Chakra Discussions

Alcoholics Anonymous & KC Are Compatible

by Name Withheld

Posted October 13, 2003

A response to "Alcoholics Anonymous" by Krsna-krpa das

Absolutely yes, the principles of Krishna Consciousness and Alcoholics Anonymous are completely compatible! There are many devotees are who are also members of 12 step programs. I have been a member since 1984, these days however, I have been more inclined towards Al-anon (family members of alcoholics) since I have a family member who is still struggling. The principles remain the same.

In AA or NA (narcotics anonymous) the basic principle is to bring one to accept the Higher Power as they understand Him (our Higher Power is Krsna). What AA provides is association vital for recovery! AA accepts us far more then we can accept them.

My experience, especially as a new devotee some years ago, is that we Vaisnavas feel that we have nothing to benefit from these meat eaters who sit around and talk about problems. So often we hear that all a devotee needs is the Holy Name, "Just chant the Holy Name! Do not listen to these karmi materialists. This method does not work well all the time. One devotee who was heroin addicted was told by a guru to only chant the Holy Name."

I wonder -- if this sannyasa guru ever needed medical attention for an illness, would he refrain from doing so only depending on the Holy Name? This guru may be so elevated that he is pure enough to do so, but what about the young heroin addicted devotee? Is that addict still alive?

Many devotees, especially those from the 70's era who joined the movement with Prabhupada, have been addicted to chemicals. They just gave up drugs and chanted the Holy Name. First, they were mostly in their early 20s with good health, so it was easier to quit. And second, if the Holy Name is all anybody needs, why, after 30 years of chanting the Holy Name of Krsna do some devotees continue dishonesty and denial?

Yes, CHANT. But some of us are sicker then others.

At one point, seeing so many of our devotees struggling I was wanting to start a "special interest group" following the same principles as AA. I wrote to the World Service Offices of both NA and AA for information on how to do this, so that devotees could come and find recovery.

In 1997, I phoned the NA hotline listed in the World Directory of Narcotics Anonymous for Wheeling West Virginia. I wanted to get meeting information for a devotee friend who lived at New Vrndavana. The recovering addict on the other end of the line was an initiated disciple of Srila Prabhupada with 27 years clean and sober.

If only we as Vaisnavas could come to understand the reality of the disease concept. If only our leaders understood, they would invite AA, Alanon, Alateen and NA to host meetings in their facilities, just like every other religion has done all over the planet. It will not damage our reputation as a spiritual movement by doing so (but first ensuring that members follow Vaisnava ettiquette while in the temple).

These days most meetings are non-smoking and very few provide coffee. The only compromise we would have to make is to provide a room for those not comfortable with taking off their shoes. A lot of non-devotees are shy about shoe removal.

AA can also be a good way to help spread Krishna Consciousness. For example, one year, I went to a meeting to pick up my 13 year sober medallion. I was the lead speaker that night and told my story of recovery to all the people at the meeting. I said, "My story may be different, but our recovery is what unites us."

After the meeting, it's customary to provide special aniversary refreshements, and I brought enough prasadam for all the members to take.

When I say, "My name is ____ dasa, and I am an alcoholic," in a meeting, they ask, "What kind of name is ____ dasa? Where are you from? What do you do? How do you surrender to God? What do you know about a searching and taking a fearless moral inventory of yourself? What are your shortcomings? How do you overcome these defects of character? What is honesty?"

We as Hare Krsna addicts and alcoholics do have obstacles. My obstacle is my false ego. My problem is that I am not humble enough. When I look at these people, and think myself better then them because I do not eat meat, I have put myself on a higher level that I do not deserve. We are all fallen, I must accept my part, I must become truely honest with myself.