Narcotics Anonymous Way of Life

~ 2012 Form ~

Twelve Principles of Narcotics Anonymous


"Honesty is the ability to match up our insides with our outsides.
It allows what we don't care about to go away and what we really want
to appear and develop in our lives."

Getting honest and learning to live openly with ourselves, God, and others is such a big part of recovery. It becomes a general principle through constant application. Like the other spiritual principles that guide us in recovery, the principle of honesty tells us what to do in situations that may be turning points. Sometimes minor troubles are merely little acts of a loving God trying to slow us down. The problem areas may be opportunities that require spiritual principles for solution. By applying spiritual principles, like honesty, we automatically make ourselves more trustworthy, a better friend, and a reliable human being. As creatures of habit, we can be honest until it becomes the normal thing to do:. Honesty is acquired through learning and eventually becomes habitual. When this happens, we can move in circles reserved for those who play by the rules. Doorways closed to us open and things out of reach come near. For most of us, our admission of powerlessness over our addiction is the first honesty we've been certain of in quite a while. As we come to realize that we are loved and respected for our honesty, we can come to other truths about ourselves. By becoming honest, open-minded and willing to try, we find ourselves coming into better focus with real values and goals. Dishonesty gives others power over us. Honesty allows us to increase and expand our personal freedom.

Certainly, any addict in recovery is going through a series of struggles to overcome the habits we acquire in active addiction. Those of our members who have achieved long periods of total abstinence and spiritual growth share the fact that each release from the chains of our disease places new demands for personal, and spiritual honesty. Each person who trusts us is a new chance to betray. That is one reason we take our time in recovery, we want it to last. Like the other forms our disease takes, we learn to make the correct choice. Our choices bring us out of our fear, denial and hopelessness. None of us are perfect yet through the power of the Twelve Steps, we are gradually able to face life on life's terms. We have to learn to correct mistakes and recognize the pain we cause others when we fall back on our old ways. We start to realize that in order to respond spiritually, we must do the spiritual preparation. The more we practice being honest, the easier it becomes. Working the steps with a Narcotics Anonymous sponsor is a great place to start!

Honesty as a principle, is a new habitual tool we utilize to deal with things as they come up. Honesty protects us in recovery and fleshes out the dead portions of our lives. The help of other members, a good sponsor, and a home group eases our way as we become accepted as a new person. The ties that bind us together may be more important than we know. It is characteristic of our disease to take our new friends for granted. We must remember that being around honest people makes it easier for us to be honest. When we surround ourselves with individuals who share their pain and then share the solution that helped them get through it, we feel more comfortable being honest with them when we really need help. On the other hand, if we never hear any heart felt successes and struggles, we will be less likely to share them ourselves.

Many of us have `traded off' different forms of honesty. If we were sick and hurting inside, we might parade a great show of paid bills and cash register honesty. We divert attention away from our emotional dishonesty and pain. Then we pretend the program has let us down! If we have been more open about our thievery, we may treasure certain rationalizations about why we do these things, exhibiting great care and dexterity to shift blame for our offenses onto someone else. We only need to do this as long as we are helpless to change. As soon as we can admit our desire for change, we can begin to laugh at ourselves and stop pretending that we didn't know what we were doing. Most of us knew, we just didn't know any better. Our ability to make ourselves miserable with faulty logic is almost incredible.

Honesty, as a principle, tells us to turn away from lies and falsehoods; to turn towards reality and get used to using the new power recovery brings. If we honestly don't like our jobs, we change jobs. If we have amends we need to make, we become willing and make them. We can even pray for God's help to do this. If we're not happy in our associations or relationships, we use the power of a loving God and find a way to become happy.

Awareness in itself is not honesty, but it is a prerequisite. As we slowly become aware of our actions and feelings and their consequences, we become more honest about our motivations. We can fool others, but we can't afford to fool ourselves. As we become more aware of our actions, we begin to realize that self-awareness is indeed the key to our recovery. Awareness allows us to identify with what is going on around us. Our first step is the first honest admission many of us have made in a while. This kind of honesty gives us the ability to question our initial ideas and feelings and look beyond them. By being open-minded, we can allow others to plant the seeds of awareness in us, blossoming our spirit and making honesty so normal that when we are not honest, we feel a tremendous amount of pain.

Dazed and out of step with the world of non-addicts, we began to live private fearful lives. We would not reveal ourselves to others as we came to expect personal rejection. This prevented our forming trust bonds and increased our isolation. Getting to know someone new or someone who didn't use the way we did was a serious threat. It could land us in jail or cost us our job. If we were a prostitute - male or female - we likely had a whore's wardrobe. To live the new life requires new clothes. If we were a burglar, we had burglar tools. If we were a con-man, we had to learn a new pitch. To live a new life requires new tools.

Surrender is critical for self-honesty. Surrender is to concede without reservations; to unconditionally accept reality. When we surrender, and really get honest, we realize that we are powerless not only over our addiction but over many other aspects of our lives as well. We become open-minded to new possibilities and ideas beyond our self-centeredness. We accept the fact that we have a disease, and that our best thinking got us here. This new attitude gives us the ability to question our initial ideas, and look beyond them. Surrender results in freedom. It is an ego-erasure and helps us to be more God-centered as opposed to self-centered.

When we come to NA, we enter a society where spiritual principles are valued. As we grow to want what others in recovery have, we become willing to adopt these principles. We have the desire to be honest before we may actually have the ability. Our need for acceptance, and to be a part of what we want to identify with around us, leads us. We are attracted to this way of life. Our approval seeking behavior can help us move towards recovery. Later on, we may get into honesty for honesty's sake.

Desire and willingness must go hand in hand if we are to recover. If we have the desire to change, and we exercise the willingness to do so, then we will succeed. Our desire and willingness for honesty are fueled by our need for self-love and a nurturing spirit. Our desire to practice honesty grows when we see the direct benefits in our lives. The desire to take risks and be honest becomes less fearful. As we continue to do things that feel right, our desire grows. The willingness to act honestly and responsibly comes when we take action. When we're all jammed up, and we scream, "Help me, what do I do?". We call our sponsors. They inevitably ask, "Are you willing to get real about this?" Getting real means getting honest. When we get real, we get to choose whether we go on as we are or make some changes. It is no longer necessary to live in procrastination. We must have the desire and willingness to get better through the twelve steps or else we will stop growing spiritually and eventually return to our old way of life that guaranteed pain and misery on an hour to hour basis.

Unavoidable pain and hardship may accompany us as we grow. We learn to focus on the growth with gratitude and stop giving energy to the pain. We learn to ask for help a thousand ways and help comes through each in time. Through the Steps, we discover the things we've been doing to cause our problems and are relieved of the necessity to pursue them any longer. We learn the rules of responsibility and try to avoid injuring others through our actions or inaction.

As we experience personality change for ourselves, our goals change. We find money and possessions are meaningless if we don't feel good about ourselves. Sex is not only empty without love, it can be life threatening. A good reputation triggers self_destructiveness if our insides don't match our outsides. Many of us are suspicious that we have an internal witness who punishes us if we violate any of our own beliefs and the rules we set for ourselves.

As these changes take place, we are experiencing revitalization on every level: mental, physical and spiritual. We don't get involved with plots because we don't like what plots bring. We don't allow authority figures to make us break laws, legal or moral. As we blink our way into the world of personal responsibility, we come to see the futility of scheming and manipulating others. Perhaps others can take chances. If we want the clean life and freedom from guilt, despair, and embarrassment, we will not knowingly do wrong. Sadly, we know if no one else is aware of our wrongdoing, we ourselves are witnesses. And we know how to punish ourselves. It is important to learn how to back out of a bad deal or situation.

An honest mistake, even an intentional mistake where we were temporarily blinded to the negative effects, can usually be amended. Our disease is such that amends making is a survival skill. Amends need to be made quickly once an error has become known to us. If harm has been done, we want to stop the ripple effect. We ask our higher power for strength and guidance. We do what must be done to correct the wrong. We trust and have faith we will be guided. Often, we find ourselves in need of the basics that personally helped us get clean and stay clean in the first place and restore our sense of balance. Being honest helps us get better quicker and keeps us on the spiritual path that continues to give us freedom beyond our wildest dreams.


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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.