Narcotics Anonymous, commonly known as NA, is a worldwide nonprofit organization that provides fellowship and recovery support for men and women with problematic drug use. Narcotics Anonymous is based upon the 12 Steps, 12 Traditions, format and principles of recovery of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Narcotics Anonymous was founded in California by Jimmy K. and others in 1953.
Membership in Narcotics Anonymous
Narcotics Anonymous states that the desire to stop using drugs is the only requirement for membership. The members of Narcotics Anonymous include individuals who have had a variety of experiences with various types of substances including illegal drugs, alcohol and other legal drugs. There are no fees or dues. Members typically refer to themselves as “addicts” who are in recovery from “drug addiction”. Members attend regular meetings in which recovering addicts speak about their addictions and recovery in order to help other addicts.
Narcotics Anonymous, like other 12 Step programs, fosters anonymity for all members. Members typically introduce themselves and are referred to by their first names and, at times, their first names and last initial. Anonymity is used to allow members to attend meetings without fear of disclosure of their identities. Anonymity also serves to protect the members of NA from fear of social and legal consequences, to create equality among all members and to emphasize the commonality of addiction rather than the differences of personalities.
The Organizing Principles of Narcotics Anonymous
The members of Narcotics Anonymous refer to their recovery efforts in NA as ‘working the program of NA’. The program of NA is based upon a set of recovery guidelines known as the 12 Steps which were adapted from Alcoholics Anonymous. The difference between the 12 Steps of AA and the 12 Steps of NA is found only in the wording of Step One. The first Step of AA states, “We admitted that we were powerless over alcohol and that our lives had become unmanageable”. The first Step of NA states, “We admitted that we were powerless over our addiction and that our lives had become unmanageable.
The following are the 12 Steps of Narcotics Anonymous as presented in that organization’s meetings and literature:
1. We admitted that we were powerless over our addiction and that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
4. We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5. We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6. We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7. We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
8. We made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
11. We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to addicts and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
The 12 Traditions
Narcotics Anonymous, like all 12 Step programs, operates with basic guidelines in order to ensure that the primary purpose of the program, recovery from addiction, is protected. These guidelines address such concepts as:
• unity of members
• group authority
• eligibility for membership
• autonomy of groups
• purpose of groups
• relationship of groups with outside enterprises
• means of support
• nonprofit and self-help nature of groups
• organization of groups and boards
• opinions on outside interests
• public relations
These concepts are stated in the 12 Traditions of Narcotics Anonymous which are given as:
1. Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends on NA unity.
2. For our Group purpose there is but one ultimate authority--a loving God as He may express Himself in our Group conscience, our leaders are but trusted servants, they do not govern.
3. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop using.
4. Each Group should be autonomous, except in matters affecting other Groups, or NA, as a whole.
5. Each Group has but one primary purpose--to carry the message to the addict who still suffers.
6. An NA Group ought never endorse, finance or lend the NA name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property or prestige divert us from our primary purpose.
7. Every NA Group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.
8. Narcotics Anonymous should remain forever nonprofessional, but our Service Centers may employ special workers.
9. NA, as such, ought never be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.
10. NA has no opinion on outside issues; hence, the NA name ought never be drawn into public controversy.
11. Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio and films.
12. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.
The Spiritual Principles of NA Recovery
Narcotics Anonymous is a spiritual and non-religious program. The organization does not require or propose any particular spiritual or religious belief, but emphasizes spiritual values and principles to be used in daily life. The spiritual values and principles stated in the literature of Narcotics Anonymous are given as guidelines, suggestions and tools for recovery and are applicable no matter what the individual beliefs of its members are. These spiritual principles address the importance of the following values, behaviors and qualities in recovery from addiction:
Members of Narcotics Anonymous are encouraged to have a sponsor in the program. A sponsor is a recovering addict who has experience in Narcotics Anonymous meetings, a period of recovery and experience in working the 12 Steps. Members may share issues of concern privately with sponsors and receive guidance and suggestions for effective participation in Narcotics Anonymous. Members typically find sponsors by attending meetings and listening to recovering members share about their own experiences. Members who find themselves able to relate to another’s’ experiences are encouraged to approach that individual for sponsorship.
Meetings of Narcotics Anonymous are available worldwide and often held throughout the day and night, particularly in urban areas. They are typically about one hour in length and can be located in NA schedules which are available at meetings, in newspapers, online or by contacting Narcotics Anonymous by telephone.
Each meeting of Narcotics Anonymous follows a format in which the following occur:
• A chairperson who is a member of NA volunteers to chair the meeting and is responsible for beginning the meeting, following the format of the meeting and closing the meeting.
• The chairperson welcomes the members with the opening remarks used in every meeting and asks if any new members are present.
• If new members are present, and wish to identify themselves, the chairperson asks the new members to identify themselves by first name and to come to the front of the meeting to receive a token or key tag that symbolizes a desire to be “clean” or substance-free.
• The chairperson asks several members of the meeting to read one the following which, in combination, state basic information about NA and its recovery program. These readings are:
o Who Is an Addict?
o What Is the NA Program?
o Why Are We Here?
o How It Works
o The 12 Traditions of NA
• A basket for donations is passed among the members to support the meeting (for example, to pay rent, buy literature or refreshments).
• The chairperson asks if any members are celebrating recovery anniversaries such as 30, 60 or 90 days or other periods such as six, nine, 12 and 18 months or longer. These individuals are acknowledged and typically receive tokens or key tags symbolizing their respective periods of abstinence.
• The meeting is typically closed by an invitation to all who care to participate to hold hands in a circle and say a prayer such as the Serenity Prayer.
• A period of fellowship during which members interact more casually and socially follows the close of the meeting.
Types of Meetings
Narcotics Anonymous meetings may be open or closed meetings and are typically designated as such in the meeting schedules. These are distinct types of meetings intended for different purposes.
• Open meetings are open to everyone with an interest in attending a Narcotics Anonymous meeting. Open meetings will have a mixture of people attending including those who identify themselves as addicts and as members of Narcotics Anonymous, those who are considering joining Narcotics Anonymous, friends and family members of addicts and others who are interested in Narcotics Anonymous, but are not addicts themselves. While open meetings welcome everyone, only individuals who consider themselves to be addicts are encouraged to speak at these meetings.
• Closed meetings are reserved for individuals who consider themselves to be addicts or who think they may have a drug addiction problem. Closed meetings provide an atmosphere of intimacy and sharing among individuals with common problems without the presence of others who have come to observe, but do not themselves have an addiction or experience in recovery efforts. Two other types of meetings in Narcotics Anonymous are the discussion meeting and the speaker meeting. A discussion meeting is one in which various members take turns speaking. A speaker meeting is one in which only a particular individual talks.
Each of these types of meetings may also be listed as open or closed meetings. So that, for example, a particular meeting may be an open discussion meeting to which everyone is welcomed but only individuals who are addicts are invited to speak during the meeting. Similarly, a meeting may be a closed discussion meeting to which only individuals who consider themselves to be addicts are invited to attend. Open speaker meetings are meetings to which everyone is invited to hear one person speak. A closed speaker meeting is one in which only addicts are invited to hear a particular person speak.
Narcotics Anonymous Literature
Narcotics Anonymous has a variety of recovery literature available as books, booklets and pamphlets. These are available at meetings, group offices and online as downloads and for purchase.
• The Narcotics Anonymous Basic Text and How It Works are book length texts that describe and explore the basic tenets of Narcotics Anonymous. There are multiple booklets available from Narcotics Anonymous that address foundational concepts and specific concerns. Some of these titles include:
• Little White Book
• Twelve Concepts for NA Service
• Behind The Walls
• In Times of Illness
Narcotics Anonymous provides many informational pamphlets about multiple aspects of the program and the recovery process. Some of these pamphlets are:
• Who, What, How And Why
• Am I An Addict?
• Living The Program
• For Those In Treatment
• By Young Addicts, For Young Addicts
• Recovery and Relapse
• For The Newcomer
• Self Acceptance
• Welcome to NA
Hospitals and Institutions
Some Narcotics Anonymous members provide meetings for individuals in hospitals, jails, prisons and other institutions since institutionalization of addicts in various facilities limits their access to recovery resources. Volunteers from the membership of Narcotics Anonymous routinely ‘take meetings’ into such settings so that institutionalized individuals may participate in the program of Narcotics Anonymous.
Learn more at http://www.na.org