By: Lucy O
“NA, as such, ought never be organized, but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.”
One of the first things that comes to mind when thinking about Tradition Nine is the decades-long resentment over one sentence that was in the original Basic Text manuscript (approved in 1982) and in reference to our service boards and committees, but was removed before the 1st edition was printed: “They exist solely to serve the Fellowship, but they are not a part of Narcotics Anonymous.” The World Service Office Board of Directors and Trustees recognized that this portion of the 9th tradition meant that our service structure should not be considered a part of Narcotics Anonymous. If they are not a part of NA, does that mean the funds from our area activities and conventions are outside donations coming from an outside entity? The NA groups created these committees. How could our NA service boards and committees be responsible to those they serve if they aren’t a part of NA? The sentence that was removed was reinserted in the 2nd edition printing, though, after a decision was made at the 1983 World Service Conference. After the controversy continued, the next year the conference decided the fellowship should make the decision, and the groups were polled. The majority wanted that line removed, so that’s how we got the 3rd edition, released in 1984. You can read more about this 30+ year controversy by going to https://www.na.org/fipt and reading “A Brief History of the Basic Text” in the September 2014 Bulletin about NA Copyrights and Literature.
What are my thoughts on this? Being a person for whom service has been extremely important in my recovery, I believe the ASC (Area Service Committee) , H&I (Hospitals and Institutions), PR (Public Relations), activities, conventions, campouts and more are vital parts (some more vital than others!) of our service structure and they are a part NA. I do the service I do to give back to NA, the fellowship that saved my life and continues to save it on a daily basis. I do what I do because people were here for me when I got clean. Someone from the Public Information committee answered the helpline when I called; I answer the helpline. And actually, someone didn’t bring NA to the two treatment centers I was in and that gave me even more incentive to get involved with H&I. I still have the very first meeting schedule I received when I got clean in 1987 (and I’ve had a turn at maintaining the meeting schedule when I was ASC secretary). NA is a worldwide fellowship. It takes many addicts serving on many service boards and committees to ensure that our message is carried around the world and this frees the group to put as much focus as possible on carrying our life-saving message.
My understanding of the traditions has come slowly over time. And to help with my understanding, in addition to practical experience over the years, we have more literature on the traditions than ever before: the essays in the Basic Text, It Works How and Why, and our newest piece of literature, Guiding Principles, The Spirit of Our Traditions.