How It Works The Twelve Steps of Narcotics Anonymous

1. We admitted that we were powerless over our addiction, that our lives had become unmanageable.

2. We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

3. We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood Him.

4. We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

5. We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

6. We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

7. We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

8. We made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

9. We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

10. We continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

11. We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us, and the power to carry that out.

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of those steps, we tried to carry this message to addicts and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

No matter whether you think that you might have a problem or you are able to admit to addiction, we welcome you to join us. We encourage you to try our way of life. There are many benefits from following this simple process. Take what you need and leave the rest. It becomes yours not when it works for you but when you give it to someone who is in need. This is not theory: it is the results of our recovery. We have attempted to write our experience strength and hope in plain language and present it in a certain order. In our efforts to carry our message, we have only one main theme: we suffer from a disease called addiction. In recovery, we discover our disease takes on ‘many forms’ yet remain aware that it is only one disease.

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The Twelve Steps are the best way we know of to deal with addiction. The disease of addiction desperately tries to avoid recovery by complicating our simple message. We have learned that it is better to do our best daily and take it easy. We can only make progress when we stop trying to get ahead of ourselves. Recovery is a process and a journey, not a destination. Our aim is not to graduate from the recovery process but receive its assistance in our lives as long as we need it, one day at a time. In recovery, we enjoy a state of continual growth with periodic rest periods. During these rest periods, we gather energy for our next growth period. All of life is this way. In recovery, we again feel that we are a real part of all life.

The Twelve Steps of Narcotics Anonymous guide addicts in the process of recovery. Some members call them ‘the pathway to freedom’. We go from complete personal defeat to a spiritual awakening that is specific to our individual needs and disposition. The Twelve Steps, discovered and composed by members of Alcoholics Anonymous, were adapted for the NA program to include language that is familiar to addicts of all types. Although the claim of originality belongs to the founders of AA, NA can rightfully claim its own recovery program. The growing evidence of gratitude and diligence in the applications of principles is visible in our literature. Our growth to a worldwide NA Fellowship is no accident. Although we ‘borrowed’ portions of the Program, our toil and suffering has made it our own. NA is valid because it is the successful accumulation of gratitude for and the relief from the disease of addiction for an ever-growing number of addicts.

No one is too dumb for recovery but many are too smart. We learn to take seriously, the principles that affect the way we feel and the way we act. The quality of our condition becomes our choice as we learn responsibility. As we practice spiritual principles, we become the people that we always knew we could be. Three principles that work from the beginning of recovery are honesty, open-mindedness and the willingness to try. They help us to overcome our addictive tendency to run, hide and take the day off.

For many of us, thinking was superficially checking over anything that required a decision, especially those requiring commitment and potential gain or loss. We seemed unable to function on the deeper levels of comprehension needed to deal with many of life's demands. We fell back on dependent relationships and helplessness became a big part of our life. This behavior resulted in frequent situations where others arranged our lives to suit themselves. Therefore, we may have become accustomed to exploitation. This may duplicate how we learned to live when we were small.

When we get and stay clean, our heads pop out of the fog eventually and we start to ask questions! This is what happens during some of our closer sponsorship and home group situations. Learning to think in a comfortable manner by including the feelings and intuitive perceptions within our mental environment gives us a much different picture of reality. Where we once felt that we were helpless, we can actually see that our pre-conceived notions overlaid reality and tried to convince us that they are truth. Our thinking no longer has to be limited to an exclusively rational approach to life. Thinking becomes a wrap-around method that we can use to reach a level of understanding that allows us to move through life. We can meet not only the needs of today but also put in pieces that make long-term goals achievable.

We can learn many things out of books and from professionals. ‘Learning’ can mean many things to each one of us. ‘Education’ involves directly, efficiently, and systematically gaining what others know that can help us. We study the people in the Program who have some success in those areas of life where we can admit our need for improvement. We can project what we think they are feeling, doing, thinking about or planning. We then go to them personally to check out what we thought against what they have to say for themselves. The education we are talking about here is learning everything we can about the disease concept and the recovery process.

The members of NA have discussed their disease with one another for decades. They have discussed their desire for recovery from addiction by using these Twelve Steps. Narcotics Anonymous deals with recovery from a disease called addiction as opposed to recovery from a single ‘ism’. We do not identify addiction merely by its symptoms. We know that when we arrest our addiction in one symptom, it usually breaks out in another. We recognize ever more clearly, our similarities regardless of the form that our own active addiction took. We learn that the deceit of a white-collar criminal is the same as that of an armed-robber. We begin to realize that the feelings of despair, isolation and hopelessness make us one with every other addict. We have a common bond in our desire for recovery.

There is a surrender before each of the Twelve Steps. Through surrendering, we are able to disengage the forces that used to use us. We can begin to rediscover the real stuff of life. Sometimes, we have a desire even moments before we consider ourselves powerless and it may be some time before we learn to call it powerlessness. We surrender to our need for a greater power in our lives; otherwise, we cannot listen seriously to talk of God. We notice how others get the power that they need to recover and grow emotionally while clean. We surrender again in the Third Step when we turn our lives and wills over to the care of our loving Ultimate Authority. Yet again we surrender in our inventory and amends Steps. Surrender to our honest need for help is crucial and necessary at each turning point. We work the Steps during ongoing recovery the same way as we did in the beginning. The need to re-inventory our daily lives, access our Higher Power more directly and put into action the principles we continue to learn is great. We must apply the Steps in order to get different results that are necessary in making a clean addict feel the growth that we need for happiness.

In order for any addict to get help, we must first personally admit our need for help. As we learn not to act out of fear, we come to believe that a Higher Power can and will meet our needs. In order to receive help, we must be willing to accept it. If we want to feel better, we have to find out where our pain is coming from. We begin by admitting our defects and become willing to stop putting energy into them. This is one of the reason this is a spiritual program. We learn to do, think, and feel in ways that promote positive feelings about others and ourselves. We learn to avoid the traps that our addiction would lure us into in its effort to kill us. Although the lures may look good to us, we learn to avoid them. We know too well the bitter pain that comes when we act out of greed, lust and pride. We learn to surrender, admit our faults and find new ways of doing things. We can finally reconcile the negativity from the past by making amends. We go forward with our lives using prayer, meditation and other spiritual principles that promote our happiness and well-being. Finally, as we begin to set our own house in order, we are able to carry the message: That any addict can stop using and grow into a complete and healthy person.

We learn to use our new associations in a healthy manner by acting like those members in recovery that we admire. We don't have to put them on pedestals to do this and we don't have to expect perfection in them. Actually, we may find ourselves disenchanted with the idea that people have to be perfect about anything. There has always been imperfection in the world and the world has somehow survived. Of course, NA membership allows us to go right up to these people in the program and ask them how they do it. How do they feel? How they deal with issues like lack of self-confidence and low self-esteem? Simply watching them and beginning to believe that we can do better opens many doors. Once we catch on to the idea that we can over come our limitations, we generally go for it. In time, we find that instead of feeling indebted to those to whom we have looked to for guidance, we enjoy the joy and wonder of passing on to others the help that was given freely to us.

When we find that our signals we send are not in alignment with the responses we are getting, we know we have come to a defective area. Many times, we will find that we make ties between things that have no necessary relationship. We may feel comfortable when someone yells at us because our old lives included getting yelled at by someone. We need money yet we fail to earn it or waste it before it can provide for our needs. We want love but we industriously drive away people who seem to care for us. If our ‘anchors’ in the form of our associations are improper, we must as soon as we find this out, make new associations. Involve as many of your senses as possible when doing this. Write down how it has been as accurately as possible and then write about how it might be done better. Read this aloud. Hang it on the wall where you can glance at in the morning and at night. Talk to other people about it. Bring it up to the surface where you can touch it, feel it and turn it around.

Our recovery process has evolved through its actual practice by the hundreds of thousands of addicts who get clean, stay clean and achieve varying degrees of recovery. Our goal is to stop worrying about what the other people in our lives are doing, whether rightly or wrongly, and to get on with rediscovering our own sense of wonder, physical health and mental balance. Recovery is about your health, your happiness and your sense of wonder. We don't want our feelings to get too high or too low in our new life. We learn to be happy and make the most of our lot in life. In our fellow recovering addicts, we find the tremendous resource that we need to make our lives work. Our therapeutic value is in the way we live: we walk it, not just talk it. We become acceptable, responsible and productive members of society as a by-product of working the Program of Narcotics Anonymous.

Our focus must remain on staying clean and helping others because this is the antidote for wallowing in despair and taking what we need by deception. Together, we discover a new life clean. Suddenly we understand how other people feel as we emerge into recovery with others like ourselves. So very often, we progress in recovery until we get a little money, a job, a substitute addiction or some approval source that is apart from the NA Fellowship that can undermine our recovery. We may begin to find fault with other members, complain about this and that in the meetings and then huff out the door with an air of moral righteousness! Simply put, we have to gain the ability to be comfortable with a certain degree of helplessness. Even the roughest and toughest of us needs love and without the ability to admit our needs, there is little chance that our needs will be met.

  • An addict shared: "I am powerless over the disease of addiction. I am powerless over the progression of this disease. The disease itself is not teachable but I am. I can learn new things about recovery. The disease wants me to do what I always did before I came to recovery. I can choose to go to a meeting and go against the grain of it.
  • "There are certain leftovers from my active addiction. The fear, panic, confusion, etc. will subside after awhile if I keep going to meetings. I also associate living with the disease to feeling locked into patterns. If I establish a new routine of going to meetings and doing other constructive things, I won't remain in that confusion."

In recovery, we don't take the first one, whatever happens. Using our drug of choice or some substitute will do nothing but complicate things and confuse us, especially if we already have some sort of trouble. Substitution and moderation are only counterfeits that attempt to hide the fact we can no longer use successfully. We accept the fact that no amount of dope can satisfy us but it only takes a little to ruin us. With luck, we might make it back to the program but sooner or later, our luck runs out and we must work the Steps in earnest. The progressive nature of our illness allows our sensitivity to drugs in any form to increase, whether we are using or clean. There is no grace period of ‘fun using’ for the person who relapses. The longer we have been clean, the greater the danger that we will die trying to get high. The chemicals lose their ability to smother our spirits and make us into pleasure-seeking automations. It is no longer a pleasure when you have to do it, rather it is slavery. The substitution of alcohol or some other drug is no longer an option for us because we now know drugs in any form will reactivate our addiction. There is no safe usage for us.

One of the problems of active addiction is that it makes us feel personally powerful. There is nothing more pathetic than to experience this feeling yet realize that it is nothing but a lie. When we feel that our senses have turned against us in a such way, it leaves us no choice but to hate ourselves and mistrust those most basic tools of human ‘proofs’: our own eyes, ears, and hearts. The first thing that any addict new to recovery wants - and the last that most will admit to - is a deep desire for personal power. We see around us a world full of people, most of whom seem to have some idea of who they are, where they belong, and where they are going with their lives. We don't feel that way, do we? "When I was born, and they were passing out instructions on life, I didn't get a full set." seems to be an accurate description of how we feel. The inability to trust ourselves is the beginning of what we experience as powerlessness. The linkage between action and reaction, between intention and result, between cause and effect dissolves and we are lost. We must find help or some way to restore the natural processes during our abstinence. It is helpful for us to know that these injuries are the result of our addiction and that through living clean and learning about our spirits, we can enjoy sanity and health.

Isolation is another characteristic symptom of this disease. One thing that helps us break out of the pattern of isolation is getting to know people. The knowledge that a meeting will be there helps as well. Getting phone numbers from members and using them helps too. These things take away the ‘power’ that the isolation has to tell us that we should do insane things, like go on ‘a geographical cure’. It'll be different for me if I live in another city. Addiction breeds mistrust. We project that mistrust onto people, especially clean people. To enhance our recovery we should tell the clean people from our pasts that we are in recovery. That will help us overcome the issues of mistrust. The only exception might be employers or other people that we feel shouldn’t or don't need to know. Sometimes, practicing ‘simple anonymity’ is best. If we are clean and working our program, time will turn up opportunities to take care of what is needed. Don't rush ahead.

Have we suffered long enough? Do we really want the changes offered in NA? Can we admit openly to other members that our addiction controlled our lives? Are we ready to consider that the drugs have lost their ability to give us what we want? Can we accept the idea that, for us, drugs have become poisons? Can we admit that we cannot predict what we may do, once we start using? Are we conscious of the changes that occur in our personalities, making us into liars, cheats, and thieves? Are we able to accept the fact that we cannot quit using, gain or regain happiness alone? When we hurt someone, we ask ourselves, "Were we loaded - or trying to get loaded?" We find that only those who have hurt long enough are able to make the kind of surrender that gets results. We cannot cross the river while tied-up at the dock. We have to take some hope from the recovery of others to gain the willingness we need to make the dash to safety. Our examples are the living proof that NA works in the lives of all kinds of people, in all walks of life. We had to be broken under the weight of our own pain before we were able to reach out for help.

We avoid whatever goes against our recovery. We recall that we have experienced some degree of personal power at some point in our lives and we have known the lack of it as well. While we might aspire to balance, we continue to seek excess and accept only the little that we feel we're entitled to have. There is a feeling that comes over addicts when we are near or in dangerous places. Looking over a cliff's edge, driving our car too fast, being sexually intimate with strangers, spending beyond our means can trigger adrenaline. They create disorder for us to hide behind and therefore lengthen and intensify our pain. Some addicts in recovery may continue to habitually steal from retail stores and get a sick thrill out of it. In recovery, we must deal with these kinds of habits as soon as possible otherwise the reality they tend to create may knock us into a relapse!

Soon, we realize that the members in the meetings are addicts just like us. We see that everyone in the rooms is a potential lifesaver to us and we began to glimpse the miracle of NA. Attending our first meetings led us to our first friends in recovery. Among these, we will find those with whom we can make the common journey of recovery. As recovery spreads into every area of our lives, we find that we are able to think, feel and intuitively know again while literally coming to life. Recovery is much more than getting yourself out of the pain and suffering. There is a whole recovery culture consisting of people who are devoted to getting and staying clean. The ‘rules’ are different among members of this sub-culture from the general culture in which we live. We are resources, even to those who do not like us. We learn that it is okay not to like everyone yet we must love everyone. While we know that almost all mean well, there will be those that we may find difficult to love. Time will teach us their pain so that we can develop the mutual respect is necessary to make a living Fellowship. Sometimes it feels like we all have to do more than our fair share. Someone once said if you want a lot out of life, you have to give more than you want to receive. You may never get all you give - but if you give all you can, you just might get what you want.

Having contact with old friends, listening to certain using-associated music, doing almost anything that causes us to remember what it felt like to be loaded and forget the results of our using is dangerous to us. These things can tie us into the mind-set of active addiction and could lead us back to using. This does not mean we have to live in fear or that we can’t change the situation. It usually means that we should get out of the situation and into contact with recovering addicts immediately. Once we are safely past the feelings and moods that were enveloping us, we can discuss, feel, ask and develop a way to prevent the situation that threatened relapse from happening again. There is only one rule that applies to all of us: don't use. The rest is so diverse and personal it takes a whole program to help us. They say it takes a whole village to raise a child. If you are an addict seeking recovery, we are your village. We can try going to a concert with clean friends, praying to your Higher Power to keep you clean through the experience. Try remembering your youth when you hear an old song, instead of a prelude to using. New thinking can lead to new reactions. Spending time with other addicts who have been clean some time and can say, "I used to have that problem, here's what I did about it." allows us to learn from others. Common sense should be used to stay away from known weaknesses. All we need to say here is that in recovery, we can learn how to move in the world without fear or remorse. Until we have found a specific solution to a problem, we just do the things that work in the other parts of our program.

  • An addict shared: "The most important thing that I have ever done in my life was to get out of my own head, long enough to identify as an addict. My mind kept telling me a million things to disqualify myself but something deep down told me things were not going to change for me the way I was going.
  • "In NA, there were people who seemed to be truly happy, coping with life, and not using anything. The scary part of that initial admission was that I would have to do something about it. The thought of staying clean and changing my life-style entirely was very scary to me. From my experience, the only way for me to stay clean and change was to stay with meeting, meetings and more meetings. I started to identify with people and concentrate on similarities, not differences although my head kept telling me different. I learned to realize how dangerous my thoughts and emotions were to me. I was just waiting to self-destruct. I began to understand my disease and came to realize the first Step to destruction was not attending meetings and not participating. Despite my thoughts and feelings, I began to share and become part of our Fellowship.
  • "Until NA, I always acted out on my thoughts and feelings but I learned how not to react. I learned to share with people I trusted and to take some direction. I learned more and more about NA and things started changing for the better. I began standing up for something that was positive and real; something that I could be proud of. NA has been a lifesaver and has taught me to live for today and not to ignore the future.
  • "I don't live in that constant state of ‘I wish I had done this’ or ‘I wish I hadn't done that’. I still make mistakes but I know there is a solution for every problem. I guess the most important thing for me is to have an attitude of being grateful for what I have (what's been given to me) and not get caught up in what I don't have. And to remember no matter what, I have a loving and caring God."

Principles of spirituality are principles that have the power to change the way we live, for the better. Most of us have said, "I just didn't want to go back - and I found many longings to go forward." All of us have experienced, at some time in time, a burst of energy beyond what we thought or believed to be our limitations. Perhaps this happened when someone we cared about was in an accident or about to get hurt. We would risk ourselves to help them. Or we just got caught-up in some sports event and ran the ball further and quicker than we dreamed was possible for us. We may have been alone or in a competitive situation with others when it occurred. We may have been trying to win a competition or enjoying an activity with a friend when we felt it. By thinking of one or more of these times, we can start to flex mental muscles that we never even knew were there. We learn to develop our own inspiration. We want to be able to go beyond old boundaries. Being clean is the stuff of miracles and we can go far beyond our old limitations with a conscious contact. Our friends encourage us and our friends are there to catch us should we should fall. If we just get up and go to work, we may have an average day. If we get up, do our prayer and meditation, read even briefly and think of someone we are trying to help in life or in recovery, our energy level goes way up beyond our normal. Our performance level goes up with our energy level.

Our writing is our effort to help others discover recovery and to go further down our own paths than we could with fewer recovery tools. This is what we call spiritual. Although desire powers our recovery, the notes, written message, personal sharing and words of encouragement help us overcome our fears and act. Many more do these things without feeling the need to write them. None is better than another. We all have our place in the parade. We share our successful experiences as demonstrated in the lives of our many members and illustrated in our many meetings. One of our common bonds lies in the acceptance of the fact that to us alcohol is just another drug. It takes a lot of love to overcome the disease of addiction. The backbone of NA is in the belief that there is one disease with many symptoms called addiction. There are a host of disorders and human problems that end in '-ism'. Many of these 'ism's' are just addiction in different forms. Sexual addiction, gambling, over-achieving, a host of fears and phobias are all just addiction in one form or another. When we stop using, almost all of us experience our addictive personality breaking out in another area involving obsession and compulsion. A disease carries no moral evaluation or judgment. Our morals improve as we learn to accept, treat and live with our disease. In other words, our health is restored. An old definition and usage of the word ‘addiction’ is close to the definition of incarceration: i.e., a judge might ‘addict’ someone to jail. Anonymity frees us from the restrictive labels of active addiction and we proudly claim our right to freedom. As long as we are clean, we are free.

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