The NA Society has existed since addicts first started to meet on a regular basis and live the 12 Steps within the spirit of the 12 Traditions of Narcotics Anonymous. Our members have always provided the personal services that characterize our Society. We find our ‘trusted servants’ from within this Society. Our trusted servants function in order to ensure that our needs as a Fellowship are met. While a primary precept of the NA Society is inclusion for all, individuals always retain the freedom to remove themselves. No one is forced to do anything. We carry the NA message of hope and recovery to all who seek it.
We have functioned in the service structure beginning in the 1950's, spreading in the early 1970's and exploding into large numbers in the 1980's. Some parts of the existing structure have worked well, while other areas have had major problems. No service structure can meet all of our needs. In the attempt to meet more of our needs we should understand and pass on that service is not only fulfilled in the formal sense, but in the informal sense as well. In addition, we do not have to agree on all issues in order to serve in our society.
As members of NA, we have the rights of membership. These rights include receiving accurate information from all members of our service structure and the right to question this information. We can attend all recovery meetings regardless of our personal beliefs, background, or how we choose to express our program. We can start a meeting. We have the right to carry the message of recovery according to our own conscience. These rights are taken lightly. They are somewhat exceptional as organizations go because we do no testing and issue no certificates of membership. Whether we are formally voted into service by a body of members or not, we can still be part of our service structure. Members who show up at fund-raisers are an example of this non-structural, informal support. Any activities that service committees undertake remain totally dependent on the support from the members of the Fellowship. As members of the NA Society we are involved in the voluntary service structure, never forgetting that we provide the energy and love that is needed to make this work. This is why we focus on serving the Fellowship, instead of members serving the service structure.
Since each of us contribute to, as well as draw from, our common resources, we each have a definite personal interest in the growth and continuation of NA. We create a collective and multifaceted approach to solutions that include structured and unstructured, formal and informal networks of members who seek, distribute and discuss information. Many times the informal and unstructured approaches can go far beyond what is possible within structured approaches. The results of these efforts often find a greater availability and increased usability of solutions within our Society. We work together to strengthen the ties that bind us.
This NA Society also provides us with non-structural and informal forums in which we can address ongoing interests, projects, and goals. We recognize that many of our members work programs that place great emphasis on personal service. Personal service is the time and attention we give one another on a daily basis as members of NA. Phone calls, rides to meetings, email, anything we do to help other members. This contact is the essential service of NA. We could not exist as a Fellowship without it. Caring and sharing is actually the essence of our program beyond total abstinence. Personal service has always been the first and last level of service that gives all other service its meaning. Many of our members have fulfilled their commitments and continue to support the service structure by their participation, study, and general discussions with others who love and have a commitment to NA. Obviously, this is the only place that we can find the ongoing accumulation of knowledge and experience. Many of our problems have come from reliance on members elected to positions of service who may or may not understand our Steps and Traditions well enough to serve effectively and lovingly. Like riding a motorcycle, many do well until they think they know what they are doing.
The force that gives The NA Society its validity is generated because we stay true to our spiritual integrity. We stay true to this integrity by following the letter and spirit of our Traditions. Violations of our integrity diminish this life-giving force. In fact, they are immoral. Morality allows us to take action and to be acted upon without a sense of violation of our personal spiritual directions. Morality and virtue simply mean living within spiritual principles so that the energy we develop will build our strength rather than steadily drain us.
It does not always appear, however, that all of us live within the spiritual principles of our Society. Fortunately, the natural tendency we have to involve ourselves in things that personally interest us creates a foundation of members increasingly experienced with the system needed to grow and flourish as a Fellowship. Information flows along unusual paths within and throughout the Fellowship. We addicts have discovered ingenious ways to find out what is happening and will always discover what we need to know when we need to know it. Those who attempt to operate in secret are only fooling themselves. Abe Lincoln said, "You can fool all the people some of the time, some of the people all the time but you cannot fool all the people all the time." Our road to self government has at times been rocky but ultimately, our members provide for their needs any way they can. When there are difficulties, we practice patience, humility and tolerance because right or wrong, we care for all our members. They have nowhere else to go. Time will always sort out the sincere from the insincere.
Generally, when a group is focused on helping others, a positive activity or a new service, they are happy, enthusiastic, and spirited. When they turn inward and look for differences, they can turn sour and become plagued by infighting. A good balance between enthusiastic newcomers and members who have been around a while seems to be the best mix. In a spiritual Fellowship, the few do the work for the many. That's just the way it is. One possible explanation for this is that it only takes a few to do it and we don't like stepping on each other. Other times, individuals may lack skills that cannot be covered in guidelines and if they fail to get the word out, no one shows up. It is important to realize that even though we are clean, we are still human. Our good people may outnumber our disruptive people, but they are not as loud.
Naturally, there will always be the detractors who will appear to score victories at the expense of the Fellowship. Detractors can be disruptive members trying to shove their beliefs down everyone else's throats, they can be trusted servants abusing their trust, or they can simply be us, being our own imperfect selves! The beauty is that NA is a self-correcting program. Many of our members have felt emotional pain over some of the ‘wrongs’ done in the name of service. These ‘wrongs’ can and do damage our faith in one of our most valuable resources: our loving and devoted ‘trusted servants.’ But one of our strengths is the ability to use the pain for gain. Pain forces us to reach deep inside and find the spiritual strength and guidance to continue, relying on the Will of a loving God for the benefit of all addicts. We find that when they keep coming back, disruptive members often become more aware of how their actions affect others and correct themselves. The pity is that if members don't have a rhinocerous hide yet, they may be crushed to find any imperfection in the service structure and take it to mean that NA has failed to live up to their expectations. Of course, this is a great opportunity for them to relapse. This is why we say NA is the spiritual moment when two addicts realize they don't have to use today. This is followed up with another saying, "All else is not NA."
The petty games, bureaucratic manipulations, and betrayal of trust by the disruptive ones are actions that will become apparent AND self-correcting over a period of time. The 'wrongs' are righted with the continual practice of gratitude, love, and dedication found in the spiritual integrity of our Society. As Recovering members of the NA Society:
1) We work the Steps and practice the Principles for our personal growth.
2) We practice the Traditions and rely on a Higher Power for our common welfare.
3) We support the fellowship through sharing, giving comfort and service.
This is what keeps our spiritual integrity intact so those who experience the pain of betrayal will continue working towards positive solutions.
At times, our patience and restraint may be mistaken as a lack of resolution and the energy needed to be effective. However, many of us have found that by patiently keeping the faith and coming back, we create the space for the miracles of tomorrow. If we concede that the troubles described above come from ignorance of spiritual principles, the remedy must come from those of us who have learned to apply spiritual principles. Creating the space for miracles and solutions is one of the main functions of our NA Society.
Periods of rapid growth create the need for us to find balance. Members of the NA Fellowship must counterbalance the overwhelmed service committees. Their policies and proclamations do not always reflect our Fellowship as a whole. We will most likely never find that perfect set of guidelines. When our service structure was formed, it was beneficial to model it after the existing Fellowship of AA. Our service structure was written and approved in the middle Seventies but it was based on a fellowship's guidelines that did not exactly fit us.
Nevertheless, we began the exciting and sometimes painful process of building our service structure in 1976. Today, we have the opportunity to look back and inventory what has worked and where we need improvement. It is the job of the Fellowship to envision and continually improve our service structure.
Studying how our Society actually functions will reveal some useful answers. We encourage each other to fully examine our Fellowship, our NA Society, and learn how it works, both within the structured and the non-structured service systems. This will increase our understanding and ability to serve others. Too often, the emphasis is placed on rigid formalities taking the focus away from the needs of the addict seeking recovery. Strict adherence to formal structured service not only ignores common sense, but also lends itself to the development of open conflicts about loyalty, viewpoints, and levels of understanding. Group conscience requires informing and polling the membership about matters that affect them directly or NA as a whole.
Helping others becomes an impossible task when we fight among ourselves. However, our unity within the NA Society with its principles of recovery holds us together when other bonds seem to have been broken. Strange conflicts always emerge when egos override ideals and personal power overrides principle. The ‘powerful’ may appear to be heavy handed and obtuse in their apparent ignorance of what is really going on in NA. The ‘surrendered’ seem to be ineffective, at times illogical, yet things work out for them. The assortment of members of the NA Society, includes volunteers, trusted servants, newcomers and old-timers alike. They are the driving force of NA spiritual principles, the members creating the space for the miracles of NA. They can be invisible to someone who has not yet learned how to practice our spiritual principles. Service, as an extension of our personal will portrays a different picture than does service as an extension of God's Will. God’s Will is often invisible, working quietly and patiently in the background. God works through us, ALL OF US. God is the guiding force of our NA Society.
"Over the years," an old-timer in our NA Society shared, "I've had to re-learn a very basic truth about service. Service is not something that only takes place in our various committee meetings or through our offices. ‘Service’ is not a business and doesn't only take place in our ‘business meetings.’ Service happens whenever the NA message of recovery is made available to the still-suffering addict. The most that our structure was intended to be was a tool that we as groups and individuals can use to better carry the message of recovery. We are not required nor do we have any obligation to use this tool. The service structure was never intended to be a ‘governing body’ of any type." While our Traditions make this clear, you will still find those who miss the point. A perceived position of power is a tempting thing for a lonely, frightened person. It may be that our service structure is designed in ways to help our members 'get over themselves' in ways that could exist in no other way.
Service is 12 Stepping an addict on the telephone, making coffee for a group meeting and talking to a newcomer. It is also serving on a committee and holding an elected position. The joy of giving, inherent in spiritual service, can not be overlooked. If the joy is not there, something is wrong. Many newcomers are bewildered as to what this 'service' thing is, especially in rural areas where there is not a lot of formal structure. After our prayers for a loving Ultimate Authority to take care of our lives, we can become channels of our Higher Power consciously. It is not something that can be put into words. It is not a service to get elected and feel better than your fellow members. If you come across something they should know, your service is incomplete until you find a way to pass it on to them. Holding on to information for personal power is an abuse of trust, not a service.
Although each of us strive for excellence in service, whether formal or informal, and may exceed our own expectations at times, at other times we may fall short. We choose to not brush these problems under the carpet because when it happens to you, you need to know certain things to survive. When we look at things this way, we understand that the entire 'serving our fellow addict' effort is dependent upon keeping faith and respecting people's feelings. This way, they will respect our feelings as well. This understanding places some rather clear guidelines on what should happen within our Fellowship in service or in recovery meetings. Our experience indicates that whenever we stray from our spiritual integrity, we all suffer. This requires us to become adept at keeping our egos in check and working with others, who sometimes have difficulty with ego, power and self-will. After all, creating the time and space for the NA miracle to happen is the whole point of the service structure.
We do not get sick overnight and it takes years to become the people we really want to be. It takes a lot of patience, tolerance and humility on the part of us all. This does not mean that we should accept unacceptable behavior, only that we must try to be understanding and not compromise our principles when confronting other's shortcomings. Sometimes our best efforts are misunderstood. Sometimes, we misunderstand the efforts of others. In any event, when people get out of hand in a recovery or service setting, we practice our spiritual principles by asking God to show us how to react in order to soften the harshness and disharmony.
It is our responsibility as individual members of this Society to discover and use our gifts for the betterment of the Fellowship. Each member has his or her own unique position in our NA Society. We individually have our own aptitudes, gifts, and ability to meet responsibilities that we use in order to contribute to our ‘primary purpose.’ All we need to do is to free ourselves and each other so that we can follow the will of our Higher Power and remain united in our efforts through the spiritual principals of the Traditions. We need to remember that while there are many things we cannot do individually, together we can do everything. We just need to do our part. Our leaders need to remember that everyone is important and we each have an indispensable role in recovery. No one is expendable. We have seen the worst of us grow into positive contributing members. We have also seen the best of us go asunder. There is no point where the rules no longer apply to any of us. Our society is made up of individuals in various stages of recovery. By pulling together, practicing the principles, and working our Steps, we get to see the miracles of recovery and life unfolding in our NA Society. Like the ocean, we may seem to come and go - but we are always there.