Narcotics Anonymous Way of Life

~ 2012 Form ~

Personality Change

It says in the Basic Text, "A normal person is someone with one personality or less." This humor best illustrates how we, as addicts, have several different 'personas.' We are one person at home, another at work and yet another at play. We utilize each persona to deal with various situations in our lives. Some call this Ďchanging hats.í What we seek in NA is a change in our basic personality to get clean and stay clean. By practicing the principles of recovery, we learn to be our true self all the time. As we recover, we drop our numerous disguises for a chance to become the person God intended us to be all along. This happens over time, as our insides slowly begin to match up with our outsides. Today, what you see is what you get.

We came to NA as fractured, broken, and self-centered creatures; self-gratification was our sole purpose in life. For most of us, ego and fear ruled our thinking. We justified the most outrageous behaviors; dishonesty, self-seeking, self-destruction, childishness, you name it. This was how we showed up at our very first meeting. If someone had told us just how messed up we truly where at that first meeting we may not have stuck around to find out about recovery. Thank God for denial, it can sometimes be a good thing. After attending several meetings, we came to realize that by working the steps, change was truly possible. It is, if we really want to change and are willing to work the Twelve Steps of NA.

Thankfully we progress over a period of time through the 12 Step process to become the healthy whole persons we want to be. This profound change is an evolutionary process that begins as we work the steps and learn new principles. Personality change is the process that allows us as individuals to establish a new relationship with life. This process begins as we learn to live the Steps and to apply the Traditions in every area of our lives.

We have found that our biggest problem was our extreme self-centeredness. Not surprisingly, selflessness is one of the most useful character assets that we learn in the program. Unless we make a conscious choice to live in the solution - our personalities tend to stagnate. By helping others in the form of service work, sponsorship and the giving of unconditional love, we move from self-centeredness to selflessness.

We may find ourselves reverting to our old coping mechanism, our character defects, since we have had them for so long. This process of returning to old useless patterns is especially visible in our behavior during and following highly stressful situations. Our accustomed way of doing things is the old diseased way. The new way may seem uncomfortable at first but by repeating the new actions we slowly become adjusted to this new way of living.

Recovery behavior is new to us and so we must practice it constantly until it becomes the norm. One day we wake to realize that living with spiritual principle is no longer something we have to work at, it is just the way we live our lives. Over time, it is normal for us to live by the spiritual principles embodied in the Steps. We wonít have to think about it. It becomes automatic to admit fault when we do something that harms others, rather then tell a lie to cover our tracks. It feels unhealthy to take from others, even money someone drops on the floor by mistake. We simply pick it up and stop the person to let them know they dropped something. Often times, we scratch our heads in amazement once the incident is over and say to ourselves, "Was that me who just handed that free money back to the person who dropped it?" This is clear evidence of the personality change that comes as a direct result of working the Twelve Steps.

Recovery allows us to recognize that change is a normal part of life. It encourages us to utilize the tools of recovery in order to get through these difficult times. When we begin to experience life on lifeís terms, we experience a full range of emotions from joy to sadness and even at times horror. We feel threatened by change. It is often hard to simply relax and trust that situations which force us to modify our personality are often times for the best. One member shared that she thanked her Higher Power during these times; "Thank you God for taking me to a higher plateau!" We begin to learn that the top of one mountain is often times the bottom of the next one. We have also come to see that God will put people in our lives who can share with us what worked for them, as they moved along similar hills and valleys in recovery.

We wonder, "Which comes first, my behavior or my thinking?" We wasted a lot of time in this debate before we even started the process of recovery. We find that there is no generic formula that will work the same for everyone but if you wish to change your thinking, first change your behavior.

As one sponsor said to his sponsee; "Itís your thinking thatís messed up." His sponsee replied; "How much of it?" The sponsor answered "We usually start with "all of it!"

Itís the actions we tell you to take that will change your thinking, never the other way around. We act our way into right thinking, we donít think our way into right acting. In NA we learn to "act as if". This does not mean we use our street-wise skills and pretend to be someone we are not. It means we act like an honest person and we start to become an honest person. We act like a responsible member of society and over time we become one. It gets easier to match up our actions with our intentions.

One of the beliefs held by some of us was that getting over on others was crucial to our survival. We thought that there was a limited amount of cookies in the cookie jar. It is a theory of lack instead of a theory of abundance. We believed that if we got ours, someone did not get thereís. Because of our twisted beliefs and fears, we thought when someone was successful, we werenít getting ours! We gave that kind of thinking energy with our misguided beliefs. In the past we have separated ourselves with erroneous, ego-based and self-created illusions. We have a fear-based disease, always acting out of fear instead of love. The insanity of this logic is that those things we feared losing, were never ours to begin with. Often times this type of thought pattern may show up in negative behaviors such as; stealing, lying, adultery, abuse or malicious gossip.

The defect of entitlement has us believing that we deserve more then others just because; because we had it rougher then most while growing up, cause our Mom loved our little brother or sister better, cause we where the oldest, cause we where the youngest, cause our family had money, cause our family had no moneyÖand on and on and on. There is usually some deep seated core belief that we are holding onto that tells us why the world should be treating us better than everyone else. GET OVER IT! We are not so special that we deserve special treatment in this lifetime. For most of us, if we got what we truly deserve, we would be locked up for life without parole. Why on earth should addicts who took from everyone either financially or emotionally or both should deserve special preferential treatment in life? This can be a big part of what keeps us lonely.

We must learn to be honest to begin any personality change. Many of us came into Narcotics Anonymous with a reputation for taking things that did not belong to us. You know, "a thief". We have justified our behaviors so often and well that we probably stopped feeling guilty about this behavior a long time ago. We discovered early in the recovery process that if we where ever going to stop using, we would have to change our behaviors. We suddenly notice that we no longer put things in our pockets or purses that did not belong to us. We began to realize that change is truly happening. We go to meetings and share that we are trying to be more honest. We notice that others are practicing honesty in all of their affairs and they seem to get a lot of benefits in their lives from honesty.

We write about our dishonest behaviors as we do our inventories. This helps us get a true objective assessment of our lives. We start to see a vision of life without these defects. We choose to practice changing this defect, to the best of our ability, by a commitment to practice honesty in all our affairs. This may seem overwhelming to many of us who lied for no reason at all. If we take baby steps in the direction we want to go, we will get there. You can try being honest in just one area where you used to get over on somebody all the time. If we can free ourselves just once, in one place and with one person, we find that we can simply repeat that action again and again in other areas of our lives. Try keeping your hands in your pockets when you go into a store you used to steal things from. Itís pretty hard to steal when your hands are stuffed in your pockets and you have agreed with yourself not to take them out accept to pick up the item you need, or to pay for your purchase at the check out counter.

Some of us may break rules as a way of striking back at authority figures. There is often a "get even" mentality here. Or we may simply wish to exercise power in situations where we felt we had none in the past. Since we did not seem to fit in anywhere in this world, we could always fit in with the misfits. We had a profound need to belong. The radicals and rebels never seemed to have a lot of requirements for membershipÖ and if they did, we surely fit them all. The biggest draw for addicts to living on the outside of society was that there were little or no responsibilities, something we had neither the ability nor desire for. Radical lifestyles are a perfect match for using addicts who do not want to be responsible. After years of living on the edge of society, we became very accustomed to it.

We seemed to be angry a lot of the time which was perfectly acceptable in this new social order we found. We often fed on each others negativity. We where angry and we needed something to justify it. It wasnít until we read the lines in the Basic Text; "We no longer need to stand up for non-existent virtues", that we began to see that our whole life was a sham. Deep down inside, we didnít know what the hell we stood for, if we stood for anything at all?

We hold onto old resentments and fears to keep us apart from society. Having been on the outside for so long, it takes time and willingness to become a part of. Being clean changes everything. As we start viewing the world from a new perspective, we begin to see that living on the edge just doesnít work. We no longer have to fear, run, hide and do the extraordinary things that we did in our active addiction just to get by each day. We can step free of our old habits and attitudes. It takes time for the new ideas to take root and replace our old behavior; but it is worth doing, as we are the first ones to benefit from it all. If there wasnít a big payoff for staying clean, none of us would have stuck around for so long. The payoff is peace, serenity, purpose and meaning to life; a life truly worth living rather then avoiding.

Just by surrendering using we no longer have to worry about where the dope is hidden, where we are going to get that next fix?, what lie did we tell and to whom, to cover our latest run etc. We no longer have to be afraid when a police car passes us because we are not doing anything illegal. Fear doesnít go away over night, old habits die hard. We do not have to fear folks that we owe money to. A great deal of paranoia melts away when we surrender to recovery and are living clean. What a gift to be able to walk the streets with our heads held high, free of guilt and shame.

As our personality changes by living the program, we find that we become part of something much bigger then ourselves. Our basis of identification slowly shifts from being a loner to being a member. The NA Program, meetings and the members of the Fellowship, give us a new security and a feeling of belonging that we never had before. We are a part of something much greater then ourselves, a part of a group that is doing a lot of good for a lot of people all around the world. We begin to feel proud to be a part of something so special. This is the feeling of belonging that we searched for all our lives and never quite found. The wonderful thing about NA is that you donít have to "try" to be a part of this group, WE WANT YOU AND WE NEED YOU! Your dues have already been paid in full when you walk through the door at your very first meeting. Welcome home.

Two opposite extremes that we often found ourselves in while using where: excitement, and boredom. If we get tired of the same old things, that is boredom. On the other end of the spectrum, as addicts we often craved excitement most of all. Today there are many healthy ways to have excitement in our lives. We have the excitement of watching a newcomer pick up a white chip at the convention. You can feel the overpowering love and excitement as the room applauds raucously and yells "keep coming back!" Of course, we need to be vigilant when we feel excited or exceptionally good because there may be an element of danger present. One danger is that a great high is often followed by a low. Being aware of this keeps us from becoming obsessed with the thought that "the good times" are gone forever. Itís just part of the roller coaster ride that we call life. The highs and the lows shall pass. As recovery progresses, the highs are not so high but the lows are not so low. All feelings eventually pass good ones as well as bad.

When excesses happen, we realize that we have a need for change. Getting back to basics like regular meeting attendance, calling our sponsor and working the steps will help us to get back on level ground. We choose to live a more humble life today as it is a safe comfortable place to be. The middle road is fine with us. We come to value serenity as our highest ideal. We often still crave the rush of excitement with its subsequent dips into depression and loneliness. We have found that choosing this new way of life based in humility is a lot less painful.

We felt unique and alone and not part of the rest of the world. We were positive that no one understood us or even cared. After we came into recovery, many of us found that we had been living a life of total isolation. It seemed to us that using had become the only way to cope but thankfully recovery gave us other choices. In recovery, we found that we did fit in "somewhere" and that "somewhere" was in the rooms of Narcotics Anonymous. We have a saying; "Square pegs do fit into round holes" just look at our service symbol and you will quickly recognize that it is not just a diamond in a circle; it also represents a square peg fitting neatly inside a round hole. Perhaps this becomes possible when our ego gets small enough to fit.

Many believe that we where not meant to fit out there, we where made to fit just right in here. Isnít it amazing how a Higher Power could take all the drug addicted misfits in the world and have us fit perfectly together in one fellowship, with the power to heal others? It is nothing short of awesome beyond belief. Together we have the power to heal but alone we where completely and utterly powerless.

The people in NA told us that we were important, that we were 'a part of'. By surrendering, we never have to be alone again. We felt hopeless in active addiction but in recovery we observe people around us who are getting better. We hear them share their experience, strength and hope and we start to believe that we to can change. This belief helps us get the courage to put our hopes into action. We are often able to face the things that were impossible to face on our own. This is what we mean by "I canít but together we can." This is the magic of the self-help movements.

Often the hardest thing to do is ask for help. Just by having another memberís support, knowing that we are not alone, makes difficult situations a lot easier to handle. There is no weakness in asking for help, just the opposite is true. There is a great strength in knowing our limitations; this is a great change for us. Today we know that our power comes from the strength we gain from being a part of something greater then ourselves.

Addiction limits the choices of how we live. In the end, using is monotonous and repetitious. Once the thrill wears off, we find ourselves forced to get high against our wills over and over and over again. We meet our needs unconsciously as we do whatever it takes to get that next high we so desperately crave. Whatever excitement may come from getting over one more time or getting away with something one more time is quickly canceled by the ongoing pain of our addiction and the next case of withdrawal. Our pretense at happiness begins to wear thin and can no longer cover our true misery. All those things we have lost due to our using keep quietly nagging at our souls; the wife that left us, the business we had lost, the son or daughter that was taken away from us, or the miscarriage, the child we lost due to being loaded during our pregnancy, or just the hurt look on our parents, or partners face as we failed them one more timeÖ These untreated and unhealed issues that we stuffed down with more using will continue to keep us stuck with little or no hope of ever getting better if we donít get clean. If our inner most feelings are that of a looser or a bad person then we will act in ways that reinforce that belief in our lives.

One method that our disease uses against us in recovery is denial of what it used to be like. Denial causes us to forget the pain of active addiction and leads us to believe all those lies we used to use to justify getting high. We may glamorize our using instead of getting on with our program and working the Steps. One way newcomers help us is by giving us clear reminders of how helpless and agonizing life can be while trapped in active addiction. Our concern for helping them get clean and stay clean gives us an excellent opportunity to follow our own advice and best wishes.

Most of our attempts to control things while using were futile and frustrating. We have made the decision to allow a loving God to care for us today. We can now entrust the situations and the people in our lives to the care of that Higher Power. We change from being manipulating and controlling people who have to have their fingers in every pie to someone who is willing to seek guidance and act on the suggestions that we receive. We no longer need to know all the answers for everyone when we didnít really have a clue about how to run our own lives. We have come to understand who is really in charge here and it isnít us. What a great relief to be able to let go of the fantasy that we have to manage both ourselves and the entire world we come into contact with each day, wow! Surrender sets us free, possibly for the first time in our lives.

Addiction is a disease made up of deception and lies. We have hidden behind a mask for many years but in NA we discover who we really are. In the past we hid the truth, even from ourselves. We lied and created false images. We lied about certain things so long that we believe the story was the truth! We thought that others would reject or scorn us if they really knew us so we built ourselves up to be bigger then who we really where. In recovery, we gain the courage to be honest. We found that recovery principles are much more effective for getting us what we want out of life than our old addictive strategies ever did. We through out the code of the streets and replace it with the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions and our lives get a whole lot better!

The truth will set you free as the old saying goes. We are free to not have to remember the lies we told and which ones we told to which person at which time. Restoration to sanity means we are restored to peace of mind for the most part. It is pretty hard to be at peace when you are busy covering up falsehoods all the time, day in and day out. In recovery, what you see is what you get. Our insides match up with our outsides so we have no need to cover anything up or be who we are not. Today we are surrounded by people who accept us for who we are not in spite of who we are. We can stop trying to act as if we are someone else. Humbly we come to rely on a loving God to help us become who we are truly supposed to be, happy, joyous and free.

We caused a great deal of harm during our active addiction. Often we were unwilling or incapable of being accountable for the damage we did. We were tormented by painful regrets over things we did or where done to us by others. In recovery, by accepting responsibility for our past actions, we are freed to live in the here and now. Most of us held grudges or resented certain people and/or institutions for years and years. We focused on what they did to us with little or no regard about what we did to them. We never looked at the fact that we probably set ourselves up to be hurt in the first place. As the Basic Text states; "Through our inability to accept personal responsibility, we where actually creating our own problems. We seem to be incapable of facing life on its own terms."

Recovery canít happen if we cling to our old ideas and behaviors. As our thought patterns begin to change, so do our habits, actions and reactions. We used to try things and fail but today, we try and succeed. Sometimes we feel our old negative feelings and think that we are not getting anywhere with this recovery stuff. When faced with an old task that we used to fail at repeatedly, we can tell ourselves, "itís different, I am clean and itís different". Bigger changes take time but we are not discouraged because progress is slow but it is also steady and visible. As a wise friend used to say "Godís mill grinds real slow but it grinds real fine."

If we judge ourselves by others we tend to fall short but if we judge ourselves by our own progress on this journey we always tend to see some true progress. Were where you 30 days ago, 6 months ago, a year or five years past. Any honest assessment reveals we are much better off clean. We can usually see growth over time if we keep the focus on ourselves.

We start with the primary change, not using and then we gain momentum from there. In the past, we had a fear of change but today we can welcome it, knowing that most change is for the good, even though it may not look like that right at this moment. Sometimes it is good to think about being a Private in the military. There are many things in the military that are on a need-to-know basis and we donít need to know right now. More will be revealed if we just trust the process and do the next right thing in our lives. As the literature says; "donít stop 5 minutes before the miracle!"

The spiritual principle of forgiveness is vital to any deep meaningful personality change. As our recovery changes for the better, we add forgiveness to our list of character assets. Forgiveness is vital if we are to stay clean and have any long lasting peace in our lives. As the Basic Text says; "We forgive others, possible we are forgiven and eventually we learn to forgive ourselves." This is the true measure of real recovery from the disease of addiction, self-acceptance on a deep level.

We learn to forgive others and can even ask for forgiveness from others when appropriate. This doesnít mean we run around town telling everyone how "sorry" we are. Newcomers want to do three Steps; 1, 9 and 12Ö I surrender, Iím sorry, Iíll help you! We need to become healthy, take inventory and seriously change who we are at a deep level before we go trying to heal every relationship in our lives with the same old bullshit that we used to use to get over and manipulate others with. Our apology will be taken as a lot less genuine if we are the same old people preaching the same old lines with little or no effort on our parts to live in a way that it never happens again. The process of the steps teaches us:

1. What it is we really did wrong, the exact nature?

2. How to live in a way that it never happens again? That is what true amends means, not "Iím sorry."

In active addiction we were unreliable, undependable and unpredictable. We have learned consistency of thought and action in recovery. We now live with integrity. We revive hopes and dreams that we thought had been lost forever due to our addiction. We find that each day is a new beginning. A loving God has instilled in us the knowledge of our true potential as well as the power to achieve it. We have become a force for good in the world and we are now able to be of service to others in all of our endeavors. What a change this is from the way we once were! Where we were once isolated and alone today we love and can feel loved.

When we feel the desire for change, determining the type of change that we need is half the battle. It helps to realize that needs consist of two types of things:

1. Actions that we are doing and want to stop but canít and

2. New skills or actions that we want or need but seem difficult or impossible to acquire.

We may feel that we are incapable of doing anything different in either or. Still, with the support of our sponsors and our fellowship, we come to learn and do things that completely and utterly baffled us when we tried them alone.

"I canít but we can." Together we have experienced success in recovery countless times, over and over again. We maybe overwhelmed at all the new skills we learn in recovery! These skills may be as simple as balancing a check book or as daunting as parenting a child. Remember, most members of NA that came here before you got to NA where just as lost and confused about how to manage life as you may feel right now. Even those passionate profound NA speakers you hear at the conventions for the most part where bottom of the barrel; hope to die dope fiends with little or no life skills when they first walked through the doors of Narcotics Anonymous. If they can stay clean and achieve that much humility, character and grace, so can you!

Our desires for change may first appear while we are writing our Fourth Step inventory. We learn to ask the God of our understanding to remove these revealed defects. "Higher Power, please help us change for the better." We ask God to close old doors and open new ones. We have found great power in doing this. We come to understand that God plants seeds of solutions all around us if we can learn to be still, really listen and notice them. The disease of addiction talks loud and rational but God talks quietly and suggestively. God says things like; "you might not want to do that." But do we listen, or not? That is the question. Do we heed that still quiet voice that we are slowly beginning to hear or do we say, "No, Iíve got this covered but thanks."

We can think of personality change sort of like ordering from a menu at a fabulous restaurant. We can do this as we finally have the power of choice in our lives. We did not give ourselves permission to make choices before coming to NA. We where too locked into those old "getting and using and finding ways and means to get more" choices we thought we had made all on our own. We did not realize that those choices had already been made for us by our addiction and in fact we had no choice but to follow the lead of our diseased thinking wherever it told us to go and whatever it told us to do to get more drugs.

In the early stages of recovery our old concepts of life had us believing that we wanted it all. Of course, after settling into our new life, we find that we only truly want and need but a few things; to be clean, have a few close friends, some healthy meetings and a God of our understanding. We have come to understand that if we have that, all else will come to us at just the right time for us to be able to handle it. This is true freedom, not so much wanting what we donít have but becoming more and more satisfied with what do have. In one form or anther, we have all prayed; "God help me want what I have."

We have learned the principle of unity: that we are all connected to one another rather than separate. Love connects us and we demonstrate this love when we place 'our common welfare first' or surrender our will to a loving God. We come to understand that when one of us rises to a higher level weather emotional, spiritual, financial, physical, or mental that we are each slightly better off. We realize today that when we feel that someone seems to be doing better than we are in a specific area it doesn't mean they are taking from us. They merely light the pathway to success for us. They teach us by the example of their actions and their positive results. As we learn from them and apply what we learn, we experience success. We then become an example to others. As the program says; "We keep what we have only by giving it away." As we give to others, we gain so much more for ourselves. Love is the only thing you can give away that brings you more in return. The more you give the more you get.

Imagine if we drew a road map of our life and saw a place in the mountains where we wanted to go. We would need to consider whether our transmission could take the hills - if not, we should get some work done before undertaking the journey. If we want to cross the ocean or go on an adventure in the tropics we would have different considerations for those types of journeys. We must evaluate, upgrade or replace our equipment before beginning any such trek. To attempt to do otherwise could result in great difficulties. So to in recovery, an honest comparison of where we are in life and where we wish to go will allow us to begin to move in directions of our own choosing. If our way seems blocked, we bring it up at a meeting. We may need to give it some time before we give up as one of Godís answers might be "wait" or "not yet". We may wish to get with a more experienced member who can help us change into a person who can climb that mountain which may seem impossible for us to tackle at the present.

We have gained belief that our Higher Power along with the 12 Steps of Narcotics Anonymous can help us restructure our life. We each have a picture of the world inside of us which defines our relationship to everything in our universe. We gain power, through recovery, to change this picture, or inner reality as we come to terms with our powerlessness. For example; if we are unhappy in our work, we can either become a cheerful worker or change our job. We no longer need to suffer for years at jobs or with people we donít even like. We come to learn that we have a choice today. That life is not a sentence to be endured but a series of choices to be made and re-made. This is how we mold our life into one worth living.

Through working a program of recovery, our clearing vision lets us see that things we do are merely reactions learned during active addiction or defense mechanisms from childhood which never really worked all that well. We have learned that we can add traits which are useful or subtract anything from our personality that we find to be useless to our recovery and ongoing growth.

One portion of our personalities is how we react to and behave in life's many situations. The mental aspect is how our thinking guides our decision making as well as the actions taken. The emotional or spiritual side is how we feel before, during and after making decisions and taking the actions chosen. Some of these changes can be extremely difficult. We may have fear to risk the pain of failure. Despite our apprehensions, we move forward with courage to change the things we can.

When someone comes to us with life changes, we try not to give advice on any of these matters; we merely offer encouragement. We share what worked for us with anyone who asks. The point is that we have found a way out of our addiction by walking through the maze of recovery. We who are on the other side are more then happy to lend a helping hand to those who wish to follow our path. Someone did the same for us in our early travels. Those who helped us have asked only that we help others in return.

As we continue to make healthier decisions and pay for what we want, our feelings about ourselves begin to change. We feel increased self-esteem because we have one less thing about which we feel ashamed. We learn consideration and respect for others because we are no longer acting out on the self-centered defect of stealing from them. We recognize that the rewards of integrity, esteem and a guilt free conscience outweigh the temporary relief that the old behaviors could bring. Although our personal program for living is faulty when we arrive, the NA program gives us a set of spiritual principles that really work. Over the years, these principles have withstood the personal tests of hundreds of thousands of addicts. And they still work just fine.

First time situations are the hardest for us to deal with because our minds quickly revert to the old way of thinking. It becomes a debate in our head over recovery on one hand and addiction or manipulation on the other. Both are so powerful that it's easy to lose sight of self in this debate. Before we came to NA, we never even had a chance because we never saw anything but our diseased way of thinking, which of course we thought was normal. Once we surrender to the program, we start to see that our way, for the most part, was insane! We lived lives based on manipulation and control in one form or another. We where so busy acting like who we thought you wanted us to be, that we completely missed life as it passed us bye.

In facing something new, we learn to visualize the alternatives. It is much wiser to think it all the way through than to blindly go through life with a "what ever" attitude. We learn that we can think it through when it comes to a desire to use. If we stop at the euphoric buzz, we may be very tempted to pick up again and start the endless cycle all over again. In recovery we see it all the way through to the next morning when we are withdrawing or all the way to jail, institutions, insanity and worse. We can also do that same type healthy projecting when it comes to lifeís choices. We donít try to manipulate the outcome of situations today nor wish things to be the way we desire but we can look at what it might be like to move to another city, take a new job and so on. What are the good things about the choice and also what could be the problems if we take that new direction. We can fold a piece of paper down the middle from top to bottom and right out the positives on one side and the negatives on the other. Some times simple math will quickly tell us if this is good or not so good for us, for our recovery and for our growth.

With the loving support of other people, we can stick our heads up a little and look around. The people in the meetings are our safety net. We get ideas that we can try from what they share because we relate to almost everyone in one way shape or form. Sometimes what we share in an effort to help someone else may actually help us just as much. We share in meetings long enough until we can hear ourselves, one sponsor told his sponsee. This is a good reason for letting some people ramble on when they share in the meeting. For many of us it takes sharing about nothing for a while, till we come to the real something that is truly bothering us.

Believe it or not, most situations do not require immediate action. We have to learn to go slowly, remembering that we are only human. This takes practice as most of us are used to instant cures and instant fixes to all our life problems; Take a pill or smoke something and all our problems appeared to simply vanish! Of course, when we got high to solve the problem of our refrigerator breaking down, we woke up to find that we had sold it for more drugs, problem solved.

Today we more quickly see the difference between our own thoughts and those of our disease. Through the Program of Narcotics Anonymous, we have learned that there is always more than one solution to a problem. We come to understand that the disease of addiction talks loud and rational, it makes a lot of sense, especially speaking to us in our own voice. God talks quietly and suggestively; "You might not want to do that?" Instead of trying to resolve everything on our own, we ask for help whether it is from our Higher Power or another recovering addict. Sometimes just finding a 'safe place' is all that we need to do to be able to slow down and see the problem for what it is. We turned mole hills into mountains and often canít see the forest for the trees.

We need to identify our obstacles before we rid ourselves of them. This is why we work the steps. It is the simplest and easiest way to get to the real route of those things that stop us from being who we where meant to be, happy, joyous and free. As the old saying goes; we have met the enemy and they is us! From the beginning, we see that our present circumstances are the result of our reactions to the past experiences of our lives. Our past rules our present more then we can ever imagine. Working an honest fourth step will free us from the bondage of our past. Once we take a good hard look at how we have been over compensating all our lives, we have the opportunity to change and free ourselves once and for all. We were broke, busted and disgusted. We had no power to change who we where. This is the magic of the 12 step program of Narcotics Anonymous. It is a simple way to change us from being the totally self-centered beings that crept into the rooms of NA who had no hope, to people with the ability to become all they dreamed of being.

Our addiction distracts us from reality by causing us to become preoccupied with craving for sensations. It takes time to work the Steps and find ways to effect real changes. It is sometimes very difficult for us to see the connection between our actions and results when new to recovery. In recovery we learned that if we changed what we do, the results would now be different. What a concept, you mean if I do things differently; my life will change for the better? Yes! Sometimes if we just cease our ineffective behaviors for a while and give recovery a chance, magical stuff starts happening. Itís like the guy who goes to the Doctor and says; "Doc, it hurts when I do this?" Doc says; "Well donít do that!"

When life seems to trip us up and we fall on our faces, we now have people in our lives that will pick us up and help us dust ourselves off. We may need this reassurance before we really start thinking about and undertaking changes in our lives. We slowly begin to make the connection between our disease and our pain, and in time, we will become more confident in dealing with blockages. Gradually, we change and our lives become different. Most of us have developed the perspective that our lives are better even when we are in the middle of difficulties. As one member said, even when itís wrong itís right. This means that we trust the process and believe that even though times may seem difficult right now, there will be an answer let it be.

We practice doing the next right thing until it becomes automatic and then we practice some more. Soon we notice a difference in the way that others treat us as we change from broken-down, using addicts into trustworthy human beings. This is what we have always wanted and we are freed to become the people that God intended us to be. One member shared, all I wanted was respect! I wanted to shoot heroin and have respect. Respect comes when we walk with integrity every day then it comes naturally to us because we have earned it.

Old habit patterns are the gravity that cements us in our old ways and drags us down. Recovery is more than mere abstinence: it is searching for our very best, that which is deep down inside of us and being brave enough to let that goodness emerge. Goodness becomes our motivating force. The willingness to question old beliefs that did not work well enough to keep us clean is a good way to move toward this goal and away from our diseased thinking and behaviors.

Practicing principles can be a little like flying a hang-glider or bunji-jumping especially when we are not used to it. They can be exhilarating and heart stopping at the same time. If you have never felt these feelings, you might be holding yourself back from the adventure that we call recovery. Do not miss out! Changes for the better may make recovery uncomfortable at times - yet positive changes are thrilling. It is daring and risky to try to do new things. The leap of faith that we take when we admit that our life is unmanageable and the vulnerability that we feel is what we are talking about here. Letting God take care of our life and will can be at times terrifying to the selfish and frightened newcomer or it can be the calming force that changes our lives for the better. It just may be that which finally brings us to the peace we always sought but never quite found.

Personal character and integrity are two of the main benefits that we get from positive changes. Those who follow this path have unlimited opportunities to build and rebuild their character. What kind of character could we build while in active addiction? Today, we can build our character on a firm foundation with the tools of recovery and the Fellowship. Integrity is when our insides match up with our outsides. What you see is what you get. Fitting in with other people and doing our part is an ongoing expression of humility. Humility, that is the foundation of our recovery, it is strong and powerful. Today we can relax and enjoy the warmth we share with others for we are at peace with ourselves and the world around us.

We will experience many firsts on this journey. Such as the first time that a loved one challenges us and we can respond with appropriately with love instead of hostility. Or the first time that someone confronts us with an error we made and we can tell the truth instead of blaming, denying or lying. How about the first time that we have the opportunity at real responsibility and we act responsibly? Each time we do it differently, it is another reminder that recovery is possible for us, that change is possible and that we no longer have to live the lies others have told us for years. Once a junky always a junky, once a failure, always a failure! The lie is dead, we know longer have to be trapped by our self-defeating patterns. We are set free. We may need to tell ourselves over and over again; "itís different, I am clean, itís different I am in recovery today." This maybe all we need to get past the old defeatist voices in our heads or messages that have come repeatedly from others who may not have had our best interest at heart.

If we find our pathway blocked, it may be helpful to re-examine our ideas. Open discussion with our sponsor or other trusted member may help us find the source of resistance. The resistance maybe from outside or it may be internal. Sometimes we may need to take a chance. If so, we must be willing to be wrong. Someone once said; "I was told to make a choice then learn from it, even if it is wrong."

Sometimes we just get stuck. We may have already waited for some time without seeing any good reason to change. We may want to get with other members to do a reality check. It may be that we are avoiding something that is scary or threatening. Looking closely enough at the past will help us recognize the future in time to change it. We need not fear the future as we have built up a pretty good track record for making it through difficult or challenging times in our recovery, right? When our thoughts drift back to where we were and how we ended up here, we realize just how much we have changed. Our views, beliefs and value systems have all undergone radical alterations and we survived it all in spite of our disease telling us we canít make it. Sometimes we just have to tell our disease; "Thanks for sharing" and get on with our lives.

Before coming to NA, life was just something that we were passing through. Days, months and years passed by in a blink as they all tended to look the same. Life was colorless monotonous and boring. Today, we work the Steps and practice spiritual principles in all our affairs. We can easily see how much better our lives are. Today recovery keeps us busy but we may soon find that we have more time than ever before. What looked impossible for us when we first got here is just something we do in the first few hours of awakening each day, and then we do 10 times that in the course of the rest of our day. Yes our lives are full today but we have so much more capacity so the fullness fits just fine.

We learn how to uplift ourselves. Simple affirmations can raise our spirits from the negative to the positive. The "Just For Today" reminds us; "Just for today I will get a better perspective on my life." Being in a positive mind set helps us change our personality. Some of us may read and study complex ways to raise our spirits. Do whatever you need to do to get results. We can start with something simple; "I am a good person I am worth good things happening to me!" If it is more faith we need, we can try; "Whateverís going on in my life, God has it already taken care of."

Even after being clean for a long time, we have found that we still have problems and we still get moody.

One addict shared: "I remember having a couple of days clean and calling my sponsor. I told him that everything was a mess; my life was screwed up, work sucked, and nothing made any sense. He picked me up and we went for a ride and talked. After I listed all the struggles and problems in my life, he just looked at me and asked; 'did you use?í 'No', I said. ĎSo what's the problem?í he asked. He explained that if we donít pickup then we have a chance to face any problem. It has taken awhile, but I finally understand what he meant. If I stay clean, I will always have the opportunity to do better.

"When I got out of the car he told me to "stay out of the way" and then he drove off. Huh? I just stood there wondering what he meant. Today, I try my best to do just that - stay out of the way of my recovery. Through this practice, I have learned that ninety percent of the problems which plague my life are of my own creation. Life is not always a bed of roses, but today I can make choices. I can be part of the problem or part of the solution. Today, I choose the latter." If you live in the problem the problem gets bigger and if you live in the answer, the problem goes away. I need to always ask myself, "am I in the problem or am in the solution?" If I am in the problem then I better get into the solution as fast as I can.

A sponsee was complaining to his sponsor about feeling guilty for his past deeds. The sponsor suggested; "Why donít you grant yourself your own anonymity?" The sponsee said; "what do you mean?" "Well, you let go of what you know about other members and treat them as equals regardless of what they might have done in the past right? Well, you need to do the same for yourself if you are ever going to recover. In other words, give yourself the same break as you would give to any other NA member or NA newcomer." Anonymity removes the labels that bind us to the limitations of our past. Anonymity allows us to step out of those former self-imposed boundaries and move into the light.

A compliment maybe appropriate when we exhibit our new healthy behaviors but we may still feel we donít deserve the approval. We have to relax performing our old habits in order to begin the process of change. This is one reason why addicts are embarrassed when they begin change and attract compliments; we may still feel a need to hold onto our old negative sense of self.

While using, many labels were assigned to us, a lot of them where not very flattering. We do not let the labels follow us into our recovery. This is the first part of getting off the hook from our old negative self-image. Many times, it seems we are stuck with labels that follow us into our new life whether they still apply or not. It helps to remember that we have all had our share of living problems. All of us are capable of going further downhill unless we found a way out. We followed the instructions of the Steps in order to better ourselves and our lives.

Words conjure up mental pictures that trigger emotional reactions for us. The awareness of this chain of events helps us solve many emotional crises. We look at what is bothering us and determine when the distress began. In recovery, we begin to learn that most of our problems are ones of perception. We perceive the world is either evil and out to get us or healthy and safe. For some this may take a lot of step work and repeated acts of faith before we begin to see the world as a safe place. We need to decide if the picture that we see adds value to our life. If not, we change it. We slowly strip away our old negative belief systems as we learn to trust others and trust ourselves. Today we see that most folks in this world are good honest hard working people with a lot of love in their hearts. We no longer hang with the negative crowd because we know that their negativity can easily rub off on us. We no longer wish to dwell in that house as we have seen the sunshine and the light.

In terms of recovery, no addict is better or worse than another. This may be hard to see when you set a crack addict alongside a pot smoker, a drunk, and a junky but it is true. Each of us has suffered and will get worse if we continue to use. Each of us begins recovery when we stop using, even for one day. In that, we are all equal.

For most all of us, things seem to be more difficult once the drugs are gone. As the Text says; "We have different rates of sickness and different rates of recovery." Therefore, we must be careful not to label others' abilities and efforts just because they are not on our time schedule of recovery. Sometimes we seem to simply grow from one level of ignorance to another and our perception is that we arenít getting anywhere fast. While on the other hand, we think we got it all figured out, that we believe that our most recent advance is the final level of all possible improvement. That is when we begin to understand that once we think we know it all; we have just truly begun real recovery. One sponsor told his sponsee; "I will tell you the one thing that got you into the rooms of Narcotics Anonymous and itís the on thing, that if it doesnít change it will keep you from getting everything that God has intended for his trusted servantsÖ that is, when you know that you know, you will never know. When you begin to understand that you donít understand, then you will have understanding and when you quit trying to understand, then youíll enjoy yourself!" The sponsee told his sponsor, "You know, I have been listening to you for weeks and do not understand a word youíre sayingÖ" His sponsor cut in and said; "And thatís it and donít you ever forget it! The sponsee tells his sponsor; "hell, youíre crazy!" His sponsor replied; "I know!"

Until we are ready to change, we can withstand any sort of pressure, coercion, terrorism or personal discomfort. Everybody has the right to stay the same. Flexing our emotional muscles a little by saying "yes" or "thank you" is how we start. We try toughening up if that is a change of behavior we need. We look for different reactions from people when we say, "I am sorry" or "It won't happen again, and we actually mean it." We practice these things until they become normal to us. Sometimes, we may want to adjust our energy levels up or down. It is our freedom to change and our responsibility to adjust to living clean. The fact that some people experience lasting change for the better is the great miracle that we practice and we study in NA.

We have found that the happier we feel, the easier it is to adapt to recovery. So to, the more we recover, the happier we tend to become. Fear resides at the edge of our safety zone and we expand our existence by pushing fear back and enlarging our safe area. Our chances of ongoing recovery are greater if we start with the basics. Eventually we come to find that by doing the simple things that are suggested to us, we recover to become happy, healthy whole human beings.

When does a Policeman become a Policeman? One day he is a student in the academy, the next he is a cop. The policeman becomes a Policeman when he puts on the uniform! We have the right to live in new roles today like the roll of a recovering addict rather then a using one; the roll of a healthy parent or a healthy partner where we used to play the roll of a victim or the family scapegoat. Once we take on the roll of a recovering addict, it seems unnatural for us to hang out in bars. It seems natural to go to meetings regularly. Recovering addicts donít keep phone numbers of old connections. Recovering addicts donít hang out at the corner. We begin to change from a looser to a winner when we can see ourselves as an addict in recovery. This same process holds true for each asset or defect. We have the ability, once we clear our minds through step work, to see ourselves as living free of our defects and basking in the light of our assets.

Freedom requires a great deal more than just an understanding of the parts that make up a person. We come to understand that the whole is far greater than the sum of its parts and we will become a lot more then we could ever have imagined possible. As the Basic Text says; "If we had written a description of the life we thought we would gain in recovery, we would have been cheating ourselves." This maybe the understatement of all time. For many of us, we have seen our lives go from the mundane to the magnificent. Our world was from our house to the connection and back. With the aid of the internet and our worldwide recovery family, today our world is the whole world!

We know when we are happy and when we are sad. When our spirits are high, everything seems possible. When our spirits are down, nothing seems worthwhile. We can see the results of changes in spirit although at times it is like we are trying to make sense out of shadows on the wall. At other times our growth is very obvious to us. We feel mature and capable where we used to feel lost and scared. This gives us encouragement and faith to carve out a new life for ourselves in recovery.

We can use NA slogans to teach ourselves how to achieve a positive outlook on life. We integrate these slogans into our consciousness and they become part of our belief system. When we first came to NA, the slogans seemed like empty words. "Keep coming back," "If nothing changes, nothing changes", "In God's time not mine," "Let go and let God," "Keep it simple" and so on. We come to an understanding of the HALTS - "Don't get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired or too Serious." Today, all of these slogans have great importance in our lives. They are some of the tools that shape our new personalities.

Narcotics Anonymous has truly changed our lives. While we were changing we often could not see any progress as all we felt was confused. Other NA members allowed us to be ourselves and accepted us as we were. They would say confusing stuff like; "You're right where you're supposed to be." Although we may not have had a clue where that was supposed to be, we felt better as we hung onto their acceptance and their reassurances. We simply followed their suggestions until we finally understood what they meant. We where supposed to be anxious, we where supposed to be unsure. That is why the experienced members kept saying "youíre right where youíre supposed to be." Being in the middle of change is often times an anxiety producing place. Thank God it doesnít last all that long. As we go through those lonely times, they become much more tolerable to bear because we have our own proof that the un-comfortability we feel is for a good reason and not that something bad is about to happen to us. A wise member once said; "Nothing really, really bad or really, really good lasts really, really long.

Sometimes we must forgive before we can truly show love. Forgiveness is the catalyst that cleans our minds and allows us to begin any day anew. It frees us from the disabling weight of fear, resentment, grief, or anger and it allows us to see all the good that surrounds us. If we want to feel more love, we express more love through acts of kindness and generosity.

We think positive and optimistic thoughts in our daily encounters with others. Every thought is a prayer so we must be careful of what we ask. We pray with a clear mind and an open heart to obtain the knowledge of God's will and the power to carry that out. If our mind generates thoughts of love, our behavior will comply, and our spirit will soar. What we have learned in recovery is beyond amazing for we have discovered that miracles occur daily if we are simply willing to stop and recognize them for what they are.

The God of our understanding leads us along the pathway toward fulfillment. We follow this path to the simple best of our ability. This journey brings us peace of mind and continuous growth. Our actions begin to inspire others and our gladness at being of service to others inspires us to do even more. Our willingness expands in directions once unknown to us. Once we begin this journey, there are no limits to personal growth. There is no ceiling, only sky in every direction.

Clean time and consistent effort allows healthy changes to become part of our new personalities. By the time we get to this step, we are living the NA Way every day. We become living examples of the principles that we practice. This maybe why the 12th step is written in the past tense, "having had" which denotes something already happened to us by the time we get to this step. We walk the walk and talk the talk for real. We no longer need to fake it till we make it because we have made it. From the loneliness and isolation of addiction we have come to a place where living by spiritual principles is a normal as breathing in and out. We do recover.


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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.