A History of the Narcotics Anonymous Program in El Paso, Texas

1981 - 1985

A History of the Narcotics Anonymous Program in El Paso, Texas

1981 - 1985

 

Context

The Narcotics Anonymous program as we know it today, had its beginning in southern California when an addict named Jimmy Kinnin (Jimmy K.”) and others held its first meeting in 1953. The program struggled for several years to establish its credibility and its early growth was confined mainly to the southern California area.

However, because of the dedication of Jimmy K. and those early members and undoubtedly because of their adherence to the Steps of recovery and the Traditions that guide the program, which they had adapted from Alcoholics Anonymous, NA survived while other early attempts to address the disease of addiction failed. Still, it wasn’t until the early 1980s with the publication of the NA Basic Text, that the program began to experience substantial growth.

 

NA in El Paso

It was during this time (1982) that NA got its start in El Paso, Texas when Dorrance G., a member of AA and a counselor at Sun Valley Hospital’s treatment program on Waymore St., thought it would be a good idea to start an NA meeting for the patients there. The meeting was held on Tuesday nights. It was an open meeting, but there was no attempt to publicize it and it was mostly attended by the patients and a few members of AA. The meeting was called, “Genesis II” which meant “a Second Beginning” –- a second chance at life, a new start!

Second Meeting Started

 

By early 1983, it was felt that NA needed to grow and another possible meeting place was found by member Blake F. The location was at the Unitarian Universalist Church at the corner of Byron and Taylor Streets in Northeast El Paso. However, the only night of the week available was Wednesday and some of the members thought it was not a good idea to have “back-to-back” meetings on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

 

Others pointed out that while it might be better to have our two meetings spread further apart during the week, Wednesday was the night being offered and we should take it. When the group conscience (vote) was taken among the 7 or so members in attendance, the majority decided in favor of starting the second NA meeting in El Paso, Texas! This was in March of 1983.

 

It has proven to have been a good decision, for the “High Hopes” meeting has continued to carry the message of NA recovery in that same location on Wednesday nights ever since – for 37 years, as of this writing!

 

The original “Genesis II” group continued to meet on Tuesday nights and moved with Sun Valley Hospital from Waymore St. to the hospital’s new location at Idaho and Denver streets in Central El Paso (the current location of El Paso Behavioral Systems, often referred to as “UBH”). At some point later on, the meeting moved to First Unity Church on Alabama St. on Monday nights and changed its name to “The Power of Love”. After a couple of location changes, the meeting still survives as an online zoom meeting on Monday nights.

 

Third Meeting Started

 

Early in 1984, a third meeting was started on Fort Bliss with the blessing Col. David Kruzich who was the director of the RTF (Residential Treatment Facility) on the base. The Army sent its soldiers who had chemical dependency problems there for treatment. Col. Kruzich was a strong believer in the efficacy of 12 Step programs and was glad to offer NA a meeting place on post.

 

It was called the “New Life” group and was an open meeting on Saturday nights attended by the soldiers as well as members of the local NA fellowship. Some of the soldiers also attended the Wednesday night “High Hopes” meeting as well, which was located near Ft. Bliss. It was hoped that some of them would carry the NA message of recovery back to where they were stationed throughout the country and the world. The meeting had to leave Ft. Bliss after 9/11 in 2001 for security reasons and relocated at First Unity church on Alabama St. on Saturday nights.

 

Perseverance Pays Off

 

Most of 1983 had been kind of a “waiting game” while our small group of regular members continued to attend our two meetings a week, waiting for newcomers to start showing up at our meetings and of wondering if they ever would.

 

We anxiously awaited the publication of the NA Book and discussed ways to make the public aware of our existence here in El Paso. Our efforts to contact AA, probation, doctors, etc. in hopes of getting some referrals to our program were sort of “hit or miss” as there were not many of us and we were not very well organized. But things began to change.

 

After starting our third meeting at Ft. Bliss, we began to realize the need for some sort of “business meeting” made up of members of our three groups. We could discuss ways to better carry the message of recovery and create a sense of cohesiveness or “unity” among the groups which was called for in our First Tradition. We decided to hold the meeting on a quarterly basis, after the Wednesday night “High Hopes” meeting.

 

NA Book Published

 

Finally, the long-awaited NA book came out. It was called the “NA Basic Text” and it created a lot of excitement! A few newcomers began to trickle in. We had formalized our meeting formats according to NA World Service Office suggestions and instituted the key ring system to recognize members as they achieved various lengths of clean time. We were ordering materials from WSO on a regular basis. All of these efforts seemed to “standardize” or “legitimize” our program and to increase our pride in it. We began to transport patients from Sun Valley Hospital to our Wednesday “High Hopes” meetings. Our program was finally beginning to grow!

 

The Steering Committee

 

By May, 1984, we saw that our quarterly business meeting needed to meet more frequently to address the needs of our growing program. We changed its name to the “Steering Committee” and decided to meet every other month..

 

One of the first things the Steering Committee did was to get our own phone number and contract with an answering service to give out our meeting information and connect a caller with one of our members if they so desired. We also formed an “Entertainment” sub-committee which later became the “Activities” sub-committee to plan activities for our fellowship. Also. we formed what we called the “PSA” sub-committee that would try to get local radio stations to run free “Public Service Announcements” about NA and our meetings on the air from time to time. Of course, this would later become our “Public Information” sub-committee, now known as “Public Relations”.

 

We didn’t know that we were sort of “re-inventing the wheel” by doing these things. We were simply trying to carry out NA’s First Tradition that stresses the importance of unity and the Fifth Tradition which reminds us that our “primary purpose” is to carry the message of recovery to the addict who still suffers.

 

We Join the Region

 

It was around this time in early 1984, that we were contacted by a newly-formed NA Region, “The Best Little Region in Texas” and invited to attend its upcoming meeting. A couple of us went to see what it was all about. The region was going to be made up of NA representatives from areas in West Texas including Lubbock, Midland, Odessa, Abilene, etc. as well as southern New Mexico.

 

In May, 1984, we held a group conscience and voted to join the region. It was a very important step for our program. We began to realize that we were a part of something much bigger than ourselves. Years later, our area switched to The Rio Grande Region based in Albuquerque, NM, a logical choice given our proximity to New Mexico.

 

Area Service Committee

 

After joining the region, the El Paso Area Service Committee (ASC) was formed and the former steering Committee dissolved. We relied heavily on the NA publication, “A Temporary Working Guide to the Service Structure” as well as NA’s “Twelve Concepts of Service” to guide us and to strengthen our program.

 

We Host our First Regional Service Committee Meeting

 

October 6, 1984, the El Paso Area of NA hosted our first big regional meeting at Trinity Presbyterian Church, 8001 Magnetic St. The meeting was held in the afternoon, followed by a dinner, a speaker, dance and fellowship. It was a big success!

 

Continued Growth

 

The Narcotics Anonymous program continued to grow during its first four years of existence in El Paso, both in number of meetings and its ability to carry the message of recovery. By 1985, there was at least one NA meeting every day of the week in the El Paso Area. In addition, there were at least four NA “Hospital and Institution” (H&I) meetings. The number of these meetings fluctuated from time to time, but during these years, some of them included: La Tuna Federal Penitentiary; Women’s Aliviane Program; CRTC (Court Residential Treatment Facility); Sun Valley Hospital Adolescent Program; Salvation Army; and others.

 

Looking back, these early years of growth of the Narcotics Anonymous program in El Paso, were sometimes difficult but always exciting! We learned how to work together and how to do service, by doing it. We learned to trust our Higher Power and our program as we went along. We gained a deep appreciation for the wisdom and value of the program – its steps and traditions – as we tried to follow them (and sometimes broke them!) while laying the ground work for NA in El Paso.

 

-Pete