~ 2012 Form ~
Power Greater than Ourselves
God is in Narcotics Anonymous. Can we talk about it? Can we write about it? For many people talking about God can be a sensitive issue. NA works for people who don’t believe in a supernatural being or are not sure about God. NA also works for people who are deeply religious in the conventional sense. Finally, God seems to work well for all those people whose belief system lies somewhere in between. We see God in the 12 Steps and the 12 Traditions of NA. In Step One we find ourselves powerless, we surrender. We admit that we cannot do anything about our problem on our own and we are asking for help. The addicts in that first meeting represent a Power greater than we are. We may get our first exposure to a God that expresses Himself through those addicts. Hope grows in Step Two as we go through the process of coming to believe that this Power greater than ourselves can heal us. In the Third Step, we decide to give our daily lives and our wills over to the care of this God of our understanding.
The faith developed in Step Three gives us the courage we need for Step Four. As we begin the Fifth Step, we invite God to be a part of the process. Step Six finds us prepared to have God remove various aspects of our self-centeredness. Through God's grace, we find willingness and ask God to relieve our shortcomings. God gives us the willingness to take responsibility for our past destruction. In Step Nine, we step out on the faith that God will not put us into a situation that we cannot handle. We pray for help. We move forward, forgive ourselves and offer forgiveness to any others that may have harmed us. The integrity inherent in Step Ten results from the power of God working in us through the previous Steps. We strive to ever expand our understanding and ongoing connection with God. We pray for knowledge of God's will for us as well as the power that we need to carry it out. Having a spiritual awakening we continue to do God's will in our lives, giving love and service to everyone. We talk and write about God so that we might increase our understanding of the most far-reaching influence on our recovery and indeed our lives.
Some members have expressed concerns about the steps using ‘He’ and ‘Him’ in referring to God. The Tenth Tradition states "Narcotics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the NA name ought never be drawn into public controversy." In this spirit, NA as a fellowship does not have a definition of God; this is up to each of us. We do however follow the conventions of the English language, with some allowance to be sensitive and not alienate someone whose belief is uncertain or non_existent. A personal understanding of God can develop or expand by having open discussions with other NA members. Open_mindedness is an essential key to our recovery. While the world debates over the true definition of God, Narcotics Anonymous does not participate in any public controversy. If we try to identify God with one 'true' definition, our minds close to other possibilities. It is more important to find a higher power that works for you than a Higher Power that other people approve of. Loving, caring, greater than our addiction, and ourselves our Higher Power will do for us what we can't do for ourselves. Despite our individual understanding, members today feel that the God of our understanding as written in the steps should not be a controversial issue rather a mutual identification.
We don't try to convince or convert addicts seeking recovery in NA. We have found that any attempt to force feed religion or spiritual belief just pushes away even very sincere newcomers. We work instead on trying to help a person see where their using has caused their pain. Once this really sinks in, along with the powerlessness experienced and admitted in Step One, the notion of getting some power into their lives takes on a very different meaning. It is getting something we need, not buying into a belief system that is a lie or done just to please another person.
People bring their childhood learning into their present with all its strengths and limitations. What we learned as children may have been confused or become confused with time. What ever we think our belief is, we want to check it out thoroughly. Our future life and happiness depend on it. Our belief has to work for us to recover. Our newly found open-mindedness teaches us that we can learn many things from many people. The important thing to know is that each member has the responsibility to find their own understanding of God. Many of us as newcomers found that with the help of our sponsor, we were able to find an image of God, with which we would be comfortable. Anything we can learn from books, people or prayer increases our existence and peace of mind. The more we learn the better. Almost all our pain came from not knowing enough or from believing things that weren't true. We can't afford to base our lives on lies and fantasy.
Many addicts dream about living a spiritual life but are doubtful that they can really achieve it, even with God's help. We discovered that when we set goals that seemed beyond our grasp and asked for God's help, we were lifted up and given the energy and direction to achieve our goals. The doorway to miracles opened. We built on each success, realizing that our experience is just a valid and meaningful as that of any other member. We wish that all addicts could find recovery, even one that expressed a reluctance to embrace a Higher Power. This is because many of us had little or no understanding of God when we first came to the Fellowship of NA. Others feared a Higher Power. Years spent not relating to or believing in a Power greater than ourselves made it difficult to achieve conscious contact with God. Suffering from extreme spiritual indifference, we simply did not see God as a necessity for our recovery. Many of us regarded recovery only as a practical method to retrieve some of the things that we had lost. Being open_minded is important to making progress in our spiritual growth. For some of us struggling with the idea of God, it helped when we thought of a Higher Power as being like a deep underground spring, hidden from view but present nonetheless. The thirst for spiritual fulfillment may be quenched at many wells, all drawn from a common source. It is not necessary for all of us to drink from the same well - we just don't want our members dying from thirst. If there is any doubt that God exists, we need only to look outside and see the miracles of life. By listening to NA members and observing them staying clean, we see further evidence that something special is working miracles in our lives. Anyone who has attended even a few meetings has met someone who expressed a reluctance to embrace a higher power because of that fire and brimstone God from their childhood. An important aspect of believing in a God who is forgiving in nature is that it enables us to accept who we were, who we are and who we can become.
We may have once demanded that God administer justice to those that harmed us. Nevertheless, when we completed an inventory, detailing the exact nature of our wrongs, most of us realized that we would be far better off with a Higher Power who was both just and forgiving. Open-mindedness is important here. The higher power is like a deep underground mine hidden from view but present and felt nonetheless. No single key unlocks every door. Some of us came into Narcotics Anonymous wearing a religion like a mask, trying to avoid personal responsibility for our past and for our recovery. In time we learned that God would only do for us what God could do through us. It is during this realization that many change their understanding of God from a religious perception to a more spiritual relationship. It is only important to us that you find the key that works for you. Only if you are successful in doing this will you find the power to recover.
Selfless service is an expression of our gratitude for the care of God. NA is a spiritual not religious program. NA doesn't endorse any particular system of faith or worship of a specific Supreme Being or God. Nor, does NA endorse specific rituals of worship. We understand spirituality as the vital principal alive in each of us. It's an inspiring and encouraging influence in our program and in our lives.
As we recover, we become aware that our lives are reflections of our relationship with God. Instead of trying to know all the answers about God, most of us have found it useful to concentrate our energy into seeking the knowledge of what God's will is for us, and trying to live our lives accordingly. We realize that we need beliefs in order to follow a spiritual path, but we also need to be open-minded enough to receive God's wisdom. We cannot afford to forget that we receive our freedom and well being from our Higher Power. Spirituality is not based on social acceptance, material wealth or physical appearance but rather on a personal and intimate relationship with the God of our understanding. Our lives are reflections of our relationship with God.
Sometimes we feel that our pain is so great that even our Higher Power cannot relieve it. If we believe in a God that cannot handle every aspect of our lives, we may find ourselves frozen in fear, waiting to react to the next crisis. We can't afford to base our lives on bad information and fantasy. Many of us tried to fix ourselves, only to learn that we needed outside help. It is important for us to realize that we are not recovering alone. We came to accept help from the spiritual principles as part of our recovery process. An understanding of a Higher Power begins to give us an understanding of our own worth. Our faith grows stronger as we uncover the many ways God helps us when there is no one else we can turn to. Other members shared with us that God could be found anywhere, at any time. This Higher Power can be detected in home group members, in a Spiritual Being or anywhere in between. Many of us discover the ways God helped us when there was no one else there to take our side in things. It is often heard in NA meetings that a common prayer for newcomers is, "God, just help me to stay clean for today." Prayer after prayer, day after day, our proof that a Higher Power exists comes as we make it through those days clean. In time, we learn to use prayer and meditations not only to find comfort, but to actually guide us through our lives.
The feeling of being able to access help from a timeless, loving source lifts us and gives us the energy we need to live. Any belief in a loving God seems to work for us. While individual beliefs may vary in particulars, certain generalities hold true. Living the program is our attempt to become more God-centered and less self-centered. We have learned that God truly loves us and will never abandon us. Our feelings and perspective about these things changes with time. Don't be in too big a hurry. What a 'freeing feeling' it is to know that we no longer have to be in charge.
As we grow and mature in our recovery, we realize what those members meant when they talked about being "God-centered." It is an internal feeling that no matter what is going on around us, everything is going to be all right. It may begin during our prayer and meditation, but we can carry this spiritual connection with us throughout our day. If self-centeredness is truly the core of our disease, then God-centeredness is the core of our recovery. Writing our moral inventory, we rely on God's guidance for the courage to be fearless and the wisdom to know right from wrong. Sharing the exact nature of our wrongs, we trust God to see us through the rough spots and we trust God to work through the other human being so that their role too, is a spiritual one. We practice the faith acquired in the previous Steps to help us become willing to have God remove our defects of character. We realize that we have been cared for all along and that our lives will be even more enriched when we let go of the defects that are holding us back.
The Seventh Step places God's role in direct conflict with our egos. As we humbly ask Him to remove our shortcomings, we are again saying, "We can't do this alone." Our disease may reel in rebellion, but we need only hold steady to our course. As we make a list of persons we had harmed, we try to look at each of them in the light of God's love. If we were expressing only unconditional love, how would we have treated each of them differently? Forgiveness is a spiritual principle. Whether we are asking to be forgiven or extending forgiveness, we can experience God's presence. We continue to allow God to be our guide by evaluating our actions and correcting our mistakes as they occur.
God plays an integral part in each of these steps, but so do we. Without our willingness, there will be very little spiritual progress. Being open to gaining or improving our belief is one thing anyone can do, even experimentally. The basic idea that help is available from an unseen source can help us get this spiritual connection. By whatever means, the luck and increased capacity to go forward in life without fear shows that some basic human need has been met. Ego-based thinking and living are one of the biggest enemies of the addict in recovery. Our egos tell us that no matter how much we have or hope for, it's not enough. All our character defects are manifestations of our egos. We need to set our egos aside and allow God to become the healing force responsible for our recovery.
One addict shares: "Ego creates the illusion that God is not with me. Sometimes I feel separated from God, and I feel alone. I realize that this separation is not possible. If God has pure love and cares for me, then it is impossible for God to be away from me - He just won't do it! This feeling of being disconnected is another way my disease tries to use on me in ‘its primary purpose - my destruction.’"
We have often seen God working through other people. Many of us have been at meetings when it was easy to recognize God's presence in the rooms. The atmosphere of recovery was in the air. We shared what we needed to share and heard what we needed to hear. This is an example of God in action. While some may feel the necessity to be ‘true to their faith’ and find it uncomfortable to imagine that there may be several ways a person may gain access to God, many of us find this wonderful. How magnificent and loving of God to be endlessly available to all who seek, whatever path they may take.
Through working our steps, and applying our Traditions, our beliefs evolve. From the simplicity of a ‘power greater than ourselves’ to a Higher Power concept, we eventually come to a better understanding of ‘God as we understand Him.’ By having a "God of our understanding" members are free to conceive that "God" may be a man, woman, spirit, etc. or even a light bulb or doorknob. Some members will be offended with whatever we define as God, but this is one of our greatest freedoms in NA - to develop OUR own understanding of what God is. With this freedom, comes our right for a personal definition to change over as we grow in recovery. Many if not all of us had to be clean and in the meetings for some time to realize that the Steps lead us into the care of the God of our understanding. This very simple way of expressing the feeling we have towards our spiritual sources is very important to us. We do not turn our lives and wills over to the tyranny of God or the dictatorship of God, just to the care.
Narcotics Anonymous Steps and other NA literature stress the importance of developing a reliance on the God of our understanding. Our Second Step assumes that we already believe in something when it says, "We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity." Any belief in a loving God seems to work. While individual beliefs may differ, certain fundamental principles hold true. The foundation of our belief is that help is available. Being open to change is a belief we all share. By whatever means, the capacity to go forward in life without fear shows that our faith in a Higher Power is real.
NA includes addicts who come from many backgrounds and who have a broad range of spiritual beliefs. Because of the special nature of our spirituality, we even include those who have no certain beliefs. Our goal in this chapter is to assure our members that our freedom to believe or disbelieve is real. What is an atheist? One definition of an atheist is: a person who does not believe there is a God. There are at least two types of atheists - Religious and Rational. Atheists live in the realm of the tangible world. The Religious Atheist observes a religious culture, which does not recognize any form of God. The Rational atheist also does not recognize any form of God. However, the Rational atheist does not necessarily identify a religious perspective as a reason for atheism. We may live and attend NA meetings in the Western Hemisphere or the Eastern Hemisphere which have totally diverse beliefs. We may be members of a scientific or intellectual culture or we may be members of any human culture or profession. Atheism is the right to believe a spiritual program of our choosing rather than a specific form or style. We need to dissolve the stigma of atheism. An atheist in recovery lives by the spiritual principles of the Twelve Steps of Narcotics Anonymous. We embrace life. No matter where we live or what our background is, if we are addicts we do not have to choose between our religion and our recovery. We can have both.
One devoted NA atheist shares: "A theist, as opposed to an athiest, believes in a supernatural being or force. More than just acknowledging atheists in NA, many members respect and agree with us on many points. We atheists have trouble believing in the intangible. We need to hear, touch or taste to satisfy our feelings about surrender. Many of us can surrender to NA or the spirit of NA when we can't surrender to supernatural concepts in good faith. We can tangibly feel NA.
"We atheists, like other recovering addicts, exercise our absolute freedom to develop our spiritual beliefs without interference. When it comes to recovery, the NA atheist follows a purely spiritual path. While we do not pray to a supernatural being, most of us meditate on a daily basis. Often times, an NA atheist has an in-depth experience with meditation. Meditation helps us work the Twelve Steps where we find it impossible to use prayer. We accept the spiritual part of the disease of addiction: our total self-centeredness. The Step that guarantees this freedom is Step Three with the appearance of the phrase of our understanding. The idea behind these words is what makes the Fellowship of Narcotics Anonymous program spiritual and not religious. Atheists develop their belief around what works for them. This should not offend those members that believe in a God of their understanding. The recovery and life of an addict is at stake.
"There are many ways for the atheist to translate theistic phrases in the Twelve Steps into their spiritual equivalent. This gives personally relevant language to express the concepts of NA. Many of us debate using a sponsor who is not an atheist. We wonder if we should sponsor an addict who is not an atheist. Some of us wonder what we will say when we are asked to open or close a meeting? We celebrate our diversity, for it reminds us we all have different ways of working for the same thing. Some things cannot be easily said, yet they must be learned, loved and passed to others. When we say them, we say them imperfectly and hope we are understood. It is in the sharing that the healing and the growing can begin to take place. We know that the meaning of a Step is not in the words, it is behind them. So, we do not become overly attached to words over principles. Words carry us to principles like a boat carries us to harbor.
"Although atheists are a minority group within NA, they work the Twelve Steps, stay clean and grow spiritually. Their definitions may be different from that of other members. It is OK that they are not a majority. Together with all NA members, we celebrate the principles that allow us to carry our simple message to so many different types of addicts. Although we realize that we atheists are a minority group within NA, we know the danger of feeling unique. Most of us have experienced feeling left out because of our beliefs. Some theists in NA try to convert us to their belief. This presumption can kill us if we are not aware of our basic freedom to a belief that works for us. We overcome the feeling of being an outsider by sharing our belief with our fellow NA members. We try to be considerate of others and hope they will be considerate to us. Sometimes atheists are not respected by other members in NA. This cannot be helped in many cases. We try to maximize our gratitude for those who show us love and understanding. We know we are not alone. There is a deeper language of the heart, which is often hidden by words. We speak this language. It is the path of the heart. We follow it to our true self, for there we will find others. No one is alone in NA."
It is interesting to consider how an atheist works their 12 Steps, particularly those that have reference to a loving God. Until now, the NA atheist has not had literature to read of a non_theistic nature. Atheists had to cope with theistic literature. This was not a new situation and we tried to understand. Now, like all members, we know we are free to follow a belief that works for us. Literature that can be embraced by the NA atheist is valid if it helps addicts. How can atheists work the Twelve Steps where a Step mentions - and seems to require - belief in God? The NA atheist works Steps Two, Three, Five, Six, Seven and Eleven, by using their minds to find a solution. While this may put the NA atheist to some trouble, the need for recovery and a new life is strong motivation.
Understanding Steps Two and Three from the viewpoint of an atheist, recovering in NA, may help serve as a guide to the other Steps. A person who is uncertain of their belief has to work to understand the Steps, even if they believe in a supernatural God. It may be of interest for people who believe in God to look at how others work their Steps. It is hoped that this open_mindedness will not be too offensive to someone with a strong belief in God. We all have to let down our guards a bit and look into the lives of others.
One atheist member shared on Step Two: We came to believe that the NA program could restore us to sanity. "Most atheists recognize early in recovery that we could stay clean in NA regardless of our beliefs. The NA Traditions guarantee atheist’s membership based on our desire to stop using. We are not expected or required to endorse or adopt any creed or religion. We experienced the insanity of addiction in our lives and came to believe that the NA Program could restore us to sanity. As newer members, we carefully watched the recovering addicts who greeted us and freely shared their experiences in recovery. We could see and feel their spiritual awakening long before we understood it. Eventually, we developed trust in the NA program and the willingness to share openly with other members. Our belief that the NA program could restore us to sanity did not come naturally. We watched and listened at meetings until we came to believe. Many of us participated in group service, making coffee or cleaning up, until we were able to surrender to this step.
"After we came to believe, we took a look at Step Three: We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of the loving NA Fellowship. We learned in Step Two to trust the NA Program and Fellowship. This trust took time to develop, and may contribute to our belief that the NA program could restore us to sanity. Through sponsorship and listening in meetings, we learn that Step Three is an action Step. In Step Three, we make a decision, which represents a turning point in our lives. We now understand why an addict alone is in bad company. Our understanding of the NA message of recovery helps us in our daily lives. We see proof that NA works through the improvements in the quality of our lives. These experiences make it easier to turn our will and our lives over to the care of the NA fellowship. We no longer want to be alone.
"Often we are asked how we work Step Three if we are atheists. The answer is that we look to the spiritual or recovery principle behind the words and we practice it. We may find ourselves in a position to ask, 'What is the function of this Step in my recovery? What principle does it emphasize? What are the possible mechanisms by which it works?' We attend many meetings and listen closely when addicts share their experiences with this Step. We may determine the function of Step Three as alleviating undue, unnecessary or unreasonable anxiety that is hindering positive action, so that we may do the next right thing. To us the principle involved may be willingness. The mechanism by which this occurs for those who believe in God is the decision that transforms them from one emotional or mental state to another. This decision to turn it over to the care of a personal God, conscious entity, supernatural being, or other unspecified loving force might be the mechanism by which this transformation occurs.
"With the renewed emotional or mental state, positive action or the next right thing is enacted by the addict. If a transforming experience occurs, that is to say, if the addict feels a measure of relief and perhaps even a sense that all will be well, but fails to take the action which originally generated the fear, that addict has not completed Step Three. Step Three is an action step. We know that the theist NA member lets go of fear and anxiety in this step and the atheists can do it too. It appears to be the letting go which results in relief. This is not necessarily the letting go to a deity. With repeated effort, a spiritual transformation begins for all addicts. This change occurs in the deepest levels of our being. As atheists, we simply ascribe these changes to our application of recovery principles rather than as evidence a supernatural force has been working in our lives. We too, act on our changed emotional or mental state and we do the next right thing. This is the second part of Step Three. We take positive action. Although we do not turn it over to a God of our understanding, many of us describe turning it over in ways which are non_theistic. Some atheists make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of a spiritual concept we know from our non_theistic religion. Other atheists make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of Reasonable Action. Some atheists may make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of NA. A sense of connectedness with humanity results from the Third Step."
Belief is the key to effective prayer. It is impossible for us to quantify or qualify anything spiritual. We use so many things in our lives that we do not comprehend. We have faith in so many phenomena that are natural like electricity. Why is it we are unable to extend this faith to entities that are supernatural? Is it fear or ignorance? On the other hand, is it an unwillingness to change, to admit that we were wrong for so long, that a higher power exists in our lives? Does denial still abound? Belief in a Power greater than ourselves is developed through our own free will and cannot be taken from us without our cooperation. We have the freedom to believe as we choose. In fact, a suggestion in the Basic Text is that we choose a Power that is both loving and caring. We have suffered enough before coming to the program. Most of us do not need the added guilt of a punishing, unforgiving God. We have found that we, not others, have to find a Higher Power that works for us.
Those NA members who have surrendered to a power greater than themselves have an awesome weapon to fight the disease of addiction. Our disease is based in fear, the opposite of God's love. Our disease tells us we do not have enough, yet spiritual abundance is ours for the asking. Our disease pushes us to isolate and mistrust others, but with our lives in the care of God as we understand Him, we can move forward fearlessly knowing that there is no challenge that we have to face alone. God will move mountains, but we have to bring our shovels. Writing our moral inventory, we rely on God's guidance for the courage to be fearless and the wisdom to know right from wrong.
We are spiritual, moral beings. Our self_destructiveness is evidence of this. In the past, we felt badly about the way we were living and judged ourselves to be unworthy of good things in our lives. Our moral inventory process makes it possible to sort out what has happened to us. God will not make us write an inventory, nor will he make us share it with anyone else. Sharing the exact nature of our wrongs in our Fifth Step, we trust God to see us through the rough spots and to work through another human being. God can help us and ease our pain if we make the choice to do these things. We practice the faith acquired in the previous steps to help us become willing to have God remove our defects of character.
We realize that we have been cared for all along and that our lives will be even more enriched when we let go of these defects that are holding us back. He cannot make us willing to have our defects removed. He sometimes gives us opportunities to bring about the awareness of the pain that comes from acting out on our defects. When the pain gets great enough, we become willing to make the change. As we humbly ask Him to remove our shortcomings, we are again saying, "We can't do this alone." Our disease may rebel, but we need only to keep going. Asking God for guidance and expecting an immediate answer will not produce results, because God does not wear a wristwatch. God will not make our amends list for us. We have to sit down with pen, paper and willingness. As we make our list of persons we had harmed, we try to look at each of them in the light of God's love. If we were expressing only unconditional love, how would we have treated each of them differently? Forgiveness is a spiritual principle. Whether we are asking to be forgiven or extending forgiveness, we can experience God's presence. It is our responsibility to do the footwork of humbling ourselves to making the amends. We placed our faith in God to face these people.
We pray for the love, care and forgiveness that we need to make our amends. We need to know that God loves, cares for, and forgives so that we can love, care for, and forgive ourselves in our Fifth Step. Then the reaction from the ones we are making amends to is not as important. We continue to allow God to be our guide by evaluating our actions and correcting our mistakes as they occur. As we recover, we find that God's will for us is to learn and grow from these mistakes.
Once awareness occurs, action must follow or the un_manageability returns. Believing that God will deliver when we are ready becomes the old way of thinking. There seems to be a wide range of sledgehammers needed to breach our closed minds. We have certainly learned that God can and will deliver when we seek the power and knowledge of his will. Pursuit allows the appearance of God's will in our lives. We arrive at the next open door by doing the footwork. God's power arrives sometimes only by awareness of repetition and by amplification of His will for us. We have certainly learned that God can and will deliver when we seek the power and knowledge of His will.
Coming to terms with our disease, discovering a Higher Power we can trust with our lives, letting go of our defects and developing our ability to admit fault, we become much more than we were to begin with. Developing our character, growing spiritually and becoming a force for goodness in terms we can appreciate and understand make us spiritual beings. Aware of our humble origins, we make jokes about sainthood and becoming gurus. If we are really used as instruments of a loving, all_powerful God, how exactly would you put that into words? Perhaps that is the origin of our being called the Fellowship of the Spirit.
Many forms of belief exist when we contemplate what human beings believe in around the world and throughout time. Some cultures reverence just the spirit. They scorn the fleshly concerns of the material world. Others concentrate on form and outward observance without emphasis on the spiritual state of mind and being. Surely the answer is somewhere in the middle. But to satisfy language, it is helpful to think of the spirit of caring and sharing that attracted most of us to the Fellowship in the first place. Much of our way of life amounts to catching a Spirit in our meetings. Something in the Spirit of our involvement with other members calms us. We feel free and this allows us to go to work becoming better people. We all start out with our imperfections and we all work towards something better. This is the Spirit we try to invoke when we are carrying our NA message. While surely all that we call The Fellowship and The Program started as a dream, there is a lot of evidence to indicate the power and force of our love. The great thing is that we all are an indispensable part of the miracle. NA just wouldn't be the same without you and you and you.
While it is difficult to know who or what God is, most of us can identify with a variety of feelings such as loving, caring, comforting and forgiving, challenging and even painful when describing our conscious contact with our Higher Power. Prayer helps us do this. For many of us, this feeling of being cared for did not come to us the minute we walked into our first NA meeting. In fact, those members who come in with a lot of old baggage and predisposition about God often have the toughest time rethinking their belief. God can be found in many places. It is important to realize that recovery does not happen alone. We had to be able to accept help from a higher power before recovery could begin. Our knowledge of God grows. NA gives us the freedom to believe in any higher power we choose as long as we realize we can not do it alone. Some members remark that there is a different conscious contact with their Higher Power through meditation than when they pray.
As one addict shared; "Prayer helps me to feel like I am talking to a loving parent who wants only the best for me. Meditation on the other hand puts me in touch with the presence and power of God. I would not want to trade one for the other and the Eleventh Step tells me that I need both."
When we say the Serenity Prayer, we are inviting God into our lives. We ask God to grant us the state of mind in which we accept that there is a reason for everything that happens in life. We begin to realize that everything is exactly as it should be just for today and that we are exactly where we are supposed to be. We can reach a point where we become able to align our will with God's will, releasing our regrets of the past and our fears of the future. We have faith that a loving God is caring for us right now. Continuing with the Serenity Prayer, we ask God for the courage to change the things we can. Many of us came into recovery drowning in fears. Courage is that quality that God can give us to walk through our fear and come out the other side. Fear is replaced with faith as our conscious contact improves. Last, we ask God to grant us wisdom, the wisdom to know the difference between what we can and cannot change. A result of improving our conscious contact with God is newly found wisdom. Not only do we acquire the wisdom to know what we can change and what we cannot, but we are able to apply the best ways to bring about change. We are able to learn from the mistakes of others as well as our own errors of the past. Through the guidance we receive while working our Eleventh Step, we find that most of our problems are reduced to a workable size and the solutions to them are readily available.
There is no NA approved way to meditate only a suggestion that we do so. An example of meditation could be as simple as actively listening during meetings. If we are doing just one thing to the exclusion of everything else, we are allowing God to enter our thoughts and feelings. Meditation is the opposite of multi_tasking. It allows us to eliminate the complexity of life. If we are listening carefully, we can hear God through the sharing of others. Solutions to our problems become apparent. Meditation can be achieved by practicing any number of spiritual disciplines. We can use imaging techniques while listening to audiotapes, we can chant, we may practice breathing techniques or we can just become quiet. Meditation is the exploration of our inner world. Meditation enables us to envision and explore possible outcomes before we attempt to go through them in reality. In the stillness of meditation, we establish conscious contact with God.
Many NA members practice several forms of meditation in an effort to introduce variety into their spiritual journey. Others prefer a tried and true method that they have become accustomed to using. Regardless of how or where we practice meditation, some universal principles seem to be evident. Regular practice improves the quality of our conscious contact. Like physical exercise, spiritual exercise is most beneficial if performed on a habitual, continuous basis. The longer we stay at it, the better it gets. It is also important to avoid outside distractions and allow the mind to quiet it’s self. Most forms of meditation encourage deep, even breathing as a way to stay relaxed. As we clear our minds of busy thoughts, become aware of our breathing and relax our bodies we focus on our Higher Power. Breathing changes the ph of our blood and this affects our minds. Oxygen replaces carbon monoxide. Before long, we enter a relaxed state that is like sleep, but one in which we are awake and our senses are sharp and clear. We may visualize different people and situations with remarkable clarity. We may become aware of a loving force, present within us, so powerful that we experience an emotion of great joy and happiness. Perhaps our experience is one of a deep and abiding peace; serenity at its finest. Whatever our experience may be, conscious contact with the God of our understanding through the Eleventh Step helps us understand life and what is going on in the lives of people around us.
If we have a committee in our head, we must purge ourselves in the earlier steps (before Step Eleven) of the feeling of shame, remorse and guilt. Without the first ten Steps, we will naturally feel self_loathing, negative thinking, and feelings of impending doom. These come from disbelief, character defects and the inability to admit fault. We must gain a positive attitude and begin to allow only positive thoughts as the cravings leave us and the negative voices cease. We are now open to hear the quiet voice of the God within. We feel better about who we are. As we change and grow, make amends, forgive ourselves, and others, we eliminate many negative feelings. We may experience the pure energy of God and we feel open to receive. We have cleared the garbage to receive the gifts.
Because there are so many different disciplines and methods used to meditate, it would be impossible for us to list them all even if we were to try. Furthermore, an endorsement of any one of these disciplines would be a violation of our traditions. Consequently, NA members have been left with few choices in learning how to meditate. We could seek the informal advice of other members, search outside the fellowship for teachers who could help us, or begin a self-correcting program of our own. No matter how we choose to meditate, our goals, as defined in the Eleventh Step are the same, to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him. An analogy could be described as follows: A group of people wanted to travel to a destination a hundred miles away. Some walked, some rode bicycles, some drove cars, and some flew an airplane. The ones who flew argued that they got there faster. The ones who drove argued that they arrived sooner than everyone except the air travelers, but they had transportation after they arrived. The group who walked and rode bicycles argued that not only did they get where they wanted to go, they got some exercise along the way. Each method of travel had its advantages and each had its drawbacks. What is important to remember is that they could all take us where we want to go. So it is with meditation.
We must still our thoughts. Prayer is talking to God; meditation is listening to God's answer. The answer may not come immediately but if our minds are clear of worry and dread, we will hear the answer. Sometimes this answer will come through other people or just pop into our heads. We must be open in our minds and our hearts after surrendering our own ideas. If we stubbornly hold on to our outcome and direct the show, we run the risk of missing God's will for us. As we meditate we let thoughts pop into and leave our minds freely, we do not dwell on the thoughts but let them flow through so new ideas may enter. We must be calm and focus on our breathing in and out. Be mindless and still. This is our inner spirituality of feeling okay inside. We are calm in the midst of our storm. We focus on the Spirit within. We are still with our God-pureness and for once, we are at peace.
No one can tell us what God's specific will for us is. We can only find this for ourselves in prayer and meditation. God's will is for the best. No matter what happens there is always the opportunity for good to occur out of it. We need only look for the guidance to choose the right action. God's will is never for us to suffer. Our Higher Power does not test us. A loving God does not send bad things to us. Because of our free will, the free will of others and even random events, unfortunate things may happen. The beauty of God's Will is that no matter what happens, good can come of it - if we remain open to His guidance. Things look differently when we are looking back on them.
Through the Eleventh Step process, we usually discover that God's will for us has something to do with giving unconditional love to others. After coming to believe in a Power greater than ourselves, we were able to see that God is unlimited. Through the process of working steps, we discovered that God had been with us all along. A profound spiritual change occurred when we recognized that God cares for us and will help us in our daily lives. The most significant aspect of this change is that our fears have been replaced by faith.
As one addict shared, "Not realizing how close God was, I always looked for Him outside of myself. Through working the steps, God's presence was revealed to me. All my life, I carried a special feeling, never really knowing what it was. As I became more in touch with that special feeling, the desire to change grew stronger. I found that God lives within me. It is the same God who I came to understand through working the Steps."
Meditation can be the exploration of our inner world. A member showed up at a meeting shaken by a seminar that took him back to a childhood incident he had forgotten. The emotions triggered by the experience were painful for him. In processing all this emotion, he discovered that maybe he can use meditation to sit, envision, react, contemplate, and choose to change… or remain the same. Similarly, we can evaluate our reactions and explore possible futures, if we are clear enough spiritually. How efficient to be able to explore these things mentally and spiritually rather than go through them in reality. Spiritual growth is the primary ways we make up for lost time and gain the inner strength and resources our addiction robbed from us. The more we allow God to be a part of our lives, the more we are fulfilled. Many of us spent years looking in vain for someone or something to fill our emptiness. We can allow the God of our understanding to flow in and fill this void. The more we attend to our inner spiritual needs, the less we seek outside gratification. With perseverance and hope, we continue down the road of change, seeking a better way to live. We learn how to get out of the way. Making good decisions becomes easier when our thinking is not clouded with old ideas and inaccurate information. The decision making process becomes easier when we open our minds to our sponsors, prayer, meditation, sharing at meetings and a loving God.
Narcotics Anonymous is a spiritual program. As our minds opened to an understanding of God, we found that we experienced spiritual growth on many different levels. We went from hopeless to hopeful. Witnessing the miracles of recovery happening around us, our faith grew. Faith inspires us to apply principles such as love, generosity and forgiveness to our everyday affairs. It also calms our fears and insecurities. We relied on the God of our understanding for courage and we trusted Him with our well_being. We resolved the fearful, ugly issues of the past through the limitless strength of a loving God. As our conscious contact grew, we found less conflict and more peace. We came to see a grand vision as God's will was revealed to us. Doing God's will for us becomes our personal mission in life. We were cared for and guided in our daily actions. Our will was aligned with God's. Old fears flowed away in a flood of unconditional love. We stand in the forefront of the Fellowship, practicing principles and making ourselves available for those yet to come. We overcome each new challenge as God provides us with more than we need. Grateful that we are never alone, we step forth to give service and love in all that we do.
We know that there is something loving, kind yet forceful and capable of giving us what we need. In this Spirit, we can do what used to be impossible: stay clean on a daily basis. Long after initial recovery, we are empowered to renew our recovery each day. Furthermore, we are able to carry our message of hope and recovery to other addicts. Each addict seeking recovery in NA is able, with only the support of a few other local members, to start a new recovery meeting. There are incredible pitfalls along the way that will occur if we fail to respect and apply the NA Twelve Traditions. Anytime we avoid or choose to ignore the principles behind the Traditions, we will fall short of our goals. Almost by definition, we will not be able to see the error of our ways until later as a result of our actions. Fortunately, amends can cancel out most of our mistakes. The biggest mistake is to forget that our health and recovery come from our surrender and openness to the Spirit of Recovery. When we forget that truth, we stop getting the help we need. A problem with our attitude can kill us. We have to ask for help to be open to get help.
Knowing about the Fellowship of the Spirit has helped some members see the deeper truths of anonymous recovery. We are all one in the Spirit and identification of this great fact frees us from the need to correct others. We can bide our time and avoid wasting time in useless worry. Time and a natural God-given sincerity will often take care of things. There is a great unity among our hearts to have so many members without anyone having to force them to conform. This is most fortunate because the nature of most addicts is such that they would immediately rebel. Addicts resist the beliefs of others being imposed on them. By trusting to the sincerity of their desire for recovery, all is made simple. This works for an incredible variety of people with all kinds of living problems. One thing we know, we are all blessed.
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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.