~ 2012 Form ~
When It Gets Tough
Addiction surrounds us with inaccurate and misleading information. In our active addiction, we believed and lived lies while the truth was hidden behind the fog of obsessions and compulsions. We get so used to the lies, we may still think they are the truth. As we settle into the path of recovery, we are endangered by complacency. We may surround ourselves with people who say yes to us even if we are wrong and they know it. We distance ourselves from the ones who might speak the truth – a symptom of drifting into relapse. We can drift away from people who really love and care about us. We may find their love and honesty inconvenient! It is hard to be bad to ourselves in the presence of people who would call us on our insanity. Distance making behavior is the primary evidence that we are headed for a relapse.
Privacy and alone time are not isolation. Meditation and rest can nurture and strengthen us so as to continue progressing is our chosen path. Otherwise, we may get drug along by our disease into the very problems we have sought to escape. Avoiding people we need to see, interpreting everything people say to us and planning our day or meetings so as to deny these issues is a good way to stay sick. Identifying these issues could be our only chance to catch ourselves before the relapse process goes too far. If we are obsessing, a warning bell should sound. Even with someone who has been clean a long time, relapse can occur. When we stop doing the things that have been keeping us clean, we begin to slide towards relapse. It is almost like a magnetic attraction that affects addicts and draws us back to the brink of disaster. Recovery helps us realize we no longer deserve the punishments we put ourselves through.
There are certain, proven things we can do that will help us preserve our recovery and resume our spiritual growth. The first is to recognize warning signs in our recovery such as: boredom, changes, arrogance, self_will, attitude or indifference. We may feel the meetings aren’t so much fun anymore. We don’t hear people sharing honest pain; it sounds more like whining. We feel critical where we used to feel compassionate. NA is not marketing or management. While we are spiritual, we are not religious as a Fellowship or Program. Many of our people are severely damaged and it takes years for some to learn certain social skills. Others may appear well and stay clean in a perpetual stagnation because they can keep people at bay by looking and sounding good. Each of us has a responsibility to work the Twelve Steps of recovery. It is not ignorance that causes this, it is a disease called addiction. These good members don't use, go to meetings and somehow avoid working Steps. It is like a broken bone that is allowed to heal crooked. They may get good at being too busy to help others or go places with NA members. It may take great pain or tragedy to get them moving towards recovery again.
For some, when the going gets tough, we look back to our earliest recovery. By re-living the success of our own early recovery, we may find the recovery process re-engaged. We write down and recall the things that really stand out in our memory from when we first got clean or first started feeling recovery in our life. Take enough time with this to get several distinct basics together that you can start doing again. Then start doing them. It may not work right away, but using these tools is almost sure to get positive results. If you went to many meetings, go to many meetings today. If you read recovery literature when you went to bed, read recovery literature when you go to bed. If you got phone numbers and called people, do that. If you went out to coffee several times a week after meetings, do that also. Back to basics, pray for peace, look for a key error or omission to remedy your feelings about recovery. Commit to 90 meetings in 90 days and read Chapter Seven from the Basic Text, looking for errors and omissions and developing recovery values through caring. We meditate on our own early recovery, recalling faces and conversations and bring them back into our lives. If you made notes or kept a recovery journal, this is a great time to go through it. The point is to make the reminder of prayer accessible, a hedge against the compulsion of complacency. We look for: 1) what is my problem and 2) how can I correct it?
Another thing that comes up is for you to look around in your life and try to find things that could be better. Is there something undone you should be working on? Is there someone you need to go see? Is there something blocking your progress that you really haven’t dealt with? Get a grip on these things by writing them down if you are a writing person. If you like to ‘keep it in your head’, Just number the things. Make it less overwhelming by numbering. Try to limit your list to a few things. You are seeking things that have been irritating you and your spirit is telling you to deal with them now. You don’t have to do this alone.
Share what is happening in your home group. Let your sponsor and some sponsees know all about it. Share some of your lists with others to actualize what you are doing and get the emotional and personal support you may need to see it all through. Don’t put things on the list that you are totally powerless over. Maybe put them on another list but not on the list of things to actually do.
In many cases, the list will only point to things within that are unresolved and need to be dealt with there. In other words, the outside things are not important to us at all. We need to place closure on emotional issues. It is important to dismiss nagging thoughts. If you cannot act on them, don’t list them.
Recalling and contacting people we spoke to in early recovery will give us some folks to visit or telephone. Reading some books we read, or even going to see movies we saw in early recovery may also help us reawaken our hope and desire.
Pray, really pray, for God to help you through your crisis. Write out your prayers, or recite the same ones in your mind. Some people can envision things with their eyes closed and that works for them. Other members are auditory and need to hear the words out loud. Repeat the prayers daily for a while, sometimes more than once a day. Some people write things on paper and tape it on the walls around their house or inside their car where they can see it going and coming from work.
Our program is based on abstinence from mood altering chemicals. Among our numbers are some with medical problems requiring medication to alleviate suffering. Such medication isn’t about getting high. Perhaps this seems inconsistent. For us to fail to recognize this is to deny understanding of the disease of addiction as being other than a specific drug. Addiction exists separate from any drug.
It is not difficult to see an addict is using because of the obsession, compulsion and the need to cover up. Often, after working the Twelve Steps, many member’s conditions stabilize. They may no longer need medication. Other remain under medical supervision It is hard for us to determine these things for ourselves. When we try to determine what’s right for others, we are even more powerless and apt to judge people harshly or impose what is right for us onto them. In NA, we know this can be life threatening. One thing we have learned - if you need medication and do not take it as prescribed, you are self-medicating. Self-medicating is using.
When we acknowledge that the going has gotten tough, we can take actions to ease up on ourselves. Surrender works. Part of addiction is making it hard on ourselves. Admission of our 1st Step allows us to make changes and back off from things we are powerless over. Why does this feel so badly when it is good for us?
In the early days of NA, it was common for some to see our way as insufficient, many assuming they could only find adequate sponsorship elsewhere. In the late seventies and early eighties, something happened: we discovered our greatest and primary resource in NA was clean addicts. We came together and remained in touch. We made the telephone part of our daily life. We pooled means of clearing habits that led to using. Addicts discussed a clean way of life and adapted to not using. We developed a "come early, stay late" process. Being the first to arrive provided an understanding that the meeting could not be there without our being there "for the meeting."
Being part of the writing of NA literature gave many of us actual participation in the group conscience of the NA program. Recovery came from brewing coffee, setting out chairs and literature; then remaining to pick up gum wrappers, empty ashtrays, and stacking chairs. Doing chores provided a sense of community. WE experienced newcomers. Some came to be detoxed so they could use manageably. Some hoped to beat a case. Many had no idea what recovery might mean to them. Some shouted hallelujah at one meeting and had vanished by the next. Some died. Some made ninety meetings in ninety days and were able to keep coming back. This drew them into contact with the experience of a new way of life. God guided them through the experience of caring for the newcomer and found their own self-obsession going away. Within us occurred a shift from being around the program to being in the program. We came to understand what it meant to identify ourselves as "addicts." Recovery was not something we had, it was a feeling of belonging to a community of recovering people.
When it gets tough to stay clean, we have many resources built up from years of recovery. Addiction is such a powerful disease; it will wait for any chance to lead us into active addiction. If this happens to you, do the same thing you would do if you fell into an open sewer, get out as quick as you can, any way you can. You don’t have to stand for it. With all the pain and hopelessness we go through, we deserve better now. People will help you if you ask for help and so will God.
LIST OF BASICS
When we are getting clean and going to meetings, we pick up certain phrases and slogans that go with recovery and the clean life. While any list will be incomplete, we have compiled the following as a reminder. Some of these basics will be new to you because they become popular in another area. One of the benefits of travel in the Fellowship is to pick up some new terminology.
Our program of recovery is based on total abstinence from all drugs. Almost all our members achieve this. We include among our addicts seeking recovery, members who have other problems and must take medications that alleviate their suffering and do not get them high. While in the intellectual sense, this may seem inconsistent; you have but to open your heart to their predicament to understand their pain. To not include them would be to deny the fact that, in our understanding, the disease of addiction is something other than the specific drugs. These people stabilize and many eventually get off their medications. Others may be on medication for the rest of their lives. It takes no great wisdom to tell when an addict is loaded. They don't want to go to meetings and they don't seek out the company of clean addicts in NA. Perhaps the love of God allows us to include them as members simply because of their desire.
Money - It is all too apparent that money is a mood altering substance. Power can affect our feelings and conduct. Power junkies, food junkies, money junkies, sex junkies are terms we must come to terms with sometime in our recovery. If it were just the drugs, we wouldn't need the program to live clean. Once we were clean, we could stay clean. Our desire is the pointer and it directs our lives, one way or the other.
One Disease - One Program - In the early days, it was not uncommon for our members to go to many places seeking recovery. Then in the late seventies and early eighties, something different started happening.
Sponsor the Opposite Sex - In many of our smaller, growing communities, it was hard to establish, much less maintain, standards of conduct emphasizing our desire for spiritual growth. People on the path will fall prey to all sorts of mishaps, even in love. Talking about spiritual principles is not foreplay. Many of the emotions of heightened awareness and excitement make it easy to get sidetracked from recovery into the ordinary things of life. If a sponsor is a guide to principled living, then sex is no matter. If it becomes a matter, we need to be real enough to separate the two human experiences: the desire for satisfaction from the desire for a new life.
NA Sponsor - There was a time when it was hard to find an NA member with more than a few years clean. Each one of our fledgling NA communities in the seventies and eighties went through a period of establishment as the dream of NA recovery became a reality. Members began to be able to draw on other members for strength. NA sponsors became more widely available.
90 in 90 - Ninety meetings in ninety days allows a person to contact and get to know other members over a sufficient period of time to experience the beginnings of some definite changes. That others really have had the exact same experiences and confusion we have had, sinks into our minds and hearts. We discover we care for some of these people and as we take an interest in their well_being, we begin to experience the loss of self_obsession. We get curious about the NA Way of Life and may begin to really work the NA 12 Step Program of recovery.
Get involved - As we become more caught up in what members are doing, we discover feelings and attitudes that may have been sleeping in us for quite a while. We begin to care. As we shift our focus from purely selfish concerns, we actually make the inner movement from someone who is 'around' the program to someone who is 'in' the program. This is when we actually become involved in the program. We make commitments and keep them. We show up on time. We become known to other members and a part of our NA community.
Stay away from the opposite sex - Early on, it was hard to tell what was meant by avoiding emotional relationships for a year. It sounded like well_meaning 'institution speak' for "don't get pregnant or catch a venereal disease while in our hospital, we're responsible for you!" Actually, considering we will die, that means everything gets messed up, even our sex lives! Putting time and energy into one thing can only occur at the expense of others. Get recovery first, then you can enjoy the other things in life without obsession or compulsion. Sex and emotional involvements produce endorphins and we can learn to 'fix' on love as easy as dope or money!
No relationships for a year - Getting a year clean is a real event in the life of any addict! Consider if recovery were an obstacle course, would you knowingly throw rail road ties and concrete blocks along the pathway in front of you? Would you avoid doing homework and cut your exams in school? Would you keep your job if you took off three or four days a week? Almost nothing has as much power over our emotions, self-image and pleasure circuits as a romantic relationship.
Don't pick up - Making 'not using' an option short circuits most of the disease’s power over us, at least for a while. While this may seem like 'conditioning' in some negative respect, it is actually 'conditioning' in its best respect! If we feel crazy, we substitute going to meetings, visiting members, going to NA dances and functions, or reading recovery literature. Substitute almost anything for using. Don't use. Really! Relapse is not a requirement for membership!
Get and use phone numbers - Our greatest resource and the primary service of NA is clean addicts. Staying in touch by phone or internet makes recovery part of our daily life. Quickly and naturally, we find a way of clearing away habits of thought that might lead us back to using and discussing clean ways of looking at life. This is how addicts can adapt to living without using.
Come early/stay late is something many members miss out on. If we are never among the first members to show up for a meeting, we get the association that the meeting is there for us without us ever being there for the meeting. Help set up a meeting regularly. Then stay late to help clean it up "better than we found it." You will never really feel a part of NA unless you do these chores. Those who get involved with their home group and become so involved they are among the first members to show up at the weekly meeting get a deep sense of involvement. Watching the new members come in and the rounds of exchanged greetings, gives us a real sense of the fellowship. Staying late and helping with the clean up also deepens this sense of being a part of the NA Fellowship.
Leave our meeting place better than we find it. - This basic has helped us enjoy a great range of meeting places. It speaks well of our validity as a recovery program and makes us experience the positive feelings of being responsible at the same time.
Pray in a.m. for Help - When we get up in the morning we ask our Higher Power to help us stay clean, maintain conscious contact, guide us and give is the strength to deal with what comes up.
Pray in p.m. and give Thanks - Before I go to bed at night, I thank my Higher Power for another day clean, for the loving and caring people in my life, for carrying me through the day, and all the gifts that were given.
Help another addict - Making and keeping commitments reflects growth of our character. We learn to become responsible starting out with small commitments and build up. We congratulate when we do it right.
Home group involvement - What it is and why it is.` - Showing up early and staying late to clean up, participating in group, and letting people get to know you better. Keeping your home group informed is like recovery insurance.
Group conscience meeting, not business meetings, attendance is a must - We define and maintain an atmosphere of recovery by discussing concerns that might affect our group. We want to be stable and attractive.
Listen and take direction, follow it, too - Pray for the willingness. Listen and take direction from sponsor and/or members who know you well.
Share in every meeting - at least the first three - to share to insure no bullshit - to establish and maintain our connection to N.A.
Get with the oldtimers and the newcomers - Newcomers will sometimes amaze you and give you the solutions. As one member shared: An old timer told me to dump about using a medication to get through an MRI at meeting with newcomers, and the newcomers at the meeting helped me.
Give out and get phone numbers - Men for men’s phone numbers on meeting list, and women for women. Get with a person not of your sexual preference.
Get to the meeting early - Helps make you feel a part of with other members in a way that is impossible to foresee and provides identification with N.A. Lets other members know you’re serious about N.A. You also have the opportunity to set up the meeting and learn about group service.
Go out after the meeting for coffee, food, visit another members’ house along with other addicts - get to know other addicts and allows them to get to know you. Cheaper than treatment!
Fellowship with all - Thank God there is still a thing called the coffee pot. Teaches us to have fun without the use of drugs. Dances, spiritual retreats, conventions, picnics, all give us new memories and help us develop positive associations.
Get into service structure - to give back what was so freely given to you. Maintain services beyond what individuals or groups can do alone.
Serve the home group - Setting out literature, chairing, making coffee, greeting the newcomer, attending business meetings.
Read any and all literature about N.A._ie; Basic Text, How it Works, Service Manual, Step Study Guide, Little White Book.
Go to out of town meetings - Traveling should become a part of your recovery at some point. While it may not be important right away, there comes a time when we need to be in touch with the ‘greater NA.’ This is where we deliberately travel to a distant convention or retreat to participate in Narcotics Anonymous and hear what we hear back home. There is a magic to realizing that the same message the same words are spoken by such a large group of people dedicated to recovery.
Support struggling groups/meetings - Often in recovery, you will find yourself at a plateau and feel there is something missing that you cannot put your finger on. One of the things we have learned to do is to take a look at the meeting schedule and do some driving. We find new phases in our recovery by the people we meet. We hear the familiar statements from unfamiliar faces and suddenly we get a whole new outlook. If you have never deliberately tried this, it may be your answer. Be sure that you respect the core group that keeps any meeting going. They will want to know you are a member by hearing on some level, your pain and your desire for recovery. This combination of pain and desire is what makes us members.
Start new meetings - There are many times when the best thing that can happen is to start a new meeting. This keeps smaller meetings available and breaks up gatherings of ‘old buddies’ or cliques that may be unfriendly to ‘outsiders’ or new people. This is how we practice our societies enrichment.
Do local PI and H&I work - Providing these group and area services lets us reach into the community and institutions to make our recovery available. Along with a certain comradery, we get to experience first hand seeing an addict who has never been exposed to NA become interested, enter the program and get recovery. Sometimes, it is years later that someone comes up to us and say, "Hey, thanks! You really helped me back then."
Stay away from people, places and things that might get you loaded - In early recovery, it might seem unkind to stop calling, visiting or maintaining contact with out old playmates and playgrounds. Getting a new life involves getting into a new setting and picking up new ways of doing things that simple can only come to us by example.
Watch out for indirect obsession - When we are busy running from crisis to crisis, it is hard to sit down and look at what we have been doing. We can fall into traps and create situations that may be hard to see at the time. But we addicts seem to ‘fall’ into a hobby, recreation or sports so totally, that we don’t see the repercussions. Like a Dad may avoid his family, feeling guilty for the past when all that is needed is simple presence and honest feeling. Children know when we care. A deer hunter may find that time in the weather results in back pain, which results in pain meds, which results in relapse. Adapt. Don’t go out without proper clothing or if the weather is too bad. Mom’s have their shopping, hobbies and get togethers that may create imbalances. Do it, but just don’t make another ##$@ obsession out of it!
Don't act out on feelings - Feelings can trigger us to start making moves that reflect more where we come from than where we are at today. We may feel threatened or angry at a person or group without really knowing why. Just taking time to sit and think it over helps us avoid rushing into making mistakes that could have been avoided by simply waiting. Acting out on feelings can cause us to hurt people who don’t deserve it and gives our disease a spawning ground for trouble.
Make a decision. where you gonna serve - Service is a big part of recovery. Service helped NA grow in a few years from a tiny Fellowship with no literature and few members and meetings into a world wide Fellowship.
Contact your sponsor every day - There are as many ways to sponsor or be sponsored as there are members in the program. And what we need today may change. Just because you have never done this does not mean you can’t do it now. Sometimes a person is going through a change and the extra contact is necessary. Other times, contact may be limited and still the relationship is there and strong as ever. This is not a matter of right and wrong. Right is whatever works today and wrong is what not longer ‘does it’ for us.
No major decisions in the first year - While this may not be possible, it is still best to slow down our ‘choice making’ until we have become more adjusted to living clean. There may be times when the choices we make are not for the best and getting locked into a major purchase or committed relationship may hold us back rather than be a step forward.
Don't do anything without talking to your sponsor first - This may not be for everyone, or for every time, but if we are going through something serious with the potential to really mess up, it is a real substitute for stumbling blindly forward.
Write about your feelings - It clears your head and helps you make better decisions to be able to write out what is going on inside. Especially if it is something different and you are having trouble sorting out what you really feel or need to do. It is mentioned here because many members don’t write out their feelings and it adds to their confusion. The chance is that no one has recommended that they do so yet.
Stay for the whole meeting - A full meeting is from the opening prayer to the closing prayer. Surrender is a big part of how we get clean and stay clean. We have seen members jump up and leave the meeting early or without saying what’s on their mind. This can devastate your recovery by creating the illusion that no one cares about you – yet you are not telling them, so you are leaving them in the dark.
Don't leave during the meeting - You might miss something that will save your life. Leaving the room to make extra trips to the bathroom or smoke can be a way to interrupt what is going on in the meeting. If you find yourself doing this, even if you don't stop right away, just think about how simple things we hear in meetings play a huge role in making OUR lives better.
Put up newcomers - You might want to think this over or ask other members to tell you exactly what they do. Do not leave cash laying around. Do not leave someone you don’t know well in your home while you are away. Do not give them a key. Try to know a little about them and their background. This is how some members work their 12th Step – but it is a serious matter and should not be done lightly.
Give people rides - The state of mind we have when giving people rides allows them to say and hear things that might not otherwise come out. Many times others have helped us get to the meetings. It feel s good to repay their kindness by passing it on to others.
Go that one extra mile - Stay on the phone one extra minute – A good practice is to try to listen to what a person is not saying along with what comes out of their mouth. We use language to cover up what is happening with us as well as feel out others in the parts of life where we are embarrassed or uncertain. Frequently, it is what we say at the very last that brings out what is actually on our minds. If we practice this, we may be amazed to find someone who has been talking for a half hour or more, telling us what is really troubling them in a few minutes.
Speak in language that reflects the NA way of life - Our society has evolved a special language that deals with the things we need to communicate in recovery. Some words take on different meanings or connotations. Other become key terms in our recovery language. Some become very specific. Surrender, Faith, Amends, Inventory, Principles to name a few.
Read the meeting readings - If you don’t read easily, you can read Who is an Addict. But time and practice may make it easier. Some of our members never read aloud before coming to NA. We also may help a person with reading glasses if we have them or ask if they feel like reading something instead of just throwing down a reading in front of them. It is also good to be able to pass the reading to someone else if your eyesight is really bad or if a member is having a really tough time. Reading it is like hearing it on a different level. If you read well, yet never take your turn reading, you are leaving yourself out.
Speak after 90/90 - As we grow in recovery changes take place below the surface. Members who have done ninety meetings in ninety days tell us about the changes that take place. We become accustomed to having other people who know us well. We are able to see and feel how other people live. Gathering each evening for a meeting replicates gathering for the evening meal which has always been part of humanity. Speaking puts us before our fellows and we are often surprised at what we share. Speaking may help others, but it first helps us.
Speak on your anniversary - One nice thing about NA, is there are few hard and fast rules. In some groups, it is customary for the person celebrating to share what their last year clean has been like for them. In other groups this never happens. But we are free to speak if we feel the need or it is a group custom.
No drug_a_logs - Talking, thinking, planning, connecting are all part of a pattern. If we slip into talking about our drug-a-log, we begin to leave out recovery and this can be dangerous for us as well as some of our listeners. We all know how to use, what we need to hear about is recovery. A monolog is one person sharing. A dialogue is two or more sharing. A drug-a-log is a disease sharing.
Don't give therapeutic type feedback in meetings - While this will always occur on occasion, we are not a therapeutic treatment program or an extension of one. It is natural for people who come into NA through treatment to carry the language and attitudes they have picked up along the way. A skilled NA group gently gives them our way of life without embarrassment or unnecessary interruption. Praise in public, criticize in private is a good rule to follow. Yelling at someone for violating a Tradition, likely violates a Tradition. In almost all cases, getting with them for a few moments after the meeting provides the setting to explain why we don’t feedback in meetings, cross talk, use terminology from other programs, etc. during our meetings. Learning days also help provide a time and place to share the NA way of doing things.
Don't make comments after people share - While I have been to meetings long ago where this was the custom, it has been displaced so as to not water down what a person says or evaluate it like a therapy session. It is not meant to prevent open discussion but to support open discussion where you share what you have and I share what I have. Our disease is characterized by isolation, this kind of sincere listening is usually a learned ability.
Don't chair a meeting like a therapist runs group therapy - We are not a paid professional program but a living program of recovery. We don’t set ourselves up to control others. We do not have all the answers and try not to voice opinions on outside issues. Many times someone comes in through treatment and thinks that how it is in NA. So, we learn to gently let them know how we do it in NA without being harsh or embarrassing them in front of a group.
Gotta give it away to keep it - When we are trying to help someone we care about, our memories seem to reach back further and bring to the front of our minds the things others told us that helped. It is like those things were put in our memory differently. When we do this giving it away, we get the benefit of vividly recalling not only what was shared with us but the feelings of gratification and surprise that the program really works. This has proved to be a major source of spiritual strength in ongoing recovery. So, when we have so many toys and demands on us that we can’t take time for others, it is good to remember that without recovery, all the other stuff just disappears.
Willing to go to any lengths to stay clean - Funny thing about this one is that when we are willing, things work out so that we don’t have to do much. But when we are unwilling, simple things take longer and longer. We forget that the spiritual blessings of recovery are what makes our lives different. Perhaps it is the disease of addiction or only human nature, but we seem to forget where the blessing come from: a sincere surrender and access to a power greater than ourselves.
Do things we don't want or like to do – Especially when it comes to spiritual growth, the part of us that has been holding us back will throw up a last ditch effort to keep control by preventing us from finding out about how easy it is to learn better ways to live and do things. Our minds and bodies may be sending signals. "No, it’s too much. I don’t want to try anything else new. I am not going to say I’m sorry and look bad. I’m not going to stop taking calls from my old ‘friends.’ Honesty will just get me in trouble." There is another old saying, "Argue for your limitations, and they are yours forever."
Attend group conscience meetings on a regular basis - Attending group conscience sessions is just part of being an active member in NA. For many, this is the first time they have been a part of a positive group of people. As you become accustomed to having a say in group business, it may help you become more responsible in other areas of your life.
Go around the room if needed so people will share - When we attend a service learning day, there may be a section on how to lead a discussion. We enjoy great flexibility in NA. We can make changes in group format easily. Depending on our usual crowd, we can have members share at random, as they are moved to do so. If we start hearing from only a few who seem to like to talk, going around the room in either direction is one way to give an attending member a chance to qualify as a member by stating they are an addict.
Fill all of the meeting/group trusted servant positions - Letting one of two members do all the work is unfair and may leave out the most important person needful of help – ourselves.
Support other NA meetings in your town - As we become more a part of NA, it is up to us to get out there and support our local meetings.
Doing something good for someone and not telling anyone that you did it - Like insulation in a radio receiver, silence keeps our good acts from shorting out by becoming known. Doing a good thing for recognition lends an air of insincerity to it. When we are the only one who knows, it may occur to us that we are the most important person to have a good opinion of ourselves. This is because we are in such a strong position to treat ourselves well or poorly.
Live in the here and now - Yesterday is gone and tomorrow’s not here yet. The more we can do and get out of today, the better our tomorrows will be and the sooner we’ll realize the past is behind us.
Keep the focus on yourself - If you’re messing up, I’m in trouble. What can I do, I am powerless over you. If I can find something I can to better or less often, it gives me leverage to make things better. This is why NA is called the ‘self-correcting’ program.
Share your strength, experience, and hope - While this is often heard among NA’s, it may be hard to do at times. We have to wait until a person is ready for help before we start trying to help them. We spend much of our time doing our inventory and interacting with our NA friends. But we try to stay away from preaching, making rules for others and playing big shot.
Be there for someone else, even if it is just to listen and not speak - After meetings, on the telephone or at a coffee shop, we may find ourselves slipping out of our self-obsession long enough to realize someone is using us as a sounding board for ideas on how to live. They may have pain or joy and not really know what to do. By letting them talk it out, they may find themselves developing their own answers, in a way they could not have done alone. When listening, it may help us to pray to be used as an instrument. Also, we may need to remind ourselves to listen rather than plan our next great statement!
Feelings pass - This can be a real stumbling block, even after we have been clean a while. Many times we get caught up in something that reminds us of a past event and can quickly bring back all the shame, guilt, disorientation and adrenaline based fear. Just by being calm and ‘doing nothing’ we find that the moment passes, the day passes and we are looking back on what happened with no real change in our situation, it was just the feelings that were tearing us up. The time we take with one another gives us someone to walk us through these things, and then we help others walk through their upsets.
Live in the solution, not the problem - While is may seem surprising, looking for a solution makes some problems just disappear. We become accustomed to being treated fairly and when a problem does come up, we may take the attitude that by dealing with what’s in front of us, we will eliminate toe problem from our future. For some, being happy may just be a habit!
THREE MUSTS - 1. Don't take anything, go to a meeting, and talk about how you really feel. 2. Call your sponsor, not your connection, it is cheaper. 3. One step a year, you'll be alright; after 12 years, make a decision. Happiness comes from the inside, not the outside.
Say the serenity prayer - Saying this prayer helps us bring the program into our daily lives. As prayers go, this one seems to cover more ground than most!
Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy? - Most addicts have a fear based obsession with being right all the time. Many of us find after a while that it really doesn’t matter that much and take a more relaxed, even curious, attitude towards begin right. Now, being happy, that is something worth spending your time on.
Carry a meeting list with you at all times - We learn to structure our lives to allow for recovery. If we have a list with us, it is much easier to find a meeting if our car breaks down or we are stuck in a strange part of town.
Exchange phone numbers - From the beginning, we develop habits that make is easy to get in touch with one another. Care may be given in large groups where it is better to make sure someone is known to the group before giving a stranger your number. There is almost never a problem at smaller groups.
Circle an entire week's worth of meetings on a meeting list for the newcomer, and suggest that he/she attend one meeting a day.
Find somebody to listen - We get relief from sharing honestly about your feelings, even if you are not yet ninety days clean. This is especially important if you feel like using drugs or if you are having compulsions to steal or act out violently, and if you are feeling angry, fearful, and/or otherwise suffering. It's important!
These things kept me coming back:
1. Recovering addicts suggested to me that I plan out which meetings to go to throughout the week, to find meetings that felt comfortable, and stick to those meetings.
2. Recovering addicts offered aftercare, providing me with transportation home and showing concern with what my activities would be after the meetings.
3. Recovering addicts showed total acceptance and tolerance for my problems and concerns; thus, helping me feel valued and worthwhile.
4. Old-timers were willing to provide productive suggestions as to what to look for when trying to find a sponsor. One suggested that I might find a temporary sponsor, and that if everything worked out, the temporary sponsor could become my permanent sponsor. Another oldtimer suggested that the group could be my temporary sponsor until I could find a permanent one.
Disease Concept - Addiction, as a disease, negates the idea that each drug used entails a different approach to recovery. The idiosyncrasies of each drug used may vary; but, recovery is a simple and unified path. Abstinence is mandatory to initiate and continue this process. The urge to differentiate one's using and consequences thereof serves no purpose but to diffuse efforts towards recovery. Wasted motion for recovery can kill. Concentration of our endeavors toward recovery insures our survival. The process of recovery is slow and tedious. Distraction from this focus is similar to our active addiction's compulsion to avoid reality by changing our playgrounds and playthings.
If I go after recovery like I went after the drugs - The single-minded search for drugs can be the most glaring example of our disease. This same energy directed towards our spiritual growth and ongoing abstinence can be the practical application of actions and ideas learned or developed in active addiction, now transposed to positive results.
We make NA our priority to stay clean. Put the same effort we used into getting high to stay clean. Made NA the most important thing in our life. NA comes ahead of girlfriends and boyfriends. Maintain a humble and honest job, going out with people after the meeting, getting involved in NA service committee_ especially fun things like newsletters, special events, making cookies and goodies to bring to our home groups. Our families and real friends who care about us will see the change in us and will encourage our positive obsession in the fellowship. Some may not understand, and we do not need to explain it to them, because only we know our happiness and despair of active addiction.
What comes around goes around - The notion of karma is deeply embedded in our culture. While getting little ‘official’ attention, almost everyone believes in spiritual reciprocity. If you do good, it comes back to you in some form. Bad acts place a cloud over our heads. In recovery, we offset this effect by helping others.
What you give is what you get - Sometimes it is easier to do the right thing if you realize that there is a pay off or a ‘cookie’ that will come your way eventually. Being good and doing the right thing is not always easy for us.
What you put into it is what you get out of it - If we want a lot, we give a lot. Since there is a possibility that we won’t get back all that we have given, we can stack the deck in our favor by doing more than our fair share.
We are the only ones who can be responsible for our recovery and do anything about it. - This is a super basic of our NA 12 Step recovery process. We learn that by finding something we did wrong, even if it is something small, by doing it, the whole situation can become balanced in a favorable direction. It is a way to find hope.
Surrender is the key - Surrender is going from the losing side to the winning side. Surrender is not losing, it is not joining the losers, it is joining the winners. Surrender to the disease that wants to kill you. Surrender to the fact that your best thinking got you headed for jails, institutions and death. Surrender to the fact that life is simple; addicts make it complicated. Surrender to the fact that as an addict you have a progressive, incurable, fatal disease.
Change - For addicts seeking recovery, it is nice to remember that change is a part of life. The great thing about life is that we can always change things about ourselves, the way we take what is given to us - we can change the way we perceive the world. The serenity prayer is a nice way of getting grounded and stepping back. If we are willing to surrender to the things we cannot change and move on, we will be part of the solution. For newcomers, it is important to try to do things differently. To try to get off the beaten path and try new ways. Our old ways kept us sick, trying something new could be something that opens part of us that previously had been closed. Honesty, open-mindedness, and willingness can help us to have the courage to do things differently. If we get stuck in a rut, we can pray for the willingness to be open-minded.
Never Alone - As addicts, we tend to rely on ourselves most of the time. But it is this same self-reliance which feeds our disease causing us to perceive our world as manageable and generally O.K.. But under the foundation of denial, our spirit burns like an underground oil-well fire: quiet, seemingly calm, but eventually bound to erupt causing great damage. It is important to do what we can to seek the help of other recovering addicts for anything we do or require assistance in. This way, other recovering addicts can share their experience, strength and hope in a most personal and convincing way. It's a win-win situation.
Inclusiveness, not exclusiveness - We are all the same. The disease affects us all. We want to isolate and exclude ourselves with our differences and uniqueness. Our idiosyncrasies are often aspects of our disease, or drug induced aberrations of our personalities. The common ground of addiction eliminates a "pecking order" or "rank". No one of us is different when our disease brings us to surrender.
Basic Living - We could not live and enjoy life as others do. Taking care of ourselves was a struggle. Small things were put off until they became massive and impossible to deal with. The day to day routine was so boring. Yet taking care of our needs seemed not worth the effort. Today we can take the time to attend to the basic things in life that lead to a sense of manageability, cleaning the bathroom, dusting, taking out the trash, etc. We regain the abilities that we once used to live in the real world. The pressures of addiction often overrode our command or realistic attitudes, ideas and emotions. Recovery gradually allows us to change into real humans, not just look like them.
Carry the message not the addict - We are messages of hope. Our actions speak louder than words. An addict shares, "A friend had relapsed, which I believe is a sign of asking for help. I had to confront him about it. It was painful to do, but I told him I knew he was using, that it was bound to surface. I could see the death and despair of addiction in his eyes. We told him we'd been there, and that NA had saved our lives. We encouraged him to go to the nearest and next meeting. That's the best place for a relapsing addict. The power of the group works miracles. That's where our strength and focus come from. I pray for people who are hurting and then anyone who comes to my mind - which is funny, because quite often the people I'm resenting or jealous of or afraid of come up in my prayers, too, and I'm at ease. The desire and willingness to recover will change; it is different with each addict. I believe my best moments are when I'm grateful or surrendered to a commitment in service." We see clearly when this gratitude is put into action. Unconditionally loving our members (no matter what), forgiveness and empathy is what helps us recover. This miracle is our answer. We can recover. The hardest thing is asking for help.
Dealing with feeling tired, miserable, and uncomfortable can really be challenging. There are things we can do to get through these periods in recovery. Getting enough rest and eating properly may help. Listening to other recovering addicts share their experience, strength, and hope can provide insight for us; and, perhaps, also give us what we need at that moment. Hearing other recovering addicts say that in recovery they learned how to get through difficult times, can give us hope that we can do the same. Staying clean, no matter what, gives us the opportunity to figure out what will work for us when we aren't feeling good. Staying clean in spite of our negative feelings and attitudes will gives us the opportunity to have real change occur in our lives. Gaining perspective on what we really need can be achieved by us like it was for others. Complaining can only put us in a place of lacking and insufficiency. Gratitude is the antithesis of this, and gratitude can keep us clean. Having gratitude for the things we want as well as the things we have can ease the suffering created in our desires.
Be an active listener - Don't just try to get your thoughts out, but be there for someone else's need. Be open to what they are saying and accept it or not accept it and talk about it then. Harboring past conversations takes me away from the day.
Live in today - in thought and action. I find that if I cannot do anything about a given situation, because the opportunity does not present itself today, then I better save myself the anguish of the "what ifs" and focus on what is before me at the present time. This also includes re-living past situations (resentments) which I have been unable to let go of. The re-living of painful situations brings to light the destructive, self-defeating aspect of the disease of addiction and I need to talk about it and find out what other members do when presented with this. I need to get humble and get the help by asking for it.
Talking with other addicts before or after a meeting or just when you find yourself wanting to talk to someone who has some life experience with addiction is a great help. Sometimes, it seems, that when your thoughts become burdensome and/or you are having trouble making an important decision relating to work, relationships or life in general and you still need to cope with the "straight world", sharing your thoughts with another recovering addict can be vital to your mental health. This is why it is suggested in the literature to obtain phone numbers of other recovering addicts and use the phone numbers. As addicts, we sometimes feel awkward about reaching out and calling other addicts for help if not just to talk out of boredom. But this feeling soon passes once the addict on the other side of the phone line answers. You'll find that very often that that addict is relieved and happy that someone actually wants to talk to him/her. Both parties benefit from such a reaching out. Remember that the same brain that motivated your actions when coping dope on the streets or wherever is the same brain that is unable to sometimes make decisions in your best interest. Call, share or write to other addicts in recovery. Bounce your thoughts, ideas and feeling off of them. It will help them as well as yourself. And soon you will be on a good path.
Essays from NA Members
RELATIONSHIPS: THEN AND NOW
The following is by no means to be a guide or cure all to the problems many of us encounter in relationships. Rather, it is the freely shared experience of our members.
While actively using, true meaningful connections between people, including ourselves, seemed impossible. Acceptance, friendship or the simple love from another seemed to be our most elusive goal. When the use of chemicals ended, our senses seemed to awaken tenfold. We allowed ourselves feelings and responded to others in ways strange to us. For the first time in our lives, relationships began to have a sense of meaning.
In recovery, we seem amazed at how many forms of relationships we may allow ourselves. Before, our thinking may have been very limited in understanding the word "relationship." Many of us may have naturally thought of this topic in the male/female form. But this subject, while talked about often at meetings, covers a very broad area.
We now realize that we can have relationships with other men, women, children, employers, our Higher Power, ourselves and so on. The list may seem endless once we permit ourselves the freedom that is given to each of us. We come to the conclusion that it is important to deal with all forms of relationships. If they are good, bad or indifferent, we have to deal with them somehow. It is necessary in our program of recovery to respect first ourselves, and our lives, for what they are. This lays the groundwork for any association we may have with others.
Our capacity to have meaningful relationships has been damaged by our self centered attitude and the kind of thinking we developed over time as our disease progressed. We learn to stop making excuses for our past and accept our reality. We need to realize that there are many recovering addicts struggling with the same feelings regarding relationships.
It is important to begin forming new bonds with people who are going to teach us a new way of life. We begin to trust them and believe in the principles of this program.
Relationships are a process and in anything we do, we need to always remember that we only need to improve, we will never stop growing. We need to challenge our `old beliefs' about relationships. We learn from our past mistakes that led to problems in dealing with others. We accept the fact that work and effort must be applied and are willing to make the necessary changes.
But what changes and options are available? This list may also seem unlimited, considering we all walk different paths in our recovery. What works for one may not work for another. We need not dwell on the negatives in our relationships but instead nurture our positive qualities. In the past, we may have thought that a troubled relationship was not worth saving. We were blinded by chemicals and unsure feelings. In essence we weren't sure what we wanted and where we were headed.
Today, we can envision our relationships with others and how we would like them to be. We learn to develop any associations we have in the present moment and proceed from there. If we allow ourselves to be tormented by past memories or threatened by future worries, we may never attain a truly loving relationship. Unnecessary stress will be placed on all our daily encounters.
Honesty, trust, open communication, acceptance, courage and wisdom are some of the more important aspects of leading a spiritual life and nurturing both existing and new found relationships. Many of us never learned these attributes or lost them while we were using. However, we can acquire them through listening at meetings, using the Serenity Prayer and working the Twelve Steps. [Input from Philadelphia Area Lit]
One member shares, "One of the most painful and degrading actions my active addiction demanded of me was that I consistently had to compromise my ideals to survive. I had grown up believing in honesty and personal integrity. I'd learned to be "... as good as my word." In my youth, before active addiction stole my self-worth, I was a person of my word. You could believe what I said. You could count on me. I believed in certain principles, and consistently stood up for them. I wasn't always right but I stood up for what I believed. My belief system was based in my perception of reality. Honesty was honesty, and like pregnancy, you either were or you weren't. Personal integrity meant doing the right thing for the right reason, telling the truth, living without deceit, being fair, just, standing up for principles courageously and accepting the consequences of my actions.
"Addiction altered my behavior. Reality became uncomfortable, eventually intolerable. I needed more and more drugs to survive. When I was under the influence of drugs, honesty and integrity were less important and often inconvenient. Between ‘runs,’ honesty and integrity were burdens that would have prevented getting more drugs and the relief I needed. My values were still there, however and the only escape from this inner conflict of addiction vs. conscience was to use more drugs. Eventually addiction conquered conscience. Dishonesty, deceit and injustice became as much a part of my life as drugs. I would do whatever was needed, say whatever was required, be whoever the drug culture I lived in expected, to get the money and drugs my addiction demanded. Whatever the consequences of my actions were, there always seemed to be enough drugs to compensate.
"Dishonesty, deceit and cowardice became habitual. My self-esteem was lost to the demands of active addiction. I lied and stole for practice, even when I didn't need to. I laughed at honest people who stood up for their beliefs and called them square and used them. Living up to principles made them vulnerable, I thought them weak. Addiction twisted reality cruelly so that I began to feel that my dishonesty and deceit could result in some benefit for them. After all, I thought, I am sophisticated and they are naive. I was baffled when their pain and confusion increased. I gradually began to see myself as hopelessly immoral. The drugs slowly stopped working so well and conscience nagged me about my dishonesty and cowardice. My denial forced me to continue telling myself that I'd become such a bad person that there was no hope. I'd become what I despised and there was no reconciliation between my actions and my ideals. Only death or permanent institutionalization could save the world from my taint. I began killing myself with drugs. It didn't work. The fog of addiction thickened and I groped hopelessly for help.
"Blindly I reached out and you took my hand. Narcotics Anonymous rescued me from my dishonest, deceitful, cowardly drug-altered world of self-destruction. You taught me that I was powerless over the disease of addiction. I stopped using. You taught me that simple abstinence was not enough. I got honest. You taught me to walk my prayer. I stopped compromising. Courage came slowly and painfully. You taught me that addiction had many more symptoms that just drug use. I didn't understand that at first. My dishonesty, my deceitfulness and cowardice were more difficult to abstain from than drugs. You showed me actively that the spiritual principles of recovery were pure. You taught me by example that compromising on these principles was just as self-destructive as using drugs. The faith to act can only come from acting on faith. My way didn't work any better in recovery than it had in active addiction. My life had become unmanageable, and as I accepted this, my mind opened. Watching you live clean and recover led me to believe in abstinence, accept my condition, and gave me the faith to try recovery.
"Narcotics Anonymous taught me that anything less than a total commitment to all twenty-four spiritual principles of recovery and sharing is denial of my decision to turn my will and life over to the Spirit of recovery. I perceive. Therefore, I cannot compromise. Acceptance is acceptance. Reality shows me that I'm powerless over addiction and my life is unmanageable by me. I can choose to accept that or deny it. Recovery demands acceptance. Faith is faith. Hope comes from faith in my life and I believe I can recover. I need to act on this faith or become hopeless again. Commitment is uncompromising to me. It is surrender in action. Honesty is honesty. Recovery reinforces personal integrity for me. I am free to be as honest, courageous and just as I am willing to be uncompromising on spiritual principles.
"This kind of limitless recovery forces me to accept my humanity. I fall short of my goals consistently. But by ‘... shaping my thoughts with the spiritual principles ... (I'm) ... moving toward, ... (I'm) ... free to become who ... (I) .. want to be.’
"When I compromise spiritual principles in my life, I limit my recovery. When I compromise spiritual principles in my service, I deny addicts the recovery they seek. Just as acceptance is acceptance, faith is faith and honesty is honesty, so group conscience is group conscience, direct responsibility is direct responsibility and anonymity is anonymity. Compromise of these spiritual principles in service brings me similar life-limitation to compromise in my recovery. Except that the life I may limit, the recovery that I may deny, is often someone else's.
"Our predecessors taught us that "Half measure's avail us nothing". Compromising Spiritual Principles in recovery and service can only hurt. My recovery demands uncompromising honesty and personal integrity. Real recovery and true service means NO COMPROMISE."
QUALITY NOT QUANTITY
We don't need to be politically correct, because in the spirit of anonymity, we are all basically the same.
The large linen 12 steps & 12 traditions banners hanging on the wall of our group help us focus on the principles when sharing; and, it inspires purpose and thought; thus, giving a good NA focus.
It's okay, you used today, but come back clean tomorrow. And even if you used, come anyway and listen; we care and have been there. But if you used within 24 hours, please refrain from commenting.
Regarding total abstinence, we include everyone and encourage everyone to get clean. While some members need to take medication, we do not separate ourselves. In the spirit of anonymity, we are all basically the same. We do not make one member different from one another. "Oh, he's too sick; he needs that medication for his suicidal depression." We are all examples of hope. Anyone can get clean and stay clean. If we believe in the miracle of NA, in the miracle of our second step, it will work for us. No matter who you are, it can work; but, you are no different. Maybe we can't help everyone, but we know that total abstinence works, and we encourage anyone to try it. In time of illness, sure, medication may be required; but, our bodies, minds, and spirits do not know the difference between street, homegrown, prescribed, over the counter or not 'yet' invented drugs.
"I attended a meeting where there was a newcomer sharing about letting go, of 'turning it over.' 'What does this mean?', he asked. And all around the room, the old timers all looked at each other as if to say, 'You want to field this one?'
"Truthfully, surrender is one of the most profound personal experiences that exist. But sadly, not many truly ever experience a powerful, spirit cleansing surrender. Maybe it's because even though we want to let go of certain ideas, behaviors, and situations outside of ourselves, we rarely ever surrender. The pain must be great, even unbearable, before we surrender that something is bothering us.
"What we surrender to when we come into Narcotics Anonymous is a powerful program of recovery. We get here in pain, and we surrender the disease to recovery. Later, when we have had some time in the fellowship, we discover that there are other things that we must surrender, things that are causing us nearly as much pain as using. For some this has been relationships, for others this has been behaviors, but the one thing that rings true for us all is that we must continue our path of recovery, or we will use drugs again. Continuing down this path involves doing the same things that we did in the beginning; looking at ourselves to see where we are in recovery today. Often, after this self_ examination, we find that we are not where we want to be in recovery, that we want to be 'more recovered'. This is when our ego begins to reassert itself. It is at this time that the pain of change begins. It can be said that this pain is not necessary, but many of us have experience that it is. Without awareness, we cannot change. Without pain, we would not know joy, or serenity. Our pain is necessary for our individual, and collective growth. And yet we hear in our meetings, 'You're right where you're supposed to be,' when we share this pain. The truth is, we are right where we are supposed to be. Through sharing, and obsessing over our personal problems, we learn that we get exactly what comes as a result of obsession: pain. It is then that we learn how to surrender because it is necessary for our survival as recovering addicts. We learn how to surrender by experiencing our pain, and it becomes easier as we walk down the path of recovery. Our level of pain that we can take becomes less and less, and we surrender quicker each time. By surrendering to this new way of life, we are finally able to learn that it takes each of us to help each other to the spiritual principle of surrender. We each have times when we are unable to see what we need to do next. That is when we reach out to our sponsors, our meetings, and the fellowship. Invariably they will tell us to 'keep coming back', and ' don't leave before the miracles happen'. Then one day, we realize that the miracle they spoke of was our own recovery, having grown by surrendering our will."
I came to find this fellowship after a long search. I really don't know what I was searching for, but when I walked through the door of that first meeting and was told to "keep coming back", I felt that you all had what I wanted, and were willing to give it to me, if only I asked. It took me a while before this first awakening came to me. "We aren't going to hand this to you on a silver platter", I was told.
You had to ask. "If you want what we have to offer and are willing to make the effort to get it then you are ready to take certain steps, these are the principles that made our recovery possible."
Well I was more than willing, I was "wanting it all now." The next great awakening for me was perspective. I either did whatever until it was all gone or I lost interest. "Sounds like addiction to me." someone said.
I learned the meanings of obsession and compulsion. I learned that it can be beneficial to me and the fellowship if I make service an obsession. The only thing is I can't expect anything in return for my selfless efforts. The rewards are much greater than anything that can be expressed on paper. This spiritual program has given me back the self respect I lost while running from the truth. These things we are in search for are all but glimpses of the way things are meant to be. We will find them in Gods time. "Coincidences are miracles in which God chooses to remain anonymous." So keep in mind that the gifts we receive that touch the heart are the truths we once were searching for, and the awakening is in changing the old patterns and knowing we are getting what we need and not what we want. So get ready for the awakening of a Spirit that lives inside of you that was harnessed and put to rest by the abuses and habits learned and adopted as a way of living. Today we are awakened to a new way of life. The truth will set you free from the old way of living and into a new way of life. Today I can feel and I have a lot of empathy for the newcomer. I know your pain and I believe in my heart we can love you until you learn to love yourself. So please give yourself a break and let us help you and give me a break and don't try to manipulate. Just ask and you may find we will give you the answer you were searching for all along. And if you do get the answer that you want, get honest. Honesty is the truth. The spirit awakens! - Anonymous
persons have visited this page since March 3, 2012
Reprinted from the
N.A. FELLOWSHIP USE ONLY
Copyright © December 1998
Victor Hugo Sewell, Jr.
NA Foundation Group
6685 Bobby John Road Atlanta, GA 30349 USA
All rights reserved. This draft may be copied by members of Narcotics Anonymous for the purpose of writing input for future drafts, enhancing the recovery of NA members and for the general welfare of the Narcotics Anonymous Fellowship as a whole. The use of an individual name is simply a registration requirement of the Library of Congress and not a departure from the spirit or letter of the Pledge, Preface or Introduction of this book. Any reproduction by individuals or organizations outside the Fellowship of Narcotics Anonymous is prohibited. Any reproduction of this document for personal or corporate monetary gain is prohibited.