Narcotics Anonymous Way of Life


NA Society

Literature Handbook 2007

May 2007

Presented as Group Service for Study, Discussion

and Group Conscience


This booklet was recommended by a longstanding member of NA as a guide for writing recovery material in the year 2004 and beyond. NA has grown enormously since the 1970's and we want to keep growing. The cry for freedom we voiced in the Basic Text is still heard today. Our strength comes from our Fellowship and for us, that is a sacred thing. It cannot be bottled, boxed, weighed out, sold or bought. It comes from our desire for recovery and our need to help others like ourselves. When helping others, we are able to access sanity. When we turn inward, we go insane. Addicts come from pain and mistrust. Courtesy and trust must be learned and practiced. Faith must be kept and when misfortune brings wrongdoings, those wrongs must be addressed and amended. The NA Society takes precedence over the service structure because a structure is meaningless without people to support that structure. Although bureaucracies can take on a life of their own, it is up to the larger group to set things straight if need be. In NA we don’t have people who lead by right of their title or position. We support those who support us and are directly responsible to us. Our common welfare does not have a dollar value and no one should attempt to own, control or abuse their positions of trust to make NA members diminished to the level of consumers of NA ‘product.’

 The primary purpose of NA groups is to carry our message. In NA today, we have many group formats: closed discussion, open discussion, open speaker meetings, smoking, non-smoking, Step study, Traditions study, Principles study, Text study, lit study, candlelight, wheel chair accessible, women’s issues and others. Lit Review formats were used to write, discuss and approve our Basic Text. Today, we have new materials to study. Some may come from world services. Other material may be written by groups or individuals seeking to contribute to what is know of recovery and the actual practices within our Fellowship. This allows us to read and discuss new recovery materials. It is clear in the format that while the material is not NA approved - and may never be - it has some recovery value or potential for recovering addicts. There is absolutely no substitute for reading in a group setting.


Ever since NA began, addicts have shared their feelings, concerns and experiences with others to confirm and identify what has helped them in recovery. Writing is clearly an extension of this ability. Considering such writing can be formal and informal. Informal is what members do among themselves, like notes or diaries. Formal is written by one or more members with the idea or contributing to our common welfare. It may be done by a single member, a group, an area, a region or at the World Service Conference. The important thing is that it be done in accord with our NA 12 Steps and Traditions. This means it is based entirely on NA 12 Step recovery experience and that it conforms to certain boundaries established by the 12 Traditions: not done for hire, not under the supervision of governors, not in affiliation with any organization outside the NA Fellowship, not organized under a management system that may exert control on the writing, that the content of the material be somehow subjected to the direct control of the general membership if it is to stand as general recovery material, that it not be ‘published’ to the general public and that it not be reflective of personal defects of limitations that may arise.

When we were young as a Fellowship, it was not seen that these matters could become very complicated. Today, it is different. Illusions of bigness and imaginary needs to control restrict what is written and who may write it to a degree that is matched only by the disease of addiction itself: the idea that we can recover without the direct intervention of a miraculous power greater than ourselves. That somehow controlling the words determines and controls the process of recovery. We control that process with the help of our Higher Power and the degree to which we surrender to that Power.

NA Groups and Lit Review

 In our groups we all have several choices to make. The first is whether we will go to a meeting tonight. The second is which meeting? Is it someone’s anniversary? Do we go to a meeting nearby or one that requires some inconvenience to attend? As we step through the doors, we look to greet and be greeted by members we are glad to see clean and alive - and who are glad to see us.

Depending on the format, which is generally read at the first of every meeting, we discuss, speak or listen and experience the miracle of NA. To supplement open and closed sharing or speaker meetings, we also have study groups. They may focus on existing approved recovery materials that come from the NA Fellowship or they may be new writings that need exposure to group readings to modify, increase or develop the materials so that they are better able to reach addicts seeking recovery and help them get it.

An early writing describes NA as a movement from the people who have recovery to those seeking recovery. As time goes by, we will always need new recovery materials to supplement the ones we have. New material read in a literature review meeting invites discussion and writing out explanations clarifies and completes the review material.


 Every piece of NA literature was first unapproved writing. Review and input processed the new writing and at some point it was marked ‘approved.’ Among the many changes in NA since 1979, when the effort for the Basic Text began, regards the issue of approving new literature by group conscience.

 Approval in the early 1980's meant that every member and group in the world had seen, read, discussed and voted to approve or disapprove a piece of writing from something as simple as an Informational Pamphlet. a service guide or a book length piece. Votes tallied at the group level were passed on to the area level where voting tallied those for or against approval of the material. Then the areas voted at the regional level which sent representatives to the World Service Conference where they voted the conscience of their home regions, areas, groups and members. As representatives they were not allowed to change the vote established by the Pre-conference Report presenting all matters to be group conscienced at the WSC. Matters presented and discussed at the WSC not covered in the Conference Agenda Report were taken home and passed along to the region, areas, groups and members for discussion and consideration.   Motions voted on by home regions were not changed. This is the charge put upon our representatives that made them special - they embodied or ‘carried’ group conscience to the next level of service. When our delegates vote at the WSC today, they are free to change the vote as seems best at the moment. They no longer vote as representatives.

Major changes in the service structure, the dissolution of the WSC Literature Committee and the disbanding of the World Service Board of Trustees, has resulted in world services sampling Fellowship reaction to a new piece rather than saturation.  Widespread distribution, discussion and study gave our literature its unique NA quality and everyone was in on the new writing. Delegates do not carry this charge of ‘group conscience’ and many members do not even know what this change means. They assume someone is looking after their interests. Instead of embodying group conscience, they represent only the ‘conscience’ of a small number of members directly involved with the committee structure under the control of a California corporation called NAWS, Inc.

 This it not the direct responsibility referred to in our Traditions. It is group opinion and its lack of ‘power’ is reflected in the fact that most NA members are completely unaware of what is going on and therefore can only give marginal support to what is done in their name. Being unaware has created a new membership lacking the vitality and spirit of informed, participating members. These addicts have gotten clean and involved in NA service without any idea of how it was before the changes in the late 1990's.

Because of all these changes, we are free to make other choices when it comes to approval of recovery or service writings. If the requirements of the service structure for literature approval become too onerous, rigid or meaningless, we may choose to approve new literature differently. While fund flow and the services provided by our world service contingent are important and perhaps essential in some ways, we know who opens the meetings every night! And our literature needs to come from the Fellowship, not paid professional writers. The important thing for us is that what is written really works for us when we need it most and that it has been gone over and over in group settings prior to consideration for approval. We can do this ourselves if we are willing to commit our footwork to the common welfare.

Without casting stones are the hard work and dedication of good members who are doing the best they can with what they have, it is hard for them to follow the thread of our history from thousands of aroused, 12 Step aware addicts writing their Basic Text and going home to start twenty thousand NA meeting to a corporate management system. stressing downsizing and efficiency.

This is worth going into in this handbook on NA literature because it goes to the heart of our ‘situation’ as a Fellowship. Without eyes, ears and hearts, we are blind, deaf and heartless.

Without the free flow of ideas, open discussions and the continuity of voting from the member/group level through the areas and regions to a representative body, the Fellowship is asleep. NA is run by a small group of business managers and corporate executives. This is hardly the spiritual service structure that produced the miracles of the 1980's. The saving grace is the NA society of men and women for whom drugs have become a major problem. When our service structure gets caught up in its own dust, we pitch in enough to keep things working. the structured policies insuring group conscience are the brain of NA. When it is not working, or not working well, we have to innovate and that is what lit review is all about. It lets the general fellowship get involved and express itself in its own sweet and wondrous way. 

Without the loving, caring spirit that comes from concern for others, those who acquire the service titles and positions become officious and controlling. Perhaps it is their perception of reality that they attempt to impose on others. Of course, in NA, you can just walk away if you don’t like what is going on - and many have done just that. But the NA Society goes on.

This ‘renter’ mentality is not enough to power a spiritual Fellowship. Without the healthy discussions, study and comparisons of experience and feeling, you cannot have NA. When the service structure ‘dried up’ group conscience in the late 1990's, member began inventing new terms like ‘networking’ and ‘sponsorship gatherings.’ Never heard about these in earlier times.

To some extent this took the place of group conscience but had no writing. Speaker tapes provided our only historical record except for the personal experience of members who were clean in those times. the NA Society is very flexible and adjusts to all seasons. Jimmy K called NA the ‘self-adjusting’ program.

“I’d like to sit up there.”

When the service structure attracts those seeking positions of perceived power rather than just helping others, it can drift away from service and emphasize its prerogatives. Paid hotel, meals and travel expense can be attractive. It distances the members from those they serve. What escapes notice is that the membership can easily generate alternatives to meet critical needs. NA growth is powered by those who seek spiritually knowledge of God Will for them and the power to carry that out. It is like bees that can make honey. Those who cannot gather their own honey make do by taking it from others. It is a natural process and thankfully one that ensures our future. The 12 Steps help us all become honey gatherers with enough left over to share with others!

NA Way of Life Foundation Group
1516 B Live Oak Drive
Tallahassee, FL 32301


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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.