~ 2012 Form ~
How It Works: 12 Steps
"We came to believe that a
power greater than ourselves
could restore us to sanity."
The inability to recognize the millions of blessings in our lives is characteristic of our addiction. We can stare at one area that does not measure up to ‘our standards,’ but the reverse is also true. We can become so enthralled with counting ‘our lucky stars’ that we may ignore the cliff’s edge that is right beneath our feet. We addicts seem to view life through one of three types of spectacles. Rose-colored glasses distort our vision toward the positive that can be harmful unless we remain vigilant. Dark-colored glasses tint our world and cause it to appear dismal. Our disease bombards us with other negative senses that insure our misery. When we wear clear lenses, we can look at reality and see what it is without our diseased perceptions causing us additional discomfort. Clear glasses allow us to see and seek balance. They allow us to see both good and bad and we learn to respond accordingly. ‘Seeing things as they are’ is truly a gift. We learn that we can choose our footing without that paralyzing fear of disaster with which we are so familiar. We find that living either the gaily colored or dull, plodding existence is not how life actually is. The way out is in. There is something like a doorway in each one of us and our job is to find the key - this is what our 'higher power' means to us.
Repeating old patterns while expecting different results’ is a hallmark of the disease of addiction. Until we consciously change our old behaviors in the attempt to obtain new results, the insanity of our disease will remain in control. It is by ‘trusting the process’ of recovery enough to simply try something different that we come to trust that overall change is possible. We do something different and we get a different result. The power of this process of our recovery experience is that we are finally moving in a forward direction. Learning what ‘real’ life has to offer us allows us to move towards sanity.
Our disease would have us obsess over everything, one way or the other. The process of ‘coming to believe’ gives us the ability to see for ourselves what is real. Our logical minds can only take us so far on this spiritual journey. Our personal insight, which we call our intelligence, requires adjusting so that it will match our outward experience. When the working order of the integrity of the pair are not in alignment, we suffer for it. Therefore, it becomes important to do daily maintenance in this area of recovery. Belief is the result of trusted experiences.
Faith is trusting without the benefit of experience. Belief can include the results of experience alone or a combination of faith that is tied to experience. Historically speaking, people who were subjects of a king used the phrase ‘By your leave’ to indicate their submission to a person of importance. Sometimes we might use a phrase like, ‘If you don’t mind’ or, ‘If it’s okay with you,’ but the fact that we submit to others is still part of life. We each have many people and things that we submit to. Since we regularly submit to those people and things in which we believe, we want to examine and re-examine our belief, now and throughout the process of recovery.
This is one area where ‘choice’ as referred to in recovery becomes clearly visible. We realize early in the recovery process that we can choose not to submit rather than continuing to submit to things that make us feel negative about ourselves. We learn to define sanity for ourselves. Utilizing this choice takes some practice. Many of us never thought of our submission as something we could change. Indeed, it never occurred to us to even try to resist. Submission seemed unavoidable.
‘Believing something’ is an act of surrendering to a proposition or attitude expressed as a statement. Belief determines how we feel on the inside and how we act on the outside. We expand our viewpoints by finding out more about how others feel and react to life. We compare notes with others about how we live. Isolation kept us apart and prevented us from doing this.
Clean, we become students in a school called ‘life.’ We don’t have to do it alone. We compare notes (share experiences) and we can use our books to pass our examinations (survive situations) without using. Coming to believe allows us to shift away from certain people or things that we used to habitually submit to, give in to, or allow to dominate our lives. We continue to ask ourselves, "Is this the best result we can get?" Taking a good look at who we are, where we are, and what we do on a daily basis may help us awaken to reality. As we begin to focus more on today, we begin to forget to consciously worry about yesterday and tomorrow. Usually, the parts that you don’t like are not sane. We would not choose to do them today. We can find ourselves involved in losing relationships with life whenever we fail to be satisfied with what we receive in return for what we give.
The ‘sanity’ that we seek in recovery must satisfy our real needs on a daily basis. The confusion that we feel is simply a natural part of personality change. When we feel disorientated or emotionally upset for no apparent reason, it is only an indicator that we have succeeded in altering our relationship to life in some way. Other members, sponsors and our Higher Power can help us adjust to these changes even if we haven’t worked all the Steps yet or haven’t progressed very far in recovery. One of the things we discover about recovery is that we have people in our lives today who are able to be here for us as we are for them. An exception to these general truths may occur when we slip into our old ways and try to get over on our program or other members. We must remain vigilant and not barter our ‘being clean’ for better treatment. We don’t have a right to be offended when people don’t treat us with extra consideration in light of our ‘condition’. We may demonstrate this type of consideration for one another at times and that is fine. The key is that we do so by choice expecting no reward because we only want to help, be considerate, or be useful. What we do willingly by choice is different from doing the same thing under the influence of compulsion, social or otherwise. Membership, being ‘a part of,’ requires the mutual respect of one member for another.
Some say, "Religion is for people who are afraid of hell. Spirituality is for people who have been there." Most of us define faith as the gift we receive for the price of acceptance. If we have trouble with the Second Step, we may need to take a closer look at what we consider important or valuable. If we feel like we’re ‘doing without’ some of these things or we get poor results in general, we may want to change. Finding and using some extra power to improve our results is what the Steps are all about. Belief grows as we come to recognize the things that we most value, as well as those that we despise. Belief helps us obtain what we hope for in the future. Powerlessness and desperation drives us to set values to escape pain and avoid negative issues. We begin to value love, caring and doing God’s Will but may continue getting negative results because we remain focused on our old values. Changing our value systems and developing new ones in accordance with the positive changes that God offers, helps us ‘come to believe’.
One way that many use to get in touch with our hidden, inner self is to try to verbalize or write about what we would like to see in the future. It helps us acquire a belief system that will lead to the ends that we would hope for ourselves. It changes our entire perspective just to realize that clean, we have potentially, an unlimited potential future. Many find it extremely helpful to keep a journal or a clear set of memories of whatever visions we have had for ourselves in recovery. It helps us to recall what we wanted when we first got clean, and we may be delighted later on to find that many of our dreams have come true. As we grow in recovery, other visions come to us. When we share these visions with one another, we strengthen our spirit and accelerate our growth. Sometimes our visions will help others even when they don’t seem to apply to us.
We expand our perceptions of the world by acquiring the benefit of what others have learned through personal experience. We broaden our freedom to be an effective part of the world around us by adding to what we know by training, study and application. A part of internal change is being able to enjoy the effects of these changes as they reflect themselves in all parts of our daily lives. It helps when we can surrender again, this time to our ‘lack of a belief’ in God or a Higher Power that is strong enough to give us what we need. These ideas may be incomplete, unconsidered or out of date. Most of us are at least mildly surprised to learn that we can change in this way. The wreckage of our past is much more than the obvious scars, severe legal, medical, or social problems. One of the biggest difficulties with our thought processes is that our information is faulty. This reflects a computer age saying "Garbage in, garbage out." Running scared has prevented many of us from feeling that we were free to carefully review these basics of thinking. We became accustomed to thinking certain ways and expecting outcomes that may have no basis in reality.
This projection, based on our old thought processes, builds up from those experiences we had when we were loaded or simply because we look at life from an addict’s viewpoint. Healthy relationships are a major structure on the pathway of life. These structures allow us to have relationships with people, places, and things that are stable and lasting. As we change, we may feel overwhelmed and discontent by the way these relationships change. Remember that our evaluation of uncomfortable may not be an accurate indicator that something is ‘wrong’. We must continue to bounce our stuff off of other recovering addicts to make these evaluations. There is no way for us to get the ‘personality change’ that we need without a shift in these structures. Discomfort usually occurs during the interval between our perception of the change and our adaptation to it. Belief is the word we use to describe the structures that are ‘real’ to us. These structures change as our beliefs change. A reverent and sensitive attitude helps us identify the new viewpoints and insights that our insufficient beliefs obscured.
Sometimes creation is merely discovering what we felt to be true all along but unable to act on in any real sense. Addicts seem to be sensitive to truth no matter how often we abuse and deny it. Spiritual growth lets us see that we are creatures of our own creation and shows us how this affects others and ourselves. Spiritual maintenance is holding us in line with our new beliefs, allowing them to firm up and work themselves into our new way of life.
Those things that didn’t work for us have to be given time to go away but simply sitting idle and waiting for this to happen may not work. It is much easier to go looking for a belief that may have interested us for some time. We can try to find something that we can feel good about and try to learn more about it. Many of us will find that the belief of our childhood suddenly works for us. We realize the confusion brought on by our using may have prevented us from giving our belief an honest try. We find that our new belief is not only worth going after but that it is far easier since we will begin to get the results we want. The need for a working belief that we understand and feel good about becomes more important than the fears that hold us back. Once we find what works for us, it will tend to last and we won’t have to go back and redo this Step in every situation. Our obsessions were merely efforts to get what we felt we needed regardless of the cost. Major problems occurred once our need had become too great for us to meet. Unfortunately, our obsessions were more about supplying a feeling than with actually meeting needs. This is where much of our insanity becomes visible. Every time we loosen an old fear, our freedom and responsibility increase. As we let go of old fears that no longer apply to us, we find our faith growing. This state of faith gives us more energy and allows us to take maximum advantage of available resources. We are clear-headed and emotionally relaxed.
The acronym F.E.A.R., False Evidence Appearing Real or Fuck Everything And Run, was a real important lesson for many of us. We may have heard it at a convention or at a meeting. Fear prevents us from acting in a manner that we feel goes against our best interest or that we feel will cause pain. When we are in our right minds, fear simply helps us establish boundaries that we can live with ourselves without discomfort or feelings of being in jeopardy. As addicts, much of what we knew was only figments of a deranged mind. In many other cases, what we think we know is actually incorrect, yet this fact apparently makes little difference. Many things are in the middle between these extremes and make a difference some of the time. Sorting all this out is quite tedious and troublesome; therefore, it requires daily attention. Freedom in recovery is what we gain when we compare our new way of living against what our addiction took from us. The longer we are clean the more these things will matter to us and this is the reason we keep working the Program no matter how long we have been clean. While using, we lived in constant fear of discovery and may feel the same way in the beginning of recovery. What was our real secret? Could it be that we each built our own cages of fear? The principle with which we want to replace fear is faith. We begin to work the Steps and this process teaches us how to go through the pain without using. When we see the insanity of the old, all too familiar and paralyzing fear, we develop a healthy F.E.A.R., Face Everything And Recover.
As we grow into this new way of life, we test our feelings and share what is going on in our minds with our sponsor, home group members and other members with whom we have become close in NA. When we drift away from good sense and the general recovery path, we will hear about it from our friends. We must practice something before we can get results. Repetition allows us to gain faith in ourselves and our beliefs through getting what we feel to be positive results repeatedly. If we are having trouble in this process, we may be able to locate the parts of our belief system that are not working for us. Once we have found our belief and gotten adjusted to it, we settle into it in a reasonable time. Confirmation of our belief is another way that we express our adoption of a belief or a system of beliefs.
Energy is what it takes to live and experience life to any degree. One of the problems that we encounter from a lack of a positive belief is that we can be very active with little or no noticeable achievement. Time and energy seem to mysteriously disappear as our needs become greater. When we start learning how to live, we have less wasted motion and we begin to gain the ability to work towards several goals simultaneously. Accessing parts of our minds that had become dormant in our active addiction, we find ourselves able to do things easily that had seemed impossible before. Belief in a loving, spiritual power is not something that only relates to one part of our life. It is a wrap-around, through and through kind of experience. In truth, most who have experienced this kind of spiritual breakthrough agree that it goes beyond what words can express. We feel somewhat restricted in sharing in this area, because we can only make comparisons. We try to share what it has been like for us, but we know that each one of us has come to a place where we have to find what works for us personally. Change is noticeable almost immediately when we gain a working belief. Release from our insanity guarantees results in the areas that are important to us. We make goals of what we care about and can achieve while learning to identify and let go of obsessions that we thought were goals. If we don’t believe that there is a power that will help us, we are imprisoned in the classic trap of addiction.
There is a saying that goes, "If you argue for your limitations, they are yours forever." Our potential and capacity to respond will expand only if we want them to and give ourselves permission to do so. We will always be capable of messing up things by not trying. The concept of a Higher Power involves having faith in something that will take us beyond what we can do on our own. Recovery restores to us many of the things that our disease took away.
We work the Steps in order to recondition ourselves so that we will be able to enjoy some of these benefits. Otherwise, we begin to feel the inadequacy that comes with the restoration of responsibilities and duties that we cannot easily accomplish. The further our addiction has progressed, the less we recall that sanity is the ‘natural’ state for most people. It doesn’t mean greater, superior, better, or less than others. It is our healthy state of being alive and free.
Sanity is also acting in a reasonable manner. When we first notice that our feelings are out of line with reality, we begin to change. The First Step is a catalyst that instigates an initial instability. The shift towards change pushes us to sort out the rest. In this Step, we get to the level of beliefs. We realize that the beliefs we operated under were faulty as well as life threatening. These beliefs were insidious and spread throughout our personality. We have no choice but to reach out for help to overcome the structure of our self-created, self-destructive, and self-centered old beliefs. We finally realized that we couldn’t keep doing the things that we chose to do and call it sane. We felt that we became one with the things that used to seem so separate to us. Our experiences and perceptions of reality change. We feel ourselves more as part of what is happening and no longer need absolute control over everything.
Just as in learning to surf, we quickly learn that we and the wave can come crashing down together. The energy is still there; we have just learned how to stay on top of it more often. Exploring our options allows us to choose the one that will work for us rather than feeling lost in a maze of pathways. By living a spiritual life we maintain our unity within, we take less power away from our spiritual growth and have more energy to improve.
Step Two is about belief. We come to believe in a loving, caring power, greater than ourselves that can restore us to sanity. We never believed that we could live free from our obsession and compulsion to control people and situations around us, because we feared that if we just went with the flow, we would miss out on something we needed. The pain of the unknown had been too much for us to manage. Realizing that we, in and of ourselves, are not the source of our pain, we are open to letting life go on around us. The knowledge of our powerlessness, trust that we can change, and walking through the pain can help us with this realization. When we stop denying our addiction and gain a belief that a power, greater than ourselves, can help us, we begin to relax. Our ability to believe in a Higher Power that can restore us to sanity makes us feel at one with the forces of that power and the process of spiritual growth.
We also need to allow others to develop their own beliefs so that when the going gets tough, they can survive on the faith achieved by their own development system to survive in ongoing recovery. For the first time, we have a vision of a sane life through the example of others who are just like us and who have benefitted from taking the leap of faith. We learn that our reality is made up of what we believe, and that when we change our beliefs, we ourselves will change. We grow to love ourselves enough to believe that good things are possible for us and perhaps more importantly that we deserve them. We owe it to ourselves to do the footwork that will lead us to the life that we have always wanted for ourselves but were unable to believe was possible for us.
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Reprinted from the
N.A. FELLOWSHIP USE ONLY
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.