Narcotics Anonymous Way of Life

~ 2012 Form ~

Twelve Principles of Narcotics Anonymous


"Surrender to the things we cannot change through our own power is a way to get on with
our lives. We seek a Higher Power of our own understanding and that becomes our
ultimate guide and source of strength."

Surrender is giving up on our old way of life and getting some help to start a new one. We surrender when we admit we can no longer live life on our own. We surrender when we can no longer make our own decisions and get positive results. We surrender when everything in our life seems to be bad. We surrender when the pain is so great it seems we are dying inside. We surrender when we have no hope! We surrender when we have finally reached a place where we are willing to try a new way of life!

When we make the decision to surrender, we get relief from the pain of making our own decisions. Surrender is positive for us because we have hope. Surrendered, we open opportunities for other addicts to help us with our problems. Being clean does not solve all of our problems. New members have gotten the impression that just being clean will fix their disease,. Unfortunately, they end up using as soon as something does not go their way. We need to carefully explain to newcomers that our 1st Step means we acknowledge we cannot use regardless of events or the actions of other people. Surrender is a personal event. It is the beginning of a personal responsibility. Surrender is the first step in moving towards total freedom from active addiction.

In keeping with our NA 12 Steps and 12 Traditions, it becomes obvious that the recovery process of Narcotics Anonymous won't work without an individual capacity for surrender. Surrender qualifies as a principle in its own right. Surrendered, recovering addicts are the most tangible part of our common welfare. The principle of surrender can guide us when we don't know what to do. Without surrender to our powerlessness, we are catapulted back into our disease.

When we try to participate in NA services without a capacity for spiritual surrender, we find it impossible to make or maintain conscious contact with our Higher Power. Without our Higher Power to strengthen and guide us, we set about trying to do service as if it were a business. We canít buy our freedom in Narcotics Anonymous, we have to work for it. Working the twelve steps of Narcotics Anonymous is the best decision a surrendered addict can make. Trying to buy recovery like it was retail merchandise would be like trying to buy a girlfriends love through spending money on an expensive gift. NA members build this program, service its needs, and give direction to world services. Service is simple with the help of a loving God. Otherwise, we quickly find ourselves lost in a sea of paperwork, reports, and personalities. Responsibility to other service bodies can interfere with the direct responsibility we all have to our group. Without a sense of responsibility to directly inform, respect, and listen to what our members want, service degenerates into a personal rivalry.

We find ourselves on opposite sides of imaginary boundaries, cut off from those who have helped us, unable to ask for help, and clinging to the struggle to be right. NA is a practical program of working principles. Our addiction can build traps for us, even in recovery. One great old timer remarked, "There are three things an addict needs to live: food, shelter, and someone to blame it on." This is why the spiritual principle of surrender is needed to help motivate us to live in the solution instead of the problem. The problem is our way of life and the solution is the Narcotics Anonymous way of life. Living the Narcotics Anonymous way of life means working the Twelve Steps. Surrendered, we are able to work the Steps with the help of a sponsor who can guide us through the journey of recovery.

Trying to do service as part of our Twelfth Step without spiritual assistance, we become miserable, confused, unhappy, and resentful. All the beauty and freshness of recovery fades and service opportunities become a series of chores. Surrender allows us to look at the bright side at any given point. The principles that gave us power to escape from our addiction slide neatly into place and things begin to make sense again.

Our desperation fades and we begin to gain hope that a better way of life is possible. Our sense of attachment to obsessive ideas and our personal preferences are once again mixed in with the ideas and preferences of others. The sense of win or lose is replaced with new thoughts, feelings, and interactions with others. We are never alone. As our fear decreases, our sense of purpose and the ability to laugh at ourselves returns. We begin to gain a sense of faith in our lives. Through working the first three Steps, we begin to put trust in our higher powers will four us and its ability to solve our problems. Serving Narcotics Anonymous is one way to work Godís will.

Those able to carry their recovery into service can be hard workers, brilliant tacticians, and convincing speakers. Oftentimes, their efforts have provided benefits to our Fellowship that we have accepted graciously. We know as no one else can how the disease of addiction can drive addicts. When we surrender to Godís will, we use the energy of our disease for a positive purpose; to help the still sick and suffering addict through service work.

We need only to be loving, kind, and gentle in the face of those who cannot surrender their self will. We may have to be especially firm about maintaining correct policies and procedures. Those who have yet to surrender in the sense of this Principle do not yet believe God can restore them to sanity and will try to get better results by applying money, willpower, and manipulations into their recovery.

Rewriting guidelines should only be done when there are serious problems with the existing guidelines. Otherwise, it is prudent to follow the guides for several reasons. One is to let people know your service is self_less and you are surrendered enough to follow the guides. Casual rewriting of guidelines is a symptom of a committee without faith. Major rewrites indicate either an inability to study or the presumption that prior committees failed to embed working principles that both get the job done and adhere to our spiritual nature. All our major achievements in NA have been the result of courage, faith, and a willingness to work with others for the common good. Our periods characterized by excessive preoccupation with guidelines have been infertile and indicate an unclear sense of purpose. Concern is focused not so much on what we can do to help addicts but how we go about it. This brings personal preferences into sharper focus than the object of our service which is solely to help others. The resulting conflicts have deadened the service initiative and little help gets through to those we serve.

Surrender allows us to focus on the positive instead of the negative. Guidelines can only point the way for an inspired service body to do something for the benefit of others. Guidelines can never take the place of people. Changes have to be made in a structurally correct manner if they are to be successful in `guiding' us. Otherwise, they are seen as attempts to make rules for others rather than offer assistance charted from successful personal experience. Service committees cannot function without knowledge of what their contributions will mean and how they will fit into NA as a whole.

No sensible person can work in a situation where the rules are changed without consultation. There are too many ways to serve in NA for our members to waste precious time trying to serve on a committee that cannot maintain internal order and adherence to the principle of direct responsibility to the Fellowship. Layering is a term to describe committee systems that become cut loose from their roots in the Fellowship. They float and attempt to perpetuate one another through responding to one another more than to the Fellowship. This same thing plagues other organizations of any description. Surrender allows us to be open minded enough to see the other side of any given situation.

We should never allow ourselves to be deluded into thinking good guidelines will replace good people and principled actions. In Twelve Step service, we surrender to the Fellowship's will as we surrender to the God of our understanding in recovery. We have in our early years seen what happens when members proceed on faith and function within their guidelines. Even against great odds, they succeeded. Those who tried to introduce policies and procedures through trickery have consistently failed to please this Fellowship. There always comes a time when the `cat gets out of the bag.' Committees that have become obsessed with changing their guides have found, or at least shown others, that the real work of the Fellowship languished undone. Without faulting others or casting blame, we NA's finally saw the truth of the matter: That we are miracles and so are our service efforts. In the world of miracles, there is little need for ego and much need for God. For those who have experienced this realization, surrender has become a key principle in their service. Service is based on our Twelfth Step awakening. When we get a high percentage of people new to recovery, we will be inconvenienced for a while. This is not a good time to vote on major changes of policy. The most important policy is to come to help the still sick and suffering addict.

The best way to do this is to serve the group while simultaneously working the Twelve Steps of Narcotics Anonymous. This allows the addict to focus more on the solution and less on the problem.

As soon as the rush for political support and competition for key service positions wears off, we have noticed that the secrets become known. Perhaps members knew all along that their voices were being drowned out. Their body language tells us that they feel defeated. This is when the clean up process begins. Members who have the deep love and dedication will be on hand to help. We pick up the pieces and help members bond into a great and loving Fellowship. Surrender as a principle allows us to go on and do our part. Whatever the service season happens to be, we get all the help we need from a loving God.

We can see clearly that the need to manage and control stems from a fear of losing control. We have seen members get hurt when changes took place too quickly. By working to keep members informed of all sides of a subject, they can be asked to express their will without strain and tension or rushing things. Active listening and clearly formulated efforts to take the fears and concerns of others seriously in a prayerful manner allows us to give assistance when asked. We serve in a loving manner. because the still sick and suffering addict gets more help when they feel the addict trying to help them is sincere.

Those who attempt to govern us deserve our patience and understanding but not our tolerance. If we tolerate improper acts, we become participants in those acts. We have not come through our entire painful struggle to behave as if we lacked good sense. Even if it is uncomfortable and there seems to be no one else to speak out, take up for your principles and state your views clearly. You may be the one God chooses to use as an instrument that day. If necessary, write out your feelings and request time to read them to the group. Once you've been recognized and had your say with each person who might need to hear it, let go of it and tend to your recovery. Surrender allows us to do what we can do and frees us from trying to do what we cannot.

When we see others in pain that are maintaining their composure and struggling to use spiritual principles instead of reverting to their old ways, it gives us courage. Degeneration sets in as soon as we stop telling the truth and doing the things we need to do to maintain our spiritual way of living. For many of us, pain has become all too familiar and we have to adapt a "happiness habit" to overcome our tendency to be morose and downcast. Surrender gives us the ability to remain open minded to the positive in each experience.

Wherever we need peace, it can come almost instantly if we can apply acceptance. Peace is a state where we remain totally free to do what we can. We donít have to bother with concerns and issues that are in fact beyond our ability. We hope that we'll be ready when things get better. It takes a lot of energy to perpetuate a lie but truth perpetuates itself.


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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.