I am John, I am an addict. I started out small, not using much or doing it every day. My addiction progressed over about a three year period. I got to the point where I could not stop using on my own. It took more and more drugs to make me high. On Jan. 3 1973 I was about as broken as a person could get. I had been weakened physically and spiritually by years of active addiction. I was a physics major who played with electronics in the dorm. Fun was getting high. Using was fun for a while, and then it turned on me. If NA had been made available to me I would have gladly gone, because I was ready. I was willing to hear a message about addiction because that was all I could listen to. In 1972 my driving a car was becoming dangerous. I was never really certain of where I was. I was forced into a detox on Jan. 4 of 1973 and got clean. After the detox I resolved that if I ever got out of the hospital, I was never going to use again. I went home to live with my family.
The detox was rough and it scared me so badly that I stayed clean for a long time on the fear of going through it again. That kept me clean until I could find NA, which was in 1978. My first meeting was in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Before recovery I had been in denial about sniffing gasoline or taking sleeping pills while in high school. I was an addict then, but did not know it. In my recovery I knew that I could not take anything mood altering. I have to be careful if I see a doctor I don’t know.
In 1978 a social worker in Tennessee told me about NA. I went and checked out the meeting. There were only three of us there and we had a little white book . But they carried the message and I listened. I still remember what was shared in that meeting. The meeting was founded in 1975 in Chattanooga.
In 1983 I went to my first meeting in Atlanta after moving here. The meetings were large and there were people who had been working for years on the Basic Text and the World Service Conference. There was talk about the Grey Book, which was really the first NA book. 17 new IP’s came out. The man who did much to get that going is now my sponsor. The energy helped me take NA and recovery seriously enough to surrender. I developed the art of listening in meetings. When I shared, the whole room laughed, but they were just laughing with me.
I got involved in a group and was elected Treasurer. I branched out and started attending meetings outside of the Marietta Area. I drove into surrounding counties. I later became Area Secretary and later a Region Secretary for the Georgia Region. The Marietta Area supported groups up in Rome, Georgia when they were struggling. The more I got involved with NA, the more of NA that I wanted. I would sometimes lead discussion or chair a meeting. I also served in policy for the Marietta Area and the Georgia Region. The more I shared in meetings, the better at sharing I got. I never regretted putting many miles on my car for NA, going to meetings all around Atlanta or driving to a convention.
Doing service work and going to conventions gave me a full picture of the scope of the Greater NA. In 1983 I went to the Georgia Regional Convention in Atlanta, where I saw addicts from other Regions for the first time. In 1985 the Georgia convention was in Macon, the first time outside Atlanta. The conventions had marathon meeting 24 hours a day. Macon is in the Piedmont Area, which has grown into a large and dynamic area.
I have heard people say that they were hiding in service work. I see nothing wrong with doing that for a while, if it helps you grow.
In 1986 I went to a campout convention in West Virginia. There were addicts there from all around.
In 1987 I went to the East Coast convention up in Ohio. The atmosphere was electric. I brought back a T shirt which I still have. I also brought one back to give to my sponsor.
I have had the same sponsor since 1987. He has taught me to do service work and to remember that I am powerless over the disease. Today I have reason for real gratitude. I have received a lot of love and acceptance from the Fellowship. They used to call me “Silent John” but today I speak right up! Speaking at Area and Region meetings has given me better communicating skills. I met Greg P. through the service structure. He got clean in 1970. I also met Joseph P. from Memphis, who got clean in the 70’s. The first regular meeting of NA in Georgia was in Atlanta in 1974. That was also the year that my sponsor got clean. NA was founded in Chattanooga, TN in 1975.
A word of caution about doing helpline 12-step calls: don’t do it alone. You never know what situation you will run into. Protect yourself by taking another NA member when you go.
I work the Steps on a daily basis to the best of my ability. The First Step is the only one I had to work perfectly. I am powerless over the disease, not the substance. The Second Step is about defining a Higher Power. For me, it had to be loving and caring. I also found I could use the NA group for a Higher Power. My life began to center around NA and not the job or other things. I began to develop a healthy fear of using. As long as that fear is there I will not use.
The Third Step was about turning over things that were too big to handle. I found I had a problem handling a particular credit card. The Fourth Step was about finding out who I am and working on resentments. I cannot afford to hold on to resentments.
In 1984 I wrote my 4th Step. For my 5th Step I picked someone to share it with who I thought would understand. He had done the same things I had done. After I shared it we burned my 4th Step. That was a tradition we had been taught.
Steps 6 and 7 are about defects and shortcoming I have always had, but had no way to work on them. In Step 8 I listed all the people I have harmed, and included myself, because that is who I harmed the most. When I worked a 9th Step, I found that almost everyone was ready to accept my amends. There was one person who would not accept my amends, but the Program has enabled me to let that person go.
Step 10 is a step that I work daily. I monitor my thoughts and how I react to events. Step 11 is where I have a solid concept of a Power greater than myself. In Step 2 the NA meeting was that power, but now that power is someone I talk to about things that concern me. In Step 12 I did service work, and that helped me grow. It also gave me a chance to carry the message in a new way. All service work helps other addicts stay clean. In 1986 I helped with the Georgia convention as a registration chair.
I have seen controversies in NA, healthy ones. We used to have special meetings such as men’s meetings or pill meetings. They seemed to serve a purpose, but have all disappeared.
I have had to face the issue of taking medication in recovery. I was diagnosed with high blood pressure. I talked it over with a friend in the program, and he said, “It is better to use than to die.” I have also had to face surgery in recovery. I told the doctor that I was in recovery. I was given the minimum pain medication while in the hospital and did not take any drugs home with me.
Before I got clean I did not trust anyone. In my recovery trust has been an important part of the process. I trusted the doctors in the hospital where I was in detox. I trusted NA members at my first meeting. I have learned to live life on life’s terms. I can lean on the Fellowship and work the steps to get through something. My Higher Power never puts anything in my path that I cannot handle with the tools of the program.
One of the hardest things I did in my recovery was to try to hold down my first job. I finally won the confidence of my boss and co-workers. Working a personal program made this possible. I began this job in 1976 and was told about NA two years later. Working the steps of NA has made me worthy of the trust of others, and I have made many friends in the program.
It works if you work it.
Love and Hugs,