Narcotics Anonymous Way of Life

~ 2012 Form ~

How It Works: 12 Steps

Step Ten

"We continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong promptly admitted it."

It seems as though after we come into recovery, we have this illusion that everything should fall into place. We think that the bill collectors should stop harassing us just because we’re not doing drugs any longer. We believe that our immediate family members should trust us as though nothing had ever happened. What we fail to see is that the past incidents we created while using have destroyed many bonds of trust and love from others. Through working the 12 Steps of Narcotics Anonymous, we can slowly start to clean up our side of the street. There is no guarantee that we will be accepted as we were before. We will face many roadblocks in our recovery but as long as we abstain from using, we can face each problem with a clear mind and conscience. This ability insures that just that much sooner can we resolve these issues and move on in life. When we realize we are going against our inner spirit, we stop right there - as soon as we know! To live in the light, we learn to deal with things that make shadows in our lives.

When we were in total desperation, we were unable to admit fault or to make amends to those we had injured. This inability to risk loss by admission was only a pronounced symptom of our powerlessness. As we begin to adjust to plenty, the fear of loss lessens proportionately. The time that we take to consider our inventory and admit our faults promptly, releases us from feeling bound by the tension that others have when we are at fault. We are only being considerate when we take this time to do an honest evaluation. If we are at fault, how can we pretend otherwise? It is ‘not knowing’ that has caused us much of our problems. Trying to cover up our wrongs and misdirect the attention to others only leaves us holding the bag. Taking a daily inventory and making amends prevents the build-up of undone evaluations and opportunities to set things right.

‘Balance’ demands that we do something to make up for the human errors that will occur in daily life. Addicts are fearful by nature and it’s harder for us to realize that most mistakes are not big deals and frequently people just want to keep it from happening again. Our disease restricts our ability to live life on life's terms. Therefore, instead of letting our friends know what we did wrong, we hold back and the wrongdoing enlarges. We don't tell our spouse and unwanted pain comes to them from our fear of responsibilities. Generally, much of this is due to our simple awkwardness and unfamiliarity with spiritual principles. For instance, we have a problem at work where something breaks or goes wrong and we attempt to cover it up. The difficulty lies in the fact that we may not yet realize that we are someone and our being a 'witness' is part of reality. Blocking the truth out of our consciousness takes more energy than simply confessing to the error and promising to do better!

Being able to stop the daily build-up of unmade amends allows us to recover the time and energy we would otherwise waste. We are free to put this gift of life’s time to better use. How we feel is dependent on what we are doing, how we do it and why we are doing it. This is where the intense interaction among members in and out of meetings is so crucial. No substitution exists for the honest observations and corrective positive caring that we can get at close quarters from someone who understands and likes us. The Program works for us in many unspoken ways. We begin to feel better as our general sensibility increases along with our ability to do things to please ourselves without injuring others. Our hope, energy and enthusiasm spills over into everything we do. A sad addict is depressing but a happy addict is like a bonfire in the darkness!

Honest means focusing on the present reality. Becoming honest means becoming vulnerable. Letting ourselves and others become aware of how we are feeling is a risk that we have to take. Recovery and clean friends in NA give us resources to risk error or embarrassment without fear of getting in over our heads. We have the power of choice. When we become honest with ourselves, we have the choice to accept, deny, justify or rationalize every single situation in which we find ourselves. To ‘accept’ is to love ourselves and know that we’re okay. Denial occurs where we are not ready to deal with the past. It's ok to feel this way, it will pass. To ‘justify’ or ‘rationalize’ means to continue our suffering by making excuses and blaming others for our feelings. It seems like a simple choice but for an addict, it is a hard one. Daily honesty is being true to the things we believe in which is a large part of being true to ourselves. We know that if we are not totally honest with a given situation or are honest in only part of it, we will still feel miserable with ourselves, to some extent. Dishonesty also makes our self-acceptance issues that much harder to recognize. Once we begin to practice honesty with ourselves, we get a sense of release from our disease. We will start to have a more positive outlook on life as we continue to be honest. More people will learn to trust us. Eventually, they may ask us to share our experience with them.

Amends and paying old debts may seem to be simply methods of freeing us from the effects of our past. The whole point of recovery is to achieve freedom from active addiction, including it’s side effects - not to indulge our disease by immersing ourselves in seemingly endless, unrealistic, and assumption of guilt. Most of us, especially when new to recovery, tend to overstate our wrongs in areas we don't care about and pass over lightly those things that we really feel badly about. Sleight of hand doesn’t help us fool others or ourselves. To be free from active addiction, we have to be receptive to the spiritual principles of the Twelve Steps. The world would be hopelessly immoral if we didn't have a way to make amends. If harm is real injury, then it only stands to reason that recompense must be possible. When we are guilty of harming someone, we restore to the best of our ability that which we took from the injured person. We must act in order to reach some point of peace.

An addict reflects, "Today, honesty is about what I really believe and I believe in what works. It doesn't matter if it is ‘socially acceptable’ or seems silly. If I am comfortable and the process works to help me in my recovery, it is honest. I need to accept it, square my shoulders, plant my feet, quiet my mind and face life head on.

"It is important to honestly accept my responsibilities for my recovery and lovingly leave your responsibilities and recovery to you. ‘ Blaming’ is a self-centered mindset in which I set myself up as judge. Feeling like I have power leads me only to pain. Honest surrender leads to peace. I need to learn to recognize and ask for what I need. I need to give myself permission to have what I, and all addicts and humans want - love, nurturing, prosperity, freedom and joy. Honesty and love are no longer acceptable justifications for my intentionally hurting or manipulating another. I must clearly understand my motives so that I can proceed gently, lovingly, and spiritually to share what was so freely given to me.

"Sometimes the most honest thing I can do to help another addict is to shut-up and listen. I must always remember that my moral standards are not theirs. My specific rituals or beliefs are not universal. The principles contained within and the processes by which we apply these principles are indeed universal and eternal. I must be true to the principles and process and let the specifics change by being honest and recognizing what I can change. Honesty with a sponsee may be simply being lovingly patient while waiting for them to become willing. To force her growth may cause her unnecessary pain and will certainly strain my tolerance. I have great difficulty in being ‘H.O.W.’ (short for honesty, open-mindedness and the willingness to try), when face-to-face with anyone who is not accepting and loving. I must always remember this especially when dealing with other addicts. My disease convinces me on a daily basis that I honestly do not know how to cope with ‘happy, joyous and free’ but recovery says, ‘Try!’"

The key word in this Step is "promptly." This means "asap: as soon as possible," not at the end of each day or even each hour. The speed with which we catch ourselves still acting out on old behavior is all important here. Also, the one who we ‘admit’ to is ourselves. The concept of no longer tolerating excuses for us to continue to live the ‘old way’ is all important in this Step. It is our responsibility, in order to honor my commitment to our new way of life, to try to adopt as close as possible to a ‘zero tolerance’ attitude towards my behavior from one minute to the next.

The ideal result from working this Step would be to become so aware of our behavior that we may be able to live a spiritually directed life. In order to continue or to work an effective 11th Step, we commit to accept complete responsibility for all our actions. In other words, "no more excuses." We surrender our life and our will to the care of a loving God of our understanding and that God gives us a way to deal with errors and mistakes in a loving, gentle way.


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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.