~ 2012 Form ~
The only requirement for membership in Narcotics Anonymous is a desire to stop using. While this statement is clear in meaning, it seems indefinite at times. We have to show our desire to other members in order to find the identification and acceptance that we need to begin our recovery as NA members. Growing up in recovery has taught us that becoming an acceptable, responsible, productive member of society means much more than ‘just not picking up.’ Self-centeredness had ruled our lives during active addiction. When we became humble, honest and realistic, we soon found that we could recover too. Regardless of age, working the Steps is the key to recovery.
When we were using, we only learned what we needed to survive. When we are clean, we learn things we need to know when we are in recovery. Unfortunately, some of us do not easily identify with the other members of a group, area or region. These members have to make an extra effort to make their desire for recovery clear and express to some extent their First Step. We have all felt that we were letting our desire show. It was almost like the ‘cartoon drowning’ scenario as we count one, two, three. It escaped us for a time that simply telling members one on one or in a recovery meeting would work. We share what our addiction was like and why we want to learn to live clean. This may be the best way for any member to gain the recognition, acceptance and support of a NA group. Someone who never shares their pain may be accepted on a personal level yet not be identified and supported as an addict seeking recovery.
A young lady shares, "Young people sometimes have this problem when their age is well under the average for their area or group. This fact alone makes it harder to identify with older members. It's not that our older members want to exclude someone or deny membership just because of their age. Young members who may 'feel funny' need to know they didn't do anything wrong. Sometimes, the older members feel embarrassed to admit their need for help when younger people are present. Unfortunately, this embarrassment is often misinterpreted as rejection by a young addict seeking recovery. It is your responsibility as a member to find ways to identify into the solution recovery has to offer. Our disease always tries to find differences so that recovery doesn't apply to us. The reality is that in carrying our message to young people, we encounter the same situations we find in any effort to let people know they don't have to use. The recovery experience rewards the extra effort that we make to try to hear someone's plea for help or to make them feel welcome. Their feelings are the same - their situations are different. They have to do what their parents say."
This is just one of the situations in which we have to wait for clearer thinking to happen before we can state the problem. We need to state it in a way that acknowledges the difficulty as well as providing a way to deal with it successfully. Even with as much as we share in our meetings, it takes a long time for the facts of our addiction to all come out. We adapt to our changing habits of going to meetings, calling other members and generally adopting the NA way of life. Doing anything that is out of our way may take a little extra effort on our part. If we find ourselves feeling awkward or uncertain, we step back and honestly evaluate what is happening. We must remain vigilant in order to not quickly discount how someone else is feeling. If we find ourselves jumping to conclusions about why they are doing something, we may want to postpone acting on our assumptions. We learn to wait until we have had a chance to reconsider our feelings and evaluations before acting.
Young people in recovery are not exempt from the problems that addicts have in facing fear and loneliness. Sometimes, it seems as though, they have it rougher because many adults forget how awake and intelligent young people are. They may lack experience but they catch on real quick. Today we have members who got clean at twelve or fifteen. Embarrassment at discussing problems openly in the presence of youthful members can be a problem. Most of us became acquainted with pain at an early age and soon believed that nobody understood us. If young people are in our meetings for recovery, it might be interesting to take the time to hear them out. We can satisfy ourselves as to the validity of their claim to membership. Helping others who are presently experiencing our particular hell is sometimes the only way that we can find relief. Our own pain subsides at the point of identification that happens when we seek to ease the pain of another. Self-pity along with a fear of acceptance or rejection can unnecessarily add to the confusion of younger addicts. Any excuse that an addict uses to get out of identifying with clean addicts eventually translates into using. It's the nature of our disease to act against our own happiness.
Sharing their pain, one fifteen-year-old member tells us, "I've been to many family gatherings and been alone there. I didn't know these people at all. I wanted to know them, develop close relationships with them, to feel feelings for them and them for me. The force of fear drove the pain and loneliness inside me to an overwhelming point. I had to leave these people so that I could run and hide. I didn't want anyone to see me. I didn't want to take the hand of their love, knowledge or friendship. Yet - I did. I truly wanted everything that they had - the love, attention and companionship. I longed to be a part of . . .
"They tried to love me, get to know me, to befriend me but I was too scared because I dwelled in my pain. I obsessed on my fear of failure and my character defects. I told myself that they hated me because I was always a failure. Because I couldn't even conceive of success, I wouldn't allow myself to feel good. I was always hiding and running. I was living in the negativity and slowly committing suicide with drugs at a young age.
"In school, I was the ‘class clown.’ I was the center of a lot of negative attention. I hated myself and I wanted so badly to be like anyone else rather than myself. I pushed family, friends and teachers away. I shoved everyone away yet at the same time feebly grasping to keep them close to me. I hated myself so much that I wouldn't let myself feel or cry. It was impossible to let people know that I cared or to let myself care. I didn't believe that I could succeed in school, art or life. I was never satisfied with anything or grateful for anything because I was always comparing myself to everyone else.
"I had so many chances to make friends or to have a girlfriend but I let the fear control me. I hate it! I'm so sick of being alone, so desolate. Why can't I be comfortable? Why am I so afraid? Today I realize that I don't need to be alone anymore. I could be in a crowd with a million people and still feel alone in my head. Lonely, heartsick, self-obsessed, and dizzy with self-pity I cry, ‘Help me! Come to me because I'm too afraid to come to you.’ I still struggle because I would rather feel sorry for myself than to allow myself to feel my furious pain."
There are windows of learning that every person goes through in their development as a human being. Erroneous beliefs and unworkable ideas may have been embedded in us by those who knew even less than we do. Some things are right, be glad for them. Some things are wrong and will have to be corrected if you are going to be happy and effective in life. In recovery, you resume your life. Be good to your family. Find other good people to spend your time with. Avoid noisy or superficial people when you can. Doing these things will help you focus on who you want to be. Do not hate others because it will poison your living. Forgiveness helps you maintain your mood of choice, may it be a good one. Fear and hatred can embed themselves and we get used to being hate_filled. Focus on joy and learning and be good to your associations. Doing good things for people is the finest art there is.
We are not here to sell you anything. We are not here to make you do anything. We are not here to punish you. We are all here to welcome you. If you look closely, you will find some of us are even younger than you! Be glad if you are young and have found the program! What a blessing. Make friendships that will last a lifetime. You have many new relatives to meet. Spend the time it takes to reform the parts of you that need completion. You are a miracle - enjoy it!
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.