(The writer is a member of Narcotics Anonymous but not a spokesperson.)
I am writing this rebuttal to the article “Black opioid deaths at crisis levels in Lansing area” (July 26).
First, the title is misleading: Opioid deaths are at crisis levels in Lansing and in every city in The United States. The National Institute on Drug Abuse statistics claim opioid-involved overdose deaths rose from 21,089 in 2010 to 47,600 in 2017 and remained steady through 2019. This was followed by a significant increase in 2020 with 68,630 reported deaths and again in 2021 with 80,411 reported overdose deaths. This is a 69% increase over the years. This increase includes all races. According to the US Census Bureau, the demographics for Lansing by race is 59% White and 24% Black. For Ingham County, they are 68% white and 25% Black or brown and 7% Asian. That being said, the opioid death rates by race closely match the racial demographics of the county.
I myself am a 60-year-old, white, gay male military veteran with over nine years of clean time. I attend many Narcotics Anonymous meetings in the Ingham County area. There are few occasions that there is only one person of color in a meeting. There are also meetings that meet daily that have mostly people of color and very few whites. The real disparity in our area is related to sex and not race. There are very few women and mostly men that attend meetings in the Ingham County area.
Now, looking at what is the NA program and why it exists: NA is a nonprofit fellowship or society of men and women for whom drugs had become a major problem. We are not affiliated with any other organization. Anyone may join us regardless of age, race, sexual identity, creed, religion or lack of religion. We are not interested in your past. We are only interested in what you want to do about your drug problem and how we can help. (Little White Booklet, Narcotics Anonymous 1986.)
Our 5th Tradition states: “Each group has but one primary purpose — to carry the message to the addict who still suffers.” (Nothing ought to take precedence over it. This is the most basic guideline by which groups may examine their motives and their actions.)
Our 6th Tradition tells us that our groups never endorse, finance or lend the NA name to any outside enterprise because this will dilute our primary purpose.
NA only purpose is to carry a recovery message. We are not here to carry a message of the importance of education, health, financial independence, racial or religious agendas. Only to carry a message of recovery. Anything else would blur our primary purpose.
The 10 Tradition of NA is clear stating, “Narcotics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence, the NA name ought never be drawn into public controversy.” We have no opinion on being Black, white, sex or any other outside issues. That is not the purpose of NA.
If an individual attends NA meetings to raise issues related to anything other than recovery from addiction, they are coming for the wrong reasons. There are other organizations and fellowships that have primary purposes relating to those issues.
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