died of AIDS in the early 1990’s. He said that as soon as he arrived in California, he slammed the car door, got out of the car, walked across the street, and this guy with hair down to his waist comes up to me gets, right in front of me, takes out a nickel bag out of his pocket, sticks it in my pocket, and says, Welcome to San Francisco, brother.
So I knew I hit the promised land. I have no doubt in my mind whatsoever, no feelings of uneasiness, that I am absolutely where I am supposed to be to do the most good for humanity, for myself, and to be of service to God and society. I guess as long as I stay clean, keep helping people stay alive and find a path to God themselves.
Which is what we do and all great spiritual leaders and teachers thoughout time have done, is save a life, point them to a spiritual path, and tell them they have a choice. And then all my needs have been taken care of, a result of not trying to take care of my own needs.
Dave wrote in my Journal… Love the Love – Seek Gods Will – and all will be well. – It’s a lesson. It took me 20 years of misery to learn and a few 24 hours to learn to share with others. Grateful Dave.
From the Book Addict Out of the Dark and into the Light copyright Keeley 1987-2007 – DOB: 3/1/50; Charleston, West Virginia.
“So I went back anyway to California. I slammed the door, got out of the car, walked across the street, and this guy with hair down to his waist comes up to me, gets — stands right in front of me, takes a nickel bag out of his pocket, sticks it in my pocket, and says, ‘Welcome to San Francisco, Brother.’ So I knew I had hit the Promised Land.”
I am an addict. The worst experience I had did not know that I was an addict and that there was anything I could do about it. I am a child of privilege and I spent my whole life in a fantasy, never had any, limits imposed on me, certainly not self—imposed. I was raised by an only child mother who was spoiled rotten, and a father who was not only abused by his father and made to feel less than, always lived in the shadow of his older brother. My grandmother died, she drank herself to death after being a teetotaler for thirty-one years.
It took twenty-three chromosomes from the sperm cell of my father and twenty-three chromosomes from the egg cells of my mother, and you put them together and that was the seminal influence in my life. The funny thing about it was one of them chromosomes was lit up with neon. It had “addict addict addict addict” flashing.
And then you know my family was just — I’ve got two sisters — my family life was never uncomfortable really, but it was never warm. Not much affection, not much throwing the baseball, going fishing, and all of that kind of “rah rah” kind of stuff. My placidity, what little of it that I had, was bought, until that no longer seemed to work.
Domestic tranquility there wasn’t really very much of, because the earliest recollections that I have were very addict -type events, just like conning, manipulating, and running away, and breaking and entering, and lying, and rock fights, and staying out all night, and feeling alone, and skipping kindergarten, sitting in the back of the room in first grade, in the front of the room in second grade, next to the teacher’s desk. I mean, and back by myself in the back of the room in the first grade.
I never felt like I belonged even back then. I was the classroom clown, always making jokes and causing trouble, always in the principal’s office, seeking attention. Gifted, addict child, because nobody knew what that was. I entered into therapy the first time for a while — child psychology —- about age six. Then that seemed to go on and on and on and on until, at with varying intensities, up until the time I was thirteen.
I ran away from home and lived underneath the boardwalk in Virginia Beach for three months. Got put into Tidewater Detention Home. Wouldn’t tell them who I was. Got tired of getting the shit beat out of me there and split. Told them who I was. My Dad came and got me. Went to military school. Tried to get kicked out, but they always saw all this potential in me and were unwilling to kick me out.
So I eventually ended up setting a school record for demerits. I had learned at a very early age how to get attention by fucking up. “That’s all right. It’s cute.” Because I had a nice smile and people generally liked me and I was fairly intelligent, not malicious in those attempts to get attention for the most part not malicious. Burnt a neighbor’s house down and — not really — I set it on fire though. Killed a cat when I was six years old by stuffing dirt in its mouth till it died. Always felt bad about that till I got clean and did some inventories.
I think we all get the feeling of who we are pretty early in life. So my parents signed away their parental rights, gave a power of attorney to a behavior modification school when I was about thirteen through sixteen. It consisted of physical abuse through therapy three times a week, individual therapy twice a week. It masqueraded as a school but really it was the only option between there and the State School for Boys.
I reached that point well before my active using drugs accelerated to the point of no return. It was there I smoked reefer for the first time. I found out how easy it was to pretend to be, to go into a catatonic state and be able to withdraw. I learned, read books on psychiatry, and I. . . of all the shrinks that ever saw me, none of them had the same diagnosis, because I fucking played games with all of their heads. I had as many different diagnoses as I had doctors in my past.
My first grade teacher wrote on my report card: “David, procrastination is thy name.” My third grade teacher wrote on my report card: “David could talk a Philadelphia lawyer out of anything.” These are just to point up the disease was present. Fourth grade I set a state record for reading books that still stands. Tested. Certificates of merit.
Fifth grade the teacher had bad breath and I made D-minuses all the way through. Sixth grade I made all A’s and B’s. Seventh grade I went to hell. Blew up the incinerator in the junior high school with the principal looking at me, and he threw me out, and I went to military school, and set the school record there for demerits.
Then it was the School for Incorrigibles. Sylvester Stallone was one of my classmates. He went to the same place I did. He was a ward of the State Court, Court ordered. After that I conned and manipulated and got out. Got out, was going to go. I escaped through sports. I was an excellent athlete. Never picked up a basketball until the ninth grade, the summer before ninth grade, and made the junior varsity team in mid—season, got to the varsity, and the next year started.
In that school we were Keystone Conference champions in basketball, which was a loose amalgamation of private schools and some public schools. I wanted to go. I had these dreams of being like a basketball star for West Virginia University and I was good at it, so I kind of manipulated to get to go to high school in my hometown. I was ineligible to play because I didn’t attend school there for a year. I had been gone maybe, but it didn’t dawn on me that maybe I could sit out a year and practice. I wasn’t into anything like that.
By then I had already spent that summer in Haight Ashbury, San Francisco. So what I did was, I skipped the first five weeks of school, just showed up to home room and then went and got loaded every day out in the woods, charged a six-pack — I mean a case of beer a day — to my family’s charge account, and went out in the woods and drank the beer, and smoked reefer.
And I had my own apartment, ‘cause my parents still didn’t want me around. And we got crystal Methadrine by the jar from a hospital, and we broke into pharmacy supply and got five hundred thousand blue “morphine blues,” as they were called, or “new morphine.” We used to give them away. And then finally people were killing each other over them by the time they were getting ready to be done.
So I was just getting loaded man, and I got called into the office one day at home room and there was nobody there, because I came back from school to get my books and get on the bus and go home. It seems like my home room teacher, who was the drama teacher, took a shine to me, and I was given a choice by the principal: either audition for a part in the senior class play or be kicked out of school. Go up there and sing that or be kicked out of school.
So I went up and sang the song and I got the lead in my senior class play, “Li’l’ Abner.” My co-star in that play, -leading lady, had the lead in “The Pirates of Penzancell road show a couple of years ago is apparently a working actress and singer on Broadway.
And anyway, that was about the only thing that kept me going to school. And I went to school and passed out joints in the smoking area, ‘cause I knew I had them over the barrel, and they wouldn’t kick me out. The day for the play came and I was nowhere to be found. So the entire senior class went out combing the hills and hollows around where I lived, looking for me. They finally found me about forty-five miles away from home in a log cabin loaded on sauce and Nembutal — sauce being Robitussin A.C.
So I finally got home three hours before I was supposed to go on stage that night for the first night of the play. Fear of failure, fear of success, who knows. I don’t know what it was, addiction. So it went on. It was real good. I didn’t muff any lines.
The girl got jealous. The next night she fed me a whole bunch of miscues and I just looked at her, made an obvious break of character, and like looked at her with a real weird look on my face, and went on with my own lines where they were supposed to be. The Governor was there and he asked us to do a special command performance for him. I got a scholarship for the “highest talent award in acting” at West Virginia University. But I never graduated high school because they throw me out immediately after the play.
So I went back to California. I got out of the car on Fell Street in San Francisco — short hair, pack slung over my back, already knew what dope was, already been shooting dope, already been . . . you know, my apartment in town was a dope haven for people from the age of my age to fifty years old were there at any given time from all over the country.
It was the center for dope in my hometown. I was shootin’ speed and shootin’ merc, which was UFP cocaine that they used in hospitals. We would get like I say, jars of it. And Hashish from New York and Columbus, and acid from Cincinnati, over on Calhoun Street.
So I went back anyway to California. I slammed the door, got out of the car, walked across the street, and this guy with hair down to his waist comes up to me, gets — stands right in front of me, takes a nickel bag out of his pocket, sticks it in my pocket, and says, “Welcome to San Francisco, brother.”
So I knew I had hit the Promised Land. I walked on up to Haight Street, which is about six blocks up the hill from where I got out, and got to the street and seen freaks of all different kinds, and people just walking along passing out dope, and it was absolutely wild. And I went through the park and somebody gave me a hit of acid and I watched the fog come in and took this, this girl took me home and we got laid and that’s where I stayed. I stayed there until December 18, 1970.
I went to a party, special party, for the Grateful Dead at the old Fillmore, not the Avalon, but the old Fillmore Auditorium on Fillmore Street. Went to a friend’s house and they were going out of town for the weekend, up to the Russian River, And they left me alone in the apartment. And I came back from that party and was sitting around.
All of a sudden I started to feel strange. It was real weird. It was like an out-of-body-going-through-past-lives experience. As I sat there in the chair, looking out the window, all the buildings started to suck up inside of my third eye, and I watched the San Francisco Bay area return to forest and watched the glaciers come and go and I watched the fire and the steam of the planet being created and then went out into the black totally aware of the whole time, aware of every-thing around me.
Just seems like I became spirit. When I touched down I was an oriental, I was a common laborer, I was a prince, I was a king, and I was like a religious leader or something. Some of these things were just not exactly clear. They were just so fantastic for me, being it, you know, I mean being fanned with big fans by servants and attended to and jewels and robes and velvet.
It was like going through all my past lives or something, or somebody else’s past lives. Who knows? I attribute a hell of a lot of significance to the whole thing today. And then I shot back into the void again, the black, still conscious all the while of these changes and this transition.
And I was like, all I was aware of was me, in this black, and it was like crossing paths where the, a kind of a silver gold radiating light that had a high pitch frequency to it, and by the time that we were moving In different directions this light and my consciousness and when we came directly parallel to one another we started moving towards one another. As I got closer I was able to make out the words “I am — I am — -I am — I am.”
And I became one with that energy. And I saw nothing, yet everything, I felt nothing yet everything. It was the most peaceful, blissful experience. During the course of being with that spirit I would say that I experienced an actual or maybe a fantasy visit to what? The city of life that it talks about in Revelation must reflect. It seemed like I communed with God and the spirits and, you know, Jesus and Moses and Confucius and Buddha and all of the great spirits.
I guess it’s the only way I can describe it. And then I guess it was time for me to go. Coming back to this plane of existence, I mean being in the human form on earth, coming back from where I was, absolutely the most excruciating pain over every inch of my body and every nerve, and it was like the end of the movie 2001 with the colors and all of that type of stuff.
But it was also like being drawn down a tiny little straw with pieces of glass and razor blades in it, that were pointed in the opposite direction from me, and I was being ripped and pulled and torn and cut and slashed.
And I woke up still sitting in the same chair, with a softball-size charred black scar and a deep hole in my leg. And it didn’t hurt and I have no idea where it came from. I never left the house, as far as I know at all during this experience, which lasted probably about nine hours. So I looked down at my leg. I said: “What the hell is this?” I had to use the bathroom.
So I got up and went into the bathroom and looked at myself in the mirror and my skin was all wrinkled and dangling like a ninety-year-old man and my hair was white. I don’t know what any of this means, if anything at all. Needless to say, the experience was very unsettling.
I wandered around in search of answer for what it was that went on with me, for about the next ten years, in a more or less conscientious manner. I mean, I went to the Edward Casey Foundation at Virginia Beach, and I studied with people from the ERE, and I had trance readings done, and things like that. And a lot of those readings and stuff confirmed . . . I never told anybody about the experience. I just . . . I found that they were readers and things like that, and in their readings they found similar things.
And I’ve had people walk up to me over those years and say, “I know you. I remember you in Atlantis.” And, “I know you. I remember you in . . .” and, “I remember you in . . .” and I was always kind of amazed when it happened but never — -owing to what it was I had been through — surprised.
And usually those individuals and I bonded really fast. There was something special between us. But just like most people that are, that just have such high ideals that they are unable to live up to because they are human, we quickly couldn’t live with each other’s shortcomings and usually parted ways, in a negative sort of fashion.
I got saved and found out about that city of light in reading the Bible cover-to-cover. And I talked people down off of acid. And this preacher came by and prayed over me and I was loaded on hash and I got a rash from the tip of my toes to top of my head. And when that was done I was completely straight, and I quit using everything and studied the Bible for about eight months and drank nothing. And that’s where I found about total abstinence for the first time.
That was 1972. I was married and got divorced in 1972 and went out on the beach and looked up and said, “God, I know you understand.” And smoked a joint and I never looked back from that point on. The only prayers that I pray are the thoughts that I gave God. From that point on was when I took too big of a shot. I was devastated by the loss of that relationship. But it clarified a lot of things for me in terms of the past experiences. I mean, people would say to me: “David, you are half in and half out of your body.”
And I would need a Buddhist and a Buddhist would tell me the same thing, and say theme is an old saying in our religion, “Before Nirvana, chopping wood, carrying water. After Nirvana, chopping wood, carrying water. What are you going to do now?” And I had no answers. I was in the throes of this disease.
I mean, I had some fun and I snatched the brass ring a few times in my life, only to fall on my face in the gutter and knock myself unconscious and have the ring roll into the gutter, down into the sewer. Music business, playing career, club management company, things of that nature. Made a lot of money selling dope. Lived in twelve or fifteen different cities.
And in the course of ten years hit bottom in New York City for the umpteenth time, living in a burned-out building in Harlem, shooting a thousand dollars worth of coke a day, unable to keep 20 cents in my pocket. Panhandling for wine and Wild Irish Rose. And I did that every day for a year and a half. Ended up one hundred and thirty two pounds in Port Authority.
Called my mother. “l am going to kill myself.” She says, “No, don’t. Come hone.” I said, “I can’t. I don’t have any money.” It’s November. I was barefoot, Salvation Army pair of jeans, and a flannel shirt. My eyes were sunk back in my head. I had no gums and I was a walking pincushion. But I knew how to die and I was going to do it tomorrow.
So they prepaid me a ticket and my Dad met me. I couldn’t leave the terminal. I didn’t have anything to go get. Anyway, I got home, he freaked out, bought me a new set of clothes, and took me to a motel and got my hair cut and made me shave. My mother took one look at me and broke into tears. And there was no way for me to hide my tracks. And they say, “We never knew it was like this for you.” And I said, “Well, it’s been like this for almost fifteen years.”
Now I’ve got four and a half years clean. So I lay on the couch, eating and sleeping for two months, and put on twenty pounds. And then one day I felt good enough to go to the liquor cabinet. I went to the liquor cabinet because I was all jammed up. My old man was on my back; my mother was on my back. “You’ve laid on the couch here for two months.” I could have laid on the couch for the rest of my life and never gone back outside. But they were forcing me to go back outside, forcing me to take a look at myself. And I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t go back into life. I didn’t want to go back into life.
So I hit the liquor cabinet and started drinking from dawn till dark. And my Dad had a make-work job for me, which I took a case of beer to every day. Anyway, I stole fifty bucks from my father one night to get loaded. And that was the day before I got clean and, ‘cause I knew that the end of the road had come, so I was going to be kicked out, and had to go back to New York to the dope man an sure death, ‘cause I wasn’t going to go through that shit again.
So late that one night I tripped over an old friend’s car, who was a clean recovering addict that I used to use drugs with before. The next day I surrendered. He took me to a meeting. I got clean and I have been clean ever since. It hasn’t been easy.
There have been a lot of . . . I think the most heavy part of it was just facing myself in the mirror and looking at myself, going, “I don’t like you.” The answer that came back to me from all you clean recovering people in the meetings, “So what are you going to do, change or die?” And I couldn’t even answer that question when I got clean. It took me about a minute to answer the question positively, “Do you want to stay alive?” I went, “Yeah, well, I guess so.”
So I was a real sick pup. But since I’ve been clean the promise of freedom that’s talked about in the meetings has been true for me. All of those oddball things that happened to me in life were God’s way of uniquely preparing me to be of service to humanity and to carry his message and do his work for society.
Today I know that my business is recovery and the results of my life are none of my business. And I have just surrendered, gotten out of the way, allowed you people to show me what to do, to ask to be shown where my behavior is deficient, to ask to be shown “tough stuff.”
And the interesting thing about it is, all of the things that I studied about God and religion and all of that stuff crystallized with my understanding of the spiritual principles talked about at the meetings, recovering addicts sharing their experience, strength, and hope.
I have no doubt in my mind whatsoever, no feelings of uneasiness, that I am absolutely where I am supposed to be to do the most good to humanity, for myself, and to be of service to God and society. I guess as long as I stay clean and keep helping people stay alive and find a path to God for themselves, which is what we do and all great spiritual leaders and teachers throughout time have done, is save a life, point them to a spiritual path, and tell them they have a choice.
And then all my needs have been taken care of, a result of not trying to take care of my own needs. By seeking the will of God I have been able to be free from my own will. I bet my life on this. David died from AIDS.
I had the unfortunate luck of being the area literature chair [of and area in South Florida] when the 4th Edition fiasco occurred in ’88. It seems that the World Lit Committee (WLC), at either the 85 or 86 WSC (can’t remember for sure), put in a motion asking for permission to perform a “LIGHT EDIT” (their words, my emphasis) of the Basic Text, to correct problems of inconsistency of grammar, tense, gender, number, etc. (E.g., sentences that began in the past tense and ended in the present tense.) Obviously, nobody had a problem with that. Unfortunately, they couldn’t leave it at that.
When the 4th Edition came out, there were people actually in tears, saying, “They’ve gutted our book!” In a classic example of “exceeding one’s mandate,” the WLC had changed a lot more than grammar and tense. They had rewritten whole passages, altered the meaning of many phrases, and worst of all, totally deleted many phrases, sentences and even paragraphs.
My friends were adamant that, as lit chair, I hold a workshop. So, I sat down with both books for a couple of days and detailed the alterations. Indeed, I found out that my friends had not exaggerated; there was no rational way that a literate person could describe the changes as merely “grammatical.” I typed up my findings into a report.
At the workshop, members of the “royal family” (addicts who belonged to the sponsorship tree that has often exerted a dominant role at the WSC) came to try to shout us down and call us trouble-makers. When that didn’t work, they pretty much said we were lying.
Their position was that there had been no substantive changes of the Basic Text, and that we were just spreading division and distrust in the fellowship. (This was not the first or last time that the “NA Gurus” stuck their feet in their mouths, embarrassed themselves, and ended up being mad at me for bringing the meeting back to order and standing on principle.)
We carefully laid out the history of the 4th edition, the details of the changes, and the furor that was already taking place across the fellowship by mail and phone. (One of the least pleasant stories circulating was that the changes were made to appease Comp-Care and Hazelden, who were then distributing more Basic Texts than the Fellowship itself; they wanted the changes to make the book less “raw & street-wise,” and more literary. Many addicts said that less rawness reduced its realness.)
Once we held up the books and showed the changes, they could no longer claim that there were no substantive changes. So instead they admitted, yes there were changes, but they were GOOD changes! We said, one’s opinion about the changes is not the point; the point is that the fellowship was lied to and the WLC exceeded its mandate in a spectacular example of self-will run riot.
The 4th edition split the fellowship that year; the 5th edition came out as a compromise which satisfied nobody, because while it restored the out-and-out deletions, it did not change back the alterations of text.
Some addicts continued to object, and tried to bring motions through their groups, areas and regions that would stop publication of the 5th Edition, would restore the publication of the 3rd Ed. revised (which was, after all, the last edition that had actually gone out to the groups in a group-conscience process), and would put in place a standing rule that changes in the NA literature would not be possible in the future without strict adherence to consulting the group conscience. These motions were defeated, not by a strict democratic process, but by parliamentary maneuvers and being declared out of order.
So as you can see, many members — including many of the most idealistic members, and including many of the people who had helped write the book — felt disaffected, felt that their input was not merely not being considered but rather was being actively discouraged. Naturally, they objected.
Ironically, those who spoke out to this steamrolling full-speed-ahead rejection of the voices of caution, were suddenly being called “rebels,” “trouble-makers,” and “self-willed addicts in denial.” Again proving that the disease has been to so many meetings with us that it can use the language of recovery against us. (In another age, a teacher pointed out that “The devil can quote scripture, and twist it to his purpose.” Similar concept.)
Despite being a voice of moderation, caution and co-operation, I was painted with this same broad brush locally by those with strong loyalties to the WLC. I was being called a “dangerous addict!” Me, a chubby, non-violent, vegetarian, gentle jokester! I had never said a word publicly against any person,
I had just called for the WLC and WSC to listen to the objections of the members and find a path of mutual understanding consistent with our principles and the group conscience. But that fell short of total loyalty and acquiescence, so now I was being attacked and even slandered. Fortunately it didn’t work. The newcomers and GSR’s already knew me to be a helpful and honest person, and calling me names just bounced egg back on the faces of the NA gurus. Which of course only made them madder.
It was during this time that I made the acquaintance of a member known as “Grateful Dave.” He was sick with HIV and felt he had little to lose by being brave. He was one of the members who began printing the Baby Blues, and he was pretty up-front about it; but when he explained his purpose he was not alone for long. A number of areas, and even a region or two, bought the books and supported Dave’s efforts. I neither jumped on Dave’s bandwagon nor opposed him, but I did admire his guts, and understood that he was not merely motivated by self-will.
Dave said that proceeds from the sales of the BT were being used to build a bureaucracy at the WSO; that because of the high cost of that office they needed more saleable “product,” but that the old group-conscience process that had created the BT was “too slow;” that those members who had been the creative forces that made the Text possible, were now consistently pushed aside — no longer welcome in world lit. because they had the annoying habit of standing on principle and demanding accountability; and because NA’s best writers were discouraged and shunted aside in this manner, all the writing projects being developed by WLC were mediocre at best, and would continue to be rejected by the fellowship.
One had only to look at the utter failure of the “professional writer” project on It Works, which wasted over $80,000 of the fellowship’s money, to see that Dave was not far off the mark. Dave believed that what the WSC and WLC needed was a wake-up call.
They had gotten too caught up in money, and too out of touch with grass-roots addicts who raised the money and wrote the literature. While the BT was written by any addicts who wanted to participate, without regard to “official position” or even clean-time, the WLC was now becoming so restrictive in who could participate that even bona-fide regional lit committees were being told, “Don’t call us, we won’t call you.”
They couldn’t see that encouraging the creative urges of the fellowship would create MORE literature; they could only see that literature not created by the WLC would become harder and harder to control. Legalities had superceded principles. His sources on the WLC and WSB (trustees) told him he was right on.
Dave said that the whole problem with the set-up was that we had failed to follow AA’s model. (Dave, by the way, was no anda; but he would not argue with a successful model.) In AA, literature did not fund world services. Donations by the groups (and incidentally legacies and bestowals left by richer members before AA had the Traditions) were the primary source of revenue for AA’s services and offices.
AA’s literature prices had consistently and deliberately stayed low; furthermore, AA was not terrified by the prospect of electronic distribution of the Big Book and other AA lit., because the wider the distribution the greater chance that that would bring in new members — hence guaranteeing a continued fund flow through the best source, Self-Support! (7th Tradition)
In NA, the WSO had grown explosively BECAUSE of the Basic Text! When revenues began to falter, officials began to react with fear because it might mean the loss of some jobs. The 4th-edition effort to “tone down” the book to “sell more product” to treatment centers and distributors had backfired, which now had the prospect of wrecking WSO and WLC’s long-range funding plans — a major new writing project every 5 years. It was essential that the credibility and loyalty of the objectors be called into question, and the attention of the fellowship drawn away from the major blunder that had been caused by ignoring group conscience.
Dave was determined to prove that the emperor had no clothes. The Baby Blue was designed to prove that the BT could be published dirt cheap, and given free to any newcomer who needed it. Dozens of groups around the fellowship ( but especially in the eastern US) bought thousands of copies, and gave them away free — asking only for a “donation suggested” if
possible. It said on the cover, “Fellowship Approved” — which was not untrue per se, because in fact the 3rd Edition revised was the last version of the book that HAD been approved by the fellowship at large! (Though, certainly, the Baby Blue was never CONFERENCE approved. Nor did it say it was.)
While previous versions of the BT, from grey review & input to the 3rd revised, had gone out to the groups, the 4th and 5th had never gone out to the groups. Dave had convinced quite a few thousand addicts that the Baby Blues were more authentic expressions of the group-conscience process than the official version was!
Of course, this was a challenge to be sued. Dave was awaiting the prospect with relish; he had done his homework.
Grateful Dave wanted a test case, to challenge the WSO’s claim to owning the copyrights to NA literature. He did not hide his role in the Baby Blue affair, he flaunted it. And in short order, he was awarded: with a lawsuit.
He was ordered to appear in Federal Court in Philadelphia to defend his actions, and he was ready. WSO sent its assistant director and an expensive lawyer. Dave sent Dave. He represented himself. WSO told the judge that the Basic Text had been a work-for-hire, and that Dave had infringed on the copyright.
Dave disagreed. And he had a witness, a man who could rightfully be called “Mr. Basic Text” himself. Bo S. of PA came to testify on Dave’s behalf. Bo had been the first world lit. chair. He had started the process that led to the Basic Text. He had shepherded the whole process through to its conclusion, even though many had told him it couldn’t (and even shouldn’t) be done.
Bo was a recovery hero to many addicts. Bo told the judge that the BT had never been a work-for-hire; that in fact the then-officers of the WSO had strongly objected to a book not produced within the WSO.
Bo told the judge in detail the story that is briefly outlined in the Basic Text. (In the 3rd edition it is called the foreword; in the 5th addition it’s called the preface.) He described how hundreds of people contributed thousands of man-hours to create a “synthesis of the collective group consience of the Fellowship as a whole…”. A few other members who had also “been there” to witness the creation and birth of the Basic Text, also spoke to corroborate Bo’s description.
Dave and his witnesses also described how the rights to the book had been given to the fellowship in trust, and that the WSO could be described as the trustee but in no way the “owner” of the book; and that in any case it was never foreseen that the WSO would protect the book from use by its members, just against copyright infringement from outsiders.
From all descriptions, the judge seemed unusually hip to the unique concept of a “Spiritual Fellowship” as opposed to a corporate business. For once the meek did inherit; he dropped a bombshell on the court by announcing to the representative of the WSO that he was ready to find against WSO and in favor of Dave. However, he was offering him a chance to come to some mutually agreeable compromise with Dave, if Dave was willing to be magnanimous — and that he STRONGLY suggested that WSO get humble and ask!
It seems that in a flash, the tables were turned. Dave had every right to gloat, but he didn’t. In fact, he was actually invited out to Van Nuys and spent some time at the Office with that official, hammering out the agreements. It appeared in the CAR.
Dave agreed to stop publishing the BBs, and WSO agreed to hold a fellowship-wide referendum on the BT. Both sides were duty-bound to stop all finger-pointing and name-calling. The judge was satisfied. And most of this story was never broadcast to the fellowship, “in the interests of unity.”
Unfortunately, the referendum was kicked out at the next WSC. Too expensive, too time-consuming, too blah-blah-blah. Dave grew much sicker, and died before he could pursue the matter further. Most of the impetus for exposing the naked emperor died with him. And the name-calling crept back.
You may have heard of the much-vaunted “4th Step” of WSC and WSO in the past three years. This largely grew out of the above problems. Yet the results of that inventory are still much in doubt. Corporate mentality still seems to rule at the world level. The only reason It Works came out at all is because the window was reopened for a short while on group-conscienced literature to let it happen.
But people like Bo are not being asked to come back and restore the process. Rather, an atmosphere of distrust and polarization has still remained regarding all this stuff; I see no immediate solution, as both sides are absolutely convinced that they are right.
A few years ago, Bo S. and a few trusted friends decided that it was time for a new group-conscience process, to be called “the NA Way of Life.” It was meant to be a broad view of the culture of recovery that develops in the lives of members as they spend many years living clean.
He composed an outline, and did some writing himself; but then he turned to the workshop process. Getting “just folks,” regular members, to participate in the work, he held various workshops around the country to encourage the same spark of contribution and collective creation that had led to the BT.
People who have participated in these workshops describe it as a wonderful opportunity to share the miracle that has transformed their lives. They also are amazed to see the group-conscience process in action; it works.
In the mood of distrust that has gone on ever since Jimmy K was locked out of the WSO, it is hard for some members to believe that some people serve in an independent role, not because that would be their first preference but because that is the only way they can serve. Bo S. is not trying to lead a coup, and I am confident that neither was Dave. They were trying to light a spark, and Frankenstein’s monster could only respond, “Fire bad.”
Despite the fact that my moderateness has been a matter of impatience to those more partisan than I, the very fact that I can view the contributions of people like Dave and Bo, not with anger and outrage but with appreciation and understanding, makes me “unreliable” and “potentially disloyal” in the view of those who support the party line.
Despite good shares at good conventions, (again one of those “independent roles” I was mentioning,) and 10 years of writing pretty good recovery articles and ideas, I consider the chance of my being considered as a WCNA speaker or WLC member as so close to nil, it would stun me for a week if I got an offer.
The party line, that all the above were merely stunts pulled by malcontents, thrives when people only know one side of the story. I do not liken the division, as one member did, to the political division between conservatives and liberals; there are lots of liberals who are very grass-roots, and lots of conservatives who can’t wait for government to get into your bedroom and tell you what to do.
I think the problem is the “heady rush of power.” Those at the center can be intoxicated by their position, and many say that’s why they sought it. Just like “it takes one to know one,” so those in power are apt to believe the motives of those who oppose them are all about power. It’s hard for them to believe that it’s about principle. And when it gets polarized enough, each side demonizes the other, and it’s hard for both the ins and the outs to even believe that their opponents HAVE any principles.
I am sure that all members want the best for NA, and that no-one wants to “tear NA apart.” I fear that addicts on all sides of disputes fail to thoroughly consider the thoughts and the legitimate grievances of those who disagree, and in the process create enmity and division needlessly.
But our problems are not going to go away until we really LISTEN to each other, instead of jumping to conclusions and calling each other names. The fact that even highly informed and experienced members can view some of our most valuable and creative members as distant stick figures wearing “kick-me” signs, shows that we still are quick to believe the worst about each other, rather than seeking to know the facts.
I don’t believe that this is really the Evil Empire vs. the Rebel Alliance, or its reverse. But if we don’t back up and show love & respect, it could get a lot worse.
Love and Blessings, DH in South Fla.
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