Narcotics Anonymous can be a worldwide support program from individuals who struggle with alcohol and drug addiction. It turned out founded in 1953 and employs a Twelve Stop Model much like its sister program, Alcoholics Anonymous. They have over 61,000 meetings in 129 countries throughout the world. It has helped hundreds and hundreds of people get and turn into clean. In other words, they're not a passing fad.
Why then exist so many misconceptions about this?
The media plays no small role in perpetuating myths about Narcotics Anonymous. I had been a member for many years. I worked all twelve steps, stood a sponsor, and sponsored others. I've attended over 2,500 meetings in five cities across two different states. Hollywood is much more than welcome to get in touch if they ever need pointers.
While I am sure that meetings consist of town to town and from state to state, the program follows a code of conduct. In addition to the Twelve Steps, additionally, there are Twelve Principles, Twelve Concepts, and Twelve Traditions. Think by-laws, and you're in the right zipcode.
TV and movie depictions of meetings completely ignore these rules, specially the Twelve Traditions. The Traditions essentially govern the way the entire organization operates - by extension their meetings. Members consider them sacred. So whether the meeting is in Spokane, Washington or Helsiki, Finland, meetings are all run in the same basic way. This is how I can state with full confidence that movies and television almost always get it wrong. Allow me to share 6 myths they portray as fact using ridiculous and perhaps even dangerous depictions:
1. Narcotics Anonymous is just for junkies and crackheads.
Inside the 1998 movie Half Baked, Dave Chapelle's character attends a gathering where he is booed off the stage because his drug of is marijuana. Recently, AMC's Breaking Bad depicts Jesse attending a similar meeting that is clearly populated with junkies and crackheads. There are similar scenes by 50 % different Showtime series, Nurse Jackie and Dexter. There are several other examples. The implication the following is that Narcotics Anonymous is merely for heavy drug abusers, and the insinuation is that more mainstream substances like marijuana are somehow not addictive. Even though the severity of addiction can vary from drug to drug and from user to user, the truth is people from all creeds and hues abuse all sorts of different drugs.
In a membership study conducted by in 2013, participants were asked which drugs that they used on a regular basis. 59% said Crack; 35% said Opiates, which include heroin. Alcohol (90%) and Cannabis (68%) were the superior two most commonly used drugs. Booze and weed, this indicates, is what brings many people to their meetings.
These numbers directly contradict the messages we get from the media. While I get that Half Baked is a comedy, the reaction he gets from the other addicts within the room is the most unbelievable aspect of that entire movie. That is saying something.
In addition to being for Mr. Chapelle's treatment...
2. It's not necessary to give a speech at the first meeting (or ever)
Newcomers - those who find themselves attending their first meeting - are considered to be the most important person in the room. It says so from the Literature. So when Mr. Chapelle is booed off the stage for "only" being addicted to marijuana, or when Dexter needs to tell his story, what you really are seeing just simply doesn't occur. The last thing these meetings might like to do is scare off sign ups, and making someone offer a speech at their first meeting is a great way to do just that.
Some meetings will have speakers, but this is known as a voluntary honor, which is usually reserved for members which has a significant amount of clean time. But even when that weren't true, the Twelve Traditions are very clear about who can attend meetings. Tradition 3 states: "The only requirement for membership is a wish to stop using."
In the event you re-read that sentence, you might notice two things. First, this doesn't mention drugs. Second, it says the only requirement is a "desire" to halt using. There is nothing within the Traditions about the need to speak from a podium, nor does some of the literature suggest that there is certainly some sort of drug hierarchy.
And these are drugs...
3. It really has very little to do with drugs.
Any number of movies and TV shows depict Narcotics Anonymous meetings as places where drug addicts gather to speak about drug use. I can understand why people would think this - drug abuse, after all, is the common denominator. However when you start attending meetings, you learn very quickly that drugs are is a taboo subject.
This is not to convey that drug use won't come up. It absolutely does. Generally speaking, the newer members are the ones talking about drugs. After meetings, their sponsor, or someone after some more experience, may come to them in private to permit them know that meetings are actually not a good place to speak about meth, crack, and heroin.
If you are trying to break a drug addiction to any drug, you figure out how to avoid triggers. Triggers could be anything, depending on the person. Obvious examples include the drugs themselves, the seller who sold the actual drugs, and the places you employed to use them. Often times, though, even referring to using drugs can be a trigger. It is because of this that drugs are not discussed nearly as much as you might think.
When any movie or Tv series depicts a character speaking openly about drugs inside a meeting, I cringe. I'm certain the writer has never been anywhere near a real meeting. It would be being a group of combat veterans being placed in a room explaining to one other what it's like to be in combat. There's no point. Every person inside the room already knows what you are going to say. You could have one or two blowhards who love to tell war stories, however they are the exception, not the rule.
The truth is, Narcotics Anonymous meetings have to do with living in a world in which you do not have drugs as a coping mechanism. People do discuss their struggles to be clean, but so much of it has to do with the realities of life we all face - job searching, problems with their children, a friend that's sick or dying. These kind of life events are much harder for a recovering addict because some of them have no idea how to deal with problems without using drugs. Meetings are more about the solution much less about past. And those members with clean time share their "experience, strength and hope" for the younger members, and so they talk about how they turned their life to a Higher Power.
Which leads us to the next myth.
4. Narcotics Anonymous is not an religious organization
When I first started going to meetings, I'll admit that one had me confused. How do they talk about God along with a higher Power instead of be religious? It took me several months to figure against each other.
Christians, Jews, Muslims, Atheists - you'll find them all at these meetings. What you should not find is definitely an actual Narcotics Anonymous meeting using religious texts at all. Some Churches really have support groups based on the Twelve Step model, these are not official meetings, by itself. You will not hear the Lord's Prayer with a meeting. You will not listen to readings from the Bible, or the Torah, or the Koran. Individual members may talk about their religious faith, however the organization is very clear about it in their literature. Their Tenth Tradition even claims that Narcotics Anonymous "has no opinion on outside issues" and religion is surely an outside issue.
Alccoholics Anonymous has its Big Book. Narcotics Anonymous gets the Basic Text. If something, those two books would be the Bibles of those respective organizations. So that as far as God goes, He's mentioned throughout the literature, but God - or perhaps a Higher Power - is not clearly defined the actual way it is organized religions. Instead, members can essentially select what or who they'll choose to call their "Higher Power." For many, God may literally be the God of the Bible; for other people, God is an acronym that represents Good Orderly Direction.
You could be wondering why they can talks about a higher Power to start with. There is a good reason. The idea is that addiction, being a force, is something that people cannot confront by ourselves. In order to fight our addiction, we have to enlist the help of a Higher Power, as we can't do it alone. The larger Power, then, is whatever helps the addict get and turn into clean.
In the end, it's just one addict helping another which makes the program work. Leading us to...
5. Professionals tend not to lead these meetings
Several TV shows, including Nurse Jackie and Breaking Bad, depict Twelve Step meetings as being run by mental health clinicians - experts in neuro-scientific addiction. While it is true that hospitals and agencies have organizations that model themselves Twelve Step programs, actual meetings DO NOT have professionals running them. Yet again, their Literature is quite clear about this issue. The Tenth Tradition says they "should forever remain nonprofessional." To put it differently, nobody is in charge. Meetings have a chairperson, on the other hand job is to call on people who want to share, welcome newcomers, and make coffee. Anything more than that's really pushing it.
You'll find nothing wrong with attending as group session run by a psychologist or counselor. It's just not an Narcotics Anonymous meeting. And once again, there is a reason behind this. In the Basic Text, it mentions that lots of the members had tried religion, psychiatry, medicine, routinely without success. It does not want to associate itself with any type of professional organization, as a result of stigmas they sometimes carry. It is just a support group, plain and simple. The only professionals in the room are addicts themselves, there for the similar reason as any other.
The nearest thing Narcotics Anonymous must a counselor-client type relationship could be the one a member has using sponsor. A sponsor is somebody who has been around the program beyond you, preferably worked any most of the steps, and it has something that you want - namely, their "brand" of recovery. We all have different styles, and recovery isn't any different. Addicts pick sponsors to help them through the Steps and be their role model as they go through the process of healing. Which leads us to final myth:
6. You do not End Up Sleeping Along with your Sponsor
Showtime's Dexter was an engrossing and well crafted TV show with a curious twist. Dexter, the titular main character, is really a forensics expert to the Miami Police Department and moonlights as being a serial killer who hunts other serial killers. Being a fan of the show, I possibly could accept that premise, as far fetched as it was. But of all of the bizarre things that take place in the 8 year run of Dexter, none are as stupid because show's depiction of sponsorship in Narcotics Anonymous.
To make a long story short, Dexter starts attending meetings for his obsession with heroin, at the behest of his fiance Rita. In reality, Dexter is not addicted to heroin but to serial killing, but also for some reason Dexter cops to presenting heroin, so he leads to Narcotics Anonymous. Shortly thereafter, he meets up with a brunette bombshell named Lila who promptly becomes his sponsor. Rita is not wild about this pairing, and even for good reason. They have one fight, and Dexter heads up to Lila's house, and they result in bed.
Rita has valid reason to be upset. First, Lila is a gorgeous predator who is clearly fascinated by Dexter. And second, the sponsorship relationship has rules. Opposite gender pairings, while not forbidden, are actively discouraged, for exactly this reason.
It's not like it never happens. I know it does. But Dexter portrays it as being the norm, which is as dumb as it is insulting to all individuals struggling to get clean. Narcotics Anonymous offers several recommendations to newcomers (like Dexter) Body of them is no relationships for the year. So right off the bat, Dexter's got a female sponsor, and he's sleeping with her. That's careless writing. The show doesn't even try and make it look like their relationship is even unusual. It's.
Unless you have been to a Narcotics Anonymous meeting, it is likely you have no idea what they are really like. For many, this is a non-issue. Or possibly it? To those people reading this, ask yourself this: have you any idea someone who is fighting a drug or dependency on alcohol? Are you? There's a fantastic chance that at least one person in your life features a problem with drugs, and what would you do if it person came to you and also asked for help? In the event the only information you've got is the garbage that media feeds you, you're not in a position to give useful advice. Addiction ruins lives, families, careers, and marriages. This means you will kill you dead. Myths do nothing but harm those who require help.