Editors choice stories from our NA Today Publication

The Australian Story of Recovery

The following is one of  my favourite readings from the Basic Text. There’s quite a few interesting things I like, such as the fact the author is Australian, has travelled the world in addiction, and also because he shares his personal spiritual journey.

Hope you enjoy it!

Up from Down Under

My name is Melvyn, and I am an addict. I believe that I was born an addict, and that whatever I did, it was not with the intention of becoming addicted to drugs. I was brought up in Cheshire, England, of working-class parents, and went to school like everyone else. But I wasn’t like everyone else, I felt different. It is a hard feeling to describe, but as far back as I can remember in my childhood, I always felt out of it. Somehow I didn’t belong. At school I soon realized that I was not going to be successful. So I stopped trying, set my expectations to zero, and was at the bottom of the class from when I started in grammar school to when I finished. But as long as I didn’t try, then in my mind I couldn’t fail. I spent my class time inside my head, living in a fantasy world of my own making. There I was always feeling good. Even on holidays I stayed in my world of fantasy, not getting up until lunch time each day. By the time I started to look for other kids they were already off somewhere, and I was left alone to make believe by myself.

I left school after failing all my examinations, not having a clue about what I should do with my life. At this time I tried two things that I thought might help me, I became a probationary local preacher with a Protestant church and I started drinking. I soon realized that preparing the Sunday sermon in the pub Saturday night was not really the right kind of action for a budding local preacher. So I gave away preaching and did more drinking. But life still wasn’t working out, so I joined the Royal Navy, starting a geographical that was to last for over ten years and cover forty different countries.

I joined the Royal Navy for nine years and I lasted three. The first drink had me beat. No matter what I resolved, after my tot of rum at lunch time, I was looking for more. I was always borrowing money and clothes so I could get ashore. I was always broke, and my uniform was always still dirty from the night before. When I went ashore, I never knew where I would end up, when I would get back to ship, or what I had done. Blackouts were with me from the start.

After I was kicked out of the Navy at the age of twenty, I wandered around Europe for many months, working where I could, sleeping out, begging, picking up cigarette butts, and still drinking whenever I could. I remember once getting drunk in Moscow, smashing a toilet bowl (it rocked when I sat on it), and getting lost on the underground. If there was a drug scene in Europe in those days of 1963, I didn’t come across it. In fact, I didn’t come across drugs until five years later in Singapore. I had spent the previous two years in Australia, travelling around, working in mining camps and city offices. My drinking had gotten me into such a state that I could no longer use public transportation to work, I had to travel by taxi. I was frightened of everyone. I sometimes trembled so much that I could not walk or hold things. I was in a mess. Whatever a man was supposed to be, and I wasn’t quite sure what a man was, I obviously wasn’t one. So in my sickness, I decided to prove that I was a man by going to Vietnam. I had already tried to get to Vietnam in 1966, by applying to join the Australian Army, but because of my record in the Navy, they rejected me.

In Singapore, I was introduced to marijuana, and I liked it. It distorted my perception of time, space and hearing, not aggressively like alcohol, but gently. When I got to Saigon, I managed to get a job with the British Medical team working at a children’s hospital in Cholon. There I continued drinking and smoking dope and eventually my sanity was somewhat affected. For kicks, I used to drive my ex-Army truck out into the countryside surrounding Saigon in the middle of the night. One night when I was stoned I took an English reporter with me and he was terrified the whole trip. I figured it was great fun and that nothing could hurt me. One night I drove past the presidential palace, didn’t stop when I was told to, and ended up with a barbed wire barricade wrapped around my back axle, leaving some ARVN soldiers some explaining to do. I lasted six months in Saigon. Then one night I drove my truck into a jeep, pushed it into the side of a house and squashed it. The side of the house collapsed and I didn’t stop. The following morning the British Embassy, the British Medical team, the owner of the house I’d smashed, the owner of the jeep I’d smashed and the American pilots who lived in the house, were all looking for me. As a result, I stopped drinking for life, which lasted five weeks, then one drink set me off again.

At the end of 1969, I was in England, broke as usual, no money and no job. I decided to try and get back to Australia, and got enough money together so that, if I slept out and didn’t spend any money on food or drugs, I might make it. My thinking was so off by this time that I decided to go via North Africa. So off I set, and made it to Spain all right, not spending any money but getting drunk a few times. Just south of Barcelona the compulsion to drink hit me, and I went off on a bender that lasted about a week, leaving me in a little room in Algeciras. There I dried out, or tried to, but was very lonely and miserable. For the first time in my life, by my standards, I had failed. I knew I wasn’t going to Australia. They wouldn’t even let me buy a ticket for the Tangier ferry, because I smelled so badly. At this period I went for a month without washing. When I was in Asia I always made sure that I was clean when getting tickets and visas, now I was unable even to do this. I managed to get off the booze, but then went on to the dope. I arranged with some guys to smuggle hashish from Morocco, but the dope was freaking me out so much I shot through. I’ll never forget that journey back through Europe, complete failure and depression, I couldn’t even be successful as a bum, and that really hurt.

I eventually managed to get to Australia, but I could never keep a job very long because of my drinking. There came the time when I literally couldn’t move because of all the unknown fears that I had. So I went to see a doctor and as a result I got on the alcohol and pills way of life, pills during the day at work, and rum at night at home. This was great for a while, but as usual, the good times didn’t last. I found that I still couldn’t keep a job and the fears started coming back as well. My mother had been saying for years, “Why don’t you get married and settle down?” So, in a last desperate measure to sort myself out, I decided to get married. I didn’t even have a girlfriend at the time, my drug use had always taken a priority over girls, and my sex life was a fantasy. So I got married, and my life immediately got worse. Ever since I had left home at seventeen, I had had only myself to think about. Now I had a wife, and it was a responsibility that I could not handle. My lies and cheating got worse, and it was all reflected back at me by my wife. When I got married I thought my sex problems would be resolved. They weren’t, they got worse. I still preferred using drugs to going to bed with my wife. I thought that perhaps I was homosexual. So I decided to seduce a friend that I knew was a homosexual. I did and discovered that I wasn’t homosexual. So in the end, I couldn’t make it with women, and I certainly couldn’t make it with men. I was more screwed up than ever before.

It was now 1974 and I had a good job as a computer programmer/analyst. I had a house and a car. In spite of all this, I was mentally, emotionally and spiritually finished. I could go down no further. I hit my rock bottom one afternoon in November 1974, in a forest near my home. During a quiet afternoon’s drinking I had gone berserk and I tried to run off the edge of the world. I had had enough. I wanted to get off. Eventually I collapsed and passed out. When I came to, I knew that I had to stop drinking and using drugs. Since Vietnam, I sometimes drove on the right-hand side of the road. That night I drove on the right again and had cars going everywhere, I tried to run over a policewoman twice, and ended the night in a cell.

There was no Narcotics Anonymous in Melbourne at that time, but I got myself to another Twelve Step Program that dealt with alcohol. To me alcohol was just another drug, so I didn’t have any problem identifying with that program. I was told that if I put my recovery before everything else, then I could stay clean for the rest of my life. That was what I wanted. In my withdrawal I was violent and my wife left me. All this did was clear the way for me to go to as many meetings as possible and to concentrate on my recovery without being concerned about her.

I did not pick up the first drug and I listened to the people who had recovered. I did not associate with people who had come into the program at the same time or later than me, they could not help me. I only talked to those who had been in the program for years and had something that I wanted. I learned to listen and be guided by others, something I had never done before. I remember being told there was no value in a sick mind consulting a sick mind about a sick mind. During my first weeks in the program I was told to stay away from the first drink or drug, to stay away from the old environment, to contact other members daily, and be constantly aware that I was an addict. I used to walk around, from getting up to going to bed, with the words “I am an addict” circulating in my head.

I learned that when the compulsion to use something hit me, I should take steps in the opposite direction, that I shouldn’t dwell on the compulsion, but that if I did something positive, its hold on me would be lessened. I think someone once said that “you can’t stop a bird from crapping on your head, but you can stop it from building a nest there!” In the same way, I can’t stop the thought of using from coming into my mind, but I can stop it from dwelling there and taking charge of me.

My wife came back to me after a few months, but it still didn’t work out. I was very sick, not only from my addiction, but I also had tuberculosis that the doctors didn’t diagnose until I had been coughing up blood for six months. When I went into the hospital, my wife left me for good. Since I came out of the hospital in 1976 I have continued to concentrate on my recovery. I was involved in starting N.A. in Melbourne and as a result I have been able to relate to addicts, and not just alcoholics.

For two years, I didn’t go out with a girl. I just worked the steps and did what I could about my defects of character. I found that I had problems of sexual fantasy, impotence, compulsive eating, and television watching to get over. I learned to talk to girls and not be frightened by them. I learned to handle rejection, knowing that it is okay to be rejected. I found that I could accept myself, defects and all, and that is a wonderful thing.

After a couple of years in the program, I started to cry spontaneously. All of a sudden, tears would come streaming down my face and I would start sobbing. I discovered that the emotional barriers that I had built over the years to protect myself were coming down, simply by me working the program. I was learning to really feel, and I found that I could handle my feelings.

My spiritual progress has been somewhat different from what I expected. As I have matured in the program and learned to think for myself, I have examined the principles upon which I base my life. By doing this, I found out that I do not believe in any kind of God, and that my Higher Power is the power of the program. Today I am an atheist. I still concentrate on my own recovery because if I am well, then I can be of value to others, but if I am sick, then I am of no use to anyone, not even myself.

Being an atheist does not stop me from working the program. The only thing I do not do, of course, is pray. The main thing is that I do what is possible with what I have got. No one can do more. The advice that I was given at my first meeting still holds good today, “Don’t pick up the first drink or drug, go to meetings and work the steps.”



We can help

Community Service Announcements

The Regional Public Relations subcommittee of Narcotics Anonymous has been working hard. We now have NA approved Community Service Announcements playing on a number of television networks around the country. Here’s one of the examples.


What is IT doing to carry the message? Interview with IT.

I caught up with our IT chair, Bruce G, at the last ARSC to talk about some of the things that are going on in his subcommittee.

So, Bruce, what are some of the most exciting things happening in the IT Subcommittee?

“We have a proposal on the floor of the region now to introduce a new plug-in for our internet site that we hope will improve our SEO [search engine optimisation] ratings. One of the things that we found is that doing searches for ‘drug addiction-help’, and various things like that, or ‘stop using drugs’, we end up around about on the 10th page of the Google search. So, this plug-in will help us improve our content keywords as we can program up to 10 additional search keywords on a page.”

So, this is kind of like making the fellowship us more accessible?

“Yeah making it more visible. We’ve got a good website functioning well, it’s easy to navigate, it’s had a lot of good feedback, however finding it is the next thing we need to work on.”

So, tell me a bit more about what the website was like when you took over you been chair for two years right?

“Yes, two years. So, when was elected, the website had a lot of problems displaying on mobile devices. It wasn’t a mobile friendly, and our stats show us that about 76% of people access our website on a mobile device. So, clearly, we needed to be mobile optimised, which we have. There were also a lot of reliability problems, which have now been completely eradicated.

We’ve also done a lot of work on meeting search capability and usability for the webpage.

So, besides for the webpage, you can search meetings by location online or by phone, is that right?

“Yep, so if you SMS your location to 0488 811 247 you get a text message back with the three closest meetings to your location. If you call the helpline you can search by voice and you get the option to search for meetings by city or suburb, state or territory, or you could send your postcode.

Also, there are a number of apps. We synchronise our meetings database with the NAWS [Narcotics Anonymous World Services] database and so the meetings and changes will be reflected on the NAWS meetings lists and approved apps. Our meetings page on the website has links to those apps. We are using a tool called the Basic Meetings List Toolbox (BMLT) developed by NA members over the last 15 years which helps provide the wide range of options for finding a meeting that we now have. Its used by over 80 different areas and regions around the world.

This also means we can direct agencies to print meetings list directly to provide to their clients and they will be up to date, as opposed to sending them meetings lists which gradually become out of date.

So, if I wanted to update my home group’s details what would I do?

You simply go to our website, click on the meetings button on the front page, and click on the “Meeting Update Form” button.  You just fill in the details and it will be updated within 24 to 48 hours.

I know you’ve been making an effort to integrate the different area of state phonelines with the regional phoneline, can you tell me about that?

We have now integrated all helpine services in Australia using an application that’s also been built and designed by NA members that draws directly from the live meetings list data and makes it searchable by voice or SMS. Or we can route to phoneline volunteers around Australia.

So, by calling the national number you can ask for someone to talk to and you’ll be routed to a volunteer in your local area. Initially we were just routing to the different area numbers and networks but what we can do now with the system is route directly to volunteers who are scheduled. We can also send the volunteers an SMS with the number.

So, far we have migrated ten of the various different area helplines. It costs a lot less to hold those lines on the new service.  It’s only about six dollars per month to maintain the old helpline numbers. Most important, we now have a single national helpline number to call to find someone to talk to or search for meetings.  The old 1300 system simply provided a recorded list when was done quarterly and you had to key through to your state and listen to the whole list which was really not very user friendly

Along with this we really making an effort to ramp up phoneline services in the areas and get people organised with a schedule of volunteers. It’s been a challenging exercise as everything is in NA, but we are getting traction, and everything is slowly happening.”


Comics and poetry.

The following are reprints from the July edition of NA Today. Make sure to subscribe or download the magazine so you don’t miss out on any of our awesome content.  Enjoy! 


If you find yourself stuck in traffic, don’t despair. There are people in this world for whom driving is an unheard of privilege.

Should you have had a bad day at work, think of the person who has been out of work for years.

Should you despair over a relationship gone bad, think of the person who has never known what it is like to love and be loved in return.

Should you grieve the passing of another weekend, think of the woman in dire straits who is working 12 hours a day, 7 days a week to feed her children.

Should your car break down leaving you miles from assistance, think of the paraplegic who would love the opportunity to take that walk.

Should you notice a new grey hair in the mirror think of the cancer patient on chemotherapy who wishes she had hair to examine.

Should you find yourself at a loss and pondering what life is all about, asking what is my purpose? Be thankful. There are those who did not live long enough to get that opportunity.

Should you find yourself the victim of other people’s bitterness, ignorance smallness or insecurities remember – things could be worse. You could be them


On the No 12 tram to St Kilda.

I used to catch this to come here to score.

Straight into the lions den.

No fear.

HP and gratitude with me all the way.

Plus the poor buggers still in active addiction on the tram do not make using even slightly appealing.


Despite myself, I took a chance to dance with the “dice”

I picked up for pain and paid the price

always in debt with life and death

despite the cost in not dead yet

despite myself, I look ahead

more is the love

less is the dread.



I got this pain that is killing me inside

And to push it all away

I end up always getting fried

Started telling myself that I’m tired of this life,

Tired of the bullshit

Tired of being high

Thought that I could do it on my own

But I couldn’t, don’t know why

I’d just lock myself away

And be sucking on my pipe.

Started losing all my morals,

Started losing all my pride

Then they took my son away

Gave my heart the biggest fright.

So I put myself in rehab

In the first on that I could find.

Now it’s time to turn it around,

And it’s time to change my life.

Now I’m here for the long run,

What a bumpy ride!

Now I’m starting to get better.

Thought I was going to lose my mind.

In here everybody is sober

And everybody is kind.

Nearly thought my life was over,

How could I have been so blind?

Now I’m in a different place,

Starting to open up my eyes,

And I’m changing all my ways

So my son can see me rise.

I just take it day by day.

No more telling myself lies.

And the look on my mum’s face

Now I’m handing my fate over

To that man up in the sky.

By Laura, Townsville