on wednesday, may 23, god blessed me with 12 years of freedom from active addiction in the spiritual program known worldwide as narcotics anonymous. the festive celebration took place at my home group - men supporting men - a closed men's meeting which meets at the red door of st. mary's church in harlem, from 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm. i was showered with books, cards, flowers, gifts & money. the feeling of unconditional loving acceptance nurtured my spirit as i listened to folks share their experience, strength & hope. i must admit i was uncomfortable receiving high praises fom my friends in the fellowship, yet i'm grateful to na for giving me a new way to live.
it came to my attention slowly over a period of time i owe na a spiritual debt. in fact, on page 212 in 'it works how & why,' our 12th tradition says, "a spiritual experience cannot be bought or sold; it can only be given away." what's the lesson? i can never fully repay na for the life i live today: the fellowship taught me how to get in service...god teaches me how to be of service. i will be in service until god calls me home. as such, i try to serve with a loving & selfless attitude, fully aware of the fallibility of my hue-man condition.
na is a program of prayer & action. we are a fellowship or society of men & women for whom drugs had become a major problem. our program is a set of principles written so simply we can follow them in our daily lives. na is not a drug progam, we are a program of recovery for drug addicts. what makes us addicts is not the drugs, or behavior - we are not morally deficient - what makes us addicts is the disease of addiction. we make meetings regularly to help each other stay clean. recovery is what happens in our meetings. our meetings are a process of hope, identification & sharing.
i attended my very first na meeting june 16, 1994. my life had become unmanageable because i was powerless over my addiction. i was living on public assistance, unemployed & sleeping on the floor of a friend, in denial of my homelessness, after all, he was a friend & i had a key. denial is not just a river in egypt: (d)idn't (e)ven (n)otice (i) (a)m (l)ying. i saw a familiar commercial which resonated with me deeply at that moment earlier in the day. the black & white commercial was shot in the morning in the kitchen as we saw someone turn on a stove & crack a couple of eggs before they put them in a dark skillet. as the person put the eggs in the skillet, the narrator says, "this is drugs...this is your brain on drugs...any questions."
there was an 1-800-cocaine number at the bottom of the screen. though completely engrossed in the grips of my addiction, i had a moment of clarity. a moment of clarity is a moment of sanity. a moment of sanity is a moment with god. i called the number, asked for help & they referred me to the na helpline. i was directed to a meeting in my neighborhood. i arrived alone, scared, not knowing what to expect & was warmly greeted by a young lady who is still my friend today. it was a thursday evening. the meeting is called the convent group, named because of their location on covent avenue in harlem. thru grace & mercy, that meeting later moved to the location where i celebrated 12 years clean!
at the sparsely attended meeting, i was able to identify with the speaker, a man who continues to stay clean, make meetings & is also someone with a special place in my heart. when i sat down, i looked around the room for a familiar face, despite being riddled with embrarassment, shame & terror. i didn't know this was the first day of the rest of my life. they had slogans on the wall that said 'easy does it,' 'keep coming back,' 'let go & let god.' i thought they were crazy. when they passed the basket around i thought they were going to use the money to get high, primarily because the meeting was in a basement, a place where i'd gotten high many different times with many different folks in many different places.
the only reason i raised my hand, said my name & acknowledged i was an addict was because i feared they'd kick me out of the meeting if i didn't do what other people did. i learned fear is a motivator. i was shaking in my seat. while folks were sharing, i dared not make too much eye contact. i didn't trust anyone. most of all i didn't trust myself. i felt ashamed, yet relieved as well, which only heightened my overwhelming confusion. at the end of the 90-minute meeting they gathered in a circle & said the serenity prayer, which was unfamiliar, yet somewhat comforting because we were locked arm in arm. i couldn't remember the last time somebody hugged me. i felt safe.
that was almost 13 years ago. i remember my first na meeting like it was yesterday. it was yesterday. they told me to keep coming back. why? more will be revealed. they said don't leave before the miracle happens. what is the miracle? when the obsession to use drugs is lifted. another member took me to a couple more meetings that night. i told him i'd go only if he bought me a pack of cigarettes. i learned my love & friendship were always conditional. not today. i haven't had a cigarette since 8/15/95. the program works & we do recover! na is a just for today program helping thousands of addicts all over the world find a new way to live. i'm happy, joyous & free.
- mark j. tuggle
- harlem, usa
- same-gender-loving contemporary descendant of enslaved africans. community activist, feminist, health educator, independent filmmaker, mentor, playwright, poet & spiritual being. featured at, in & on africana.com, afrikan poetry theatre, angel herald, bejata dot com, bet tonight with tavis smiley, blacklight online, black noir, brooklyn moon cafe, gmhc's barbershop, klmo-fm, lgbt community services center, longmoor productions, nuyorican poets cafe, our corner, poz, pulse, rolling out new york, rush arts gallery, saint veronica's church, schomburg center for research in black culture, sexplorations, the citizen, the new york times, the soundz bar, the trenton times, the village voice, upn news, uzuri, venus, vibe, wbai-fm, wnyc-fm & wqht-fm. volunteered with adodi, bailey house, inc., black men's xchange-new york, colorofchange.org, drug policy alliance, east harlem tutorial program, imagenation film & music festival, presente.org, save darfur coalition, the enough project, the osborne association, the sledge group & your black world. worked on films with maurice jamal & heather murphy. writing student of phil bertelsen & ed bullins. firstname.lastname@example.org.