Narcotics Anonymous Way of Life

~ 2012 Form ~

N.A. Society

The NA Society has existed since addicts first started to meet on a regular basis and live the 12 Steps within the spirit of the 12 Traditions of Narcotics Anonymous. Our members have always provided the personal services that characterize our Society. We find our ‘trusted servants’ from within this Society. Our trusted servants function in order to ensure that our needs as a Fellowship are met. While a primary precept of the NA Society is inclusion for all, individuals always retain the freedom to remove themselves. No one is forced to do anything. We carry the NA message of hope and recovery to all who seek it.

We have functioned in the service structure beginning in the 1950's, spreading in the early 1970's and exploding into large numbers in the 1980's. Some parts of the existing structure have worked well, while other areas have had major problems. No service structure can meet all of our needs. In the attempt to meet more of our needs we should understand and pass on that service is not only fulfilled in the formal sense, but in the informal sense as well. In addition, we do not have to agree on all issues in order to serve in our society.

As members of NA, we have the rights of membership. These rights include receiving accurate information from all members of our service structure and the right to question this information. We can attend all recovery meetings regardless of our personal beliefs, background, or how we choose to express our program. We can start a meeting. We have the right to carry the message of recovery according to our own conscience. These rights are not to be taken lightly. They are somewhat exceptional as organizations go because we do no testing and issue no certificates of membership. Whether we are formally voted into service by a body of members or not, we can still be part of our service structure. Members who show up at fund-raisers are an example of this non-structural, informal support. Any activities that service committees undertake remain totally dependent on the support from the members of the Fellowship. As members of the NA Society we are involved in the voluntary service structure, never forgetting that we provide the energy and love that is needed to make this work. This is why we focus on serving the Fellowship, instead of members serving the service structure.

Since each of us contribute to, as well as draw from, our common resources, we each have a definite personal interest in the growth and continuation of NA. We create a collective and multifaceted approach to solutions that include structured and unstructured, formal and informal networks of members who seek, distribute and discuss information. Many times the informal and unstructured approaches can go far beyond what is possible within structured approaches. The results of these efforts often find a greater availability and increased usability of solutions within our Society. We work together to strengthen the ties that bind us.

This NA Society also provides us with non-structural and informal forums in which we can address ongoing interests, projects, and goals. We recognize that many of our members work programs that place great emphasis on personal service. Personal service is the time and attention we give one another on a daily basis. Phone calls, rides to meetings, email, anything we do to help other members. This contact is the essential service of NA. We could not exist as a Fellowship without it. Caring and sharing is actually the essence of our program beyond total abstinence. Personal service has always been the first and last level of service that gives all other service its meaning. Many of our members have fulfilled their commitments and continue to support the service structure by their participation, study, and general discussions with others who love and are likewise committed to NA. Obviously, this is the only place that we can find the ongoing accumulation of knowledge and experience on recovery from the disease of addiction in Narcotics Anonymous. Many of our problems have come from reliance on members elected to positions of service who may or may not understand our Steps and Traditions well enough to serve effectively and lovingly. Like riding a motorcycle, many do well until they think they know what they are doing. This means the rider stops being careful and that results in a crash. Many members make the mistake of thinking they have recovery figured out and start self-willing right and left. Safe to say we all need to continue being careful.

The force that gives The NA Society its validity is generated by staying true to our spiritual integrity. We stay true to this integrity by following the letter and spirit of our 12 Traditions. Violations of our integrity diminish this life-giving force. Integrity allows us to take action and to be acted upon without a sense of violation. Morality and virtue simply mean living within spiritual principles so that the energy we develop will build our strength rather than steadily drain us. It does not always appear, however, that all of us live within the spiritual principles of our Society. Like one addicts sponsor told him; "I have a secret to tell you." The addict said what? "Don’t tell anyone." Again the addict cried what? "There are sick people in those meetings." Some members use service for their own ego needs. They are willing to go to any lengths just to be right and feel superior. They can forget our need to communicate so we can all improve our understanding.

We involve ourselves in things that personally interest us. This tends to naturally create a foundation of dedicated members based on individual talent and interests. These members are increasingly experienced with the systems which are used for the growth of our Fellowship as well as their individual preferences. Information flows along unusual paths within the Fellowship. We addicts have discovered ingenious ways to find out what is happening and will always discover what we need to know when we need to know it.

Those who attempt to operate in secret are only fooling themselves. Abe Lincoln said, "You can fool all the people some of the time, some of the people all the time but you cannot fool all the people all the time." Our road to self government has at times been rocky but ultimately, our members provide for their needs any way they can. When there are difficulties, we practice patience, humility and tolerance because right or wrong, we care for all our members. They have nowhere else to go. Time will always sort out the sincere from the insincere. The truth will always surface in its own right time.

Generally, when a group is focused on helping others, a positive activity or a new service, they are happy, enthusiastic, and spirited. When they turn inward and look for differences, they can turn sour and become plagued by infighting. A good balance between enthusiastic newcomers and members who have been around a while seems to be the best mix. In a spiritual Fellowship, the few do the work for the many. That's just the way it is. One possible explanation for this is that it only takes a few to get the job done. Many see service as another form of competition, or just plain hard work. There are those who get stuck because they don’t want to appear as if they are stepping on other’s toes. Other times, individuals may lack skills to know that flyers and announcements must be made in order to get support. If they fail to get the word out, no one shows up and they get discouraged. It is important to realize that even though we are clean, we are still human. Our good people may outnumber our disruptive people, but more often than not, they are not as loud.

Naturally, there will always be the detractors who will appear to score victories at the expense of the Fellowship. Mis-matchers are always looking for exceptions and often bring out important details. Detractors can be disruptive members trying to shove their beliefs down everyone else's throats. They can be trusted servants abusing their trust, or they can simply be us, being our own imperfect selves! The beauty is that NA is a self-correcting program. Many of our members have felt emotional pain over some of the ‘wrongs’ they did in the name of service. These ‘wrongs’ can and do damage our faith in one of our most valuable resources: our loving and devoted ‘trusted servants.’ But one of our strengths is the ability to use our pain for gain. Pain can sometimes force us to reach deep inside and find the spiritual strength and guidance to continue. We find that when they keep coming back, disruptive members often become enlightened as to how their actions affect others and they correct themselves. Social ineptitude is a requirement for NA membership. Thankfully, we all get better when we work our 12 Steps!

Sadly, if members don't have a rhinoceros hide yet, they may be crushed to find any imperfection in the service structure. For them, it means that NA has failed to live up to their expectations, just as life always did before they got here. We keep relying on the Will of a loving God so that we may be of benefit to all addicts. To others, this may be a great opportunity for them to relapse. There disappointment turns to despair if they are not careful. We have come to understand that it is never the situation, never him, never her, never God; it is we who have to become different. We must change or surely we are signing ourselves up for a relapse at best or a life sentence of misery at worst.

The petty games, bureaucratic manipulations, and betrayal of trust by negative members are actions that will become apparent and hopefully self-correcting over a period of time. The 'wrongs' are righted with the continual practice of gratitude, love, and dedication found in the spirit of our Society.

As Recovering members of the NA Society:

1) We work the Steps and practice their Principles for our personal growth.

2) We practice the Traditions and rely on a Higher Power for our common welfare.

3) We support the fellowship through sharing, giving comfort and service to our fellow addicts.

This is what keeps our spiritual integrity intact. When we experience the pain of betrayal, we continue working towards positive solutions. We gain strength from sharing and caring with like-minded members who have been through similar situations and have stayed clean and enthusiastic about N.A. for many years. This is why we say N.A. is the spiritual moment when two addicts realize they don't have to use today. This is followed up with another saying, "All else is not NA."

At times, our patience and restraint may be mistaken as a lack of resolution. We may appear as if we lack the energy needed to be effective. Many of us have found that by patiently keeping the faith and coming back, we create the space for the miracles of tomorrow. If we concede that the troubles described above come from ignorance of spiritual principles, the remedy must come from those of us who have learned to apply them. Creating the space for miracles and solutions is one of the main functions of our NA Society. We may be the only ones to see the Big Picture and by standing by our principles, we calmly wait for the rest to catch up to our vision of truth.

Periods of rapid growth create the need for us to find balance. Members of the NA Fellowship must counterbalance overwhelmed service committees. Their policies and proclamations do not always reflect our Fellowship as a whole. We will most likely never find that perfect set of guidelines. When our service structure was formed, it was beneficial to model it after the existing Fellowship of AA. Our service structure was written and approved in the middle Seventies but it was based on a fellowship's guidelines that did not exactly fit us.

Nevertheless, we began the exciting and sometimes painful process of building the service structure in 1976. Today, we have the opportunity to look back and inventory what has worked and where we need improvement. It is the job of the Fellowship as a whole to envision and continually improve upon this structure.

Studying how our Society actually functions will reveal some useful answers. We encourage each other to fully examine our service structure and our NA Society. We need to learn how it works within its structured and the non-structured systems. This will increase our understanding and ability to serve others.

All too often, the emphasis is placed on rigid formalities. This can take the focus away from the needs of the addict seeking recovery. Strict adherence to formal structured service not only ignores common sense, but also lends itself to the development of open conflicts over loyalties, viewpoints, and levels of understanding. Group conscience requires informing and polling the membership about matters that affect them directly or affect NA as a whole. Proper service is giving members both sides of the issue and allowing them the ability to make an informed group conscience, nothing more and nothing less.

Helping others becomes a next to impossible task when we fight among ourselves. Unity, within the NA Society with its principles of recovery, holds us together when all other bonds seem broken. Strange conflicts always emerge when egos override ideals and personal power overrides principle. The ‘powerful’ may appear to be heavy handed and close-minded in their apparent ignorance of what is really going on in NA. Surrendered seems to be ineffective and at times even illogical, yet things often times tend to work out for them.

The assortment of members in the N.A. Society includes volunteers, trusted servants, newcomers and old-timers alike. They are the driving force of N.A.’s spiritual principles, the members creating the space for the miracles of NA. They can be invisible to someone who has not yet learned how to practice our spiritual principles. Service, as an extension of our personal will portrays a different picture than does service as an extension of God's Will. God’s Will is often invisible, working quietly and patiently in the background. God works through us, ALL OF US. God is the guiding force of our NA Society.

"Over the years," an oldtimer in our NA Society shared, "I've had to relearn a very basic truth about service. Service is not something that only takes place in our various committee meetings or through our offices. ‘Service’ is not a business and doesn't only take place in our ‘business meetings.’ Service happens whenever the NA message of recovery is made available to the still suffering addict. The most that our structure was intended to be was a tool that we as groups and individuals can use to better carry the message of recovery. We are not required nor do we have any obligation to use this tool. The service structure was never intended to be a ‘governing body’ of any type." While our Traditions make this clear, you will still find those who miss the point. A perceived position of power is a tempting thing for a lonely, frightened person. It may be that our service structure is designed in ways to help our members 'get over themselves' in ways that could exist in no other way.

Service is 12 Stepping an addict on the telephone, making coffee for a group meeting and talking to a newcomer. It is also serving on a committee and holding an elected position. The joy of giving, inherent in spiritual service, can not be overlooked. If the joy is not there, something is wrong. Many newcomers are bewildered as to what this 'service' thing is, especially in rural areas where there is not a lot of formal structure. After our prayers for a loving Ultimate Authority to take care of our lives, we can become channels of our Higher Power consciously. It is not something that can be put into words. It is not a service to get elected and feel better than your fellow members. If you come across something they should know, your service is incomplete until you find a way to pass it on to them. Holding on to information for personal power is an abuse of trust, not a service.

Although each of us strive for excellence in service, whether formal or informal, and may exceed our own expectations at times, at other times we may fall short. We choose to not brush these problems under the carpet because when it happens to you, you need to know certain things to survive. When we look at things this way, we understand that the entire 'serving our fellow addict' effort is dependent upon keeping faith and respecting people's feelings. This way, they will respect our feelings as well. This understanding places some rather clear guidelines on what should happen within our Fellowship in service or in recovery meetings. Our experience indicates that whenever we stray from our spiritual integrity, we all suffer. This requires us to become adept at keeping our egos in check and working with others, who sometimes have difficulty with ego, power and self-will. After all, creating the time and space for the NA miracle to happen is the whole point of the service structure.

We do not get sick overnight and it takes years to become the people we really want to be. It takes a lot of patience, tolerance and humility on the part of us all. This does not mean that we should accept unacceptable behavior, only that we must try to be understanding and not compromise our principles when confronting other's shortcomings. Sometimes our best efforts are misunderstood. Sometimes, we misunderstand the efforts of others. In any event, when people get out of hand in a recovery or service setting, we practice our spiritual principles by asking God to show us how to react in order to soften the harshness and disharmony.


Since NA is a healing society, we respect pain and alleviate suffering. It is understood that our members are sick and need help. This means we have built in safeguards not stated and not clearly known to protect both the giver and receiver of spiritual help. In these times, it is good to keep your own counsel and avoid taking sides. If one side tries to pressure you into negative action, remember the law of karma insures you will receive ten times what you send out. Before getting drawn into someone else’s circle, we ask, "What was the result of fear-based action in my past?"

Coming from a disease of isolation, most of us are ill equipped to take care of ourselves when we find someone attacking us. The first instinct is to retaliate and attack in turn. This makes us reactionary to someone else’s behavior and if that someone does not wish us well, it works to help them attack us. If we allow ourselves to slip into anger, we become their pawn. We may fall all over ourselves trying to placate and meet the demands of the other without realizing that the early demands lead to more demands. When dealing with an adversary, this only fuels the fire. They will likely use our attempt to reconcile as some type of evidence that we were somehow in the wrong… positive motives and actions would go against their negativity.

It is better to hold actions and responses in reserve while praying and meditating. Often a simple way out will appear before us. Almost all addicts who are getting into the clean life will struggle and fall into these traps. Enough blind alleys and wasted time and energy will teach us the error of our ways. Futility is a fact of life. The recovery process will guide us past these pitfalls if we continue to focus on working the 12 Steps of NA.

Especially when we withhold negativity, our attacker will get even angrier. In their pain and anger, they will imagine we are only behaving well so we will look good. We should remember that their pain and anger is real and they will do us serious injury if they can. So, it is like dealing with a dangerous animal.

Fear creates patterns of attack and retaliation. One of the best tactics when betrayed is to simply withdraw contact. First ascertain that the threat is real by fact finding but then, don’t feed into the negativity. Negativity cannot feed itself. It must labor to find positive energy from positive people. It cannot create anything worthwhile. Allowing oneself to be drawn into fear only results in the lessening of energy, and increased pain and confusion. While some care must be exercised in this, you will never be condemned for not attacking in return. If action must be taken, let it be of the firm and resolute sort, not giving a blow for a blow and so helping to initiate and maintain the violent struggle.

The study of karate provides good examples of this. Let the opponent attack you, step aside and perhaps give them a little push to help them along their way. By not allowing anger to enter in, the clear state of mind is preserved and actions need not damage the opponent beyond exhausting them and convincing them of their folly. Of course, they will not like this and seek to further vindicate themselves from responsibility for their actions as they continue to attack and cause damage.

A lesson from service is important here: we do not help others until they ask for that help because if we do, they will attack us as soon as they get on their feet. They will take the help as an insult. Until they ask for help you can contribute your presence only but maintain your own focus and spiritual center because being near them will be like being in a whirl pool and they will try to suck you into their reality. If necessary, tell them they must ask for help in words before you can help them.

We come to that which we place our minds on. If we are envious or jealous of others, we will never find peace or joy in what we already have. We will endlessly feel less than the other person and imagine that if we could somehow get what they had, we would be ok.

In the world of addicts, one reality we have to learn to face is betrayal. With a disease characterized by isolation, we learn that ‘keep coming back’ means we never fully recover and we always need to maintain our spiritual condition by healthy interaction with other clean addicts. Hiding our pain, pulling away, failing to seek our answers, attributing false motives to those who would help us are examples of ways we need help

There is an ancient text that tells the story of an old king with two sons. To maintain their territory and protect their farmers living on distant borders, the king sends his eldest son, the heir to the throne, out with the kingdoms army to wage war against a hostile incursion. The task takes years. In the meantime, the old king dies and the second son becomes the pretender to the throne. It is only fitting that he attend to the royal functions and duties of ruling in the absence of his brother. But he becomes accustomed to the glory of rule and the trappings of kingship. Although the members of the court and the people know the eldest son is ruler, it is beyond their power to do anything to oppose the acting ruler.

The story begins when the distant war is ended successfully and order is restored. On returning to the central city, the eldest brother realizes he is going home to fight another war. It was different when he could fight an honest enemy intruding on the hereditary soil and committing atrocities. But this new war would be cousin against cousin, teacher against student: all relatives and all loved. He has his war chariot drawn up between the two armies and looking at the faces before and behind him, he collapses and asks God to take him and let these others go.

God responds by telling him that the eternal spirit in all these warriors will never die, cannot die in fact. Further, he tells him that even if death of the soul were possible, it would be better to die fighting and doing ones duty than to go out ignoble and be called a coward by those who understand little of loving a large mass of people. Thus ensues the ancient tale.

In the end, the brother raises his head and says that he understands now and will go forth to battle without hatred in his heart but only willingness to do that which God places before him. While some will know this tale, it is enough to consider the elements and think of where you fit into the story of your life. Are you doing your duty or invading the province of another.

Most addicts dissociate their feelings when cutting ties to friends and relatives. Addictive disease makes it necessary that we do this because on deeper levels we realize that if we are fully conscious we cannot cut these ties in good conscience. Our egos hold us in abeyance. So, we begin to fabricate a new reality – one that allows us to do what we want to do. We collect negative potentials and justifiers that make us feel empowered. We enjoy the heady feeling of personal power. It is like a drug to us: dulling our senses and mangling our lives all the while making false promises that will not be honored.

With addiction, we do ourselves in by ignoring our better instincts and inducing good feelings with drugs and substitutes. Without the drugs, we learn to manage our own moods and make our own peace with God and life. If we are clean and betray our own conscience it causes us to feel the ‘wrongness’ of our actions. This is good. But only if we curb our egotistical drives and seemingly justified bad behavior.

Misuse of law, betrayal of the basic tenets of human civilization and downright cruelty will eventually yield up to correction. Mankind has always struggled to come to terms with the dark side. There are those who will not rest until all such wrongs are righted.

Member shares from WCNA 31: "A member from the Fellowship in India consulted with me once in Hawaii asking what to do when negative people show and begin to put a cloud on everything. One thing I shared with him: 'Do not let someone’s darkness block your light.' I think the most important thing we learn in recovery is to avoid taking on someone’s problems as our own. This gives us more time to take care of our own real commitments and straighten out the wrinkles in our own life. One sure way to make the world a better place is to mind your own business."

As the desire and envy grow, a willingness to be underhanded grows with it. Soon, we will begin to make up reasons to justify our actions and once we cobble together enough lies and half truths to get going, we will begin our attack. As we gain momentum, we become that which we fear in the other person. While difficult, it may be possible to find some high ground in the situation and thereby avoid unwonted retaliation and defensive action that might cause harm or injury to the attacker. Usually they will wear themselves out in a little time and seek another target for their negativity.

Ignorance is dangerous because ignorant individuals experience failure and if someone knows better, they appear to be an enemy. By being in the know, the ignorant feel put upon and unfairly disadvantaged. The movement of knowledge takes time and many personal opinions and adjustments must be made along the way. This is what makes surrender and the desire for recovery so important to our membership.

The ignorant betray out of projection of their own pain and guilt. They cannot help this and those who make themselves available to help must be constantly on guard against projection and misinterpretation.

Finding and maintaining your spiritual connection or conscious contact is the best source of guidance you can get. Human beings are set up to respond to their inner being – indeed this is probably what really separates us from animals. Of course some animals have amazing abilities, and kindness is not unknown even among animals! If we allow ourselves to focus on an adversary, we may find our only visible options are to respond to the attack. By distancing ourselves, we may find many ways to make ourselves a less desirable target or a target more difficult to hit. Real love is the greatest revenge.

We get with our sponsors, discuss issues with our friends and read any helpful literature. Our study of NA history tells us of the results of rushing off half cocked and ready to fire. We are not good at patience and tolerance. Giving people time to study and sort things out, we come to better conclusions - better for us all. This is where our common welfare comes from.

Selfless service is not done with any thought of reward or recompense. If there is recompense, credit or reward involved, it is selfish service. NA has long been a tremendous repository of positive energy coming from the gratitude of tens of thousands and then hundreds of thousands of recovering addicts.

Many ask, "What about unity when we’re questioning the service structure and the motives of people in seeming power in NA?" Well, unity takes place when we, as individuals and groups, base our service on the same primary purpose and use the Twelve Traditions as our common map in so doing. This keeps us all headed in the same direction toward the same goal that unites us in purpose. It makes no difference whether we walk, drive a car or truck, fly or hitchhike. It is only important that we keep moving in the same direction and follow the rules ‘of the road.’ These rules are best embodied in our NA Twelve Traditions. We must travel together on this journey in order to get the message of hope for recovery to addicts who might die from this disease.

Remember, we created the existing service structure and all of its different components and have the freedom to choose whether or not to use it. We may choose not to use any of it or to use any part of it that we feel is helpful to us in achieving our ‘primary purpose.’ We may, at any time decide to create other tools for service, as long as they are not negative to NA as a whole, and we do not need anyone's permission to do so. We are limited only by our imagination and abilities. This is where the importance of our NA Society is most visible. Each of us individually has our own gifts. Some of us write, while others enjoy organizing functions such as dances, picnics and fund-raisers. Some members relate well to those in jails and institutions while others enjoy working with the public. Some of us feel comfortable in accepting responsibility on a grand scale such as undertaking major projects while others feel more comfortable when they are chairing a meeting or just making coffee.

It is our responsibility as individual members of this Society to discover and use our gifts for the betterment of the Fellowship. Each member has his or her own unique position in our NA Society. We individually have our own aptitudes, gifts, and ability to meet responsibilities that we use in order to contribute to our ‘primary purpose.’ All we need to do is to free ourselves and each other so that we can follow the will of our Higher Power and remain united in our efforts through the spiritual principals of the Traditions. We need to remember that while there are many things we cannot do individually, together we can do everything. We just need to do our part. Our leaders need to remember that everyone is important and we each have an indispensable role in recovery. No one is expendable. We have seen the worst of us grow into positive contributing members. We have also seen the best of us go asunder. There is no point where the rules no longer apply to any of us. Our society is made up of individuals in various stages of recovery. By pulling together, practicing the principles, and working our Steps, we get to see the miracles of recovery and life unfolding in our NA Society. Like the ocean tides, we may seem to come and go - but we are always there.


Hit Counter
persons have visited this page since March 3, 2012


Reprinted from the 
Narcotics Anonymous Way of Life, 
Traditions War: a pathway to peace,
The Spirit of NA 
or NA Twenty Plus

being edited on this site.

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.