Narcotics Anonymous Way of Life

~ 2012 Form ~
NA Foundation Group

Pledge, Preface, Introduction

Our Pledge to the NA Fellowship

This material is the result of years of work and preparation. To reach a larger number of NA members, we have checked the spelling, grammar and paragraph order. Some sections will be much the same. Others have been greatly improved. There may be a 9th Presentation form or even a 10th as we write our way to an agreeable Final Form.*

The technical editing we have done will save time, so that you can now concentrate on the recovery and spiritual issues. Only members can perceive and share about these. This material is the most complete form so far, but crucial areas are missing - areas that you know more about than we do. All this has been done to allow a greater number of members to study, review and discuss the material. We need to find out what is missing, poorly stated or inappropriate. We will keep your input in files, and hold conferences to discuss how to include new material. We remain firm in our commitment to group conscience and group processing. We are hoping you will be moved to action and begin your own local NA Foundation Group meeting. An NA Foundation Group uses existing NA literature, carries the NA message of recovery, but it also reads and studies this book. The purpose is to clarify the subjects covered, include members experience and thoroughly process the material subject to finalization by some great number of members - we hope for at least ten thousand. This material is copyrighted and held in trust by those writing it, so that all may own but none may sell it. In its final form, it will be dedicated in gratitude to the NA program and held in trust for the Fellowship-at-large. A ‘joint work’ is a work prepared by two or more authors with the intention that their contributions will be merged into inseparable or interdependent parts of a unitary whole.

* Now we have a First Edition in March 2012.

This was the basic idea all along. All subsequent contributions were anonymous contributions freely given to help other addicts. May we always keep faith with those who have freely given. All NA members will be free to copy, produce and distribute this writing. No intrusion by outside forces will be allowed. The authors of this work will go to great lengths to protect the integrity and form of the NA Way of Life book as written and approved by the NA Fellowship-at-large in open, participatory conferences. When complete, the work will be placed in public domain. 

No permission is extended to any outside enterprise or corporation. Outside forces are defined as those who see the work we are doing as commercially viable rather than a free expression of our experience, strength and hope. We do not charge for our Twelfth Step, nor do we allow others to do so. We trust a loving God to care for us, provide for us and protect us from the pressures of money, property and prestige. Production and distribution methods will be considered at a later stage of the work. As it nears completion, with a great many members from all over the world involved, we will finalize a method that will both make the material available and keep the price at a minimum. We don't want this book sold for profit, royalties or personal gain from ownership, production or distribution of the work. We do insist it remain as a work written by addicts, for addicts. To this end we are pledged. We don't need money or permission to do this work. Our Fellowship stresses our complete, creative freedom. We don't need outside guidance - God gives us plenty. What we need is you, as a willing NA member, to show your concern in positive ways by sending in your input and showing up at our conferences to help process all the input. Only members can do this well.

In Loving Service,

Foundation Group of N.A. 
September 22, 2005


This work is designed to produce written recovery materials for addicts seeking recovery in Narcotics Anonymous. Our efforts to originate and accumulate helpful material benefit everyone. All are welcome to support, participate, and engage in this effort. Write seriously or playfully, as the Spirit guides you. There is no telling what great goodness may emerge if our motives and our spirits are purely devoted to being instruments of a loving God. We write this for the good of others like us who have lost their way or never had a way to start with.

We are addicts who come from the dying times. We vividly recall when we believed that there was absolutely no hope, anywhere on earth, for people like us. No one else believed there was any hope either. We have created a life style and mind set which was given to us by a God of our understanding. We are still creating and enlarging the pathway that gives people like us choices that we never knew that we had before. Our newfound hope lets us live clean and grow spiritually. We have applied the Twelve Steps of NA to our lives and we live the results. We see the negative consequences of unhealthy selfishness and compromise. We prefer now to go our way in peace and to follow the Will of our Higher Power.

The main obstacle to writing recovery material is the fact that it must come from addicts. When considering written input, we go through an enormous amount of extra trouble to determine whether it is our disease talking or our recovery. Writing material to suit the needs of all NA members is nearly impossible for any individual to do. The fact that we have written even one book, our Basic Text, is a great miracle. A second is bound to be less difficult because now we know it can be done. We are free to approach any subject that needs consideration and discussion. Whether it is about a helpful technique or an obstacle to recovery, we declare our right to write. Recovering addicts write about their lives and their recovery. This is the process of sorting out our lives and filling in the blanks. As in recovery, fear is the basic obstacle to the writing. It begins when we are afraid to tell the truth. Truth telling may seem an all occasion remedy, but that can be another illusion. There are frequent times when telling the truth will be mistaken for it's opposite by the unlearned listener or will overburden the more complacent members. These things take time - God's time.

We believe NA started to grow in the nineteen seventies because all members were encouraged to participate and add our voice to NA by writing the Basic Text. Reversing this, leaving people out of the writing process, diminishes NA as a whole. Incomplete processing can only embed errors in material that proports to be approved by the NA Fellowship. These errors are easily corrected if enough members are allowed to participate in the process. The extraordinary processing that went into the Basic Text in 1979 to 1982 is the origin of the enhancement of "approved" material. To mark written material as "approved" without such in depth processing is misrepresentation of the facts. Handling these things "professionally" is not necessarily superior, correct, or more efficient. "Professionally" means that either we don't care enough to do something on our own time, or that we can't, so we pay someone else to do it. However, in our case we care and we happen to be the only people in the world who know what we do to recover on a daily basis. Professionalism downplays the beauty and wonder of ordinary members writing recovery material. This betrays the Spirit of NA. The writings of clean addicts expressing their gratitude, concern for others and their commitment to improve themselves is valuable evidence that our way of life is real. Without it, whining, complaining, misrepresenting others and an endless rain of misinformation can create the impression that where there is smoke there is fire. It is a smokescreen in which those still suffering often get lost and sometimes die.

Professionals can only mimic what works for us. We have to discover the answers and share them in writing. Since recovery is transmitted experience, not theory, it doesn't require the kind of talent that you have to pay for. Technical assistance should not take precedence over accuracy. Not all our truths are pleasant or convenient. The disease of addiction cannot afford to be honest. It cannot say, "Give me all your money, all your love life, your offspring and I'll give you a good feeling. True, it won't last long and it'll hurt a lot while you're dying, but for a few moments, you'll feel great." In recovery the disease may say, "Hold back, play it safe. Don't be too up front here. Wait for another time."

We want to be fearless and thorough in our recovery. If our disease gets away with minimizing or misdirection enough of the time to water down the truth, it will no longer have the power to help us addicts. The message will get lost among the background noises. This is how we are at risk of becoming weakened and divided among ourselves. This is a new effort to address our NA Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. Much has been learned through observation and discussion in recent years. Addicts who are grateful to Narcotics Anonymous write this material and we want our experience to be available to others as part of our Twelfth Step, carrying the message. That any addict can stop using, even for a time, is a miracle. That we can arrest the disease of addiction by total abstinence extends that miracle in time. We get the time back - we have a choice now and use this time as we will. Many reach the point where we make a conscious decision to align our will with the will of our Higher Power. We do this by learning principles that allow us to discard and replace many of our old ideas and ways of coping with life. This is a modern day testament to applied spirituality. Personality change in human beings requires great willingness, faith and courage. Our way of life makes change possible. Many of the words we tend to use to describe this process may seem confusing. We try to describe accurately the feelings and new ideas that occur during the process to allow others to follow our path and to confirm in a sense what we are learning. All this requires learning, study, and evaluating new perspectives.

Among recovering addicts in Narcotics Anonymous, certain assumptions evolve. Some of these elements allow us to enter recovery and get along with clean addicts almost immediately. Some of the basics of recovery need to be re-examined, even by our long-term members. We should try to avoid the clichés that are employed by people outside the NA program in our writing of this book. We don't want to dull our recovery or our message of hope. Once we begin to experience relief, our pain seems like a bad dream. One of our problems in recovery is our appearance of normality. When we have stopped using, even for a short time, we can look so good that someone may offer us drugs to celebrate! This makes it hard for us to maintain the recovery practices that have worked for us. When we were new at recovery, our pain served as reminder. When we get a little better, we are apt to want to leave off some elements of our recovery. Social pressures set in immediately which may force us to resume our lives as if we were "normal." We addicts are anything but "normal."

We who write this book want only to stay true to the Spirit of NA that was so attractive to us when we got clean. This Spirit is not something that can be changed. Tampering with the basic idea of an NA by addicts, for addicts would only cause us to feel even more uncomfortable. We want to get "Back to Basics" and continue to carry our message of hope and new life to the addict who still suffers. Bureaucracy within the service structure violates the letter and Spirit of our 12 Traditions by creating a management system. Political correctness replaces the truth of our experience. While our servants may be very determined and devoted, they cannot see to our needs. This is something we do for ourselves and our Fellows. This is not a whim or personal preference on our part. We were taught that we should welcome others to recovery the same way we were welcomed. The excitement and energy of being responsible for NA through the group conscience process is meant for the general membership.

NA is a spiritual Fellowship and not a business. Our efforts are directed at raising up our newest member to be able to live clean and free - not the aggrandizement of a few at expense of us all. While we expect and require good business practices within the confines of our conventions and clerical needs, this is not a license to make over NA into a management system under the control of any corporation or business enterprise. Our 12 Traditions contain specific warnings against this. "NA as such ought never be organized..."

The doctoring and slanted presentation of group conscience materials for the purpose of weakening the Fellowship control of its affairs betrays this important warning. Informed members constitute an enemy that cannot be driven away entirely. While wave after wave of new members are thankfully a fact of life in NA, information has a way of piling up. In our ‘information age’ of computers and internet access, it is only a matter of time before all the cards are laid out neatly on the table. Our needs and abilities can be viewed as ordinary, once they are no longer exaggerated by our addiction. Our own reactions to the world around us show us how we are different. Our distortions of reality, to which we adapted while in active addiction, continue along with us in recovery. These distortions and contradictions are part of what we call the "drug induced fog." For most practical purposes, this only means that our orientation is different from what is normal to non-addicts. As we recover, we can gain or regain the personal and social skills to work, cope with daily living, and function in an effective and agreeable manner. Our recovery process makes this possible and enhances these things over time. Our addiction is constantly working to divide us and trip us up to interrupt our recovery.

Certain fears remain embedded in us. We have had the experience of finding ourselves betrayed by our senses. We have sought pleasure and found pain. We have moralized and proved personally insufficient. We have crusaded for various causes only to find emptiness and a sense of time wasted. Our bodies registered ecstasy and we woke up in the gutter. Therefore, we are careful to guard against the search for, and acceptance of, momentary pleasure. Caution can be cool.

Our recovery writing is our attempt to share with others what we have found to be true in simple, direct terms, based on actual, personal experience. It is courageous because we attempt not only to make sense of our own recovery but also to make a sincere effort to help other addicts get clean and begin to grow again as human beings.

There are many forces against us in our efforts. Many institutions exist because our disease is so prevalent that it is hard to imagine a world without it. Our disease takes so many forms other than addiction to drugs. We are incredibly disabled by our addiction and even after finally seeking recovery in NA, our disease will take other forms: gambling, over-eating, obsession with work or social standing. The disability and degradation of our affliction may end us up totally worn out, beaten and institutionalized. Experience in hospitals, jails, and treatment centers may confuse us. Total abstinence may seem simplistic to professionals with a bias towards dispensing drugs. NA is the last option for many, the last house on the block, so to speak. Recovery would be a heck of a lot of trouble for a non-addict to go through if they did not feel their life was at stake. We try to avoid being all things to all people. Non-addicts should seek help elsewhere and never be allowed to change our written program of recovery based on total abstinence. For most, NA is the only place in the world where total abstinence is available.

This can seem harsh or unscientific to those who require drugs of various types to live a normal life. We do not discourage or add to the problems of such people who are attracted to NA. We just know that our disease is so tricky that our minds and bodies will make up symptoms to get drugs. There is no use in arguing this point, Some people will never ‘get’ it. We have to stand up for our way of life if we are to have a way of life. It takes true commitment to move forward and do the right thing. Infighting, greed, and petty jealousy constantly rip away at our efforts. These elements take their toll. Those who criticize may devalue our freely given efforts. Recovery writing in NA is just another form of commitment to recovery. It is one in which the elements of greed, self-centeredness and pride must be eliminated. There is a saying that may apply here, "If a pickpocket meets a saint, he will see only pockets." Those who find a message of recovery in our meetings will surely experience some of the curiosity and wonder we share. Those who look for flaws will see only flaws. A successful piece of recovery writing enhances areas of personal growth and has the internal power to leap from the page into our loneliness, despair and pain. We have found success in these areas. Our writing has helped many shake off the feelings and mindset that leads to relapse. Our energy seems to come from our experience with the thinking that accompanies relapse. In relating our feelings, the reader may suddenly realize that others have turned back before using. Only sharing what we have experienced personally has the power and energy to do this.

There is a tendency among us addicts to look for the dark, hidden meaning in things and avoid the simple and obvious need we have to share. The lessons we learn may not become ours until we share them. Information can feel like power. We can forget that the learning we have found has a universal source that any sincere individual can access at any time. Our sharing is only a reminder of what we know to be true when we are in our right minds. The distrust that is a big part of our addiction seeks loopholes and exceptions to recovery principles. Personality flaws or shortcomings will seem more important to some than the good we do. If we fall into the trap of possessiveness, what we know becomes tainted with greed and a lust for personal power. We who do this work seek to become aware because we care. We learn that we can pass on important information to those who are in dying need of it. Often to counteract the negativity of our fear and disbelief, we have found that if we look at the brighter side, then the brighter side becomes more real to us. Our loving gratitude is abundant. Caring and sharing is our way. We stand ready, with God's help, to supply the needs, right the wrongs, and take on the responsibilities required to insure the continuance and growth of Narcotics Anonymous. NA is the miracle that any addict can get clean and stay clean by following a set of written principles: The NA Twelve Steps and the NA Twelve Traditions. Therefore, in all sincerity, we undertake this work that others may benefit. Possession of this work resides with the Spirit that makes us one in our gratitude and effort. No service body, board, or any group of people inside or outside NA should ever regard this work as their own legal possession. In the exhaustive process of doing this work in the traditional manner, all should be in order before the work is considered finished. After completion, we will allow no further changes. If other points of concern arise, we will address them separately in other writings. We don't want to foster close-mindedness, yet we have learned that the tendency to personal preference is so strong in some of us that efforts towards change would begin to defeat our efforts if any opportunity existed. There will always be small groups of people who want to take over.

Truth has no copyright. We borrow from all fields anything that might help our people get clean, stay clean or help others. We expect others to borrow in turn from our experiences. Possessiveness would undermine our spiritual integrity and deny our faith in our Ultimate Authority. Our writing is an expression of our love. We pray to be willing, forthright and honest even in the face of greed, jealousy and fear. We grant permission for reprinting to members from within the Fellowship. Non-member individuals, groups, or organizations are forbidden to copy our materials or use our trademarks. Our literature belongs to our Fellowship and is a tangible form of our common welfare. Our method is simple: All of us own our literature, and none of us can sell our copyrights.

To change material after it has been subjected to the close scrutiny, study and seemingly endless discussion that only the NA Fellowship can conceive of is like touching up a masterpiece because you found a crooked line. It diminishes the quality of the material by substituting work that may seem nicer yet lack the core of inner strength our extreme processing creates. Critics should go to their own studio and paint their own picture. Being clean, helping others and living a better life on a daily basis has a value beyond what can be bought with money. If our writing does not have the ring of truth and love for those who suffer from our disease, it will be useless for purposes of recovery. It will get old after one reading and will not even touch us at the times we need it the most. Individuals are free to write and publish whatever they like within the law of the land. Our literature in NA must also be free. We want to pursue our recovery process without the constraints others would place on us. Some of us may become writers the same way others will find their places in the world.

Today, we want to give back some of what we received. Addicts coming to NA today should know that they are loved by people praying to be used as instruments to help them. Recovery is a wonderful thing and many of us feel that too much time has been wasted haggling over how to write literature in NA. We will do better to encourage addicts working individually or as groups and let the quality and usefulness of certain pieces become self-evident. Bureaucracy has a deadening effect on most processes involving spirituality. Bureaucracy must not bind the free Spirit that is NA. Bureaucracy is the enemy of self-help organizations.

At any given point in our recovery, the disease of addiction will seek to divide and destroy us if we allow it to take control. Newcomers don’t understand this at all. They may not even believe they have a disease. They are clueless how it affects their thinking and relationships. Newcomers do not know the disease is deviously working in their very own minds against their every move towards recovery. Certainly they have no idea if or how it affects the Fellowship or such an endeavor as this book. The newcomer simply thinks they have a problem with drugs. Having had time to search our hearts for an answer on these issues, our spiritual guidance is this: that we have to keep the faith ourselves before we have anything to offer others. As long as we can tell the truth in a plain, simple and honest manner, the way will open to us.

Foundation Group of N.A. 
October 22, 2005


Introductions explain how to utilize or benefit from a book, so we are at a curious juncture. To benefit from this book, we must first write it! We want to share our experience through writing for the Fellowship and make an important point: that it can be done and that we can do it. When we were writing the Basic Text, there were plenty of people who said it was impossible, can't be done, or at least not the way we had it planned. We may have seemed foolish, even a little crazy, to trust a bunch of addicts to write a book about their ‘recovery.’ In those days, there were many people who had little respect for us. We had to earn respect by being respectable. Writing our own literature let people know we were serious about our gratitude, serious about our recovery, and serious about our willingness to love and care for the newcomer. This is the first time the NA Way of Life has been in larger print. This results in a eight-hundred and fourteen page book, raising the cost a little but much more readable.


Most of you have benefitted from the Basic Text yet never expected to get to write anything helpful. Well, the plan for this book is to sponsor writing from the society of addicts recovering in NA. Chapter length pieces on any topic within the range of things we experience in recovery can be included in the book. In particular, there are many among us being dismayed that some energy is being exerted against the principle idea that our recovery is from 'just' drug addiction. The exciting thing about NA, for us, has always been the relief we have found from our addiction once we stopped using. Those of you who share this belief might find some fascinating material to add to our recovery process. Over-spending, gambling, sexual obsession and other compulsions have nothing to do with chemical addiction but trigger chemical changes in our bodies. Our serious concern here is that our disease appears to mutate into other forms. Some of these forms may be as seemingly non injurious as watching too much TV and others that may be as totally devastating as any degree of drug' addiction. We must count ourselves as free to write about any of these things. A big part of our program is to constantly expand into new areas of living. We believe the very best should be available to those who choose to live the NA way of life. Consider yourself free to write for this book. If your writing is sincere and accurate, at least you will benefit to some degree. Your efforts may be a runaway best-photocopied, eternally underground recovery piece. It may become a booklet or a new chapter. Many of the chapter length pieces can be expanded into a book to help carry our message. This material is meant only to help addicts and is given freely. It should never be seen as mere property and no addict anywhere should ever be made to suffer by our efforts to help. Remember that one of the ways we have survived is by using our imagination and acting on hunches.This is one way God creatively works in our lives.


We wrote our Basic Text in the years between 1977 and 1982. As was our intention, we surrendered the material to the main World Service Conference that then moved the material into the safekeeping of our World Service Office. Almost right away, adversarial issues set the WSO at odds with the membership who had written the book. Without the Fellowship realizing it, the WSO began to set itself up as a publishing agency which is very different from a primary service center. We did not know that other 12 Step Fellowships, such as AA, did not mark up their literature to fund their service efforts. This kept their literature from becoming a way to make money for the General Service Office. We are ready to begin this new work. There is trouble with going through what used to be the approved channels with this work. The channels are no longer there in our NA service structure.


An alternative route has been developed. We will open chapters experimentally and develop them as recovery themes. We will then have them work-shopped by various members throughout the Fellowship. We will distribute the various chapters informally and let the result be compiled into a final manuscript. We will only take into account the needs of the addicts seeking recovery based on the valid experience of our membership. We don't recommend using this anonymous effort to grind personal axes, yet your feelings are important. Remember to respect our reader. Share the way you would in a meeting and let the value of your sharing show itself. Like our personal recovery, the writing would take on its own colors and word choices. Some material might have an intellectual appeal. Other material might be rather raw and coarse. All would depend on its usefulness to perpetuate itself. May the God of your understanding be with us as we proceed to extend our written message of recovery.


Foundation Group of N.A.

September 22, 2005



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