“We try to remember that when we make amends we are doing it for ourselves.”
Basic Text, p. 41
As long as we still owe amends, our spirits are cluttered with things we don’t need. We’re carrying the extra load of an apology owed, a resentment held, or unexpressed remorse. It’s like having a messy house. We could leave so we don’t have to see the mess, or maybe just step over the piles of debris and pretend they aren’t there. But ignoring the disorder won’t make it disappear. In the end, the dirty dishes, the crumb-filled carpet, and the overflowing wastebaskets are still there, waiting to be cleaned up.
A cluttered spirit is just as hard to live with as a messy home. We always seem to be tripping over yesterday’s leavings. Every time we turn around and try to go somewhere, there is something blocking our path. The more we neglect our responsibility to make amends, the more cluttered our spirits become. And we can’t even hire someone to clean up. We have to do the work ourselves.
We gain a deep sense of satisfaction from making our own amends. Just as we would feel after we’ve cleaned our homes and have time to enjoy a bit of sunshine through sparkling windows, so will our spirits rejoice at our freedom to truly enjoy our recovery. And once the big mess is cleaned up, all we have to do is pick up after ourselves as we go along.
Just for today: I will clear away what’s cluttering my spirit by making the amends I owe.
Regular meeting attendance
“We have learned from our group experience that those who keep coming to our meetings regularly stay clean.”
Basic Text, p. 9
The NA program gives us a new pattern of living. One of the basic elements of that new pattern is regular meeting attendance. For the newcomer, living clean is a brand-new experience. All that once was familiar is changed. The old people, places, and things that served as props on the stage of our lives are gone. New stresses appear, no longer masked or deadened by drugs. That’s why we often suggest that newcomers attend a meeting every day. No matter what comes up, no matter how crazy the day gets, we know that our daily meeting awaits us. There, we can renew contact with other recovering addicts, people who know what we’re going through because they’ve been through it themselves. No day needs to go by without the relief we get only from such fellowship.
As we mature in recovery, we get the same kinds of benefits from regular meeting attendance. Regardless of how long we’ve been clean, we never stop being addicts. True, we probably won’t immediately start using mass quantities of drugs if we miss our meetings for a few days. But the more regularly we attend NA meetings, the more we reinforce our identity as recovering addicts. And each meeting helps put us that much further from becoming using addicts again.
Just for today: I will make a commitment to include regular meeting attendance as a part of my new pattern of living.
Resentment and forgiveness
“Where there has been wrong, the program teaches us the spirit of forgiveness.”
Basic Text, p. 12
In NA, we begin to interact with the world around us. We no longer live in isolation. But freedom from isolation has its price: The more we interact with people, the more often we’ll find someone stepping on our toes. And such are the circumstances in which resentments are often born.
Resentments, justified or not, are dangerous to our ongoing recovery. The longer we harbor resentments, the more bitter they become, eventually poisoning us. To stay clean, we must find the capacity to let go of our resentments, the capacity to forgive. We first develop this capacity in working Steps Eight and Nine, and we keep it alive by regularly taking the Tenth Step.
Sometimes when we are unwilling to forgive, it helps to remember that we, too, may someday require another person’s forgiveness. Haven’t we all, at one time or another, done something that we deeply regretted? And aren’t we healed in some measure when others accept our sincere amends?
An attitude of forgiveness is a little easier to develop when we remember that we are all doing the very best we can. And someday we, too, will need forgiveness.
Just for today: I will let go of my resentments. Today, if I am wronged, I will practice forgiveness, knowing that I need forgiveness myself
“We need not lose faith when we become rebellious.”
Basic Text, p. 35
Many of us have lived our entire lives in revolt. Our initial response to any type of direction is often negative. Automatic rejection of authority seems to be a troubling character defect for many addicts.
A thorough self-examination can show us how we react to the world around us. We can ask ourselves if our rebellion against people, places, and institutions is justified. If we keep writing long enough, we can usually get past what others did and uncover our own part in our affairs. We find that what others did to us was not as important as how we responded to the situations we found ourselves in.
Regular inventory allows us to examine the patterns in our reactions to life and see if we are prone to chronic rebelliousness. Sometimes we will find that, while we may usually go along with what is suggested to us rather than risk rejection, we secretly harbor resentments against authority. If left to themselves, these resentments can lead us away from our program of recovery.
The inventory process allows us to uncover, evaluate, and alter our rebellious patterns. We can’t change the world by taking an inventory, but we can change the way we react to it.
Just for today: I want freedom from the turmoil of rebelliousness. Before I act, I will inventory myself and think about my true values.
Bend with the wind
“We learn to become flexible… As new things are revealed, we feel renewed.”
Basic Text, p. 102
“Flexibility” was not a part of the vocabulary we used in our using days. We’d become obsessed with the raw pleasure of our drugs and hardened to all the softer, subtler, more infinitely varied pleasures of the world around us. Our disease had turned life itself into a constant threat of jails, institutions, and death, a threat against which we hardened ourselves all the more. In the end we became brittle. With the merest breath of life’s wind we crumbled at last, broken, defeated, with no choice but to surrender.
But the beautiful irony of recovery is that, in our surrender, we found the flexibility we had lost in our addiction, the very lack of which had defeated us. We regained the ability to bend in life’s breeze without breaking. When the wind blew, we felt its loving caress against our skin, where once we would have hardened ourselves as if against the onrush of a storm.
The winds of life blow new airs our way each moment, and with them new fragrances, new pleasures, varied, subtly different. As we bend with life’s wind, we feel and hear and touch and smell and taste all it has to offer us. And as new winds blow, we feel renewed.
Just for today: Higher Power, help me bend with life’s wind and glory in its passing. Free me from rigidity.
“We had to have something different, and we thought we had found it in drugs.”
Basic Text, p. 13
Many of us have always felt different from other people. We know we’re not unique in feeling that way; we hear many addicts share the same thing. We searched all our lives for something to make us all right, to fix that “different” place inside us, to make us whole and acceptable. Drugs seemed to fill that need. When we were high, at least we no longer felt the emptiness or the need. There was one drawback: The drugs, which were our solution, quickly became our problem.
Once we gave up the drugs, the sense of emptiness returned. At first we felt despair because we didn’t have any solution of our own to that miserable longing. But we were willing to take direction and began to work the steps. As we did, we found what we’d been looking for, that “something different.” Today, we believe that our lifelong yearning was primarily for knowledge of a Higher Power; the “something different” we needed was a relationship with a loving God. The steps tell us how to begin that relationship.
Just for today: My Higher Power is the “something different” that’s always been missing in my life. I will use the steps to restore that missing ingredient to my spirit.
Secrets are reservations
“Eventually we are shown that we must get honest, or we will use again.”
Basic Text, p. 85
Everyone has secrets, right? Some of us have little secrets, items that would cause only minor embarrassment if found out. Some of us have big secrets, whole areas of our lives cloaked in thick, murky darkness. Big secrets may represent a more obvious, immediate danger to our recovery. But the little secrets do their own kind of damage, the more insidious perhaps because we think they’re “harmless.”
Big or little, our secrets represent spiritual territory we are unwilling to surrender to the principles of recovery. The longer we reserve pieces of our lives to be ruled by self-will and the more vigorously we defend our “right” to hold onto them, the more damage we do. Gradually, the unsurrendered territories of our lives tend to expand, taking more and more ground.
Whether the secrets in our lives are big or little, sooner or later they bring us to the same place. We must choose—either we surrender everything to our program, or we will lose our recovery.
Just for today: I want the kind of recovery that comes from total surrender to the program. Today, I will talk with my sponsor and disclose my secrets, big or small.
Filling the emptiness
“…we think that if we can just get enough food, enough sex, or enough money, we’ll be satisfied and everything will be alright.”
Basic Text, p. 80
In our addiction, we could never get enough drugs, or money, or sex, or anything else. Even too much was never enough! There was a spiritual emptiness inside us. Though we tried as hard as we could to fill that emptiness ourselves, we never succeeded. In the end, we realized that we lacked the power to fill it; it would take a Power greater than ourselves to do that.
So we stopped using, and we stopped trying to fill the emptiness in our gut with things. We turned to our Higher Power, asking for its care, strength, and direction. We surrendered and made way for that Power to begin the process of filling our inner void. We stopped grabbing things and started receiving the free gift of love our Higher Power had for us. Slowly, our inner emptiness was being filled.
Now that we’ve been given our Higher Power’s gift of love, what do we do with it? If we clasp that gift tightly to ourselves, we will smother it. We must remember that love grows only when it is shared. We can only keep this gift by freely giving it away. The world of addiction is a world of taking and being taken; the world of recovery is a world of giving and being given. In which world do we choose to live?
Just for today: I choose to live in the fullness of recovery. I will celebrate my conscious contact with the God of my understanding by freely sharing with others that which has been freely shared with me.
“Emotional balance is one of the first results of meditation, and our experience bears this out.”
Basic Text, p.47
Though each of us defines “emotional balance” a little differently, all of us must find it. Emotional balance can mean finding and maintaining a positive outlook on life, regardless of what may be happening around us. To some, it might mean an understanding of our emotions that allows us to respond, not react, to our feelings. It can mean that we experience our feelings as intensely as we can while also moderating their excessive expression.
Emotional balance comes with practice in prayer and meditation. We get quiet and share our thoughts and hopes and concerns with the God of our understanding. Then we listen for guidance, awaiting the power to act on that direction.
Eventually, our skills in maintaining near-balance get better, and the wild up-and-down emotional swings we used to experience begin to settle. We develop an ability to let others feel their feelings; we have no need to judge them. And we fully embrace our own personal range of emotions.
Just for today: Through regular prayer and meditation, I will discover what emotional balance means to me.
“In NA, our joys are multiplied by sharing good days; our sorrows are lessened by sharing the bad. For the first time in our lives, we don’t have to experience anything alone.”
IP No. 16, For the Newcomer
When we practice using the steps and the other tools of our program to work through our hardships, we become able to take pleasure in the joys of living clean. But our joys pass all too quickly if we don’t share them with others, while hardships borne alone may be long in passing. In the Fellowship of Narcotics Anonymous, we often multiply our joys and divide our burdens by sharing them with one another.
We addicts experience pleasures in recovery that, sometimes, only another addict can appreciate. Fellow members understand when we tell them of the pride we take today in fulfilling commitments, the warmth we feel in mending damaged relationships, the relief we experience in not having to use drugs to make it through the day. When we share these experiences with recovering addicts and they respond with similar stories, our joy is multiplied. The same principle applies to the challenges we encounter as recovering addicts. By sharing our challenges and allowing other NA members to share their strength with us, our load is lightened.
The fellowship we have in Narcotics Anonymous is precious. Sharing together, we enhance the joys and diminish the burdens of life in recovery.
Just for today: I will share my joys and my burdens with other recovering addicts. I will also share in theirs. I am grateful for the strong bonds of fellowship in Narcotics Anonymous.
Courage to change
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Recovery involves change, and change means doing things differently. The problem is, many of us resist doing things differently; what we’re doing may not be working, but at least we’re familiar with it. It takes courage to step out into the unknown. How do we find that courage?
We can look around ourselves at NA meetings. There, we see others who’ve found they needed to change what they were doing and who’ve done so successfully. Not only does that help quiet our fear that change—any change—spells disaster, it also gives us the benefit of their experience with what does work, experience we can use in changing what doesn’t.
We can also look at our own recovery experience. Even if that experience, so far, has been limited to stopping the use of drugs, still we have made many changes in our lives—changes for the good. Whatever aspects of our lives we have applied the steps to, we have always found surrender better than denial, recovery superior to addiction.
Our own experience and the experience of others in NA tells us that “changing the things I can” is a big part of what recovery is all about. The steps and the power to practice them give us the direction and courage we need to change. We have nothing to fear.
Just for today: I welcome change. With the help of my Higher Power, I will find the courage to change the things I can.
“Prayer takes practice, and we should remind ourselves that skilled people were not born with their skills.”
Basic Text, p. 46
Many of us came into recovery with no experience in prayer and worried about not knowing the “right words.” Some of us remembered the words we’d learned in childhood but weren’t sure we believed in those words anymore. Whatever our background, in recovery we struggled to find words that spoke truly from our hearts.
Often the first prayer we attempt is a simple request to our Higher Power asking for help in staying clean each day. We may ask for guidance and courage or simply pray for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out. If we find ourselves stumbling in our prayers, we may ask other members to share with us about how they learned to pray. No matter whether we pray in need or pray in joy, the important thing is to keep making the effort.
Our prayers will be shaped by our experience with the Twelve Steps and our personal understanding of a Higher Power. As our relationship with that Higher Power develops, we become more comfortable with prayer. In time, prayer becomes a source of strength and comfort. We seek that source often and willingly.
Just for today: I know that prayer can be simple. I will start where I am and practice.
Keeping the gift
“Life takes on a new meaning when we open ourselves to this gift.”
Basic Text, p. 107
Neglecting our recovery is like neglecting any other gift we’ve been given. Suppose someone gave you a new car. Would you let it sit in the driveway until the tires rotted? Would you just drive it, ignoring routine maintenance, until it expired on the road? Of course not! You would go to great lengths to maintain the condition of such a valuable gift.
Recovery is also a gift, and we have to care for it if we want to keep it. While our recovery doesn’t come with an extended warranty, there is a routine maintenance schedule. This maintenance includes regular meeting attendance and various forms of service. We’ll have to do some daily cleaning—our Tenth Step—and, once in a while, a major Fourth Step overhaul will be required. But if we maintain the gift of recovery, thanking the Giver each day, it will continue.
The gift of recovery is one that grows with the giving. Unless we give it away, we can’t keep it. But in sharing our recovery with others, we come to value it all the more.
Just for today: My recovery is a gift, and I want to keep it. I’ll do the required maintenance, and I’ll share my recovery with others.
Dealing with gossip
“In accordance with the principles of recovery, we try not to judge, stereotype, or moralize with each other.”
Basic Text, p. 11
Let’s face it: In Narcotics Anonymous, we live in a glass house of sorts. Our fellow members know more about our personal lives than anyone has ever known before. They know who we spend our time with, where we work, what step we’re on, how many children we have, and so forth. And what our fellow members don’t know, they will probably imagine.
We may be unhappy when others gossip about us. But if we withdraw from the fellowship and isolate ourselves to avoid gossip, we also rob ourselves of the love, friendship, and unparalleled experience with recovery that our fellow members have to offer. A better way to deal with gossip is to simply accept the way things are and the way we are, and live our lives according to principles. The more secure we become with our personal program, the decisions we make, and the guidance we receive from a loving God, the less the opinions of others will concern us.
Just for today: I am committed to being involved in the NA Fellowship. The opinions of others will not affect my commitment to recovery.
The Fourth Step—fearing our feelings
“We may fear that being in touch with our feelings will trigger an overwhelming chain reaction of pain and panic.”
Basic Text, p. 30
A common complaint about the Fourth Step is that it makes us painfully conscious of our defects of character. We may be tempted to falter in our program of recovery. Through surrender and acceptance, we can find the resources we need to keep working the steps.
It’s not the awareness of our defects that causes the most agony—it’s the defects themselves. When we were using, all we felt was the drugs; we could ignore the suffering our defects were causing us. Now that the drugs are gone, we feel that pain. Refusing to acknowledge the source of our anguish doesn’t make it go away; denial protects the pain and makes it stronger. The Twelve Steps help us deal with the misery caused by our defects by dealing directly with the defects themselves.
If we hurt from the pain of our defects, we can remind ourselves of the nightmare of addiction, a nightmare from which we’ve now awakened. We can recall the hope for release the Second Step gave us. We can again turn our will and our lives over, through the Third Step, to the care of the God of our understanding. Our Higher Power cares for us by giving us the help we need to work the rest of the Twelve Steps. We don’t have to fear our feelings. Just for today, we can continue in our recovery.
Just for today: I won’t be afraid of my feelings. With the help of my Higher Power, I’ll continue in my recovery.
Seeing ourselves in others
“It will not make us better people to judge the faults of another.”
Basic Text, p. 38
How easy it is to point out the faults of others! There’s a reason for this: The defects we identify most easily in others are often the defects we are most familiar with in our own characters. We may notice our best friend’s tendency to spend too much money, but if we examine our own spending habits we’ll probably find the same compulsiveness. We may decide our sponsor is much too involved in service, but find that we haven’t spent a single weekend with our families in the past three months because of one service commitment or another.
What we dislike in our fellows are often those things we dislike most in ourselves. We can turn this observation to our spiritual advantage. When we are stricken with the impulse to judge someone else, we can redirect the impulse in such a way as to recognize our own defects more clearly. What we see will guide our actions toward recovery and help us become emotionally healthy and happy individuals.
Just for today: I will look beyond the character defects of others and recognize my own.
Right back up
“There is something in our self-destructive personalities that cries for failure.”
Basic Text, p. 80
“Poor me; woe is me; look at me, my life is such a mess! I’ve fallen, and no matter how hard I try, I continue to fail.” Many of us came to NA singing this sad refrain.
Life isn’t like that anymore. True, sometimes we still stumble; at times we even fall. Sometimes we feel like we can’t move forward in our lives, no matter how hard we try. But the truth of the matter is that, with the help of other recovering addicts in NA, we find a hand to pull us up, dust us off, and help us start all over again. That’s the new refrain in our lives today.
No longer do we say, “I’m a failure and I’m going nowhere.” Usually, it’s more like, “Rats! I hit that same bump in the road of life again. Pretty soon I’ll learn to slow down or avoid it entirely.” Until then, we may continue to fall down occasionally, but we’ve learned that there’s always a helping hand to set us on our feet again.
Just for today: If I begin to cry failure, I’ll remember there is a way to move forward. I will accept the encouragement and support of NA.
Just for today
“When we stop living in the here and now, our problems become magnified unreasonably.”
Basic Text, p. 99
“Just for today”—it’s a comforting thought. If we try to live in the past, we may find ourselves torn by painful, disquieting memories. The lessons of our using are not the teachers we seek for recovery. Living in tomorrow means moving in with fear. We cannot see the shape of the secret future, and uncertainty brings worry. Our lives look overwhelming when we lose the focus of today.
Living in the moment offers freedom. In this moment, we know that we are safe. We are not using, and we have everything we need. What’s more, life is happening in the here and now. The past is gone and the future has yet to arrive; our worrying won’t change any of it. Today, we can enjoy our recovery, this very minute.
Just for today: I will stay in the here and now. Today—this moment—I am free.