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AA versus NA. Which Fellowship Is Right For Me?

Updated on July 29, 2016

Meeting Quiz

Have you ever been to an NA meeting?

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  1. Attend 90 meetings in 90 Days
  2. Get phone numbers of people in recovery and use them
  3. Get a sponsor
  4. Call your sponsor daily
  5. Work the steps with your sponsor

Does NA Work?

NA has been around for 63 years. Despite all the touted issues, there are a large number of people, at least in the areas that I have attended, that have significant periods of clean time. I was surprised when I went to NA in Charlotte, NC to find this out, because I had been told by many people in AA that the only people in NA who had any time were people that went to AA too. I went to a few meetings and found that there were plenty of people with lengthy, and seemingly good recovery.

Right now I attend NA for most of my recovery meetings. I have been doing this for a while and it seems to be working. My network of people that I talk to is about two thirds people from NA. I've spent a lot of time in the rooms of AA as well over the last 11 years, and have had a purely AA network in the past. Honestly, I've found people with good recovery and people with poor recovery in both fellowships.

I believe fully and with all my heart that NA does work and that you can recover in the program of Narcotics Anonymous as long as you do what is suggested and take the steps.

The Basic Issue

The question seems to be this: for people who happened to use drugs more than alcohol to get high, should AA or NA be the choice when seeking recovery?

Naturally, if unfamiliar with recovery, one would think that drug users would be suited for Narcotics Anonymous, while alcoholics would be suited for Alcoholics Anonymous. Unfortunately, it isn't quite that simple.

AA is the fellowship that was here first. Naturally, it happens to be a little bigger, maybe a little stronger, overall more popular. I have been to treatment centers that tell everyone that AA is preferable. They gave the option of going to NA for meeting requirements, but stressed that AA is really the better choice. Also, there are many, many people in AA who have a negative view of the program of Narcotics Anonymous (in areas I have attended meetings) and that talk about that quite a bit. I think largely because of these reasons, NA sometimes has a little less than the best reputation in recovery circles.

Real Reasons Why AA is Preferable

1. There are more people in general in AA

2. There are more meetings, typically, and it is easy to make a meeting a day

3. The Big Book is pretty good

4. It is completely possible to recover in AA as someone who mostly used drugs

5. People are generally more accepting of people who use drugs in AA than they used to be

6. It may be less triggering in some ways because you won't hear as much talk about drug using

Why is AA preferable?

The reasons people say that AA is preferable are as follows:

1. AA supposedly has more people with long-term recovery.

This is probably true overall. AA has been around longer and happens to be a little bigger in most places. The fact that there are more people means, obviously, that more people would happen to have time.

2. People in AA have better recovery.

This is completely debatable and depends on the meeting you go to, the area you're in, and what you know to look for. There are people in each program who have good recovery, and you can find people with bad recovery in each as well.

3. There is less relapse in AA.

I really can't say whether this is true or not, but it does seem to have some legitimacy. Regardless, there are people in AA who relapse as well, and I've never seen someone who truly dedicates themselves to either program relapse as long as they were doing what they were supposed to, period.

4. The Big Book is better than the Basic Text of NA.

The literature is definitely different between the two fellowships. My personal views on each are better suited to another hub, but they definitely have their positives and negatives. NA's book was written long after the NA book and so talks about some of the things that hadn't been established, or as well established, as they were when the AA Big Book was written.

5. AA is more spiritual.

Again, this depends on where you go and who you know. There is no reason for AA to be more spiritual, in truth. The basis of each program is the 12 steps and ideally the difference is merely that AA focuses on the drug alcohol, while NA is all inclusive and focuses instead on addiction as a whole not a particular substance. The "solution," the step process, is the same.

I Used Drugs More Than I Drank. Should I Go To NA?

Yes. You should check out both programs and see where you feel comfortable. Barring strange exceptions, both are safe places to find recovery. Being welcomed and comfortable is super important to recovery, especially in the beginning, and also by checking out both you can see whether you find someone you truly want to sponsor you and if so which fellowship they are in.


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