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[ Opinion ]

Why can’t we all just get along?

Alcoholics Anonymous was founded in 1935 and out of this first 12 Step program sprang over 140 self-help programs with the word Anonymous at the end of their name and/or utilizing the 12 Step Program. There are three main substance recovery fellowships: Alcoholics Anonymous; Narcotics Anonymous (founded 1953) and Cocaine Anonymous (founded 1985).

Although all three groups are spiritually based (they use the exact same 12 Steps with just one word changed) there is some unspiritual disparity that often occurs between each them. Some members of Alcoholics Anonymous put down the Narcotics Anonymous program as a watered down version of the Big Book. I admit I have been guilty of this criticism. It was based on my personal experience with the NA Fellowship in my home town. I since learned that the program is much stronger in other places. I have also met a few people, with great recovery, who got sober and continue to remain sober through NA. There are also members of the AA Fellowship who openly criticise the drug addict hiding behind the tradition of singleness of purpose in order to do so. As a recovered alcoholic/addict I can say the only difference between an alcoholic and an addict is that the alcoholic will steal your wallet while the addict will steal it but help you look for it. Addiction is not a drugging/drinking disease it is a thinking disease. Alcoholics and addicts alike cannot handle reality so seek escape through self-medication.

On the other side there are instances of people in NA putting down Alcoholics Anonymous. Some members, in fact, take pride in this behaviour. I even had a debate once with an NA member who thought that NA was the first 12 Step program. I’ve since realized that person was still spiritually ill not being able to differentiate the truth from the false. Some NA members also cut up AA for its singleness of purpose crying foul for not being allowed to identify as an addict at meetings. For me I respect Fellowships and their unofficial traditions so when I’m in AA I say I’m an alcoholic, in NA I identify as an addict and when attending CA I state that I’m a recovered alcoholic/addict. In the end it’s more important for the newcomer to know they are in the correct fellowship than for me to get a resentment about how I can identify myself.

Then we come to Cocaine Anonymous. I often hear members of this Fellowship putting down Alcoholics Anonymous as they “muck” up the basic text of Alcoholics Anonymous. Spewing statements like, “AA members have watered down the program”, “AA is killing the newcomer”. What I often see is many like-minded individuals gathering together and congratulating each other on what a great program they have. Perhaps instead of accusing people of killing the newcomer these people should go to the meetings in question and greet the newcomer offering them the solution.

The bottom line is that whatever fellowship we choose to attend we are all trying to recover from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body. Negativity towards our brother and sister fellowships will not forward that cause but could be a detriment.