Getting More Involved by Hawkeye Pete Egan B.
George was the Step Group’s service representative to the Philadelphia Area Service committee. He came back from a meeting with the news that the group’s use of the AA 12 & 12 was now considered a violation of the 6th tradition, which warns against endorsing an outside enterprise.
N.A. had been using AA literature for 27 years at that point, but as a consequence, had not grown like it should have. Too many addicts would get clean in N.A., then go to AA to find recovery. They had the good recovery literature there, and people with more time in recovery who had been through the 12 steps. N.A. was finally realizing that they had to start following that 6th tradition and stop endorsing that other fellowship. Plans were in the works to write their own literature, though nothing had been written just yet.
In group conscience we discussed about whether we needed to change the step meeting to a regular meeting where members just shared their experience. George told us that he had asked the question, when told we could only use N.A. literature, “So what exactly is N.A. literature?” The world public information chairman had told him, “It’s anything written by addicts, for addicts, for the purpose of recovery.” When George reported that to us, one of the members piped up and said, “Well, why don’t we just write our own, then?” Remember, these were all mostly teenagers, most in their first year of recovery. George was the only one among us who had more than a year — he’d just celebrated three years right before I got there.
The group decided to begin meeting in a member’s apartment “unofficially”, where we could talk about each step, and each tradition, share what they meant to each us. We recorded these sessions. As the group’s secretary, I then had to transcribe and edit the recordings into a format that we could use in our meeting, as our own steps, written by and for addicts in N.A. B
y the time we were done going through all 12 Steps and 12 Traditions, I had about 80 pages of transcribed and edited material. This would become the first draft of the N.A. 12 Steps that would be used for the eventual N.A. Basic Text for Recovery. We shared our work with other groups in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania, so they could all have N.A. literature for their step meetings.
George told us about a convention being held at Bucknell University in south central Pennsylvania in the middle of June, called the First East Coast Convention of N.A. The convention’s theme was “Never Alone”. I could really relate to that theme, since I had been so lonely before finding this group, and now I had all these young and crazy friends, and was feeling like a teenager again, myself. A bunch of us from the Hulmeville group went to the convention. I had become crazy infatuated with this one girl, Barb, an artist who I’d really connected with from the start, but we’d remained friends. Even though I was having no problem hooking up with the ladies I’d meet at AA meetings, for some reason whenever real feelings were involved, I still had trouble expressing how I felt. It became apparent at the convention that nothing was going to happen with Barb, so I started out pretty bummed out about that. I had just celebrated 90 days clean the week before, and had also just lost my job at the Printing company.
Apparently, it had been planned to be a convention for N.A. members from the greater Philadelphia and central Pennsylvania areas, as there was very little to no other N.A. meetings in the northeast part of the country at that time. They were expecting about 75 or 80 addicts in all.
But since it was called an “East Coast” convention, members from the Atlanta, GA, area, which was experiencing a similar “growth spurt” like we were in Philadelphia, heard about it and showed up in droves. There were close to 200 there, from Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Tennessee. There were a bunch of clean and crazy bikers, most memorable of which were Motorcycle Ed and Tom the Red. Those guys were really nuts, but I got to be great friends with some of them. I was pretty nuts myself.
Among the folks from Georgia were a contingent who were heavily involved with the N.A. World Literature movement, led by a guy named Bo. They were actually writing the N.A. Big Book on Recovery. There was a Literature workshop at the convention, and it was there that I got involved with N.A. Literature, which would dominate my life for the next 3 years.
Bo was talking about how they’d gotten an outline for the book together, and were in the process of gathering material from addicts to include in the book. He stressed that they needed material for the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions of N.A. I was sitting way in the back. I raised my hand and just mentioned that I had about 80 pages typed up and edited, on the 12 Steps and the 12 Traditions, from our Step Group.
That was one of those moments that seems frozen in time. The look on Bo’s face was one I’ll never forget. His eyes lit up, and the room started buzzing. Things just went kind of crazy after that.
George became the chair of the Bristol Literature Committee, and then a little later, the chair of the Philadelphia Literature Committe. These committees would eventually enlist the efforts of dozens of addicts in the Philadelphia area into writing and editing material for the book. Bristol produced the final draft of Chapter 8, We Do Recover, in the form that it is found in the Gray Book, or Memphis Review Form. Philadelphia produced Chapter 10, More Will Be Revealed. When George arrived in Memphis for the 3rd World Literature Conference and discovered he’d left Chapter 10 on his bedside table, I took that final draft out to the Philadelphia Airport where I found the last flight of the day going to Memphis, found a nice lady willing to carry that package to a total stranger at the other end of her flight, she handed it to George when she deplaned in Memphis, and the work continued.
I came back from the convention on a real high, filled with optimism about N.A. I got more involved in service work, and people got to know me all over the Delaware Valley. I started getting invited to speak at meetings all over the area, as the fellowship grew like wildfire. I delivered a very positive N.A. message, and was speaking 3–4 times a week for several months, telling my story.
I would eventually burn out on this. It stopped feeling real, as I was giving the same spiel, night in and night out. I was surviving on fast food, coffee and adrenaline. One night, getting home from a meeting, I got dizzy and almost passed out after biting into a Burger King Whopper, which was dinner.
When I wasn’t going to meetings, George and I were doing a ton of literature committee work. I would type up everything that the committee put together, and send it off to Atlanta. The people in Atlanta started sending me material they’d pulled together in their committees to type up and edit (by that point, I was typing 65–70 word per minute, and becoming a decent editor), and soon I was doing this all the time, whenever I wasn’t working or going to meetings.
This was all volunteer work that you did on your own time, and on your own dime. I was doing all this typing on an old Manual typewriter I had. At one point, I ran out of an ink ribbon and couldn’t afford a new one. I had a pile of carbon paper and plenty of typing paper, so I just slipped a piece of carbon paper in between two sheets of typing paper, and typed “blind”, never missing a beat. I just had to focus really hard to make sure I didn’t make many mistakes, because it was murder trying to fix them. I typed hundreds of pages of material in this “blind” manner. You just did what you had to do to get it done.
I started up a monthly newsletter for Philadelphia N.A. called “The Clean Sheet”, writing articles and stories for the first few editions, and edited the newsletter. I had also become the Public Affairs Committee Chair for the Philadelphia Area, getting articles into the old Philadelphia Bulletin, spots on radio and T.V. about our program, just trying to get the word out there so addicts could find us.
The program kept growing like wildfire that year. All of this activity and energy seemed to carry me along for that summer. I had gotten nowhere closer to finding the spiritual experience I was hoping to find, but I also was no longer fighting obsessions to get high. I was now in full-blown workaholic mode, spending every waking hour, when I wasn’t at work or a meeting, devoted to helping the program grow. This frenetic activity seemed to distract me from the obsessions I’d been experiencing earlier.
I could no longer afford to live in my apartment, so when my lease ran out, George and I found a big old 2 story, 3 bedroom farmhouse with reasonable rent, and another guy from the group, Al, moved in with us. That place would eventually produce many stories, including all of the stories that went into the first edition of N.A.’s Basic Text. The 7th and final World Literature Conference, in which the book was compiled and edited, took place in that farmhouse in Ivyland, Pa. That conference focused on the stories for the book, which is a story in itself. That was much later.
Originally published at cowbird.com.