Narcotics Anonymous Way of Life

~ 2012 Form ~

Twelve Principles of Narcotics Anonymous


"Hope is to faith as desire is to willingness."

Since our origins as a program and Fellowship, one common principle has been binding our spirits together: Hope. Hope for recovery. Hope that the obsession will someday be lifted. Hope that the program is for real. Hope that things will start making sense. Hope for ourselves and others. When an addict attends an NA meeting and hears a message of hope, their ability to admit their need for help begins. Hope is catching, in a sense, and can be transmitted by spiritual interaction. "When the voices in our head are screaming things like, "WHY DON'T YOU GIVE UP!" and "YOU KNOW YOU CAN'T DO THIS!" Hope whispers, "Try one more time..."

Hope is the one spiritual principle that can be given away. We found this happening in NA when newcomers listened to other members share their experience, strength, and hope. Some addicts experience was so strikingly similar to their own, they identified with the story and for the first time thought that maybe they too could get clean. This thought, driven from the heart of another sharing addict, was their first experience with Hope. They left the meeting feeling different than when they came. They left with the idea that this way of life might be possible for them too. For a brief moment in the meeting, they even forgot about their obsessive desire to use. They left the meeting with a strong desire to come back and discover how other addicts have been staying clean. Hope is Hearing Other People’s Experiences.

Hope is to desire something reasonable and attainable. The desire for recovery was unreasonable and unattainable for us until we found NA. Those who have gone before us had this desire and it is the same desire for recovery that makes us members today. Hope keeps us alive and vital as a Fellowship. Hope wards off negativity and apathy. While hope may seem intangible to some, its effects are profoundly visible. You can tell by looking at someone that they are hopeful. It is at the head of our list of spiritual principles because with hope, problems don't seem insurmountable. Anticipation of things getting better can be the beginning of fulfillment. (note: this was already added in the 1998 version)

We know when we feel hopeless; solutions are apt to appear distant and unlikely. A lot of us in NA learn to give and receive hope from one another at the onset of our recovery. When we feel hopeful, our sense of security, optimism, and self_reliance eliminate many of our concerns and help us deal with the rest. On the other hand, hopelessness breeds despair and the simplest things can seem overwhelming. As a principle, hope becomes something to be treasured. Like any treasure, there are those that would steal what they could have honestly. As a fundamental part of our recovery, NA members are asked to avoid any act that would threaten to dampen or extinguish hope in the hearts of our members.

Hopelessness has its hallmarks too. Dejection, despair, desperation, despondency, and discouragement can result in an incapacity for hope. When we feel these things in recovery, we learn to realize spiritual principles are being violated in some way that affects us. In this way, principles may guide us out of our hopelessness. Attending a meeting might just allow us to hear another addict share exactly where we are while offering a simple solution. We have come to understand these coincidences are really just God’s way of remaining anonymous.

Policies insuring every member is capable of having a voice in NA have been a part of our Traditions and Service Structure since we first began to grow as a Fellowship. In the early seventies, dreams began which were realized by the creation of our World Service Conference in 1975. Even in our earliest days, the efforts to begin and carry the NA message were almost entirely dependent on the hope that a better way was possible for addicts. The value of the hope offered by these ‘open door' policies was made apparent by a series of efforts where the ‘door' was closed to all but a few. The failure of these efforts and the feelings of hopelessness among the many waiting on the few, proved a severe test for our Fellowship.

We can withstand some adversity because it is familiar ground for most of us. To have our sense of hope and assurance threatened not only dampens our spirits but can lead to a sense of utter abandonment _ a dangerous place for recovering addicts. Hope allows us to take our first Step, though it may be so small as to go almost unnoticed. Hope allows us to make the surrenders we each must face if we are to grow in recovery. Hope is also the basis of our First Tradition. We would have no common welfare without hope.

As our trust, confidence, and faith grows, so does our sense of hope. Exploitation of our members, falsification of minutes and reports, and controlled elections and manipulations of group conscience have caused many of our members to lose hope. In this sense, hope as a principle may give some of us the clarity we need to avoid doing these things when they may seem desirable or important. Blindness to the effects of our actions on others makes talk of God and hope seem unimportant and unrealistic at the times when we need help the most.

There are at least two ways to learn this lesson: give in to the temptation and violate spiritual principles or avoid violating our structure and its principles. It is easy to do one and while great faith is needed to do the other. Where we fall into error, a public Tenth Step among our membership, is the best way to stop the disorder and gain the forgiveness we need from others. The Tenth Step puts closure on the harm done. Rule breaking always risks harming others and should be avoided by earnest study and meditation.

We need to remember that there is a solution to all of our problems in Narcotics Anonymous. The solution is the 12 steps of Narcotics Anonymous. Embedded into our journey through the 12 steps is Hope. When pride, ego, greed, hatred, and anger (character defects) enter our minds, we must turn these defects over to a loving and caring God of our own understanding. The only way to be able to do this is to be working the 12 steps. Being in a 12 step fellowship without working the steps is like getting into a car without turning the key. How can we expect to go anywhere spiritual without doing the work? The 12 steps allow us to change our spirit from diseased thinking to that of a loving spiritual nature. Instead of controlling situations, we begin to let go, trust the process, and ask for help. We begin to have hope that any given negative situation be turned into a positive one when we apply the 12 steps on Narcotics Anonymous. As hope arrives, the simplicity of the program will reveal itself.

Where hope and a sense of purpose prevails, we addicts begin to learn feelings long lost to most of us through our active addiction. At times, we may feel almost too buoyant, too enthusiastic. Our aspirations may exceed what is possible for us _ yet often in recovery today's dream is tomorrow's reality. Without a dream, we may have no tomorrow. A sense of hope allows us to discuss matters that may be unpleasant or make us uncomfortable. When disorders occur, we suffer until we get back to the NA way: Steps, Traditions and Principles. Hope helps us surrender to the 1st Step and allows us to start the journey through the twelve steps that brings freedom from active addiction and a sense of personal well being that is beyond our wildest dreams.

One addict shares simply: "Hope is a small word but a big thing and if it wasn't shown to me through NA, I think I might have died."


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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.