that of addiction. Itís hard to find sponsors, there are
not multiple groups to choose from and locally no service structure because
the main part of that is located ninety miles away in Key West. That is the
drive our GSR has to make every month to attend Area meetings.
my service tenure Iíve held the positions of setting up meetings, making
coffee, cleaning ashtrays, greeting newcomers, sponsorship, GSR, alternate GSR,
group secretary, treasurer, chair of H&I, PI, helpline contact, area
vice-chair and area chair. When you donít have a large group you get to do
it all! For three years I traveled the ninety miles to Key West each month to
early as 1984 I got involved in literature work shops (in Miami) where I was
paired off with more experienced members to help write some of our literature
which was just being created. I inputted for literature such as ďIt
Works,:Ē different IP pamphlets and the ďJust for TodayĒ book.
my first five years I attended fifteen major conventions including GRCNA,
FRCNA and WCNAs in Atlanta, Chicago, Orlando, and New Orleans, the London
Alternative Convention and many Spring Service Break Conventions. I witnessed
NA get kicked our of many major hotels in Georgia and come of Florida because
of irresponsible addicts selling, buying or using drugs on the property,
having sex in the hotel hall ways, throwing ice down atriums into the lobby,
throwing napkins and silverware during banquets and other acts that reflected
badly on NA as a group.
During my adolescent treatment in Atlanta, I was fortunate to get to know Scott A. and Greg P both chemical dependency counselors and more importantly NA members. Greg P. had a great influence on my recovery. When I went to the World Convention in Chicago with my sponsor in 1984, just three days after I had been released from treatment, I heard Greg speak at the banquet meeting. In treatment he had spoken of Jimmy Kís illness then in 1985 about his death and how it impacted Greg. He told me that when I got clean there were only 3,000 NA meetings worldwide. He had a love for NA history. I caught his Ďbugí and saved all my memorabilia since 1983. I recently sent Scott A. my collection of mugs, tee shirts and tapes and convention schedules dating as far back as the world convention in Atlanta in 1983 to be added to the NA archives in which he oversees. Greg taught me more than anything else about spiritual principles, not just talking, but by example. That was his lifeís focus. We did step work together until three weeks before he died. He was a great man with so much humility that I did not realize until years later just how great he was.
was an inspiration to help me continue to focus on spiritual principles in my
life. That is the essence of my recovery too. The past twenty-five years have
been quite a journey for me. I have had to learn with the help of the program
and my Higher Power to face life on lifeís terms and to continue to apply
the spiritual principles to the best of my ability regarding all these
My suicide attempt at two years clean that left me electrocuted, burned and clinging to life.
My continuing struggle over the years regarding the need to take medication in recovery for my diagnosed brain disorder after my first suicide attempt and the various mental breakdowns and re-hospitalizations due to my repeated attempts to stop my prescribed medications because I felt it would somehow make me ďmore clean.Ē
The two attempted suicides of my first husband when I found him and had to call 911, then having police find him dead of suicide in a motel room.
The unexpected prison sentence of my second husband coming to us just three days after our honeymoon.
Then for the three years he was away, the need to care for our house and dog and live alone, attend NA meetings and travel to Miami several days a week to visit him in the federal prison camp.
The hard work and joy of re-establishing a relationship with my husband when he returned home.
The auto accident that left a drunken pedestrian dead and me having an emotional breakdown and almost committing suicide due to the guilt of the accident even though it was not my fault.
other words, I have been through much turmoil in recovery. The joys have far
outweighed the sorrow Iíve passed through. I have a life I wouldnít trade
for anything. I have a wonderful husband, dog, family and friends that love and
care about me. I[Ďve seen the ugly side of life therefore now I see its
beauty. I am a miracle because of God working through the NA program, other
recovering addicts and most importantly what Greg P. taught me: to try to live
my life by spiritual principles found in the Steps of Narcotics Anonymous.
Hagerstown, MD, USA
I have been
recovering in Narcotics Anonymous for over 28 years, here in the USA. I,
too, have seen the relatively low rates of long term recovery.
A lot of them are
natural causes-many of the people I got clean with, that stayed clean, at least,
died of some 'natural' cause-cancer, heart disease, diabetic complications-stuff
that hits you when you are getting older and haven't had very good overall
Not many of us
really worried about getting old, and going to a doctor about some complaint
seemed pointless. If we could get some more dope, then it made sense, or
if we ended up in the emergency room for an overdose or beating or gunshot wound
or stabbing, maybe we got some sort of medical attention.
The people with
HIV/AIDS died off by the dozens-no, hundreds-no, thousands in the mid 80's to
the early 90's, this was when I lived in Washington, DC. The
prognosis for them is much better today. I didn't find out about my Hep C
until 2001, doctors say I have had the virus for over 30 years, probably longer.
My treatment didn't work, and I am 'tired all the time.'
My old using and
crime partner died in prison on a long term stint- I still don't know what took
him out. The guys who have relapsed and died after many years clean, who
get tired of the sometimes maddening ennui of life, the seemingly incessant
problems that have to dealt with-old arrest records, health concerns (both
mental and physical), family estrangement, employment issues-these all seem to
be factors, in part or in combination.
Through it all,
complacency for one's own recovery-the feeling that "I've got it licked, I
can relax, I can shift my focus towards (anything but recovery)... "-
that's the killer, that is the pitfall, that is the arbiter of our lives, our
Some times I do
feel like it is 'last man standing' sort of scenario. I still want to be
that guy, the last guy standing. I luckily got clean relatively young (age
26), and one guy I started a meeting with back in Ohio, over 20 years ago,
just passed away, some sort of freak blood clot stroke situation. He
was 58, not much older than me. He died clean, though. The meeting
still goes on, to this day.
The guy that
started the first meeting in Akron, OH, with me, back in 1980, started using
after about 10 years and has been in and out for years - still living in
that limbo world. The meeting still meets and I attend it when I get back to my
old home. Maybe that why I still am recovering, I haven't forgotten where
I can from, and how I got to where I am.
Houston, Texas USA
My name is Gary H from Houston, Texas. Iím an addict. I was born in Cottonwood, Arizona February 26, 1951. When I was about five years old, my family moved to Houston, Texas. I have two brothers and one sister. We were place in Ingrancho home for children while my parents went through their divorce. My Dad too me to get a haircut and bought me eighteen Toosie rolls and when we got back, the other kids wanted me to share my candy with them. I said not, this is my candy clutching the candy. The old lady that ran the place put a pink dress on me and tied me to the flagpole. The cars on the freeway were beeping their horns as they passed by. I felt humiliated. I didnít understand why my Mom and Dad left me there all alone and I cried myself to sleep. I remember laying in my bed watching the headlights from the cars passing on the freeway. My Mother got custody of us kids so she got us a place to live and worked downtown at Houston Natural Gas as a bookkeeper. I remember in 1960 it snowed in Houston. We went to Gatesville, Texas. That is where the reform school was for juveniles that got in trouble with the police and thatís where my brother Rudy was in jail.
Before that he was at the Louisiana Training Institution, LTI. Rudy was always in jail so I wasnít close to him. We always had a place to stay and times were hard. My Mom was the only one to pay bills, buy groceries, etc. We were together as a family.
When I was about ten years old, I was mowing yards and started sniffing gas and I got a friend of mine to get high with me under his Motherís dining room table.
Me and my brother Steve fought all the time. He was about 1 year, nine months older than me. I started staying our after the Saturday movies, hanging out at the pool hall, bowling alley. I remember that one of the older guys we hung out with had a bottle of whiskey and I had a few gulps. It burned my throat. We moved from the Northside to South Houston when I was seventeen. We were going to a teenage dance. One guy stopped and bought everyone a half pint of vodka. I drank all of is and passed out in the backseat of the old Chevy. I came to and stuck my head out the window and rolled the glass up to my neck and couldnít figure out how to get my head back in the car. The police came up and couldnít wake me up so my brother came and hit me two times trying to wake me up. I went to jail.
My friends had robbed the gas station next door to our house while I was in the car passed out. I remember walking up the stairs in the jail and the next morning I could hear my Mom downstairs. She paid $25.00 to get me out. My brother went and joined the Marines. He went to Vietnam and I stayed at home.
I quit school in the 9th grade and was working to be able to have a car and a little money. I was seventeen. I started going downtown to pool halls and clubs and the hippies were gathering on commerce at Allenís Landing - Love Street. I smoked marijuana for the first time the next night I took LSD for the first time. I was experimenting with drugs and Rock ní Roll. Getting high was all I was doing.
My brother came home from Vietnam and we had a party. I rolled joints for about an hour and smoked some, then did some LSD. Got mad at my girlfriend and drove to Anahuac, Texas. I ran out of gas, went to get gas and returned the gas can and ended up taking the money bag. Got arrested, and went to jail. Got out and received eight years probation - 1971-1979. Had to report every month about an hour from Houston. Kept using and one day I went next door to borrow some weed and Ross had a rig with speed and offered me some, so I held out my arm and he fixes me so I started doing speed. We moved away to the other side of town.
In 1972 I was at my Momís when the police came and arrested me so I went to jail with no bond because I was on probation. My brother made my bond several times before I got busted because they didnít know I was on probation. Nine months later I got out of jail. While I was locked up my brotherís wife died. They had a baby daughter Heather. So I moved in with my brother and got loaded and we just used.
A couple of months passed by. I was at my Motherís house November 20, 1973 Sunday night. I seen my brother drive by in his car so I went to my Momís and then we went home. We stopped and got some beer and when we got home we smoked weed. My brother was talking and writing as we got high. He gave me some downers. We were getting pretty messed up so I took him from the kitchen table and put him on the couch. I went to the bedroom with a few more downers. After a few hours, I went to see my brother snd he was laid out on the floor in the living room. He looked grey all over. I couldnít believe it was happening. I thought O GOD, NO please NO.
So I went next door and asked a neighbor to take a look and he just opened the door and said. ďHeís gone. Iíll call an ambulance.Ē They came and started screaming why did you wait so long to call. I had to clean the apartment up in case the police came, too. We went to the hospital and a couple of his friends told me Iíd better not tell who gave Steve the dope. My Mother unplugged the machine because the doctors told her he was brain dead.
This was November 23, 1973. A little while later we had the funeral. I stayed using and about three weeks later I was depressed so I got some methaqualudes (horse tranquilizers) from a pharmaceutical salesman I met and decided to end my life. People were knocking on the door after my mother went to work and I was just handing drugs through the door telling them I had something to do. I ate twelve - I remember one would knock out a horse.
I wanted to just die. Something told me to call someone and tell them what I did so I called my sister Charlotte and told her to get me a room at the fucking cemetery cause I was on my way. They got an ambulance there and the apartment management had to come and let them in to get to me so they could get me to the hospital. I came to a few days later. I as seeing Teresa and she wanted me to meet her friend Margaret. I started getting high with her and one day while loaded at her Fatherís house, I nodded. After we smoked weed and someone gave us some pills in his easy chair. I came to and he said he didnít appreciate us coming into his house loaded cause he has small children. I told him, ďNo sir, we wouldnít do that.Ē He said he would not let me see his daughter unless we went to a meeting. I said whenís the meeting. He said next Tuesday at 7:00 pm. I said Iíd go and the day of the meeting we went to Palmer Drug Abuse - Palmer Church. There were a lot of people there, maybe seventy-five. My Dad had come and got me and took me around town a little before trying to find me some help. He didnít know what or where I needed to go for help. It was good he was always there for me when I needed him. After a while I found out there was a Narcotics Anonymous meeting Wednesday at St. Josephís Hospital.
I started going to the meeting. ďAlive and KickingĒ was the name of the group and it only met once a week. This was early January. I had a slip after 90 days. Had another slip after 90 days more and had another slip after 60 days. On September 20, a Friday night about a month of me using. Two guys Hank and Danny came by to see me so we talked. It was about 7 pm. I decided to go with them and I was just high. I didnít have a habit cause I hadnít been shooting any drugs, Thank God.
We went to Dannyís house - his parents house - and I went in the bedroom with Doug, His big brother came in and asked how we were doing. We told him about the meeting that night.
The next day I set my clean date: September 21, 1974 and started back going to meetings. I went to NA on Wednesdays. At 90 days clean I started chairing the NA meeting, picking someone to lead the meeting every week. I had a sponsor and at 60 days I started working with others.
My first guy was named Bobby and I took him home and took him to meetings for 18 days. I heard him talking dope talk on my Motherís phone. I told him that he would die if he hung with them people and he was gone the next day. He called me about four times telling me he had some dope and invited me over to get high. I said, ďNo.Ē and told him I would like to see him if he wasnít holding or loaded. I never saw him again alive.
I went to an NA meeting we started at New Directions Juvenile House and found out Bobby died. Went with my sponsor to his house and talked with his family. They were all drinking and drugging. I few nights later I went to Hyde Park Funeral Home to see Bobby and say goodbye. I walked up to the casket, looked in at a seventeen year old that went out to have a few drinks and someone had a bag of drugs and he went ho9me and got in bed and ate it all. I said goodbye but as I was standing there it occurred to me this is relapse. Powerlessness over our addiction - that our lives had become unmanageable. I understood Step One and the fact I had a disease called addiction. I think I accepted Step One entirely and I have been able to be honest with myself since then. I went to my sponsor about this and he said, Donít worry, it wonít be the last addict to carry the message by dying. One time his girlfriend called the police and he went to jail. He took his shirt off and hung himself in jail. I went to the funeral home and said goodbye.
I celebrated my first year and went all over town but I took my Mom to a meeting to celebrate my first year clean. It was great. She was so proud of me staying clean. A lot of meetings, sharing and caring, sponsorship, step work and just making friends went into that first year.
The second year I got my own apartment and I remember my old girlfriend came back. She was married with a one year old and a three year old. We were seeing each other and about four months later she came and said goodbye. I was hurt and thought about using but instead I called my sponsor and shared with him what was happening. I stay clean. My third year I met my wife and I was afraid to get into a relationship. She went home and the next year we were married. She had my daughter February 13, 1981. I went and got my Mom and bought her to the hospital to see Michelle. I was thirty with seven years of clean time. I got a steady job and a few years before and was happy being married with a kid. WE went to meetings regularly, had friends, went camping, fishing, etc. In 1983, I quit my job and started selling signs. I had a few addicts some and work for me and we had fun selling signs across Texas.
In 1992, I lost my Mom and Dad and shortly after that I lost my job and was depressed for about three years. I choose not to get on medication. I started gambling every chance I could. My wife told me she was moving out with my daughter. That was tough so they left and I went my my way. I started driving Yellow Cabs for about five years and I went to the Casino every week and blew the money on gambling. I didnít make any meetings and not one time did I want to use or drink. About 2001 I got a knot on my neck but I didnít have it checked until a year later but I got mad at admitting and threw the paper work down and walked out. A few months went by and I started going back to meetings and found out I was a grandpa. I started coughing up blood and having nose bleeds in November 2002 and went to the hospital and found out I have cancer and it has spread in my lungs. They said I have three to six months to live. I called my nephew Jeff and he came to the hospital. My wife and daughter came to see me. I hadnít seen them in about four years.
I got out and prayed with a friend and I havenít had any coughing up blood and nose bleeds in a month now. I met my grandson and Iíve called about a hundred and fifty people Iíve known since my clean date of September 21, 1974. Everyone is clean and Iíve shared whatís been happening with me. My friends have been there for me. I appreciate all everyone has done. I had given my daughter my twenty-eight year chip I received in September in the birthday meeting. So I called World Service and told them I needed a chip and I received a gold twenty-eight year chip in the mail. I was surprised and I cried.
I called Bo, my sponsor, and shared this with him. Well Christmas is over now and I am just taking it one day at a time. I just talked with my daughter and I know this will be hard on everyone. God, I have been blessed with so many friends in this program. I just want to say in the end of my life that I have been touched by so many people in my cleantime. I canít list them all. I just want to die clean and I know that me not having any treatment for this disease is the best thing for me. I just hope I am to see my sponsor next month at our regional convention and my friends before I get too sick to make meetings. I want to thank everyone that has helped me and my family through this. Yes, I am afraid. Iím human - but I feel that with NA I will be alright no matter what happens because I have people that believe in my and want to help me in my recovery. Itís great having people who care about me. I care about what happens to you. I hope that this might help someone and if I can be quoted on how I feel about NA, my family, it would be:
Iíve always said, if I could touch someone and give them the desire to be clean, I would but I couldnít. But you all have touched me and I thank you.
Gary H. 9.21.74
Los Angeles, California Ė 45 years
My name is Bob and Iím an addict.
Hey Bob. (Audience)
Best I can say right now.
I want to thank Cathy for introducing me in such a
magnificent manner. She didnít
pick over what she had learned from me from the years of saying, ďI donít
know what year it was!Ē I have a problem with memory now. (Laughter)
You talk about getting old and having the grace to get old, is another thing it
seems we have to over come in a since of speaking. Hope we get some living in
the process of being here. Because we have come a long way from where we
started, so to speak.
I have the privilege probably to been involved in
most of the things have happened in Narcotics Anonymous, almost since the
inception of Narcotics Anonymous. Fortune in many ways; because for a few years
there was nothing happening other than that one meeting my wife found and told
me Iíve gotta go. (Laughter) Of course as sharp as I was, I sent her to
the meeting. (Laughter) She didnít have a problem. I was her problem,
and I remained that for a lot of years too.
But as a blessing in disguise of our journey.
Our begins and what happens in between. Once we actually do take time to
look at what our lives have become. From where we came from and to where we are
today, is a far piece.
And sometimes we gotta do our own inventory as to
where we came from. I hope that you have had enough of what you had in your
practice of a thing called addiction as we know, talking about active addiction,
the addict is not going to disappear from you.
We gotta a problem with language in the beginning. We
still have a problem with a language. Sometimes we donít like being noted as
addicts, we want to be something else. I donít know what. What ever you want
to be, you can be that too.
Donít lose the sight of where you have to come from in the terms of this disease called addiction. We have to review from where came on many occasions to get some perspective of as the journey we are on. It is a worthwhile journey. Let me put it that way. Sometimes we donít know when we walk in the doors of Narcotics Anonymous as to where we came from, where weíre going and whatís happening in between. We very often we have to do a survey in terms of our own progress, as to where we came from and weíve come a far piece.
I guess I have to kind of identify in some way because, as they say I donít look like the addict that came in the doors of Narcotics Anonymous; and I doní t look like the addict that was out there on the street. So very often times we are misjudged; and in some crowds, as to say; ďYou donít look like no addict. I donít know what you look like, but I mean you donít look like an addict.Ē But they havenít been on my journey, like I have not been on your journey. And sometimes I see you come through the doors and I say, ďYouíre either too young, youíre to this, youíre to that and I just donít know what youíre doing here, you know.Ē Cause you know, this is no place for a self-respecting individual to be hanging out at. But if you look at your track record, youíre probably is in the right place.
I told you that I got to Narcotics Anonymous by the
insistence of others. Not because I got tired initially. Before I started
practicing what Narcotics Anonymous is, I had to get to that place of
desperation. As to what do I need
this for? Or maybe I do need some help! Or things were getting so chaotic, that
I better get some help before I die! You know, because we get here sometimes in
death throws, and sometimes that is not a wake up call even there. Many of us
have faced death straight in the face and said, ď Give me some more of that
death killing whatever.Ē
I was born in Cleveland, Ohio. Which might be a mark against me, because it is the brunt of many expressions of jokes and so forth. That sewer on the lake you know. During the time I came up there was a lot things that said in some sense, ďJust glad to be alive.Ē I grew up in the wrong time, in the wrong place, with the wrong parents, with all the wrong conditions going on. Iíve researched that very thoroughly, you know. I refuse to be what they wanted me to be. It is my objections to everything that seem to be around me that got me in so much trouble. Cause I was one of these here, that always asked questions. ďWhy? Why? Why? Why?Ē
I got a million aówhippinís because of what I ask. Why? So I stopped asking why. I just went and done what I thought I was suppose to do and how I was suppose to do it; and took whatever consequences were. I didnít grow up in a family where there were addicts. Fact is I didnít know addiction was what it was about. Nobody talked about it. Drug addiction was not talked about, not in my household. I had no drug addicts I knew of in my household.
I had a lot of Iíll say ďbad feelingsĒ; because I
developed these feelings, but I had no place to express how I felt.
In my family we didnít talk about feelings.
Someone was talking about love, last night I think it was.
One of the speakers was talking about love not being spoken. Love not
spoken in my house. I canít remember my mother telling me that she loved me
all the time that I was in her house growing up.
Thatís a hell of a thing to put upon a child, that she donít love me.
She didnít tell me she did love me because she done all the necessary things I
think that mothersí try to do. She
tries to feed Ďem, clothe Ďem, house Ďem; you know. And give Ďem a good
aówhippiní when they needed it.
I seemed to needed it every day. That was means of getting attention. So Iíd call, ďMom Iím over hereĒ If that didnít do, I would break something, throw something, get burnt, run out in front of a car; and get bandaged up, taped up, washed up and that was means of showing that she cared.
And I been thinking there was a program that was on last night talking about getting hit in the head. I got hit in the head all the time. It seemed if my head was always in the wrong place at the wrong time. A stick, a bottle, a bar or whatever the case may be. And now all I think of, maybe that was dependent on why I turned out the way I did. I had to try to find reasons for my dilemma where I came from.
It was five of us. All of us didnít have the same father. Back then there was no father at all in the house. So I didnít have that to contend with. Anybody that Mom had, I didnít like him anyhow. He was taking up my space. Cause I was lookiní for Mom. ďMom, Iím over here.Ē
She was unable to or unwilling to talk about feelings, talk about where she came from. And I didnít know her pains, because Iím so involved in my own that I did not conceivably think about nobody elseís pain, but my own.
I use to get hurt a lot. When I was talk about getting hit in the head a lot. Before I was five-years-old, I was in the hospital three or four times. Now I didnít go out and seek these here incidents. It just seemed that everything was happening, get in front of something and get hit. Get blood poisoning, get burnt, get. You name it Bob could get into it.
Iím gonna tell you about this is a little kid, you know. He would pour hot water off on himself. Step in front of somebody swinging sticks with nails in it. Bob had to go the hospital. So I know by getting hurt or getting attention. Get hurt, need attention or you get bandaged up. That was a method of getting attention. Itís not that I understood that. I seemed to me kind of getting some idea as to what is suppose to be going on, whatís suppose to be happening, how youíre suppose to feel. I Ďm getting a lot of mixed messages.
Mom had to work because that is what was going on. So I had a lot of babysitters. My bother and I we was babysat by high school girls and people in our neighborhood. But I wasnít learning a whole lot. I seemed to, somewhat I would say, life of a kid, but not no feelings. There was no talking about what you feel. What do you talk about, about by what you feel? Mom didnít want to hear what I felt. You know Iíd go back and talk about feel this or I donít feel that. Sheíd tell, ĒYouíre not suppose to feel that or this is what youíre suppose to feel.Ē She always told me what I was supposed to feel.
So I grew up around Cleveland. I done the regular things most kids do get into. And as I say, I just seem to get, always gettingí a patch puttiní on something. Or some salve here or a patch on here, a wrap there. A burn taken care of and get on outta here.
But I didnít have no great difficulty about getting along with the kids in the neighborhood when I was at that stuff. Mom wasnít home often, so I kind of adjusted to what ever was goiní on. And I donít know why Iím on this here track here, you know. Cleveland was just growing up in a rough place. It was during rough times along with it.
So to kinda give you kinda fix, somebody talk about
gettingí older, I was born before the depression. If that will give you an age
fix for those that know when that was.
That was a long time ago. (Bob laughs) During prohibition, know when that was? Okay.
I did a lot of that too. Not that a kid growing up know would anything be 4 or 5 years old would know anything about depression and prohibition and that type of thing. You see the activities that goes with it. The reason I bring that up is there was a lot of activity, negative activity that goes with these incidents. But it doesnít bother me. I gets some beans and some tortilla or loaf of bread. Iím gonna go. So I didnít have problem in that area, because I didnít know what was going on. I wasnít getting the attention I wanted. I know that.
I know that now, I didnít know it whenever it was happening. Itís kinda looking back to see what happen. And I got stumped trying to figure out why something happen. I just acted out as I thought I was supposed to act out as a kid growing up.
Went to school, didnít have great problems at school in particular. Fact is was a pretty good student up to a point. I learned how to play the little games. I learned how to lie early, because I had some good teachers.
Mom was a good teacher telliní about lyiní. Tell Ďem moms not home; tell Ďem you donít know where mom is. What ever the case may be. She started out early by the lies to tell. So, you know, so you put them away as to reason why you are supposed to lie. That was one of the things. Then you learn how to manipulate. How to play little games. I donít know where kids learn to play them little games they play. And when theyíre 3 or 4 years old theyíre already into the games and stuffÖhum.
And I still havenít figured that one out. The psychiatrics are still working on it, you know, as to why kids 3 and 4 years old learn to manipulate things. Learn how to play games. I learned how to play games early and I just love played to play games.
So this is part of that growing up process, this growing up who is going to develop to become an addict at some point and not knowing anything about what addiction is all about. And not a clue and no reference to go by.
I just know that Bob wasnít getting what he thought he was suppose to have and it was just kind of a miserable existence. He didnít like that kind of existence, in which he had to live in. So growing up in Cleveland was not a great joy in my life. It was kind of like being deprived of wanting things and getting things. The mike just went out. (Laughter) But hey that is how some things work. You want to know, am I the one that made this thing go off? It is possible. I donít know. Iím not going to argue with the point. I know I havenít done anything. I donít think! But Iíd like to think I have the power of. This is a power mike. You see we got all these experts in here.
Well usually I can talk loud enough. (Laughter and applause) You see, I spent a lot of time in the military and I use to yell at a whole bunch of motherís with no mike. I havenít had to do that in a long time. But itís kind of like when youíre growing up. All of the sudden, you see, it is kind of like growing up. All the things you were use to get taken away from you.
And I was always looking for mom to come and rescue me or come and put a bandage on or to address whatever my difficulties were going on. And usually to no avail, because mom seems to have no answers she could use and a long with it she had no answers I could use.
The microphone comes back on. Bob says, ďHey.Ē (Bob and audience laugh) Bob says, ďSee how that works?Ē Sometimes life is like that. If youíre going along just smoothly and then you get a flat tire. And weíre pissed off because we donít want no flat tire. Know what I mean?
I understand that. You see most of the things we come to understand today is not the things we grew up understanding. We couldnít understand for a lot of years. Until we got to Narcotics Anonymous and they explain to you life happens and you are not in control. You donít control sh--. What a disappointment! Because I thought I controlled something for a lot of years.
I learned how to manipulate in school. I played the teacher. I played this. I played that. I played all kinds of little games. I called it polishing, the apples, and a period going through school. You go down there be nice to the teacher. Yes maíam. No maíam. What can I do maíam? All that good stuff so you could get a little merit when you get your grades. It works. I did the same thing when I left school. Any situation I got in, I seen if I could butter it up a little bit or make it look good. I would butter it up and make it look good. I learned how to dress up stuff. My penmanship got good. I use to write and it looked good. To make some points. Point maker. Bob was a point maker. Bob would accelerate beyond his capabilities. I donít know if any of you understand and they pull it off for long, until they reach that level, where they know they should be asking questions. And then try to fake it. Bob done it for a long time. You can say my growing up stage, was accelerating beyond my potential. Get all the necessary ingredients together in order to get to a certain place, but you didnít know what the acceleration is. And you get to that place where you are dumb founded about what is going on around you. Because you have not prepared for it. Somebody ask you a question how you doing? What to do? You donít know. You take long enough to get up to a certain place where you kind of feel good about yourself in the terms of your accomplishments.
I done it as a boy scout. I was probably one of the youngest assistant scoutmasters in Cleveland for a long time. I was one of these 15 - 16 year old whiz, up to a point. I didnít know anything. I knew some of the things necessary to kind of like make it. I could fake it well. Sometimes I could follow by the example seeing others fake it and fake it they did. And to what they did. We were faking it. But it always kind of felt like measuring up to place as far as I can go. I have nothing else not to prepare do anything about it.
Went in the military the same way. I volunteered to go into the military. The only reason I volunteered is it was a way to away from home. And there seem to be things that were happening over there, that wasnít happening over here. And I liked the idea of being a man.
I arrived at certain places thinking I know what a man is supposed to be like. I had no examples, I donít know about you. In my neighborhood there was one or none. And I donít know what your neighborhood looked like. My neighborhood didnít have a whole lot of role models.
Street hustlers off the corner. Look good; stand out underneath that bright light, with the light flashing on and off. A couple of girls at the curb. A car sitting over on the curb looking good polished up real sharp.
My uniform of the day was Stacey Adams and an Adams hat on, cock it to the side and stand out on the corner with Ďem. And talk about success. (Laughter) And how sharp we were. There seem to be a different attitude about what you made. There was jokes and laughing loud and talking long dukie. Seem to be the one to follow. He seemed to be the one who had this. I found out he was faking. You know? The Cadillac sitting at the curb didnít even run. (Laughter) And the joker standing beside it, slept in it at night. See I didnít stand out there checking what his script for the day was. This was a constant. You look for that Cadillac sitting on the corner. Him standing out there laughing loud and talking long sh--. He seemed to be happy. That is all I wanted to be, was happy. You know?
So far my military thing was where you go join the military where you become a man. Or be like the role model that I knew on the corner. He seemed like one of them fellas seemed to be having a good time. That I could relate too, in terms of what, thatís I wanted to be like. We had a fellow on our corner that said we would all work together.
One of was named Nate. He had a whole bunch of brothers and things. Families were large then. I donít know why. The families had 8, 9 10 kids in the family. You know. We had big families. Nate was on of them fellas that seemed to be cool, would disappear for 6 to 7 months at a time. I didnít know where he went. But he would come back and tell long stories and talk long sh--. You know. Heíd be smoking some of that good weed and telliní them long stories and telling you about the ways of life. It looked good to me. All about wantiní to be a man.
I wasnít satisfied where I was and I couldnít impress nobody in my household. (Laughter) So, I had to go out on the street to see if I can impress somebody. Get me some role models or what I thought were role models. They seem to be the ones with a smile on their face and seem to be enjoying life. Not that there was anything happening, but they seem to be enjoying life.
So I went off to the military to become a man or to be a man or represent man. I hadnít started using yet, I am just building charter to become. I donít know if you know about that. Building character to become something that I was not.
So with the case of wanting to be like or looking over there and saying, ďthat is what I want to be like.Ē And let me follow his lead or follow him to see how he does that. One of the ways you do that was, at the end of the day you go get yourself this little jug and get you a little taste and talk about the fun we are going to have. It was always prefaced by, ďLetís go have some fun.Ē And having fun was constituted to getting something to have fun with. We always started out having fun and usually end up having problems with the fun. (Laughter) But it always started out with having fun. And each substance I started off with to have fun in the beginning, usually turned on me somewhere in the fun pages. It was coming to, waking up or recognizing the fun was over. And what mess have I got me in now, because usually there was some mess it got me in.
But it use to fix me and that was part of the key. It was the substance you put inside of ya and saying, ďSomething magical would happen, it made whatever life had been throwing at me, I could take. It was okay.Ē
My problem or dilemma was very often the coming to or waking up and finding out the fun we started out to have didnít end up that way. So I got into trouble on a number of occasions by having fun. And this was to go on for a long time, because nobody talked about addiction for one thing. There was not a language in school that we could talk about addiction. It was as if there was no problem with drugs or with the drug use. Because it was not the item of the day was not about, the headline of was not the headline of the day about addiction or drug addicts. Not that they didnít have a problem with drug addiction and drug addicts. It was called, ďWeíll not talking about that.Ē And I found there was a whole lot of stuff they didnít talk about. One of the things they couldnít talk about it is because they didnít know anything about it. Hey if you drink too much you get drunk. You use too much weed you can go out and eat up loaf of bread or something. (Laughter) If you was high on morphine, youíre gonna nod. Those are just actions that go along with your reactions.
I spent a lot of time in the military, running around the world using drugs wherever I went. Using what ever was available because I would want to have some fun. It always started out I was gonna have some fun. Each time you would think I would of learned my lesson of donít mess with that, because the fun was short lived. We donít learn lesson very well, addicts forget very quickly.
It gets to what happen along the way, the journey. The problems that I created, that I wanted to blame you for. I was always blaming people for my dilemma. I got thrown out of the military because of my drug use. It was kind of one of these things I thought I didnít have a problem, but they did. (Laughter) They took actions and my action was all I had to take the consequences of my actions. They didnít tell me you might have to start doing time. If you use drugs long enough you will have to start doing time. They didnít tell me that. They didnít run that by me. (Laughter) They didnít know, as I said you didnít talk about addiction. So I had to start learning how to do time, cause I was played cops and robbers. I was takiní your sh--. (Laughter)
I was addicted to stealing long before I was addicted to drugs. I use to love to steal, use to love to steal. You had something I wanted some of yours. Not work for it, but I needed some of yours. Let me get some of yours. The best way know to get something of yours is to steal it. So I had a habit of stealing long before I had a habit of using. I was hooked on stealing long before that. I was hooked on a lot of things. I took a lot of things that had no relationship as to the drug I was using.
You really donít come to that recognition of things that happen along the way until much later when we come to places like Narcotics Anonymous. Where things have been covered up for so long, sick and so diverted in terms of where it came and when it happened or how it happen or why it happened or what happened. It takes a long time to sort that out. It takes time to sort that out.
As I said this is kind of a difficult place because very often the biggest thing that I have to offer is the journey that we took in terms of where we are today. And how I got to Narcotics Anonymous was because I went to enough places and told enough lies and got enough people to listen to my dilemma that were going to help me.
And that is how I got to Narcotics Anonymous, was by a great lie is what it amounted to. Cause the lady came up the county jail and she pleaded to me. She made me an offer I couldnít refuse. And most of us in this room here had offers that you couldnít refuse and you had to check it out. ďLet me help you.Ē And of course if you are like me you say, ďI donít need no help. Just leave me alone Iíll be okĒ And you steal them blind and you disappoint them. And you go out and try to die on them and all this other good stuff that we do
And she plead to me about relationships, which we seem to get by some magic, we get into relationships. What we are looking for is somebody to take care of us. Thatís one thing. If youíre a good dope fiend you need to have a good racehorse. (Laughter and clapping) Gotta have a runner. Gotta have a stable to go to when you get out. (Laughter)
We start thing we got the game down so good, that says we have no problems with that. Cause time and time again we get out of one of these places, first thing we want to do is go get a little taste for old times sake. Just one little taste. And never set out at any given time said, ďIím going out to get hooked anything.Ē Every time I used something I was hooked on it. I was off and running and I was headed back to jail.
Along the way we get into many peoples lives. Mother, sweethearts, wives, husbands, children. Not only do we take them hostage, we put great demands upon them. You must do this or you must do that. And the promise she made me was, Iím gonna stay here and Iím helping you. What ya gotta do is you gotta get some help. No problem WHERE!
During the Ď50ís there was no place to go folks. Help was very distant. Even the ones who wanted help you couldnít help them. Because it was against the law to help an addict. ďAGAINST THE LAW!!!!Ē We could not even congregate with one another you know. We would meet each other going down the street we have to stay the distance. ďHey Baby.Ē We had to fake it all and keep walking, until you get to an alley, where you could take care of business.
So what happens is we burn a lot of people in the process. We burn a lot of our bridges as we go by. Maybe with the good intensions of want to do the right thing. By the time I stick that spike off in my arm or light one of those things or what ever. Everything changes. Good intensions donít mean sh--. And very often I think I had the good intensions about doing the right thing for the right reasons. But very often didnít have any help as to where and how to get some help. How to ask for help even. But what happen was this lady came up there and we have a very loose relationship.
I had moved into her house, because I needed a place to hide out. A place to live and I needed place for somebody to run for me. To write me them letters that make them great promises that we write when we go to jail. When we go to one of them places, we write some mean sh--. (Laughter) We good. I wish you all could put all that literature and stuff on paper. We put it all on paper when weíre begginí back in one of these places. ďMamma, Iím gonna get my stuff together. Get me a good job. Iím gonna get me the kids a yelliní. Iím gonna dress Ďem up and dress Ďem down. And Iím gonna be the best whatever, whatever, whatever.Ē (Laughter) Thatís right. Yea thatís right. (Laughter) About the third or forth time thatís when we say that to Ďem. Yea, right! But let me see you do it and donít tell me about you gonna do it.
But you know I had all good intensions. It wasnít the case I didnít have a trade I could go to. I just could go to the job, because I couldnít hold a job. Because once I started using the job was shot. Once I have done stole the half the jobs materials and things, like (laughter) there isnít no need in going back there.
And I think about in those terms and you know I could go out and get a job and I could plead it into my abilities and all this type of stuff. And work just longs enough to ruin it. Because that is usually what happened I would ruin it.
So what happen is she took up my little promise of Iím gonna do it right, Iím gonna do it good. Please, please, please. And part of the process what that the promise was in order for me to do this thing, we had to get married. I donít know where that came from (Laughter) Married to what? (Laughter)
I didnít have a job. Didnít have no place to stay. Had no bank account. And Iím looking forward to having a place to go. Itís Iím just trying to make this here pact, that weíre going to do this here thing together. I do. (Laughter) I do. Go pay the bail, go get the lawyer, or what ever you have to do. (Laughter)
The problem was I didnít have no help. The problem was I like to run the lady crazy. She was about to go insane. She had never seen this thing called drug addiction in its full bloom. Wake up 3 or 4 oíclock in the morning taking about, ďIím sick.Ē You know I go out get a loaf of bread and be gone for six months. (Laughter) Call from distant places with sad tales of woe. (Laughter)
ďThereíre messiní with me again.Ē During the Ď50ís as I said, there was no place to go. They had a couple of places to go. They had Lexington, Fort Worth, but you had to petition to go there. They gave you no help going to jail. The way they get you withdrawn during those days was some aspirin and Pepto-Bismol. That was it. And do it the best way you can.
And always the case of you leaving them places. Telliní all the fellas, ďThis is it baby. Iím finished with this one.Ē The only problem is between your destination and where you are leaving from you had to have a taste for old times sake. And you always ended up back in the same place. Talkiní about I donít what happen. I just had a little taste. There was no place to go.
And to show you how long this has been talking about since Narcotics Anonymous. 1953 in the inception of the first Narcotics Anonymous meetings on the west coast, they had little fragments of places where they tried to start Narcotics Anonymous in other places. It was a copy of the other program. We call it now today the other program. (Laughter) See they didnít like us up there, gracing their little meeting places with our tales of woe of being a dope fiend.
We were the scourges of the earth. We had no redeeming value. We were a dope fiend. Addicts were recognized as a disease, aliment, sickness or illness or anything. You just a dog. And they use to treat you as such. Even in jail they treated you bad. You say you go to jail for a crime because you have some time to do. Then treat you bad after you get there.
So, there was not much respect in terms of your illness. Do the best you can. I use to carry a petition to go to Lexington in my back pocket. So when I went to jail I could tell the judge I am trying to get some help. Just as soon as I get this petition back to the court, theyíre going to let me go to Lexington and get my stuff together. Only to come to find out Lexington was in a dilemma too. They had been studying dope fiends for 20 years. The only conclusion they came to was, ďDope fiends lie and they like candy bars.Ē (Laughter) Great conclusion.
They learned more from monkeys, than they did from dope fiends. Very strange. They had a laboratory setting that they were studying reactions of different type animals to stimulants, heroin and morphine. And they had not learned much about the human and their reaction to kicking the habit, long-term drug use. The monkeys were having better response from them than were humans.
But they did have happen in there, this fella called Houston out of Texas, came through and he thought here idea that the 12-Step Of Recovery might work for addicts. They had tried that one, but they tired it with alcoholics. And they had studied what addiction was about to some degree, but they had very little proof as by their own devices could they carry it out. Addicts got short memory. An addict has short memory. You could forget they was out there dying and all of the sudden the reason why you was dying is because you were doing certain things. You can forget all about that.
How can one bit of anything cause you to have so much chaos in your life? They know nothing about progression of this disease; know nothing about where the destination of this disease and the killer that it is.
So in the process here they are tying to study what the disease of addiction is about. And the few people that left Lexington, went out on the street and they had this great enthusiasm that they could do this thing. They went to different places and started what they thought were meetings. And in the process of starting meetings or think they thought were meeting, they would have a marginal success, but they had short memories.
They had short memory that the substance they were using and the behavior that went with it is what was killing them. But they took it on the road anyhow. And when people ended out in California and they wanted to start these meetings, they wanted to call it something else. Addicts Anonymous, this kind of anonymous, and that kind of anonymous. And weíre going to do it our way.
For a lot of years they no such thing as traditions. Traditions didnít come until much later. They had to find continuity and ties that works for us. So some of the people did ask the Service Office in New York, could they use the steps and traditions in order to start something called Narcotics Anonymous?
So starting this journey of, I think it was thirteen or fourteen people getting together saying we can do this thing. Letís start this thing called Narcotics Anonymous and see where it goes. We got a problem with language. Knowing they have a problem with language, the other part of the equation is everybody wants to change something. We donít like the steps as theyíre written. We want to change them. (Laughter)
Our first attempt at changing something, we did. Out of permission we wanted to change the first word in each one of the steps that says ďweĒ. Didnít understand why it was so essential that we became a ďweĒ program rather than an ďI or meĒ program. One of our big savers is ďwe canít, we canít. Maybe together we can.Ē You as individuals are not a ďweĒ; I canít not do it by myself. We have to do a unifying sort of thing.
But addicts donít like the way things work, they want to change sh--. That was the first thing they changed was the ďweĒ. They didnít know how essential that was. But part of the struggle was the opposition of society not wanting addicts congregate or to be together with one another. We had great problems about trying to have meeting or coming together as a group, because most of us were antisocial. We was ďXĒ something. (Laughter) And the police didnít believe shówe said anyhow. (Laughter) And they voiced it all the time. ďI donít believe you mothers.Ē Even in jail we even had great disrespect for everybody. So how can you figure they are going to have respect for us?
So we did cause them problems, we cooked up something to give them some problems. And just because we were on the street didnít mean we became respectable. We wanted to continue our behavior and still want someone to respect our actions. It didnít work quite that way.
So we had great difficulty from 1953 to 1959 trying to formulate this thing called Narcotics Anonymous. To put it together, get it to work and have a meeting place. You go into a place, attempting to find a meeting place and they say, ďYouíre from where?Ē
ďWeíre Narcotics Anonymous, like that other program. We need to try to find a meeting place, that we can come together and try to recover.Ē ďWE WILL CALL YOU, DONíT CALL US.Ē
Once again you say ďnarcoticsĒ and the first thing they want to think of is jail. Police. There was no respectability that went along with it. ďDid you know grandma has a problem with narcotics? Sheís an addict too. No, the doctor prescribed this, so it is ok.Ē It was killing them too then. They got more and more stuff they are putting on the market to kill you.
So what occurred here was, Jimmy and a few others tried to keep the meeting open where they could find a space or place to have a meeting. An old coffee pot and tin coffee cups type of existence. Lasted up to a point, but it was only usually 2 or 3 people that showed up at a meeting. The ones trying to stay clean, tying to do this thing by some kind of magic.
We were more into with Tradition then we were the Steps. Because Traditions were the most important thing in our recovery. We will get to the Steps when we can get to the Steps. We didnít know it worked in kind of reverse of that. The Steps should of come first. Get your game together and then we will worry about the game of getting everybody else together.
We had a lot of learning processí that went along the way. We had a lot of trail and error. A lot of attempts of doing something we knew nothing about. We had no real guidance.
Jimmy tried the best he could. He didnít speak the language of the street addict so to speak. He was a very wise person. He had know how and how to do things, but can you image him trying to get 20 to 30 addicts together and trying them to agree on anything. (Laughter) And then his health got bad, and in the process of his health getting bad, he had to leave the business of Narcotics Anonymous to those who have no information on how to do anything.
You would talk about follow the steps, follow the
Traditions. We would read the steps or traditions. We had no literature other
than this little white book, it wasnít white it was buff colored and it had 20
pages in it with 20 questions and answers, the tradition, Just For Today and
what Narcotics Anonymous was about. And that was it. That was Narcotics
Anonymous in a nut shell.
And there were people trying to get something together or
hold something together going to be long living. We had no idea. We had no
leadership for a lot of years. And those that were willing to do something just
seemed to not have enough time to really dedicate themselves to this thing
I donít care if it was called your recovery or my
recovery. Recovery was just a word. We didnít know the work that was involved
or needed to be done in order to recover. The thing and the work needed to be
done. There was great work that was to be done. Togetherness had to be created.
We had to have oneness of purpose, of wanting to recover from this thing called
It was the case of just wanting to get clean, it was a case
of how do you change your whole life? Something you have been doing all your
life and all of the sudden you are going to stop doing one thing and go the
opposite direction. It was very difficult. And those that were around didnít
understand what we were doing most of the time.
That woman who encouraged me or insisted I go to that
Narcotics Anonymous meeting that I sent her off to check it out. She became a
proponent of finding a place that she could go. She started a thing called Nar-Anon.
That was pretty slick, she had to do a lot of roadwork. I gave her some tasks to
do. (Laughter) You gotta understand what an addict is about. And she went
out and found some other sisters that was having the same problem she was
having. ďWhat do you do when they off after six months and get a little red
and donít come back for six months?Ē (Laughter) Or some of them long
tales you have to listen when you come home.
Two of three days gone or two or three days of trying to save somebody.
What do you when you have bills that need to be paid? The
light bill has to be paid. The gas bill has got to be paid. Or the telephone
bill has to be paid. If you are like me you paid none of those. (Laughter)
I had the money.
I had money often given to me to go to the grocery store.
It just usually didnít get there. I had more important things to do. I had
great stories to tell about the fight that I had. I got stuck up at the corner
or something. You know. Well this little b----- on the corner and took the
money. (Laughter) No it didnít do that. Thatís not what happened. I sent him off for a package and he didnít get back,
thatís what happened. You stand
there at the laundromat a day and half waiting for him to come back. (Laughter)
Your tales just didnít measure up, it didnít hold water. It was seen
right through. Once that got to understand what an addict was about there was a
whole lot of changes that took place.
There was a trust that had to be developed. There had to be
behavior modification as to what you had to do. There was such a thing as
getting a job and going to work. Bringing the paycheck home. There was a lot of
things we hadnít done for a lot of years or maybe have never done and found
out we have to do. We find out we
are not a slick as we thought we were. That is the process the thing called the
process of recovery.
It is a very slow process. We have to start remembering
what is going on, how it is going on, whatís going on and sharing that view
with another human being. We have to stop lying and crying and start growing up.
One of our biggest obstacles is communication.
We have to learn to start trusting.
We have to learn how to do a lot of things we never done before. If we
did, it is so far in the past that we forgot how to do them. This is a growing
up process. Just because your grown doesnít mean you are grown up. It is a
process all long. And so we started growing by little bits and pieces.
We become more trusting, we are starting to be trusted to
some degree. There is a period of cautionary there, sometimes we have to watch
you to see if you are really doing it or are you still lying. Cause we didnít
get well just because we got clean. It takes long time to do this thing of
getting better in our handling, growing up and maturing. Maturity is one of the
things we have to learn it is not something we know.
We have role models in this room. In this room we have a lot of information, we got a lot of answers in this room. We must learn how to share this information with each other. The thing that we learn here, we have to pass it on to those who are coming along. The last person in that door, my be the person that brings the message I need today. There is certain amount of trust we learn about.
We learn something about this power called Higher Power.
Learn that you are not it. (Laughter) We have to be very adamant about that. You
are not it. As much as we would like to thing we got our game together and we
know what is going on, remember you are not it.
That donít mean you stop trying to do the things that
necessary to find out what the results are going to be. The proof is in the
doing. The proof is in the happing or seeing what is happening. This event here
today is an event that is happening. You stay around here and you start living
this thing called a new way of life.
As you can imagine that one meeting in 1959, I didnít
stay clean, I was out to run this woman crazy. I had to go out there and get
kicked the head some more. I had to play cops and robbers for a couple of more
But one of the things that did happen is, it gave the tools
for recovery, in that little book. The 12 and 12 things to do and it said,
ďWEĒ. It got on the ďWEĒ.
Get on the ďWEĒ wagon baby. Give up your power wagon or the power
position, which you think that you got; only to find out you aniít got no
But the power does exist that is necessary for you to
recover. And learn how to enjoy your living. I thought I was having fun for a
lot of years. I thought I was
having fun and I was the destroyer of many things in the process. I destroyed a
family. I had destroyed relationships. I destroyed I destroyed. I destroyed.
And I stayed around long enough to learn how to enjoy my
living. I have great respect for living today. If you look around you, you say
we diminish at a fast rate because we have to learn to take care of ourselves.
You must learn how to care of physical problems that we have, that we didnít
take care of when we were out there using.
But you get the chance to enjoy some living.
Some daily living by the practice of doing the things that you perhaps
you think wonít work or havenít worked or uses the case of you havenít
done anything. That is what my revelation has been because I have become willing
to do the things necessary.
Iím still in the process of growing up folks. I know I am
getting a little old for that. But as long as I stay on the road of recovery by
the process of doing the things that are necessary for me to stay here. We have
reached that place where life is going to show up. And we have to face life on
lives terms. But we donít have to do it alone, we donít have to do it alone.
I have become reliant on that power that I had no voice, no
recognition of. There is something that is power greater than I. I had to come
to grips with that if I wanted some help I had to rely on this here power.
We are gathered here, in order to try to get some
information in terms of how do we live a better life. How can we get more
comfort in our lives? We have to do some sharing, we must do some caring, we
must come in touch with this power in some recognition there is some power that
runs it all and you are not it. So if youíre not it, you better reach up and
get you a hand full of it baby and get a hand full of it. Cause sometime we are
going to need it. Sometime we are
going to need it.
So my day usually starts with help, prayer very short. Not
the prayers I use have. Yesterdayís prayers I to beg for shóyou know?
I was digging in my own sh--. I found out prayer works. I get carried
away, but I found out what I prayed for I usually got. Isnít that amazing?
Many of us are going to try it tonight. Pray works, go pray upon something. You
will find out if you are suppose to have it or not.
We know what youíre going to do. Being the addicts, we
know what each other is going to do.Cause we have done it over and over again.
Just as proof as to, ďI donít believe that.Ē Try it out. Just donít use
in the mean time. Cause once you use, you are going to block out the lesson you
need to learn. See I tried all the
little tricks, Iíve tried all the little shot cuts.
I one of these here that thought out and see what the heóthey got in here.
Itís been a long time and I still want to try out
something on my own. Huh? Sometime you are supposed to try out on your own, but
I have to find out the things are. And sometimes I have to find somebody in the
rooms of Narcotics Anonymous and ask them, ďWhat was your experience? What was
your experience? Will you share with me if you go down that road or not go down
that road.Ē Cause you see Bob still wants to go down on of those roads. Not to
Cause using is not part of it. Cause I know it counts the awful experience of what is about
to happen. Sometime I have to have
the experience cause that is the way I am. It becomes on of these here incidents
that says, ďLet me check this one out. I just want to experiment. I just want
to see if my Higher Power wants me to go this way. To do this thing or carry out
this deed.Ē Sometimes it is yes and sometimes it is no. And sometimes no is
just to show you not suppose to have it. Thatís not for you baby. Youíre not
prepared for that. Not getting to far ahead of me.
Bob still gets ahead of me. You see I am still an addict in
recovery in the process of happening of this thing called recovery. It is quite
essential that you must experience it happening for you. How can you tell me
about a cake you have never baked? Until you have baked on and then you can tell
me what success you have had.
This works the same way. The formula, they give you the
formula. Apply the formula and see what results you get. If you like the
results, use the formula again. You will find out it very consistent. The
formula has been tried over and over again by many people in this room.
Maybe not everyone, cause some days I donít want to try the formula. Bob wants to be in charge. I donít know why? I donít have nothing to offer to be in charge. Shó(Laughter) Iíd rather give it to you and let you be in charge. But sometimes I must do the work. And that is what I have got to find out. Am I willing to do the work that goes with it?
So stay around until you learn to enjoy the things that you are given so freely. The formula is the 12-Steps. The power that helps you along the way you must get in touch with because it becomes very personalized on how it works for you.
It is a very taxing program that works well and most people try to carry it out to the best of their ability. There are some of us having difficulties, because we have brain damage. (Laughter) You might laugh but it is the truth. They got some people out there on some sick sh--. There is some sick sh--, they try to make it ok. You can walk around mummified and you donít have to be responsible. What do they do now? Go get some help. Go get some help.
I want to thank the committee for asking me to share. If I seem a little sideways in the process, I know I have some brains. I also have some feeling things happening. Not only the thing about getting old and saying I canít remember anything. You might be surprised. We all have to get to that place perhaps some day. I have found out that goes along with aging. That goes along with aging sh--. Doesnít mean you are go crazy. That just means you are not as sharp as you use to be. (Laughter) I am disappointed with me. I use to be pretty sharp. I use to remember things in a minute and now it takes me a little while now to put it together now. It is the same thing about getting from here to there, I move a lot slower. Fact is I am moving too slow, but I have some physical problems that manifest themselves, that shows up. It is like the last ten years every time I go to the doctor, he says I got another thing. ďWell you got another thing here. Just take a pill.Ē (Laughter) ďCome back and see me next week.Ē Iím getting tired of going and seeing the doctor, but I canít stop going.
I am enjoying life today, to the best of my ability. I still have expectations as to what life has to offer. I am trying to live it the best I can. Doing the best I can. I will still try and continue to carry the message of Narcotics Anonymous where ever I go. I am going to try to be an example that this here program Narcotics Anonymous works. It will work a long time as well as it does short time.
I have been clean over 45 years. (Loud yelling and clapping) But that means I am getting 45 years older too. (Laughter) I am moving a lot slower, I donít think as fast. I have to compensate for a lot of things. I canít run as fast as I use to. I was fast. (Bob chuckles) I move slow now. So have patience with me. You see me needing help along the way, give me a hand.
Letís do this thing together. If I have anything that you
can use I will gladly share it with you. Iíll share with you what I have and
we will enjoy life together.
Thank you. (Loud
Speaker Bob B. - Celebration
Of Unity 25
Orlando, FL - May 25, 2007
Road Most Traveled
How come ain't nobody don't like me? Funny
words from a song of the 40's or 50's. I wasn't that different and people
sometimes said they did like me, but I've seen liars before, lots of 'em. The
truth is, they did like what they saw: the blue eyes, blonde hair, long
eyelashes, blue suede shoes, peg-leg pants, sweat shirt and leather jacket. I
looked cool and powerful in my '32 Ford, 5-window coup with a Saturday Night
Special under the seat. They did like what they saw, but if they looked any
deeper they would see a heart filled with fear and plenty of it, loaded with
jealousy, resentment, loneliness and down-right panic and a feeling that some
day soon they would somehow discover that scared and abandoned little boy
clothed in a young man's body.
They didn't find out, because when the going
got tough I went into hiding. Hiding from them, but most of all hiding from my
self. My hiding place was like a covering just waiting for my call and so I
called and called and called for the only thing that I knew of to bring instant
comfort, and that was alcohol, pills, heroin, Benzedrine, legal prescriptions
and combinations of all those items. Still, the most comforting was the insane
asylum in 1961-62. Yet fear followed me wherever I went. The drugs stopped
working, the asylum stopped working, even the freedom in my Ĺ
escapes from the asylum didn't work. I was afraid to be locked up and
afraid to be free; I was afraid to live and afraid to die. There seemed to be no
where to turn. So as a last resort I began to pray. I prayed to St. Jude, the
Catholic's patron saint of hopeless and desperate cases. To my surprise it
worked. Within a short time of my release from the asylum I found some
well-meaning, compassionate people who said if I would follow their way I could
find peace and a meaningful life. I tried it and it worked. The promises they
gave me came true by following the 12 Steps of Narcotics Anonymous. I found God,
my higher power who, as a result of my spiritual experience, freed me from my
over-powering addiction to drugs and lust for sex, power, money and pride.
What a relief. Now, I could get on with my
life, get an education, a better job, have more money, better sexual relations
with my wife. It worked and I prospered in all these areas. Yet, the more I
prospered the less time I had for my Higher Power, no time any more for morning
prayer, meditation and daily inventory, no time for helping those less fortunate
than myself and I became obsessed with the matter of prosperity. Beginning to
feel an emptiness over-powering me, I tried to fill this void with more sex,
power, money and pride. These very things brought me to my knees again after 23
years of participation in Narcotics Anonymous. My body was clean and
sober for these years, yet my mind was deteriorating and again addicted to the
lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. I began to brag
about my accomplishments, steal from my employer, tried to find sexual
satisfaction outside of marriage. I was feeling afraid and powerless again, so I
started carrying a gun, transferring my Higher Power in the heavens above to the
power in my hand, like I had thirty-three years earlier in high school. It felt
really good to be in control again. Being different now seemed ok because I was
different, in a superior sort of way. I acquired a pilot's license, joined
the Civil Air Patrol. The life of inferiority was
gone. There was no resemblance of that scared little boy before Narcotics
Anonymous or that so-called spiritual giant after N.A. I was now in a dimension
far beyond the simplicity and boredom of everyday life. I had arrived and had
been transformed from a wimp into a powerful and self-made giant in control of
myself and those around me. It felt good until, in moments of contemplation, I
began to think. Think about how lonely I had become, having alienated myself
from my family and the people who truly loved me. During these moments I would
get twinges of desperation, realizing the foundations of my life were quickly
crumbling and that my life could, in an instance, come to an unexpected end,
especially after taking a shot with my Saturday Night Special at a man stealing
a piece of junk carpet worth about $15.00 out of my cabin in the woods. At this
point the progression of my insanity said that murder was an option. Yes, I had
arrived for sure, but arrived at a place that was more confusing than at any
time in my life, full of empty accomplishments.
Life had let me down again. Why go on? Every direction I go in seems to
be wrong. Where is truth? Where is meaning? What is my end to be? How come every
direction I go in detours me to a dead end? I tried really hard to stop thinking
this way. In my final analysis I saw this scared and abandoned little boy, this
time clothed in an old man's body, with all the fineries of life, yet completely
devoid of anything spiritually worthwhile. I thought at times to turn that
Saturday Night Special on myself and end the confusion that had overpowered my
life. But, in a moment of clarity, I
reflected on the death of my own mother, who
hanged herself in a county jail at the age of thirty-nine, when I was fourteen
years old. My father, also an alcoholic, died in a head-on collision with a
semi-truck when I was twenty-eight and in the program for just four months. I
still had enough compassion left not to want my offspring to live with this
feeling of rejection and abandonment.
I was now ready to give up, but to whom? How? What do I do next? Many
questions, yet no answers I could hear. I became a deaf man walking. And still,
the emptiness began to magnify itself until I was swallowed up in a life of sin
that was impossible for me to flee from. Yet I could not flee from my Higher
Power who still had love and compassion for this degraded Human Being while I
was yet a sinner.
Because He loved me so much He began to strip me of the very things that
were killing me. He took my job with its mid-management position after
twenty-nine years of faithful service. He took my pride. He had me arrested and
put my name in the news paper for a crime that could put me in prison for twenty
years. He took my money and my retirement. But, most importantly, He took away
the lust for the things of this world and changed my heart of stone into a heart
of flesh. He said those who steal, steal no more, but work with your hands to
provide for those less fortunate. I listened and started my own landscaping
company and now have the right power in my hands: a hoe, a shovel, and a rake.
These give me power to change lives, especially mine, by providing work, a home,
and a family for the brokenhearted, the homeless and the abandoned and those
transitioning out of prison. I have three homes for this purpose and have become
a chaplain with the Oregon Department of
Corrections. I am no longer lonely and unloved and
the only excess in my life now is love for the brokenhearted.
Through the surrendered life my hearing and
my life have been restored to what I was meant to be, not a giant but a servant.
It's all about power: power to choose, power to forgive, power to go on
through the power of surrender.
My Higher Power said He would restore my good name and He has. And now He
has buried my sins in the depth of the sea and put up a sign that says 'No
Fishing Allowed'. His name is Jesus!
The road best traveled is the one that
selects a Higher Power who has the power to change lives, is personal,
compassionate, convicting when we go astray, who will help us endure our
hardships but, most of all, be with us to celebrate our victories. Narcotics
Anonymous has given us all the right and ability to choose, but for enduring
victory we must choose. The choice is ours. It is personal and unique to each
one of us. The right choice has given me a balanced life, a hope and a future
that is meaningful, productive and, like our book says, we can become
acceptable, responsible and productive members of society. I have. It works. At
the time of this writing, January 1, 2007 I am seventy-two years young with
forty-four years of being clean and sober, dating back to my first encounter
with Narcotics Anonymous on March 21, 1962. I have been married for
fifty-one years, have seven children, seven-teen grandchildren and four
great-grandchildren. It's been a rough and scary ride. So my advice to the
newcomer is to stay on the saddle of self-control, hang on to the horn of hope,
work the steps, and let your Higher Power take the reigns, for your
salvation draws near.
Thank you Jimmy Kinnon, my mentor and friend. Thank you Narcotics
Anonymous, my life. And I thank Jesus the Christ, my lighthouse. WE DO
Special Friend Always,
H. - Portland, Oregon
Ruckersville, Virginia USA
SPIRITUAL NOT RELIGIOUS PROGRAM
KNOWN AS NARCOTICS ANONYMOUS!
I have never been a praying man. Okay, when the dope ran out and I was
really sick 1 remember crying out; "Oh God, please help me!" It wasn't
until I had been on my road to recovery that I would come to know a Higher Power
of my own understanding and learn to rely on this power every day of my life. A
Higher Power that would do for me what had been impossible for me to do for
myself, stay clean and live a normal life.
Someone told me a long time ago that when you pray for something, never
let that prayer go, just add each new one on to the old. I have been doing this
for a long time now and my prayers, as my recovery, have grown and
matured. At first I was told to ask God to keep me clean and thank him at night.
Don't worry about who God is, just take the actions and your mind will align
itself with your new way of doing things. Bring your ass and your brains will
follow. By the time I hit my 3rt treatment center in 1981,1 was
willing to try anything. My way obviously did not work.
I have come to believe that Narcotics Anonymous is a simple program
designed to take us from being totally self-centered to totally God-centered,
whatever that means to you. For me, it means a God-centered person is;
"Someone who is healing inside and is being of service to others.
My first prayers where about
staying clean just for today. Once I started asking my Higher-Power for help in
this simple manner, amazing things started happening. In 1981, It was a miracle
just to find NA as there where only 8 meetings in the entire State. God
delivered a meeting to me the night I was allowed out of detox!
My sponsor told me the simple truth that got me into the rooms of NA and
it was the one thing that had to change in order for me to recover. That is;
"when you know that you know, you will never know, but when you begin to
understand that you don't understand, then you'll have understanding.... and
when you stop trying to understand, then you'll enjoy yourself." Huh? I
didn't understand a word he was saying but today I sure do. "I know"
is a closed mind, while "I don't understand" is an open one.
I had a lot of fear growing up. It had always run my life. I was afraid
of what you thought of me. I was afraid of woman, afraid of authority, afraid of
rejection, abandonment, you name it. I never let it show. I put up a front of
being better than. I was a flamboyant New Wave Rock Singer who got kicked out of
the band for getting loaded and missing practice.
One of the guys in our recovery group, the old timer who had six months
clean, shared a prayer with us that he had learned; "repeat as often as
possible; "If God is for me, who can be against me." This prayer
became a life-saver for me. I repeated it over and over again for years. It was
a simple way for me to build courage. I learned I could face rejection,
abandonment and all the other fears in my life, knowing that my Higher Power had
my back door covered. After years of repeating this simple prayer, it finally
dawned on me one day.... ďIf God is for me, why am I against me?Ē
My favorite prayer is;
"Whatever's going on in my life, God has it already taken care of"
This for me is how I work my Third Step. I can turn things over today just by
saying that little prayer. I have learned not to put a question mark where My
Higher Power has put a period.
When I found the woman of my dreams and "I became "We", so
did my prayers. This simple change has helped build unity in our family.
"God, help guide our actions, help us deal with our powerlessness over our
addiction and help us in our search for serenity." Today, serenity is one
of my highest ideals. I learned, over time, that I could let go of my side of an
argument without having to stand up for none-existent virtues. My sponsor once
asked me, when I was complaining about my wife doing something I didn't agree
with, "well you have a choice my friend, you can be serene or you can be
right, which is it going to be?"
One of the spiritual principles that guides me today is generosity. This
is not so much about being generous with my money but generousness of spirit. If
it isn't a big deal, let her have it. This is different from being a people
pleaser. I don't need to get anything out of my self-sacrifice other than
learning to be self-less and not selfish. Try being generous in a
situation you usually don t want to surrender. Could it hurt that much to let
someone else be right?
My prayers began to include
my family. I have learned that my Higher Power's Mill grinds really slow but it
grinds real fine. When I had three years clean, my ex-wife called me in crisis.
She needed to go to treatment, could I take our son back? When God had brought
another woman in my life and I had all I needed to raise my son, five days
latter my ex-wife gave him to me and went to get help for her addiction. The
timing was perfect, what a coincidence. We say in N.A.; "Coincidences are
God's way of working anonymously."
My sponsor shared a relationship prayer with me when I was having
troubles with my wife. "God, thy will be done for her as well as for us,
take our relationship and let it become what you want it to be. God let the
truth be known to us." After several years of praying this, the truth was
revealed to me. The marriage was not meant to be. It was so painful trying to
make something work that wasn't meant to be. We were Mr. and Mrs. N. A., this
had to be right! With too much baggage on the inside, I was incapable of setting
boundaries. Today, I know in my heart that I have all the tools I need to live
with any woman I choose to.
As our marriage collapsed in my eleventh year clean, I prayed a tot for
courage and strength to make it through each day. My business was falling down
around me, my marriage was in a shambles and the government was after me for
back taxes. More Step work was needed.
That was my year of depression and the very best I could do was swim laps and
pray; "If God is for me, who can be against me, if God is for me, who can
be against me... lap after lap after lap.
I learn my biggest lesson about God and finances during that period. A
fellow addict pointed something out to me that has since changed my life.
"You know what youi problem is?" He said to me. "Your problem is
that you are running your business on the wrong spiritual principle."
What's that? I asked. "You're running your life and youi business on the
belief that there isn't enough. The truth is that in God's world there's enough.
There's enough for you, enough for the competition, in fact in God's world
I began to pray, in God's world there's abundance, in God's world there's
abundance. My finances had been messed up for so long that all I could see was
mountains of debt. 1 would do Shows to sell my wares. I would watch everyone
around me panic when things where dead slow. They were selling cheap. I too felt
the fear but instead of dumping product, I would repeat the prayers this addict
had told me. When the fear subsided, miracles always happened. Someone would
come in and spend a lot of money at my table, or someone would sell me something
very expensive at a great price and make the whole trip worthwhile. Today I tell
sponsees; "I know you don't feel that there is someone special out there
but, if there is an abundance of money in God's world, then there is probably an
abundance of woman, of jobs, of places to live. In God's world there is more man
enough for everyone, including you."
I took a prayer from the
introduction of our Basic Text and made it my own; "God relieve us of the
bondage of self. Help us live according to your divine precepts, grant us a bond
of self-lessness and instill in us a knowledge of your will for us and the power
to carry that out so that no addict seeking recovery need ever die from the
horrors of addiction without having had a chance to find a new way of
life." I then added; "that we may bear witness to the miracle (The
miracle for me is when one heart touches another in acts oi empathy) and so that
we may have a happy, healthy, loving relationship. "God help us be of
service not control."
I pray these service words; when I start my day, when I sit down in a
Narcotics Anonymous meeting during the moment of silence and right before I
speak at a Narcotics Anonymous Meeting or Function. By saying this simple prayer
for several years, I have been transformed from someone who was totally
self-centered to someone who is God-centered. Today I am well aware of someone's
pain or their need to be comforted. My radar is connected to my higher power and
I can sense a hurt person from across the
Today my life is about
service to others. I have found that I get so much more from giving than I ever
got from taking. Love is the only thing that you can give away, thai you get
much more of in return. When I got here, I was officially labeled a sociopath, a
person who is incapable of feeling his feelings. Today, I have been granted the
gift of being
able to feel the feelings of others. This gift is a direct result of working the
12 steps of Narcotics Anonymous.
Today my prayers are less
about things or people but about the spiritual principles I want to live by. God
help us live abundantly, joyously, prosperously, artistically and gratefully.
Today I truly live
and enjoy life without the use of drugs. I jump right into the fun. I donít
stand on the sidelines wondering if it might be cool to try that. I donít wait
for someone to invite me, or until I get the courage. I just grab a conga drum
and start beating! Today I realize that fun is about jumping in feet first and
to heck with what others think. No one ever erected a statue to a critic.
Statues are for doers.
So why should we live life prosperously? Aren't we supposed to give up
the things of the world to become more spiritual? Who said that? My higher power
wants me to prosper. The more I make, the more people I can help. The money I
make helps me reach out to addicts around the world. In 1981 I agreed to live on
5.00 a day. My girlfriend was an accountant and she helped me pay off my debts
over time. By the time I got my nine month chip, I had a key ring for my new car
to put it on, wow!
An attitude of gratitude goes a very long way. Gratitude and self-pity are mutually exclusive. You can't feel sorry for yourself and feel grateful. I don't take things for granted today. I thank God for the good things as well as the bad. If I thank God for the goods things, I will cherish and appreciate them all the more. When I thank God for the bad things in life, it forces me to see what good might come out of this. It helps me hang onto the belief that my higher power has a purpose and more will be revealed, in his time, not mine. Today I understand that God has 5 answers to all my questions; "Yes", "No", "Wait", "You have got to be kidding!".... and.... "If you must"
During my Eleventh year
crisis, I lost my house, my wife, my three dogs, my business, a small fortune
and ended up owing the government $150,000.00! All this pain brought me to my
knees and back to the steps. I did a lot of inventory on my childhood. Growing
up with a workaholic father, a depressed mother and a chronic alcoholic step
mother was too much for that little boy to handle so he turned to drugs to
survive. A part of me never learned how to deal with life on life's terms. I
learned at a very early age that life was something to be avoided at all cost!
Toward the end of my inner-searching year, I met a woman with a lot of
clean-time who was dealing with her own emotional pain. Her marriage of ten
years was falling apart. Her husband, who had been a workaholic, was becoming an
alcoholic and her mother was dying of cancer. She was an only child and was
feeling forsaken by her Higher Power. One night after her home group she was
sharing with an old timer about her fears; "I don't know Man, maybe God has
some plan for me, but I don't know?" The old timer looked her dead in the
eye and said; "Girlfriend, there's no maybe about it, God most certainly
has a plan for you and it's better than any plan you could ever dream of!"
She heard me share on die 12th step at a retreat and asked if
she could call me some time? You've been divorced tor a year now and your
basically happy. I sure would like to
know how you got from
miserable to happy in one year? I offered her my number and told her she could
call me anytime if she needed a friend to share with. Any addict who is
suffering can call me at any time day or night. We lived in different Cities and
for four months we talked on the phone, one addict helping another with no
Had I not left that sick dicing life I was trying so desperately to hang onto in my time of crisis, I would never have found true love. Had I not taken a risk and asked her if I could come down, I would not have found the love of my life. Only a loving Higher Power and the steps will tell you if you are in the right relationship, we are not marriage counselors in NA.
Today I tell my
sponsees; "If you want to know where God is, he's
right on the other side of willingness." Take a risk! What do yew have to
loose but a moment of embarrassment and maybe a brief feeling of rejection? What
do you nave to gain, who knows, the skies the limit in NA.
God, relieve us of the
bondage of judgmental-ness. I have found that a lot of my relationship problems
stem from the fact that I am busy taking her inventory and finding her lacking.
If I am standing in judgment over my fellow man, I can always find fault. The
insane part is that I never tell anyone about their short comings. I just sit
and stew over what I have judged as inadequate in others. What a loose/loose
game to play. What a waste of time. Since I have started to pray for my higher
power to relieve me of my judgmental-ness, guess what, my wife has gotten
better. Okay she still has character defects I don't like, but our relationship
has deepened immensely. When I let go of judging, I find I have a lot more time
to cuddle and be close. My lack of resentment has made it possible for me to
allow more love into our lives. Every time I surrender a character defect, it
opens up my life for more goodness to come in.
All my life, I felt less than and not good enough for this world. A woman on a passing bus would frown at me and I would have a bad day. Today I am a responsible, productive member of society thanks to God's grace and the Steps. My wife says; "The 12 steps of Narcotics Anonymous put us on a level playing field with the rest of humanity." Man, isn't that all we ever wanted? Not to feel less than, all the time. This is one of the greatest gifts NA has given me.
The Basic Text states;
Narcotics Anonymous offers us only one promise, freedom from active addiction,
the solution to which has eluded us for so long. We will be freed from our
self-made prisons." Today I understand that my addiction is the negative
voice in my head and N.A's promise has come true in my life. I have been freed
from that negative voice
of doubt, shame, guilt and fear. I have been freed from my self-made prison,
wow! Now that is one heck of a promise. Hey, if you just want freedom from
active drug addiction, you can have that, but for this addict, I want it all!
God please watch out over your trusted servants. This is our prayer
whenever we travel for NA. My wife and I hold hands on the airplane or in the
car before we head out on the road for another NA adventure. I have lived an
incredible life and I know that my time on this earth was of some good purpose.
I could not have said this before I came to NA. When you're going nowhere, any
road will take you! Before I found NA that is exactly where my life was heading,
At the end of our day, as my wife and I are lying in bed, we hold hands
and say our evening prayers. Thank you God for keeping us clean and guiding our
actions. Thank you for helping us deal with our powerlessness over our addiction
and helping us in our search for serenity. Thank you for everything you've given
us, everything you've taken from us and every thing you've left us, just for
today. We then close our eyes, having no regrets and we sleep like God's
children should, at peace with ourselves and world around us.
O. - A deeply grateful member of Narcotics Anonymous
Appleton, Wisconsin USA
My name is David D and I am an Addict. I grew up in Sheboygan WI, a town of 50,000 people. Growing up I had my name and picture in the newspaper for something good one day and then the police would be at the door the next day for something bad. My first drug deal was going to Boy Scout camp. With me, I took two packs of cigs, one pack of menthol and one pack of non-menthol, and half a bottle of vodka I had found on the side of the road. My friend was going to get me some weed. The plan was to get drunk away from home so my parents would not know. But they found the cigs and vodka before I left and they were not going to let me go. They could not understand why I had two packs of different cigs. At this point I never smoked or did any drugs. The troop leader talked them into letting me go. When I was at camp my friend had gotten the weed. I paid him for it and then smoked it. And boy did I cough. I said I donít feel any different and he said the first time you donít. I found out that it was weed and not marijuana. Yes, weed from the field. I got my picture in the paper from that camp. It was another five years before I would use. When I did start using it went from 0 to 60 in seconds. My using was alcohol, real weed, speed and LSD.
When I got married I would go out for a pack of cigs and come home two days later and no cigs. Six months after I got married I went in to treatment for 29 days. I got out and relapsed many times. My sponsor would say ďWell you had two weeks clean before you went out. Donít you see what a miracle that is?Ē
I thought that I needed some discipline so I signed up with United States Army Reserves. That did not help me to stop using. I went to basic training and got my divorce papers while in basic training. When I got out of basic training I came home and had to move in with my parents. I could only stay clean for weeks at a time then went back out. And when I did use I would not come home. I went to a friendís house to use for three days at 11:30 pm and he finally said ďDavid, youíre going to have to leave.Ē I told him that I had no place to go.
I left my friendís house and walked two blocks, climbed over a wall and curled up in the snow and tried to sleep. I could only keep part of my body warm at a time. It was hell all night long. I was shaking violently. The sun came up and I sat on the wall feeling the warmth of it. It felt so good. Here I am on a street that goes nowhere. There was no reason for anyone to drive down this street. At this time in my life I had no job, no money, no friends, no car, and recovery did not work. I was thinking ďHow will I kill myself?Ē I thought of many ways and decided that this is what I am going to do. Then my parents show up in the car. What the hell. They asked me, ďDavid what are you doing?Ē I told them that I just went for a walk. They said ďGet in the car, we will take you home.Ē
I went with them and I took a shower. I had not had one in three days. In the shower I was thinking what do I do? I had tried meetings for alcohol. Then I remembered the drug meetings that I had gone to while in treatment. So I got on the phone looking for a drug meeting. They told me where there was one and I walked two miles to get to that meeting.
The meeting started and the people started to share and each time I thought ďWow, are you messed up.Ē I listened to one story after another and I was thinking that I should leave. Then a man had shared that the drugs were a symptom of the disease. I thought well he must never have had a problem with drugs. I could not wait to get away from those freaks. The meeting ended with the Lordís Prayer and I tried to run out of there as fast as I could. This was not for me. But they kept hugging me. Finally I thought that I was out of there and oh no here comes that man that does not have a drug problem. He gave me a hug and puts his hand on my shoulder and says ďWe need you here.Ē Instantly I felt I was home. The man bends over and showed me a meeting list and where the next meeting was held and I told him that this was the best meeting that I was ever at and that I will definitely be at the next meeting. That day was January 8, 1985, and I have been clean ever since. This year I gave that man my 23 year NA medallion and thanked him for my 23 years of being clean. If he would not have said that we need you here I would never have come back to NA.
I went to 89 meetings in 90 days and on day 90 I felt like using mentally and physically. I was trying to not think about using. I had spent the day with my sponsor. We went to a NA meeting that night. When I came home and was in bed I had thought ďwhy did I have such a bad urge to use?Ē I did all the right things and went to meetings. I had a sponsor and did use him and did all the right things to stay clean. Then it hit me Ė it was because I am an addict. This was a turning point for me. I still had no job, no money, and no car. I went to functions all over the Midwest. Another addict drove us all over and said if you have gas money or not, I am going and you can come along. It was a great time. Every function that I went to I would talk to someone that I never met. Then I got a job in a foundry. I got a car and spent three years paying it forward by driving other addicts to functions and meetings. At the time there were only one or two functions within three states. I remember working on the NA 3rd edition revised basic text at workshops and then voting on it in meetings. At the time, I did not know how important that this was.
You see for me, when I started service work, I did this at 90 days clean. Someone had asked me if I wanted to go along with them to area service. I asked them what they did there. He told me and I asked him, ďdo you take lunch?Ē He said yes that we go out to eat.
Coffee and fries are what kept me clean. After the Friday night meeting we would go out for coffee and fries. Meetings were awesome but I needed something to do after the meetings and this made me feel part of that group. Those people had become my friends for 23 years. I did service work back then but did not want to be there. But somewhere it says to do the things we donít want to do. But the coffee and fellowship were always great.
Years went by and at around eight years clean I was doing all the right things and I found a church and attended it for a few years. I found God but a couple of addicts at the church said that God removed there addiction and that I donít need recovery. They went back to using. Red flag! I am out of here. I left the church but did not leave God.
I woke up one morning and turned the bathroom light on and looked in the mirror and spit at myself. Welcome to the next phase of recovery. I spent the next four months in therapy dealing with my feelings. What a kick in the butt that was. I got done with therapy and people said ďWow, you had changed and I like it.Ē This gave me the self esteem to move forward in life. I worked on many things. Perfectionism was one thing I was working on at this time. I did not like to speak in front of big crowds. I probably went to 15 conventions and never went up to the podium to share. So I asked the Wisconsin Convention Committee if I could chair a workshop on perfectionism and they said yes. So I did the work shop and I did not do a great job. It was not perfect. Thatís what made it perfect.
I was inactive in the United States Army Reserves for three years and the 1st golf war had started and I went to the recruiter to go back in to the Reserves. I was in formation one week later and got inspected buy a 3 star general my first day back. I completed my last year and got out.
Then I went to truck driving school and started driving over the road. I look back and this is where I started missing meetings. I was out for four to five weeks at a time. I would get to a state and have time to call the 800# hotline for a meeting and a ride. I had to go to another fellowship because NA did not have contact info out there. I did this a few times and got off the road a year later. I got a local driving job and I went to NA meetings once in a while. Then, I went three years before I went to another NA meeting and someone came up to me and asked me to speak at a dance. Being an NA purist I said ďdid you not hear what I had said that I have not been to a meeting for 3 years?Ē I told them no, that this would not be a good message of recovery. I went to another NA meeting about three months later and someone asked me if I would speak at a treatment center and I said ďso you can use me as how not to work a recovery program?Ē My next NA meeting had 65 people at it and the topic was the 12 promises of AA. I was sick to my stomach. I was going to say something but what hurt was that they all loved the idea.
I had gotten into a relationship with another recovering addict at this time. I had got promoted to dock supervisor and then to operations manager at my job. I said to my self that this is because of NA. Then I bought my own semi-truck and became an owner operator for 10 years. I made a lot of money but made very little NA meetings. What hurt the most were the NA anniversaries. I was high-fiving myself but I missed being with other addicts. Sometimes I would make a function or convention.
And then I found the casinos and this was to become the next symptom of my addiction to make my life insane and unmanageable. During the next phase of my recovery I went through a lot of money and kept doing a mental check to see if it had made my life unmanageable and the answer was no. Well, the answer ended up being yes. I had thought that I was working a program when I did not attend NA meetings. I donít know what had kept me clean. The relationship that I was in was a big thing. Without that relationship I donít think I would be clean. The Serenity Prayer was - can I change it? Thatís it. Where things did go bad for me was not attending NA meetings and not having a home group. Whatís funny is that I was still grateful and I am forever grateful for NA for giving me a great life.
I have cars today, a great relationship of 15 years, a place to live and some toys. And so on. This is it. I am going back to meetings to give back to NA. They need my help. They need to see you can have clean time and get a great life. So I made it back home after 10 years to give it away.
My first function back I made was the 20th Live the Steps or Freeze. This is the area function that I had started and had put on the first two. I started looking at all the things I had done in NA that became a part of NA history. So I was looking at NA history and started looking for a NA text 2nd edition because I had one given to me while I was in treatment. I went online looking for one and came up with things signed by Jimmy K and other people. I called up a friend thatís more in touch with the NA history than me and I told him that I knew who Jimmy K is but who the hell is this Bo guy? My friend reminded me of whom Bo was and that we had spent the weekend with him at a convention in the late 80s. My friend had put Bo up on a pedestal and then I remembered who Bo was and I saw him as just another recovering addict. What these men, my recovering friends and I did was that we played a part of NA history. We started areas and regions and so many other wonderful things. But I never looked at it as NA history. We were just doing our job to help another suffering addict.
I have a home group today. I got a sponsor today. I recently went back to visit a regional meeting and I have decided to be a GSR for my home group. I have been reaching out for help. Funny thing is I came back to NA wanting to give back and help you because my life was good and it all backed fired right in my face. I have gotten more from NA than I can ever give back. I have never loved myself more. I have never loved my life more. The lady I am going to marry I have never loved more and today I am in love with NA. Thank you NA for 23 years of being clean.
Marietta, Georgia USA
(NOTE: This was written in an attempt to jaunt down some random thoughts about recovery as I prepare to take a more active role in H&I work at a nearby stabilization unit.)
My name is Michael and I am an addict. By the grace of the God of my understanding and the program of Narcotics Anonymous I did not have to use today. I consider this a miracle but when I sat where you are sitting now--lonely, afraid, hurting from physical withdrawal, feeling rejected by family, friends and society in general-I could not imagine that there would come a day when I could say that: "I did not HAVE to use today." The compulsion and the desire might have been there, but I did not HAVE to use today.
I could attempt, as I have done in the past, to rationalize why I am an addict, but in the end I would have nothing but a bunch of rational lies and it no longer concerns me why I am an addict or how I became one. I accept the fact that I suffer from the progressive, unpredictable, cunning and fatal disease of addiction. There is no cure, but there is a way to control this disease and that is by not using any mood-altering chemicals. But abstinence alone can be a struggle I choose not to undertake today and there is a better way and that is found in working the steps of this remarkable program known as Narcotics Anonymous.
I first was introduced to NA about 24 hours after beginning my last round of treatment, a lengthy journey that was to last for seven months, almost exactly the same amount of time I have spent on a downhill spiral of a relapse after nearly two years of sobriety. At an earlier treatment center it had been strongly suggested that I check out the program of NA but I was adamant in my refusal. After all, since I had never used a needle, I did not need to mingle with a bunch of junkies. Attending meetings of another 12 Step program, more to keep my job and marriage than anything else, I stumbled along through the first year, marked the traditional first birthday and began a second year of abstinence which I realize today was nothing more than what the other program refers to as a "dry drunk." Shortly before the second anniversary of my sobriety rolled around, I decided that a single glass of wine couldn't hurt me. I remember very little of the next seven months.
From the first time I felt the warm glow of a shot of bourbon, rolled the first joint or popped the first pill, I spent the better portion of my life high one way or another. I was given the dream job of any addict on my twenty-first birthday when I became nightclub editor and entertainment writer of a major newspaper. In those wonderful days of graft and payola, I used every opportunity that arose to feed my addiction, all at the expense of
club owners and others in the entertainment industry making sure that my every whim or desire was fulfilled as they bribed their way into my various newspaper columns. A typical day at work would be to have lunch with Ann-Margaret, attend a cocktail party for John Wayne and then check out the club scene. The ideal life!
We all have our war stories-accounts of our using days-and while they are different just as we are different, for the addict the end results are always the same: jails, institutions and death. I've had my fill of the first two and am in no great rush to experience the third. Jail didn't help. Institutions didn't help. An attempt to kill my best friend while on a bad trip didn't faze me. Today I need to share my recovery rather than my active addition for our literature rightfully informs us that we can only keep what we have by giving it away.
Following marriage, a family, the traditional house in the suburbs, the day came when an intervention forced me to either enter treatment or lose my job, which was now with another newspaper and very far removed from the club and entertainment scene as it was as associate editor of a religious newspaper. I would joke that I had gone from covering the city's strippers to covering God and found it much less predictable.
This treatment failed and the only thing I gained from it was the reputation of being the only person in the history of Ridgeview Institute to sweet talk a nurse into getting me something to mix with Bacardi light, among the first things I packed as I prepared to enter "treatment." Coming up with a plan with fellow patients to lock the entire staff out of our unit, a plan which succeeded very nicely at change of shift, is another example of how seriously I took my time at Ridgeview. Twenty-eight days later I was "cured" and discharged. I did not use for almost two years until the night I decided that the one glass of wine wouldn't do any harm.
Seven months later the day, or more accurately middle of the night came when I realized that I would not be able to go to work the next day, and the thought of another 28-day rest at a nice institution would be better than coming up with an excuse for not showing up at the office so this time I checked myself into treatment, where I was immediately locked up in the psychiatric unit. It didn't take long for me to think that perhaps I hade made a mistake and I decided to leave-much easier said than done I quickly discovered. I formulated an escape plan whereby once I set the hospital on fire, as these were the days of being allowed to smoke anywhere and I had cigarettes and a lighter, I would flee into the woods across the street and head to the home of an old friend. It didn't occur to me that I could barely stand up, let alone "flee" anywhere and the plan seemed perfectly
logical to me. Just as I was about to ignite the fire I was told I was being moved to the detox unit. Once there I demanded to see the person in charge and explained that I had changed my mind and would be leaving. Fortunately for me he was a recovering addict and used his street sense to bribe me into staying with drugs, pointing out that he could relieve the physical withdrawal symptoms that were quickly setting in with medication. Made sense to me-get high and then leave!
I didn't leave. Although the details of my first NA meeting remain rather fuzzy, that night a group of recovering addicts, doing just what we are doing here tonight, came to the facility to hold a meeting and attendance was mandatory. I spent most of the time at that meeting observing one guy, trying to figure out what he was on and where he got it, but somehow I realized that maybe these people had something to offer. They were happy. They seemed to have stories similar to my own as far as their need to obtain drugs in any form went but they had found a way to kick their habits through the program they represented. After the meeting ended, the guy I had thought was high came up to me and introduced himself, saying that since he had not seen me before, therefore that I must be a new patient. I told him that I had blown two months' clean time and in a matter of seconds, he outlined everything that I must have done-quit going to meetings, failing to admit my powerless, not working the steps, taking myself too seriously, becoming too insolated and the list went on. It was as if he was telling my story and after he left I found out that he was one of the founders of the program in this area and rather than being high had many years of clean time.
I looked through some of the literature they left behind and decided that I'd stay in treatment until they came back for another meeting to observe them with a clearer head. This was the best decision I have never made in my life. Yes, I wanted what they had to offer as their literature explained. Yes, I had reached a point where I could admit that I was totally powerless over my addiction and that my life had become unmanageable. Yes, I had found "my tribe" after looking for it all of my life. An off-sight meeting to which patients were transported introduced me to the Rising Sun, an NA clubhouse that would have made most crack houses look like something out of a decorating magazine, but a place of such recovery and unconditional love and filled with people just like me from all walks of life, that I was hooked on it from the first meeting. Years later I would attend the final meeting at the Rising Sun, where I had made friendships unlike any I had ever experienced, and sit throughout the night reminiscing with fellow addicts and shedding many tears, mostly tears of joy for all that I had learned there.
What I thought would be another 28-day vacation progressed into seven months of treatment. From the original facility, I was sent to a half-way house and intense therapy
and on a daily basis. About a month into this phase of my treatment I experienced the most devastating event of my life, the sudden death of my sister, killed in an automobile accident the day after she had picked me up at the half-way house and carried me out to dinner. All I could think of was to block out this pain with drugs. The arrangements had already been made by my wife and the program director that I would return home for a week or two, so being able to self-medicate to block out my pain would be no problem. But something made me call my sponsor, the guy I had focused on at my first meeting thinking he was high. We spent many hours together in the next few days and he convinced me on a daily basis to not use for just that one day. He got me through this ordeal and I returned to treatment.
You are probably told here, if you have not heard it before, that once you leave you should attend 90 meetings in 90 days. As obsessive and compulsive behavior if a part of my disease of addiction, I attended well over 100 meeting during the first 90 days out of treatment and can only share that it worked for me. I later obtained a second sponsor as a back-up system and due to the fact that my original sponsor, having been married five times, did not seem to be the best person to turn to for discussing relationships!
My marriage finally failed. I lost my home and family. In recovery I have suffered other losses but through it all I have managed to stay clean and sober one day at a time, for that is all that I have-one day, good or bad, at a time. After a number of years of attending meetings on an almost daily basis, moving, changing jobs that required me to work at night, developing a relationship that is about to mark sixteen years duration and other commitments took me away from the program for far too long. Realizing awhile back that I had an NA birthday coming up it dawned on me that I had been living dangerously for entirely too long and that I need what this program has to offer. The program had been with me from the beginning, but I had separated myself from the fellowship and there is great truth in the statement "An addict alone is in back company." So I have returned to meetings, renewed ties with my sponsor and become involved in service work. I am saddened by the loss of so many recovering addicts who were so important in my life in years past, many of whom have either died or returned to active addiction. I am fortunate to be getting "involved" once again.
This is a simple, not easy, program for complicated people. It works.
By the way, my first NA meeting was over 27 years ago and I have not used since that time. Thank you for allowing me to be here with you tonight.
Greg P. got clean on October 25, 1970. Greg's story is in the Little White Book entitled: "I was different" and the NA Basic Text. He also wrote the informational pamphlets, "The Triangle of Self Obsession", "Living the Program", the first fourth step working guide which was called "An Approach to Writing the Fourth Step", and the NA Tree, which was the first service structure in NA. Greg P. gave his last NA talk in a small North Carolina town and died on April 29, 1999.
Greg P.'s Last NA Talk
April 17, 1999
"My name's Greg and I'm an addict. Wheels all going around, around, around and around?" (chuckles) (talking about cassette recorder)
Well alright. I'm real glad to be here to help you celebrate your anniversary, and I'm tickled to death that we have so many new members, because I very strongly believe that the newcomer is the lifeblood of this institution, the lifeblood of this thing we call Narcotics Anonymous. The lifeblood of this society, whatever you want to call it. For those of you who are new, you can probably discount about ninety percent of what you learn. I believe that recovery over a period of time is a process of simplification.
We learn a lot of stuff about recovery. You'll come in here, and you'll do worksheets, you'll read books, you'll talk to this person, you'll talk to that person, you'll get sponsors, if you can stick with the basics you have a chance. It's real easy to get lost in all the gimmicks.
We have a brand new set of wonderful step writing guides_ but you can work them diligently, and they won't help you stay clean. We have a Basic Text_ you can read it every day, and it won't help you stay clean. We have a book called It Works How and Why that gives you lots of information about the steps, and the traditions. You can learn it perfect, and it won't help you stay clean. It's what you do with that information. It's the way you take that information from all sources and apply it to your daily living and use it to find this thing called recovery. And recovery is a very precious gift.
This is liable to be an interesting talk tonight. Because in the last couple of months I found out that I have cancer of the liver and uh, I don't feel real good, but you see I'm an NA member and the day I found out I had cancer of the liver, I called my sponsor and went to a meeting. That's what NA members do!
That's part of how this program works. We don't isolate. We don't hide. We don't disappear into the woodwork when things get tough. We reach out to the fellowship. We reach out to our sponsors, we reach out to our meetings, we reach out to those around us that we've come to learn to love and depend on. Umm, that's a big part about how this works.
This is a place where we take turns saving each other's lives. And you know, the people that come after you that you meet in recovery_ treat them real well, Ďcause you never know when your life's gonna depend on 'em. And you'll meet people that come after you_ even though there were? it seems like a whole bunch of brand new people here_ stay clean? hang around_ give this thing a chance _ keep the faith. There's something very special happening here. You know some of you who introduced themselves as being new have probably been here before. Some of you have probably never been here before.
Aw, give yourself a break. Try this way of living_ what have you got to lose? If you're like me _ you don't have much to lose. If you're like me _ you didn't get here 'cause things were going good in your life. Those of you who are here for your first meetings_ you know _ I know where you lived_ it's called Hell. 'Cause that's where NA is _ go to Hell, and turn left. That's NA.
You're not here because you're good at holding down a job. You're not here because you're good at staying out of trouble, you're not here because you have successful relationships. You're not here, because you're, you know, the candidate for poster child of mental health. You're here for the same reason that I'm here. You're here because you're none of those things.
You're here because you're in a trap that you can't get out of by yourself. And despite all the things you've tried, you're still in that trap. In other words, in desperation, we sought help from each other in Narcotics Anonymous. In desperation we sought help from each other in Narcotics Anonymous. And it doesn't make any sense. Doesn't make sense that we can get together, a bunch of losers, and anybody would stay clean. But we do.
You know I've seen NA grow from 20 meetings to 40,000 meetings. I don't even know how many there are now _ that's a guess _ maybe more than that. I've seen NA meetings grow from perhaps 150 _ 200 people attending, and maybe a quarter that many involved, to look around the room _ there's as many people here tonight as were in NA when I got clean. And here we're in Winston Salem, North Carolina of all places. The birthday of a group_ all together. You know what _ there's another meeting in Bombay, isn't there? And there's one in Denmark_ I had the opportunity to speak not too long ago in Denmark. There were nine hundred NA members from Denmark there. Nine Hundred members from Denmark!!
You know I didn't know when we had one from Arizona, or one from Carolina, or one from New Jersey. There were times when there weren't any anywhere. We got people staying clean living this way of life all over the country. And there's power here_ there's miracles here_ there's magic here, if you will. But it isn't going to work unless you let go, and let it work. One of the things I've learned over the last twenty_ eight years is there is no substitute for surrender. If you want this thing to work _ you're going to have to give up. You're going to have to give up being a dope fiend; you're going to have to let go, give up you know, being hip, slick and cool. You're going to have to give up standing on the corner.
You're going to have to give up all those things that sometimes seem so attractive when you're not hurting too bad. And reach out for help. First of all to an NA member, second of all to a loving God. There is no substitute for surrender. There is no therapist that you can go to that's gonna make everything OK. There is no church you can go to that's going to fix your addiction. There is no book with all the magic answers in it.
There is no medicine that'll take care of your addiction. When I say my name is Greg and I'm an addict it means three things and they're very simple. Number one, when I put drugs in my body, I lose the ability to control how they react in my body. I lose the ability to predict where they're going to take me. Number two, I have a tendency to get strung out on anything. I'll take wonderful things and make them self_ destructive.
You know _ itís reading _ I got a book _ I didn't read it much on the way down _ 'Cause I wasn't feeling all that well. I was catnapping in the car most of the way. I love to read! I didn't read before I got clean. But I've learned it's a great escape. But you know what? If I pick up a book and get into it, I maybe might have to finish it before I set it down. Now I might be able to set it down, in the meantime, but I have no way to determine that. I'll get strung out on all kinds of weird stuff. And thirdly, when I say that I'm an addict it means that I carry this spiritual illness that separates me from you. Separates me from every other human being. It separates me from God, it separates me from life and reality. And that's difficult.
You know we know what it's like to be alone. One of the things I remember before coming to NA was the loneliness of addiction. The loneliness _ even when you're in a room full of people. And some of you sitting here tonight, in a room full of people, are about as lonely as you can stand. Nobody knows it, because you haven't let anybody in _ because you're afraid. ĎCause of all these things. I came around the program and now I did what pretty much what we do _I mean there aren't a lot of different ways, we think we got some unique handle on how we do this program, but there's not.
And I come around here and the first thing that happens is I start going to meetings and I stop using and you know, it's kinda like I start getting high off of not being high. It's almost like not using nothing is a new drug. And then after a while I'm going to these meetings, and I'm listening to what people are reading and all this stuff _ You know, I kinda memorized that stuff. Couldn't read very well. And I know people who've come around to NA without being able to read at all, who learn to read by listening to the readings in the meetings. Again and again and again and again and hearing them, and seeing them at the same time. If you have a problem with reading, get yourself a little white booklet, and as the readings are being read, follow along with it. And that can teach you how to read.
It's taught many, many people how to read. You don't have to talk to anybody about having a reading problem_ lots of us have reading problems. But read along _ learn the words. And at ninety days, I had all the answers. I had 'em all! I had this shit down. I'd tell you _ ask me any questions_ ask me a question _ just go ahead.. I'll tell you. And I'd spout this stuff about the "Therapeutic value of one addict helping another is without parallel." I didn't have any idea about what I was talking about. Or I'd say something like, "there's one thing more than anything else that will defeat us in our recovery, this is an attitude of indifference or intolerance toward spiritual principles." Do you think at ninety days I had any idea what that meant? It sounded good_ you know _ it made me feel like part of _ and people would accept me _ they'd pat me on the back saying "Oh you're doing good"_ but the reality is I didn't know _ I didn't have a clue _ I just memorized the words! And I thought I had all the answers . You know the funny part about it is I did have all the answers _ I just didn't know which were which _ and which went with the which questions, you know or what they meant or how I could use them in my daily living _ that's the biggie.
Our twelfth step says, "Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of the these steps, we tried to carry this message to addicts and practice these principles in all our affairs." And I'm big into practice these principles in all our affairs. You know, once you find out about how this program works, start using it in your life; in every area of your life. You know, don't withhold anything. Don't reserve anything. You know reservations are the kind of the things I told God "Hey God I'll handle this one, you just leave me alone. I can take care of it, I can handle it." And I'm in trouble. Because I can no more handle my life than the man in the moon. You know, if I could handle my life, I sure wouldn't end up sitting up here in front of you guys with cancer _ I'd be bouncing around the room you know_ finger popping, talking long shit. But I'm here tonight because I'm an NA member. I'm here tonight because this is part of how I live. This is as much about a part of the way I live as turning my will and my life over to the care of God, or writing an inventory or making amends or any of the other things the program teaches me to work.
Over the years, our programs change, you know I got to that point where I was talking about knowing all the answers _ and that only lasted about a month before the roof caved in, you know, the big blue bird of feelings flew over and took a healthy dump and I figured out _ "Oh! This is why I used." And I had no way to cope with those feelings_ I had no way to cope. And what did I do? I turned to the program. And I can remember at six months going "Oh my God it's not the drugs!"
Because I thought drugs were the problem. I really thought the drugs were the problem. And had you asked me I would've told you I was powerless over heroin and it had fucked up my life. And that's what the first step said. But that's not what the first step says.
The first step says we're powerless over our addiction, that our lives had become unmanageable. And again addiction is a three fold disease_ it's physical, and that has to do with the drugs that we used, but itís also mental and spiritual. And my experience is that the mental part and the spiritual part are much more devastating and much more far reaching than the physical part of our disease. Now once we clean up and kick a habit, the physical has pretty much taken care of itself. The mental and spiritual aspects of our disease continue throughout our recovery. The potential for the physical continues on for our recovery. But in reality the mental and spiritual aspects are things that you'll have to deal with all your life. And again the tendency we have is to get strung out on anything, take wonderful things and make them self _ destructive. And number two, lack of faith, lack of hope, lack of trust, inability to love, self obsession, low self_ esteem. Those things are things that we have to cope with on through time, and things that I have to struggle with today. The most difficult thing in my life today is the third step. The most difficult thing in my life today is the third step. To really make that decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of God as I understand him.
As I continued, and approached a year I got into the _ what they call the birthday crazies, where just before a year where, you're into sabotage, you know? Oh my God I'm a sick man, another three weeks I'll have a year and I'll have made it, what'll I do now? How can I, how can I wreck this? Or just after a year when you're going, "Whew! Boy I'm glad I made that, now I can get back to looking like a real person." The reality is that I've been looking like a real person, you know. Or the step that happens at eighteen months, when we find ourselves bored with the program and it says it in the white booklet we get tired of repeating our new practices or that sometimes in those times are when the greatest changes take place within.
I'd get tired of this. You know, I'd discovered that there were other things to do other than go to meetings. I mean, I found Star Trek on the TV, I found books, I found hobbies, I found things I enjoyed doing, I thought I found things that were fun. Certainly not a whole lot more, certainly a whole lot more fun than listening to you guys. You know, we come in here, you know, meetings don't change too much, from day to day, year to year. Every once in a while there's something spectacular that happens, but basically year in and year out, people say pretty much the same things. Newcomers ask the same questions, people's responses to those questions are pretty much the same, you know, and it's not a thrilling existence, it's not. The thrilling part comes in watching someone's eyes, the thrilling part comes when you're talking with someone after a meeting, and you can see a change take place. See someone begin to live, where once they were dying. That's the thrilling part.
The thrilling part's at a convention, when finally something clicks. You're going, "Oh WOW now I understand that!" Or at someone's house, becoming a part of someone's life. Those are the thrills of Narcotics Anonymous. You know, NA to me is not about an hour, an hour and a half in the evening. An hour, an hour and a half in the evening is fine, but NA is so much more than that. It's a way of living. You either live this way or you don't live this way _ it's ok if you don't. It's ok if you don't.
I've had to give people permission to reject this way of life. Because, you know the reality is that some do, and it hurts when you care a lot about 'em. We're not in recovery in isolation, we affect each other's lives. And when someone you've cared about, and you've spent time with, and you've invested your spirit with, goes out, it hurts. I can remember saying, "God, _ please don't let me love another addict, cause it hurts too bad when they leave." And you know what _ that isn't the answer either. That was too much like the death I had using, not being able to care about anybody. At three years I found myself in a situation where it seemed like all the things I'd used to try to fix myself quit working, substitution quit working. And uh, I was in trouble, and I had to dive into the program on a new level.
At four and a half years it seemed like the program quit working. The things you taught me about NA, um the gimmicks; the write the inventory, the call your sponsors, the work with your newcomer, all those things seemed to quit working. And I had to get right with my Higher Power; I had to come out with a new relationship with God. I had to turn my recovery over to the care of God as I understood him. I couldn't just turn the symptoms over. I had to turn the real deal over. I had to work the third step for the first time. For real. My understanding of the steps has changed over time.
You know like I told you about the first step, I originally thought that meant that I admit that I am powerless over heroin, that it had screwed up my life _ that was obvious. But I've come to believe in this three fold disease. Perhaps the most change has come in the second step, particularly in the last few years. We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. And I thought originally that meant I'd come to believe that God could fix me. You know, maybe God can fix me. But I don't think that's what the step says. I had to look at this idea of sanity and what did that really mean. And I went back to the simple stuff _ a person who is sane is a person who is in touch with reality. A person who is insane is someone who is out of touch with reality. And what's reality? Ultimately reality is God _ the universe, all things.
So, my second step changed to where I come to believe that a process_ these twelve steps_ can put me back in touch with reality, can restore my spirituality, and restore my relationship with God. And that's really changed all the rest of the steps. I used to think the third step was about making a commitment, and saying the words_ they had a third step prayer I used to repeat. It was a really good prayer. Today, my third step is about trying to live life, as if I really believed there was a loving God trying to take care of me. I mean, what if there really was! What if there really is someone taking care of you? And it's ok to risk living. What if there really is a loving god out there working for you and you don't have to try to control all this shit? And you don't have to try to make the unmanageable turn out the way you want it. What if?? It'd be a different world, wouldn't it? I know it's been a different world for me when I can believe that.
The fourth step, instead of being show and tell, you know, has been a matter of really taking a look at who I am, and seeing the ways that I've separated myself from God, you see, and those things that I've done throughout my recovery that keep me from growing spiritually _ the patterns I've fallen into, the mistakes I've made, and even some of the successes, which have kept me from surrendering. You see, if you give me a quarter inch of success, I'll ride it for a mile and a half. I try one thing, and it turns out OK, I'm going to try it a hundred times, just to try to make it come out OK again. Except I forget the first time it turned out OK it wasn't because of my doing, it was God's doing. I forget that. So my fourth step has become an exploration of me, and how I relate to God. It's become a lot about humility. You know we talk a lot about humility in the later steps, but there's a lot of humility in the fourth step, knowing who and what you really are. Only by knowing my patterns can I avoid them.
In the fifth step, to me it's become a time when I can gain some clarity about that. Get someone sitting down with me who doesn't have a big interest in who I am. You see, I am incapable of being objective about myself. Everything I think about me is tied up in my hopes, my prayers, my fears, my shit, my issues, my past, my present, my dreams, and you know, I'll tweak anything. Lois brought home a thing one time from a meeting saying "we're the kind of people who from a single tree can create a mighty forest into which we immediately get lost." It's true! That's the kind of stuff I need a sponsor for. He can say "hey dummy this is just a tree!" This ain't the world! Who is not prejudiced about Greg. Who can see me objectively and say "hey_ this pattern here_ don't you see this?" and I go "no.." And, that's what my fifth step has turned into. Getting some perspective on what I learned in the fourth step. Getting some unprejudiced, outside opinion about what's going on, what's really going on in my life.
The sixth step; becoming entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character, to me is about getting ready. It's about learning about those defects, and taking the step I learned about in the fourth and fifth step, and really taking a look at it. Why is this a defect? What does this mean? What is it all about? It's about learning more about humility and it's also about preparing to do the seventh step. One of the things that has been very helpful and has become a big favorite of mine in the sixth step when I'm working with someone, is asking the person I'm working with to write their own personal individual unique seventh step prayer. And something that means what they really want it to mean.
And then in the seventh step going and following it through, and taking a look at the effect of it on their lives. Writing a journal. I'm a big believer in writing, although I don't think writing's the only way. Writing a journal about how this step is working in your life; how this prayer, this seventh step prayer, that you've begun to use daily, is working in your life. The amends have changed dramatically for me. But before I talk about those, you know, our defects and shortcomings, I used to think of those things as being like symptoms and things like that, but I think back to that, what I found in my fourth step. Those have to do more with the things that separate me from God. My defects and shortcomings are those things, which separate me from God, which separate me from sanity, which keeps me sick.
And the eight and ninth step are the primary way, other than humbly asking God to remove those things, that I can contribute to change. I make a list of how I have separated myself from God. All those things I used to stay off track, 'cause I was afraid of me. All the things I've used that have kept me from growing spiritually. And I take a look at them. And I plan how I can amend that. What can I do about this? You know the ninth step says "we made direct amends whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others." There's a couple things off the top that for me, I've learned about that step. Number one is I'm not others. I'm not one of these members that says, "well you don't do nothing that could place you in jeopardy as part of your ninth step." That's not what the ninth step is about to me. It's not about placing anyone in jeopardy. It's about trying to amend and restore where I've gone off track spiritually. And, the second thing I've learned about the ninth step, I feel real strongly about is, you make amends. If possible you make direct amends. If not possible, you still make amends. You just can't do it directly. I myself have used this idea "well I haven't had the opportunity to make direct amends so I must not need to do anything about it this year or next" to avoid some of the things I had to do. You know I think we make amends, and to me, the process of making amends is to take positive action to put myself back in spiritual balance. Take positive action to restore my spirituality. Taking positive action to try to see how I've gotten off track, and bring myself back on track.
The tenth step is a really neat step. And the tenth step, for me, has to do with balance in our lives. Staying on track, here in the eighth and ninth step we kinda, seven, eight and nine _ we've kinda gotten back on track, some. Through our amends, through humbly asking God to remove our shortcomings, we've gotten kind of back on track, and one of the ways we stay on track is through the tenth step, and that's by keeping track of how we're doing on those things. And I've learned for me, you know, checking out the day at the end of the day don't cut it. But I have to do almost a constant monitoring to see how I'm doing throughout the day, and make adjustments. And when I head off track, you know, the tenth step says when we were wrong, promptly admitted it. And I, for years I thought that meant "well when I do something to somebody I apologize for it." I read it in my head, and when we were wrong, promptly apologized for it. You know, today that's so much broader. When I start heading the wrong direction, I need to come back on track. I have to admit that I'm heading off in the wrong direction, and do what I can do to come back on track. When I fall into one of my patterns, self_ destructive patterns, whether I involve someone else or not, I have to recognize that I'm headed the wrong direction. And take action to come back on track, to maintain that spiritual balance. So, for me today the tenth step is, about maintaining spiritual balance.
Eleventh step _ we sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood him, praying only for the knowledge of his will for us and the power to carry that out. To me, that has to do about growing spiritually, has to do about keeping ourselves on track in the future. It's about discovering what God has in store for me. Being open to God's plan, not just my plan, and having the courage, and the power to follow that plan, not my plan. Follow up, and work the program! Work God's program. You know, prayer and meditation are two of the important ways we do that. I'm telling you that life is all about prayer and meditation! What if everything you do is a prayer? What if every sleazy thing we did was a prayer? What if every generous thing we did was a prayer? What if every negative thing we do is a prayer? What if every positive thing we do is a prayer? That scared the shit out of me at one time. Because I started looking at my life, and I wasn't real thrilled about some of the stuff I was doing. And my prayer was not a very positive prayer. So I believe the eleventh step is about making our lives a prayer. Is your life a prayer that you're proud to give to God? Or is your life something you're embarrassed about, or feel guilty? I suspect that if you're embarrassed about your life or feel guilty about the way you act, you need to do some changing. And that's part of the eleventh step. We need to change the way we live, and make our lives a positive prayer. And if everything I do is a prayer, then maybe everything I think is a meditation. And I honestly believe that if I can come into a room looking for the presence of a loving God, aware that God will be speaking through whoever's speaking, I'll hear God's will for me. I'll hear what I need to hear. A lot of you guys have experienced that_ gone to a meeting in a blue funk, and some newcomer said something so outrageous that it just blows you away. And they have no idea what they're talking about, and it's so profound. It really is! They, in that one moment of time, become a vehicle of God. And are able to say something in a way that you've never ever been able to hear it before. And the light goes on inside you, that is, you have a spiritual awakening. You know, you can experience that around here. Out of the mouths of babes.
Twelfth step _ Having had a spiritual awakening, we tried to carry this message to addicts, and practice these principles in all our affairs. And the bottom line of that is live this way. You want to be an NA member? Be a fuckin' NA member. Do it right! You want to follow a spiritual path? Commit yourself with abandon. It's the only way it works. This is not a half _ ass program. Having had a spiritual awakening, a rebirth, enlightenment. And I believe in Narcotics Anonymous, this twelve step path we're on, is just as sure a road to enlightenment as any philosophy or religion. And does not exclude any philosophy or religion. But, having had that awakening, you know, it's kind of like when someone turns on your light, let it shine babe! Don't cover it up! When you get enlightened, when you have that spiritual awakening, don't hide it! Let it shine forth! And share with others so it can grow! So it can be nurtured. So it can shine even brighter! Carry this message to addicts. What's the message? The message is hope. The message is spirituality. The message is all these things. And practice these principles in all our affairs. Thatís a big part of the message_ live this way. You know, I can say all kinds of stuff about the steps. I've learned a lot about the steps and traditions and Narcotics Anonymous in twenty_eight years. But the message I show you through the way I live is the real one. Kind of like "don't tell me how good you're doing, show by the way you live." How am I living? How is my life today? How's my program today?
I'm coping with a very serious illness. Some days I do pretty good with it. Some days I don't do very well with it. Yesterday, I sat and told Lois, I'm so tired of being sick. I was struggling with being sick. Some days my relationship with my Higher Power is strong. I have not fallen into the trap of "Why me God?", thank God. I'm pretty much convinced that this is an opportunity rather than a punishment or a curse. And God has got wonderful stuff in store for me. And I've experienced part of that. Last weekend there were three guys over to the house. All from different parts of the country. And they had an experience. They had a number of experiences, which may have changed their lives. NA members _ one from the Midwest, one from New Jersey, one from Indiana, who didn't know each other. But were brought together for a common purpose. And they worked together, and they laughed together, and they told stories together and they shared together. And the barriers came down and they sat out in the woods, and they experienced something.
My dream for a lot of years was to have a place where that could happen. And it's happening. In spite of me. Don't know what the future holds for me. I don't know whether, like anybody else, I don't know whether I'm gonna buy the farm tonight on the way home, have six months, two years, ten years, fifteen years, I don't know. What I do know is that I have had a good life beyond my wildest dreams in Narcotics Anonymous. I have been given the great gift of having had a chance to touch some spirits. Getting to know people just like you. And contribute to their recovery, and have them contribute to my recovery. And that's what this is about. It's about touching spirits. It's about giving you a little bit of my glow in exchange for a little bit of your glow. And both coming out brighter in the process. It's about being there for each other when no oneís ever been there before. It's about learning how to love when we never knew how to love. It's about learning how to give instead of take. It's about all those things. And it's a helluva trip! I have a good life. I have had a good life. I continue to have a good life. And I ain't done yet. So I thank you for asking me down, I love being with you.
Greg wrote the entire tradition portion of the Basic Text of Narcotics Anonymous! When the Literature Committee was finishing the Grey Book rough draft of the Basic Text, they only needed the Tradition Portion to complete it. Greg was in Oregon and they were in Memphis, Tennessee! They chose to get a woman who typed really fast and they held a phone to her ear as she typed out the entire tradition portion from Greg's notes and edited as he shared it to her.
The phone call took six hours!!! When it was over, the Lit Committee voted to turn that portion over to the Board of Trustees, as Guardians of the Traditions, to review and approve. The section came back with barely a single change. It was the least edited portion of the Basic Text of Narcotics Anonymous. Wow! The way it came out of Greg's mind is basically the way you read it today.
I'm an addict named Jack. I don't think anybody's going to have a problem listening to me because I always had a bulldog mouth and a hummingbird ass. I see some of you identified with that because laughter is the greatest point of identification we have. I am thankful for the committee allowing me to help them this afternoon with the little that I did and for all the hard work that they did. And I don't think they heard from us quite that we appreciated them, particularly the people from the kitchen, so just give it up for them. Right on.
So, it's a daylong task in the labor of love. And if you're new, I hope you saw that and you see it. And I hope additionally that you see, you hear, you feel something or have so far in this meeting today of all these wonderful speakers that will give you the empathy to come back to another meeting even if you got to come dirty. Ain't nothing strange about somebody being in a Narcotics Anonymous meeting using. You know, that's what we do, and we don't have to do it anymore. And having said that, would everybody with under 30 days stand up so we can recognize you.
Right on. Right on, yeah. Right on.
You may not believe this, but you're the reason that we're all here this afternoon. We got no other purpose but to give away what we find. And the only way we can do that is through events like this and through meetings. And it says our primary purpose is to carry the message to the addict who still suffers, but sometimes that addict is somebody that's been around for a spell. You know, sometimes, and you've heard that from everybody today that shared about the problems they've had during their recovery.
So, I get on a big thing and not talk about me at all, which some of you probably will prefer, but I'm going to give it up, you know.
My first meeting with Narcotics Anonymous was in 1966. I know I don't look that old, but I remember when I did. And I was out on parole one more time. I was dope sick. And somebody told me if I go to this meeting over on Yucca and Gower in Hollywood, still in this - this meeting is still there too - then I can find somebody that I can go see Downtown Brown with after the meeting and get well. See, because I wouldn't want recovery.
You know, I was wanting to get out of the elements. Because by that time in my life, my best game was the Greyhound Bus Station in Downtown Los Angeles or some all night Laundromat where I can get in, where it's warm. And I had a parole officer who was not particularly happy with my behavior. I don't know why, but he just wasn't, and he just kept giving me the rope. When I came out of the joint a couple of months earlier, he told me, I'll give you the rope and you can just wrap it around your neck. He says, When you get tightened up, I'll take it back.
And that's what I was doing, because I didn't have any other way because the reality of my disease wasn't really up close and in front of me. It was going to be a while before it was going to happen. But that first meeting, I remember the people that were sitting in that meeting. My brother was in the meeting who was clean at the time. Pepe was there. Chuck Skinner was there. He's dead, so I can use his last name. My name is Jack White, so forget Jack W. because if you go looking for me if I'm in the hospital, you're going to need to know my last name. You can't go in there and say Ė You know, at the level of press, radio and films, I don't use my last name, you know. So, that's the deal.
In here, we got to know each other's names because there are times that we're going to need to go help somebody in their healing process that's going to be in a hospital or something and we need to know that. Because today, you know, the way rules and regulations are, you're lucky if you can even get in if you know the whole name. You know, that's just the way the world is today.
But anyway, so they were there. And Jimmy Kinnon was there and Bob was there, who's very sick now and he's my grand sponsor. And Jimmy told me, he says that same thing I said about Beth, and he says, "You can be too stupid to make Narcotics . . . Too bright to make Narcotics Anonymous, you can't be too stupid." And I thought he's talking to me. He wasn't. He's talking to my brother. And he told me a lot of others. So, I'm going to use some terms that saved my ass that Jimmy used. You know one of those about you can be too smart to make it, you know, for you pseudo-intellectuals that like to dot I's and cross T's, sometimes you got to get stupid, you know, so you can learn, so you can hear. And I had to get that way because that's what I was all my life, I was a pseudo-intellectual because it saved my ass a lot of times.
So, at that meeting nobody volunteered to take me to their house after the meeting. Nobody was going to give me any money because everybody was clean that night and didn't want to go get loaded, and I left disillusioned. But I heard, see. I heard, inside that little kid inside heard the message. Once a dope fiend hears the message, you can refute it all you want. You can play like you didn't hear all you want, but it's still there. And sooner or later, the seed may sprout, you know. So, the seeds were planted. The seeds were planted and they encouraged me to come back even if I was loaded, you know.So, I encourage you, man. You're sitting here and you're little on the high side. You know who you are. You know, just because we get clean for a while, we didn't get struck stupid, you know. And just keep coming back. Just keep coming back, you know, however long it takes. You know, hopefully, it won't take long.
You know, hopefully, that noise that goes around having heard about recovery and being loaded is going to diminish fast, you know, because it will screw you up. It will screw you up and there's a lot of evidence in here and people will tell you that. But I wasn't ready. I'm was too busy pointing my finger at other people, places and things for my sorry rotten life. It was the neighborhood I grew up in. It was twenty-three foster homes. It was all in other people, places and things. It was never me. It was never my responsibility.
And I had a lot of people, places and things to blame on and some of them didn't even happen. Some of them weren't even there. And when I got to the point where I got the fourth step inventory, I learned that some of that was just bullshit. I manufactured it, you know.
You know, there's nobody else in here that's done that, I'm sure, you know, except those of you who are laughing. But I always wanted to be the kid next door. All my life, I wanted to be that little boy next door. That little boy next door, he had a dad that was at home. He had a mother that seemed to love him. They had things, you know, and this was in the projects. And he'd be getting his butt whipped at night and swearing off, I swear I'll never do it again. I did that a lot of times later on in life. I did it when I was young too.
But the next day, he got a reward for being bad and I didn't understand why. How does this work? How come I can be bad and get my butt whipped and not get a reward the next day like all them other little kids seemed to. And that's the only ones that I saw, of course, the ones who were different. The ones who were similar I never saw, but I didn't see similarities though until I came to Narcotics Anonymous. You know, I always saw differences, all my life.
So, I grew up confused and scared and looking for attention, all the time looking for attention. You know, I did things like write the F word on the wall at school in front of people so that they can tell on me, and then I would swear it wasn't me. It was my handwriting and some girl over there said, I did that too, you know. We've all done things similar. I pulled a fire alarm box and then there is - some of you were not going to identify it, but some of you will because you're a little bit older. But they used to have these little red and white fire boxes, fire alarm box on telephone poles. You know, and I'd reach in and I'd pull that alarm and then I'd split. And then when the fire trucks and all that stuff had come to the corner and all the people would be gathered and wonder what's going on and I'd show up.
And they'd tell all the kids to put their hands up like this (indicating) and I'd do it, and I have this ink right here. But I didn't do it. But I didn't do it. I always lied when it would - I'd lie just to lie, you know. I'd lie just to lie. I'd rather lie than get paid to tell the truth, I guess, you know.
And that looking for attention out there, my father was wherever the hell he was at, the only time he came home was to beat my mother up and knock her up and that was his gig, man, you know. And he was called an officer and a gentleman in the United States Navy because he had some rank of note, but he was not a good person, you know. At least for me, he wasn't a good person.
And so, you know, that started a lot of confusion. And I remember being very, very small, when I was knee high to this podium and I'm not much higher than it now, actually, and saying I'll never ever do that. I am going to never ever treat another person that way. Never, you know. Even when I was a very small child, I knew that behavior was wrong. I knew acting out that way was wrong. And to this day, I never have, except to me. And I did it to me over and over and over again, long before I found chemicals. So, the disease of addiction was working and alive and well to my life long before I found relief. And I found relief in chemicals.
The first chemical was wine. And it was in an alley. I was on the way to junior high school with two other little runts. Together, you know, the three of us made one person, you know. But you would think, man, we was the army, you know, the way our mouths run, you know. And so, we went to the alley with this bottle of wine we stole out of this liquor store. And I remember those feelings that I got. You know, and that warmth that started going through my body. I started feeling feelings in places I didn't even know I had yet, you know.
I noticed some girls at school. I just come into puberty, but I didn't know what I was going to do with all that. But it seemed like I had a heightened awareness. But because I was a pig and I had to have too much. I had to have more. Always wanted more, you know, always wanted more.
I got this headache and it felt like somebody was using my head for a speed bag, and I did this great thing that some of us have done, I swear off forever. I will never do this again. I will never do it again. The next morning, on the way to Woodrow Wilson Junior High School in East San Diego, same three kids, same liquor store, same kind of wine, same alley, you had a few hours before I was never going to do it again. That lit something inside of me that created a desire to get more. And it was uncontrollable. I mean, I'm talking about a 12_year_old runt, little kid, man. A snot nose, didn't know anything, that has that kind of experience.
Now, I know I've heard a lot of people talk about their first experience, but I don't know anybody but an addict who has talked about that first experience who remembers it with the same kind of clarity.
So, if you remember the first time you got loaded with, like, picture clarity, I'm thinking if you're new, you got a problem. You might as well just give up and throw the towel in and stay here for the duration because you're doomed, man.
If you're new and this is your first meeting, you're in a lot of trouble, man, because there's just hundreds of years of recovery sitting in this room right now. People who suffer from the disease of addiction and all of these manifestation, you know, all of them, you know.
So, anyway, that first time turned into a second time and the third time and, you know, because I was clever like a lot of other people behind you, I went to jail a lot. And when I was in jail, I was real clever. But I didn't have anybody visiting me. There wasn't nobody sending me any mail, you know, but I had that going on, you know. And I got loaded in jail, man, like most of you who have been to jail got loaded in jail. You know, I just wasn't getting it, man. I just wasn't getting it.
And I didn't care what it was. I didn't care whether it was Pruno or shoe glue, carbon tetrachloride, you know, whatever, man, some stuff that I found out later was kind of lethal in
nature. But at the time, I didn't care. You know, I didn't care because I wanted to get from where I was to some other place.
Somebody was talking about it earlier. I wanted something out there that I can participate in, touch, feel, taste, whatever, it was going to fix me inside. And it just don't happen that way. It's an inside out job here. You know, and it seems to be the only way that it works, you know. And so, I went to that first - I'd go back to the first meeting,
I kind of got diverted a little bit, is that I left there feeling disillusioned. But with all the ammunition I needed to use to stay clean a day at a time the rest of my life. There was proof my brother was clean at the time. He passed away in 1985, was 16 1/2 years clean and as a young man. And so, he was young. There was somebody - Keith was talking about being a young man coming in. My brother's a little bit older than that, but he stayed clean in spite of it, but the big C got him, you know, and you know, it's kind of sad, but anyway. So I knew. I knew, but I just was too damned prideful to ask for help. I had to go in and out of the joint a couple of more times until I got touched by somebody on an H & I panel that I knew, you know. That I knew, you know. They was not my family, they wasn't somebody that I had met that was clean in recovery that I knew, you know. And then he told me, "Man, you know what, I ain't fixed a today, man. Because I wanted to fix, man, I didn't do it."
And I got curious. How in the hell did you not? You want to and you didn't? That didn't make no sense, man. It just didn't, you know. Wanting to and not doing it. So, anyway, I let the thing where I was going to __ it was preparing me to come here and admit complete defeat. It was preparing me to come here and step out of my own comfort zone and let somebody else know what was going on with me. It was preparing me to come here and listen to somebody else that had some problems too.
Get out of my self-centered butt, you know, because I didn't do that very much, you know. I didn't do active listening. That was a skill you guys taught me how to do. You know, you're very patient, very kind and loving. And sometimes your love presented itself in ways that were rather odd, you know. Like you hit me in the head with a Louisville Slugger to get my attention, you know. So, I came out of prison the last time, December of 1969, because I had __ right after that, within two weeks, I was back in jail and on the way back to the joint. And I got out and I went to the Yucca and Gower again and I stayed clean for two years. And in 1971, in December, I was a little complacent. You know, I had this house in Pasadena and I moved dope fiends in there and I was going to show the two kind of fledgling recovery houses that were going on in Los Angeles, how to do it, you know.
And that kind of arrogance and that kind of complacency, even though I'm sitting in meetings two and three times a day sometimes, I wasn't talking to my sponsor anymore, I wasn't praying anymore, I wasn't writing anymore and I was all consumed with Jack. You know, how great thou art, you know. Pitiful. I looked back on it, man, I was pitiful. I sounded good, but that's all it was, sounded good, with no action with it, you know.
And so I got loaded in December of 1971 and I had an awakening. I called my sponsor and told him that I'm in a hospital. I was in the hospital. I manipulated the doctor to give me some non-habit-forming Dilaudid because I was in grievous pain, and he did. And he told me, "What kind of flowers you want, Jack?" What do you mean what kind of flowers do I want? I just told you I got loaded, man. He said, "No, what kind of flowers you want?" and hung up. And I called him back and said, "Why the hell did you hang up?"
"It's because I asked you what kind of flowers you want, you didn't answer me, you know. And I want to send you the flowers that you want because you deserve to have what you want at your funeral." And I said, "I ain't dying." He said, "Yeah, you are. You're dying real quick, man, if you're not careful." He said, "This is what I want you to do, I want you to go to the meeting tonight when you get out of the hospital." I was getting out of the hospital a little bit later on that morning. "I want you to give it up. I want you to tell everybody, man, that you got loaded." I said, "No, I can't do that. It's a speaker meeting, man." He said, "I don't care what kind of meeting it is, you go tell them." And I damn sure wasn't the speaker that night.
And so I went to the meeting. The lady shared who was speaking that night, they didn't ask if there was a burning desire at that time because if they did, man, somebody would take the meeting hostages for an hour, you know. And some of you probably experienced that locally, you know. Not a good thing to do sometimes.
So, I did that, I blurted it out and it was uncomfortable and it hurt and I was crying. The first person that came up and hugged me, gave me a kiss on the cheek, was the one person in Narcotics Anonymous I was the most envious of. Was that an accident? I don't think so. You know, I don't think so.
And so from that time to this time, it has been unnecessary for me to put chemicals in my body. Although, like some of you, I'm getting older and I've had certain traumatic stuff happen to my body and I've had to have chemicals, but it didn't light that fire. It didn't light that fire that says, man, you got to have more, man, because more is better. This is just a little hors d'oeuvre, man, you got to get it on.
And I wasn't like some of you, I wasn't into go fast, stay up three to four days at a time and looking for shit on the floor that ain't there, talking to tree people. That just wasn't my gig. But thank God, Narcotics and nurses and other things and that hadn't been part of their experience yet, you know. And we weren't very warm and welcoming sometimes. Talking about me. Man, you know, if you weren't a heroin addict and an ex_convict when I came here, I wouldn't listen to you. And I'm ashamed of that. I am. It's not a good behavior. That didn't create a welcoming atmosphere for people.
Well, that was then and this is now. And you know, that's why I'm always very clear and I want to give acknowledgment to Methadonians that come here looking for a way. They don't feel like they're welcome in a meeting of Narcotics Anonymous. And it says in our literature clearly, any addict. Any addict, you know. And thank God somebody mentioned it earlier, they don't have honest desire to stop using in the traditions anymore. Thank God. Because most of this, the only honest desire we have is get over, you know. In some manner, shape or form, get over.
And it's just not that way, man, you know. Any addict, man. Rich addict, poor addict, doesn't matter, man, you know. We come from all different __ wherever, man. As many people as there are, man. And Bo was mentioning that, how large Narcotics Anonymous is, you know. The fastest growing region in Narcotics Anonymous is in Iran. Iran, they have thousands of people in a stadium at one time wanting to get the message of Narcotics Anonymous.
You know, it was just a few years ago they executed addicts right in its town square, noon time so everybody can see it because they wanted to make a point. They weren't going to tolerate drug addicts. But see, the disease of addiction is bigger than that. And there were just a few meetings in the whole world. We had to drive miles and miles and miles to go to a meeting, you know. And everybody knew everybody that was in that area and we were hungry, man. We wanted that spirit. We wanted to be able to stay clean. We wanted to be able to know what it was like to do all the things that we get to do. And just before I got loaded, I was clean and going to meetings and active and I had this thing going, it was all ego involved. And people would tell me, man, why don't you incorporate it into our program. You know, Cry Help would and Impact, and I'm going to show you how to do it, you know. And that just got too much. And because of that, you know, I just couldn't let it go.
But I'll tell you, I've been here for a while and, obviously, I still work the steps, I still have a sponsor that has a sponsor, we pray together, we work steps together, we're part of each other's lives. I'm part of the lives of a lot of people that are members of this fellowship. And I've done some amazing things and we'd take three or four meetings to tell you all the things that have happened in my life. Because like our friend here who is telling this, you know, she's working in a prison now. You know, she used to be in a prison. You know, she used to be in jail and now she's working in one. You know, those things happen. And because of that it has an impact on other addicts here, man. And them women in CIW can't pretend that they don't know that recovery is alive and well because some of them have sat meetings with her, you know. And so those things happen in our membership.
I decided a few years ago I was going to go back to college, graduated, 66 years old. So, I don't know what the hell I'm going to do when I grow up. So, that's a miracle. That's the miracles that happen in recovery. This happened to a lot of people. We've got a lot of educated people in Narcotics Anonymous today. Some of them might be over_educated and they got it here in Narcotics Anonymous. They came here lost and hopeless and found hope. They got that ray. Somehow they absorbed that spirit that they can do anything they want to do. Just like it says, our literature and our people prove it over and over and over again.
In Narcotics Anonymous, we can get out of the slums that we're in. Wherever it is, outward manifest, and we can rise above that. We can be useful not only to ourselves but to another human being. It talks about that in our literature. We can touch another man or another woman's life like hell wouldn't have it, you know.
One other thing, I want to share a couple of things with you. It's about respect through other people. It's about being aware. A few years ago, and some of you in here will remember, there was this __ Well, there was a lot of feelings going around about literature changes, and they didn't want the literature to change. And what I developed through meditation and talking to my sponsor was I can't bitch about anything I really chose not to be a part of. Bo was talking about the literature process and getting right in it. I ain't got no complaint coming, man, if I turn my back and say, "Oh, that's too much work. I might want to got to Venice meeting tonight. I don't want to come over to this literature committee meeting," you know.
And so, you know, if you hear that there's a new piece of literature coming out, man, get on that subcommittee. You've got a say. You've got a big say in it, you know. After that, I got involved in several, but that's neither here and there.
The other thing is I used to use the term rather loosely, and I heard it today, NA Nazi. That's a terrible fucking term. Terrible. It's not good, I'll tell you that. Because there are men and women here whose families were wiped out by fucking Nazis. And they're carrying a lot of pain about
that. I have very strong feelings about that, obviously, but the way that it impacted me __ and I know some people, they've been here for a long time that their parents had those tattoos from concentration camps. They were spared, but the rest of their families was annihilated in the chambers.
And so, it seems like on some level, well, it's no big thing, it's just I'm strong, man. I was born in Narcotics Anonymous, man; worked the Narcotics Anonymous steps. You don't need to go anyplace else. There's one program, one disease, rah, rah, rah, and that's true. But how are we going to present that to other people?
How are we going to present that to other people, you know? And so, I had for me, you know, to be sensitive about that in a way that I referred to women. I had to become sensitive about that early in recovery. I knew that referring to them as old ladies and broads and stuff like that was degrading, but that was kind of intellectual awareness. I hadn't integrated really in here where I live, where I can see, that's really an offensive term. I say no wonder women shun me when I use those kind of terms, old lady, broad. There's some others which aren't quite complementary too but I know you never used them.
But the whole thing is through working the steps and being able to open my mind up and be willing to get egg on my face, I've been able to do a lot of things that I've never been able to do before. I've been able to recognize the behaviors that I thought were perfectly all right are not all right at all. And that before I open my mouth, I better check what the heck I'm going to say so that I don't offend somebody.
And there's a lot of ways that I can do that. Me. I don't know about you. You have to look at your own self. But I know for me, I don't want to create situations where people all the same. We're young, old, black, white, in_between, you know, it doesn't matter. Fat, skinny, it doesn't matter. Addict's an addict and the disease of addiction knows no barriers. It just doesn't know any barrier.
And so, what's new? Okay. I'll tell you the new thing. I'll tell you about listening to the spirit, you know. Should I do it? Yeah, I'm going to do it.
You see, it sounds like I'm going to be bragging. In a way, I am, but what the hell, man, you know. We all need a good laugh anyway.
Yeah. I worked in a counseling agency and I have this routine that I have. I know you all have routines, things you do. You don't need to stop and think about it you just do it.
Like for me, one of them is the toothpaste tube, you've got to roll it up from the bottom, you know, don't be squeezing it in the middle. The toilet paper has to come up from the back of the roll and not the front.
You know, I mean that's the thing that I do and I've gone to people's homes and changed their damn toilet paper. I was at an NA party a few years ago and I had to go to the bathroom, I went in there and I changed the toilet paper roll. And several hours later, I had to go to the bathroom again, I went in there and the toilet paper roll had been changed back.
You're getting the picture, huh? I mean, I just changed it. And the host of the party __ hostess, rather, came out to announce to everybody, "Jack, leave the goddamn toilet paper roll the way it was!" you know. And I just, you know, I just do things. What I'm leading up to is, so I go by this Safeway store and I buy a carton of milk and cinnamon roll and a newspaper, so I can do the crossword puzzles, because I ain't going to read the news because I could care less. I got CNN if I want to know what's going on. And this clear voice, clear voice, said, Jack, buy a $20 scratcher.
And I usually don't __ wouldn't think about buying a $20 scratcher because more is better. So, I can take that $20 and buy twenty $1 tickets. I mean I got a better chance, right? Yeah, you lottery players know exactly what I'm talking about, you know. Because if one is good, two is better, so you got 20, you know, I went and bought that ticket. I never bought a $20 lottery ticket in my life. I go to my office, do my thing, I scratch it off, 50,000 bucks. And I could have missed that by not listening to the voice.
Now, that same voice, that same voice has talked to me many times in recovery, has led me out of dangers and tight spots, has taught me to pay attention. Pay attention, Jack. Quit being so fucking consumed with yourself Ė excuse my language. Pay attention.
And so, that's what happened, you know. And you know what else? I got about $30,000 in student loans I got to pay. So, who knew what they was really doing, you know? And that's what I'm going to honor. I'm going to honor what I have, you know, because I might decide at 70 I want to extend the education. I don't know why I would do that, but you never know. I don't plan on dying before 70, that's for damn sure, you know. And I know I don't look it, so Ė Quit it. I'm sensitive, you know.
I say this, you never know what the next miracle is going to happen in your life. Listen to the clear voice that's unmistakable when it comes to you. The universe doesn't make mistakes. And none of us got in this room by mistake. None of us stay in here by mistake. None of us have any single experience we've ever had for no better reason but to give it to another human being.
jimmy used to tell me that all the time.He said, "Every experience you've ever had is going to benefit some other human being. And you don't know when they're going to come, so you need to stay clean and keep coming back till they get here. Because they're going to need to hear it out of you. They don't need to have it read to them out of a book, they want to hear it come out of your mouth so they get some hope from your experience of having made it through it.".
And we all have traumas. We have deaths happen, you know, we have suicides happen. We have people who decide they want to go back out and use after many years of being clean and having been in service and done all of that stuff. Man, heaven helped lots and lots of people, and they decide they don't want us anymore and they just go out, and it's sad. It's very sad when somebody goes out, because they take a part of us with them.
And we have to go through a grieving process when it happens. And that runs the emotions, man. Mad, glad, sad, really pissed off, want to kill him, you know. Dig him up in the goddamned cemetery and kill him again, you know, all kinds of feelings. But you know what, that's life, man. That's what we get to give to one another, man. We get to give that essence of reality, you know, and share that and embrace it, encourage other people, man, to reach out when they feel like they can't reach out anymore. Because there's no unreachable dream in Narcotics Anonymous, there isn't. Like some other people, I've been here long enough to know that anything, anything is possible in Narcotics Anonymous. Anything. I've seen it and so have a lot of other people who've been in this room a while. If you're new, you know, try to believe that, man.
And keep coming back, man, because you're valuable, man. You're a valuable human being, man. We love you. When you're unlovable to everybody else, we love you more, man, you know, because we've been there. Ain't nothing you've done, thought about, wanted to do, any of that, you know, because we've done all of that and stayed clean, you know.
Oh, you didn't do that? I'm thinking a sharp pencil and a pad of paper might do you some good. I'm going to tell you this one other thing and then I'm quitting. I know you're sick of me, we got to get out of here.
My first inventory, I wrote it on a legal pad and I wrote it in pencil, and it was like a novel of War & Peace. I mean, it just went on and on. It was voluminous, went on and on and on and on and it was sad, pitiful. And I was proud that I had this done and I took it to my sponsor. And we're going to a convention of another fellowship, because Narcotics Anonymous didn't have any conventions at that time, it was yet to happen. And I handed it to him. He's driving, because I didn't even know how to drive at the time, and still don't, according to some people. But that's another story.
But he said, "What the hell are you doing, man? You read, I listen, man. That's the way it works here, man. You know, I'm not going to read this, you're going to read it to me. And since I'm driving right now, I'm not likely to fall asleep." That's exactly what he said. It was Jack W. And he gave it back to me and I started reading it and he grabbed it all of a sudden, he started ripping it up, all of it, and threw it out on the Santa Ana Freeway, you know.
And I said, "What in the F did you do that for?"
He says, "Very interesting, Jack. Anybody that uses a pencil uses the eraser on the other end, and dishonest MF'ers like you use the eraser." I said, "How did you know?"
Like he's an addict, you know. Like, how does he know I use the eraser? He knew. And he said, "I suggest" __ I'm just leaving this with you and then I'm going to sit down and shut my mouth, because you're tired of me already anyway. He said, "I suggest that you pick a prayer, Jack, any prayer, and you write that on the top of each page, on the top of each page," he said. "And you use a ballpoint pen and don't rewrite anything." Because I like to rewrite, because I want it to be perfect. I'm a Virgo, you know. There's a Virgo too, born on my same birthday. But that's an addict trait, that's not just a Virgo trait. So, those of you that are Capricorns and Leos, you know what I'm talking about. Because I can tell immediately. I can tell. Look at the paper. I know immediately if you rewrote anything. I can tell because I've written an inventory, you know.
And so, I picked a prayer, and it's a simple prayer. And it's, "Dear God, help me tell the truth. I'm tired of lying and dying."
That's as simple as it is. It's so frickin' simple, for me it's profound, you know. And ever since then, many years ago, I use that same prayer because I still write inventory, because I'm not perfect, nor will I ever be. And I hope I never get to the point where I feel like I'm above anybody that's sitting in this room, because I'm not, and I never be. I love you guys. Thank you.
Brian Yellow Eyes
Draper, Virginia USA
I'm Brian Yellow Eyes. I'm an addict. And I am an addict. I'm not a drug addict, I'm not a food addict, I'm not a sex addict, I'm an addict, period. You see, and I've never been a drug addict. I've done enough dope to fill this room and I'm not a drug addict and I never have been. I've been an addict, I believe since the point of conception. That's when I believe that my Higher Power gave me all the survival and spiritual tools that I'll ever need, when the fish hit the egg. So, this journey for me is not about someone teaching me, it's about me remembering. Because I used from day one, I came out kicking and screaming and I used anything that I could to get what I wanted because it was a mean world.
And somewhere in life some people outgrow that desire to be selfish and they -- they learn to give up themselves. And I had a small moment of that, but I lost the desire to find anything else outside of myself that would help me along a spiritual path during adolescence. I never had anyone before I came to the rooms of Narcotics Anonymous tell me two things, as you understand and take what you like and leave the rest. I never heard it. Never heard it in the church, never heard it in the library, never heard it in the grocery store, never heard it from my parents.
So, I spent my entire life trying to absorb everything that everybody said. I had to absorb everything that everybody did and I had to do what everybody else did to fit in and I wasn't doing a good job of it. And when you're stupid and you can't do anything right and 'll never amount anything long enough you start believing it and I did. The one thing I remember Dad telling me years ago was that the one thing that he wanted in life was for me to be better than him. My Dad grew up a very angry person, excuse me, let's get real. He wasn't angry, he was full of fear because that's all that anger is, is fear. And I saw that fear; and it came out as anger.
He hit my Mama so I hit my girlfriends, I hit my wife. Now, that's not something I like to brag about. Today, I can recover from anything that I choose to put inside the program of Narcotics Anonymous. Today, I haven't had to perpetuate violence in some years. I don't have to do that anymore. So, I stopped because I used the third tradition. You see, I know God made this program. God wrote this program through the pens of a couple alcoholics up in Pennsylvania -- Ohio. Whatever, whoever, whenever, God used somebody that was just like me. They hated theirselves and they wanted to stop hurting. So, they were willing to become selfless just long enough for God to use that ink pen to put it on paper. And the Third Tradition came out and said the only requirement for membership was a desire to stop using.
You see, I was a quitter all my life. I quit jobs, and houses, and states, and cars and women and I quit it all because I was a failure inside me. When I came to Narcotics Anonymous and God used the word "stop". Now, what's negative -- when I'm quitting, I'm failing, I'm loosing. That's negative to me. What's negative about stopping? Oh, you stopper, you. You're just a stopper. Why you'd laugh if I did that, wouldn't you? You see, because that's funny. So, I just stop. I won't quit, quit is not part of my vocabulary. I'm sorry, I don't do that today because I quit it all and I hated me for it. So, I used -- and I used people, places and things to try to stop the fearful feelings of self-hatred. My disease is a fear based thinking disease and I think too much, you know. Well, I used to and it's not near what it used to be. I heard something in area that I live in, all the meetings except the one that I've started, used the Just For Today little meditation book, the read it, they do. But, you know, maybe that's okay for that group because they're autonomous and reading that book does not affect NA in a negative manner So, if they choose to do that and it works for people. Okay. Well, you know what I'm -- It might have saved my life one night.
On July 26th, I used to be this -- I used to jump up and down and scream and yell. I used to yell at people in meetings and I used to talk down to people at meetings. The same stuff that these people got out there, all their lives and I was doing it to them. Something had to give, people. Something had to give. Because I wasn't fighting you, I wasn't fighting the society, I wasn't fighting my boss when I -- when I question everything he asked me to do and I got fired for that a lot of times. I wasn't fight anybody but me. I'm fighting myself every time I go against the grain.
So, July 26th of this year, sitting in a meeting and that was a Wednesday and they read that and the title to that is unconditional surrender. Not part of the way, not -- well, at that point in my life, I've been here for a minute. What it told me was to unconditionally surrender to a power that I don't even understand. And here's the deal with that, you see, surrender -- I have to surrender my thoughts. What is my will and what is my life? My will is my thoughts and my life is my actions, and I had to surrender my will. That point right there I stopped fighting. Me and Chief Seattle, we ain't fighting no more. He's dead but -- I ain't fighting anymore. People stick a fork in me, I'm done. I'm sick to death of it. I will fight no more because I'm only fighting me.
When I'm fighting and I'm acting like I'm fighting you, I'm pushing you away from me. I'm isolating myself from the people that saved my life. The people that God used to put in my life to make me who I am today. You did it. God used you and you and you to put me back together because I couldn't do it on my own. So, you know -- at that point on July 26th, 2006 when I heard unconditionally surrender, that was it. And from that point until right now, I've got more peace in my heart and this thing has shut up. I don't know if y'all ever heard the voices, you know, you should do this and, you know, you should that. It's okay to do that, you can lie just a little bit because, you know, president did it, he got away with it, you do it, you know. All these stuff -- I don't hear it anymore because I'm done. It's God's stuff. I surrendered my will, my thoughts and my life, my actions to something that I don't understand.
And here's the gig with not understanding. See, as I understand I don't -- that's where I'm at today and I like being that way because if I think -- oh, there -- oh, wait -- now here we go thinking again, people. If I think, I have an understanding, I'm in the ways -- got in the way of God using me for anything. I'm going to clog my bones up. And I'm not a useful tool to anybody, especially myself. So, unconditional surrender. It comes at a time when I needed it the most. I spent the last year sitting in meetings for eight months crying just uncontrollably, I'd sit at home in a ball. And I'd sit in those meetings and I'd say, you know, I don't know what's going on but something's coming, you did too, I heard you. Something's coming. And how can I be ungrateful, I know something's coming. I can feel it moving in me. And that unconditional surrender just brought it all into focus.
Today things are so clear. It's simple and that's the first word in this book right here, passed the table of contents, simplicity is the key. When I surrendered it all, it's clear, it's simple. I don't have to complicate it with my crap anymore. Because my life is none of my business. So, you know, when we first get here, if you're new around here, it's possible they had -- maybe you unconditionally surrender one thing and one issue at a time. That's okay if that's where youíre at because where youíre at is where youíre at. We get here and we unconditionally surrendered the drugs, we go to meetings and don't use no matter what, that's unconditional surrender to the drugs. And that's why God is here, the word Narcotics Anonymous got people that was using drugs here.
And from that point forward, this program is full of musts and I ain't going to tell you what to do. I'm not going to try and force you to do anything. But once I made a decision that I remember because I said that I was. There's things that I must do or die. Our little Greg P. IP back there, the Triangle of Self-obsession in the last two sentences, I must surrender the triangle of self-obsession. I must grow up or die. That's simple, people. How can you get more simple than that.
You see, I'm not going to stand in here and tell you people how to be. I'm not even going to try to do that, it doesn't work because y'all got your own minds but I'm not going to try to tell you -- I'm not going to try to tell you my higher power, I'll tell you I got one. And I know -- I do know three things in this whole wide world about spiritual matters, there is a God, it's not me and God is good all the time. Because all the time, God is good.
But it tells me right here, it's on page 85 of your Fifth Edition (BT) if that's what you're carrying around, never before have so many clean addicts of their own choice and in free society, stop, that's an old book. Let's get real folks. Of their own choice and society at large because we got meetings in Red Square in Red China. We are behind an iron curtain. We have meetings in countries that if they find out you're a card carrying addict, they don't take you to court, they don't take you to jail, they shoot you graveyard dead right then and right there on the street, bury your ass or leave you out for the buzzards. It has hope, but we're not in free society anymore.
Anyway, what we can do with that -- have we been able to maintain our recovery in complete creative freedom. That's a freeing statement to me. Never in my life could I have my own stuff. There was conditions on it all and I came to Narcotics Anonymous and God gave me my understanding. How can I walk away from something like that? You have passion, oh yeah, I got it. And I've got it from the day one. Day one, people and that's -- they told me don't use and go to meetings. My first meeting, I don't tell -- I didn't tell the stories, but my very first Narcotics Anonymous meeting was a unity day. I was loaded to the gills and -- I guess, I'll tell it. I don't even have it in my pocket, but I was supporting somebody else that had a problem. I've got here on the coattails, this is somebody else.
I don't have a problem. I don't have problem with my thought process, it's just fine. I used dope, no problem. So -- so, this guy got busted by the police and they said that one night you can do want one or two things, you can find the crossbar motel over here for a year or you can try twenty-eight days in this treatment facility. I'm sure he scratches his head said, wait now, that sounds appealing that three hots and a cot, man, you know. But he says, you know, I think, I'm going to -- I think, I'm going to do something different. He took this program.
Well, I'm a good friend, I chose to support him while he was in there so I went to visit him so why I got to go to this A double meeting. I said okay. Well, I'd go and I got on my little bicycle and I followed their druggy-buggy on over there in the Alanon Club and I went to the -- the first meeting I went to as an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting but what they told me in there was some guy said I'm so and so, I'm an alcoholic and then he started to talk about blackouts. I had about forty of them that year, there's some kind of a connection.
So, I went to two or three meetings on my bicycle and then, you see, after a couple of weeks in that program, if you still had the driver's license, you're one of the well people by that point, you know, you got out of your blue pajamas. And what they did was they put you -- they allowed you to drive your vehicle to and from a meeting. So, he and I would drive over to a friend's house and use and then go to this meeting over here. Did it for two days, hand running and then Saturday, January 30th 1987, this cat comes up. He says I got to go to this NA thing and I had never heard N and A stuck together in my life. God was doing for me what I couldn't do for myself. So, God stuck me in his truck and we got loaded on the way to this unity day and we stopped using forty feet from the front door. Loaded to the gills, tore up, and we walked up to the front doors and we look, peeked in. Both of us peeked in and then we walked back over to the curb and we stood on the curb, we looked down at the curb and then we looked at the Harleys, we looked at each other and we said you know what, sure would be nice to know somebody.
Well, maybe I didn't know them because they were clean and I wasn't. I was still hating myself with every fiber of my being. So, he said, I got to go in here because, you know, I don't want to get in trouble, they paved my way, it's okay. So, he went it and got his hand stamp and I went in and opened the door behind him and Mike Z was standing there and he said I -- I'm like, you know, like -- like -- like the registration, you know, was like, you know -- you know -- you know, like, $3, that's the ways he spoke. And when he said that, I reached in my pocket and I pulled out twenty-one cents and I started to back up and leave. And Michael said to me wait man, come here, come here and I walked up and he took my hand and he stamped my hand.
He said there's a place next door then there's a meal, there's a main speaker meeting and there's a dance, a countdown and a dance. Okay. So, I went to the play and, you know, I -- ooh, that smell. You guys load up, I'll sat with the people from the druggy-buggy because, you know, that's all the people I knew. And "You using?", "Nah, I ain't using", "Nah, I ain't using?" But anyway, he came over, ate dinner, did the main speaker meeting, I don't know what he said, I didn't know who -- well, I don't know nothing about it. I asked somebody who was speaking that day about two years ago. I had no clue, they don't remember either. They slept since then, you know. So, what happened was he -- after -- they did the countdown, I do remember this -- the most amount of clean time in the house was twenty-two years and that was, like, wow dude, whatever that is.
And here's my concept of one day at a time, they started down the countdown, they got to a week, well, I threw my hand up. Yeah, I had a week, you know. Well then they kept going six, five and I'm going, ooh. But God was still working. Doing for me what I couldn't do for myself and he told me, hey you, have you got less clean time, come up here, man. Well, I'm not -- I'm not a guy that likes attention or anything. I busted up on that stage and I'm -- and they said, Who are you? And I said, I'm Hammy and I'm an addict. And two hundred people were standing on chairs, jumping up and down, beating chairs and tables. Keep coming back. Keep coming. I don't even hear that stuff anymore. You go to a convention, I don't even hear it anymore. What? Two hundred people, and you know, I am a coast-to-coast, hope-to-die garbage-can dope fiend. People would give me something and say it might get you high and I do it. So, they, you know, I -- there was something about that -- oh, and of course at the end of that, they gave me a third edition and they didn't have their hand out. And they said keep coming back and something happened at that night, we stood and held hands and lead the Lord's prayer back then. We held hands; we didn't hug. And I don't know what happened. It was just God that's all I can tell you because it was the play, it was God, it was getting me there.
I was loaded. It was okay. Whatever happened, happened because it doesn't matter how you get here, it just matters that you get here. That's all that matters that you get here. Get here loaded. Get here. And then you come back and you don't get loaded in between. Something happened and I found a home -- I found. Someone gave me something that I didn't have for myself. Somebody accepted me exactly the way I was right then and right there loaded, a lying, cheating, thief. You know it was okay, right there just like that. So, how can I walk away from that? I've been a crazy one all my life. I ain't changed my craziness, changed a little bit of the approach to, and my delivery of, that craziness. So, you know, they told me all the things that -- They didn't ask me squat. They told me what I had to do in this program to stay clean, and I had to follow like a puppy dog because I couldn't do anything right, because my dad told me I couldn't.
So, they spoon-fed me Narcotics Anonymous from the Nazi-Gestapo way that old school had taught us. They gave it to us not on a silver platter, but right here. Stay clean, get involved, go to meetings, get a sponsor and work it. And then once you work it, you start living it. By the time I had three months, I had two hats. I was a GSR and a secretary. They didn't tell me that I couldn't be an addict there, and they said keep coming back. And I got involved in service and of course at nine months, I knew everything.
I had the traditions down pat, you know, and I am sitting at these service meetings. And I'm hemming and hawwing with them, you know, it's these area circuses, you know, there. And these people would roll their eyes at me, but they still say it. Keep coming back, please. They never told me, you're just a little bit too sick for us. I think that door would be appropriate for you. They never told me that. They told me to keep coming back, no matter what and don't get loaded. Relapse is a reality, but it sure as hell ain't no damn requirement. And I'm proof of it today; tomorrow I don't know.
My sponsee has got one white chip. I got one. My sponsor's got one white chip and my great grand sponsor's got one and my grand sponsor's got one white chip. So, it can be done, from 19 months to 19 years to 25 years to 32 years, it can be done. But if you decide to make the choice to use some drugs again, it's not falling down that's the problem here, folks. It's the not getting back up. When you fall down, you get up, you pick your ass up and you bring it to a meeting. And you say, you know, I screwed up. And we won't tell you that it's okay. But we will tell you, well, come on in here we got some super glue and we got some duct tape, we'll patch that ass back up for you and we'll help you. We can do this. You was trying to do it by yourself. You stopped going to meetings and you stopped calling your sponsor and you wasn't writing nothing down and you wasn't praying. No wonder you got loaded. Now get in here. Don't get loaded and pick the telephone up and call your sponsor everyday.
I got 19 years, eight months and whatever days, and I call my sponsor everyday. I ain't telling you what I call him because that's different. And I'm not going to tell you because of that creative freedom. I donít say, "You got to have my God, you got to have my understanding of a Higher Power." because my understanding of a Higher Power might get you loaded. But I will tell you how I found pieces of what I understand today. I did what they told me. They said go to meetings, 90 meetings in 90 days. I did 120 or 140 with that Mike Z. that stamped my hand. He picked me up every day, and we went to 140, 150 meetings in 90 days. And you see what I found in there was a foundation and I found it.
I put myself in the loving and caring hands of a group of Narcotics Anonymous people that held me up above the fog and put me at the pinnacle of that pyramid, on the top of it. They put the World Service right here on the bottom where they belong. Shit flows downhill and that's where it goes down the world. And then it goes to the region and it goes to the area and it goes to the group. And the group, you walk in the group and if it's a group of Narcotics Anonymous -- and you're hurting -- and to carry the message to the addict that still suffers. When we first get here, we're suffering because we got what issues that we got. Do you know what? In the last year, I suffered a lot because I was going through this next phase of transformation and I cried, and I was suffering. When a suffering addict walks through those doors, it's our responsibility as group members -- and if you don't belong to that, if you're not a home group member of that group, do it anyway.
We hold you up and put you at the top of that pyramid and high rise you above the fog, so maybe you can see a little bit more clearly than you could yesterday. Because that's what we need, some clarity. And we are not going to find it in using no dope. We are not going to find it using no ice cream. We are not going to find it in using no computer program or pornography or none of that shit. We're going to find it one way and one way only. And it's the Narcotics Anonymous way and this is the vehicle that we use to 8 get us to God. I don't need no woman. You all women don't need no men. We need GOD, good orderly direction.
So, we come in here and we find that the group as a whole has got a good orderly direction. So, I might choose this group as my higher power. You know, what I can't do myself, we can all do together because you all gave it to me. God said you did and then I know you did. And don't you know that you did? Don't you know in your heart that you gave what you had? You gave me everything that you had. It was my choice to accept it or put it down. Take what I need, take what I like, leave the rest.
I don't know where I'm going, but I would like to talk about the symbol just a little bit. Because the way it was written -- I don't know. I got a little bit of -- I don't -- It's written the way God wanted it, I guess, but in here it says self, society, God and service and puts God last in that sentence, people. And, you know, creative freedom, it doesn't work for me. That pyramid is God, self, society and service. God first in the other three are hopefully equal, you know. I'm going to give you about that, too. Because something in this last year through this pain and these tears, all these moments of clarity and the spiritual awakenings and the epiphanies and -- and all these wonderful things that I've gotten. We have to grow that pyramid simultaneously. I can't put too much into God and leave me out of it and leave service out of it to others and I can't leave society out of it, because my pyramid might be strong with God. but then it's going to be out of balance. I got to do all these together. Now, the greater the base, the higher the point of freedom.
All these years, I thought -- Here's my thinking again. I thought what it was was that I needed to not stay at home and sit in that same meeting every week, because if I do that, I'm going to get stagnant. Because I already know what you're going to say before you say it, I'm taking the inventory there and ain't real spiritual, and I'm not listening. Because I know what you're going to say or I think I know. There's that thought process again? So, I need to get out. As soon as I can get out, I need to get out as far as I can go and as wide as I can go. And I need to meet all the people that I can.
You know, there's a reason that I have to do that. Because I might sit in here and know what you're going to say and, you know, it didn't catch for me. But I might go to a meeting two hundred miles away and hear the exact same thing but the delivery was just a little bit different and God let me see it. That's the broader the base, the more people that I know and I don't -- The more people I know from one day to whatever, to infinity. If I'm close-minded for one second, this might cost me my life. And it might cost you yours. Because I might try and take your ass with me and you might follow me. I don't want that. Just stick around. Oh, don't keep coming back. Just stay here. That's it. Just stay here. So, another part of that is, see, with broadening my base, so that I have a myriad of personalities and a myriad of ethnic groups that have different understandings of different -- whatever kind of an understanding that they may or may not have. Someday, I'm going to cross paths -- God is going to cross me with the path that I needed to be on and I'm going to hear the same thing I've heard 300 times, but this one stuck. Yeah.
So, God let me remember something when it stuck. That's what happened. I didn't learn it from you, because God gave it to you to give to me. So, I remembered it. Go back to that point of conception and all those tools. Now, the next thing about this base -- I kind of mentioned it. I can take every single issue in my entire life, it's not just about drugs. It ain't even about drugs at all. Where's drugs in the steps and the traditions? It ain't up in there. We are powerless over addiction, not drug addiction. What's that got to do with it? It gets us here. And the third tradition is to stop using. It don't say stop using drugs. It says stop using. People, places and things. Put all my issues into Narcotics Anonymous right inside that pyramid. And that broadens the base of what I can use Narcotics Anonymous for.
Narcotics Anonymous has one limitation, and that's the one I put on it myself. There's no limits. The sky is the limit. The sky ain't even nothing to do with it. It's so far beyond the sky. It's forever. I can obtain anything through working __ living the Narcotics Anonymous program. And we can work them all day long. If we don't start living them, we're dying. Of course, we keep coming back. You might have to start living them because it will just be a part of you, you know.
See, there's some of us in this world that go to Narcotics Anonymous that were dedicated to Narcotics Anonymous to helping us save our own ass. That's okay. If that's where you're at, that's where you're at. But there are some of us, and there's several of us right here in this room, right here, right now, that's not only dedicated in that fashion but we're dedicated to making Narcotics Anonymous better for everybody because that's what God has led us to do. Some people get a life and they go out and they're socially acceptable and productive and all this out there. And that's where God wants them and that's wonderful. But there's those of us that were dedicated to Narcotics Anonymous in making it better for all people. That no addict anywhere need ever die from the horrors of addiction.
Why would we want to do that? So, I'm going to give you a little tidbit here, and I will wrap it up here. You see, there is another book written on the nature of recovery. And in that book, it says, Rarely, have we ever seen one fail. I'm going to give you a little bit more. See, for me, that's an out. That gives me -- that's my out, it's rarely. Well, I can go get loaded and I can come back. You see -- see, if I get loaded, I'm not coming back and I'm not going to die and get put in the ground. I'm going to spiritually die and God's going to make me live in the hell for another 20 years. I ain't willing to go there. I kind of like what I got today.
So, it says in this book, in our experience, "No addict who has completely surrendered to this program has ever failed to find recovery." That closes the door, folks. We don't have to use nothing ever again. I ain't used dope in a long time. But I use sexual gratification sometimes, and you know, and I use -- sometimes I used people still. Right now, I'm not hiding the motives because I've told them both. I got the sister of the person I love the most in my house. She's got muscular dystrophy and I'm helping to take care of her and tell my friend who is paying for past transgressions has found her way to the Crossbar Motel for another couple of months. I took her sister and yet, okay. The selfish part is that I want her to like me better. I don't even know why because she loves me to pieces, she calls me her best friend and has for the last year. I don't know why.
That's the selfish part, but I've made that known. I'm not hiding that, but there's also selfless reasons I'm doing that. Because that woman, she's having a little problem staying clean too. God said, Take her into your house. I'll take care of her, plant a seed, a seed of recovery, show her that -- show her how you live these principles. Attract her to here. So, I have taken her in here. And another reason, see -- see, that one in the jailhouse and that one over at the house right now, they need each other. They just do for their own self-worth because they hate their selves and they love each other as best they can through self-loathing. They want the other one to love them so much, they will go to any lengths.
So, God's using me to put them back together. So, I got a selfish motives, but I also got something selfless. And yeah, I'm paying for it. I've spent a lot of money and I'm so far in the red, but you know what, God ain't turned my electricity off. God ain't turned my phone off. And maybe, just maybe, one person might benefit from my hope, from the hope that God gave me to walk in through the door, to having the testicle fortitude to walk through the doors of a Narcotics Anonymous meeting, not knowing what it was. I didn't have a clue, didn't know anybody in that room, but I had the -- I stepped into that room. God carried my ass in that room. Let's get real. When He carried me in that room, He set me -- part of me free. I got to give this stuff back.
I have to do everything that I can do in my being, if I'm truly surrendering my thoughts and my actions to something I don't understand, I truly have to do -- I have to do God's -- I have to think about God. I have to think about being of service to someone else with not having no selfish desires in return. I have to think about how I can walk in this society right here that I live in in a
better fashion, so that I'm not an outcast. And then I have to take care of myself. I have to put myself in the loving arms of something that I don't understand and ask the 11th step prayer. Now, see, you all be real careful with this now because we can manipulate and justify anything. See, the 11th step came into my life again. Every time we go through these steps formally with an ink pen, and a pen and a piece of paper and a sponsor, we get something different out of it. Every time I've gotten something different out of it.
Now the 11th step, the first time we go through -- I go through, I don't know what I got out of it, maybe it was the prayer and meditation. It was the meditation because I remember way back then we tried this guy who was in the TA and then, you know, all that stuff and TM and doing all that stuff and mine never did show up, but it's another story. And then one time I went through it and it was all about improving a conscious contact and then one time it was about seeking that conscious contact through that prayer and meditation. But this time through, it allowed me to manipulate these steps so we can just a little bit __ if your motives are right and what this 11th step did for me this time, I seek through prayer and meditation to improve my conscious contact with something I don't understand. Praying only. Ooh, people, what a word. We skip over these little words sometimes, you know. We skip over the word stop in the third tradition maybe because it fits.
We don't think about stopping and quitting. Stop, you know, okay we stop. Praying only for what God wants me to do, the knowledge for what God wants me to do. The willingness to accept anything that God puts on my plate and with that willingness will come all the power that no man can put asunder. No man can tear down what God can put up.
So, I'm going to say it again because I really appreciate it. I heard it from a woman in Tallahassee who heard it from a man in southern Florida somewhere, who is a recovering addict. Well, most of us don't have to think twice about this question. We know. Our whole life and thinking was centered in NA in one form or another, the getting and giving and finding ways and means to give more. And very simply, a recovering addict is a man or a woman who's life is controlled by God. We are people in the grips of a continuing and progressive recovery whose ends are always the same, happy, joyous and free. Thanks for listening.
conducted a Sunday morning meeting at the Highland Club in Atlanta. It was
mostly men gathered to hear and discuss the details of recovery.
He did this for many years before his passing in 2009. He died clean.)
Good morning, everybody. I'm Sowende and I'm an addict.
And I know it's kind of early in the morning, and this is when we get the good stuff early in the morning. So, why don't we just give everybody a hug, everybody next to you a nice feel good morning hug. Can we do that? A good morning hug. Give a good morning hug.
Okay. That's everyone? Yeah. Okay. Much love, brother. Again I'm Sowende and I'm an addict. And I prayed that the spirit of our Fellowship and the Spirit of the Creator that gave us this Fellowship, you know, give us what we need this morning to nourish our Fellowship as well as our own personal recovery, as well as our attitudes towards each other and our groups.
The topic is principles before personalities. Excuse me. And that came out of Tradition 12. And what I want to do first is kind of give a general definition of what I believe what the word principle means and the general definition of what the word personality means. And of course, you know, you draw your own conclusion of what you think it means or believe it means.
And I believe that principle, the word principle itself simply means that it is valued at the number -- the number one thing, the very first thing, nothing comes before that. That's what principle means. The most valued, the most important thing of all, the word itself, principle.
And personality means to me is one's character, one's image and that's judged by one's attitude and one's behavior. And of course the word before means that a -- in front of.
Okay. So, Tradition 12, I want to read a couple of names out of here and then I'm going to see if I can elaborate on it a little bit or we can get some clarity based on what NA says about these Traditions, not what Sowende says but what NA says. Okay. We read this almost at every meeting and it simply says we keep what we have only with vigilance. And we will guard it. We will watch for it and we will safeguard it of what we have. So, we keep what we have only with vigilance and just as freedom for the individual comes from the 12 Steps, so freedom for the group springs from our Traditions.
And I know many, many, many, many, many times I've read this until I'd allow myself to slow down to study this and it simply tells me that as I do Step work, as I incorporate Step work in my life, I make changes in my own personal life as an individual. I make personal changes in my own personal life, you know, like change of attitudes and ideas and behaviors. And then it goes on to say here that -- just like I made changes in my individual life that -- and got freedom from that.
I also get freedom for the group and that freedom comes from our Traditions. And our Traditions is basically formulated to learn how to treat each other with dignity, integrity and respect. Sometimes I just believe that the Traditions, to a large degree, are not respected. But I don't want to be judgmental of nobody or NA's as a whole, but I feel that in order for me to know how to get along with you and for you to help me in my own personal recovery, then I need to let go of certain things that's stopping me from doing that.
Okay. And again, that's where the 12 Steps come in at. That helps me to let go of those things that causes myself problems and you problems and society problems and not allowing our higher power to help me. And once I get there, work on that then I learn how to come into our groups and allow y'all to continue to help me and allow me to continue to help you to where it talks about in the 12 Traditions in the basic text where the I becomes the we, we become a we thing now. It's not about when I come into meetings, I'm cussing you out. I've seen that happen in our meetings.
It's not about me being judgmental of you and what you did -- what you should or should not be doing. It's not taking your inventory, but it's about understanding and keeping in the forefront of why I even come to the meetings. And that is to allow myself to get the help that I need from you and allow you to get the help that you need from me the NA way.
Okay. It says freedom for the groups springs from our Traditions, freedom for the group. The group. And the group here -- Don't you know how we have a spiritual principles in the Steps? You know, we have spiritual principles in the Traditions.
Okay. And specifically one of the Traditions and principles in Tradition 12 is anonymity. And I want to read a little bit about that and move on. I want you all to hear this, man, if y'all care. This is from It Works How and Why. Bear in mind there's many things that we could say about this topic, but because of the sake of time, we only can speak just a little bit of it. Okay?
Listen to this. This is on page 215 in It Works How and Why, in the middle of the page. It says we are equal in NA membership. We are all at last anonymous, part of rather than uniquely apart from the NA fellowship. The anonymity spoken of in our 12th Tradition means that finally we who have suffered so long from the isolating disease of addiction belong. Truly, anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions. Without it, the unity upon which personal recovery depends on, would dissolve in a chaos of conflicting personalities.
That's why we have to have that unity because if we don't, personalities would take over. My attitude, my behavior, my belief system, the way I think, the way I make choices, the way I make decisions here. The way I, I, I, I, it's not about we. It's not about we. It's not what's best for all of us. It's about what's best for Sowende. And then here come the fight because first of all, y'all are not going to let me have that because you suffer with the same disease I suffer with and you want to have your way too. So, the 12 Steps says, having had a spiritual awakening, we allow that a spiritual awakening have its way, not Sowende's way. It don't become the I; it becomes the we.
And we allow the spirit awakening -- The spiritual awakening that we got in the Steps help us make decisions in the group. Not based on my way, but the spiritual way. Okay. Then we got to get a truly -- truly, anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions. Without it, the unity upon which personal recovery depends would dissolve in a chaos of conflicting personalities. With it our groups are given a body of guiding principle. Our 12 Traditions helping -- A body of guiding principle, our 12 Traditions helping them join the personal strength of their members in the fellowship that supports and nurtures the recovery of us all.
Then it goes on and talks about some other stuff regarding diversity is our strength, you know, all of our -- All of our different cultural backgrounds, our different belief system, different attitude, different way we're raised, we all come together and we learn how to respect that, you know. Because someone is a Muslim, another one's a Christian, another one's fat, another one's tall, one is skinny, you know, one is white, one is gay and all this different creeds and all that kind of stuff. What happened is anonymity says as being equal, we -- that stuff falls to the wayside. That's not important. That's not even why we are here. But we need to learn how to not let that be our primary purpose.
And some of the reasons why I think that becomes our primary purpose because most of us have not experienced the spiritual awakening. And we're still living on self-will. We're still living it my way, suffering from what they -- I call the Frank Sinatra syndrome, I did it my way. And we die. Because what happened is, when BB or Jojo or Soso come and say, ďHey, I got a problem with being honest.Ē and instead of me sharing with her and whoever that may be about my personal experience with being honest, being dishonest and crossing over the bridge and takin - going through all the uncomfortable feelings of recovery from dishonesty to honesty, if I won't do that, I'm going to give her my opinion. And my opinion might send her straight down to the trap because it don't be no truth behind it.
That's why we need the spiritual awakening, and we do -- and when I do that, when we share the experience, strength and hope based on the transition that we make from dishonesty to honesty, from hopelessness to hope, from uselessness to faith and from discouragement to courage and we experience that and it's very uncomfortable, but we got to get honest about it even exists.
You know, I'm a very fear -- I suffer with fear. I suffer with dishonesty. I suffer with discouragement. I suffer with unwillingness, close-mindedness until I admit that. Until I admit that, the stuff I share with you is crap. It's crap. So, we need to experience the spiritual awakening and then we'll come in here and then we share that with each other and each other we'll have the opportunity, we'll learn how to live as a whole, opposed to my way. Because dishonesty says to me, Sowende, it's going to be your way. And here's the sad part -- I hope I'm not off the topic. Here's the sad part, and tell me if anybody experienced this by show of hands, if you don't mind. I'm talking about clean. I'm not talking about when you were using. I'm talking about in the last 24 hours to put it like that.
Now, let's see you do better than that since you woke up this morning, have anybody had what you call a mild tantrum this morning? Have anybody had a severe tantrum this morning? Have anybody had a mild or severe tantrum in the last seven days because you could not have it your way? And just think about what happens when we bring that attitude into the meeting. When people's lives are at stake and we have not learned how to diffuse that tantrum. We have tantrums. That happens. But what happened when we have not learned how to diffuse that and bring it into a group?
We take the group hostage. We get off of our primary purpose, and we personalize people. And these are some of the dangers. I'm going to move on a little bit for the sake of time because our other speaker got some good stuff he want to say too. Don't tell me that, men. You just don't know. Okay. I'm honest about that. I love to talk. Do you get me? Because I believe I have something to say, and I don't say that with ego or pride. I say that because the spiritual -- the spirit -- the power of the spirit had given us all something. Given us all something, especially for those who have went the extra mile and not only pray for a few minutes but pray a little longer. And for those of us who meditated a little longer. And for those of us who stayed on the phone a little longer. And for those of us who got honest a little longer. And for those of us who extended ourselves a little longer. And for those of us who made a decision to get out of our sleep to go help somebody even if we didn't want to a little longer. For those of us who say I don't feel like it, but I'm going to do it anyway, a little longer. We get a little more benefit.
So, we do have something. Every last one of us have something to offer. And I like for us to just go and nurture what we got because we got a wonderful thing here. We got a beautiful thing. Listen to this. In the 12th Tradition in the Basic Text, it says a dictionary definition of anonymity is it got -- What do you call it? Quotation marks? A state of bearing no name. We want to talk about that in a minute.
A state of bearing no name. Let me talk about it now. This is not because you may like what I have to say. You may love what I have to say. And I'm only sure that there are people, probably everybody in here, have somebody that they love to hear speak. Whether it's on a tape or in person, in your home group or in your area, whatever. Everybody got somebody who we like to hear. It might even be your own self. But the one thing I want to stress is, this is not what you call Narcotics Anonymous/Sowende fellowship. It's a state of bearing no name. Because I may say something that may help you get further or appreciate where you're at or gives me clarity where you're at, this is not Sowende's program. This is Narcotics Anonymous program. It's not mine.
I come to share my own experience, strength and hope, but this is not my -- Don't put me up here. I'm just as equal as the person who is still using in here. I'm no different. It's just that I'm not using. And I'm trying to do something with myself, but I'm no -- I'm not better than them. They have the same spirit that I have. It's just that they made other different choices.
Nobody here is better or lesser than anybody else, but we don't treat each other like that though. Let's get some clarity on that what NA say about it. Are y'all with me this morning? Okay. All right. Good. You see, the dictionary definition of anonymity is the state of bearing no name. And keeping with Tradition 12, the I, Sowende, becomes the we, the fellowship, everybody. Everybody. Just because I stood on the corner and begged people for money to drink Wild Irish Rose and Thunderbird and Mad Dog and some other stuff and I never put a spike in my arm and you put a spike in your arm, that don't make you better than me or don't make me less than you.
See, because some of us in here think that because that the different type of drugs that we used, that we are better or lesser or I'm a real addict, that you are not a real addict. And the drug that we used don't make us addicts anyway, for those of us who did some Step work. A real addict suffer with what? Obsession, compulsion and total self-centeredness. I'm going to be stepping on some toes in a minute. Listen to this, and we're going to get some clarity with that because if we're talking about obsession and compulsion and what else? THE SPEAKER: Self-centeredness. THE SPEAKER: What kind of self-centeredness? THE SPEAKER: Total. THE SPEAKER:
That made it all the way across the board in all our affairs. Everything we do is all about me. Everything that I do is all about me. Children, forget it. Husbands and wives, forget it. Parents, forget it. Next-door neighbor, forget it. The guy on the job, oh, you can really forget it. I'm taking all your stuff. See, totally, I'm self-centered, it's all about me, everything centers around me. Remember we talked about that tantrum? That's what happens. That's why we have tantrums because it's all about me. And when me is not satisfied, now, I want to kill someone. I want to kill a two by four boy. I want to kill a wall. Stuff that don't even live I want to put holes in it. I want to kill something because I can't have it my way. Let's move on. All right.
It says the spiritual foundation becomes more important than any one group or individual. Our spiritual foundation, anonymity, nameless, unity, love, compassion, empathy, consideration, humility, all these things become important not that other stuff. Okay.
So, love, compassion, understanding, patience, tolerance, consideration, humility, all these things is made up of anonymity. Not me. Ain't no big I's and little you's. It's not that. And those things are our spiritual foundation. And they don't have a name. It's really -- It's not so much the name itself, but it's the power of the word. That's why we need to study what those words mean. And we -- and if you -- if you were to ask yourself what does integrity really mean, what does it really mean? What does patience really mean? What does empathy really mean? What does love really mean? And we'll get to see the meaning behind the word. And that's what we live, the meaning behind the word, not the word itself. The power of the word. The power within that word. The power that governs that -- that gives the word its name. The word integrity, think about it. I always ask myself, Sowende, do you have integrity with yourself? Sowende, do you love you? Sowende, are you patient with yourself? Sowende, do you have the empathy for yourself? And if I don't have these things, how can I give them to you?
They become intellectual jargon and verbal garbage because they have no power behind them. And this is why it's difficult and hard for us to get along with each other because they just become mere words. And we need to learn to practice the power of those words and what they really mean in our own individual lives. I'm going to read a little bit. Listen to this. This can be a little disturbing. And it is right here in our literature. And I'm going to try to explain it the way my experience has been, the way I understand it. In the same book, the Basic Text, there's a statement that says, throughout our Traditions, okay, throughout our Traditions, we speak in terms of we and our, rather than me and mine. Okay.
So, when you hear yourself sharing again, monitor yourself. Check yourself. Take your own inventory. And see if we still stuck on you. And I tell -- ask myself, Sowende, are you still stuck on you? And you'll hear it in your own voice. It says, by working together for our common welfare, that's to stay clean and help another addict, we achieve the true spirit of anonymity. And we keep that up front, staying clean ourselves and then help somebody else. All right? All right. Here comes some of the stuff that might make you twinge a little bit or make you look at somebody else's inventory instead of your own. Look at your own, not nobody elses.
You see, we have heard the phrase, principles before personalities. We heard that, right? You see, we heard it so often that it's like a cliche, right? Then it go on to say, while we may disagree as individuals, the spiritual principle of anonymity makes us all equal as members of the group. Are you all with me so far? Okay. Listen up. No member is greater or lesser than any other member. Me and Rick is equal. Me and Alicia's equal. Me and Sabrina is equal. Me and Wallace is. We're all equal even though I'm -- I got -- I'm a legend in my own mind, I may think not. I may think not. But the spirit of anonymity says I am.
And when I Step out of that spirit of anonymity, I'm not respecting the spirit of the fellowship. And the fellowship is us. We need each other. We need each other. We need each other. And when I Step out of the spirit, which is the loving power and compassion of a Higher Power, that gives us what we need to experience freedom and peace. And when I Step out of that, I'm giving you all some insanity. And so, I'm going to be giving you insanity. Do you all understand what I'm trying to say? That's what I'm doing, giving you all insanity when I Step out of the spirit of anonymity. And here's how I do it.
Listen to this, our last statement: No member is greater or lesser than any other member. The drive for personal gain in the areas of sex, property and social position which brought so much pain in the past falls by the wayside if we adhere to the principle of anonymity. Now, here we go. The drive for personal gain. See, when I do Step work I get introduced to me. Okay. That's what I get introduced to. And I have learned by doing Step work and writing that there's a part of me that want to have somebody else in mind. And I had to be real vigilant and be real watchful, real careful, that when I'm doing Step work, it's to keep the mirror in my face, not to say how this apply to Attila, how this apply to Joe Blow, but how does this thing apply to me. Okay? I had to be real vigilant of that.
I got a few minutes you all. Let me try to say this real quickly. I found that I have -- My experience had told me through writing that I have problem with sex, property and social positions. Okay? And when we come to the -- And we haven't learned how to let that stuff go. We will have incest in here. We will be having sex with each other. That's what we do. And instead of helping them to get on their feet, we help them to get on their back. And that's not anonymity. There's sometime -- let me make this clear. Because that statement refers to a man getting a woman on her back. But women get men on their back too or on their side or some position. Yes, sir.
And this what takes away the spirit of me helping you and you helping me. Because when I look at the audience and I see a suffering woman out there, I mean, she's hurting. All right. She needs some love. She needs some compassion. She needs some understanding. She needs some consideration. She needs love. And I look out there. That's -- I can't help her because I had sex with her. I can't give of me because I had sex with her. I want to give of me, but I can't. And the Spirit of God gave me the information to give to her, but I can't do it. Because my disrespect for the Traditions are violated and said you can't do it. Shame and guilt won't let me. because my drive is towards having sex, not towards helping you. My drive is how I can get some money from you. My drive is how I could keep my image up here and you down here. The drive for it. And you know how addicts are. One is too many. And, you know, how self-willed we are.
Once we get stuck there, we're stuck. And even in our
own minds, we want to get out but we can't get out. So, we get stuck in having
sex with each other in here. How can we help each other? We can't. We can't even
share the truth. So, how can we recover if we can't share the truth? And if I do
share the truth, it's a lie. It's called manipulation that we found in the first
Step. Great ones for manipulating the truth. That had no power, because the
manipulation is this one. The manipulation is coming from my head, not from my
heart. I can't give you my heart when I'm fucking you. Excuse -- I'm sorry. And
I don't like to cuss either. Yeah, I just don't -- That's a morale thing on
myself. And I have respect for the children. They don't need to hear that.
Okay. I got to close here. I love you all. And just learning to respect the power of the spirit of our Traditions. And remember we're family. And we're here to help each other, not hurt each other. Thank you
Hi everybody. I'm an addict. My name is Mike. Good morning. And you know what, I don't ever know how I'm going to start out talking, so I got a couple of ideas and things I've been thinking about. And, man, I love Narcotics Anonymous. I'm a grateful recovering member of Narcotics Anonymous. And I never knew that recovery was possible.
My mom tried to get me clean for three or four years before I ended up in Narcotics Anonymous and I was in family counseling, outpatients, and people told me all sorts of crap about trying to help me to get and stay clean. And none of it worked. I didn't really want to get and stay clean.
I was thinking about this outpatient clinic that I was in. It was a small group, maybe six people and we all were getting high. No one was trying to even get or stay clean.
And I remember asking the counselor, Well, did you use drugs? And she said, No. And I said, Well, you just got an education. She said, Yeah. I never listened to another word she said. I did learn about the drug test and I learned about how to beat the drug test so I could get out of the program and, you know, what drugs not to take and that kind of thing. And I had worked it out with my Dad, that if I passed the drug test, I could get out of the program.
All I had to do was get one clean drug test and I could be out of this stupid program. And I Ė You know what, check it out. I did it and I really thought that I was clean. Okay. I kept on using. I used other drugs and stuff like that, but I really thought that I was clean.
And, you know, one thing that I was taught growing up is that you don't bring drugs in - this is in my house, you know. My Dad taught me, you don't talk about your personal business. You don't talk about stuff in the family and you don't tell people. So, what I mean, what I learn here in Narcotics Anonymous is you can't save your face and your ass at the same time. So, I just want to say, Sorry, Dad. I got to talk about it. You know what I mean?
I don't really know what like one or two specific things really make me an addict. I know that they told me in health class, in the '70s and early '80s they taught you, you know, all the stuff that was to scare you away from using. You know, all the bad things that are going to happen, you know. If you take LSD on down the road, you're going to burn your hand off in a gas stove because you're going to think you're in a field of flowers and, you know, you're going to have your family all down the road in the car and you're going to smash your station wagon head on into somebody because you're having a flashback.
Well, I get to I think about the way I started using, mostly was my friends said, Well, I've tried it and I didn't burn my hand off. See. You know, that was good enough for me. So, I'll try that. Reality is that I've tried everything that I could get my hands on at least twice just to make sure. But, you know, I figured that, you know, if you took something, you either are, felt or acted better And that was the message that I got growing up at the same time as the other stuff. You know, you don't talk about your personal business.
And so, anyway, you know, I don't know that I really want to talk a whole lot about active addiction, because like I said, I'm not really sure what I'm going to say. But I do know that by the time I got to Narcotics Anonymous, I was polluted in every way. I was polluted in my beliefs about life, about money, about sex, about living. I didn't know anything about living.
And, you know, I ended up in a hospital, I was in an institution, a psych ward and some people came and said, "We're Narcotics Anonymous," and they started telling us, "We've never had to use again against our will!" and that they'd been clean, that they were addicts, that they used like nuts and lost everything and they got together with other members of Narcotics Anonymous and they're staying clean. I said, "Well, these guys are addicts, I guess I better listen to them."
You know, it was kind of like the opposite of that counselor. I said, I guess I better listen. And, you know, 30 days in a treatment center, that's the way they did it at that time. I don't know what's going on now exactly but, you know, the people that carried the message to me must have done just a good enough job for me to figure that I was going to go find this Narcotics Anonymous. When I got out of there, I was going to go to some meetings.
I do know that the doctor at the treatment center told me I have like a 2 percent chance of staying clean, and I figured he must know what he's talking about. He's got letters after his name and shit. But, you know, I heard that.
It was very disappointing because it was like in an exit group and other people were getting told, Oh, you've got like a thirty percent chance of staying clean, or you've got a fifty percent chance of staying clean. I could tell you're willing, you're honest, you really want this. And he gave me two. I was like, "Up yours, buddy." That's the worst news I've ever heard. This is not good.
And maybe he knew that by telling me I had two, he'd give me a hundred percent chance of staying clean, I don't know. Maybe I got worked. I got used. Shit. And the funny thing is that I went and found Narcotics Anonymous. He was completely wrong, you know. And, you know, one of the things I've learned to believe about that is that, you know, in life, probably some of us have had like zero percent chance of staying clean or two percent chance of staying clean.
But the more bad shit happens, that's what comes with active addiction, and the more maybe nobody believes in you. Like I ended up moving back to my parents' house. They didn't believe I was going to stay clean. No one around me believed that I was going to stay clean. And maybe that gave me like a much higher chance.
You know, I was pretty beat up. When I had ended up in this treatment center, I weighed one hundred and seven pounds, or something under a hundred and ten. Between one oh five and one ten. I weigh like one seventy, one seventy-five. I think that's probably about right for me. I don't know. It's a long time ago. So, maybe I should have weighed like one thirty, something like that. You know what I'm saying? But I had not, you know, in good shape. Like if I had drug money, I couldn't buy like a thirty-nine cent cheeseburger at McDonald's on Sunday. There was no dollar menu. Most days, cheeseburgers are seventy-nine cents but on Sunday, they were thirty-nine. And I could not break a $20 bill to get a freaking cheeseburger, you know.
The only job that I was ever able to hold for any length of time, I was like my own boss, I delivered pizza. What a great job. Domino's Pizza in the '80s. I would be coming back to the store. I was over thirty minutes. Give me three extra dollars. Do you know what I mean?
Like because you had to get $3 off if you were late. And so this guy, Dave, I don't want to propagate our using, but I was just thinking about the story from the other day. Dave at my work told me, you know, if you're delivering a large pizza, there's twelve slices and you can take one of those slices and eat it and rearrange the other eleven because that leaves Ė I don't want to give you the math about it, but I figured it out.
I said, "Oh, man, maybe you're right." He said, "Yeah. The cheese is going to run. No one's ever going to notice. They're going to have to count, Whoa, there's only eleven slices there, not twelve. And nobody's ever going to do that." You can get free food, drive around, making tips. I did. That's the only food that I ate in active addiction, the free twelfth slice of pizza.
And you know what, I've had people deliver me an eleven slice pizzas before. I know, I count. And that would make me mad. Do not bring me an eleven slice pizza. You can't cut an eleven slice pizza with six cuts. You know what I'm saying? That's just wrong. Look, I don't want to help you continue your using by getting that twelfth slice of pizza for free. I've been there, you know.
One of the things that really blew my mind about Narcotics Anonymous in early days was that we don't talk about drugs, like no drug education. You know what I mean? Like everything else that I'd ever been involved with before NA was like they teach you about drugs.
And the reality is they want to tell you no, you don't want to use any. That was the other thing that kind of freaked me out about NA, was we got a program of complete and total abstinence.
Don't use anything, you know. That's the only thing that's ever worked for us. Says so in the Basic Text.
That's our experience, that if you hold on to something that you're going to think that you could use later, that that's going to eventually get you in trouble. Maybe just using that, maybe you'll get back to what you thought you were getting clean off of. I really thought I was getting clean off of two or three drugs, my life would get better.
If I just would use two or three of these drugs that are just messing me up really bad, making me not care about life, can't even hardly function.
And I came here and I just said, Well, I'll try it your way because I've tried it my way so long, you know. Thought I had it all under control, worked every angle and all this kind of business. And you know what, I'm really grateful today that I was pretty much beaten by the time I found out about Narcotics Anonymous, that I didn't have to fool around. I have never relapsed, you know. It took people up in here to say, "Hey, you know what, if you're here for the first time, it doesn't make you more of an addict to relapse, you know, but you could just stay clean from the first time up in Narcotics Anonymous."
And at the same time, like if you're here and you've relapsed, I've heard other people get mad about other members coming to Narcotics Anonymous and relapse and they're coming back in, they say, This is not a revolving door. Did you ever hear that? Not a revolving door.
And really, you know, you keep coming back if you find yourself in a situation where you're using the revolving door. But if you bring it on in, it could be like a merry-go-round up in Narcotics Anonymous. You don't need to be revolving around the door.
You know, try our way of life, get and stay clean. If you don't feel that you're honest, open-minded and willing, you can ask the members around you for help.
That's what I did. I asked people, "How can I be more honest?" You know, people told me, "If you feel like using, come and talk in a meeting about it." And I have. I've come to meetings saying, "I thought this and I thought I'd use."
And people told me the truth, you know. And sometimes the truth is as simple as, you know, there's never a problem so bad that using will make any better. You know what I mean? Like maybe you got ninty-nine problems. Using is going to make it a hundred. It's going to make it like about three hundred problems. You know what I mean?
Ours is dealing with a lot of crazy stuff. When I ended up getting clean and just going to meetings and I, I got cleaned in the Small Wonder area. I lived in Wilmington in my parents' house, and I had like about, oh, twelve, eleven or twelve meetings in the Small Wonder Area at the time.
And that meant that I could go to a meeting of Narcotics Anonymous every day. They told me at the treatment center that I needed to go to AA too so I could stay off the alcohol, but I ran into some NA members and a lot of really awesome stuff happened for me.
You know, I ran into people in early meetings that I had known that I used with. I was like, You can't be staying clean. This is just unreal. You know, just two people that had cars that wanted to give me rides, you know, I mean, like, made a huge difference for me.
And they said to me, "Well, you know ..." And I was going to, like, one AA meeting and they said, "Well, look, just go to AA meetings and don't drink. You don't need to go to two fellowships for two diseases because you only have one disease."
And I said, "I'll do what you're doing." You know, I didn't float with anything unique, I just did what everybody else around me was doing and said that I could do it, and all right, I'll do it. I'll come to meetings and pick up key tags when I got the time. Funny story, I was thinking about this the other day. When I had eight months clean, I was at a meeting and I looked around, they're doing key tags and said, Oh, it's the 17th.I went February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October. That's nine, nine months. So, I said, Give me my nine month key tag.
And I ran into these guys that I'd used with. One guy had about three days more clean than me, and the other guy had about two weeks less.
And they saw my yellow key tag and they said, "How did you get that?" Clean time police, I said, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October. That's nine. And Mark said no, February is zero. You got to start with February, that's zero. You got to go March, April, May, June, July. You got to wait 'till November. I said, Do'h.
I got caught in the time warp. You know, that kind of stuff happened to me a lot in active addiction, and then time just warped and, whoa, early clean time caught in the time warp.
I said, all right, what do I got to do with this thing now? He said, You got to give it back. You know, give it back. You can get it again. That's right. I said, Oh, man. It really upset me, you know, that I messed up. You know, I had this whole thing about how I couldn't do anything right. A lot of early clean time, so I just felt like I couldn't do anything right. I had a lot of feelings of inferiority and less than. As a matter of fact, I felt so bad in early clean time I never really shared much in meetings.
You know, a couple of times, I shared about wanting to use. I talked to people before the meeting, after the meeting, but I didn't talk in the meeting because my problems just weren't important enough.
You know, like there was a lot going on in Narcotics Anonymous and there were some people that told me, Look, man, it's amazing that you're getting clean young. You know, I hope you stick around and reach out to the young people that come here, because I've seen four or five people over the last couple of years.
They come, they look around, there's no young people, and they leave. So, why don't you just be the first one. You can stick and stay and grab the next young person and give him a hug and say welcome. And maybe they'll stick and stay.
This guy, Frank, told me that. He's a very smart guy, Frank. Frank was dying of cancer, and I didn't know. I didn't know that I should, like, try and hang out with Frank. He blew my mind with some of the simple things that he said to me. He wasn't like a big crybaby about his problems and how life can be unfair. You know what I mean?
Like a really good example. People taught me up in here, you know, that you can actually be grateful for the shit, grateful for the problems that happen as opposed to like how unjust life is and how unfair and how you can whine and cry about your justified anger about how shit is unfair and you've been done wrong.
And so, like sometimes stuff in life happens. And instead of being like, for me, petty party, this kind of thing, that's the worst thing. With the disease of attitudes, actions and ideas, when you're caught in the negative crap, like feeling bad about myself or how stuff should have gone wrong or should have gone differently and all this kind of stuff, you know, that I could be grateful.
People taught me in here how to be grateful for what I do have, you know. It puts it in a proper perspective. It makes it so the disease isn't acting so hard on me. I got enough crap going on in early clean time about like what I ought to be doing with my life and all this kind of thing than to be caught in self-pity.
You know, anything you guys can do to help pull me out of the negative. It saved my life, you know. And it gave me a tool to know that I could help pull you out of the pity, so that maybe it'll save your like. The message in Narcotics Anonymous can save your life.
And, you know, I guess the act of, you know, getting involved, meeting people, I made friends with a guy named Scott. He said, you know, "Come on over my house and my mom will cook us dinner." We'll get a ride over this meeting and then we'll get a ride to another meeting and then we'll get a ride home.
And you know, if you didn't figure this out, I didn't have a driver's license when I got clean. I had thirty-five points on my driver's license because I was in a hurry.
You know, I used to go to a lot of Virginia conventions, the State Convention that's in January, the annual Virginia Convention. I did it for like about like ten years. And the very first NA event that I went to out of my area was right after I got my driver's license back. I had a year clean.
My dad bought me a $400 car, a 1979 Honda Accord, two speed, went zero to fifty in first and zero to ninty in second. And people in my area said, "We're going to the Blue Ridge Area Camp out. And you can go, you should go." They didn't offer for me to go, but it's like you know, to me, it was like under my own power, my own will, I said I want to go to Narcotics Anonymous and then I want to see what's going on. And you know what, actually, I think my first NA event outside of my area was the Third Connecticut in '88. And I ran into people with over ten years clean. It blew my mind. I'd never met anyone with over ten years clean.
I met Greg P. who wrote the Triangle Of Self_obsession, and he had been clean seventeen years. And he shared the best story I ever heard, and I said, "Wow, man, Narcotics Anonymous may be a worldwide fellowship and not just right here around Wilmington, Delaware. You know, it says they were a worldwide fellowship. And if you like to stay where you live and never go anywhere, it doesn't really matter what it is, really." So, okay, the first thing I've been to out of my area was this Connecticut thing, but then, under my own power when I got my license, I had a car.
Clear license to go anywhere you want. I drove to this BRANA thing. I got a speeding ticket, but you know, I went all the way out there and, you know, it was the act of, you know, under my own power, What am I going to do with my life? I'm going to go hang out with recovering addicts. I'm going to fellowship. I'm going to, you know, get to know other people.
Maybe you'll teach me about the disease about myself and this kind of thing. And I thought about that on the way out of here because it's a fond memory, you know, being with addicts sharing. And you know, I have always wanted to come to this convention.
But then after I got clean and started, you know, started doing life and that kind of thing. By August __ most years I've been like a __ you know, early clean time was like I'm a poor student, getting ready to go back to school. Because, you know, after I got clean, I started working on my life. Well, I started working on getting my high school diploma because I didn't have that. It was just like - I was... You know what, if I followed the dotted line from where I was going before I ended up in Narcotics Anonymous, I was going to jails, institutions and death. I was going to be dead. I wasn't going to make it.
My last birthday I used, and I cried myself to sleep because I knew I wasn't going to be another year older, it wasn't happening. And you guys have interrupted my whole life and given me hope. You know what, I'm twice as old as I was when I got clean. Unbelievable.
You know, I never thought I was going to live to be this old. And, you know what, I went to a meeting and I told everybody how I didn't graduate with my class. And like I just was a bum. And I was never going to be anything. And then I went to the classes and I came to the meeting, I said, "Look, I got my high school diploma." But I'd shared, like, I was really sad about not graduating with my class. The meeting ended and I got a standing ovation. And I cried.
I couldn't believe it, you know, because you guys knew where I was at. You put yourself in my place. You looked at me and said, "Look, we will reach out to you and care about you like you're our little brother." You know what I mean? And that's the way you guys treated me for, for a while, just what I needed. You all don't treat me like I'm your little brother now.
Well, you know, I'm not really sure what's next. There are people that, you know go on. And I guess if you get some clean time, you do some service. Maybe you won't see eye to eye with some other people you're doing service with, but I think there are people who don't like me. But look, I mean, like, I feel like I told them the truth, the truth that I believe. And I believe that that's how you break through the denial. You tell each other the truth, you know. And sometimes the truth, the truth will set you free, but sometimes it might piss you off first.
So, you know, you guys were with me. And I got my high school thing and I went to college, and so on. Like I was never was able to make it out. I was always broke by August or trying to save my money or had a plan or try to be responsible and live my life, and that's what Narcotics Anonymous has given me. You know, to be able to go ahead and do that. And I went to college a bunch of years.
Well, look, I mean, I think that more than anything, I've always put recovery, I've always put Narcotics Anonymous in my life, you know. I've heard people say, let's see if I could say this right. I know I'll mess it up, you know. "You can't make Narcotics Anonymous fit your life. You have to make your life fit Narcotics Anonymous." I know.
I was sharing with my sponsor about some behavior that I had been doing knowing it wasn't right. And he said, you know, Hey, the 12th step talks about practicing these principles in all our affairs. And if you can't practice these principles in your affairs, what you have to change is your affairs.
That's some simple stuff.
And so, I stopped doing what I was talking about. There are a couple of things over the course of my recovery where I've looked and said, I guess I can't practice these principles in these affairs. I'm going to have to change that, you know. My sponsor is very wise.
I've had a couple of different sponsors, but I think that it holds true for all of them. They've all been very wise with very simple things.
You know what, I want to flashback a little to, like, 90 days clean. It's a really touchy time of my life. And I was walking down the street and I ran into somebody that I used with. And he said, I haven't seen you around. What are you doing? And I said, Oh, I'm going to Narcotics Anonymous. And he said, Good luck with that. Good luck. And I didn't know enough. Man, you know, were you ever like getting in a conversation with somebody, you go, Oh, if only I had said this later. Because now __ Check it out like a flashback.
Nothing to do with luck. Nothing to do. Narcotics Anonymous is a proven program of recovery. All sorts of addicts have made it up in Narcotics Anonymous helping each other, you know, unconditionally. That's what people told me. Let us love you until you could learn to love yourself, and that's really what happened for me.
I would have said, Look, Narcotics Anonymous is a sure thing. All I have to do is be honest, open-minded and willing, and I got it. But I didn't know good enough.
So, okay. I walked away feeling kind of bad. Oh, yeah, good luck. Do you mean good luck? No.
You know, I moved to a town with like one NA meeting. And so, there was the guy that I asked to be my sponsor lived in that town. So, we started a bunch of meetings and stuff, because you got to move on. You know, some I want to travel to, some I want to have, you know, to go to. And out of nothing, we started Narcotics Anonymous. We got an H&I commitment and told everyone that came out of there. We'll pick you up and bring you to the meeting. And before too long, we had a whole bunch of people that have been to this institution and we are all helping each other getting and staying clean, you know.
Five years after that, it was like read the literature, we didn't get a lot of speakers. We didn't know a whole lot of people that knew anything about the message. So, we read the Basic Text where all the secrets to recovery are hidden. We just read the Basic Text every week and talked about what was going on, you know, keep going yourselves, Step 5 and 10. Just only about you.
Don't talk about your wife. Don't talk about your kids, your parents. Don't talk about that shit. That's all like, you know, set the stage for the story and stuff. That has nothing to do with what's going on, the changes that you need to make to get and stay clean.
And we did that, you know. And one day I looked around. I realized that the people in my home group had all gotten clean between, like, the ages of fourteen and twenty, except for, like, the four or five Vietnam vet guys that were coming to the meetings. They were all clean between, you know, like, around forty-fve. And we had like an average clean time of. Like, four years. And we had Narcotics Anonymous happening.
It was freaking smoking, great meetings, you know. Going for pizza, video games after the meeting and all these kinds of fellowship stuff, you know.
And, you know, people still do that. I've come to points in my recovery where I look around and go, "Hey, we used to do and fill in the blank, right?" And the reality is that everybody else is still doing that stuff or wishing that they were doing that stuff. And maybe it's just you that needs to go, Hey, let's go get pizza and play video games, or let's go hit a meeting or a movie or meetings and movies or go eat. You know what I mean? And bring it back to the way it used to be before we got lives and all this kind of stuff. So busy.
But anyway, look, I mean, I went to college for a long time, but I really did a lot of work on my recovery in Narcotics Anonymous. I was involved in service. I got ahold of the best sponsors. I got ahold of the secret step working guides. And so, like, you know, instead of, like, just looking up the words in the dictionary like I did the first time I worked the steps.
Just look up the words in the dictionary and then try to figure out what they mean and how you're going to do it, that's the way we worked the steps, you know, but you got to write about it. Because number 1, you pick up the pen and write. No conference approved step working guide.
Then I had the underground step working guide and I answered all the questions that I possibly could to try and work my program. What am I supposed to be doing? How am I supposed to recover? What kind of changes do I need to make? You know. The same addict's going to use again. Let me do something to change.
Let me change something, you know. And I really believe now that, like, the work that I've done on my recovery put me in a position, so that when a problem came up, I didn't act the way I used to, you know. I didn't have to deal with the consequences the way that I used to act, you know. I got a new way of life.
Like there were times where I would get confused. A situation would come up and I'd say to myself, Wow, I even know what I would have used to do. And I know what I'm going to do now. And I would walk away from a situation without a lot of pain or, you know, with enough that I could handle it with the help of my friends in Narcotics Anonymous and a loving higher power who's working on the inside job, the change that I'm going to have to make. Maybe the change I don't even see, you know. Some of it is finding out about the stuff that I have to change with, stuff I'm going to have to do that I probably don't want to do. Easier to sit at home and watch TV than to look at yourself.
Look, I mean, I wrote that fourth step, you know. The fourth step is the hardest step to write. Ask anybody who's never written one. In my area, only a couple of people have written the fourth step. And really, the Narcotics Anonymous program was an experimental program that whoever was going to really work it first was really going to try it out and find out what recovery was like for the first time. We were like recovering guinea pigs. We didn't have any Works How and Why, so we didn't have a comprehensive book on how it worked and why. But we did have the ability to tell each other to work the steps or die. That was as good as it got. Work the steps or die.
And now, we have a book that tells you how to work the steps. You know, I don't know. Bonnie Pegmy __ Where did she go? Bonnie Pegmy is being like the NA historian. And I was looking at my book this morning, and after you read like every word and page number in this thing and study it, and you're sitting in a meeting and then you hear a newcomer stumble on a word, you don't have a book near you and you know what word they want to say. You know, I'm not saying that like I memorize this stuff because I don't really want to memorize it. But over the course of being in some meetings and reading it and knowing I needed to guide me, well, I know the Just For Today book, so I'm going to close my eyes and put my finger down, that's my meditation today, kind of a thing.
You know, you end up knowing some of the message. And I've taken it to my heart as best as I could so I could make it up in here because I don't want to lose what I got, you know. After I got some stuff in NA I realized what gave me this stuff up in here is Narcotics Anonymous, is a loving God that Narcotics Anonymous introduced me to. I don't want to lose what I have. I don't want to lose track of what's going on. I don't want to get away from the basics so I have to go back. I want to be in Narcotics Anonymous.
If I have to go to meetings for the rest of my life, I'm down with it now, it's fine. When I got here, I said, I don't know if I want to do this for the rest of my life. Well, I've resisted the idea of recovery forever, you know. And I was looking through my book this morning, and over the course of time, if someone said, "Oh, you know, such and such story is Bill B.'s from California." I said, "What is his clean date?" And I wrote his clean date in my book. I wrote his name there. And when someone sent me an e-mail and said, Oh, Bill B., he passed away, had a heart attack, I wrote the day that he died in the book with my story, because I was looking for something else to do, you know, scavenger hunt.
I'm like a scavenger hunt collector, you know. I was at my grandmother's basement after she died. And she had like a hundred and fifty cans of coffee in there, and I know it was because they were on sale, you know.
And I don't know __ you know, I know that __ You know, I don't know how many addicts have this genetic trait of collecting stuff, something to just collect and collect. Just got to have a lot of stuff, they maybe don't even need it. I think that's a disease of addiction. I don't know what I can avoid. I looked at my dad's basement. There's like eighteen broken television sets, but at some point, he's going to ditch them all. You know, like they'll take the parts from all of it and have seventeen that work, but they'll be 1970s black and white television sets.
So, anyway, you know, I know I like to collect stuff. And then it might be the disease, it might be this genetic trait my grandmother has that caused her to have it. Oh, tons of stuff, she has wrapping paper from 1950 in her attic, stuff like that, just to collect. And so, like I was looking at this book, and I saw Bill Beck, his clean date was in '67 and passed away in 2007. That guy had thirty-nine and a half years clean when he died, you know. And there's just like __ You know, I think I collected maybe half or a little bit more than half of the people whose stories are in there.
And I didn't do it to be like to worship them, you know what I mean, like, "Oh, man, this guy is in a story in the Basic Text." Well, that's great. They were really fortunate to get clean at a time when they can write down their story and help another addict with the story, you know. And I feel like, you know, for me and for you __ And it hasn't stopped yet, you know, getting clean. When you're getting clean, it's a great time to get and stay clean, you know.
Narcotics Anonymous is still happening, today is going to be tomorrow's history. You know what I mean, like you didn't miss it. I feel like I got clean at a great time because I got to be involved. I get to watch your lights come on, you know. Everyone that comes in after you, all the changes you're going to make, it's like a miracle that you could be a part of it. That we do recover from active addiction, we do recover and get to live clean and have productive lives. It really happens, you know.
I realize that that kind of leads me with, you know, a situation where my time here is going to end sometime, you know. I'm feeling mortal lately. I got old enough to the point where I started looking at myself and saying, Man, look at all this great stuff that has happened. I went to college, I decided it wasn't for me. I ended up getting a job and trying to be productive in this kind of thing because I got my girlfriend pregnant and I moved to a new town.
Hey, you know what, if you're going to be irresponsible, that's one of the things that will help you have to either be responsible or miss the boat, you know what I mean. It's like definitely a turning point. Maybe as big a turning point as the fourth step. I'm not sure.
And I moved to a new town because someone wanted to give me a job with health insurance. And I know it was a God-thing because like the month that my daughter was born is the month that the health insurance kicked in. You know what I mean? Like when that stuff, when you line it up like that, man, I said, "Wow." Not that I was doubting God when I had six years clean or whatever, but six, six and a half years clean.
But the whole going to a new area thing is, you know, I don't know if anyone here is moving, if you've ever moved and stuff, you move and the things are different, man, they do it wrong. They do it wrong here. I don't know I want to go to these stinking meetings where they do it wrong. Ah, crap. We say, just do it the way we used to do in my old area.
And I found my sponsor. You know what, I was talking to Bonnie and she was telling me that my second sponsor was a speaker here last year on Sunday. Someone told me he was going to be here. I was looking for him, but I don't see him. He told me, "Well, Mike, you only live twenty-five miles away, you don't really call me that much, and now you're moving seventy, seventy-five miles away..." He pulled my sheets. He told me I wasn't really working the program as good as I could. You better get a new sponsor in your new area, you know. He wasn't trying to collect the most sponsees.
He was all about telling the truth. You ever meet people that like want to collect sponsees, so many that they got to, like, have a sponsee newsletter? I don't have time to go. I have to read the newsletter. If you got to read your sponsor's newsletter to get up with them, maybe then, maybe you have the right sponsor for you. I don't know.
Well, I didn't get one. So, I was sponsorless and I didn't get a home group right away so I kept my old one. It was 80 miles away. Look man, I'm talking about like the roughest point in my recovery going to a new area with the girlfriend that was not really committed to me. And I didn't realize at the time, and the new baby, and this job, and meetings that I hated. Suckee, suckee, suckee.
I guess I must have figured out this stuff was going bad. That was the first time I didn't have a service position since I've been clean. The early ones I got the ones that were high profile, so you would see me and know that I was really doing this. And then after like three years, I said, Look, I'll just take the one that nobody else takes because I'll do anything in NA. I don't care if you think I'm doing the most important job, I just want the one nobody wants, maybe the only one that's left, you know, just give me that one.
And I did some cool service that I was really happy with that helped me change. You know, one of the things that I learned just by doing some NA service was checking out in my home group. They were talking about prudent reserve, that's the money for the bills for like next month and stuff. That's a great lesson, you know. Have some money for the bills for next month.
I was so used to living hand to mouth like in active Addiction, immediate gratification almost all the time. I got money, I want to buy some nice stuff, dress up the outside, you know. That's how I fixed in earlier recovery. Well, substitution, feel good about the nice, new sneakers, that kind of thing, you know. Dress up the outside. Feeling like shit, but dress up the outside.
You guys taught me so much with some of these service positions. I walked in to them and said, I'm willing. I don't really have the skills to do it. People say, Good. Honest, open-minded, willing, you can do it. Well, anyway, so things were not going well in the relationship. And I ran on down, I heard there was a convention that they were planning to do.
I joined the program committee and put my energy into that while I watched my relationship fall apart, and, you know what? You know, the whole thing culminated the day of the convention. I was looking at my ex-girlfriend's, I was looking at my sponsee's bedroom window and I see my ex-girlfriend laying there in bed. I had two years without smoking. I smoked, smoked cigarettes. I went and got a pack of Camels, I'll show you. I'll hurt myself.
You know, I mean, a couple of times I've looked at my recovery and I thought, Man, it's so good. I need to mix it up a little, make it a little more exciting. I don't know, I think that's inherent to addicts, you know. Recovery is getting too hum drum, I'm going to do something to mix it up, undermine my recovery a little, you know.
And you don't have to do that, you know. Turn to a loving God. Don't substitute with some outside shit that will hurt you. You don't have to. I mean, like I'm not telling you what, I'm telling you you can. You know what I'm saying? I'll tell you what I did though because I didn't do it perfectly. I haven't done my recovery gracefully. I hurt myself, and others. You know. I looked at everyone else. Everyone at the convention suddenly became people that I wanted to use, not my brothers and sisters in Narcotics Anonymous, you know, somebody that I maybe wanted to hurt, I mean, to help myself with.
And I said a prayer and it didn't go down like that. You know what I mean? You know, because I don't really want to use service to hurt you or hurt me. And over time, you know, I've been to service meetings where people are looking around about how they're going to manipulate us to help themselves feel better. You know, that happens a lot. I think that might happen a lot. It happens in my area. People want to help themselves to feel better, powerless, unmanageable, well, I'll try to manipulate the group conscience to feel a sense of power.
And like over the course of the service that I've done, you know, I find that what I want to do is I want to say a prayer for a loving God to work through me, so that I don't act like an asshole against the people they're trying to control. Because I can do that. I can be angry and show you that I know that I have good knowledge of the concepts and the traditions. And I can flip it around on you, and everyone can vote my way, you know.
Because I got the good, you know, convincing, you know, story as to why we should do it the way I would suggest. And that might not be God's will. It might be God's will. But it probably if it's my will involved, I already know, you know. That if it's your will, you know, if we're not getting group conscience, man, it ain't God's will. It might not be what's best for us, you know. People taught me, you know, that you might know what's best for us.
Anyway, you know, I got to look at my life and realize that, man, I got to pay this freaking child support, and it's messed up because the money is not going to the kid. It's going to Barbie. She's dressed up all nice. She's got all the makeup, the clothes, the hair and the Barbie, man, she's got everything. And my kid is walking around in clothes that are not seasonally appropriate, the wrong size, Goodwill dumpster dive clothes. And, you know.
And I'll tell you, I mean like, it's my story, right? I don't really want to share about what other people are doing. The reality is I still had to start dealing with the people who were cheating, who relapsed. And I got to deal with my daughter's mother who's relapsed and caught in active addiction again.
And it's a little complicated because the reality is you guys told me, "Well, Mike, you got to keep your side of the street clean. No matter what happens, always do the right thing for you. Always try to do the things, so that when you look back on your life, you don't have to regret what you did." You know, that's a powerful tool. That's a 10th Step tool, you know.
So, like, it's hard. If I could pick up my kid, which I did every weekend, I know in 1996, my child was two or three, four, two, three. I don't know, I can't add it up. Born in '93, I don't know. I'm not in my math mind right now. I picked her up every weekend. They told me you can get her every weekend. I was there every Friday. I'd drop her off every Sunday. I'd spend my weekend with her, like my wife was out doing things, like my life should revolve around that, you know. And that was what my relationship with my child was like then.
You know, it's a difficult decision to make, to say like I want to be a parent. I'm going to do everything I can. And about two years ago, when my child, who then was eleven, twelve. She is twelve, she said, "Dad, I want to live with you. My mom abuses me. When we're at the beach, and she's mad at me, she kicks sand in my face. You know, I was doing something. My brother told a lie. She came, my mom, came and she slapped me in the head and took my cell phone and said, 'You're lucky it's not your face.'" I said, "Come on!" You know, "Come and live with me. It doesn't have to be like that, you know. You can live with me, I'm a parent. I want you to live with me." And she's lived with me for the last two years.
And I guess, I haven't explained it all. You know, I ended up being in another relationship, and so, I have another daughter who's six now. And, you know, like I look around and you guys have put me in a position to be responsible, to be able to maintain a home, to be able to be an employee. I have the same job for thirteen years, and those guys were like encouraging. You know. I don't know if I explained it right, but I dropped out of college at the first go. It wasn't really for me. And they wanted me to go back and get a college degree because I was doing something that smart people do. So, they said, "Well, do something, get the piece of paper that goes with what the smart people think so that you can say that you are a smart person and you got a piece of paper that says you're a smart person so we can, you know, pay you more money," that kind of thing. And they promised me more money and they said, "Riches and they're yours, work for us."
And when I was in the doorstep of getting a degree, they made up all these lies about me and said this other guy was doing my job and that I wasn't getting the job done. And I looked and said, "Well, the things that you tell me that you'd like me to do are really impossible. And the fact that this other guy is doing my job, that's ridiculous."
And I went to work one day and, well, anyway, I went to work one day and I tried to log in to my computer and I was locked out. Cowards. My first thought was - you know, first thought is wrong sometimes - was take the computer and take it home. And get all the data off the computer and then wipe it clean. Fuck them. I'll show them. And I said a prayer. And I just stayed there and waited for the call. They knew I was there. And I knew they were going to call me. Even when they called me, they didn't have the balls to tell me they were going to fire me. They said, "Come down to the Human Resources office." Why do you want me to come down to Human Resources?
And look, you know, I was telling you about, you know, being mature and adult and grownup in the face of something unfair. I cried about it a little at meetings because it changed things like, I decided to go back to school and in one big shot, finish that degree off. So, I got it, right? Yay, I got my college degree. Yeah, that was unfair.
But I still live in Easton. You know what, I moved down there to live in this area and do this thing with my life. And I haven't had the good, you know, direction, I say a prayer and ask God, what's your will for me in my life, and that kind of thing. And what about knowledge of your will for me and power to carry that out. Those are dirty words around here, knowledge and power, but it's really in the 11th step.
And so, I finished the degree and I hung around and took unemployment and all this kind of thing. And I went to a ton of meetings. Man, I went to, like, four or five meetings a week, which was a ton for me, two years, last year, two years ago. And it was freaking great. I parented my kids, and it was just kind of like a deep breather. And I got a job, like, so, I got a job this last November. I've been there for like nine months.
And, you know, living life is just amazing. I never thought some of the real simple stuff that I'm just doing, maintaining my recovery. My child this summer has announced that she wants to go live back at her mom's. She says I want to go live back at my mom's. And look, I mean, so, she's going to be fifteen in October. I already figured out this whole thing, like your kid turns into a teenager. The space aliens come and take her brain away. And they'll come back with the brain maybe when you're twenty-two, twenty-three, twenty-four. I don't know how it's going to work.
I'm open to whatever happens here. And I really would like my child to have a good relationship with her mom. And her mom's decided she's big enough that she can take her. I know. You know, to me, I hope my kid never listens to this. I know it's about the money, you know. Always about the money for some people.
You guys told me, Look, man, you probably need some money. You need some property. You need some prestige. But don't let it divert you from your primary purpose, you know. Don't get all hooked up on stuff so much that you miss the important things in your life. There's a lot of lessons in the traditions. You guys told me, Hey, if you have an opinion on outside issued your name is going to be brought into public controversy, you know. There's a lot of stuff in there for personal recovery up in the traditions, you know.
I've lived my recovery like being a part of NA unity. My recovery has been good when I did the things in front of me. You know, the question was raised. "Well, are you a part of?" And if you have to ask yourself the question, you think, well, maybe I'm not a part of. That's an important inventory tool. You know, you should try to be a part of Narcotics Anonymous, so you're not on the outside where it's tough, man. Look, the storms are much bigger on the outside, you know. You may not have the help that you need, Mike. And I'm talking to myself. On the outside, I may not have what I need to make it through clean.
So, you know, I got a home group. My home group is in Eastern Maryland, in the East of the Bay Area. Thursday Night Step Meeting, Clean and Serene Dreamers Group of NA; 7:45 to 9:00 o'clock. If you're ever in Easton stop out. We talk about Step One, Two or Three every week. You're welcome. And if you're ever going through there on a Thursday, maybe to Ocean City for the convention on Friday sometime. I don't know what you do. You're welcome. And it's an okay place to be, you know.
I think I figured out that I'm happy everywhere I go. That's something I decided that I wanted to do. And the only times I ever missed that meeting, usually, is like if I'm at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting somewhere if someone asked me to speak. If I can work it out, a home group member would say, Yes, Mike, it's okay, you can go. I come from the land where it's like, you know, the only time you should miss your home group is for a funeral, yours.
And so, when someone says you want to come and share my Thursday meeting, it's a contradicting thing for me to do that. But, you know, I think that the Free State Region meetings, it's the land of lot of speaker meetings up there. They all want recovery like TV, you know. Hand it to us, kind of a thing. I don't know if anybody else is here from the Free State Region. But I think there's a lot of meetings, speaker meetings. You got to hear a good speaker, you know.
And, you know... anyway, so ... Look, I'm a grateful member of Narcotics Anonymous. And I heard it said in a meeting at the end of the meeting in a circle one day, and it might have been a guy who was my sponsor. He likes to say that, I heard the speaker tape and he likes to say this, that he had a vision one day where he looked to his left and he looked to the right in the circle and he knew that if he just helped the guy on his left and the guy on his right stay clean tomorrow, that we would all stay clean forever. We'd never have to be caught in active addiction, hurting somewhere looking in the mirror, looking in the water, in your upside down reflection in a spoon or something crazy, you know, how to catch yourself. And I don't know how many times I caught my reflection in active addiction and said, "Why are you hurting me? What the fuck? Why are we here?"
We could all stay clean forever. And, you know, maybe that's the thought I want to leave you with, that we really can, you know, help each other. And you really can stay clean through this really hard time, work the program while life is easy and while you're on a flat plane, so that when times get tough, when the storm comes, that you can make it up in here and share about your stuff honestly.
You know, I was in a meeting one day and I was mad as hell because people were talking about me outside the meeting violating my anonymity. And that's the 10th and 11th tradition and the 12th tradition, and you can't do that, bitches, talk about me. You can't talk about me, what I'm doing. That's fucked up, man. You should talk about yourself, that's what this program is about.
And I shared this with my sponsor. And he said, You know what, Mike, if you go to the meeting and share honestly about what you're doing for real, nobody really cares about it. No one will be talking about you because it's out there, man. It's not anywhere near as interesting if you tell the truth about it. That takes away the gossipers power, man. That's just kryptonite when you're honest. Tell the truth, there's nothing left to say about your shit. You'd go, I don't care if they talk about me anyway. I told the truth. Make up stuff about me now, ha_ha, I don't care.
My sponsor told me what they say about you is none of your business. Don't worry about it. It's okay. Maybe they'll talk about the recovery that you got. Not. They probably won't, you know. I don't think people talk about me that much. I don't know. I don't care. You know what I mean? That's us, man. That's what we do, you know. I know why I talked about people because I didn't want to look at myself, you know. I've got painful shit to deal with and so I'll talk about somebody else. Did you see what they're doing? Oh, man, that's just not right.
Anyway, you know, Narcotics Anonymous really has unfolded a miracle in my life. And things have happened to me beyond my wildest dreams. And that's what Narcotics Anonymous has for you, you know, a life beyond your wildest dreams, especially if you're a newcomer and give yourself a break, you know. The disease is going to tell you, Well, man, there's plenty of time to use. I know I got another use in me, but I don't know if I had another recovery, you know.
I've seen people ... Look, I mean, I don't know how many times I've seen people that I really thought really could make it up in here, you know. And I already know I can't pick who's going to make it. I'd like to help everybody. I want to reach out to everybody, that's one of the things Frank taught me, the whole thing about reaching out to people, look like me. One of the things I realize is I just started to reach out to people that looked like they didn't feel like they belong like I felt like when I got it.
And that was magic. That was a gift, man. That made me into Narcotics Anonymous for that second when I was helping people, that really gave me that inner change, you know, and, you know, help people without looking for rewards. No, please don't pay me back, you know. Like I had this car - I probably got ten million stories and I don't know how I'm doing on time. You guys aren't squirming in your seats, five minutes to go, you aren't squirming too bad.
When I had two or three years clean, I got a different car. And the car had like a hundred thousand miles on it, I bought it for two grand. And I said, Well this is God's car, it's going to take me and a bunch of newcomers to meetings and conventions and stuff like that. We're going to have fun in this car. And I didn't realize it was going to get me closer to my dad, because I didn't really relate well with him, but he would be willing to help me work on my car. And so, like I'd be like glad something broke down on my car. I'd go over my dad's house and hang out with him and we, you know, we'd eat together, and work on the car and I'd changed the like the main seal on the engine on that car.
Anyway, I went to like umpteen, I don't know, two thousand meetings and like fifty conventions for nine years. Okay, two hundred and twenty thousand miles I took that car. So, I'm talking I parked it with three hundred and twenty thousand miles. Everything on the car was broken, but it was then __ That was God's car, you know. And I know, that's why I was never stranded on the side of the road, like it broke down a couple of times but it was never like at a critical time. You know what I mean? Like __ And so, I'd break down and the thing you guys taught me up in here, I'd say, thank you, God, that the car is broken down. You know what I mean?
Like it was pulled over, we're going to do something else, let's walk now. Do you know what I mean? Like that's the whole, like, surrendering and acceptance that I learned from working the first three Steps of my life, Step One, Two and Three. Well, we're over on the side of the road now and the car is not going to go. Look at the green liquid running out of the bottom. That means we don't want to start the engine again.
That's the way I learned to deal with problems up in Narcotics Anonymous, you know. Like I look at a problem in my life, I say, Well, I guess my plan is going to be different now. Now, we're going to go with God's plan for me, you know. That Third Step is a powerful tool, because instead of getting angry and getting out of the car and slamming this door and slamming the trunk and hurting my finger or whatever, you know what I mean? Like there's so many things, and then I get to be even madder at myself, I just got to be, All right. Now, we're on God's time, we're going to do it a different way than my plan.
That's something you guys gave me after working the steps and being a shining example of the program. What to do, what not to do, you know. You know, life is a lot different than the problems that I had when I first got clean. When I looked at my life and I looked at the situations and I looked at the choices, I put an X on all the ones that were wrong and that left one and that was the one I was going to do, you know.
And now, in my life today. Recently, I've been working for this company that makes gases, and I've worked with a negative lady, so she's always got a bad attitude. She's always angry about what's going on, she doesn't get paid enough money, she wants to talk about that, and all and how we're not going to get big enough raises and all this crap. It's just makes me tired. It just drags me down. And I try to say something positive to be happy. And she was looking at the job postings because the big company, ninety of a hundred and fifty locations worldwide, and she starts talking about these jobs that are like the same one as ours, but their salary grade is higher. So, there must be more money and all this kind of crap.
And I said, Read it out loud, you know. So, she told me it was in my old area where I used to live, making more money, doing the same thing that I do because the job sounds exactly like a combination of the last three jobs that I had making a whole lot of money.
A I said money, money, money, money, money, money. Well, anyway, I said, God, I don't know, is this Your will for me? I filled out an application and sent a resume off, now I'm waiting. But something is going to happen, something good is going to happen and I know it, you know. I know God's will for me. It's bigger and better than I ever thought of, you know, because that's the way it is. God hasn't brought me this far to drop me off, you know. So, like have a little faith, have a little trust. God is a sure thing, Narcotics Anonymous is a sure thing, you know.
So, I'm really happy to be right here in this place in my recovery. I'm in position for the good ship. You know what I'm saying? I hope I've inspired you to do something in your recovery or work the next step, you know. The only suggestions we ever have to pay for are the ones that we don't take. I love you. Thank you for letting me share.
Earliest mention of a 12 Step program for addicts: 1944.
Alcohol, Science and Society, Yale Summer School for Alcohol and Drugs,
William W. speaker
Alcohol, Science and Society, Yale Summer School for Alcohol and Drugs, William W. speaker
Danny Carlson, Houston Sewell, Charlie McGee and others started Narco meeting at Lexington, Kentucky in 1948.
Efforts to build NA on East Coast result in NA on West Coast in 1953.
Twenty known meetings in the world in 1970.
First World Convention in 1971.
Board of Trustees formed along with World Service Office in early 1970ís.
NA Tree Service Structure approved by the World Service Board of Trustees in 1975.
First attempted World Service Conference 1977 at San Francisco, California World Convention.
First World Convention outside California was held in Houston, Texas in September1978.
First World Service Conference Literature Committee meets at Wichita, Kansas September 1979
Second World Literature Conference at Lincoln, Nebraska September 1980
Third World Literature Conference at Memphis, Tennessee February 1981
Fourth World Literature Conference at Santa Monica, California May of 1981
Fifth World Literature Conference at Warren, Ohio August 1981 (?)
Sixth World Literature Conference at Miami, Florida Fall 1981
Seventh World Literature Conference at Bucks County, Pennsylvania February 1982
World Service Conference at Santa Monica, California May 1982 - Basic Text Approved
WSC 1985 - Friendly motion to clean up typos in Basic Text
1988 - Fourth Edition printed without Fellowship approval or viewing, Fifth Edition created without review and input.
1989 - Grateful Dave puts out Baby Blue to tease WSO into suing him in Federal Court
1990 - Judge Pollack presides over the WSO lawsuit against Grateful Dave
1991 - WSC suspended for eight years to do inventory
1997 - Superboard approved and WSC begins to meet
again without sub-committees for H&I, P.I., Literature, Policy
Board of Trustees disbanded, NAWS, Inc. created
(Someone please do research and help me
out here with dates and significant events
or changes that should be known by Fellowship.- Ed)
persons have visited this page since November 6, 2007
Reprinted from the
N.A. FELLOWSHIP USE ONLY
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.