Narcotics Anonymous Way of Life

~ 2012 Form ~

Twelve Principles of Narcotics Anonymous


"Tolerance is knowing the other person has the same spirit in them
and being curious about what that spirit is trying to do."

Saying you care about someone is easy. Taking the time to listen carefully is altogether more difficult. If someone is upsetting you or causing problems, listening is much more difficult. Listening with an open heart and mind is a powerful tool for helping. Imagining that we are writing down what a person is saying is one way to actually hear their voice. Instead of placing expectations on what people are saying, we place love in our heart when we are listening.

We remember caring NA members listening to our problems when we started sharing at meetings. For some, they are being heard for the first time in their life. Itís overwhelming how much love silence can bring. An amazing number of people know what their answers are; they just don't have anyone who cares. This lack of attention and caring has been recognized as a killer of small children who are overlooked in orphanages. Their death can be described as a "failure to thrive." It may be that they know they are not cared for. Being social creatures, our need for caring is biological. We need a simple touch or a human contact.

Spiritual growth cancels out the negative in us and fills us with the positive. Many addicts develop aversions that keep others at a distance. We want to be left alone, though we are lonely. When we begin to feel more secure about ourselves, our fear of others is lessened. It takes time to develop calm. We can withstand bad behavior in others without being drawn into their circle. We lose the fear of being like them. A bad idea is just a bad idea, not a total threat to our existence. Standing apart from our old ways, we can look at the world and other people in a more open and honest manner. Very often, we will find our missing parts lying on the ground around our feet. We couldn't find them because we never slowed down enough to take a close look. When we are in a bad place ourselves, our pain makes us over-react to bad behavior in others.

In recovery we are constantly developing on different levels. Our ability to tolerate others when they are disagreeable is part of coming out of isolation. We learn part of this by developing a tolerance for our own inadequacies. In NA, we find the people who can share their pain and growth. We also find a lot of people who are going through almost exactly the same things we are at any given time. All we have to do is get to enough meetings and share honestly the nature of our pain. Someone may come up to us after a meeting or over coffee and check out what we meant when we were sharing in the meeting. By exploring the reality of others, we gain something in our own reality.

Tolerance, as a spiritual principle, does not force or require us to put up with negativity. It simply frees us to decide what we want for ourselves. We are finally free to act, not react. Often, tolerance seems like it would limit us to merely not reacting to bad behavior in others. Not over-reacting is spiritual tolerance. It means we have more say over our lives and how we live.

Some of our personal wrongdoing may consist of using others without their consent or knowledge for selfish gain. Our Fellowship is a great churning mass of such problems. It is probably one reason why NA works for us so well. It gives us a chance to see ourselves and the games we play in others. A real paradox is met head on when we attempt to be useful without being used.

Where we see people doing wrong, we should act as if we are helping difficult children who, while we may love them dearly, are capable of great mischief. The loving spirit often provides us with interesting alternatives in response to actual, verified wrong doing. We donít savage them, we find ways to help. Tolerance is not just being passive though it is the principle that frees us from acting badly just because someone else is. The time we gain by this can be spent working towards real lasting solutions.

Our principle of tolerance helps us make sure what we perceive is actually happening. Power is the ability to define reality. Toxic reactions turn to principled actions when we begin to live the principles weíre writing about in the twelve steps. If a real disorder is involved, others will see it also. We never have to be alone in NA. Most all problems are repeat performances of past events with new names and faces involved. As a Fellowship, we have withstood such an array of sabotage and disorder that in truth we have little to fear. As individuals, we avoid traps that may threaten or sour our recovery by praying, consulting other members and then acting on faith to help make things better.

Our tolerance level may be too great in some areas. It is important to remember our past and seek positive action than to drift into not caring. We care enough about each other to tell them the truth. Being honest is not intolerance. If you find yourself feeling defeated or alone, it helps to reach out to someone for help. You cut a fear in half when you share it with just one other person. If we politely let someone know how we feel, it may help him. He may be carrying on habits from active addiction without realizing how offensive they are.

Our explosive growth has given us the ability to work on tolerating others. As the density of our meetings increases in any given area,

recovery in Narcotics Anonymous is shared by those who have it to with those who need it. Service becomes increasingly complex and sensitive. Members must find ways to remain anonymous yet play key roles. This can be problematic if you haven't worked your Third Step and are still trying to call all the shots in your life. Manipulation of others to achieve our ends is invasive and dishonest. It is the way we were when we were in active addiction. There was a time, not long ago, when NA as a whole, was glad to have just one more meeting in a whole state and just one more member in regular attendance. You can tolerate someone you care about and treasure. Tolerance is natural when you feel you need someone or their recovery is important to you. When we are stronger in numbers, we may get weaker in tolerance. This is where individuals can play a big helpful role. Learning how simply caring and paying attention worked to expand NA from a few scattered meetings to a world wide Fellowship is a lesson for us all.

Today, in N.A., we have so many people, so many ideas and varieties of experience that it can seem overwhelming! Even with the commonality of our desire for recovery, we have need of tolerance just to watch it all go by. But we never outgrow our need for the basics of recovery and our need tolerate ourselves until we can do better. Even if we never get any better, tolerance can help us accept our limitations. When we do this, our tolerance for others increases.


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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.