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The Differences Between AA and NA

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A common dilemma faced by many people who are just getting sober is figuring out what 12 Step program they should attend. In the past, the lines were a little clearer on what program was right for you, as alcoholics tended to be pure alcoholics and addicts pure addicts, but in the current world of substance abuse, cross-addiction seems to be a bit more prevalent and just what program is right for you is open to interpretation.

The truth is that regardless of what substances you were using, and some people will disagree with this next statement, the right 12 Step program for you is the one that you feel most comfortable in. If you find that early on you can identify and feel comfortable in AA, then that is where you should go; likewise, if you feel more comfortable in NA then that is where you should go. Both programs hinge on the tenants of the 12 Steps, both express the need for honesty, and both have a goal of giving you a spiritual experience that can expel your desire to drink and use, so wherever you find your solutions is the right place for you.

With all of that said, let’s take a look at the differences between AA and NA so that you can make an educated decision as to what program you should attend. While both AA and NA are similar in many ways, there are differences that could affect your ability to be successful in either program. Hopefully, this post helps you choose between AA and NA, and helps you find your way into a successful and long-term recovery.

Differences between AA and NA

To start with, I think a little history is in order. Both AA and NA make use of the 12 Steps, which were developed in the 1930’s by the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. However, these Steps were not entirely a new creation by AA but rather were the amalgamation of thousands of years old spiritual principles and more modern notions of how to help an alcoholic stop drinking. For a period of time, alcoholics and addicts recovered together in AA, but in the 1950’s, due to a schism that occurred in one group, Narcotics Anonymous broke away so that people who identified strongly with being an addict could recover in solidarity. The program of NA uses the same 12 Steps as AA, with the wording changed only slightly.

Similarities aside, let’s take a look at some of the difference between AA and NA.

  •      In Alcoholics Anonymous you identify as an Alcoholic

This may seem like a given but is important to note that if you attend AA meetings, you should identify yourself as an alcoholic. If you feel comfortable doing this and are convinced that you are an alcoholic, then AA might be the place for you.

  •      In Narcotics Anonymous you identify as an Addict

Once again this sounds like a given, but if you decide that NA meetings are for you then you will want to identify yourself as an addict. People who have problems with drugs and alcohol can be an addict, and the two do not have to be mutually exclusive.

  •      The 12 Steps in AA usually take less time to work than in NA

Many people in AA find that they can work all of their Steps in a few months. Whereas in NA, this process is a bit more involved and there is a Step working guide book that is used. The Steps in NA involve a lot more writing than in AA, and because of this, it can take a bit longer to finish.

aa or na meeting

  •      Meeting length can differ depending on where you live

In almost all of the country, AA meetings are an hour long, but there are certain areas of the US where an NA meeting will last for an hour and a half. In some of these areas, there will be a short break in the meeting, where members of the group will talk to newer individuals or get coffee.

  •      The literature is different in AA and NA

Since the topics that are covered differ, the literature differs as well. In AA, the books that are used as a means of identification and working the Steps are Alcoholics Anonymous and The 12 Steps and 12 Traditions. In NA the books used are Narcotics Anonymous, which is often called the Basic Text, and The Narcotics Anonymous Step Working Guide. Each program offers a plethora of literature focused on topics that addicts and alcoholics will inevitably have to deal with in their recovery.

  •      AA uses chips and NA uses key tags

This generally has no bearing on people’s ability to stay clean and sober, but it is a difference nonetheless. In AA, for certain mile markers in the first year of sobriety, you will receive poker chips: a white one for 24 hours, green is usually 30 days, red is 90 days, blue is 6 months, and yellow or gold is 9 months. In NA a similar day count is used but instead of chips, key tags are used to distinguish the periods of time that a person has stayed clean and sober.

Those are the basic differences between AA and NA. Hopefully it helped shed some light on what program will be best for you, but really, in the end, you should attend meetings of both AA and NA and see which one you feel most comfortable at.

Seeking Treatment for Alcoholism or Addiction

Getting clean and sober from drugs and alcohol is the most important thing that an addict or alcoholic can do in their life. It is also the most anxiety producing and frightening thing that they can do in their life, but it doesn’t need to be. With help from the professionals at Elevations Health, you can find a new life in sobriety with the least amount of resistance possible. So call us today at 1-866-200-3224 and begin your journey to recovery the right way, with Elevation Health.

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2 responses to “The Differences Between AA and NA

  1. My husband has an addiction to alcohol and marijuana. I know many people don’t believer marijuana to be a narcotic but it is. Are there any programs that address both issues? If not, should he attend NA first and then AA? I’m trying desperately to find help for him. Our marriage is in jeopardy.

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