February 19th is Narconon Day!
February 19th is the official anniversary of the Narconon® Drug Rehabilitation and Education Program. Here's how it all began:
William Benitez was a heroin-addicted inmate of Arizona State Prison. Having tried all existing methods to escape his addiction, he continued to search for a way out. In the prison library he came across a book written by L. Ron Hubbard, The Fundamentals of Thought, which outlined an entirely new approach toward solving the problems of life.
Benitez [far left] with inmates on first Narconon course
On August 2, 1965, after reflecting on what he read, he literally jumped down from his double bunk in the old cellblock where he was housed and made the following notation on his wall calendar: "Decision to set up Narcotic Foundation." He also circled the 18th of the same month, his target date to approach prison officials to request permission to set up a drug rehabilitation program inside the prison walls.
Benitez working with wife, June, in the
Narconon office in the early '70's
Prison officials denied permission for the following six months. Mr. Benitez's request to start a program consisting of twenty convicted drug addicts caused concern to officials who feared such a program might pose a security problem. (Such programs were rare in prisons during that decade.) Officials had little reason to believe that the request of a habitual drug addict and repeatedly convicted felon would ultimately result in one of the world's most successful rehabilitation programs for substance abusers.
Mr. Benitez persisted and finally assured officials that the program was needed and would not pose a threat to the safe and orderly operation of the prison. After being allowed to start the program on a trial basis, he founded the NARCONON program (NARCOtics-NONe) on February 19, 1966. Thus February 19th of this year, 2005, is the 39th anniversary of Narconon.
Mr. Benitez passed away in 1999. Recently, Gordy Weinand, his close friend and co-worker, and first graduate of the program, sent us his story about the early days:
Gordy Weinand at Narconon Arrowhead in 2003 being
acknowledged as the first Narconon program graduate
"After years of drugs and alcohol, I got busted in Phoenix, Arizona. I then wound up at the State Prison in 1967. While there I met William Benitez. After several weeks of working together, he told me about a program he had started called Narconon. It was related to drugs. I told him about my history with drugs and drinking. He then invited me to attend a meeting.
"The idea of getting out of my prison cell for two hours sounded good to me, so I went to my first meeting. In the beginning it seemed like a big joke. I took the reading materials back to my cell. The more I read about the effects drugs and drinking had on the body and the mind, the more things began to make sense to me. I began to understand why my behavior was the way it was. Thinking about the times I was told I was no good, I would never be anything, I was stupid and would never have anything, I began to understand why my behavior was the way it was.
"It was the knowledge I learned in the beginning that showed me that I had a lot of ability. I could confront any problem instead of running away from myself and getting high. I could deal with anything. Things began to change for the better.
"Several months before my release, Paramount Studios came to the prison to film a major motion picture. The movie was called "Riot" and featured the great Gene Hackman and Jim Brown. I had a considerably good part. Two weeks after the completion of the movie, I was released--and with a pretty good bankroll!
"Upon my release from prison, I met up with William Benitez and other Narconon graduates in Phoenix, Arizona. We decided to move to Los Angeles. During that time, Bill got a job installing carpet. I worked with Bill for about eight years." We decided to try and open a Narconon center. We found an old garage that needed a lot of repairs. It needed a lot of new lumber to keep it from falling down. Our desk was made of saw-horses with pieces of plywood for the desktop.
"We began by going out to schools, speaking to students about drugs. In between our work schedules we did everything we could to organize the new center. We were able to incorporate, and that became the basis of our expansion. Soon we were delivering a rehab program.
"From those humble beginnings, I learned what a great feeling it was to be able to help someone else. I have dedicated my life to being able to help others. I look into the eyes of children and tell them what great people they are.
"If you're asking "Does Narconon work?", I say, "Ask Gordy Weinand. I'm living proof!"
"I am currently working with Narconon Georgia in Atlanta and will always be there to help the Narconon network."
The Narconon Network
More Information about the Narconon Program