Learning to Live
"Key for Life"
"Having lost all my possessions (cars, houses, clothes, etc.) not to mention friends,
personal relationships and family ties, to the disease of addiction,
I remember a key ring I once had with many keys on it.
It seemed at one time, I had a key for everything.
"And I recalled a night, many years ago, that I stood at my door,
completely wasted, fumbling for the key to open that door.
And the next morning, looking out my window and wondering
why my car was not parked where it should be. 'Where is my car?'
"Well, today I know those things can be replaced.
And I have one key, today, that can unlock and open
anything or any door I choose. This key is my recovery
and it is my 'Just for Today' key ring."
Narcotics Anonymous recovery is a way of living. We find that the best instructions for living our new way of life is in the NA Twelve Steps. These Steps allow us to halt the progress of our disease and resume our individual growth. The directions for sharing this new way of life are found in the Twelve Traditions. The Traditions protect the safety and security of the Fellowship as a whole. They have the power to guide us away from or around known problem areas. The Twelve Principles of NA are hope, surrender, acceptance, honesty, open-mindedness, willingness, faith, tolerance, patience, humility, unconditional love, caring and sharing. The Principles bring together the Steps and Traditions and show us what to do in situations we have not experienced before successfully. These elements form the foundation for growth and change.
Other things that help us grow are working with a sponsor, sharing with other addicts, developing our faith, reading our literature and attending NA meetings. Our experience shows that 'learning to live' is a process requiring daily effort and lifelong practice.
As we adapt to the NA way of life, we are changed. Before we can begin rebuilding our lives, we need to get several things in order. We have admitted the information and knowledge that we based our lives on is faulty. Otherwise, why would we need help? If we rush ahead blindly, we are just going to hurt more. We will be rushing ahead with all our fearful limitations and misinformation limiting the success we should enjoy upon entering this new world. That is why we gain immediately from our surrender. We stop doing things and that means we stop doing things wrong. This is what brings immediate relief. We may not be doing many things right, but they don't punish you for being imperfect!
Following the Twelve Step process allows us to get a Higher Power to help us take our inventory and remove defective character traits that may have worked in desperation, but have no place in our new lives. It is important to get this straight from the very start. If we are addicts of a type that finds recovery in NA, we will surely die without help. Graveyards are filled with addicts who could have benefitted from NA. Stubbornness and close mindedness will limit the quantity as well as the quality of our existence. This is no game. There comes a time when we have to stand still and hurt until the pain stops or at least subsides a little, so that we can find out where we belong. The processes of life will move us along and we will have the company of other recovering addicts to help us.
We learn to reach out to others right from the start. This is not because you have so much to offer, as it is a way for you to learn the program. Your desire for recovery is enough of a basis to qualify you to help others. Dumb luck and the Grace of a Loving God will assist you. If you are new to recovery and you are close to an NA member now, it may help if you tell that person you really want help. Ask them to tell you the truth and not to worry about hurting your feelings. Because we are in recovery, we have to be careful about offering help when someone does not ask for it. We have learned that this runs some newcomers off by intruding on their space, so most of us are careful not to be too forward, allowing them to grow at their own pace. Asking for help is not only socially acceptable in NA but also highly recommended. When helping others, we let them warm to us rather than breaking into their life is the idea. Yet many members want a strong hand to guide them. They will let you know. When it comes to getting help, you need to know others will wait for you to ask for help.
We use the NA Steps, Traditions, Principles, literature, members, meetings and the power of prayer to begin with. There was a time, not too long ago, when addicts like us died because no one really understood what was wrong with them or offered them a sure path to recovery. Due to the loving dedication of all the clean addicts who have gone ahead of us in recovery, this is no longer true. Their availability makes the case plain. We do not have to do it alone. It is hard for us to open up to others. Yet, by doing this, we can discover at least one or two who completely understand everything we have to say.
"Welcome home. Welcome to the first day of the rest of your life." These are the words that one addict uses to greet a newcomer in First Step meetings. This sentiment can set the tone of loving acceptance, the same acceptance shown to us when we were newcomers at our first meeting. It also means we can make a new start each day clean. Carrying our message begins with a welcome. We can see and identify the pain that comes from active addiction and leads us into a real desire for recovery. Simply taking time with someone as others took time with us, we welcome our new people into our way of life. We explain that NA is not a cult and that if some members try to push their personal ideas on them, not to get too upset with them. Our Program, as such, is a collection of what works for addicts in recovery and nothing else. Where written materials accord with what addicts do to stay clean, grow spiritually and help others, they prove useful. We do not have good literature and bad literature. It helps addicts or it does not. Writing can only approximate the wonders our members perform and experience in a day's time. So our personal, friendly welcome is the way we pass on what another NA member gave us.
We gladly render service, meet our obligations, and can accept or solve our troubles with God's help. We know that it does not matter whether at home or in the world, we are all partners in a common effort. We understand that in God's sight, all human beings are important. Our daily lives give us proof that love freely given brings a full return. We are no longer isolated and alone in self-constructed prisons, nor do we feel like square pegs in round holes. We receive assurance that we fit and belong in God's scheme of things. These are the permanent and legitimate satisfactions of living. True ambition is not what we thought it was. True ambition is the deep desire to live usefully and walk humbly under the Grace of God.
What happens just after we stop using is so confusing and chaotic that without the friendship and help of other addicts, most of us would have fallen back into active addiction. After all, addicts use. Our long sought after peace of mind may seem like a tantalizing taste of freedom that cannot possibly be real. As we grow in recovery, we transmit our experience to anyone that needs it. It becomes our own in transmission. Giving hope and encouragement to others helps us get hope and encouragement. When we experience what it feels like to help others expecting nothing in return, it is easier for us to accept the help we need for ourselves.
While there is much to be said for 'just not using'; we have many other things that have to be done. We are looking for ways to support ourselves and others in recovery. We come first. It means so much to us that efforts were made on our behalf long before we sought help in NA. This could only have come from a deep and abiding love. 'Intention' seems to be an important ingredient in this deep love. It is like a song. Intention correctly implies that we do it by choice and with love. Focusing on this love builds a tension within us that can do great things. When we do things of our own free will, we add the strength of our experience to our message.
We may have sat at a meeting and groaned inwardly when addicts from a treatment center walked in with a newcomer for a First Step meeting. We may feel tired of the basics. We may sit there wishing for something more ‘on our level.’ What could be a greater leveling than sharing with a newcomer? It brings all our recovery resources to bear against the disease of addiction personified in an addict seeking recovery! What better way to show ourselves where we truly stand with our commitment to recovery? By making ourselves available, we will find ourselves getting close enough to someone to do some good. They will expect to see us at a meeting and feel let down if we are not there. At some point, we may want to take some responsibility for this and let ourselves become bonded to the person. It is a choice. Once we have made the decision, we can see into the needs the other person may have and can pray to be used as an instrument. We can check with others, pray, use our imagination and do all sorts of things to help the person if only they are asking for our help. We have found that trying to force help on an unwilling recipient is like pouring water into a jug while the stopper is still in place. The stopper is the ego and it up to each member to open themselves to recovery.
Settling down and adjusting to life without using has to happen first. Only after we see ourselves as addicts and relate our pain to using do we have a chance at lasting recovery. Replacing our habits that were born in fear and desperation takes time. We obtain freedom in one area of our life yet we see our addiction controlling another. As we discover each area of loss and deal with it, our minds begin to clear and our appetite for freedom increases. One benefit of surrender that we experience in working the First Step is that we are not personally responsible for everything 'wrong' in the world! We chop our problems down to a workable size and thus begin to see some progress. We have chased an answer that appeared to be at some distant, unattainable point; therefore, we have to relearn to focus in today just like children. This takes the burden of 'our expected future' off our backs. The future, as we have come to expect it, is not going to happen to us as long as we are clean and practicing spiritual principles. It cannot happen because everything is different for us when we begin the internal process we call recovery. Changing the world might take forever but we can easily and quickly get results by changing ourselves. Personal responsibility means changing things within ourselves.
Personality change describes the process that allows us to develop a new relationship with life. Without a conscious choice combined with daily effort, our personalities will stay the same. This is especially visible when we are going through great stress and difficulty. Recovery allows us to set our mind on this process of change and eventually engage enough of our personal resources to get results. Usually, we have to have people we trust encouraging us to go a little further and to try a little harder in order for results to happen. We most often react in horror and feel threatened when change starts happening. In the past, change has been a threat. It is hard to relax and trust that changes are for the best.
In active addiction, many of us used character defects as a shield against attack. This was our 'survival kit.' We seldom told the truth because we lived in an illusion created and maintained by our lies. Fear and distrust motivated us to build walls to protect us from emotional or physical harm, only to discover that these walls had become our prisons. We used anger and intimidation to keep people away. The bikers used a tire iron and the lawyers used a fountain pen: it all comes to the same thing, our fear of people approaching us. We feared that if they got too close they would see through the games we were playing to the hollow inside. We wanted what we wanted, when we wanted it. We had little patience with anything or anyone who stood in the way of our self-gratification. Recovery means becoming God-centered instead of self-centered.
After coming to NA and beginning the recovery process, we find that some of the tools in our old 'survival kits' were more harmful than helpful. Put away that tire iron and hold out an open hand while letting someone know you need help. Put that checkbook back in your vest, you can't buy the love and acceptance we have to offer. Recovering addicts shared with us that we had to find a new way to live. They told us to practice honesty, 'no matter what', and in time telling the truth would feel natural. They told us so they themselves could hear it. In time, we tell others and hear it ourselves! We all want freedom from the bondage of addiction. We want to have choices, to be able to move in many directions, and to feel full of energy and spirit.
We must take the time we need to regain our personal sensibilities. Next, we start to identify with people in meetings. We read NA literature and find that we relate to the stories of those gone before. We realize that we are not alone and that we do belong. We then establish a framework of understanding and supportive friends and begin to rebuild ourselves through the power of the Twelve Steps. We know that our disease is always chasing us and we realize that we are the 'master of our own demise'. The reason that 'surrender' must be complete and a belief in a Higher Power must be revolutionary is that without them the gravity of the way we were will draw us back into the insanity.
Many of us have experienced initial confusion. We may have misused our newfound opportunities by seeking ways to regain the sense of personal power. Our self-centeredness takes our natural desires for sex, security and fellowship and twists them into negative qualities such as lust, greed, pride and extreme dependence. For recovery to occur, we have to learn to tolerate increased responsibility with gratitude and humility and those who forget this responsibility, risk returning to active addiction. Surrendering, taking an inventory, praying and meditating give us ways to live life. We visualize our goals and honestly assess the obstacles in our way. If we are willing to face the consequences of our choices then we can aspire to all our dreams in recovery. All of those goals are out there in front of us somewhere. Much of recovery is serendipity. Good things come to us when we stop trying to make things happen.
Today, we have a purpose for living. We do not allow money, power, property or prestige to divert us from that purpose. To do so would negate our surrender. Today, we have become self-supporting and we contribute our fair share in all areas of life. We carry our own weight and are no longer a burden on family and society. We gladly give our time, talents and resources to help others wherever and whenever we can. Our disease has isolated us. It has prevented us from living life to the fullest. Recovery is not only regaining things that we lost in active addiction but also restoring our dreams. One of our greatest discoveries is nothing more than the ability to see a blessing for what it is. We accept goodness into our lives and act for the betterment of those around us.
It may have taken a crisis to make us reach out for help in the first place and it may take more pain to keep us aware of the need for growth and change. Many NA members think that our chains are a natural part of us because they have been with us for so long. Our defects have been interwoven into our lives. Real honest love is what we need. It is 'for love' that we care for others and reach out of our own loneliness. We have protection from harm in our vulnerability by the courage we have gained from the program of NA. Those who lack a working relationship with a loving Higher Power may disagree with us. The strength and conviction of some of our statements may put them off but we still need to communicate our feelings and beliefs with others. We have found something unexpected in recovery, and that something has re-ignited the fire of life within us.
Instead of envisioning painful encounters, we now see ourselves getting jobs and conducting ourselves in a responsible manner. We can rehearse what we will say and what it will feel like to say it. Many times, these scenes play out exactly as we have envisioned them. It slowly dawns on us that things as simple as this are what spirituality means. We could have died for lack of what is commonplace in the lives of non-addicts and were totally unaware of this fact while in active addiction. Nonetheless, that is how this disease works. It isolates us from people who care for us and would do all within their power to help us. In the same way, it separates us from our 'good opinion' of ourselves. The things that we did while influenced by drugs could make a fallen angel blush. We learn to judge ourselves anew. When we find ourselves lacking, we make up the difference with the help of fellow addicts.
We avoid situations that could make us feel even worse about ourselves because that is how we have survived active addiction. Any positive experience or reward could trigger the self-destructiveness of this disease. A little more shame or guilt and we might not have survived. We always lose sight of the fact that in the end, we only fool ourselves. After all the cons have been run, the deals done, and the scams pulled, we ask ourselves, "Are we happy? Are we pleased? Do we feel good about ourselves and about the lives that we live?" If we answer in the negative, we work the program with more vigor for greater happiness and fulfillment. Freedom from active addiction, the ability to make choices, the flexibility to move in many directions, and feeling full of energy and spirit, is what most of us want.
As we adapt to the life of attending meetings and having contact with clean addicts, we recognize changes in the content of our thoughts. We take what we hear in meetings and study how to use it in our situations. We plan how we will handle certain situations before they come up. We try the things that appear to work for others. At this crucial stage of recovery, we reach out for help to deal with the things that have been bothering us for years. If we are honest in our desire to change, someone will come forward with an answer or we will stumble across it in a book we read. Sometimes this answer will come several times before we actually hear it.
When we pray or meditate, we open ourselves up inside for extra help like this. God answers all of our prayers. "No!" is sometimes the answer. "Wait!" can also be the answer. Then, we may waste time theorizing over whether the help would have come if we had not opened ourselves up spiritually. The point is that today we can recognize and accept God's help.
Many of us are pleased to find the world opening up for us. It is a world rich with help and support that we could not obtain before. Sometimes we get impatient about the time this takes. Therefore, we must remember that results come in God's time, not ours. We are grateful that the change comes at all.
As addicts, we live an all-or-nothing existence. We are creatures of extremes. It is all too common to see someone overextend themselves in service work, burn out, and then withdraw from service altogether. One example would be that we used to ignore our families while using yet we continue to ignore them in recovery. It does not seem to make any difference whether we were gone and using or we are gone to meetings, we are still gone. We may smother them with our controlling love and attention in a misguided attempt at making amends and then feel hurt and rejected if they exert independence. Another example is that we used to not show up for work for days at a time and now we will not even take a day off. We swing from irresponsibility to feeling responsible for the whole world. We then turn around and quit our job just because it is just 'too much.' Achieving both inner and outer balance is an elusive prize of recovery. We swing like a pendulum from one extreme to the other and hope to find that middle ground where peace and serenity reside. Eventually, we will find that peace and serenity. It comes along when we reach the point that we sincerely ask for restoration to sanity. When we take an inventory, do other step work, share at meetings and work with our sponsor, we get on a course that most accurately reflects the vision of the life that we want for ourselves. Recovery gives us a chance to slow down and finally get it right for a change.
We have every right to aspire to all the good things of life. Perhaps for the first time after many years, we express love and kindness to others when we first meet rather than waiting to see if they deserve our friendship. As we gain self-acceptance, we lose the reasons that we hide behind our self-made walls of paranoia and fear. We begin to like ourselves and then we learn to love ourselves. We express our gratitude by serving others. Today, we intuitively know that we are cared for and are no longer alone.
As one addict shared: "I learn how to live from watching how other addicts live their lives. The Steps help me to identify and achieve my dreams. The birth of my dreams often comes from seeing someone else exhibiting the qualities that I want. I ask questions and observe what they do to keep these spiritual gifts so prevalent in their lives. The answers have never been hard to discover. The people who feel the most love usually give the most love. People who seem the most humble are usually the most grateful. People who are peaceful pray and meditate for that peace. Generous people gain the most from their giving.
"I am learning to live by taking what I experience by 'working the Steps' and putting it into practice wherever I go. If I want more love, I express love. If I want inner peace, I pray to be peaceful and serene. If I want more gratitude, I try to help someone else and be thankful that I can. It seems that doing the 'little things' that people told me to do when I first got clean are just as important today as they were then."
Imagine how it would be if we had to fight with everybody and everything because of our anger. That would be a lot of fighting. How different this is from the old days when all we knew was to 'fight with or flee from' those who disagreed with us. We learn to stand our ground for the principles that we believe in while allowing others to do the same. We are calm and relaxed because we are not afraid to learn something new. We have also generally done our homework and don't often feel personally threatened by what someone may have to say.
Surrender leaves us free to fight when there is no alternative. Suppose we could not inventory our assets and liabilities. How would we approach our life? We would always seek more. We would have no way of satisfying our actual needs. Sound familiar? Suppose we had no way to reach God through prayer. Suppose we could not recognize or accept the spiritual answers that come to us. We would be 'on our own' and in active addiction again!
There are five steps to peace: denial, anger, bargaining, acceptance and peace. The acronym "d-a-b-a-p" should become a word in our language to describe this process. This information may help us get on with recovery. In response to someone who is stuck in anger, we may suggest bargains. If asked, we may suggest getting angry with someone who is stuck in denial to help him or her get going again. It is important to remember that life is a process of change and growth, only 'dead things' stop growing. We engage the forces of life when we throw aside the labels that our addiction placed on us and begin the selective process. We can finally take steps to free ourselves from the limitations imposed on us by our disease and reflect our true preferences. We can become the human beings that we have been inside all along.
Sometimes, we give the impression that we like to preach. We have sat in meetings listening and sharing that we are often repeating from rote things we have heard or read in the literature. When we're doing better, such things can become issues to work on as self-improvement. In active addiction, we believed that someone loving us and going out of his or her way to help us created a debt that we could not pay. In recovery, we learn that this demonstrates the principle of 'giving back'. The only way we can maintain this gift of recovery is to continue to give it away. When we give it away and find we feel relieved, we get new insight into the feelings of those who helped us. Helping another is all we must do to repay our 'debt' to those who helped us. If you feel that recovery is getting stale, look again. Ask yourself, "Am I still giving it away?" It may be God's way of reminding you that you need to concentrate more on honesty, open-mindedness or willingness. Almost without exception, we will find that by putting something else first, our recovery and peace of mind have suffered. The next time someone calls asking for help, we start the conversation by thanking them for calling.
Sponsorship is an essential element in working the NA program. The only way to learn and apply the principles of recovery is from a person who has worked them. We call that someone a sponsor. It is important to find and use a sponsor as soon as possible. We may come to rely heavily upon them. In time, we too may become sponsors and grow from the opportunity to return the love and attention that was freely given. After acquiring some clean time, we recognize the rewards that come from living by principles. We see that healing is happening in our lives and that it is a direct result of working the Twelve Steps. We come to realize that because these principles help us deal with our addiction to drugs that they will also help us in all areas of our lives.
Fear and guilt may have been great motivators in our active addiction and early recovery. Fear and guilt keep us from doing what we can today. Both limit our lives in ways that we may have thought were blessings. In time, however, we will want to be free of these two defects just as we will want to be free of the cast after a broken bone has healed. It would be far more troublesome than helpful to keep them or the cast. We would again limit our lives needlessly. Feeling needless fear or unearned guilt creates limitations that steal freedom.
An indispensable tool for living clean is gratitude. This positive emotion is markedly lacking in addicts but we can learn gratitude by practicing it. Generally, if we are not grateful for what we have today, we most likely will not appreciate what we receive tomorrow. Most of us learned gratitude by patient practice after we come to the viewpoint that it is necessary for our self-improvement. Narcotics Anonymous gives us the opportunity to regain the things that we lost in active addiction and to reach goals that we never dreamed were possible before. When we experience conscious thankfulness, we feel as if we have added a new dimension to our existence.
Every time that we act on faith, we change the world for the better. This miraculous power helps counteract the feelings of worthlessness and despair that this disease gives us. When we begin to substitute actions that make us feel good, we find that we are doing better in the world than we may have thought. Our experiences benefit us even when they do not seem positive. This is especially true when we find ourselves in the midst of tragedy. We can often learn as much from knowing how something does not work as from how it does. We must learn to think clearly before we can take effective actions. Obviously, we must draw correct conclusions about what happened and be honest about how we want to change ourselves in order to experience better results.
A vital part of learning to live clean is the acceptance of our personal responsibility to our recovery and society. We look forward to contributing our fair share. We apply the principles that we learn in NA, whether within the Fellowship, with our families, in our professions, or with other organizations. "'Exactly what is my fair share?' we might ask?" It is simply doing 'what we can do' today. 'Doing well' makes us feel better about ourselves so why would we miss this good feeling by shirking the responsibility?
In our meetings, we learn that the most precious gift we have to give is our loving attention. We listen actively with all our senses and try to establish empathy with other NA members. We apply what we learned at meetings and give this same level of attention to our families, friends and co-workers. The concept of 'our common welfare should come first' extends to our families, neighborhoods and communities. We surrender our egos into the larger group conscience by trusting that a loving God will speak through us all.
In this, our Twelfth Step work, we begin to participate consciously in the miracle of NA. It is the recovery process come full circle. We have gotten enough to begin to give back. We know well the spiritual law that says we will receive at least three times as much as we give. Whenever we stop having stuff come our way, we have stopped giving in some essential way. Actually, we may unconsciously begin to deny ourselves. It will do no good to receive more if we are full already. We have to let go some to make room for more. We may have been coming to meetings for a long time. Gradually we watched ourselves grow from being a taker to a giver. We remember to give and grow so that others may grow to give. This was the nourishment offered to us when we began our journey.
Life gets better as we practice unconditional acceptance with others. We simply give our love unconditionally. Unconditional simply means without expectation. One thing that can give us great difficulty is finding out that we may have unknowingly placed expectations on other addicts. We may find that if someone relapses, we had the expectation that they would stay clean. We may even tell ourselves that they just did not want to stay clean and seem to forget that they suffer from the disease of addiction. We must remember, "There but for the Grace of God and the blessing of recovery, go I." We must be careful not to use this disappointment to justify isolating. We obtain freedom when we learn to make our own decisions and try not to hurt anyone in the process.
In the past, making compromises may have been difficult. Today we can compromise our actions without compromising our values. Recovery teaches us that we can disagree with others without being disagreeable. Most of us have witnessed two or more addicts arguing passionately over an issue. The conversation was animated and the atmosphere of recovery seemed in jeopardy. Somehow, the right answer became apparent to everyone. We have such a feeling of accomplishment when working through differences by 'listening to' rather than 'bullying' one another. Only minutes later, those addicts who were once arguing so forcefully are hugging, sitting together and planning what to do next. As long as we show love and respect for one another, we will always find an answer that will work for all.
As we learn to live, we discover that we are not alone. We are not independent from one another because a power greater than we are connects us. We believe that things can get better and so our hope grows into faith. We realize that if we continue on this path, we have no need to be concerned for our welfare. Faith gives the courage to examine who we are, what we have done and who we would like to become. We trust ourselves enough to share what we find in this process with someone else. We become more willing to change with the perspective that we 'receive' when we share our regrets, resentments, wrongs, assets, hopes and dreams. We begin to become responsible and accountable for our past and start trying to repair our relationships. Only after we have forgiven ourselves and the people who may have harmed us, will the way forward open up for us. Knowing the next right thing to do is a big part of daily recovery. Our resentments bind us to the past and can replicate the problem again and again. When we pray and meditate daily, we discover God's will for us as well as the power to carry it out. Self-worth grows when we are of service in all areas of our lives. Amazingly, we find that the more love we give, the more love we have.
When a loved one dies or narrowly escapes death, we realize that life goes on with or without our permission. We can turn our lives around at this point if we are aware of the message of hope that is Narcotics Anonymous. This discovery may make us want to be a part of life again. Clean, we realize that we might as well stop fighting and start figuring out how to be happy. We have the right to remove any obstacles that we find and get on with our lives. There are simply too many help services available to go without. If only we are open to receiving help, these individuals, professionals and agencies can help us. This goes for friends and family members as well as the public and community organizations. Many of us could not conceive of a life without the use of drugs. We believed that if we did not have drugs in our lives our lives would be boring and incomplete. It has been heard many times in our meetings, "If I listed all the things I expected to achieve in my first year of recovery I would have short-changed myself." We quickly learn that the life of a using addict is no life at all. It is saturated with pain and unfulfilled dreams. Hope remains hidden in the fog of our denial. As newcomers, we were filled with questions. How can these meetings change my life? What do I do now that I'm not using? More experienced NA members may have smiled that knowing smile and encouraged us to just ‘keep coming back.’ It was too difficult for many of us to conceive this new way of life at the early stages of our recovery. By not using and going to meetings before we believed that NA would work for us, we learned a lesson in faith.
This is what being a part of life is all about. Our addiction keeps us isolated and miserable. It destroys our lives by creating real and imaginary barriers to our happiness. Many of us feel that we have no right to happiness by the time we arrive in NA. One addict shared: "I used to discuss friendship with my mother, sometimes complaining about certain friends. My mother turned to me one day and said, ‘You've got to be a friend to have a friend.’ I often think of this remark when I consider the balance between giving and receiving. Sometimes I'm tempted to sit home and watch TV instead of going to a meeting, thinking, ‘There's nothing I'm going to get at that meeting anyway.’ What I need to remind myself is that maybe I need to go to that meeting because there is somebody I need to give something to instead of looking for someone to get something from."
Words are symbols of reality and as such have the power to heal, wound or kill. Some words have been off limits to us for some time and we need to make friends with them again. We must remind ourselves of our right and responsibility to do this. We have quite a story to share; most of us have histories that are far more dramatic and intriguing than a motion picture. In active addiction, we lived secret lives and did not want others to know what we had become. We came to believe our own lies and blocked out the truth, even after we got clean. Because so much of what happened to us is deep inside, it may be a while before the full stories come out. One of the miracles that we experience in Narcotics Anonymous is helping one another to get a new grip on reality. Only recovering addicts understand the courage that it takes to walk back from our own destruction one step at a time. NA has been described as an archway. As we enter into recovery through this arch, we find many paths before us that we can take. We find spiritual principles that can guide us on our journey. We find that our hopes and dreams can be fulfilled. What were once only fantasies have now become our reality. Life is no longer filled with pain and despair. Joy and hope are the replacement. Happiness and gratitude have replaced sadness and depression. Satisfaction replaces lust. We are no longer bound by our addiction or chained by our fears. The Fellowship of Narcotics Anonymous welcomes us to life. It is a life beyond our wildest dreams.
We grow from near total collapse and surrender to being able to do certain things. We learn that the principle of 'powerlessness' works for us all the way. We discover you do not need to be powerful to get things done. Power trips just wear us down. Developing our own conscious contact with a Higher Power works for us.
With all the resources of a Loving God on our side, we can now take inventory, get our Higher Power's help releasing character defects and make amends for past wrongs and wrongs as they occur. Our relationships change within our families. We find new friends who are willing to share their lives with us. Co-workers see us as assets and sources of support instead of competition or unreliable. We branch out into recreational activity, a social life and some degree of civic involvement. The self-help movement is in itself a big part of all three. We find God's plan for us through working our Steps. When we sit alone, our feeling of aloneness takes a new direction, we experience contentment.
Human beings exist in terms of consciousness. Many of our actions are unconscious. We have to learn to think clearly before we can act without regret. It may be that surrender, prayer and meditation are how we deal with the subconscious portion of life and give us an edge as we become better at applying these tools. We are learning how to appreciate and enjoy life. Many of us anticipate trying new things. Whether it is doing something simple or complex, we learn that getting together with other addicts, outside of the group meetings, can be a very enjoyable experience. We give ourselves permission to have fun in healthy ways, both inside and outside the Fellowship. We know that laughter is both spiritual and healing. The more we learn to laugh and enjoy ourselves, the better we feel. While we take our recovery very seriously, we try not to take ourselves too seriously.
We recognize our diversities, but we cannot allow our differences to divide us. We have learned to mind our own business and to pursue our purpose undeterred by outside issues. Recovery brings out our real skills and abilities and lessens our need for self-promotion. Principles come to our aid and disarm personality conflicts before we act out. We see others as equals and a part of our extended family. Changed, renewed and revitalized, we continue to let go of fear and live in love. Learning, ever learning, we live!
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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.