What are your thoughts about addicts in AA instead of NA?

There is absolutely no reason why addicts shouldn’t attend AA meetings.  However, AA has traditions that are important to the fellowship and to many of the members.  One of those is that they generally confine their discussions to alcoholism and recovery from alcoholism.

Disregarding the fact that alcoholism is an addiction like any other, and disregarding the “a drug is a drug is a drug” of NA, keeping drugs out of the conversation is the custom at the majority of AA meetings.  Everyone attending — cross-addicted people like me, and people not addicted to alcohol at all — should follow that custom in most cases.  It’s simply good manners.

There are, however, situations where a person is in crisis, and simply needs a meeting of whatever kind.  In that case it is perfectly proper — hell, it’s a life-threatening emergency — to say whatever we need to say in order to get whatever kind of support we need.  What I would do in that situation is simple.  I’d raise my hand and say “I’m not an alcoholic, but I really, really need help because I’m about to use.  Will someone come outside and talk to me about it?”  I would probably be invited to stay and say what I need to say, and if not I’d have a horde of people headed for the door with me.

Really, the substance has nothing to do with it.  What matters are the emotions, the behaviors and the solutions.  Those are the same for all addictions, and anyone should be able to talk about them in any meeting without ever mentioning alcohol or any other drug.


  1. Anyone regardless of what is going on with them, is welocme. Yes, over the years, pople from sides have complained about people who have had other problems being in the rooms. Well my friends at AA used to let the people into our meetings from the group home. They came faithfully, and had some coffee and plenty of cigrettes. Sometimes it was draining to me. One Day I was in Akron Ohio visiting on Founders Days. A man was walking up the street….remember me, My name is Chailes. One can call me Charlie. These people got alot out of our meetings and so did I. I came in using both mixtures of Alochol and Drugs and was affected from living in a Alocholic home before I was eight years old. Quite frankly the guys at AA just did not know what to do with me. It took me asking 30 guys before a I got me a sponsor. It took years of meetings for me just to understand that I too am just another chronic drinker as well. I did not mix, the up the lingo, Program Talk, at all. I just discuss AA at AA. NA stuff at their meetings. And most of all my life was saved…and I owe it all to AA. Cannot be greatfull enough about this. Going on in June on the 4th, 1980 One Day at a time, comming up on my 33 rd year. In the Pa. meetings of AA around Pittsburg, Pa, they take whoever walks into the doors, it just doesn’t matter. We are to be helpfull. In my area in Ohio, we had had problems over the differences, and this led to us starting NA in Ohio way back in the 1980’s. People from AA often come to our meetings today also. The disease of addiction affects every area of our lives. Mentally, psysically and most of all spiritually. We can eat too much. Laugh to much. Have too much fun. Anything we do can be too much…shopping ect. I am thankfull for all the help that I did receive, regardless of where it came from. People were betting on me that I was not going to make it…glad that my higher power saw fit, otherwise… Paul

  2. Thanks for your thoughts, Paul. We pretty much agree, I think.


  3. AA is for “alcoholics“: Tradition “Three—Our membership ought to include all who suffer from alcoholism. Hence we may refuse none who wish to recover (from alcoholism) …”

    Drug use is an outside issue contemplated in the 10th Tradition: “Ten—No A.A. group or member should ever, in such a way as to implicate A.A., express any opinion on outside controversial issues—particularly those of politics, alcohol reform, or sectarian religion. The Alcoholics Anonymous groups oppose no one. Concerning such matters they can express no views whatever.”

    Bill W. wrote an article for the Grapevine supporting the proposition that persons who have substance abuse issues other than alcoholic cannot be members (or attend closed meetings). “Problems Other Than Alcohol: What Can Be Done About Them?” by Bill W. — A.A. Grapevine, February, 1958.

    NA teaches alcohol is a drug, but googling the definition of a drug finds that that is not universal. For example: “chemical substances prepared and sold as pharmaceutical items, either by prescription or over the counter.” The intent is to show that a drug addict is not sober if he/she uses alcohol. Likewise, AA doesn’t consider a member sober if he/she uses “mood altering substances” generally dugs.

    Let’s not overlook, as an extreme example, because an extreme example is the best illustraion, someone who is not dually addicted cannot identify with someone who shares their story at an open speakers meeting whose story mostly consists of drugs, I cannot not.

    While drug addicts and alcoholics share some common behavior, the extreme dishonesty and unlawfulness, the weapons, violence, and related crimes that drug addicts engage in are not shared with alcoholics who are not dually addicted. One of the Big Book stories talks about identifying and not comparing, I cannot identify with the drug culture. I live near a large Midwest city rife with drug use, so many AAs here can identify with the drug culture, but that is not true throughout jus the U.S. What about the rest of the world?

    Look at it this way, just because you drink alcohol doesn’t mean that you are an alcoholic; otherwise virtually everyone who drinks in a bar is an alcoholic. Another extreme example (and profundity).

    Look at the blogs, drug addicts feel entitled to violate the principles and traditions of AA to then participate in them. Isn’t there something wrong here? NA is not enough, drug addicts have to be special. Among others, there are Heroin, Cocaine, and Marijuana Anonymous. Ever hear of terminal uniqueness? Conversely, this is an admission that an alcoholic is in fact different from a drug addict. I had a self-identified “addict” at my table the other day justify his presence at an AA meeting stating that a 12-step program is a 12-step program. So why not go to Sex, Overeaters, or Gambling Anonymous or Adult Children of Alcoholics? Thus, drug addicts hang on to their character defects and feel entitled to engage in any conduct that makes them feel better. Sounds like addictive behavior to me!

  4. Martin Cleary says:

    Could not agree more with the above comment ………am sick of drug addicts taking over AA meetings …i travel abroad a lot and i assure you this is a petulance american issue ….in other countries you will be told to shut up or leave if your talking about drugs at a AA meeting….I think they do not go to NA meetings because other addicts will see through their BS ….

  5. Steve G,

    You are all over it! The justification of addicts for attending AA instead of where they belong, NA, is out of hand where I live-Cincinnati. I believe that most addicts are hiding in AA. They really don’t want to confront their addiction. They can feel unique in AA. Most addicts don’t stay clean in AA. In fact, most heroin addicts die. It’s tragic and a travesty that AA allows this to happen. Addicts need to be told the truth-whether they like it or not.

    That truth is that NA is their 12 step program. AA does not need to apologize for being for alcoholics. It’s are primary (and only) purpose. Deviation from it has wrought disaster on both alcoholic and addict alike. Cemeteries are loaded with “alcoholics” who died of heroin overdoses while attending AA meetings. I’m afraid that it will continue unabated as most AAs either know nothing about or dismiss our Singleness of Purpose.

  6. Thank you guys for standing up for our Singleness of Purpose. It was those such as yourselves who saved my life.

  7. mandy grady says:


  8. Anonymous says:

    After 15 years of continuous sobriety in Las Vegas AA I have had enough. Myself and other AAs have literally been thrown of of our own meetings by drug addicts or threatened by them because we refused to allow them to violate AA Traditions which they NEVER abide by. I have stopped financially supporting AA and I have stopped going to meetings all because of the drug addicts. The local Las Vegas central office and will not do anything about it and neither will World Services they just want to keep the gravy train of money coming in. Drug addicts have driven out members like me and old timers who just can’t take these people anymore and I do not see this ever being reserved.

  9. I’m an alcoholic and a drug addict. If I introduce myself in a meeting as an addict, who there is to say I am not also an alcoholic? There is no rule about how we identify ourselves. To impose such a rule is very much against the spirit of our organization. The purpose of AA is to carry the message, not alienate those who need it.

    Tradition three, the story of Ed, the story of the man with the second stigma, is very clear. There is indeed a requirement for membership and it is very simple. To say anything otherwise is to indulge yourself in the selfish self righteousness of alcoholic thinking.

    I once asked a man who sounded very much like the above posters why he felt the way he did. He said that he couldn’t relate. Relating isn’t his job. Carrying the message is his job. AA isn’t about you. It’s about others.

  10. Sobriety — freedom from alcohol — through
    the teaching and practice of the Twelve Steps is
    the sole purpose of an A.A. group. Groups have
    repeatedly tried other activities, and they have
    always failed. It has also been learned that there is
    no possible way to make nonalcoholics into A.A.
    members. We have to confine our membership to
    alcoholics, and we have to confine our A.A.
    groups to a single purpose. If we don’t stick to
    these principles, we shall almost surely collapse.
    And if we collapse, we cannot help anyone.

    Please go to NA where you can relate. It’s all about the relation of alcohol. Mouth to bottle, feel of liquor in my mouth and throat. Puking the next day. I can’t relate to pill or needle or snort.

  11. It’s a sensitive topic, and of course, that’s how the trick is played. Yeah addicts have issues, and I do believe they need to be helped. However, from my perspective, it’s gotten out of hand. It’s all too common, and I’d say there are more addicts in AA than alcoholics at this time, and if it’s not that way yet, I believe it will be. I personally have nothing against addicts in general, and would wish them to be well.

    However, I would say most alcoholics and addicts have issues with boundaries and ego, “where do I begin and end, and where do you begin and end.” Intimacy issues in general. dealing with the emotions of relating to other people. Respecting the boundaries of others, and standing up for one’s own boundaries.

    With this fundamental issue, we’ve got a weakness in the system. That being, where does one stand, when does one take a stand. An issue with morality.

    I’ve come to the conclusion, that if an addict lacks the integrity to respect the “will and testament” of a deceased man, that being Bill Wilson in respect to his legacy, that being of AA, these specific addicts certainly can NOT respect those of us who are still living, nor can they be “fully” trusted with those of us who are still living.

    No matter how innocent they may be or may be perceived to be. No matter how bad of a shape they me be in. From my eyes, it really is that simple. What is right and what is wrong. I believe it’s wrong to stand by idly and emotionally support those who simply do not acknowledge and do not respect, knowingly or unknowingly, the “will and testament” of a deceased man, or would feel so entitled that they can simple step on and piss on the rules of an organization. It’s really that simple. What do people not get about that?

    IT’S WRONG. That’s what this comes down to. It’s wrong. And it’s wrong to stand by idly and support this wrong behavior. Sitting there idly just twiddling your thumbs is supporting this behavior is just as wrong. It’s wrong. It’s not morally right. It’s not the right thing to do. That’s how I see it.

    I get the idea if there aren’t enough meetings, yeah, I get that. However, I think that’s less of the case these days, and this behavior stems from ulterior motives. Perhaps hiding, perhaps the idea that AA has more sobriety but is that a legitimate reason? Should we take from our neighbor simply because we do not have enough?

    The fundamental issues, from my perspective, is that all these problematic behaviors stem from hiding in one way or another. Hiding from ourselves or hiding ourselves from others.

    Perhaps allowing addicts to participate in AA is actually doing more harm than good? Never mind the fact that it’s symbolically the same as pissing on a deceased man’s grave.

    There is a difference between what is right and what is wrong in this world. Doing the right thing isn’t always pleasant, it isn’t always easy. And this isn’t just with the AA program, look around, this is a global issue. Speak up, speak your truth. Sometimes people just simply need to be reminded that their behavior is inappropriate/wrong. And I would say that the people who really want to be good, they are the most susceptible to support those around who do not have the best intentions. Good people have been brainwashed/indoctrinated to not speak up, “it might hurt someone else’s feelings”. Good people need to put that nonsense to the side, that lie where it belongs and start speaking up no matter what immorality is being shown.

    This isn’t an issue about whether addicts need help, they do. But AA is not the place for them, and openly supporting their behavior is doing more harm to than good, not only to the addict, not only to the AA organization, not only to other alcoholics, but to society at large. Inch by inch, this chaos, this lack of order, will spread like a plague.

    If you disagree with what I’m saying, again I wish addicts all the best, so why don’t you create an NA program or something of that nature, instead of blatantly supporting behavior that is against it’s creator’s “will and testament”? That is against the rules of the organization itself. Do you have the integrity to do that, to do the right thing? If so, then I support you and wish you many blessings.

  12. Anonymous says:


  13. Okay, I read all the above comments, and agree with most. I am an AA without question, though most of my friends in recovery have co-isms. I attend AA regularly at a designated meeting house, most (95% guess) have co existing conditions. It seems conflicting to me, it is hard to relate and be related to. BUT when I ask my HP what to do, the feeling I get is that, if there is a person with their hand outstretched, that I could possibly help, it IS in fact my 12th step to help. So does help mean take them to an NA meeting? What if they are already embedded in the AA program? It is a violation of Traditions and our singleness of purpose, but lets be real, no one among us has been able to maintain anything like perfect adherence to these principles.

  14. james Lamson says:

    I have been in AA for almost 17 years now, and sober all the time. I have a serious problem with the idea that no one not drinking but using other mind altering drugs as substitutes for alcohol, are not permitted in closed AA meetings, and not allowed membership.
    There is serious conflict between NA and AA persons and the programs both suffer as a result. Hey, NA uses the same steps as AA, only modified to Narcotics. But there is real anger that exists between the two.
    I did attend a meeting as an alcoholic and this meeting the topic was smoking! Out of 42 people , male and female, 40 stated they used to smoke and stopped! But in another closed meeting the same issue of smoking in a comment was condemned, and the speaker was told later to “shut the hell up, Name,,,,,” and that was very rude and the person would not talk to me after the meeting and tell me why he acted that way toward me.
    I know the rule that bans non alcoholics from AA, but I do NOT agree with it. I asked one alcoholic if he had ever been to an NA meeting, and he said “no, I’m not an addict.” All alcoholics are addicts, which have an addictive personality the same as other drug addicts. I think the AA persons except for me and countless others do not agree or are not hard core on the subject because we all know that the addiction is the same in all drugs, some more difficult to deal with of course.
    I know that before NA, drug addicts went to AA meetings. Later formed NA.
    It’s like religion in a way, like denominational, and that is the problem. The whole programs of recovery in the 12 steps needs to seriously reconsider and become interdenominational, and respect one another. I got interrupted in an NA meeting at the very mention of AA, and even so had already said my opinion of alcohol IS a drug, and NA has no problem with my opinion on that subject.
    The only question I have on NA was when I asked the leader of the group about smoking and stopping. He simply said “You would have to talk to your sponsor about that.” Wow. And also, NA persons are discouraged from having a sponsor in AA and NA. One or the other but not both.
    Now how does anyone think about what I have written?

  15. james Lamson says:

    I made comments about smoking in my last comment. How is it that I have not found any interest or very little on this subject when smoking is the number one killer with preventable diseases. It is harder to quit smoking than it is to stop drinking. Per my quit counselor at VA,, There is only one Nicotine Anonymous group in my area but hundreds of AA groups, and dozens of NA groups. And why is this subject so touchy? I think too many people like myself who held on to that last puff before I realized how hard it was getting to breathe. I quit after several tries. July 8th, 2013, start date, followed by relapses and twice in the hospital, and diagnosed at VA with COPD.
    I think and I know in all meetings, NA, or AA that smoking is definitely a character defect and especially because of second hand smoke! It kills other people by the multiplied thousands. I rest my case, CDC is my info source.

  16. There is so much confusion about something which is really very simple. The 5th tradition clearly states “Each group has but one primary purpose — to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.” As an organization the purpose of AA isn’t to help people with gambling addiction, sex addiction, heroin addiction etc. Our purpose is to help alcoholics. If you are an alcoholic with other issues (which is and has always been fairly common – at least in my experience during my 27 years in the program) that’s perfectly fine however you’re not adhering to the tradition by focusing on those other issues at an AA meeting. While at an AA meeting we should focus on our alcoholism.

    When an alcoholic attends an AA meeting they need to be able to identify with other alcoholics – that’s the foundation of how AA began – with Bill talking to Bob. They need to be able to listen and think “That’s me. That’s me. I’m the same as that person” which then leads to the connection that they too can have what that person has – a sober life! If I attend an AA meeting and people are talking about their addiction to drugs I don’t identify. I don’t make that connection. It’s not a game of semantics – it’s the foundation upon which millions of alcoholics have built sober lives. As a sober members of AA it’s our responsibility to see to it that we adhere to the 5th tradition.

  17. Jo McClain says:

    My AA home group includes many addicts. Far from detracting from our
    Meetings, they enrich them. The urge to draw boundaries and shut
    People out because you can’t relate to them is very human, but also very
    Selfish and destructive. A sort of bigotry in my opinion.

  18. Alan states above: “I’m an alcoholic and a drug addict. If I introduce myself in a meeting as an addict, who there is to say I am not also an alcoholic? There is no rule about how we identify ourselves.”

    Alan is wrong and exemplifies the discord and problems drug addicts who don’t leave their drug addiction and ego at the door bring to A.A. The long form of the A.A. Third Tradition suggests that we need to identify as “alcoholics”, though the the short form suggests that we only need to identify as having a (legitimate) desire to stop drinking. Identifying as an “addict: only qualifies one for N/A membership and attendance at closed N/A meetings and being shown to the door at A.A. meetings!

  19. Alcohol is a drug. Regardless of how we all identify ourselves we are all drug addicts. It is nice however could be able to say alcoholic. It feels more acceptable doesn’t it?

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