A Spiritual Principle A Day / Daily Meditation


Self-Support Takes Faith

Belief in self-support is a massive leap of faith. We commit to the idea that we will be enough.

—Guiding Principles, Tradition Seven, Opening Reflection

For many of us, a belief in our own inadequacy was a constant undercurrent in our lives before NA. We did our best to keep it hidden by putting on a brave front. Behind our masks, thoughts that we were not enough still plagued us. This idea that we lacked sufficient ability, power, or means follows a lot of us into recovery. Although we’d stopped using, we still felt incapable of dealing with life.

We can start to rebuild our self‐image by embracing a practical application of humility; we commit to seeing ourselves as part of humanity, no better or worse than the rest of it. With time and effort put into stepwork, we get a more accurate picture of who we are. We warm up to the idea that we will have and will do enough, and even that we are enough.

When self‐support seems like too big of a stretch, we entrust our support system to help us make that leap. We pay attention to the experience of our fellows and emulate their commitment to self‐determination. We lean into acceptance and faith as we figure out what the next right thing might look like. Our collective experience tells us that action is the key to moving an idea from our heads to our hearts. So, what actions align with self‐ support?

When we are present, plugged in, and ready, we can step through doors as they open, find the right words to match the situation, and otherwise take leaps of faith we weren’t sure we had in us. One member’s experience speaks to such a moment: “My mom was paying my rent for my first year clean, but she would also always come around and tell me I wasn’t keeping the place clean enough or that I needed to do something different with my hair.

The idea of saying ‘no’ to her support was scary; the freedom that came with it was a big step toward believing in myself . . . maybe for the first time in my life.”

How can I stretch toward self‐support today? What conversations might inspire me to take that leap of faith or prepare me for opportunities on my horizon?



Individuality, Openness, and Our Spiritual Lives

Each of us finds our own way to live spiritually, and that allows us freedom to make choices about how we live.

—Living Clean, Chapter 3, “A Spiritual, Not Religious Program”

Throughout our literature, in meetings, from the podium, over a coffee or tea, during late‐night phone calls, alone in quiet meditation or prayer, we’re reminded that NA is a spiritual program. Whatever our individual beliefs or practices or methods or paths are or aren’t— whether they be secular or religious, or do not fit within that binary—we can’t deny that spirituality is central to a life of recovery in NA. Who we are spiritually and how we express that aspect of our individuality is unique to us, though we may use elements from all kinds of traditions, or none at all. Many of us can—and will—easily explain our relationship with our Higher Power. For many others, it’s not intelligible through words. And it’s private, something we’d rather not share about in a specific way.

For NA members, the road to recovery is paved by the same Twelve Steps, yet the journey we choose is varied. Our path to living spiritually is personal, though there’s some commonality and mutual understanding derived from the principles that appear throughout this book. Application of these principles is based on our individual needs and desires. We respond differently to everyday situations; we see through our own lenses and react to events in our own ways. And how we connect to the program—and its principles and spiritual nature—most often doesn’t look the same when we’re new as when we’ve become more comfortable in our own skin, or as we undergo life’s upswings and tragedies. As we continue our recovery journey, we find the Steps prepare each of us to meet our individual circumstances.

Reciprocity is important here, too, as described by a member: “You have your own spiritual expression and your beliefs, and I have mine. That I can be my own person in NA reminds me that as you let me be me, I must let you be you.”

My aim is to be open to the rich mosaic of spiritual expression I find in NA. I’ll explore and nurture my own beliefs as I apply the principles in our Steps.



Sincerity and Keeping It Real

We listen to one another with an open mind and an open heart, and we share our experience with the understanding that it won’t necessarily be shared by everyone else.

—Living Clean, Chapter 3, “A Spiritual Journey”

Among the first things many of us notice about NA is how recovering addicts get very real with each other when sharing in meetings. Sincerity is sometimes mistaken for weakness, especially among using addicts. Showing up to recovery meetings for the first time and seeing people willingly exposing vulnerabilities the way we do can be both shocking and refreshing. We start to listen and to open up.

Being present and showing up wholeheartedly would mean a 180‐degree change from our old approach. We were accustomed to wearing masks, deflecting attention, or adapting to whatever was happening around us. Yeah, yeah, yeah, we played along. Not making any waves was key to our survival before we got clean.

Early in recovery, we may find ourselves listening to others and then trying to match how they share. Not wanting to call attention to ourselves, we might string together slogans or pretend to be something we’re not. One addict wrote, “I would tailor my shares to try to appeal to the listeners, and the harder I tried to make people relate, the phonier I felt (and sounded). When I just tell my own story my own way, people seem to connect so much more.”

Something within us shifts as we do the work of staying clean. We prioritize honesty and authenticity over ease, empathy over shallow connection, from‐the‐heart sincerity over fitting in. When we share, we allow ourselves and each other the dignity of our own understanding and experience. We each take on the responsibility of expressing what’s going on with us. It’s harder to talk the talk when we don’t walk the walk. We share what we’ve found, what we think, and where our uncertainties lie. The truer we are in what we share with others, the better the odds that they will be able to relate.

As a recovering addict, sincerity makes it possible for me to connect with others wholeheartedly. I will keep it real today.



Service, Purpose, and Belonging

Service helps us feel like we belong. We have a place and a purpose. The experience can be humbling. Doing as the group asks, rather than as we choose, is a form of surrender.

—Guiding Principles, Tradition One, “For Groups”

Feelings of belonging don’t often come easy for us addicts, though some of us faked it well. We were social chameleons who so often felt like imposters, masking insecurity with perfectionism and hiding our control issues behind allegedly high standards and attention to detail. For others of us, that game seemed like way too much work. We were too cool for all that. We prized our loner status. Or maybe we were just too high to care. Whatever our situation was, most of us have been on a difficult path to a sense of community and solidarity.

In meetings, we hear right away that our desire to get clean—no matter how desperately or indifferently we feel it—is our ticket to membership. We are also told—and shown by example—how important service is in solidifying our relationship to the Fellowship and in helping us to stay clean.

“Until I eventually took my sponsor’s direction and took on a service commitment, I never felt like I was really a part of in NA,” one member shared. “I never thought I wanted to be. All of a sudden, I had a voice. I started to use it, and people even listened.”

“I took on five commitments in the first 30 days,” a newer member shared. “I stayed clean, but I made everyone bananas with my brilliant ideas to make everything better. Soon I found out about ‘group conscience’—which wasn’t necessarily the same as my conscience. I always wanted to know why why why.”

And someone with a lot of time shared, “After 33 years, I still find it hard to ‘let go and let the group.’. . . I want to explain all the history of how we do things in NA. I may be older, but that doesn’t always make me the wisest. Unfortunately!”

If I’m not an NA service warrior, I’m going to become one (within reason). If I’m a talker in business meetings, I’m going to make an effort to be a listener. If I’m a doer, I’m going to teach someone else how. If I’m a control freak, I’m going to try to “let go, and let the group”—just for today.



Practicing Honor the NA Way

We learn to trust our intuition and honor our feelings.

—Living Clean, Chapter 5, “Conscious Contact”

The concept of honor comes with some baggage. It brings to mind ideas about virtue and morality that resonate with some members but aren’t really our thing within NA. Another form of honor refers to expressions of admiration and respect. That might mean awards and fanfare in some walks of life. But honor doesn’t require big, bold, public recognition; in fact, we find that practicing honor as a spiritual principle is often pretty quiet. Although many of us are no strangers to spectacle, we intuitively know that for honor to serve a spiritual purpose, it might be best to dial down the drama and draw on humility instead.

Thinking about what it means to honor our feelings and experience gives the concept of honor a new purpose and reveals its utility as a spiritual principle. We practice honor in a classic, low‐key, NA way when we approach recovery with a healthy degree of respect and humility. In the experience of at least one member, “This is the kind of low‐key honor that feeds my soul.” For many of us, that starts with conceding that those who came before us were on to something. When we give the Steps, NA literature, and each other an honest try, it’s a choice to set aside thoughts of going it alone. We honor the process and the path cleared by our predecessors when we read a book or two, consult with our sponsor and friends in recovery, dive in, and find some relief.

The same process that brings relief also allows us to access feelings anew. We may find this uncomfortable, but it’s worth the effort. We honor our feelings by feeling the full range of human emotions. We resist the urge to repress the unpleasant ones or deny ourselves the benefits of sharing our emotional burdens by being “fine” all the time. Because we’ve honored our recovery process, we know ourselves and can truly be ourselves.

I will practice honor the NA way by engaging with the recovery process, connecting with my emotions, and sharing my feelings and experience with someone else.



We Are Responsible for Our Recovery

Although we are not responsible for our disease, we are responsible for our recovery.

—Basic Text, Chapter 3: Why Are We Here?

Responsibility was a dirty word in active addiction. We feared it. We avoided it. The people close to us—and perhaps those in law enforcement and the justice system—told us over and over: “Take some responsibility for your life.” We thought freedom meant freedom from responsibilities, but, ultimately, we found it to be quite the opposite. We were enslaved by our addiction. For many of us, this version of freedom landed us behind bars.

We are not “bad” people because we suffer from the disease of addiction, and we’re not bad people trying to become “good” in NA. But while having the disease isn’t our fault, it’s still important to recognize that many of the consequences we face stem from our own decisions. We made choices. We took action. A member shared, “All my life I saw myself as a victim of my circumstances, and I made blaming others the centerpiece of my victimhood.” Through stepwork, we discover that it’s important to take responsibility for our past, even though we are powerless to change it. To move forward, we cannot cling to guilt over our past actions, nor can we succumb to the shame from the social stigma of being an addict. We can’t let our disease continue to overwhelm and paralyze us. We must act differently.

NA offers us a chance to take responsibility for our present and future lives. We do this slowly at first—perhaps by performing the most basic of life tasks, being of service in meetings, getting a sponsor. We discover that people can influence our recovery, but we have to do the work ourselves if we are to reap its benefits. “No one goes to meetings for me, calls my sponsor, or works Steps for me,” the member continued. “No one else is to blame if I choose to neglect my recovery and am caused pain by my choices—or cause pain to others.”

For many of us, the work we do in NA reveals a new perspective on our disease. Many of us become grateful for our addiction because our journey toward responsibility in recovery has made our lives so beautiful and fulfilling. And so free.

I’m not responsible for the way I’m wired, but I am responsible for my life and my choices. Today I will refrain from blaming others for the consequences of my actions. Today, for me, responsibility equals freedom.



Hospitality and the Newcomer

Feeling welcome, and welcoming others to our new way of life, helps us see the world as a less hostile place.

—Guiding Principles, Tradition Three, “Spiritual Principles”

“I don’t remember many details about my first NA meetings, but I can tell you this: I left every one of them feeling a little better, a little more hopeful, and a little more convinced that you folks had found a way out, one that could work for me, too,” a member shared. “Meetings still have that effect on me.” And maybe that’s the point of hospitality as a spiritual principle and practice in NA. It’s not the individual things we do or say that are most memorable, it’s all of those things taken together and the way we make each other feel. All of us can contribute to a group’s hospitality, and all of us reap the benefits.

Hospitality gives our various strengths a chance to shine. There are great huggers among us and others who remember the names of new members. Still others offer a sincere welcome to all of us every week, such as “I’m so glad y’all made it another week ’cause I need each and every one of you.” We might notice how the member charged with setting out literature always recruits someone to help them. Could they do this task alone? Sure, but we carry the message by being more inclusive. We help others feel a part of and affirm the same for ourselves. Each time we tell newcomers, “Welcome home,” we’re reminded that we’re home, too.

Hospitality is made up of these words and actions—and so many more. The atmosphere of recovery that emerges is greater than the sum of its parts. We embrace the worth and dignity of each of our fellow addicts and of ourselves. Through our hospitable actions, we contribute to a world in which we are all treated with equality and compassion.

I will contribute to the collective efforts that make up NA hospitality and consider how my words and actions can bring some of the same warmth and camaraderie to my life outside of NA.



Living Life in Balance

Sometimes we get confused and think that to live spiritually means that we are happy and get what we want, and that if we’re not happy or don’t get our way, something is out of balance.

—Living Clean, Chapter 3, “Spirituality Is Practical”

For many of us, our lives get so much better so quickly in the early years of recovery that it’s only natural to think we’ve found the key to happiness, unencumbered by life’s difficulties. It’s nice while it lasts, but ultimately, as one member puts it, “Life is more than killing time between meetings, and I eventually experienced hardships despite working a pretty good program.” Life is not always fair—that’s a fact. Sometimes we lose loved ones, homes, and relationships even when we’re spiritually centered.

The results of day‐to‐day life are not always what we would have hoped for. Nevertheless, we learn how to walk through situations by living according to spiritual principles. If we don’t get the job we wanted or a long‐term relationship comes to an end, we hold on and stay clean. Our world may still be thrown out of balance from time to time but, as long as we stay clean, we can survive sadness, disappointment, and uncertainty and return to balance again and again. We experience the full range of human emotions and marvel at the strength of our spiritual foundation.

Life is in session, and we get to choose how we want to participate.

Today I will not equate my program of recovery with the circumstances of life on life’s terms. I will show up in my life even when things don’t go my way and remind myself how much I have to be grateful for.



A Bond of Selflessness

Make us servants of Your will and grant us a bond of selflessness, that this may truly be Your work, not ours—in order that no addict, anywhere, need die from the horrors of addiction.

—Basic Text, Introduction

The service work we do in NA is all about carrying our message of hope to addicts seeking recovery. No matter what our beliefs about a Higher Power are, most of us can agree that anything capable of keeping addicts all over the world clean, just for today, is a power greater than any of us as individuals. “I couldn’t keep myself clean,” one member shared. “So there’s no way I have the power to keep anyone else clean either!”

The same holds true with our service efforts: Our job is not to keep anyone clean or make anyone recover. We carry the message. Our Service Prayer was adapted from the literature prayer in the Basic Text, acknowledging the crucial role selflessness plays in our services.

Many of us understand a Higher Power to simply be whatever force keeps us clean, and when we serve selflessly, we can be a part of that force for the addicts who benefit from our work.

Selflessness isn’t always easy. Self‐centeredness will try to make our work about us, rather than those we serve. Maybe we think a certain service position will make us popular or powerful. Maybe we think sponsoring a lot of addicts, or the “cool” addicts, will lend us some prestige in our anonymous Fellowship. Maybe we think having the biggest home group or the best conventions means we are recovery rock stars. Some members say that ego can stand for “edging God out,” and there’s some truth in that: When we allow ourselves to move to the center, we have to push something (or someone) else out of the center.

The Service Prayer reminds us to keep the needs of the still‐suffering addict at the heart of our service efforts. We do our part and then try to stay out of the way. We won’t get it perfect, but practice helps!

I will practice selflessness by striving to keep the message—and a power greater than myself—at the center of my service efforts.



Hope Around the World

Narcotics Anonymous offers hope to addicts around the world, regardless of any real or imagined differences that might separate us.

—Guiding Principles, Tradition One, Opening Essay

“Addiction doesn’t discriminate. Fortunately, hope doesn’t either,” a speaker shared during an international marathon meeting held online. “And neither should we.”

Our hope lives at the intersection of anonymity, unity, acceptance, and inclusiveness. We believe that any addict can get and stay clean in NA, no matter who we are, what we’ve done, where we live, or any aspect of ourselves that, on the surface, would seem to separate us. To help us feel like we belong, we encourage each other to look for the similarities, not the differences; to focus on the message, not the messenger. We strive to bring this openness to visitors to our home group, and to meetings and NA events we’re lucky enough to attend in unfamiliar settings with unfamiliar setups, in other areas, in other countries, in other languages.

The universality of hope in our program and our message doesn’t diminish the fact that there are differences among us, real ones. As important as it is for us to take responsibility to see past our own differences, we have perhaps an even greater responsibility to be inclusive of those who may have experiences or identities that depart from the group’s majority. Actively including others assures a place for each of us and elevates hope for all of us in the rooms.

To give hope to those who feel intimidated or unheard by the majority, some of us find it important to establish meetings that embrace a similarity of experience or identity. There is room for this diversity of hope’s expression within NA; autonomy also ensures that addicts are able to find each other in ways that are welcoming and safe—and acknowledge and honor the similarities inherent within our differences.

NA’s message of hope is heard around the world. I am an integral part of this whole. Today I strive to receive that message from whoever offers it and to take responsibility for carrying it to whoever needs it.


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Forgiving Others, Forgiving Ourselves

Sometimes the path to forgiving ourselves begins with forgiving another for their lack of forgiveness.

—Living Clean, Chapter 5, “Amends and Reconciliation”

At first glance, this quote may sound like a riddle, but our experience validates its wisdom. Hoping to be forgiven is only human. Despite advice to the contrary, we sometimes harbor expectations about how amends should be received. We have ideas about how and when we’ll be forgiven. We anticipate the relief it will bring—only to be disappointed at times.

Given the harm we’ve caused, it’s understandable that some people may not be quick to forgive us. It hurts nonetheless. The conventional wisdom that “expectations are just premature resentments” makes even more sense to us now. Regardless of how our amends were received, we do our best to clean up our side of the street and let go of any ill will.

We take ownership of the damage we’ve caused and earnestly make an effort to compensate for our wrongs and change our behavior. We release those expectations we had about receiving forgiveness, let go of any hard feelings we set ourselves up for, and— with time—find forgiveness for ourselves and those who were unable to forgive us. Letting all of that go frees up a lot of headspace and energy.

We’re not as attached to how our formal amends were or were not received; we’ve done the work to make things right whether or not others recognize it. Our actions lead us to a deeper level of self‐acceptance—who we were then and who we are now. We can focus our energy on becoming the best version of ourselves by continuing to work the Twelve Steps.

Today I will empathize with those who have yet to forgive me. I will contemplate forgiveness in my Eleventh Step practice and seek to forgive on a deeper level. I will forgive others for not forgiving me.



The Value of Empathy

Empathy means we get each other; we see the hidden darkness and love and hurt, and we understand.

—Living Clean, Chapter 5, “Fellowship”

As newcomers, we often were suspicious when NA members told us “I get you” after we shared. When someone said, “I’ve been there,” we thought, No way anyone has been through what I’ve been through. Even scarier is when someone says, “I see you.” If someone can see me, then they know how horrible I am.

A lot of us reject empathy at first because we misinterpret it as sympathy, like someone feeling sorry for us. What we begin to understand, as we keep coming back, is that our fellow NA members are feeling our pain with us. We get each other. Our situations and experiences may be different, even unique, but our suffering is not. All of us came to our first NA meeting having fought to keep our addiction going and having lost that fight.

Over time, the value of empathy is revealed. After we surrender to the fact that we belong in NA, it is others’ empathy that makes us feel safe enough to accept help. We learn we don’t have to hide—we can remove the mask we’ve been wearing, whether it’s one projecting intimidation, righteousness, innocence, or invisibility. We can allow ourselves to be seen below the surface and accept that others do understand us. And in turn, we start to identify and empathize with other addicts in the room.

Being understood can be scary in a different way, too, because we witness people who’ve been through situations similar to ours who have taken positive action. They are clean and are taking responsibility for their lives, their relationships, and their choices. Allowing their empathy to affect us helps us to let go of the depth of our hurt and to see a path forward. Eventually, we feel grateful that we get to do that. Accepting others’ empathy brings relief.

Although we get each other’s darkness and hurt, we also feel each other’s love and joy. We certainly do get each other, and it’s based not only on our wreckage but on how we deal with it. Let’s acknowledge that, too.

I acknowledge that feeling seen and understood has helped me to heal. That’s why today I’m going to be open to other addicts identifying with me and relating to them. I know I’m not alone.

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Planning Keeps Us Accountable

Trusting each other doesn’t mean that we reject accountability; we put routines in place to protect ourselves, and our trusted servants, from the types of mistakes we, as addicts, are liable to make.

—Guiding Principles, Tradition Twelve, “In Service”

“NA service taught me how to be a responsible, productive member of this society first,” a member shared. “Doing service gave me skills and knowledge that help me navigate the world outside of NA, too. I think of these as ‘the hidden curriculum’ in NA service.” From that perspective, we might consider accountability to be one of the subjects we study.

Lessons on accountability begin in our first home group’s business meetings and continue as we serve in various roles. One of the first things we learn is that the order of operations is different in NA. We had previous experience with the kind of accountability that comes after we screwed up. In NA, we often focus on setting each other up for success. To avoid missteps, we try to define tasks and spell out expectations up front, and then strive for transparency, communication, and support as we follow through. Having safeguards in place, especially when money or ego might be involved, can help protect our trusted servants and NA.

We check our worst impulses in advance and limit openings for errors in judgment. The treasurer who asks another member to confirm the Seventh Tradition count avoids temptation. The subcommittee chair who keeps the service body informed and regularly seeks direction is less likely to go rogue or be micromanaged.

This kind of preemptive accountability has applications in our personal lives, too. Managing medication after surgery involves a relay between multiple members of a support group in many NA communities; transparency about pill counts protects everyone involved. We can even see accountability’s relevance in one member’s strategy for staying out of the sack on a first date: “I meet them for coffee while the sun’s still up and wear my shabbiest pair of underwear.” Little reminders can help us live up to whatever standards we set for ourselves.

I will seek out guideposts—in life and in service—to keep me accountable to myself and others



Letting Love In

It is a loving act to let others love us.

—Living Clean, Chapter 4, “Death, Dying, and Living with Grief”

NA recovery allows us to accept love even when our lives have been shattered by loss. Emotional pain makes this feel especially risky, but we take a chance, gather our courage, and lean on our fellow members. In times like these, we grow to appreciate all that recovery has to offer.

Too often, pride, low self‐esteem, and fear of rejection block us from reaching out or accepting help from others. Not wanting to be a burden or to appear needy, we isolate and tell ourselves that we can handle this alone. We overestimate our nuisance value and deny others the opportunity to love, support, and serve us. We’re embarrassed by our pain. It’s inconvenient and uncomfortable to be so vulnerable. We hide behind a cloak of self‐ sufficiency and independence.

Of course, there’s no right or wrong way to grieve. It’s not unreasonable to want to spend some time alone with our thoughts and our Higher Power. Intense feelings of loss can make it hard to find a balance between solitude and isolation. We do our best to be honest with ourselves. Letting others love us when we’re grieving helps us avoid the trap of old ideas.

Accepting love, whether gracefully or begrudgingly, is in itself an act of love. And the consequences often prove astounding. “My best friend relapsed and died,” one member shared. “I thought people didn’t want to hear about how I felt, but after I shared, I got so much love and support that it truly renewed my faith in NA. It’s why I’m clean today.”

I will trust the process, feel the pain, and allow others to feel it with me today. I will let others love me, even when I’d rather they didn’t.



Honesty and Self‐Awareness

Honesty is the antidote to our diseased thinking.

—Basic Text, Chapter 9: Just for Today—Living the Program

Looking back at our using days, it’s easy to see how our outlook on life morphed to accommodate and justify our choices. Self‐delusion had become second nature. It takes effort and practice to embrace honesty instead.

Even before we got clean, there were clues that honesty might have helped to counter our distorted thinking. At some point in our using, many of us experienced a “moment of clarity”—although we probably didn’t have those words to describe it. Instead of the usual lies we told ourselves, we encountered a sudden wave of understanding in which we realized some essential truths about our lives. The veil of denial lifted, if only for a moment, to give us an undistorted view of ourselves and the mess we’d made. It wasn’t pretty. That brief encounter with reality stuck with us and wore us down until we were ready to try something new.

Eventually, we make it to the rooms and identify ourselves as newcomers. We give our real name, take a breath, and add: “I am an addict.” This admission transforms a tired old excuse into an affirmation and positions us for the first of the Twelve Steps. With the Steps as our guide, we honestly confront the wreckage of our past and establish practices that help us maintain our connection to reality.

Recovery is a collective practice, and community is essential to learning about honesty. Real friends support our efforts to be true to ourselves, to choose actions that align with our aspirations, and to help us spot when we’re in trouble. “I surround myself with people who aren’t satisfied when I tell them I’m fine, when they know better. In public, they let that slide—they give me the side‐eye and say ‘really.’ In private, they ask questions that challenge me to get honest, like ‘What are you afraid of?’ and ‘Where would you be without that defect?’” Our delusions crumble under such scrutiny. Resisting well‐rehearsed, unhealthy patterns takes this kind of support and a whole lot of courage. Honesty frees us from diseased thinking each time we choose to voice our concerns instead of censoring ourselves, reveal our insecurities instead of acting like a know‐it‐all, or practice some humility instead of thinking we’re too good or not good enough.

I’ll take some time to honestly evaluate any feelings and behavior I’ve avoided looking at. I will get a better perspective by putting pen to paper and talking to another addict in recovery.



Open‐Mindedness and the Third Tradition

Tradition Three asks us to practice open‐mindedness toward ourselves, toward others, and toward the possibility of change.

—Guiding Principles, Tradition Three, “For Members”

Tradition Three, which states that the desire to stop using is the only requirement for Narcotics Anonymous membership, is direct, inclusive, and thorough. We can even say that it’s radical in what it invites us to do: leave our judgments about who qualifies for NA membership at the door. As individual addicts, we decide if we qualify, and we leave that decision to others to make for themselves.

As with all spiritual principles applied to any single Step or Tradition, open‐mindedness is not an “I got this” position we take. It’s an ongoing process that demands work. The excerpts from our literature that are read aloud in meetings continually confront our views about who is an addict or what is recovery. We need to keep reading them, hearing them, and acting on them. They support NA’s values of inclusiveness and acceptance of all addicts no matter where we come from or what we look like; what substances, delivery method, or quantities we used; what’s on our resumes (criminal or otherwise); whom we are attracted to; what our spiritual pursuits have been in the past (if any); and so on. We are all welcome here in theory—and, ideally, we’re welcomed by each other in practice.

At the practical core of this Tradition is not only open‐mindedness but also compassion for ourselves and for others. We begin to reject our preconceived notions of belonging, relieved that even a slight desire is enough. We become willing to be part of a group that will have us as a member. For many of us, that’s tough going, as in the past we’ve resisted becoming a member of anything. Our dual low self‐respect and lack of humility told us that a group that welcomes us and is so open to anybody probably is for losers anyway, so why bother?

We bother because we’re desperate and we want our lives to improve. As we grow, open‐mindedness further expands our investment in others’ health and well‐being. It’s the gateway to empathy and unconditional love. Our open‐mindedness helps keep others in the room who doubt that they qualify as addicts, who fear being part of a group, or who think that they can’t stay clean.

I will put my membership to good use by actively practicing open‐ mindedness. I’ll do what I can to make space for others to grow.



Vigilance and the Path of Recovery

We can get stuck in patterns so quickly. Vigilance is necessary to keep old patterns from resurfacing.

—Living Clean, Chapter 2, “Connection to Ourselves”

We used to get utterly stuck, didn’t we? We were caught up in impulsive patterns that seemed impossible to interrupt for any length of time. Our first real hope of breaking free from the grip of our disease came when we found NA. When we admitted our powerlessness over our addiction, the possibility of new, stable, productive patterns of behavior became a real possibility.

It’s a relief to be off the toxic path of our past, but staying on track with our recovery requires vigilance. It takes practice to break out of destructive patterns and develop new, healthier habits. The good news is that we can now see our disease coming and can usually head off old behaviors before we’re in deep trouble. Still, times of intense struggle or humdrum complacency bring thoughts of instant relief to mind. Rather than risk going back to our old ways, we sometimes find new distractions disguised as recovery. “I quickly found new bad behaviors to give me that same rush, even ones that seemed helpful on the surface. One minute I’m taking on a service commitment, or maybe two, and the next I’m completely obsessed, ignoring my family and other responsibilities.” The member continued, “Practicing vigilance is serious business. It reminds me that there’s danger out there and in my head.”

How do we stay vigilant? Sharing what’s going on with us is crucial. We learn to be vulnerable and open to suggestions. No matter what Step we’re officially on, we can do a spot‐check inventory and talk about it with a friend or our sponsor. We can branch out in our approach to working a program: talk to more newcomers, end a commitment without re‐upping on the same committee, or take on a new challenge. Or hit our lit—work the Traditions in Guiding Principles or reflect on these entries every day.

As with much of recovery, we don’t practice vigilance alone. Often, it’s NA members we’re close to who notice—before we do—that we are veering off into the wilderness. It’s a fellow member’s keen, protective eye and each other’s wisdom that help us keep what we have and give us courage to walk down a different path. We create new patterns. Again.

Vigilance keeps me on guard, on track, and free. I will examine my choices, open up to another addict, and be open to suggestions that can keep old patterns from becoming new problems.



Connecting the NA Way

Sharing our recovery restores our faith and gratitude. Seeing that we are not alone frees us from the isolation and alienation of addiction.

—Guiding Principles, Tradition Eight, Opening Reflection

When studying Tradition Eight, we often focus on understanding terms like “special workers” and “service offices,” overlooking the significance of “nonprofessional.” It’s as though we can’t see the forest for the trees. The heart of this Tradition and its relevance to our personal recovery lies in our nonprofessional approach, which makes it possible for us to relate and connect. Most of us interacted with all sorts of people who had a professional interest in helping us before coming to NA—counselors, therapists, psychologists, police officers, probation or corrections personnel. There’s a very long list of people whose job it was to try to handle or manage us when we were so very unmanageable.

And yet we still ended up here, in NA. In our very first meeting, we were greeted by people who weren’t “on the clock.” These NA members shared the message of recovery with us not because it was their job to do so, but because that’s how we stay clean and recover. Our approach is nonprofessional. It doesn’t require formal training, degrees, or certifications; we have our experience with addiction and recovery. That’s all we need.

This process of sharing freely shows us that we are not alone. As newcomers, we discover our connection. When we stay and share the message, we are reminded of our connection over and over, each time we share with another member. Addiction thrives on isolation and alienation, and no amount of cleantime will render us immune to the tendency to disconnect. Connecting is an active process, and we do it by sharing freely with other addicts.

Sharing in recovery is the antidote to alienation and isolation. By connecting the NA way, I will keep gratitude and faith alive.



Goodwill and Our Relationships

In fact, the pyramid that is in our symbol is made up of relationships: with self, society, service, and God. Rooted in a base of goodwill, these are the relationships that bring us to a point of freedom.

—Living Clean, Chapter 5, “Conscious Contact”

“A pyramid? I thought the NA symbol was just a square inside a circle.”

There are certainly many of us who are well acquainted with our symbol, who understand its meaning and its potential application to our recovery. We make sure that sponsees and other newer members are just as familiar with it as we are. There are probably far more of us in the Fellowship who are far less familiar. We see the depiction of the symbol and read the accompanying explanation when we first crack open the Basic Text. It looks like something from geometry class, so we glaze over it. But it’s important, right? Our predecessors placed it right after the Table of Contents, and it’s emblazoned on T‐shirts and other NA memorabilia all over the world. Yet, for many of us, the symbol remains two‐dimensional, just as it appears in print and also in the sense that we haven’t given it much thought. On closer inspection, we can see that the diagram depicts something three‐dimensional: a pyramid.

While a pyramid’s sides are vital to its strength and endurance, its weight and stability rise from the base. In our NA paradigm, that stability comes from goodwill. As the NA symbol depicts, goodwill is the foundation of all the relationships in our lives. Ideally, the Steps help us build a relationship with ourselves. The Traditions strengthen our involvement with society—other NA members, our loved ones, our work lives, and so on. The spiritual principles bring us closer to a Higher Power, and NA’s Twelve Concepts ignite and support our relationship to service. The circle that wraps around the base, the “Universal Program,” shows that there is room for all recovering addicts. Goodwill reinforces all this interconnectedness, and freedom is the resulting gift. Freedom is where the reinforcements have paid off, and the weight has been lifted.

We cannot have healthy relationships without the support of goodwill. And we cannot have freedom without the strength of our relationships.

How free am I today? If freedom seems too aspirational at the moment, are there any cracks in my pyramid’s foundation of goodwill that I can repair?

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