Citizens of our community in Holly Hill Florida have long complained of being overwhelmed and harassed by Daytona Narcotics Anonymous and Daytona Alcoholics Anonymous members who have been attending organized meetings in Holly Hill’s Sunrise Park. They advertise the park as their meeting place to conduct business. They do this without permits or payment to rent the pavilion, as their traditions would have them do. Every day of the week and twice on Sundays for approximately 17 years, the parking facility and main pavilion have been overrun during family prime time. These groups can have as many as 100 or more addicts. Many are drug court mandated felons recently released from jail. They are court ordered to attend addiction recovery meetings to meet probation requirements and avoid going back to jail. Some of these individuals have a wide array of multiple charges including but not limited to crimes like robbery, home invasion, carjacking, purse snatching and prostitution etc. They show up and repeatedly asked the citizens in the park “Is this the Narcotics or Alcoholics Anonymous meeting?”
We have asked longtime members and chairpersons, “If you’re not concerned about the anonymity of your attendees would you at least try to understand our concerns?” Our children and other non-addicted citizens are constantly exposed to large, unsupervised, high risk groups telling their horror stories for all to hear. One of the group’s original facilitators from Alcoholics Anonymous confessed “The Park has always been very popular because smoking is permitted.”
After years of citizens complaining of harassment etc. problems escalated on May 31, 2010, sending shock waves through our community. At approximately 6:45 PM two young men came into the community store across from Sunrise Park and began grabbing and tossing merchandise around with total disregard. They were extremely arrogant and verbally abusive. I always try to gently bring these people around with something like, “Can I help you find something?”, or “If you don’t mind we have a lot of children coming into the store, please be considerate.” Most say, “Okay, no problem”, and conduct their business. Those that do not and become more abusive are calmly told “I don’t need this, please leave.” The practice of not letting abusive customers run off the good ones helps to improve the community store. These two did not get it and asked to leave.
My friend and I watched as they crossed the street to Daytona The Next Step Narcotics Anonymous meeting in the park. There was a disruption in the crowd. One of the men struggled with the lady in the parking lot. She tried to prevent them from leaving but the man shoved her, pulled their car door shut and they recklessly sped out of the parking lot. As they passed the store, they yelled out “you mother f*#*ers better get bulletproof glass!” Whether you own a business or not an angry hot head threatening to possibly come back with a firearm should not be totally disregarded. So we called the Holly Hill City police and asked them to send out an officer. When one came, we expressed we would appreciate if he would try to identify this individual. Hopefully, he could be contacted and advised that it’s not a good idea to threaten to shoot up a store! He should be informed that if in fact the store did get shot up, he would be first on the list of suspects. So the officer, my friend and I went over to the meeting of approximately 65 people. As we approached we witnessed a commotion with chairpersons and the lady who was involved in the scuffle. Two longtime members who were chairing The Next Step meeting came forward. I knew them both well as they had shopped at the store regularly. When they were asked to help us in identifying the man, they first said, “We don’t know who you’re talking about.” I replied, “Yes you do, and he threatened to shoot up the store!” Then, Phil, who chairs The Next Step meeting, said with a grin, “Okay, I know who you’re talking about but we are anonymous so….” I just looked at him in disbelief. “Hey Phil”, “it’s me”, I said. “We just need to talk to this guy.” He just smiled and refused to cooperate. First of all, I felt extremely betrayed by someone I had known on a friendly basis for years. For all he knew this man was fully capable of carrying out his threat. A community member and local business had been threatened by a Daytona Beach NA member. Phil, who chairs The Next Step meeting, refused to cooperate with the police. He just stood there in front of approximately 65 some people and lied, saying, “We don’t know who you’re talking about; well okay we do but WE ARE ANONYMOUS SO…!” The irony of his translation of anonymous troubles me! Remember, this took place at our public park’s main pavilion, just steps from the playground.
Approximately 2 weeks later, Phil came into the store, totally unapologetic, with that same inappropriate grin. “Well”, he said, “you don’t have to worry about that guy anymore, he died of an overdose!” The hair on my arms and neck stood straight up! This young man fell through the cracks and could have possibly been helped with proper intervention.
Things were about to get much worse. Longtime sponsors would make death threats to community members at a neighborhood meet and greet in which the community had properly rented the pavilion. This was just part of what was to come in the following months. This incident and those that would follow forced us to try to find answers for some very important questions concerning Narcotics and Alcoholics Anonymous. Questions like, how do they effectively deal with groups that do not follow their own guidelines and traditions? They described themselves as autonomous, having no leaders, security or counselors present at meetings. Who then, is responsible or accountable when things get out of control? We have contacted their local, regional, national and international headquarters. The only answer we get concerning accountability is that there is none! Groups are basically free to do as they please and still qualify as legitimate.
This marked a true wake-up call for me. The developments that would soon unfold are almost beyond belief. They clearly reveal extreme dysfunction and denial fueled by a strong sense of self-righteous entitlement. We have learned much over the last year about these organizations. When we have called their headquarters to bring light to these groups blatant disregard for their traditions and our communities concerns we are only told “We can’t do anything, it’s a police matter!” This is where what happens is truly beyond belief. There is a strong, blind bias in favor of these organizations. They are enabled in their dysfunction and emboldened as they see no need to cooperate with police when citizens are threatened. Thus, they are given free rein to operate dangerously unchecked. When there is a problem the police blame the citizens for simply being in the park.