Editors choice stories from our NA Today Publication

Basic Story

This story was submitted from a member in Australia for entry into the Basic Text. It was reprinted by NA Today in 2006.

My name is ?, and I am an addict. I am 39 years old and have been clean for 16 and a half years. I live in Australia and got clean when I was 22, so I have lived most of my adult life as an NA member. I have a diverse, full, rich life now, thanks to the program of Narcotics Anonymous.
As an adolescent, my behaviour was governed by my compulsion to take drugs and my life was characterized by trouble, violence, prison and poor health. My using was punctuated by counsellors, probation officers, psychologists etc, all of which I was forced to see by the law. Rarely could I hear what these people were saying or awaken my soul long enough to hear anything above the rumbling din of self and the desire for drugs. I was so focused on getting what I wanted, what I thought I needed, I ignored most of the moral boundaries that most people take for granted. I stole, lied, cheated, scammed, robbed and in the end was exactly what the basic text says “reduced to the animal level”. I hunted around the streets like a hungry wolf, looking for money and drugs. Underneath that cold exterior however, inside me, I had a conscience somewhere buried under a pile of life’s emotional rubble, but I couldn’t access it, I couldn’t afford to. The responsibility of living a normal life, cleaning up all that rubbish was too great. There were too many things to deal with and my life became a misery of unresolved responsibilities.
I believe every human’s real job is looking after themselves and I couldn’t seem to do that. Eating, sleeping, drinking water, exercising, staying warm or clean, seemed irrelevant and virtually impossible. The end result was a vicious cycle of hunger, poor hygiene and bad health. Deep underneath, between the layers of self, these inabilities hid a particular emotional pain that I carried. I couldn’t feel it or articulate it properly until I got clean. I don’t know whether I brought this pain from childhood or whether it came into the world with me, but I still carry it. This pain is not always present, but arises from time to time, as I move through these layers, when things seriously don’t go my way, or if relationships end. If I get rejected, left out, treated as second best or am not wanted in some way, the pain can become acute. I think perhaps I used to medicate this pain with drugs. They made me feel better – for a long time they worked well, but in the end the drugs became their own particular pain. They drove me to the edge of sanity and life and now I no longer see myself as having that option. Using drugs for me is suicide.
When I was 20 years old, I spent two years in Maximum security prison for burglary. In there I saw some of the most brutal human behaviours that I have ever witnessed. After two excruciating years, I was released, with an absolute commitment to stop using. I lasted for 1 hour, before I was stoned on about four different drugs. I awoke from a blackout the following day and my life spiralled out of control for the next few 6 months. The powerlessness of step one was evident, unmanageability undeniable. One night I woke up from a blackout, with blood on me, it wasn’t mine; I had a pocket full of money and no recollection. I was frightened about what I was becoming.
One night I was trying to sleep through withdrawals. I had taken some heavy tranquilizers but they hadn’t worked properly. I was in a stupor of frustration and futility. The pain of my whole wretched life was caving in on me. I worked myself into a weeping, cursing, violent rage, smashing the room, scratching and punching at my own face. My housemate was terrified and called my parole officer.
The following day, an intervention was done by my parole, counsellor and my Mother. They told me they were going to send me back to prison unless I went to NA and did 90 meeting in 90 days. I said I would do whatever they wanted. They told me that wasn’t good enough, that I had to make choices for myself, that recovery couldn’t occur until I really wanted to change. I was caught in a limbo of conflicting desires. Of course I wanted to change, but I couldn’t, I wanted to use but I couldn’t. I felt there was nothing left to do and decided that I would kill myself. I left the intervention that day filled with a sense of absolute doom and desolation. I did a robbery, bought as many drugs as I could afford and overdosed in the Woden Bus Interchange toilets, in Canberra. I wanted to die, but only because there didn’t seem to be an alternative to the misery that my life had become.
I think that in the life of every addict there are multiple cross roads – times when we could have stopped and taken responsibility for our lives. I went through the crossroads that day in the interchange toilets and chose the wrong path – but by the grace of God, I was given another chance.
I woke up about a couple of hours later, crumpled on the floor of the toilet, completely defeated, my life a shambles. I walked, trudged, not knowing what to do or where to go. In that state of blind confusion and desperation, the winds of chance blew me like a leaf into a detox centre across the highway, where they took pity on me and admitted me even though I wasn’t the required 48 hours clean. I lay naked, curled up on the bed sobbing that night feeling a particular sense of freedom, because deep inside I think I knew it was over, I had surrendered, I just didn’t really know what that meant yet.
At that detox they took people to meetings daily. I struggled through those painful first few days and in a meeting on a Wednesday night in a homeless centre called Ainslie Village I heard and felt the NA message for the first time. “I didn’t have to use drugs anymore, there was a way out”. I was inspired by the other people who were clearly junkies but didn’t seem to be using. They made me believe that maybe there was a chance for me to really stop and have a go at life. I feel sad now writing this; I am much more emotionally in touch with my old mad life now than I ever was back then.
I couldn’t imagine how life would play out. I just saw a black hole of the unknown, but I had decided, even if it was just a novelty to give it a go for a couple of days and see how long I. I lasted 49 days. Then I relapsed and the compulsion to take drugs was back upon me with a ferocity that was undeniable. My life spiralled immediately out of control again and I realized that the previous 49 days had been the most trouble free in the last ten years. The relapse lasted for about 2 months, before another detox and the death of another friend through overdose. I have been clean now since the 25th of January 1989 and my clean time is my treasure. I protect it with my life, because it is my life.
I have gone on to do many of the things that should be done in a life. I own a house and a business. I went to school and got an education. All the normal social assets have returned. But more than any of that, I have loved – at times deeply. I FEEL things, I FEEL everything which I had always been scared of – but it is amazing to FEEL, brilliant and frightening, sad and awesome all at the same time. I am excited to be alive. I am excited about what is to come. I still suffer with existential angst from time to time, and wonder what we are doing here on this planet, but I have decided on a purpose which makes it easier for me with those issues – I care about people getting clean. I have dedicated myself to the path of NA and serving others. I attend meetings regularly which I have for the whole time. I am a member of the local area and the region. I sponsor people and I have an NA sponsor. I work the steps to the best of my ability and I am trying to become the best person I can be. NA truly gave me the key to another life, we keep what we have by giving it away. Thank you. We Do Recover.

2018 Membership Survey – NA World Services

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Etiquette of the Old School – Republished from NA Today June 2010

I was sitting in my Home Group just before the meeting started the other night quietly observing the passing parade. I was reminiscing over what it was like when I first came to NA all those years ago. It was a big meeting this particular night with over eighty members in attendance.

Throughout the meeting there was amazing pearls of recovery wisdom shared, many a warm cascade of laughter – all of which was lightly spiced with plenty of distractions. Depending on where I‘m at, at the time, depends on how I react to these distractions or whether indeed I am the cause of them!

As I was pondering, the booming voice of my first sponsor burst into my conscience (as it often does!). You see he was probably the most profound teacher I’ve ever had the privilege of being taught by. I was as ready as the dying are to learn what I needed to stay clean and I believe that he did a splendid job! He was from the Old School and that‘s why I chose him. He was as steady as a rock and would often
share about the message handed down to him from his sponsor, who at the time was twenty years clean. They both in turn talked about my sponsor‘s sponsor with an almost reverent tone and regularly referred to the grandfather of all their sponsors who had departed many years ago – clean!

My memory was recalling his tales of meeting etiquette. These are things which I try my best to stick by today as did back then, although today I do it because I want to and know it works, in the beginning mainly because I was terrified of getting in trouble! The truth is that I would break at least one of them nearly every meeting – there is always something to work on in recovery!

  • Always with a focus on the newcomer, and in line with unity and respect for our common welfare,
    this is what they said:
  • Always be seated in the meeting with your coffee before the meeting starts
  • Don‘t leave the meeting until the end unless you really have too – and if you do, never get up while
    someone is sharing (especially a newcomer as they may personalise it!). Always wait until they have finished – nothing is that important!
  • When coming back into a meeting or if you arrive late (naughty!), always stand at the back until the speaker has finished and then take your seat
  • Always share if you get asked – even if you feel like you‘re gonna die and can only say a sentence – doing that gives others freaking out the courage to do it too! Imagine everyone said “No I‘ll just ID thanks”
  • If you really feel the need to talk to your neighbour during the meeting then whisper really quiet
    (remember how you felt when you were new and people were whispering? Did you ever think it was about you!?) They would say “Save it until the second half of the meeting!”
  • The newest one, texting and playing games on the mobile – not the most respectful thing to do while someone is sharing…

And then there was the old “If you’re in the Chair” spiel which went:

  • Always get a strong, positive speaker to open the sharing part of the meeting,
  • ask if there is anyone there for their first NA meeting and whether they‘d like to say their first name (most people at their first meeting don‘t know what it means to “ID”),
  • ask if there are any visitors from out of town and ask them to share during the course of the meeting – visitors generally have something new to offer an NA community and being away from home it helps them connect,
  • where possible always alternate between male and female,
  • always ask someone you don‘t know if they‘d like to share,
  • always ask the person you have the biggest resentment with to share – builds character!
  • Remember principals before personalities – don‘t ask only your friends to share,

and the big one –

  • always get the cleanest member in the room to close the meeting – this is how we keep them coming back!

Sounds pretty full on hey! This is their (and now my) experience with caring and sharing the NA way and it works. They were always clear that these are suggestions – take them or leave them. They would always remind me however that when jumping out of a plane, it is suggested that you pull the parachute chord – suggestions are usually on the money!

I now have sponsees that sponsor members who sponsor still others. We know it as the Sponsorship Chain and often refer to the members in that chain with family names such as ‘my grand-sponsor’ (my sponsors sponsor) or my ‘recovery brother’ meaning we both have the same sponsor and so on.

This is an incredible resource – nearly all recovery challenges have been met with this gang – there is nothing together that we can‘t get through clean. We are still passing on the suggestions that were given to us and just for today, we are staying clean and living productive lives within our fellowship and within our society. Awesome Stuff!!

Nathanael M – Gold Coast

A holiday state of mind… Republished from NA Today March 2013

By which I mean, a relaxed, positive state of mind. One I did not have when I went away on holiday recently. Instead what I had was grumpy, complaining, pain-in-the-ass state of mind. Not exactly a fabulous place to start. And I had my reasons. Mostly to do with stress and being a stress-head and being stressed out. And with the way my work’s been lately goddamn it – it’s valid enough! Sure, yes it was valid and real and all that shit but not where I wanted to be… although it took me a little while to figure that out.

My friend and I arrived at the hotel we were staying at, hot and tired and me with a splitting headache, and my first thought was that the photos on their website were quite creative/deceptive. Ten minutes after that I decided the travel agents had made a mistake. 5 minutes after that I was on the phone to the aforementioned travel agent. Not much longer after that I started to wonder if we were in some kind of old people’s home. The Pacific arm of the great exotic Marigold Hotel perhaps…

It wasn’t until I was floating in the wondrously tepid waters of the Pacific Ocean having taken something for my headache, sorted out the room and my friend said “isn’t this amazing?” that I started to realise that “yes it was amazing” and I was being EXTRAORDINARILY negative.

No one has ever accused me of being an optimist. Even though I am generally happy enough I still retain the last bits of what I like to think is pragmatism but possibly I am kidding myself. I have a tendency to negativity that I have to guard against. And mostly these days I manage to do that. But in my weakened state (stress overload) I hadn’t guarded against shit. Instead I was in full blown negativity lock-down. I had forgotten that ‘feelings aren’t facts’ and other assorted relevant clichés. Mainly the one about misery being optional…

Thank god I have done enough recovery that in that moment I realised I could wreck my own holiday if I didn’t snap out of it and adjust my head. And what’s amazing is that I can do that these days – because I have learned those skills in recovery. And so I decided to stop the pity party, get a grip and have a good time.

And I cannot tell you how hard it was to get on the plane home! Turns out I had a great time, totally relaxed, did lots of cool things, ate great food and had a blast. Me at the end of the week’s holiday thought that me at the beginning of the week was a complete lunatic but really I am just grateful that
recovery has shown me that I don’t have to sit in a crap state of mind.

Recovery has given me choices in so many areas of my life. I choose not to use on a daily basis and then I get to choose all other kinds of cool things in my life. It’s a trip.

Jenny, Canberra