Abstinence, What is it?
Nicotine Anonymous defines abstinence as the state when all use of nicotine ceases. Abstinence is freedom from nicotine in all forms.
This definition is a group conscience resulting from the founding Smoker’s Anonymous World Services Conference held in San Francisco in 1988 where a workshop was held on nicotine gum (the only nicotine “replacement” therapy at that time). Over the years many other forms of “replacement” have been developed. As a Fellowship, Nicotine Anonymous World Services has no opinion on any of these “replacements” nor any other method of quitting the use of nicotine, such as hypnosis, non-nicotine “replacement” therapy, medications and acupuncture.
We truly believe the spirit of our Third Tradition which is: The only requirement for Nicotine Anonymous membership is a desire to stop using nicotine. You need not be abstinent to attend meetings or be considered a member of our Fellowship.
A Bit of History
At the 1988 World Services Conference when our fellowship was still called Smoker’s Anonymous, our membership affirmed the following statement through a Group Conscience:
“Smobriety is a state that begins when the use of all nicotine ceases.”
At that time, the term “Smobriety” was coined to signify the state of being in recovery from this addiction. It is a somewhat confusing term since it implies that our goal is abstinence from smoking. Many members avoid using this term for this very reason and instead use terms such as “abstinence,” “recovery,” or “NICovery” to convey this concept.
Clarity on this issue is also critical in order to help guide groups in their recognition of members’ abstinence. Some groups, for example, use a token or a chip system to recognize people who become nicotine-free and maintain abstinence over progressive periods of time. Regardless of the means by which individuals seek this goal, it is crucial that we encourage and support anyone who is trying to stop using nicotine in a manner consistent with the principles of our Traditions as follows:
Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon Nicotine Anonymous unity.
Our fellowship is linked by a common purpose and message. We offer a spiritual approach to first gaining and then maintaining freedom from nicotine. If one group considers abstinence to be from the time of one’s last cigarette and another from the time when the use of all nicotine has ended, we are not united. This would be particularly confusing to a newcomer who attends different meetings with conflicting views on abstinence.
The only requirement for Nicotine Anonymous membership is a desire to stop using nicotine.
Our spiritual approach to freedom from nicotine teaches us not to judge the methods of our still struggling members in their quest for freedom. Anyone who is still smoking, dipping or chewing, using e-cigarettes or other nicotine delivery systems or “replacement” therapies is welcome to join. However, not judging someone’s journey is not the same as enabling him or her to limit his/her vision. The use of a deadly drug in ANY form is not abstinence. Some members feel that they are judging or offending others who are on the patch or using another nicotine delivery system by not recognizing them as abstinent. Those members still using nicotine in some form may feel resentful, but, in truth, many addicts have stated that the desire to receive the group’s acknowledgment for abstinence is what finally propelled them to become completely free of nicotine.
Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or Nicotine Anonymous as a whole.
Many people cite this tradition as the one that allows their group to make its own decision regarding abstinence. While it may be true that each group should be autonomous, this concept is only limited to those areas that do not have an impact on our common purpose and on other groups. Using the newcomer as an example again, as he or she is our primary concern, what message are we carrying when such a fundamental issue as this is not consistent from one group to the next? Nicotine Anonymous World Services is responsible to be the guardian of this recovery program’s principles. We cannot misrepresent the use of nicotine in any form as abstinence.
Each group has but one primary purpose—to carry its message to the nicotine addict who still suffers.
It is the group’s role to inform and support the newcomer. Some people who come into the rooms of Nicotine Anonymous may be unaware of nicotine’s highly addictive properties and that trading one form of the drug for another is not what we ultimately seek. A major purpose of the group is to clarify our fellowship’s primary goal: to recover from an addiction to this very powerful drug. It does not matter what the delivery system for that drug is, whether currently available or yet to be developed.
A Nicotine Anonymous group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the Nicotine Anonymous name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.
Some time ago, our fellowship was offered a chance to have our name and other information published in a widely circulated magazine. This would have meant tremendous exposure and a huge outreach opportunity. As it turned out, this particular piece was a supplement to the magazine and was being underwritten by a company that manufactured the nicotine patch. It was decided by the Nicotine Anonymous World Services Board that placement of our name in such a setting could be misconstrued and although it was a great way to get our name out, it might have appeared to have been an endorsement of their product.
Nicotine is a mood and mind altering drug. In meetings, we describe ourselves as nicotine addicts and we consider ourselves to be active drug addicts if we are still using nicotine in any form. We have also learned that we cannot end the recurring cycle of craving and addiction until we become completely nicotine free. It is then that our minds, hearts and spirits become clear enough to begin to fully embrace this powerful program of recovery.
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