Narcotics Anonymous Way of Life

~ 2012 Form ~

Why It Works12 Traditions


"The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop using."

The desire to stop using is our only requirement. This does not refer to chemicals, people, food, sex, etc. Using refers to the way our addictive personality manifests itself in our daily lives. We live to use and use to live. We do not separate ways of means of usage nor do we focus on our use of drugs. We focus on freedom from active addiction. This freedom begins with putting down the most obvious, our addiction to drugs first. chemicals allowed us to recognize and identify our disease. As we begin to recovery, we may begin to see other ways we actively use. Identifying rather than comparing helps keep us focused on our desire for recovery. we must carry a clear message of Narcotics Anonymous recovery to enable newcomers to see what we have to offer and how we can help. When we cloud our message, we become inconsistent and this confuses the newcomer. membership is open for those with the desire. We sometimes carry our message by planting seeds with addicts who may have potential desires for recovery. As long as the still suffering addicts know about NA, we have carried out our primary purpose. We may not be able to keep a using addict clean, but we can give a struggling member a choice and a healthy environment for growth.

Though we have found that imposing conformity does not work, we do have the power of example. Unable to spiritually control the thoughts, feelings and actions of our newer members, we can rely on our faith in a loving god that they will come to their own understanding in their own time. Eventually all addicts will conform to the principles that guarantee their survival. If not, they sicken and possible die. These are the sad truths drawn from our experience.

One member shares his experience, "I have been a member of 12 step fellowships before. However, I have never experienced recovery. Recovery as it applies to me, is total abstinence from all drugs, in conjunction with an active change in ideas, attitudes and behaviors. Membership requires a commitment to making meetings, having a sponsor, using a sponsor and practicing spiritual principles.

"This tradition insures that recovery is available to all who seek recovery in NA. It does not matter who they are or where they come from. A persons sex, race, creed or religion cannot exclude them from the right to recover in NA. There are no classes of membership in NA; we are all equal in NA.

"Initially recovery begins by not using drugs. For me drugs are any mind or mood altering substance. There is no particular substance that a person must use to become a member. NA focuses on the disease of addiction and its affects on a persons mind, body and spirit. Rather than affects of a specific substance on a persons being. Membership is open to anyone, no matter what someone has used or not used.

"No member can quantify another members desire. I have no right to judge another persons desire to stay clean. This at times, can be difficult for me. When I examine my recovery track record, up to 2003, all of the evidence would have suggested that I would not recover, this did not discourage the people in NA. The people in NA believed in me even when I did not believe in myself. I was encouraged and I was made to feel welcome in NA. Looking back, I felt like gasoline and matches were thrown on my desire and that fire still burns today.

"I show newer members that recovery is available in NA by the way I conduct myself before, during and after the meetings. I believe in a solution orientated recovery, focusing less on my feelings and the problems. When I have a casual conversation after the meeting or if I am speaking at a meeting I do my best to live what I speak about. I am enthusiastic about my recovery and I enjoy my life. I saw these qualities in the people that were recovering in NA and I was attracted by the way they were living and the information on how God changed their lives.

"This tradition helps me in working with others and in accepting other people right where they are, not where I think they should be. Tradition 3 tells me that I am not great or good enough to get anyone clean. An addict will not stop until they are ready stop; this was the case with me. Therefore, as long as I use a literature based approach and my personal experience with the literature in my work with others, I cannot beat myself up if people relapse or take credit for their recovery. All I can do is my job and let God do his job. In the end I believe it is the love that heals us."

Willingness is an action word. this program is for people who want it, not for people who need it. We have to reach a point of total surrender before the willingness comes. The breakdown of our personal world is part of what helps us get clean. It helps us remember what the last one did for us. We thank God for this Tradition because if it was not there, we could not be here. The desire to stop using is the only requirement for membership. It does not matter how much or how little, just that we want to do something about our using. In order to have the necessary desire for recovery, we had to reach a boiling point of desperation. On a deeper level, we began to actively seek a new way of life.

Desire and willingness are the two most important prerequisites to recovery. In order to recover, an addict must have the desire to stop using and in order to stay clean, an addict must have the willingness to follow suggestions so that they will continue to recover. There is not a "must " we impose on them, it is descriptive and acknowledges their power to give recovery a try. Pain doesn't make us members, this is why it is important for us to share our pain, so others can respond to us and give us the beginnings of membership. If this sharing doesn't make our desire for recovery clear to others, we can hurt a long time in helpless confusion. We can even blame others for not treating us with the respect and affection we think our agony buys for us. We may see recovery as a contest of pain where the person who hurts the most gets the most help. It is the person who lets the group know they are open to help by asking for it. Our own personal acquaintance with pain initiates our recovery. Before this, we were only re-experiencing our past hurts and injuries in memory or repeating past failure. Desire implies a future and a change.

Our new members are the lifeblood of our Fellowship and our service to these members becomes the heartbeat of NA. Today, grateful for our lives as protected by a loving God, we become willing to venture into the darkness where they are and demonstrate that we truly do care and understand. We know the way out. We can welcome them to join us as they are, since we have faith today that they can no longer harm us, no matter what their situation, where they came from, or how they got here. We can allow them to become a member when they say so. Any addict, regardless of any other problem they face, is welcomed to find their home in NA.

Narcotics Anonymous is a Fellowship which is all inclusive with respect to any mood-changing, mind altering substances. All that is required is that one thinks they have a drug problem and has a desire to stop, nothing more, nothing less. As for membership in NA; our position ought be one of unrestricted and inclusive participation. If spiritual progress was our goal, how could we claim such progress if we were to erect even the slightest barrier between ourselves and the still using or suffering addict? More often than not, these addicts will come to us as nonconformists, whereas many of us can identify with such a position. Therefore, we ought neither insist nor suggest that they conform, not even that they meet us at the halfway point. These individuals are often too sick, weak, and frightened to overcome any hurdles. In erecting them we may be sentencing our new members if not to death, to many more years of dereliction and institutions.

A member shares: "It is very important that the newcomer know that the only requirement for NA membership si the desire to stop using. I have heard it said that it must be an honest desire or a sincere desire, but I know that is not true. You only have to have a desire to stop using _ any kind of desire. When I came to my first meeting, I had no idea what was going on. I knew I was not very honest at that time. If I was told I needed to have an honest desire to stop using, I would have never come back to another meeting. I took me three months to finally get clean. I guess my desire to stay clean was greater than my desire to use."

While NA clearly rests on the principle of "complete abstinence, we do not use this principle as justification to exclude an addict from membership status. To deny any addict's full privileges may lead one to believe that "desire" is not enough. If we are to seek an atmosphere of recovery in our meetings, such an atmosphere will also compliment each spiritual principle embodied in our Steps and Traditions. The practice of acceptance, patience, tolerance, and unconditional love support our aim of equality, which in turn prevents us from creating a "second class" of membership. It is understood that our membership is a rough mixture of people at different levels of disease and recovery.

Using refers to using drugs in one form or another. It may start with an individual member's drug of choice but desire for recovery can end all of that. The more we learn about the addicts we find in the meetings, the more we can discover similarities to what we have gone through and still experience daily. when we find we have enough in common with addicts in Narcotics Anonymous, we have shifted our identification from lonely scared addicts in a world where we cannot recovery, into a world where being an addict first means we cannot use drugs and live successfully and further that we can regain our health and a degree of good sense.

There is no "wrong" reason for coming to NA. Many of us came to escape jail or other institutions. We may or may not have found a desire to stop using because of this. Those who have are free to begin a new way of life. Those who do not have the desire return to their old way of life. we have learned through personal experience that no one can make an addict stop using other than the addict himself. being ready to stop regardless of how apparent it is to us that the individual needs help. However, we can pray for that person and be ready and willing to help if that person decides to ask for help. The benefits of membership cannot be bought, sold or given to someone who has no desire. It can threaten their life or make them insanely jealous to have contact with a clean addict before they are willing to surrender until they want it. We can make ourselves available and stay in touch.

Desire is also a quality which is necessary to understand. Desire is often quite personal to each and every one of us. To some, this word brings forth emotions ranging from extreme fear, to intense hurt and nearly unbearable anxiety. To others it may not be so severe. Each of us have traveled different paths in our lives and has unique experiences in respect to others. It does not matter what got us here bu that we accept each other as members.

Membership is the key to our personal recovery. We feel comfortable with and part of the group. Along with membership, certain responsibilities come into play. We provide an atmosphere of recovery to anyone seeking it. Membership should not be taken lightly, it is a privilege. To serve is not a chore but a choice. We have found growth and freedom from membership and should freely give these things to others who are seeking.

When we finally make the decision to stop using, we take certain actions in order to begin the recovery process. We make a commitment to attend meetings regularly, to get a sponsor and work the Steps and Traditions. As we continue to recover, other actions are taken in order to insure ourselves against complacency. These include carrying the message to the addict who still suffers as well as a commitment to service. It is partially through these types of positive actions we attain spiritual growth.

Membership in NA is something that is often taken for granted because the program works so quickly. In our disease, we may fail to value the peace and comfort that is coming our way. We have to adjust to living without crisis. Struggling and grasping is not the only way to get things. Life always has its little surprises around the corner. In recovery, these surprises are usually pretty good! As with many other groups, with membership comes certain obligations. we cannot just assume that meetings will automatically be there for us when we need them. we get involved, attend business meetings and make a commitment to service. We give back what was so freely given to us so we can recover as individuals and as a Fellowship.

Our recovering friend continues, "Although I have abstinent for years and attend NA meetings on a regular basis, I am 'not' automatically a member of NA. A lot of the time I have no desire to stop using. At these times, even though I am clean, I do not consider myself a member because membership provides action. I can 'desire' all I want, but, if I do not act to make that desire a reality, it means very little to me. This is a 'grow or go' program. It works if you work it. When I am sitting in limbo, not using, but also not taking an active part in my recovery, I am not a member. Membership implies participation!

"'The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop using.' This is a passage in our literature that I have heard many times at the beginning of NA meetings. I have considered this an important issue facing our Fellowship in the future as more and more people desire to stop using. I remember the first NA meeting that I attended. I was asked to leave because I would not say that I was an addict. In as much pain, anguish and despair as I was in at that first NA meeting, I was asked to leave and attend an open meeting. I cannot hear thee words now and not shiver. today, I am an addict in recovery and I think back in that first meeting where the bondage of denial kept me from saying I was an addict. Today, I know that I can only call myself an addict and I can only judge my own desire to stop using. So, when I see a new face in our meetings, I say to myself these very same words. As our Fellowship grows, new controversies arise such as singleness of purpose or one disease, one program. I do not apply myself to these controversies. for no addict seeking recovery whether in denial or acceptance should be denied recovery the way I was at my first NA meeting."

It does not matter what, or how much any person used. Using is a term relative to each member as well. Neither excessive consumption nor sporadic maintenance changes the status of our membership. Each has paid the price for membership with their pain and each deserves the same chance at recovery as any other addict. we have learned that the disease of addiction knows no boundaries and holds no hostages. any addict, regardless of the drug they used, duration of usage, or length of abstinence is subject to the same misery, dereliction, institutionalization, and death as the next member. Just as any addict, in any of these instances, deserves the same dignity and respect as anyone else. This is how the equality and inclusivity of our membership compliments our unity, which in turn works to develop a Fellowship whose only goal is to help one another find recovery, just for today.


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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.