To mark its 60th anniversary, Narcotics Anonymous is holding an international gathering in Philadelphia this week. More than 20,000 people in recovery from drug addiction are expected to come from all over the world to attend.
The Philadelphia gathering, a celebration of recovery and sobriety for the attendants, will feature meetings, speeches and forums on different issues.
Over its six decades, NA has grown exponentially, says executive director Anthony Edmondson. It now publishes materials in more than 30 languages, but the simple message of recovery through following a 12-step plan and attending meetings hasn’t changed since its founding in California ion 1953.
The organization remains nonpolitical, and does not pursue advocacy.
“There are people who expect us at times to act as public advocates, or to have opinions on things,” said Edmondson. “The simplicity of our program is the fact that we don’t. We don’t have opinions on any issue, outside of making this message available to addicts suffering from addiction.”
The group’s core tenet of anonymity remains vital to its mission, Edmondson says, because it provides an atmosphere of safety.
Jane Nickels of Narcotics Anonymous says maintaining that principle at large gatherings can be challenging in the age of social media.
“We don’t encourage it, and we can’t control it. And we know many members who are on Facebook, and then they break somebody else’s anonymity,” she said. “And they may write us on how to handle it because I didn’t want me all over.”
The gathering lasts through the weekend.