Narcotics Anonymous Way of Life

~ 2012 Form ~

Why It Works12 Traditions


"Narcotics Anonymous should remain forever non-professional, 
but our service centers may employ special workers."

Applying this Tradition to our service boards and committees has been difficult. We agree that special workers being used to answer phones, maintain correspondence, do clerical work, print, warehouse and ship literature is within the terms of the Eighth Tradition. Special workers and must be paid for our Seventh Tradition to be self-supporting but what about editing and writing literature? Doing Public Information, Hospital and Institution work, etc? Should paid workers travel and assist in the development of NA in these other areas? These are questions that have arisen in regard to the Eighth Tradition. We need to look at the concept of "special workers" in light of our Steps and Traditions. While we may employ people to do day to day tasks in our service centers, 12th Step work or "carrying the message" should result from our gratitude and spiritual awakening, not from desire to do a job or make a living. Our motivations are important. We only keep what we have by giving it away. The strength of our spiritual message is as much in the giver as in the message itself: the message has to be consistent with the spirit in which it is given.. This Tradition helps us to divide the spiritual from the material. The Eighth Tradition can keep us from sacrificing our spiritual principles for the sake of material efficiency.

Keeping the NA groups nonprofessional allows all members to recover as equals. Many addicts have become fed up with dealing with professionals and are drawn to NA simply because it is a strictly nonprofessional organization where addicts recover on an equal basis. There is no one person better than another. It is one addict helping another. Many of us are intimidated by or are resentful of professionals and are unwilling to deal with them. They do not want to feel as if they are being told what to do. In NA, no one can tell anyone else what to do. We deal in suggestions only. It is up to the individual addict whether they take it or leave any specific suggestions. Too many addicts equate professionals with authority figures. In NA groups there must be no figures of authority. If there is one thing more than anything else that may drive newcomers away, it is the thought of dealing with authority.

Special workers are employed by NA service centers to do jobs as directed by group conscience. They do things that would be unfair to ask of a volunteer on a regular basis or go undone. Service volunteers give spiritual, caring services and may work without pay on a provisional basis as needed. When their job becomes a regular service, they must be paid for us to be self-supporting. Service centers are directly responsible to NA but they are not NA. Many of our special workers may not be members of NA. Conflicts of interest may put a member in a compromising position. Money can be a problem. We respect our members and we would not want to add further difficulty to anyone's personal program. Our service centers employ people to answer phones, file, fill orders and other tasks to enable our centers to be more efficient. We need to keep in mind that these people, not being NA members, should not be volunteers. NA members are free to volunteer possibly as part of their Seventh Tradition. Also, being non NA members, we need to define the special workers role as specifically working in our service centers, not writing or editing literature, not doing PI work and not becoming involved in carrying a message to institutions. These are responsibilities of NA members who are willing to serve the fellowship. When we hire professionals outside of NA to become involved with our literature, our public information or H&I work, we are cheating ourselves out of carrying the message. This creates problems with the possibility of service work for hire that we will never condone. Things like this damage the integrity of NA as a whole.

We trust that group conscience will direct us, rather than any individual member. We must trust in this group conscience while each share our experience, strength and hope, and let our higher power's will be done. It is important for each individual to be honest when sharing their feelings in order for the group conscience to be accurate.

Care must be taken to keep our spiritual integrity by maintaining a close focus on recovery and carrying our message. Many other activities that might have some bearing on the goals of NA and be in some way related to our message fall outside the perimeter of our competence. We are good at getting clean, staying clean and helping others directly and through some group efforts at putting members in position to directly carry our message while maintaining anonymity. Beyond this, we do not go. Other people will own and run hospitals. Others will run the governments and administer and enforce its laws. Others will conduct the media and do the many things possible in a complex society of individuals like ours.

Keeping our services nonprofessional helps us prevent conflicts between paid and unpaid workers. Without clearly understanding the conflicts we build into our service effort if we allow our special workers to control portions of our group conscience process, we will unwittingly subject our Fellowship to misleading and unreliable information. Our ability to think clearly, discuss fully and collect enough general information to make an informed decision through spiritual deliberation can be defeated. A spiritual person does not put a bag over their head.

The Eighth Tradition as it applies to our groups very simple. Our groups are nonprofessional, PERIOD. Ideally, service in our groups should result from the spiritual awakening our Steps bring us. Our Text says, "Proper service is doing the right thing for the right reason." Personal motivation is a factor in why we have an Eighth Tradition.

Addicts seem to have an innate fear and hatred of conflicts of interest. We probably carry this to unfair extremes. It is for the protection of our new people that we hold ourselves so far back from even giving the appearance of exploiting our members need for help by overcharging for our events, our literature or anything else pertaining to recovery. NA is not in the publishing business. We grant limited rights to our world service components to retail our literature under control of the Fellowship to insure our purposes never become exploitative.

Responsibility calls for us to remind our special workers that NA is run by a Loving God as expressed in group conscience. This means the bills are paid on time. If our unity is strong and our members are focused on recovery, they can provide additional help and support if needed. We are careful to keep other goals out of the picture. Being sensitive to members needs and attentive to their instruction is more than simply keeping faith with spiritual law; it is also the law of the land.

Committee officers frequently forget that their terms don't last forever and that recovery is the more important thing. Substitutes for recovery are always sought by addicts and we may try to cover this up through denial because we think we are the only ones. Go ahead, have a good laugh. You've earned it - or you will someday.

As a spiritual fellowship, we maintain our proper position so that our time and attention is available to do what no one else can: help addicts seeking recovery. In this way, we keep faith with those who helped us and make way for those who will in their turn help others. If those who helped us had been distracted, many of us would not have made it. If we are distracted, we may not notice those who die at our doorstep.


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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.