Narcotics Anonymous Way of Life

~ 2012 Form ~

Why It Works12 Traditions


"NA has no opinion on outside issues; 
hence the NA name ought never be drawn into public controversy."

Having an opinion is having an opinion. It doesn't matter if we fight for what is "socially acceptable" or unacceptable. Any type of opinion, used in conjunction with the words Narcotics Anonymous creates public controversy. In this case, it does not matter who is right. It does not matter what is right. What matters is that it is none of NA's business. It is difficult for addicts not to share our opinions. We must respect this Tradition and do this in our own NA family in a way that does not become available outside of NA. We do not encourage our members to wear NA shirts at political rallies, public or commercial events or occasions involving the press or media. This would indirectly make a statement. We need to encourage respect for our fellowship. Sometimes a member in a tee shirt or with a sticker on his car is the only thing society sees. If we allow ourselves to express an opinion while carrying an NA logo, this endangers NA as a whole. Perhaps only a little bit, but that little bit can make a big difference. Already our combined goodwill, ability to keep Fellowship commitments is helping us carry our message into areas where we just weren't welcome that long ago. Sometimes it is hard to see the benefits of doing the right thing, but as we come to ourselves, we begin to see patterns forming in our lives to take the place of ego, pain motivation, suspicion, greed and all the other self-limiting strategies addiction had rooted in our lives. You can't get a job at the bank if you steal money. We must surrender to this Tradition in our personal lives for the benefit of the integrity of NA as a whole.

One addict shared what many feel, "I am grateful that NA isn't involved with the politics and other issues of society. NA is a spiritual way of life and I feel this would be severely compromised if we let our opinions or non-recovery issues effect the groups in any way."

In order for us to recover, it is imperative that we be able to "focus" on recovery alone. The disease is always trying to defocus us so that we cannot concentrate all our energies on recovery. We suffer from a disease of spiritual deficiency and in order to achieve integrity the atmosphere of non-duality must be maintained in our groups.

The Tenth Tradition is vital for our growth and spiritual well-being as a Fellowship. We cannot afford to be categorized or labeled by taking positions on outside issues. Public positions may attract some, but they would invariably alienate others. By remaining neutral on outside issues within the larger society, we are accessible to the broadest base of addicts. We do it this way so that no addict seeking recovery need ever die. As lofty and distant as that goal may seem at times, we can have it if we are willing to pay the price, don't back off and don't get side tracked.

The Tenth Tradition warns us about public controversy. Public controversy is to be avoided because it always damages us as a Fellowship by diverting associations away from recovery for addicts. When someone out in the world thinks of NA, we want them to think of caring addicts who live clean. They don't really need to know our politics, our income level, our associations, and most important, our opinions on everything. Year after year, we have to let new members working in the sensitive areas of Public Information know they are not to use their last names with the press as NA members, not to address outside issues and not to respond to a reporter outside our area of responsibility. By being responsible, we make it possible for others to find out about NA, get to our meetings and achieve freedom from active addiction.

Internal controversies have been with us from the beginning of our Fellowship and are not necessarily negative. NA has often grown and matured through controversy. The Tenth Tradition distinctly applies to outside issues and public controversy outside NA. It is not meant to be used as a means to avoid involvement in our Fellowship. Many problems will not go away until members are willing to make a stand.

One member shares, "When our world office chose to launch a lawsuit against an individual member in 1989, it was viewed as an inside matter. Members reported overhearing lawyers discussing our 'case' during a commercial airline flight. We have not invisible to the outside world. To a certain extent, we are on candid camera. To pretend otherwise is fantasy."

This Tradition refers to "outside issues." Recently, many members have wanted us to take medical and socio-political positions on issues of racial prejudice, tobacco smoking and treatment for addiction. We must be careful. Stating opinions on these issues in the name of NA can be dangerous. Even the safest generalizations can be harmful. Are we doctors, lawyers and experts? If we are in out own right, let it be kept apart from our membership! It is so easy for an addict to be gulled into making rash statements on the air or to the press. We just have to repeat the warnings until they are heard. And, most importantly, members have to be trained and instructed in these matters by us; there is no one else to do it. When we don't do our job, we insure failure and confusion for Fellowship events and projects. When we have taken our turn at running things, it is all too easy to back off and let others rush in and take over. If they fail, is it their fault if we didn't set it up with a strategy to pass on what we had learned before turning the effort over to them? Think about it. Pray about it. It is your Fellowship.

What about "inside issues?" These are expressed as our experience, strength and hope on recovery, in our group conscience literature process. Our opinions on service and Traditions are expressed the same way. The word "conscience" is more accurate than the word "opinion" to describe this because it includes the spiritual component.


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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.