Narcotics Anonymous Way of Life

~ 2012 Form ~

Twelve Principles of Narcotics Anonymous


"Humility is knowing the importance of doing our part well
and being open to the many forms of help
required for a full and abundant life."

When we come to our own understanding of our higher power and turn our will and lives over to the care of a loving God, we are relieved of our burdens. Our negative thoughts and destructive habits are removed because now we can see them as defective. We have distanced ourselves from using. This can not happen overnight. As we continue to grow spiritually, a serene calm may settle into our lives. We experience relaxed attention without desperation. We no longer need desperation to spur us to action. We seem to have more time, less fear, less guilt, and a quiet sort of luck. In truth, we are blessed. We have to adjust to living in the grace of God.

Our mind becomes our servant and friend, ceasing its endless rambling. Our needs, our desires, and our wants seem to line up better. Control is less necessary because of our increased effectiveness. What used to be pressing concerns may suddenly seem absurd. Our growing wonderment at the power of a loving God and our experience in recovery leads us into a state of near permanent gratitude, interrupted only occasionally by our disease lashing out to hurt someone. The miracle is that we can find a way to go on living after the pain of active addiction is miraculous. This miraculous shift from despair to hope and then eventually fear to faith is possible because the individual addict is willing to work the twelve steps to the best of their willingness. We have come to understand that spiritual principles are earned, not given. We share that the only spiritual principle given away freely to any addict seeking recovery is hope. It is up to the individual addict to make the decision to do the work necessary to get the freedom that humility has to offer.

It becomes obvious when an addict decides to start working steps with a sponsor and actually commits themselves to a program of Narcotics Anonymous. While we are experiencing some of these thoughts and feelings, our appearance to others is totally different from when our faces reflected desperation born of fear and guilt. The profound changes can be seen on the faces of addicts in meetings. This is when others may observe some patient, kind and gentle quality. Many of us experienced a change of expression so dramatic that some or our new friends may think that we are the brother or sister of the person they met when we were just getting clean. We look that different. This exciting peace is a reflection of our new lives. It is a natural state that exists potentially in all people yet is rarely obvious in addicts. Vitality and spirit have replaced loneliness and dispair.

A part of our individual humility is reflected in our collective ability to keep to ourselves. We do not dilute our effectiveness as a Fellowship by taking public stands on outside issues. We do make it known that NA meetings exist. We do this through our public information services so that we will not fall into the traps associated with dealing with the media. We have service guidelines to help us. The purpose of these services is to get an addict to a meeting, not to challenge various treatment philosophies. It helps nothing to be set at odds with those trying to help us. We keep to our basics because that is our message. Total abstinence is not an outside issue. Needless medication is a serious problem in some cases. We cannot work the Twelve Steps under the influence of a chemical buffer. Most people do not need to take anything but food and water. In the few cases where someone must take medication, we try to be generous. We can only help those who are willing to find a new way of life. We stay clean, follow the Twelve Step path paved by addicts who have what we want, and learn to lead a spiritual life. We also are careful to address only the issues relating to the working of the Twelve Steps We have no opinions on outside issues, especially when talking to someone outside the fellowship.

Just as we avoid the labels of `addict' in a world that lacks the knowledge that addicts can experience recovery, we also avoid labeling our program and Fellowship by taking public stands on outside issues. Within NA, we sometimes find it necessary to take stands on issues that directly affect our Fellowship and our members. Many individuals have found it easier to revert to old ways when dealing with issues rather than to practice the principles of recovery. It is like they will risk lesser matters to spiritual principles and then take on major items with the justification, "This is serious!" They may not see that casting aside a spiritual principle and resuming old behavior often leads to relapse. It is important to see the relationship between casting aside a spiritual principle and relapse. Many of us don't get a second chance at recovery. We are honest, open, and willing because it works for us.

What we have found in NA is a series of paths that guide us through some of the hazards and allow us to maintain both our spiritual integrity and personal effectiveness. Addicts in recovery `check out' every possible way of doing things and only settle for a simple solution after the dust settles. We also have a tendency to avoid change and innovation. It took us twenty years to begin to evolve a service structure in 1973, another five to set up a basic World Service Office and five years after that to establish our Basic Text. These observations illustrate the difficulty we have had to overcome to achieve some of our progress. Our difficulty seems to lie in our addiction and the inhibiting factor that makes us cling to the known and avoid risk. Spiritual gain occurs after spiritual work. If we want to be humble and act with integrity with negative situations present themselves, then we must be spiritually prepared. The twelve steps lay the foundation for our spiritual readiness.

Pressure for change comes from members who see an un-addressed need. When an area needs a new meeting of Narcotics Anonymous, we start a new meeting. When addicts discuss the importance of having the twelve basic spiritual principles as a separate section of our literature, we write. These members contribute their time and resources to better meet the needs of the still sick and suffering addict. While they are doing this, members who have not studied the issues may criticize them. It is important that our spiritual path is followed. Humility allows us to see the importance of every human being. Critics may never understand or see the reason why addicts continue to work to help the newcomer. Still, when we see others doing things we don't understand, we learn to ask questions and become informed before we criticize.

In all of this, individuals can and do play roles. Yet, the importance of their roles is more a function of our common welfare than an individual issue. Part of the principle of anonymity is what gets done is more important to us than who does it. We simply want to carry the message to the addict who still suffers. Many blessings we share in NA had to wait long years before members became willing. Humility is simply doing our part to help.


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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.