If we view the term "clean" as just freedom from active drug addiction, we may miss the whole concept of recovery. In NA we not only get physically clean from drugs but spiritually clean, emotionally clean, clean on the inside, clean in the way we deal with the world. Spirituality is an inside job and we need to heal our insides to be able to achieve true freedom.
How do we change those parts in us that have consistently functioned negatively into staying clean and growing spiritually?. Practicing honesty where we were once dishonest seems very awkward at first but it gets easier and easier over time. At some point it becomes the most natural thing to do, like breathing in and out.
These coping skills we learned while using, tend to show themselves as character defects once we are in recovery. Often surrendering these defects makes us feel like we have lost something. We may even experience a period of disorientation as we try living without them for the first time in our life. We have been living our lives based on these distorted visions and so we have become comfortable with them and they may not even appear painful or negative to us. We have to learn that changing things that are truly hurting will always be in our best interest.
One addict says; "In reality, there is no pain in change. There is no pain in growth. The pain comes in the resistance to the change or the resistance to the growth. Man’s two biggest fears are: 1. Fear of death and 2. Fear of change."
We believe that without our "coping skills", we will be nothing, that we are giving away that which makes us, "us." We have been our defects for so long, many of us "know not who we are." We are children of God. In fact by letting go of our defects we suffer no actual loss at all! We are only giving up those things that have kept us down for so long. We truly no longer need them to survive. When we let go of our old ways, it allows us to become who we have always been; Loving and caring human beings, at peace with ourselves and the world around us.
While using, we learned to stuff our feelings and deny that still quiet voice inside that most call our conscience. We may have been raised in families where wrong was right, and right was wrong, or even forced to raise ourselves by guessing at what life was all about. Through using, we may have nearly extinguished that light of a conscience deep within us. In recovery, we learn to pay attention to the feelings that tell us when something is wrong or when something is hurting us. Our job in recovery is to bring forth that still quiet voice called conscience and learn to align our life with it. In the 11th step, we seek to improve our conscious contact. Maybe it would serve us well to also think of this as "sought to improve our CONSCIENCE CONTACT."
One addict said; This to shall pass, this to shall pass, no this to get’s buried! We put an emotional band aid on it and we stuff it back down. The answer in recovery is "this to shall dissolve." It’s healed, it’s gone. If we write an inventory it won’t come up again because it is no longer an issue in our lives, unless we choose to make it one again."
Our addiction may make us think that we are experiencing relief by avoiding our instincts, our conscience. In reality, whatever is hurting us just goes on to do more damage. It is quite healthy to experience pain and discomfort, or just a general feeling of unease, when something is not right! It may not even be a big deal; it’s just a feeling that something isn’t okay. Our feelings become our green, yellow or even red flashing light indicators of life. While active, we used not over events but the feelings associated with those events. We used to avoid our feelings at all cost. In recovery they become the tools we use to build the life of our dreams.
Our addiction tells us that our character defects are just pleasant or whimsical likes or dislikes that lend color and variety to our personality. Our disease would have us believe that they are just quirky personal touches that may be a tad strange or mildly irritating but certainly not harmful to us or anyone around us. We tend to continue this delusion even as we are getting clean. Our disease tells us that those who complain about these irritating aspects of our personalities are not our friends.
If we have experienced more good results than negative behind these odd characteristics and are somewhat pleased with them, we ask the age old question; "Why do I have to change?" Why would we even consider it? However, if we are not happy, truly happy, we are probably in deep denial and will need to face these defects of character rather than stuff them just one more time. Have we have hurt, suffered and failed in our lives? Have we adapted ourselves successfully to a life of pain or loss and far too often felt beyond hope? It might just be time to revise the way we live. For many of us, our childhoods were miserable, and then our young adult hood turned about bad as well due to our disease or just an unstoppable inner desire to recreate the insane environments we had been trained to see as "normal". Are we prepared to ruin the rest of our lives trying to maintain a façade that never, ever got us where we wanted to go in life? Will the 2nd half or last portion of our lives be a disaster too? Or have we had enough?
Often times, addicts think that if they are hurting they are doing something wrong, when in fact, they just might be doing it right. In recovery we say; "no pain no gain". Pain can be the motivating factor to get us off our fat asses and move from the problem into the solution. Recovery is often a lot simpler then we make it out to be. If we live in the problem, the problem increases, if we live in the answer, the problem goes away. We need to ask ourselves often; Am I in the problem or am I in the solution?
We don't have the luxury of taking something to relieve our negative feelings. When we use, we interrupt the recovery process. It is far easier to stay clean then it is to get clean! We have found that there are no answers in dope, just more problems. We learn to deal with the things in our lives that are producing our pain and discomfort. Better living through chemistry never worked for us. Why should it now? We are all familiar with the line in our readings at meetings each night; "The sooner we accept our personal responsibilities, just that much faster do we become acceptable, responsible productive members of that society."
One dictionary definition of clean is "no interior flaws visible." This is a clue that recovery is an "inside" job. We can spend years arguing with our sponsors, or other NA members, about the symptoms of our disease but if we treat our addiction by working the steps we will begin to notice that many of our symptoms tend to go away on there own. In recovery we heal the insides and that always shows positively on the outside. Why waist tons of time healing symptoms? If you heal the underlying disease, the symptoms often go away. This is one of the core concepts or benefits of the disease concept in Narcotics Anonymous; why treat multiple symptoms, if you can treat one disease and many of the symptoms fade away on their own.
Pain and discomfort are signals that our conscience is working and the pain will not stop until the situation is corrected or we have buried the feelings back down. When we first get here we require extra help with admitting fault, gaining a belief system, and becoming self aware. Once these concepts become realities for us, we can begin to adjust to our newfound accurate perceptions. We begin to trust our instincts because they are right on the money.
We stay clean even when our "dis-ease" tells us we are failures, why don’t we just go ahead and die! We survive all of the emotions that go along with personality change, even though at times we are sure we will not be able to make it through this whole ordeal of growing up. Many of us have felt such intense fear and pain that we cannot imagine our lives ever getting better.
We had been living at the animal level or subsistence level for so long that we could hardly grasp the concept of living a responsible, productive life. We could barely see ourselves living clean, let alone living in clean clothes. It was often beyond our belief system to see ourselves changing who we are on such a deep spiritual level. We gain a great advantage when we can begin to differentiate between who we were in active addiction and who we can truly become in recovery. When we first got here our view was so limited.
After we get clean from drugs, we can now begin to clean up in other ways. We remove those things that hold us back or make us feel dirty and unworthy. We have learned that it is okay to back out of a bad deal or situation. We learn that we have a choice today. Not only do we have a choice to use or not to use, recovery gives us choices in every area of our lives. For most of us, we where never taught that we had a choice when someone was mistreating or shaming us. Due to our low self esteem or feelings of unworthiness, we thought we had to sit there and take it. Because of our backgrounds, we may not realize that we're repeating past mistakes until the situation gets bad. As we work through the steps, we learn to recognize the actions and patterns that have brought us pain in the past. We get clarity that our actions in the past didn’t work then, and most likely won’t work now. So we put the brakes on and tried something different. This is the way we surrender old habits and form new healthy ones.
Today, by working the program, we learn that we have choices in every situation. We have the choice of leaving, or speaking up for ourselves and saying this is not okay. That doesn't make us quitters. We may not believe it yet but it is perfectly all right to say, "Wow, look at the time, I’m sorry but I have to go." We can detach with love. If our partners in the drama choose to go on without us, so be it. If they put us down or laugh at us later _ so what? We stayed clean, kept our dignity and our serenity. As sponsors, we need to teach our sponsees about personal integrity and dignity. It is vital that we share with them about how to set boundaries with others.
Recovery is not black and white; we learn that there can be gray areas. We can learn to disagree without being disagreeable. We learn that we can negotiate with people and stop being the doormats of life. With the appropriate level of open_mindedness, we can even think outside the box today. We may find solutions that no one else ever thought of. Learning to creatively cope with difficult life situations and come out clean on the other side is the true manifestation of our recovery.
The concept of being clean is not restricted to 'just not using.' Being clean is a state of mind. It is a conscious choice. It is about keeping our spirits clean as well as not doing drugs in any form. When we have these two things in place, the rest follows naturally. Staying clean allows us to explore our new lives fully. Many of us have come to believe that cleansing our bodies, our environments, and our habit patterns will bring us to the new life we desire. We often have a fear of losing some part of us but we find that by surrendering these core beliefs, what remains is often far better than we could have ever dreamed possible on our own. Some have thought that getting clean will bring us back to who we were before we started using. We find the ongoing change, as a result of working the steps, we are becoming new. For some, clean is removing the accumulated dirt that is a natural part of living life. As we work steps 10, 11 and 12, we maintain our inner peace. It is important to recognize that we are only human and after living a dysfunctional life_style for years, we don’t just take the ramp up to spiritual peace and bliss. Recovery is a process that happens over time, not over night.
One difficulty we face is that emotional relapses can undermine our willingness. The fear of having to do in depth step work again can make staying clean seem to be too difficult or down right impossible. We keep returning to the power of surrender we found in our initial recovery and we get results. If we find it hard to turn t,o that power, we talk about it at meetings and with our support group. One sure sign that we are heading toward relapse is being overly critical and uncharitable toward others who are hurting. When our H.A.L.T.S. (Acronym for "don’t get to hungry, angry, lonely, tires or serious) gets out of whack, we tend to become hyper-critical. We have found that "hurting" people, hurt others! We have found that when we are spiritually centered, we are very accepting of others but when we are in emotional pain, we will nearly loose our minds when an old lady is in the five item line at the grocery stor has eight items in her basket! If we have lost compassion for our fellows, it is a red light indicator that we are in need of inside work.
By working the steps, we find some of the spiritual things that we thought we had lost forever. Guiding principles begin to replace negative values; courage dispels cowardice, honesty replaces dishonesty and faith replaces fear. Self-improvement is possible if we are willing to give time, time and keep our spirit willing. If we want to know where God is, he’s right on the other side of willingness. With God’s help, we work the Twelve Steps and are restored.
We have an internal witness called conscience that keeps us on track. Our conscience is our memories of what worked and what hurt. We never lose these memories; however, we do forget where we put them at times. We may simply choose to ignore them, but as we all know, the truth will set you free. Of course, as we say in N.A., "The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off!"
By discarding the ideas, habits, and ways that helped us get by in the past, we are open to re-examine ourselves and move in a new direction. When we have feelings or thoughts that disturb our peace of mind, we have several ways to deal with them effectively; we can write them down, talk about them with someone, listen to others which helps us to become open-minded, read recovery literature, pray and/or meditate, inventory the issue, make amends or set boundaries as need be, or take the simple approach of getting with our sponsors to share our pain and resolve the issue. We surrender, develop new beliefs, admit our faults and make amends. We often do this by seeking through prayer and meditation to receive the strength and guidance needed to move through our road blocks.
One of the objectives of learning and using spiritual principles is to minimize suffering both ours and others we come into contact with. Being clean allows us freedom from the horrors of addiction. We no longer have to do things that we do not like - for people we do not like _ for reasons we do not agree with - for rewards that are meaningless, distasteful or dangerous to our safety and well-being. We still have to face life on life’s terms so there will be things that we don’t like to do, but for our recovery we may need to do them to stay clean. The difference between people pleasing and accepting responsibility is that one is for false gain and the other is for true gain.
Instead of having rough edges, many of us wore our character defects like protective spikes or thorns. Our anger or ugliness was used to keep others at a safe distance so they could not harm us. We may have been arrogant, self-righteous, demanding, belligerent or just stomped around life filled with entitlement. "Don’t you know who I am?" we thought to ourselves. For many of us, we became so isolated that the loving human touch of others, outside of sexual acts, was unpleasant and often very painful. If you knew he we really were, you would have nothing to do with losers like us. As we get clean the spikes start to drop off. Through the love of the fellowship, we come to the point where we are able to be hugged by another person, without pulling away or feeling acquired about it.
In early recovery and even after many years clean, there will come times of blackness and despair. There are times in our recovery where God puts us in the desert, a spiritual desert for sure. There is no way out, no easy answer. We feel lost and abandoned by our Higher Power. One of our biggest problems is that we try to get out of the desert to quickly for it is in the desert that we experience our greatest growth. These are the trying times and we can rest assured that some wonderful things are happening here and now. That God is doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves and most importantly we remember that "More will be revealed."
We remember that life will get better if we continue to work the Steps. We know from our collective experience that it is okay to simply hang on to abstinence until a crisis passes and we regain the will to live. Then we hear the voice of hope from within. Our truths are altered, corrected, reworked or amended and reality appears to be getting better. Reality never changed, what changed was our attitude.
One of our early members who wrote the Tradition portion of our Basic Text used to say; "There is one thing more then anything else that will defeat us in our recovery… this is an attitude, an attitude! An Attitude! … of indifference or intolerance toward spiritual principles!"
If the problem is a poor or incorrect understanding, we admit that where we maybe wrong and ask for further clarification. We can study recovery literature so that we can become better informed and get new insights into our current dilemma. If we determine that action is required, we take responsibility for our part and do what is needed of us to make it right. If the source of our difficulty is with another person, we start by discussing matters with our sponsor and friends or we go directly to the other person and put the problem out on the table by owning our part, or by owning that "we" have a problem with something they are doing. We are not telling them they have to stop or change, we merely are "owning" that we are having a problem with what they are doing. We do this to try to affect a change or negotiate a win/win scenario but far more importantly, we do it to free ourselves from the inner turmoil and anger we are living with over the situation. We get freedom from facing our fears, not from stuffing them. We get true freedom not from avoiding confrontation but from facing it head on. Of course there are times when the person we are confronting maybe violent or insane and in such instances, professional help is surely warranted. As the Basic Text states; "We are not Doctors or Lawyers so when we have legal problems or medical problems, we consult a Physician or a Lawyer, and yes, we do call the Police today if need be. We are members of society and as such, we have the right to Police protection when dealing with unstable individuals.
We may need to make amends, or we may need to set boundaries. By going over it first with our sponsors we gain clarity on what our part is in the problem and where we can take personal responsibility. In this way, we learn to deal with life on life’s terms rather than suffer in resentments for dozens of years. Our disease tells us that we have handled a situation, when we have successfully stuffed it. In reality, all we have done is create other long term problems and avoided solving the issue at hand. We are still angry at someone or something that violated our space but all we have done is let the person get away with something and added to a life_time of victim_hood. We doubt that is what we truly want in life. For we know, by working the Twelve Steps of Narcotics Anonymous, we will become happy, joyous and free, not angry, resentful and full of fear.
A sponsor once told his sponsee; "Recovery only takes one thing… everything we got!" We have come to realize that freedom isn’t free. We need to work very hard for it. In fact we have to work harder for this than we have for anything we have ever done in our entire lives. The wonderful thing about this recovery journey is that all our work and hard effort actually pay off big time! The Basic Texts states that "We will come to know happiness, joy and freedom." These are not idle promises; these are the truths that most members who have worked the 12 steps accept as reality on most days of their lives. We come to expect days of peace interrupted now and then by life’s pains and discomfort. We know in our hearts that whatever comes down the road of life, we will soon get back to "happy, joyous and free" if we are willing to take the action needed to make it through these tough times without using.
One member shares in her talks; "I have come to understand, after a seven year relapse and 8 years back, that it is the basics that will keep us clean in times of trouble. The same basics that got us here, will keep us here. When my marriage of 10 years was on the rocks and my Mother was dying of cancer, I did not know what to do. I was beside myself and felt abandoned by my Higher_Power. Something inside kept telling me to just keep doing the basics that the program taught me in the very beginning of my recovery. Basics like; A meeting a day, calling your sponsor every day, working the steps, letting people know that you are hurting, asking for help. I kept my eye on recovery and eventually found out what it was all about. I lost a lot but it was meant to be, for if I had not let go of that dying marriage, I would never have found my true love. Don’t stop 5 minutes before the miracle."
Even when no resolution seems possible, we can learn something from each experience that we come through clean. The source of our conflict often will originates from some place, event, or circumstance beyond our control; death of a loved one, loss of job, natural disaster etc. Some times, the best we can do is to sit quietly, review what happened. Once we are calm, we can decide what we would have preferred to have happened and maybe, if anything, what we can do about it now. We may have become distracted or overwhelmed by our troubles. We need to re-affirm our commitment to staying clean and push ourselves to resume the best course of action. We have learned that we really have no choice but to live clean.
Our standards of life are changing when we notice that things that used to cause problems in our lives, those things that used to completely overwhelm and baffle us, now appear as minor inconveniences. Things that where problems and issues all our lives, no longer have any lasting affect. There are things that seemed impossible for us, have now become easy every day tasks, hardly worth giving a second thought to. We are growing when we can find a way to raise our spirits through practicing principles and helping others. We have learned, over time, to free ourselves from the chains of active addiction.
Many of us had little or no healthy role models growing up; we were left to fend for ourselves. Life was somewhat of a puzzle to us. In freedom from active addiction, we learn how to comprehend the enigma of life. With the help of our sponsors and the program, we penetrate the maze until it becomes a plain path to us.
To stay on the path of recovery, it helps to keep in mind that God is the one who works the miracles in our lives. If we start to believe that it is "we" that makes recovery happen, we would tend to feel and appear very powerful. This type of self-deception might tend to confuse others into believing that we have all the answers for them. We can not live clean without an increased recognition of and alignment with this truth.
The more we can do, the more we will do. Increased capacity means increased responsibility. This is important because many of us have tried to get the benefits of recovery without willingness to do our part later on. Freedom is not free. We need to be willing to do whatever it takes to maintain our freedom. Even the things that often times are a royal pain such as; Answering the phone at 3 in the morning to speak to a using addict who is ready to surrender, sitting in long service meetings when we would rather be anywhere else, listening to long winded members with little recovery share their wellness with everyone… for 20 minutes straight! We have found that by raising our hands to be recognized by the Chair will help to end there long-winded words of wisdom. Most of us don’t get to the pain, until we talk about other things for a while, so it is important not to cut someone off too soon. We cannot always tell when "too soon" is but we know for damn sure when "too long" is.
Many of us have found out what it is like to try to help someone who does not want help. There are those that simply will not allow us to help them, even though the come to N.A. looking for a way out. As we grow in recovery, we learn through empathy, when we can and cannot help another. This does not mean that we turn our back on any suffering addict willing to seek recovery, we become very clear on when and how much help to offer. The most vital thing any of us can do for any suffering addict is to get them to a meeting. It is at the meetings where the miracle happens. There are many out there who "want what we have". They want our time, our attention, our money, a ride, etc. But they do not want to get clean. We would serve ourselves and the fellowship best if we try to keep our focus on those that are truly willing. The one’s, who will do the step assignments, take the suggestions without argument, etc. Yes, there will be those that question our advice and that is healthy but why waist countless hours with someone who just loves to argue for arguments sake, when that same time can be put to good use helping the willing members who truly what and desire change in their lives.
We have come to understand that the disease of addiction is the great persuader. Where there are some addicts who would not listen to another human being, they must eventually listen to the pain of their active disease or surely they are doomed to suffer greatly. The pain of active addiction may be the very thing needed to break through their denial and bring willingness back into their lives. For some, no amount of discussion would ever move them an inch, but the pain of losses due to our using just might move them to truly seek recovery. As the Basic Text states; "When we become beaten we become willing."
When does doing the right thing for the right reason turn from a simple practical way to avoid pain to the natural extension of a spiritual awakening? Just when does it become something automatic, done because we want to live a life free of pain, for the most part. We don’t know precisely when the magic happens, but if we work the steps in order, somewhere on this journey it has to happen. When despair turns to hope, we have clear evidence of this vital spiritual transformation. Is not hope, a re-evaluation of facts which allows us to see life in a wholly new and better light? Is not faith, this new evaluation of life focused on the brighter future to come?
Many of us were confused by religious standards. Organized religions may be fine but usually our perceptions twisted what worked spirituality for others into an unworkable pattern for ourselves. Many of us were agnostic when we got to NA. We found that we had come to a place of spiritual bankruptcy and totally disregarding any inner spiritual standards. We felt guilt and remorse for harming others and repeatedly disappointing ourselves. Often emptiness, despair and general disinterest in our future was how we dealt with the ongoing denial in our lives. The self_centeredness of our disease constantly told us to be fearful and wary of being judged. We were constantly on a vigil to make sure no one found out we really where.
As soon as we stay clean, even for a short time, we begin to see that our pain was caused by our deep seated inability to live up to spiritual standards. These were usually instilled in us at a very early age or in later life by some one we looked up to. These where standards that we did not even know we had lost. As we recover, we begin to get a true sense of who we are, rather than merely defining ourselves by the lives we led over the years. Since our lives where unmanageable, this was nothing more then another one of our clever rationalizations to free us from of all the damage caused by our active addiction. "Yeah, man; We bad!" No, we were probably insanely self-centered. We have come to the deep realization that by living clean, we need not leave a path of destruction behind us, nor do we ever want to again.
Regardless of how we felt about any spiritual standards which might have been established in our childhood, escaping or attempting to eliminate those values may have been the origin of a path to our slow destruction. As our disease progressed, we often railed against imposed values. We could not see that disapproval of these same values was the inner force that was setting us up for most all the bad situations we found ourselves in. On some level, we knew right from wrong. This inherent knowledge is at a very deep level but it is often buried by our addiction, we hated who we were becoming and what we were doing. Only by changing, can we escape the terrible course we unknowingly had set ourselves up on.
The longer we are in recovery, the more we incorporate our new ways of living spiritually clean. When we walk the walk and not just talk the talk, we are set free to live in the here and now. As our Basic Text states; "We dreaded the past, where fearful of the future and we weren’t too thrilled about the present." As we live spiritually clean the present no longer becomes a burden, for the most part it is a joy to be clean and free. Instead of waking up with fearful negative thoughts or unnamed anxiety, more often then not, we wake up with a sense of excitement and purpose about our lives.
There is an inner peace in knowing that what appears difficult today will come much more easily over time if we work the program. Spiritual principles work where nothing else ever did. What we learn and practice regularly determines how much better it will get for us. Our basic belief is that we are better off clean. Spirituality enhances our ability to stay clean and greatly improves the quality of our lives. None of us are perfect and we will all have to decide what spiritual principles we are willing to live by. Living up to the new standards we set for ourselves will greatly aid in improving the quality of our lives. Naturally, much of this gets done automatically if we keep coming back and simply stay clean a day at a time. We are convinced that 'keep coming back' means personal growth – eventually.
We focus inward through prayer and meditation on a daily basis. Many of us keep a journal to see our growth. As we develop our own system of standards, we begin to see spiritual growth in the areas of; Love, compassion, empathy, tolerance and forgiveness. These may be some useful words to consider as spiritual standards we can live by. Naturally, you will want to add your own spiritual principles as you continue to grow in recovery.
We think… we project… therefore, we fear. When we first get here, our projections are just as flawed as the rest of our thought processes. When our minds are in full working order, we feel more assured of our plans for the future. It is probably best at first to stay close to those who understand addiction and put off projections into the future. We can run our ideas and thoughts by our Sponsors and get new insights on how to live. N.A. members who have been clean for years instinctively know how to deal with life utilizing the steps. As newcomers, it is a completely foreign way to live.
Healthy planning allows us to provide, within reason, for what may happen and where we want to be headed with our lives. Projection insists it will happen, and we justify resentment if it does not. Very often we will try to punish ourselves and others for projections that never happen. We become angry and resentful if our so-called wants and needs are not met. A sponsor once told his sponsee; "sometimes your needs will not be met." The sponsee was aghast! My needs won’t be met?
One of our major stumbling blocks seems to be the thought that life should be easy. By attempting to live life on these terms, we will always be set up when bad things happen. "Why is this happening to me?" we cry out. Just because we stopped doing stuff we weren’t supposed to be doing in the first place, does not mean that the world will treat us as saints. On the contrary, life will take little notice that we are clean, once the novelty wears off. The great truth that set us free was that "life is hard". Once we understand that, we can let go of our victim mindset.
Spirituality and fear cannot occupy the same space. Spirituality replaces fear and fear can replace spirituality. Spiritual existence allows intimacy in our lives. Fear of others, their opinions, judgments and beliefs prevent us from being open. This makes it next to impossible to be intimate. Being spiritual allows us to be human. It allows us to make mistakes or to do the right thing for the right reasons.
Spiritual standards allow us to reconfigure our lives. We can compare our present standards with those that might give us more freedom and joy. This is where we need the strength and guidance of our higher power. By working steps 4_9, we get a clear vision of where we don’t want to go and also a new vision of where we truly want to be for the rest of our days.
As addicts, we lived in lonely desperation. Isolation was an often our way of life. Today, we hug. We enjoy the comfort and companionship that is marked by a warm loving, non-sexual hug. Even in countries where hugging is definitely out, N.A. has moved many members to say "hugs not drugs" and mean it. There are many ways of expressing appropriate affection that don’t need to be as intimate as a hug but we have found that a warm loving hug can really help. Human touch is vital to human wellness. This has been well documented in infant nurseries all around the world. One of the reasons N.A. conventions are so much fun and so memorable is that in the course of a weekend, we may get over 100 hugs.
Why do we tend to settle for less, because it seems safer? It is something we are very familiar with. We may hurt; we may hurt a great deal. Our deep seated fear of rejection or abandonment may be at the route of our dilemma. We are sure that we will not pick up over these feelings, if we can maintain our connection with a power greater than ourselves. It may take time before we can face the fear and try again. When we are sick and tired of emotional pain, we will do it. We have learned that the miracle lies on the other side of willingness and that God did not bring us this far to drop us now.
Whatever our higher power has planned for us is far better than anything we could dream of under our own steam. Faith and trust is the basis of our spiritual beliefs. Without that basis, we have no spirituality in the sense of a power greater than ourselves. We can not make deals with God to get our way when we have no real idea of what "our way" should be. Our self-centeredness will surely have us focus on what seems to feel good and that which would fix all our ills. Our Higher Power wants us to work toward the good things in our lives so we will truly appreciate them they arrive. There is a saying we know all to well; "easy come easy go."
Almost any degree of spirituality seems a great blessing for us in the pain and defeat of initial recovery. We may find ourselves, in time, wondering how far to go with spiritual aims and spiritual commitments. Should our standards cripple us in competition with others in the work place? How can we sell when we are supposed to live a life of honesty? As spiritual people, how do we deal with worldly concerns? If we are truly searching and fearless, we will find ways to live within our own morals and ethics. Remember, we are searching for our own values and morals, not those dictated by anyone else. What works for us, may not work for others and visa versa. As we recover, over time, we find a natural balance to life. There are more then enough people out there who respect honest business people who will reward us with their loyalty and their business.
It may take a while for "the spiritual’ to become as practical to us as we believe "the worldly" is. The same laws do not govern both. The spiritual tends to rule over the worldly. If you want something to happen on your outsides, get it to happen inside first. If we are not getting the results we want, it may help us to review our beliefs. We may wish to determine the defects within us that prevent our efforts from achieving fulfillment. Surrendering to our powerlessness and unmanageability will help us accept that our difficulty with learning new principles may be blocked by our own ego. We find that God opens the way, when we ask.
Finding out what we truly brings us joy - and building that into our daily lives _ is how most of us set spiritual standards for ourselves. Improving the way we think, will improve the way we feel. This is a valid goal in recovery. Many of us find ourselves unfulfilled and bored. We may look at spirituality as a matter of right and wrong instead of a process of becoming our best. We do better in recovery if we simplify ways to understand and work the program. We need to beware of snappy sayings that sound good but are impossible to live up to in real life. Are we talking the talk, or are we truly walking the walk. Those who walk the walk have no need to talk the talk, it shows on it’s on.
If we do not consider our resources, we may be in danger of expending them. When we were using, our lives where driven by false fuel, we could go and go. In recovery, if we are not careful, we run the risk of running out of gas before arriving at our destination. We need to be mindful of just who we are and how old we may have become. It is wise to humbly see ourselves as normal people of our similar age and background. For many of us, we can no longer pretend that we are still teenagers and boogy the night away with no regards for the morning light which is right around the corner.
What is it that keeps us from giving our best? Why do addicts tend to settle for a safer "less"? From our experience, we can see how the fear of pain and the shame of failure kept us from giving more then a half-hearted try at life. We have learned that by walking through the fear, we come to realize that we can and do succeed in life. With each success, we increase our self-worth and self-esteem. Each time we walk through a fear, we come out the other side with a much deeper faith in our Higher Power, the program and our selves. Every time we walk through something and don’t use over it, we gain new tools that we can use for the rest of our lives. Sadly, we have also come to know that if we use, we loose. We learn nothing new and usually the problem has basically gotten worse, not better. With support, we are unafraid of trying harder. We are willing to risk giving our ‘best’ efforts in recover because we know that when we try, we get results. Sometimes the results are not what we expected or wished for but we have come to learn that what we get is usually good for us in the long run.
Stuff that we truly enjoy, agrees with us. It does not sicken us or make us feel bad. We may find that despite our progress in our recovery, we may occasionally lapse into our old behaviors. We may be surprised when we find ourselves acting out in these old destructive ways. Self-destructive thoughts, beliefs and actions may continue to operate in our lives even with years clean. What power should these sad entries in our personal journals have over us today? Not much, if we can learn from them and move on. We shut them off through working the Steps. We have learned that in time, we do let go of the past and move into the present. Life is what happens in the here and now; neither in the past, nor in the future, but just for today.
Power, the ability to define or change reality, is directly related to our spiritual growth. This is at the center of what is meant by "powerlessness". The ways we exerted energy to supply our addictive needs are those ways that desperately need changing. They were generally based on fear, intimidation, deceit and dishonesty. For some, we exerted so_called power via people-pleasing or just being cute. This helped us get away with stuff a while longer. "Oh it’s just him", they would say and smile knowingly. For others, we bullied our way through life, intimidating anyone who got in our way. If we could not intimidate, then we sank back into passive aggression and just growled at life, all the time!
We can moderate, eliminate and/or replace these old habits and patterns with new healthy ones; ways that will move us to a life of fun, peace and a lot less hassle. We find that we face the same moment of surrender over and over again; we discover the power of surrender works where nothing else will. When we stop struggling, we find that what we truly want comes to us seemingly of itself. There really is magic in "good orderly direction". The world tends to take care of itself, if we can but learn to keep our damn hands off it. Diseased self-will has always led to a slow painful dead-end existence.
When we say "we have learned to love" in NA, we do not mean low energy, no effort love. Nor are we speaking of sensual, erotic love. The true giving of love often takes a lot of time and effort on our part. Love is nothing more than giving another person our time and attention for as long as they need it. This is not about letting someone drain us of all our time and energy but truly caring for another human being in pain. When we care for a fellow addict it means we give them our attention right here and right now. This is the love that most of us never got enough of all our lives, nor we could feel and accept the love our fellows where trying desperately to give to us.
As we move toward living with spiritual principles, our successes encourage us to try more. We can and do set new higher goals and standards. We build on our successes as we becoming more and more comfortable to tackle the next new challenge in life. Over time, we instill a track record of a lot more wins then losses. This helps us to build strong self-esteem. We finally begin seeing ourselves as winners. This is when recovery is truly a part of our lives and not just something we are working towards. One member shared; "My sponsor told me to repeat over and over again ‘I am a good person, I am worth good things happening to me.’ This sounded so untrue at first. When I got here it was after ruining my family, my business and anything decent in my life. I would never feel ‘good’, or so I thought. Over time, I began to have the most basic success in N.A., I stayed clean for ninety days! Then one year, then three years… I had been helping addicts all over and helping N.A. to grow… I knew in my heart that I had become that which I though I never would, ‘a good person’. The real truth was that I was a good person all along; I just did not know it, or feel it all my life. N.A. taught me that simple truth; I am a good person and I am worth good things happening to me.
We have come from being isolated loners to relying on others and our Higher Power for strength. A large part of our strength is in learning it is okay to ask for help. We now have an ever growing support system. For many of us, this group of loving fellows surrounds the world! We know we can face whatever life throws at us with the knowledge that a loving God and the fellowship of Narcotics Anonymous have our backs.
Maintaining a healthy state of mind and body is important. We find it leads to a better life. Having things is great unless the things begin to possess us. Can these outward symbols satisfy our inner needs? We may never achieve ongoing satisfaction by having money or emotional security vested in another person. We want to become clear as to what is real and important and what is unreal and inconsequential. We can think we are winning a war with life as we accumulate stuff. Sadly, we often find ourselves unreasonably attached to the things we craved for. Spiritual growth on a daily basis helps to keep us free. We can enjoy our stuff but not be too attached to it. We have come to know that at the end of our life we will not feel loss cause we did not get enough "stuff" but that we wish we could have spent more quality time with those we love.
Reflecting on doing the will of our Higher Power, rather than our own will, is a daily habit we can strive towards. We discover the power that faith instills in us when life comes our way, as it always does. Our redirected lives put us on a different course. What lies ahead for us is totally different from what we had left behind. We discover our new lives in the process of giving away what was so freely given to us. Our new attitudes and behaviors are the sustaining changes that keep us from falling back into old useless patterns. The unconditional love we give and accept among our fellow members takes us out of our self-preoccupation. We have learned that if all else fails, pray for a newcomer. When we help them, we discover or re-discover what we need to be happy and effective.
How many of us have found ourselves reveling in the spiritual growth we have attained through NA, only to have our disease blind sides us with self-doubt? One minute we can be happy and content with our concept of recovery and our grasp of the spiritual principles we are applying to our lives. The next minute we feel all of that flying away from us when we ask ourselves, "Is this truly what I believe?" Our disease lies in wait looking for those moments of self-doubt or slips of faith. The addict mind runs with these negative thoughts and the spirit within shines less bright. We accept that there are times when we may have doubts about who we are or what we should be doing with our lives.
Living in the moment keeps us spiritually centered. If we surrender on a daily basis, life is good. We can always stop in the midst of our confused thinking and ask ourselves, "Is this the way my Higher Power would have me think, act, or believe?" Believing that God's will for us is true freedom and happiness, are we truly following that path by living in doubt and fear? We can put our lives and thinking back into perspective when we remind ourselves just who we are. We are addicts and always will be.
We accept that we can't do it alone. There are some times when even loving, caring people can not help us cope. By trusting our inner desire for recovery, we find something that had been buried in the rubble of our addiction: a spirit! This spirit just may be the reason we are alive today. We think of all the times we should have been dead or in jail for a long time. What kept us alive through so many bad situations? We can easily and naturally access our Higher Power by simply asking for guidance in our lives. We call that conscious contact. Gaining conscious contact and maintaining it is the biggest part of what grants us our new life of freedom. We can not get it through our own power. Once we learn to rely on a Higher Power, our lives are filled with miracles.
Through the Twelve Steps of NA, we come to live by the grace of a loving and caring God. We begin to get in touch with that inner light of our recovery. By taking a posture of love and humility, by asking for knowledge of God's will and the power to carry it out, by meditating and listening for an answer, we are touched and our inner light burns brighter and brighter. It becomes a beacon rather than a mere flicker. This light grows brighter with each surrender.
We may need to turn loose of control when faced with life’s pains and troubles; we may have a child struck down by a life-threatening illness; our spouse may become disabled; our mother might have a heart attack; or all of this could happen at once. As our conscious contact becomes ever more solid, we find true peace in the messages we are sent. As we surrender more and more of ourselves - others see our faith become visible. Our actions speak much louder then our words ever could.
We find that what we put out determines the quality of our life. If we give out loving concern - that is what we will get back. Communication is not only what we transmit but also what we are capable of receiving. What we say and hear is a blueprint or layout of our personal condition. It is a reflection of what we are experiencing inside. If we are more open to "good things," that’s what we will get and if we feel unworthy or unwilling to let "good things" in to our lives, we won’t.
One way to live clean is by ignoring the negativity. This is not being ignorant; it is a strategy to live in the positive. If we live in the problem, the problem gets bigger. If we live in the answer, the problem goes away. We have learned by focusing on the solution rather then the problem, or by not jumping into another’s negative games, that we tend to get results and live a calmer life. Isn’t that what we always wanted; to live a peaceful life? Of course there are times when we cannot avoid conflict with negative people but we can limit the amount of time we are willing to give to them or to the situation. We don’t need to wallow in it with the other person just to make them happy. Misery loves company, so the old expression says. A simple solution to get out of any heated discussion is to look at your watch and say; "I hate it but I have to go."
Our Tenth Step gives us a constant reminder to focus on self-improvement. One of the first blessings we receive in recovery is a new viewpoint. When we have made mistakes, we were able to correct ourselves and make amends to those we have wronged without letting the problems grow into massive concerns. Our wrongs no longer supply us with anything we need. They only cause us problems and embarrassment in our newly awakened lives. By regularly going over what we do and how we do it, we make steady inroads on the type of behavior that used to typify us as addicts. The willingness to act, behave, and think in new ways is crucial to our recovery. We could not remain as we were and expect to live a life of contentment, service and joy. By admitting fault and making amends promptly, we keep the mistake or error from running its course and causing even more trouble.
Our Eleventh Step takes us further into the world of spiritual reality as we accumulate real spiritual experiences that can guide us past the self-centered activities that use to fill up all our time and energy. We can explore thoughts and feelings in ways that used to sound like science fiction. We can aspire to and attain the spiritual fitness which appeared reserved only for those ‘much better’ than us. Prayer often opens a hole in reality to let our dreams come through. It certainly opens our hearts to accept the dreams if and when they show up in our lives. As we practice the 11th step, we gain true open-mindedness. We learn not to block out the good possibilities with the bad. We have come to understand what we thought was the very worst that could happen to us, just might be the very best. We learn not to stop five minutes before the miracle and we truly know in our heart of hearts that more will be revealed in God’s time not ours.
Meditation serves the place of prayer for many members. If we are atheist, we can picture our friends in N.A. and let their happy faces fill our thoughts. Meditation allows us to take a walk with the God inside us. Or, we can take a spiritual excursion while conscious and wakeful. Meditation may come to refer to a whole new range of experiences instead of sitting with our eyes closed and our legs crossed. It may mean that we stop to smell the roses, have deep feelings of joy when we see a rainbow or a beautiful sunset, feel moments of peace or those times when we are truly present to see the miracle of recovery unfolding in our lives and the lives of those we touch. It never ceases to amaze us when we are in the wrong place or on the wrong road and we just happen to come across a suffering soul who we are able to help. It is in these moments of coincidence that we are reminded that we are truly in harmony with our Higher Power and that we are right where we are supposed to be at that moment in time.
The Twelfth Step takes us from our internal struggle into the world of application. We actively apply the principles we have been using in our personal recovery to all areas of our life. Just as our world shrank in active addiction, so our world expands in recovery. We each get a steady flow of new ideas to absorb, situations to deal with and demands to satisfy.
We can not avoid painful experiences entirely. They are part of life. We can however get better at dealing with them. Ours is a savage disease of selfish pleasure. It betrays us by seduction and by promising pleasure while basically delivering nothing but pain. Just by knowing this, we have a chance. The Basic Text states; "recovery is an ongoing process of awareness, surrender and growth." Knowing there is a problem is 90 pct of the solution. How can we fix something we don’t know is wrong? Also, how can we get trapped by something we can see coming a mile away? This is how we help others in N.A. and it goes something like this… "Been there, done that, wrote about it, shared it with my sponsor and God, owned it, made amends for it, changed the way I live so it never happens again… do you think I just might be able to see when you’re about to step in it?"
We identify with those who admit their need for help and are willing to do something about it. Carrying our message gives us a clear direction where we had none probably for the very first time. It gives us meaning and purpose in our lives.
When the idea of a loving God ignites our desire for spiritual knowledge it causes a chain reaction of recovery. Recovery and spiritual growth begin to achieve a life changing energy. The parts we do not care about split away, leaving free of our pointless go-no-where behaviors.
The gravity of everyday worries will exert a drag on our spirituality; we keep contact with the eternal flow of things so we do not become overly burdened by isolated events. We learn to look at the big picture of life. While we do not ignore the urgent problems or difficult people we must deal with, we have come to learn that there are other "healthy" forces in our lives that will keep us from getting grounded to a halt.
As we become a part of life, we begin to automatically fit in with what is happening around us. If there are other good people around, we will become known and recognized as a positive force, especially if we happen to be in a negative setting. As we begin to grow into mature consciousness, we realize this is what we were hungry for all along, respect and friendship. Our disease robs us of people, just as it robed us of peace of mind.
Deep inside most of us yearned for intimacy with others but we were too guarded to let another human being in for fear of being shamed, blamed or rejected.
One addict said; "I use N.A. like a band aid for my feelings so I could walk through the ones that used to keep me frozen. I used this band aid to keep me emotionally safe until, over time, I was healed of them. I would never have survived the insanity I created from growing up in a dreadful childhood. I feared everything and everybody. But N.A. taught me that I could put recovery over my fears and walk through them to the new freedom I eventually found. Today I am dying of cancer but I have no fear for I know that all my old N.A. friends who have passed before me are waiting for me in heaven so I can be a newcomer again and sit at their sides and listen to them share their wisdom with me forever. That is truly my idea of heaven."
As we reinforce this new life and expand the positive connections we have with other people, we pass through a series of growing experiences. Some may be painful, some joyous. Most addicts are blessed with an ability to see what someone else should be doing. We learn to allow others go through their growth experiences and need not fix everyone who comes into our path. That way lies madness.
As we grow in recovery, we may even be right more often then not but who says it is our job to fix others. It is our job to be an example to others. We learn to wait until someone asks for help before jumping in with both feet as we have done in the past. When someone comes to us for help, they are a lot more open to receive it than someone we try to push solutions on who may not be ready to hear a damn thing anyone tells them. With recovery, we come to intuitively know when the right time is and when it is wiser to let them feel their pain until the right time comes along for them. Pain is a power greater than ourselves that can and does often restore us to sanity.
If we are sincerely asking for help, answers will come. Maybe not in the form we would expect from the person we would like, but they will come. There will usually be those who have gone before us, on the path we need to travel, who will help us. Our growing spiritual awareness will rescue us many more times than not. We begin to use our minds to do "our part" well and focus on what needs to be changed in us rather than in others. We become less critical of others, as we learned to be less critical with ourselves. This is the true process of the Steps, self-acceptance. As the Basic Text states; we forgive others, possibly we are forgiven and finally we learn to forgive ourselves. The recovery process leads us from being hopelessly despondent and rebellious to a state of positive, spirited wakefulness. From bondage and despair, we emerge into freedom and hope.
Our spirituality is born of acceptance of God's will for us and our growth is proportionate to our willingness to live this life based on spiritual principles. Today, we are free to go our way for we begin to truly see what our way is. We are living the life we only dreamed about when we first got to N.A. Recovery is a reality and we are finding that not only do dreams come true in recovery, lives are forever healed. Once we find ourselves it is so undesirable to ever go back to the hell we once knew. One member put it this way; "I was sitting in a meeting many years ago when the speaker, one of those two year wonders who thought he knew it all, said; ‘Recovery is to take you back to where you were before you started shooting drugs!’ As I listened to this guy all I could think about was….’If, I was taken back to where I was before I started shooting drugs…. I WOULD START SHOOTING DRUGS!’ I knew I was an addict long before I ever picked up a needle. I was so lost, drugs where my only solution for living inside my own head. Why on earth would I ever want to go back to the misery and insanity of no program of recovery and the painful life of not even knowing what the problem was, let alone what the true solution was? Trust me when I say, ‘I am a satisfied customer of Narcotics Anonymous."
Much of the Narcotics Anonymous program has the effect of countering our negativity. This is why we feel badly when we miss meetings. Let’s face it, we had nearly two or three dozen years or more of dysfunctional thinking, we are not going to completely heal that in just a few short years. As one member put it so well; "Every now and then I break out acting naturally, even with twenty-five years clean. The recovery part for me is that I instinctively know how to give myself a break and let it go by saying, "Oh well!" I make amends, own my part or make things right and move on."
Our inventories give us a chance to re-examine our boundaries and in some cases remove barriers that no longer have function or purpose in our lives. We can go more places and do more things clean than we ever could while using. Loaded, we could only keep our attention focused on subjects that basically had to do with; you guessed it, our next usage.
Addiction can create strange taboos that may no longer apply to us in our new lives. The taboos we are bringing into the area of discussion here are unrealistic boundaries set in active addiction. "I can't talk to my boss about the raise I was promised" may have the vague air of a taboo. To be open and above board with our boss may bring us 'bad luck.' While timing can be important, we should not wait to ask for that raise forever. We, as addicts in recovery, have to review the rules we lived our lives by out on the streets and as we do, we will probably find they don’t work to well in the real world. Hell, most of them did not work all that well out in the mix. One addict put it so well when he said; "I took the code of the streets and traded it in for the Twelve Steps and the Twelve Traditions and my life got better."
Taboos, by definition, are ways we avoid certain things without thought or choice. They come from a fundamental social wisdom so deep, we do not even talk about them. This does not mean that taboos are always right. Usually, they are based on emotional issues that at some past time became unusually important either through a powerful leader or a disaster. Fortunately, the similarity to other defective phases of our lives carries through here and we can work through them. We can talk, at least with home group members or sponsors, about anything that may be bothering us. We keep in mind that very private matters may want to be reserved for discussions with our sponsor alone. We learn not to blurt out something hurtful to those who may be suffering as badly as we are.
Certain dysfunctions in families are treated as if discussion of that family member's sick behavior is taboo. "We don’t put our dirty laundry out in the streets" one addict was always told when questioning his father’s drinking. Another was chastised for wanting to speak about how her Uncle who had molested her as a child. We may need to line up support before crossing some of these lines.
Sponsors can help us decide if dealing with the denial of others head on is the right answer for us. We might just be complicating the issue if no one is capable of hearing what we are trying to say. We may cause more harm to others and leave an even bigger scar by picking at an old scab rather then leaving it to heal. This is often a very tricky situation, dealing with long held family secrets. Those who have held them for many years have built up very strong walls of denial, even to the point of not remembering the incidents at all. They may have convinced themselves that it wasn’t all that bad and it was so many years ago, why dig up the past? Sadly, if we get no resolution by confronting others on past behaviors, we will tend to spend the rest of our lives feeling resentful. Once more we feel abandoned and deceived. We may get so lost in what others did to us that we have become blind to what may have done to them in our long held resentments. We do not excuse abuse done to us when we were unsuspecting children. Our focus is finding a way to heal the past and move on. It is vital that we do not let something keep bothering us without working our program to find relief.
There may be other good events from the past we need to enlarge on in our memories. Perhaps there was a special moment when we were happy years ago in our childhood or as teenagers. Maybe someone was kind or respectful to us. This memory is associated with feeling real, counting for something and being a vital part of life. Our mistake may be to seek to replicate the past and miss out on the present. When we do this, nothing in our present reality is good enough for us. Life will never have that meaning like when we met the love of our life and later lost to our active addiction. When we got that wonderful job that we always dreamed of but then it too faded along with everything else we lost while using. Recovery is about feeling our losses and healing from them. We do this through Step work as we face the past for what it truly was and face the feelings of loss that we tried so desperately to bury with drugs. They are just feelings, they cannot hurt us now in simple recollection. One person put it so well; "Hell I lived through it, I guess feeling it one more time won’t kill me." If our recovery depends on it, we will do it. We need to face the past and move on. Putting closure on the past frees us in the present. For most of us, our past is just a fantasy that we built up as more than it truly was. Often times, once we face our past or go back there in our memory and imagine speaking to someone present at the time, we may hear something completely different. The memory we had been telling ourselves all these years was designed to cover up what really happened..
We need to be dealing with the reality right that is in front of us. Do we want to be chained to a period of recalled happiness forever, bound by fears that the present just isn’t enough? That it will never be what it used to be. We just might find ourselves missing out on life today by yearning for some long dead past that we can never recreate, no matter how hard we try. Can we not learn to enjoy life once more on a daily basis and build up our capacity to accept new good things into our lives? The joy of being clean is to be un-hung-up. We can let go of the past and walk in the present, free.
What got us to recovery? Our spirit! What is our spirit? Is it that part of us that has the instinct and will to survive and prosper? Our disease wants to destroy that part of us at all cost. The re-awakening of our spirit through recovery can be exciting, inspiring, and frightening all at the same time. It wants to live; it wants to prosper; it wants to grow - but how does this happen? Our addiction is a wall that prevents us from having conscious contact with the God of our choosing. Instead of contact, we chose the total self-indulgence of our addiction. Getting spiritually clean, we step beyond this wall. At first we may only be able to peak over the tippy top. As time goes by, we take the wall down step by step and brick by brick.
Realizing we have a choice about using or recovering from the disease of addiction is often our first and fundamental spiritual awakening. Sometimes this is taken for granted. It is only in retrospect that this startling realization becomes tangible. Most all of us did not know that we had a choice not to use. We thought we had to.
Our experience has shown us that our Steps, prayer and meditation, and sharing with each other allows us to grow. Sometimes this growth is painful. Letting go of the only way we knew of living can be terrifying and often painful. For some, we were so sick of our old ways that we had no problem letting them go for the new life that recovery afforded us.
Fear of the unknown and blind faith, now there are two things that don’t go together very well. Of course, we must go through the fear of change as it is the best and quickest way we know to let our spirit get in tune with the spirit we call God. Learning to handle basic living lets us move beyond some of the simplistic problem areas that once overwhelmed us. By solving the basic problems, we graduate to other more emotionally charged issues. Over time we learn that if we can walk through small fears, then we can make it through bigger and scarier ones too.
Stagnation is the beginning of regression into old patterns of thinking. Plato said, "I think, therefore I am." In other words, we are what we think. The common joke among addicts is, "I think, therefore I am confused." So, if we are not vigilantly seeking spiritual progress, we set ourselves adrift. Old character defects resurface and rear their ugly heads.
The vitality that comes from handling ordinary reality day by day is essential for spiritual growth. We need repeated successes to keep us spiritually alive. Reality gives us chances to practice spiritual principles. Sometimes we will fall short in making what we feel are ‘correct’ choices. We come to learn that ‘failure’ is a spiritual lesson that can hopefully direct our behavior toward the positive. At the end of our drug use, we were forced to find a new way of life because all our attempts to control our using had failed us. That moment of choice was vital. We knew without a doubt that the drugs were killing us.
Other lessons we learn in recovery are not quite as important as life and death yet they all build on each other to move us toward the life we truly desire. The term ‘learning to live’ implies we will experience some short term failures as well as long term successes. When we become aware of better spiritual living arrangements and do not wish to regress, a new way of life becomes a much more attractive alternative. As our daily living choices improve, new adjustments and goals will change. We will seek out new horizons and new possibilities. Things that were only dreams before now become reality: we start relationships, buy houses, maintain jobs, get involved in civic activities, etc. This new reality is ours to have. We no longer have to live in the woods, in our parent’s basements or under bridges at the mercy of the elements.
We learn to read the spiritual road signs; those events in our lives that shape who we are, what we are and more importantly, where we are going.
Speaking for many of us, an addict shares, "Lately, I've found one of the keys to freeing myself spiritually, is to take the next logical step. I do the next right thing, telling myself that God has already taken care of me. This helps me to overcome whatever reservations I might use to inhibit myself. This willingness to ‘just do it’ instills in me a sense of accomplishment and helps open my eyes to more of the life I have been seeking through the Steps.
"In the past, I've allowed procrastination to shut me down. Good positive action, no matter how minor it may seem, leads to a heightened awareness. As I do my part and allow others to share what works for them, more is revealed. If I take baby steps in the direction I need to go, I will get there, often sooner than I imagine."
We may come to a place in our recovery where we realize everything that has happened to us has had a purpose. Nothing has been wasted. The seemingly random occurrences were all parts of a pattern we could not see while we where in the midst of it all. Knowing that may just help us surrender and continue to do our part even when all looks hopeless to us. Once we admit we are powerless over our addiction; that our lives are unmanageable, we have nothing left to lose. By accepting our powerlessness, many of us come to realize that all good comes from our Higher Power. Some see spirituality as a mighty river and recovery as that which allows them to become part of the flowing waters. We may truly see that life is all part of one big river and all rivers eventually lead to the ocean. In other words, there is only one spirit and it is in all of us, not just in some of us. We don’t have to find something that has always been inside of us, we merely need to clear away the wreckage to rediscover what we lost.
Why would we want to seek phony, unsatisfying substitutes for the "real thing?" It is when we let go, that we can begin a true spiritual path to freedom. This is the freedom to make healthy choices with the tools provided in the Steps. By letting go, we are afforded the ability to find a Higher Power that can work for us. Isn’t that what is most important, a God that works in our lives? If your past beliefs did not work for you then let them go and find ones that do. Recovery in N.A. allows us the freedom to create a loving Higher Power of our own understanding, not one of someone else’s understanding, but one of our own! Our ideas about God before the Second Step never got us anywhere but feeling guilty, ashamed and confused.
The process of recovery holds the keys to all the things we have been missing. The trick is that there is no trick! We pay the price needed to live life on life’s terms and in doing so, we earn the degree or we eventually find the job, or we become the kind of man that attracts the kind of woman we always dreamed. Or we become the kind of woman that brings an honest loving man into our lives instead of the same old self-centered creeps. Whatever we want, we can have it clean by dong the footwork necessary to get it. Spiritual principles work in the real world.
We have all progressed towards goals only to find, at some point, our way was blocked. This is when we are forced to back off and reconsider things. Is this the right path for us or are we trying to force something that just ain’t going to happen no matter how hard we try. It might be that we need to do more footwork before the log jam is cleared and the path is opened. Sometimes we give up just when a little more effort would have done the trick. On other occasions, God is closing this door because there is a much better one at the other end of the hall. If we would just stop banging and banging on this door, we might be able to turn around and see the other one which is wide open just waiting for us to march right on through!
We spend time considering our belief, finding out from other people how they approach spirituality. All prayers and meditations lead us out of the darkness and into the light. Before we got clean, most of us had some rather strange notions of what a spiritual life consisted of. With the reality of our personal experiences of NA recovery, a spiritual life comes to maturity. Many of the things we sought in the outer world turned out to be available only in the inner world. Peace of mind is a condition of spiritual sufficiency, not worldly plenty. The quest for wisdom is always a slow and painful process. We can always change our lives by changing our minds. Our possibilities are only limited by our spiritual condition.
We find that whether we are mad, glad or sad, we can see that the sources for these feelings generally come from our unhealed past. Inventory is how we catch ourselves before we make the next big mistake. A dumb man never learns from his mistakes, a smart man learns from his, while a wise man learns from the mistakes of others. This is our eventual goal; to stop repeating the same mistakes expecting different results and become open-minded enough to learn from the mistakes of others.
The goal of the spiritual life is to be comfortable in life, most of the time. To be spiritually centered is to have the ability to face life on life’s terms. We learn who to seek out and who to avoid, what to say and what to do. We intuitively know when to hold back and when it is wiser to find another way. Our lives become calm, effective, attentive, and sensitive, without much effort on our part. Through reforming our habits, backed them up by our inclination to do the best we can, we have grown up. We become the mature individuals we always yearned to be. When life knocks you on your ass, it is a great comfort to be able to quickly find your way back to the things that are most important to us!.
The ability to enjoy things of the world without being enslaved by them is a huge freedom that comes with living by spiritual principles. To remain faithful and constant to those you love and care about without falling into the boredom of a deadening routine has become second nature for many of us. The deep inner knowing that we have true purpose and meaning in life and that we have been of good to the world is one of the real treasures of living a spiritual life. This is the peace of mind and body we seek in our quest for spiritual growth. Before we came to N.A. we felt ashamed of who we had become. We were a burden or an embarrassment to our families and society at large. Today we are honestly proud of who we are, the loving, caring, honest person we have become. The stillness inside allows us to be one with our Higher Power. Perfection is an un-achievable goal whereas spirituality gives us a real life where our outsides match our insides.
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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.