AA vs NA – What’s The Beef?

If you’re a member of either of these 12 step groups, you’ve most likely heard a few jabs taken at the other fellowship. The jabs could be all in good fun or they could have come across in a mean tone where the person saying it truly believed that one group is inferior to the other. I’ve certainly heard my share of both and I’ve often wondered why people felt so strongly about a group they aren’t a member of. Is it based on past experience? Is it based on rumors, myths or the ramblings of an unhappy former member? Are the differences between the two groups being over examined to the point where people are finding fault? What’s the beef?


I’m a member of Narcotics Anonymous and have been since I got clean. I was exposed to both fellowships while in treatment, both within the treatment center and also in regular meetings while out on pass. I was encouraged to check out both and see where I felt more comfortable. NA meetings made me feel more at ease. I felt a lot more comfortable calling myself an addict rather than an alcoholic and the concept of the disease of addiction made a lot of sense to me. Those were my reasons for making NA my fellowship. I had a lot of positive experiences in AA meetings. I found the people to be just as welcoming and I always left feeling like I had gotten something out of the meeting. I just knew in my heart that I wasn’t an alcoholic, I was an addict. Since making the decision that NA would be my “home”, I have attended many AA meetings, have maintained friendships with AA members and have even attended AA conventions. I will always respect what AA has done not only for countless people but also for the fellowship that I am a member of today.


Anyone in the 12 step world knows that AA came long before NA and without the AA model, there would be no NA. It worked – people struggling with addiction attended AA meetings out of necessity until there was enough demand to start something new. With the formation of NA came some differences – differences that I think get focused on a lot still to this day. The way the fellowships work steps is always the debate that I hear. NA took the 12 steps from AA and adapted the wording and then adapted the step working process. Its that simple. AA had a winning formula – its helped who knows how many people over the years and when NA came along they put their own spin on things. In my humble opinion, both groups have a good thing going. It works. If you prefer one method over the other then you know what group to work steps in. It’s not a matter of one being better than the other. It’s a matter of two groups each having a system and style that works for them.


Another topic I hear mentioned a lot is people casting judgment on how a person decides what group they belong to. A lot of younger AA members that I know have extensive histories with drugs and aren’t the straight drunk that typically gets associated with AA – at least in year’s past. My opinion on this is that who cares where you get your help, as long as your getting help and following the traditions of the group you attend. I really don’t feel like its anyone’s business why you selected the fellowship you selected as long as you are following the traditions and working a program.


So what’s the beef? Why do some people feel the need to make a big deal out of how the “other” fellowship does things? At the end of the day its two groups trying to help people get their lives back together and then show others how they did it. Yes there are differences. That’s to be expected. Go where you’re comfortable and let others make the same decision. Instead of focusing on the differences, can’t we look at the similarities? Some people like Coke, some like Pepsi. Both options are needed. Having the doors open in both groups means that many more people have a shot at finding recovery, which is what its all about. Thanks for letting me share.


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