Narcotics Anonymous means anonymous
DEAR ABBY: I'm writing about the letter from "Somewhere in the South," who heard someone confess to a crime he had committed at age 12 during one of his Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings. The person asked if he should go to the police. You advised him to talk about it to the "group leader."
Abby, in a 12-step program, there is no formal leader who has a responsibility to report anything to the authorities; 12-step programs are based on anonymity. It was unfair of you to place responsibility on someone who is there for his own addiction to tell on another group member.
- Anonymous in the USA
DEAR ANONYMOUS: I received a ton of criticism for my response to that letter. I was - and still am - of two minds on the question. While it would be satisfying to see "justice done," I could not bring myself to recommend going against the principle upon which these 12-step programs is based. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: I have been a member of NA for 26-plus years. I also work in the field of mental health. I learned long ago how to separate my professional responsibilities from my membership in NA. If I obtain information about abuse or neglect in the conduct of my profession, then I have a duty to act. Should I overhear something at a meeting, I have no specific duty to report.
- Clean, Free and Living Life
DEAR ABBY: As a 30-year member, I can say with certainty that some meeting attendees are grandiose and others are mentally ill. I have not infrequently heard disclosures that I later determined to be not true. The advice for members is, "Take what you can use (in one's own recovery) and leave the rest of what one hears at a meeting."
- Charles in Illinois
DEAR ABBY: I am not a believer that if you confess to murder in NA, AA or with a priest in a confessional that they are bound not to tell. That is hogwash! For some crimes I would say OK, but not something this serious.
- Jim R., Lancaster, Calif.