The NA fellowship as it is known today was founded in Sun Valley in the Los Angeles area of California in July 1953. Its principles had been first applied to drug addiction at the US Public Health Service Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky in 1947. The following year, in 1948, meetings were organised in New York City by an ex-addict familiar with the Lexington programme but these groups did not last.
The present NA fellowship was formed by a group of addicts who had been attending regular AA meetings in Sun Valley. They had seen the benefits of the AA programme to recovering alcoholics and decided to set up a similar group for addicts. The first meetings were fairly sporadic and were mainly restricted to California. Over the next few years NA grew very slowly. In the 1980s there was an explosive growth in NA meetings world-wide. There are currently estimated to be 43,900 weekly meetings in over 127 countries worldwide.
NA in Ireland
Narcotics Anonymous in Ireland began in a very similar fashion to the world-wide fellowship. NA in Ireland can be traced back to 1978 when a group of addicts in Dublin who were attending AA decided to start their own meetings for people suffering from drug addiction.
These pioneers had no information about Narcotics Anonymous and so their first meeting, which was held in a treatment centre in Clondalkin, County Dublin, and went under the improvised title of Drugs Anonymous. The meeting wrote out a poster with a First Step that read “We admitted we were powerless over drugs, and that our lives had become unmanageable”. The group used AA literature and members substituted the words alcohol and drugs for one another. The secretary of this group was Tom C. Sometime in early 1979 some NA literature was received from the World Service Office, and the group changed its name to Narcotics Anonymous. It is not clear how long this group continued to meet. A separate group started later that year, using the same poster from the original meeting, and held a Narcotics Anonymous meeting at the same venue on October 7, 1979, with Mark F. as the secretary. There have been NA meetings held in Ireland continuously since that date.
Although the fellowship remained quite small for its first five years in existence, Dublin addicts were at last being given an opportunity of finding recovery and getting clean through the NA programme. Meetings also started in Drogheda and Limerick around this time.
By 1983 there were no more than six NA groups in the country, but then two events occurred that were to lead to the rapid growth of NA within Ireland. The first was the publication of the first edition of the NA Basic Text, which helped cause a worldwide surge in the number of NA meetings. The second was a visit by Irish members to a “learning weekend” in London. They returned to Ireland determined to create a local service structure, and this led to the creation of an Irish Area Service Committee (ASC), which was set up in a member’s flat in Rathmines, Dublin on May 14th 1983.
This also led to contact being made with NA members from Germany and the UK, which in turn led to the first ever European Service Conference of NA, held in Trinity College Dublin in 1983. This event went on to become the European Convention and Conference of NA, now a yearly celebration of recovery that rotates around various NA communities within Europe. The Irish NA fellowship has continued to thrive since that time.
This ASC was the forerunner of today’s Eastern Area Service Committee (EASC) but the Irish fellowship has spread its wings and now comprises of four area committees and a regional committee serving around 170 regular meetings as well as 40 meetings in various institutions (jails, hospitals, treatment centres etc.)
The Irish Regional Service Committee (IRSC) is responsible to the four areas, Eastern, Northern, Western and Southern who are in return responsible to the individual groups and its members.
How NA Operates
NA operates from the ground up. There are no leaders and every member, no matter how long they have being attending meetings, has an equal say in the fellowship. Each group is autonomous and decides for itself how it conducts meetings within the NA Traditions.
All groups must be self-supporting and a voluntary collection is held at the end of meetings to pay for rent, coffee, etc. Group decisions are made by holding a business meeting called a ‘group conscience’ on a regular basis.
Each member has a say at the conscience and can ask for a conscience to be held at any time but they are normally held once a month. Issues such as who sets up the meeting (secretary) and how the rent is paid are normally dealt with at these meetings.
If there are a large number of groups in an area a committee is often formed called an Area Service Committee. This committee is made up of representatives from each group and its main functions are to provide a service to groups and to find out how best to carry the NA message to addicts who still suffer.
The area is funded by groups who donate money from their collections to help pay for the maintaince of the phoneline and other duties carried out by the area. In turn Areas may form Regional committees but groups are not answerable to either committees as long as they operate within NA Traditions
NA has phonelines in operation in all areas.