Narcotics Anonymous Way of Life

~ 2012 Form ~

Why It Works12 Traditions


"NA, as such, ought never to be organized; but we may create 
service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve."

Narcotics Anonymous is a spiritual program and we put our spiritual purposes first. It is important that we don't get so caught up in the business side of our group directed functions. Those boards and committees we create are admonished to maintain directly responsibility to the general membership: those we serve. We get two sorts of direction from the Fellowship. First, what we do in the way or providing a service. For instance, we may decide to start a help line or a service project at the world level. Second, how we proceed in setting up or maintaining a routine service. What we do it is decided once, how we do it may be updated from time to time. Or we may decide we can no longer provide a given service. In the past members have often had trouble separating what we do from how we do it. Both are policy items but they require different considerations. What we do depends largely on the strengths and weaknesses in a given service area. No sense in committing to H&I panels if you don't have members who can service them. Also, if we commit to put out meeting schedules and flyers at probation offices or other places where addicts can get them, it requires a certain amount of money and has to be done on a regular basis.

No service boards or committee should be allowed to govern the Fellowship. In selfless service, members may choose to become involved with committees our service boards. But since they are not NA, opinion and manipulation has no place, just group conscience as explained in our Second Tradition. Members may trust specific members to carry their collective conscience but this does not make this member a leader, governor or an organizer. It simply makes that person a trusted servant. No one has the power or authority to make decisions for NA. NA as a whole makes decisions for NA as a whole.

Our sanctioned events and service efforts are done by trusted servants. All are addicts seeking recovery at times and all are members who act as resources to those who suffer at other times. Surely, we will all fall short at times. But if enough of us are mindful of Tradition Nine, we can offset any harm done. The basic problem seems to be when the business aspect of an event makes our members uncomfortable. Our policy of openness and service is conducive to good feelings about service and trusting our trusted servants. If our servants can't trust us, who are we to trust them?

Special words require our attention. It can be a mistake to assume we know why these terms are special. Like many 'addict words,' ordinary definitions may or may not apply. This can prevent our going that one extra step that could lead to much more useful knowledge and understanding. Organizations are functional systems and they work to preserve these functions. An organization is built around beliefs held in common. The means to enforce adherence to its rules and goals is generally inclusion or exclusion. Businesses are organized from the inside out. NA is organized from the outside in. We invert the structural pyramid, with Members at the top and service positions at the bottom. Our group conscience processes blend ideas and suggestions from many sources so that we include a maximum number of viewpoints and people. We don't submit well to authority figures. We can surrender as part of our programs and our service yet it is entirely voluntary. If we are not given trust and respect, we know something has gone wrong.

In NA, we deal exclusively with the disease of addiction. NA "as such" referred to in this Tradition applies to our meetings where recovery is shared. This may include two members sharing on the phone in the middle of the night, a regular meeting or a convention meeting. All else is "not" NA. NA is not a business where business practices can take precedence over spiritual values. Many times, business concerns and issues have been used as an excuse to be secretive, manipulative and deceptive. Through the years, this has been a matter of some debate. It will always be a matter of debate because we will always have people moving from a rational, worldly viewpoint to a spiritual. It takes some time to realize that the worldly takes care of day-to-day functions but the spiritual takes care of every moment. All our luck and good feeling depends on the spirit. Ideally, there should be no conflict but it takes time and experience to learn to live the NA way without conflict. New people or people in new situations will always need our love and understanding if they fall into some trap or area where they can't see what to do clearly. We all need patience and tolerance.

The Fellowship creates its service boards and committees. This is important to understand because in the course of things it may seem to us that our service efforts `create' the Fellowship. It works one way and not the other. This keeps our committees and boards oriented to serve members and groups. It helps them to not get so caught up in what they are doing that they forget their allegiance to the Fellowship. If they do not, they may begin to govern. Power, like anger, is a potent drug. We create these and they are our creations but it takes care and training to serve NA without falling into well known traps! They didn't create us, our desire for recovery did. We recovering addicts are not their creatures.

Direct responsibility does not have to concern us with what other service boards and committees think. If we serve well those who benefit from our efforts and generally support others working to do the same, all will be well. Addicts make poor legislators. We may hate to admit this fact. We are frequently tied into our own viewpoint so totally, that others exist only in our peripheral vision. Keeping our service simple and just doing our job takes a lot of surrender and sincerity on our part.

Structurally, this Tradition is a warning to keep faith with the members of NA at large. It is the nature of bureaucracies that much can be made of little. Interactive service boards can pat each other on the back and drift away from being directly responsible without ever noticing it. Like a bullfrog in a pan of water on the stove, they can boil to death without noticing the water getting hotter. They surely think all the feels warm is good for them. All service positions require knowledge of the Steps and Traditions. This is because we need to have surrender, faith, morals, and the ability to say we're sorry if we're going to function well with other addicts in service.

What is trusted service? Trusted service may be commitments that we may take on unconditionally on a group, area or regional level. These commitments may vary, but one thing does not change: The unselfish desire to give back what was so freely given to you. For many of us, this act of unconditional love may take the form of something simple on a group level. That something that allows us to show our gratitude and feel a part of the greater whole. As our understanding of the principle of NA becomes more apparent and our spirituality increases, we may get involved in the committees that are directly responsible to its members. Not all addicts in recovery choose to get involved in trusted service. Many are content with what they seem to have. Others complain of principles being violated or personalities in conflict. For us, trusted service implies action.

It can be so easy to sit back and complain about how poorly another member may be fulfilling their commitment. It can take the focus off ourselves. Why not get involved and either take on a commitment or help with others. No one commitment is more important than another. If service were a management system or a corporate effort, this might not be as true as it is with us. Service is part of our general giving or a part of our twelfth step. In either case, it is important for us to give and to keep faith within the Fellowship's trust. Performing our task well or poorly is almost another matter. If we're clumsy or awkward, someone will notice and find a way to help us, if we are sincere.

One purpose of our Ninth Tradition is to separate and distinguish NA as such from our service boards and committees. ‘NA as such’ is groups of addicts holding meetings for the purpose of recovery from the disease of addiction. Their primary purpose is to carry the message to the addict who still suffers. Service boards and committees are created by these groups and are not NA as such. They have many other purposes and may become besieged with rivalry or competitiveness. This is an important distinction as many members confuse our service structure with NA. Our structure does not speak for NA but should allow NA to speak through it. Our boards and committees should not lead NA as such, but should be led as outlined in our second tradition.

Separating our service structure and NA is vital to our spiritual growth. When we blur the distinction, service disputes and controversies enter into our recovery meetings and affect our personal recovery. No member should be isolated or feel isolated from the fellowship because of service issues. This Tradition talks about direct responsibility. It is up to NA groups to insist on this. Although our structure is separate from NA as such, we expect it to work within the principles established by our Steps and Traditions.

Somehow, over they years, our service boards and committees changed direction. They changed from being "not a part of Narcotics Anonymous" to being "solely to serve the fellowship." This cheats the newcomer members from the concept of the Ninth Tradition. This may not be a direct change but indirectly an implication of service boards or committees being NA can confuse people and bring conflict upon ourselves. Service boards or committees serve the Fellowship not direct the Fellowship.

We can trust NA service boards and committees where they are guided by a loving God in their choices. Individuals may become obsessed and view dissenting members as the enemy, but surely, our combined love and determined effort for the common good will prevail. It is not the job of our service boards and committees to provide things we don't need. We don't need people to tell us what to think or approve what information becomes available to us. Responsiveness is the hallmark of genuine service. When members ask questions, they really want to know. Responding to their needs allows them to get past problems others have successfully faced. They go on to break new recovery ground for NA.


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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.