The Growth of Virtual H & I. Plus cartoons!

The last issue of NA Today had a special feature on our efforts to carry the message to jails and institutions. I reproduce an article here from our Outreach chair detailing our success in carrying the message to addicts in prison in a virtual format. 

 

The next issue of NA Today focuses on the growth of online recovery. If you feel you have something to contribute on this topic, send submissions to natoday@na.org.au  

 

(The cartoon is just a bonus! Enjoy!)

 

The Development of Virtual H&I Meetings.

Last year the Outreach sub-committee and the indigenous sub-committee travelled to Darwin to put on workshops around carrying the message with cultural sensitivity to indigenous Australians. A tough topic and beautiful learning for all involved. While up there we presented to numerous facilities letting them know what NA is and what we can offer these facilities. We had been toying with the idea of a virtual H&I for quite some time. We presented to a facility that had previously been closed to having NA attend there. Our message shared from the heart was heard by the heart, and we had a germ of an idea.

We started doing a Virtual H&I each week—video both ways. Was amazing to watch our message of hope touch the hearts of the clients at this facility.

We recently had some members from Kentucky (USA) contact to share what had worked and not worked for us regarding virtual meetings. With our support they have started one over there and I recently had the privilege of sharing at their H&I.

As a result of our virtual meetings, the facility we have been doing this at has recently started taking their clients to the local meetings in Darwin. We have had a small struggling meeting in Victoria start to join in to the Virtual H&I as part of their meeting format. We have had speakers from the U.S.A., India, New Zealand and Australia carrying our message of hope.

We can only grow from here. We can potentially service up to 20 facilities at a time and wholly invite PR chairs who have established relationships with addiction service providers to contact us. We would love to add as many facilities as we can.

Between this, the NA@Home meetings, and a recently made Radio CSA aimed at rural areas, we are now starting to see how we can reach out to places NA has not previously been able to reach. With the huge improvements to the website and our phone line service by the IT subcommittee ease of access to these resources at its strongest point in our region’s history. We have already seen the increase in face to face meetings from addicts hearing the message through these platforms.

The virtual H&I also provides opportunities to do this type of service for those who are isolated, or disabled, or single parents, etc, etc. It has been beautiful to see how an isolated addict not only gets this service opportunity but has the strongest message for another in isolation.

A lot of us involved are excited to see how technology and fellowship development is breaking down the geographical boundaries. No addict need die from the horrors of addiction without hearing our message.
As an addict that got clean through online meetings in a place that at the time was 4000km from the nearest face to face meeting, it is a privilege to be part of this service and seeing the ripple on into addict’s lives. It is how we thank you. “My gratitude speaks when I share and care the NA way”.
YILS, Brett (outreach chair)

P.S. If anyone is interested in being a speaker, or has a facility in mind that may be keen to be part of this, please contact outreach@na.org.au

Does it work if you work it? The Steps Working Guide (reprint from NA Today 2005).

Dear Subscribers and Readers,

 

I found this article thought provoking. It ends with an invitation to dialogue around this topic. If you have any thoughts you’d like to share, I’d love to hear them. I’m thinking about running another issue around this topic in the future. Send submission to natoday@na.org.au or just add a comment in the box below this blog

 

“I have an issue which I think is important to the future of NA and I would like people to discuss. I believe we may have made a mistake in some of our literature and it is causing a conceptual shift within the fellowship. I think this is being addressed informally or coped with at present but may grow and become detrimental in the future.

The problem arises from a contradiction in our literature leading to an inelegant theoretical base. For example, the basic text states that, “we know well the two things that make up our disease, obsession and compulsion to use drugs etc…” It goes on to say that “through abstinence, our disease can be arrested and recovery is then possible”.

In the new Steps Working Guide (SWG) however, it asks the question “how is your disease operating today?”, as well as numerous other examples that imply we are always acting in our disease somehow.

Has the disease been arrested or is it still operating?

I believe this is a clear and simple contradiction, not just in theory but mostly for the newcomers’ perception of what it means to have the disease and how to work the steps. I think it leads people to believe that all manner of normal human behaviour is now within the confines of the disease. Perhaps it doesn’t seem very important but I believe these different theoretical approaches lead the newcomer to different understandings of themselves within the program and very different focuses regarding self. The basic text states that “self-obsession is the core of the disease” and I was always told that the antidote to our self-obsession was that “we keep what we have by giving it away”. We pay it forward so to speak, that by helping others, by passing it on, we stay clean.

I think the SWG adds a couple of unnecessary burdens onto the newcomer which may not pay significant dividends. Firstly, the focus on self during the working of that guide becomes extraordinary. Subsequently, because there is a negative experience from doing this, a serious resistance to the process arises, which in turn has a shaming effect when “step work” is not done. How many times in the last few years have I heard newcomers severely admonishing themselves for not doing the steps, and saying they hate working them because they are so boring, when in my opinion they are working the steps by not using, being at a meeting, sharing with a sponsor and others, etc. Since the SWG has been published, my experience of working with sponsees has qualitatively changed, particularly the expectations they have of themselves and what it means to work the program. They can turn up with reams of paper filled with detailed analytical notes, chronicles of self. I know what my sponsor would have said: “What have you done for someone else lately?”

I think the assumptive base of the SWG has created a religious moral paradigm where all behaviour is subject to the label of disease rather than the original bio-medical assumption that the disease is made of physical compulsion and mental obsession to use drugs. The rest of our behaviour is then seen as an opportunity to live life on its own terms, defects and all. Are they defects of character or are they the disease operating?

It may well be that people are of the consensus that the disease does encompass our whole life and all our behaviours, that all distractions are distance from God, but if this is the case, then we should be explicit about it in our literature, and we should refrain from saying we are a spiritual not religious program, because I believe that is the very definition of religious in that sense.

On a practical level, I don’t think we should have contradictory approaches as part of the same theoretical base within our literature. It represents a fundamental flaw in our theoretical underpinnings making us seem inelegant and unprofessional. Also, I think it has created an old-school/new-school division which often leads to miscommunication. I do not know many old timers who like this book unless they are using it piece meal. Many of the people I have asked definitely think it is either not the most effective way of working the steps, or “not for everyone”, or just simply “a sponsor’s nightmare”. It encourages people into writing endless notes about themselves, expecting sponsors to sit there and listen to it. It is highly repetitive, making many steps into what seem like step 4s. I think newcomers should be told that working the steps is about making actual changes in their character, changing what we say and what we do, not just answering the questions in the green and gold book. “Formal” step work is a new conceptual phenomenon defined by sitting and writing.

I have had a few sponsees tell me I am doing it wrong, looking at me suspiciously when I say I haven’t worked through the whole guide myself from start to finish. “So what you’re telling me is that you haven’t worked the steps?” they say. Well if that were true, no one prior to 1998 ever worked the steps because that book didn’t exist. What were all those members for the last forty something years doing then?

I would like to undertake a qualitative research project investigating certain questions regarding people’s use of the SWG to find out whether people are expending effort to overcome it or using it as an effective tool. I think it is an important for the long-term future of NA.

Tim B.”