the ground, over and over again. The first attempts at NA in NYC at the end of 1949 beginning 1950 we riddled with what would later be called tradition violations. Of course, they were doing the very best the could with what they had and sorry to say in 1950, they didn’t have very much. The traditions weren’t even approved until 1955 but the principles that were violated didn’t need names and numbers. What is a tradition violation but the violation of an underlying principle?
Caring individuals like Father Dan Egan and Salvation Army Major General Dorothy Berry helped the fledgling group by creating a board of trustees for NA. Remarkably, they would not let any addicts serve on this board. The group extended itself to all manner of aid to it’s members: housing, food, job assistance. In it’s waning years, the leader, a woman named Ray Lopez, had gotten a job working for the Narcotics Division of the City of New York. Half her office was New York Narcotics, the other half was NA. You can just imagine the problems that ensued.
As will most early fellowships, the death of the stronger member oftentimes meant the death of the fellowship, as in direct contradiction of the 12 Traditions, one member and not the fellowship, was doing most of the work. They were not “we” fellowships, but ones with small power centers at the top. This is how NA in California failed in it’s first attempt. As most of us know, toward the beginning of the 1960’s, the last NA meeting in the world had died. It was quickly picked back up by founding members, including Jimmy K. He was always adamant that NA was a we fellowship and not an I fellowship. He always said, “There are no big shots in NA. One shot and we’re all shot.”
Jimmy K. was maybe the most visible casualty of the Traditions War. Unfortunately, his name is still used to day to justify ongoing hostility and resentments. You have to wonder what Jimmy would think about that. He was a loving man who had many people speaking in his ears toward the end of his life and the end of his career in service to the fellowship as business manager of WSO. Often times powerful men will be used by those around them to further their goals. The fellowship begged and pleaded with Jimmy to come to the World Service Conference to give a report, while others played on his feelings of betrayal and fostered their beliefs that the literature committee was out to get him. This was far from the truth. The leaders in the literature for the most part owed their lives to Jimmy, as he sponsored several of them. One member was his protégé and probably one of his best friends. Tragically, those in the circle around Jimmy painted pictures of betrayal about Greg Pierce that just were not true. Greg shared about the pain of going to his sponsors house and having the door slammed in his face. Why? Because he fought to get a book written by addicts, for addicts. So Greg Pierce was also kicked to the curb for standing up for NA and our need for a book on recovery. He was the man who wrote our 12 Traditions chapter in the Basic Text – the only NA member to author a chapter. He also wrote the NA Tree, our first service structure, the Triangle of Self Obsession, Living the Program, and An Approach to the 4th Step in Narcotics Anonymous. Because the literature committee favored anonymity, this was not generally known but we need to illustrate our points here.