NA (Narcotics Anonymous) was founded in Southern California and grew quickly, as the 1960s ended and those who experimented with recreational drug use had become addicted. Groups formed and grew and flourished as addictions became more easily recognized and supported by the legal system. Referrals to 12 step programs began sometime during the 1980s by court systems throughout the world.
What Meetings Are Like
NA meetings have various formats. Some will be an hour in length, possibly an hour and a half. Meetings in large cities are numerous, and rural areas have fewer. Directories of meetings are available online and in the meetings themselves. Each meeting and group decides the format for their meeting. These are usually indicated in the printed directories, using symbols. These are commonly P, for participation meeting (which is open sharing of any/all members); S, indicating a speaker meeting; T, for topic meeting; Q&A for a question and answer meeting; W means it is a women's meeting; and M is a men's only meeting. There are also Step Study meetings and Book Study meetings, where the group reads and discusses a step or a section of the book Narcotics Anonymous, otherwise referred to by members as the "Basic Text." Other symbols such as CL or O indicated a closed or open meeting. A closed meeting is for those who consider themselves Addicts, while open meetings can be attended by anyone. The open meeting format is best for those who are just visiting to see if a meeting is a good fit for them, or for those who are unsure as to whether or not they are truly an Addict.
Most meetings begin with readings from the Basic Text of Narcotics Anonymous. These usually include "Who is an Addict?" "What is the NA Program?" "Why Are We Here?" "How It Works", and "The 12 Traditions of NA." There may be a prayer at the beginning of the meeting, or a moment of silence. There is usually a prayer at the end of the meeting. NA, as most 12 step programs, is spiritual in structure. There is no religious affiliation in NA. This distinction may be hard for new members to comprehend, but it becomes clearer over time.
Sharing with the Group
After this portion of the meeting, the leader for that meeting may tell some of their recovery story. This is often a 10-15 minute period, after which the regular format for the meeting is begun. Depending on the format, the meeting may have a break for 10 minutes at about the mid-point of the meeting. Not all do. It is important to be courteous to other group members by coming to meetings on time, sitting in one's seat quietly during the meeting, and participating minimally unless asked to do so; at least until the new member is invited to share or has attended long enough to understand the rules of that particular group. Most members will welcome newcomers and invite them to attend again. Some will make an effort to befriend them and give phone numbers or suggestions for support of new recovery.
Find a local Narcotics Anonymous meeting today.
Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work, with a specialization in substance abuse treatment. Having worked in this field for over 20 years, she is currently working on her certification as an addictions' counselor.