I thought I was self-supporting in active addiction. I was willing to manipulate, lie and even steal to maintain my addiction. Addiction was not always about drugs; feelings of entitlement and avoidance of the suffering were wrapped up tightly in my self-obsession. Whatever I needed I sought and sometimes I was capable of anything by justifying my actions. When I came into recovery I found a group of people who met regularly to help each other stay clean. I was confused because at that point I was the one that needed help; how was I going to help others? By joining a home group, finding a sponsor, and working the Twelve Steps, I discovered the ‘therapeutic value of one addict helping another is without parallel.” Here again was this idea of ‘helping another’ and not ‘being helped’. I wondered when I would get what I was entitled to because recovery seemed about giving and not taking. During the process of doing the steps, I found that by turning my will and my life over to a higher power of my understanding, my needs were met. Unfortunately, I wanted more than that, and my sponsor worked with me to separate my ‘needys’ from my ‘greedys’. Slowly I came to see the abundance in my life, and the want became manageable.
I realized that there was another aspect to being in the Fellowship of Narcotics Anonymous. I came to understand and apply the twelve Traditions in my dealings with others. I cannot see how it would be possible to have a Fellowship without something to bind members together. The primary purpose of Narcotics Anonymous is to carry a message to the still suffering addict and to help members stay clean. The principles I learned in both the Steps and the Traditions started to shape my actions. When I experienced conflict, I was able to draw on the experiences of others in my home group. New worlds of experience opened for me. The constant attraction of want was always present but the dedication to being apart of my home group kept me grounded.
A Simple Program of Recovery
Members of Narcotics Anonymous talk of this being a simple program. I have found it to be as simple as I want to make it, but I do see a tendency as an addict to complicate anything. Simple decisions like showing up to a meeting with a five-dollar coffee and putting two dollars in the seventh tradition basket can become a burden for myself and even other members who care to express an opinion. Each of us can form opinions about anything and often do as we recover, and some become comfortable sharing those opinions. I was told in the literature that the Traditions are not negotiable, but often our interpretations of them are. I believe that is why each group is autonomous, and no one holds authority over a group except the members who attend regularly and form a conscience in the decision-making process. It seems to become quite simple when we meet regularly to help each other stay clean and work out our problems within the group.
The higher the Point of Freedom
Unity is important to the success of any fellowship. We might disagree as members but ultimately, I can adhere to the group’s conscience on a matter or leave to join or start another group. What detracts from the primary purpose is when I am oppressive of others or the group. Even when my intentions are pure and my experiences have enforced my ideas of what works, nothing is to be gained from manipulation and control as a member if we are to remain equals. My contributions to a group in service are as a trusted servant and keeps me focused on the group’s conscience, not my own. Leadership in this manner is highly valuable since I can show others that nothing is gained when I am acting on self-will. I have tried to enforce what I knew to be true, but the loss of unity and numbers will cost you success. The Basic Text of Narcotics Anonymous (All versions, preamble, ‘Our Symbol’, page vii) says:
The greater the base, as we grow in unity in numbers and in Fellowship, the broader the sides and the higher the point of freedom.
I can see how it is a simple program and the success of Narcotics Anonymous Groups on a global scale is proof of that. This success will attract others. The Basic Text warns about ‘self-seekers' and ‘there are others, completely abstinent, whose dishonesties and self-deceits still prevent them from enjoying complete recovery and acceptance within society.' I thought for a long time that Narcotics Anonymous was a social club, a place to find and form friendships that would last a lifetime, but for me it has not been that. I understand now that we meet regularly to help each other and not help ourselves. NA is not a buffet where you choose what appeals to you and ignore what does not. Narcotics Anonymous is a spiritual program and that connects us with others. As I grow spiritually, I find myself attracted to spiritual people. A wide base of Fellowship, within a group will ensure continued growth by focusing on carrying the message as well as supporting members. An atmosphere of recovery is something we create, and it can only be created by what we contribute and not what we take. The freedom I have found as my group grows in numbers is from self-obsession, the core of the disease of addiction. What attracts me to NA now is a desire to give away what was freely given to me, because that ensures I keep what works. In an odd paradox, the literature says we only keep what we have by giving it away and tradition Seven is how I do that.
: Catalog No. 83-70346 ISBN 0-912075-00-7, Narcotics Anonymous Basic Text, Line Numbered, Copyright ©1982 by C.A.R.E.N.A. Publishing Co., “Tradition 5”, Page 62 : Catalog No. 83-70346 ISBN 0-912075-00-7, Narcotics Anonymous Basic Text, Line Numbered, Copyright ©1982 by C.A.R.E.N.A. Publishing Co. Page vii, : Catalog No. 83-70346 ISBN 0-912075-00-7, Narcotics Anonymous Basic Text, Line Numbered, Copyright ©1982 by C.A.R.E.N.A. Publishing Co., “Tradition 2”, Page 59 : Catalog No. 83-70346 ISBN 0-912075-00-7, Narcotics Anonymous Basic Text, Line Numbered, Copyright ©1982 by C.A.R.E.N.A. Publishing Co., “Recovery and Relapse”, Page 71