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History of CDA

CDA ROOTS (Chapter 6 of the book Chemically Dependent Anonymous)

Chemically Dependent Anonymous is a fellowship that was created to fill a perceived need on the part of some younger members of Alcoholics Anonymous in the Annapolis, Maryland area in the last decade. We founders of CDA, in the 1976-1980 period, were people who had bottomed out on alcohol in our late twenties. Yet we also had extensive histories of using other drugs. We had used alcohol in the last stages of our active addictions, and so A.A. had seemed the logical place to come for recovery.

One of us, Rick R., attempted to start Narcotics Anonymous in the Annapolis area. It did not succeed there, however, and N.A. shared its parent organization's problem of seeming to disqualify those addicted to other substances for membership because of its very name. We wanted to found yet another group, one that, while it resolved that situation, was still based on the principles of A.A., whose structure, we recognized, was of some younger members of Alcoholics Anonymous in the Annapolis, Maryland area in the last decade. 

We began to see, in working with those who used drugs other than alcohol, or whose primary drug of choice was something other than alcohol or in addition to alcohol, that some of these newcomers were not getting the message, within A.A., that all mood-altering and mind-changing drugs were part of their problem of addiction. Alcohol was not the sole obstacle to recovery for them. Even more important was the fact that earlier A.A. members seemed to be uncomfortable when these incoming people shared their experiences about using drugs. Members new to the program felt alienated within the fellowship. Clearly, something had to be done to help them.

Through trial and error, they had managed to come up with the idea of a fellowship that has proven itself successful, for over fifty years, for people addicted to alcohol. We wanted to be a similarly anonymous organization based on the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. But we also wanted to choose a name that would contain no words that could lead a prospective member to believe that we would exclude any particular type of addict or addiction. Previously existing literature from the Hazelden Foundation, in Center City, Minnesota, gave us our name. There, we also found verification for the truths we had lived.

The first meeting of CDA, with twelve people in attendance, was held at the home of Rick and Elin R., in Annapolis, Maryland, on August 17, 1980. We decided, that night, upon our name and our purpose. For the next few months, meetings continued to be held at Rick and Elin's on Fridays, at 6:30 p.m. These Friday meetings were transferred to St. Anne's Church, in downtown Annapolis, as the membership steadily expanded. Within six months, there were three meetings a week, attended by about twenty-five regular members, and soon groups were meeting in church halls, basements, and schools all over the Annapolis area.

Today, CDA has 450 members in Maryland and Delaware alone, in over fifty active groups. The fellowship now extends, locally, from the Eastern Shore of Maryland to Washington, D.C. and its vicinity. CDA is also to be found in the Midwest, in Florida, in Connecticut, and in Portland, Oregon, where Rick and Elin R. moved in 1982 and have since started half-a-dozen groups. We are now active in Dublin, Ireland, as well. A typical group has from fifteen to forty members, ranging in age from mid-teens to mid-forties. Of the original twelve members who attended the first CDA meeting ten years ago, eleven remain active in the fellowship today.

The only requirement for membership in CDA is the desire to abstain from all chemicals, including all street-type drugs, alcohol, and unnecessary medication. There are no dues or fees for membership. We are self-supporting through our own voluntary contributions. All our meetings are open ones. We neither endorse nor oppose any causes, and we do not wish to engage in controversies of any type.

Our program was designed for the still-suffering, chemically dependent person who would otherwise have nowhere to turn. Because of the all-inclusive nature of our organization, we can open the door to recovery for anyone who has a sincere desire to be free from self-destructive chemical usage. We hope that our fellowship will continue to expand, to serve the needs of all tormented addicts. Their numbers are, today, at an epidemic level.

Using CDA as an alternative to, or in conjunction with the other anonymous groups dedicated to helping chemically addicted people, members of all of these programs, as well as those millions of people who still suffer, have a better chance for recovery. CDA does not attempt to replace A.A. for those of us who are also finding recovery there. Roughly 75 percent of our present members are active, too, in the program that was our source. Only 10 percent of us have drug addiction problems that do not include alcohol.

We can never forget the many beautiful A.A. role models who have been a support and an example of courage for us in starting the CDA fellowship. Nor should we forget what their program has taught us about being responsible to the practicing addict who wants help. In order to keep what we have, we must give it away. We are confident that this book will aid in that cause.

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