Chapter 4: How It Works

Chapter 4 Page 17
How It Works

If you want what we have to offer, and are willing to make the effort to get it, then you are ready to take certain steps. These are the principles that made our recovery possible.

1. We admitted that we were powerless over our addiction, 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.

Page 18

This sounds like a big order, and we can’t do it all at once. We didn’t become addicted in one day, so remember – EASY DOES IT.

There is one thing more than anything else that will defeat us in our recovery; this is an attitude of indifference or intolerance toward spiritual principles. Three of these that are indispensable are honesty, open-mindedness and willingness. With these we are well on our way.

We feel that our approach to the disease of addiction is completely realistic, for the therapeutic value of one addict helping another is without parallel. We feel that our way is practical, for one addict can best understand and help another addict. We believe that the sooner we face our problems within our society, in everyday living, just that much faster do we become acceptable, responsible, and productive members of that society.

The only way to keep from returning to active addiction is not to take that first drug. If you are like us you know that one is too many and a thousand never enough. We put great emphasis on this, for we know that when we use drugs in any form, or substitute one for another, we release our addiction all over again.

Thinking of alcohol as different from other drugs has caused a great many addicts to relapse. Before we came to N.A., many of us viewed alcohol separately, but we cannot afford to be confused about this. Alcohol is a drug. We are people with the disease of addiction who must abstain from all drugs in order to recover.

These are some of the questions we have asked ourselves: Are we sure we want to stop using? Do we understand that we have no real control over drugs? Do we recognize that in the long run, we didn’t use drugs-they used us? Did jails and institutions take over the management of our lives at different times? Do we fully accept the fact that our every attempt to stop using or control our using failed? Do we know that our addiction changed us into something we didn’t want to be: dishonest, deceitful, self- willed

Page 19

people at odds with ourselves and our fellow man? Do we really believe that, as drug users, we have failed?

When we were using, reality became so painful that oblivion was preferable. We tried to keep other people from knowing about our pain. We isolated ourselves, and lived in prisons built out of our loneliness. Through this desperation we sought help in Narcotics Anonymous. When we come to Narcotics Anonymous we are physically, mentally, and spiritually bankrupt. We have hurt long enough that we are willing to go to any length to stay clean.

Our only hope is to live by the example of those who have faced our dilemma, and have found a way out. Regardless of who we are, where we came from, or what we have done, we are accepted in Narcotics Anonymous. Our addiction gives us a common ground for understanding one another.

As a result of attending a few meetings, we begin to feel like we finally belong. It is in these meetings that we are introduced to the Twelve Steps of Narcotics Anonymous. We learn to work them in the order they are written and to use them on a daily basis. The steps are our solution. They are our survival kit. They are our defense, for addiction is a deadly disease. Our steps are the principles that make our recovery possible.

STEP ONE
“We admitted that we were powerless over our addiction, that our lives had become unmanageable.”

It doesn’t matter what or how much we used. In Narcotics Anonymous staying clean has to come first. We realize that we cannot use drugs and live. When we admit our powerlessness and the inability to manage our own lives, we open the door to recovery. No one could convince us that we were addicts. It is an admission that we had to make for ourselves. When some of us have doubts, we ask ourselves this question: “Can I control my use of any form of mind or mood-altering chemicals?”

Page 20

Most will see that control is impossible the moment it is suggested. Whatever the outcome, we find that we cannot control our using for any length of time.

This would clearly suggest that an addict has no control over drugs. Powerlessness means using against our will. If we can’t stop, how can we tell ourselves we are in control? The inability to stop using, even with the greatest willpower and the most sincere desire, is what we mean when we say, “We have absolutely no choice”. However, we do have a choice after we eliminate all the things we have been telling ourselves to justify our using.

We didn’t stumble into this fellowship brimming with love, honesty, open-mindedness or willingness. We reached the point where we could no longer continue because of physical, mental, and spiritual pain. When we were beaten, we became willing.

Our inability to control our usage of drugs is a symptom of the disease of addiction. We are powerless not only over drugs, but our addiction as well. We need to admit this in order to recover. Addiction is a physical, mental and spiritual disease, affecting every area of our lives.

The physical aspect of our disease is the compulsive use of drugs: the inability to stop using once we have started. The mental aspect of our disease is the obsession, or overpowering desire, which leads us to using even when it has destroyed our lives. The spiritual part of our disease is our total self- centeredness. We felt that we could stop whenever we wanted to, despite all evidence to the contrary. Denial, substitution, rationalization, justification, distrust of others, guilt, embarrassment, dereliction, degradation, isolation, and loss of control are all results of our disease. Our disease is progressive, incurable and fatal. Most of us are relieved to find out we have a disease instead of a moral deficiency.

We are not responsible for our disease, but we are responsible for our recovery. Most of us tried to stop using on our own, but we were unable to live with or without drugs. Eventually we realized that we were powerless over our addiction.

Page 21

Many of us tried to stop using on sheer willpower, and this turned out to be a temporary solution. We saw that willpower alone would not work for any length of time. We tried countless other remedies- psychiatrists, hospitals, recovery houses, lovers, new towns, new jobs. Everything we tried, failed. We began to see that we had rationalized the most outrageous sort of nonsense in order to justify the mess drugs had made of our lives.

Until we let go of all our reservations, the foundation on which our recovery is based is in danger. Reservations, no matter what they are, rob us of obtaining all the benefits this program has to offer. In ridding ourselves of all reservations, we surrender. Then, and only then, can we be helped to recover from the disease of addiction.

Now, the question is: “If we are powerless, how can Narcotics Anonymous help?” We begin by asking for help, and this is accomplished by working the Twelve Steps. The foundation is the admission that we, of ourselves, have no power over addiction. When we can accept this, we have completed the first part of Step One.

A second admission must be made before the foundation is complete. If we stop here, we will know only half the truth. We are great ones for manipulating the truth. We might say on one hand, “Yes, I am powerless over my addiction”, and on the other hand, “When I get my life together, I can handle drugs”. Such thoughts and actions led us back to active addiction. It never occurred to us to ask, “If we can’t control our addiction, how can we control our lives?” We felt miserable without drugs.

Unemployability, dereliction and destruction are easily seen as characteristics of an unmanageable life. Our families generally are disappointed, baffled and confused by our actions and often have deserted or disowned us. Becoming employed, socially acceptable and reunited with our families does not make our lives manageable. Social acceptability does not equal recovery.

We have found that we had no choice except to completely change our old ways of thinking or go back to using. When we give our best, it works for us as it has worked for others. When we could no longer stand our old ways, we began to change.

Page 22

From that point forward, we can see that every clean day is a successful day, no matter what happens. Surrender means not having to fight anymore. We accept our addiction and life the way it is. We become willing to do whatever is necessary to stay clean, even the things we don’t like doing.

Until we took Step One, we were full of fear and doubt. At this point, many of us felt lost and confused. We felt different. Upon working this step, we affirmed our surrender to the principles of Narcotics Anonymous, and only then did we begin to overcome the alienation of addiction. Help for addicts begins only when we are able to admit complete defeat. This can be frightening, but it is the foundation on which we have built our lives.

Step One means that we do not have to use, and this is a great freedom. It took a while for some of us to realize how unmanageable our lives had become; for others of us, this was the only thing of which we could be sure. We knew in our hearts that drugs had the power to change us into something that we didn’t want to be.

Being clean and working this step, we are released from our chains. However, none of the steps work by magic. We do not just say the words of this step; we learn to live them. We see for ourselves that the Program has something to offer us.

We have found hope. We find that we can learn to function in the world we live in. We, too, can find meaning and purpose in life and be rescued from insanity, depravity and death.

When we admit our powerlessness and inability to manage our own lives, we open the door for a Power greater than ourselves to help us. It is not where we were that counts, but where we are going.

STEP TWO
“We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”

The Second Step is necessary if we expect to achieve any sort of ongoing recovery. The First Step leaves us with the need to believe in

Page 23

something that can help us with our powerlessness, uselessness, and helplessness.

The First Step has left a vacuum in our lives. We need to find something to fill that void. This is the purpose of the Second Step.

Some of us didn’t take this step seriously at first; we passed over it with a minimum of concern, only to find the next steps would not work until we worked this one. Even when we admitted we needed help with our drug problem, many of us would not admit to the need for faith and sanity.

We have a disease: progressive, incurable and fatal. One way or another we went out and bought our destruction on the time plan! All of us, from the junkie snatching purses to the sweet little old ladies hitting two or three doctors for legal prescriptions, have one thing in common: we seek our destruction a bag at a time, a few pills at a time, or a bottle at a time until we die. This is at least part of the insanity of addiction. The price may seem higher for the addict who prostitutes for a fix than it is for the addict who merely lies to a doctor, but ultimately both pay with their lives. Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results.

Many of us realize when we get to the Program that we have gone back time and again to using, even though we knew that we were destroying our lives by doing so. Insanity is using day after day knowing that only physical and mental destruction comes when we do. The most obvious insanity of the disease of addiction is the obsession to use drugs.

Ask yourself this question: Do I believe it would be insane to walk up to someone and say, “May I please have a heart attack or a fatal accident?” If you can agree that this would be an insane thing, you should have no problem with the Second Step.

The first thing we do in this Program is stop using. At this point we begin to feel the pain of living without drugs or anything to replace them. This pain forces us to seek a Power greater than ourselves that can relieve our obsession to use.

The process of coming to believe is something that we seem to experience in similar ways. One thing most of us lacked was a working relationship with a Higher Power.

Page 24

We begin to develop this relationship by simply admitting to the possibility of a Power greater than ourselves. Most of us have no trouble admitting that addiction had become a destructive force in our lives. Our best efforts resulted in ever greater destruction and despair. At some point we realized we needed the help of some Power greater than our addiction. Our understanding of a Higher Power is up to us. No one is going to decide for us. We can call it the group, the program, or we can call it God. The only suggested guidelines are that this Power be loving, caring and greater than ourselves. We don’t have to be religious to accept this idea. The point is that we open our minds to believe. We may have difficulty with this, but by keeping an open mind, sooner or later, we find the help we need.

We talked and listened to others. We saw other people recovering, and they told us what was working for them. We began to see evidence of some Power that could not be fully explained. Confronted with this evidence, we began to accept the existence of a Power greater than ourselves. We can use this Power before we begin to understand it.

As we see “coincidences” and miracles happening in our lives, our acceptance becomes trust. We grow to feel comfortable with our Higher Power as a source of strength. As we learn to trust this Power, we begin to overcome our fears of life.

The process of coming to believe is a restoration to sanity. The strength to move into action comes from this belief. We need to accept this step to start us on the road to recovery. When our belief has grown, we are ready for Step Three.

STEP THREE
“We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”

As addicts, we have turned our will and our lives over many times to a destructive power. Our will and our lives were controlled by drugs. We were trapped by our need for the instant gratification

Page 25

that drugs gave us. During that time, our total being-body, mind and spirit-was dominated by drugs. For a time it was pleasurable, then the euphoria began to wear off, and we saw the ugly side of addiction. We found that the higher our drugs took us, the lower they brought us. We faced two choices: either we suffered the pain of withdrawal or took more drugs.

For all addicts, the day comes when there is no longer a choice; we had to use. Having given our will and lives to our addiction, in utter desperation we looked for another way. In Narcotics Anonymous, we decide to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand Him. This is a giant step. We don’t have to be religious; anyone can take it. All that is required is willingness. All that is essential is that we open the door to a Power greater than ourselves.

Our concept of God comes not from dogma but from what we believe ourselves, what works for us. Many of us understand God to be simply whatever keeps us clean. The right to a God of your understanding is total and without any catches.

Because we have this right, it is necessary to be honest about our belief if we are to grow spiritually.

We found that all we needed to do was to try. When we gave our best effort to the Program, it worked for us as it has worked for countless others. The Third Step does not say, “We turned our will and our lives over to the care of God”. It says, “We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him”. We made the decision; it was not made for us by the drugs, our families, a probation officer, judge, therapist or doctor. We made it. For the first time since that first high, we have made a decision for ourselves.

The word “decision” implies action. This decision is based on faith. We have only to believe that the miracle we see working in the lives of clean addicts can happen to any addict with the desire to change. We simply realize there is a force for spiritual growth that can help us become more tolerant, patient, and useful in helping others. Many of us have said, “Take my will and my life. Guide me in my recovery. Show me how to live”.

Page 26

The relief of “letting go and letting God” helps us develop a life worth living.

Surrendering to the will of our Higher Power gets easier with daily practice. When we honestly try, it works. Many of us start our day with a simple request for guidance from our Higher Power.

Although we know that “turning it over” works, we may still take our will and life back. We may even get angry because God permits it. At times during our recovery, the decision to ask for God’s help is our greatest source of strength and courage. We cannot make this decision often enough. We surrender quietly and let the God of our understanding take care of us.

At first, our heads reeled with the questions: “What will happen when we turn our life over? Will we become `perfect’?” We may have been more realistic than this. Some of us had to turn to an experienced N.A. member and ask, “What was it like for you?” The answer will vary from member to member. Most of us feel open-mindedness, willingness and surrender are the keys to this step.

We have surrendered our will and our lives to the care of a Power greater than ourselves. If we are thorough and sincere, we will notice a change for the better. Our fears are lessened and faith begins to grow as we learn the true meaning of surrender. We are no longer fighting fear, anger, guilt, self- pity or depression. We realize that what brought us to this Program is still with us today and will continue to guide us if we allow it. We are slowly beginning to lose the paralyzing fear of hopelessness. The proof of this step is in the way we live.

We have come to enjoy clean living and want more of the good things that the N.A. fellowship holds for us. We know now that we cannot pause in our spiritual program; we want all we can get.

We are now ready for our first honest self-appraisal, and we begin with Step Four.

Page 27

STEP FOUR
“We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”

The purpose of a searching and fearless moral inventory is to sort through the confusion and the contradiction of our lives so that we can find out who we really are. We are starting a new way of life and need to be rid of the burdens and traps which have controlled us and prevented our growth.

As we approach this step, most of us are afraid that there is a monster inside us that, if released, will destroy us. This fear can cause us to put off our inventory or may even prevent us from taking this crucial step at all. We have found that fear is lack of faith, and we have found a loving, personal God to whom we can turn. We no longer need to be afraid.

We have been experts at self-deception and rationalization; by writing our inventory, we can overcome these obstacles. A written inventory will unlock parts of our subconscious which remain hidden when we simply think about or talk about who we are. Once it is all down on paper, it is much easier to see, and much harder to deny our true nature. Honest self- assessment is one of the keys to our new way of life.

Let’s face it; when we were using, we were not honest with ourselves. We are becoming honest with ourselves when we admit that addiction has defeated us and that we need help. It took a long time to admit that we were beaten. We found that we do not recover physically, mentally or spiritually overnight. Step Four will help us toward our recovery more than we imagine. Most of us find that we were neither as terrible, nor as wonderful, as we supposed. We are surprised to find that we have good points in our inventory. Anyone who has some time in the Program and has worked this step will tell you that the Fourth Step was a turning point in their life. Some of us make the mistake of approaching the Fourth Step as if it were a confession of how horrible we are-what a bad person we have been. In this new way of life, a binge of emotional

Page 28

sorrow can be dangerous. This is not the purpose of the Fourth Step. We are trying to free ourselves of living in old, useless patterns. We take the Fourth Step to gain the necessary strength and insight which enables us to grow. We may approach the Fourth Step in a number of ways.

It is advisable that before we start, we go over the first three steps with a sponsor.

These steps are the preparation necessary to have the faith and courage to write a fearless inventory. We get comfortable with our understanding of these steps. We allow ourselves the privilege of feeling good about what we are doing. We have been thrashing about for a long time and have gotten nowhere. Now we are going to start this step, not letting it frighten us. We simply put it on paper, to the best of our present ability.

We must be done with the past, not cling to it. We want to look our past in the face, see it for what it really was and release it so we can live today. The past, for most of us, has been a ghost in the closet. We have been afraid to open that closet for fear of what that ghost may do to us. We do not have to do this alone. Our will and our life are now in the hands of our Higher Power.

Writing a thorough and honest inventory seemed impossible. It was, as long as we were operating under our own power. We take a few quiet moments before writing and ask for the strength to be fearless and thorough.

In Step Four, we begin to get in touch with ourselves. We write about our liabilities such as guilt, shame, remorse, self- pity, resentment, anger, depression, frustration, confusion, loneliness, anxiety, betrayal, hopelessness, failure, fear and denial.

We write on paper what is bothering us here and now. We have a tendency to think negatively, so putting it on paper gives us a chance to look more positively at what is happening,

Assets must also be considered if we are to get an accurate and complete picture of ourselves. This is very difficult for most of us because it is hard for us to accept that we have good qualities. However, we all have assets, many of them newly found in the

Page 29

Program, such as being clean, open-mindedness, God-awareness, honesty with others, acceptance, positive action, sharing, willingness, courage, faith, caring, gratitude, kindness and generosity. Also, our inventories usually include a lot of material on relationships.

We review our past performance and our present behavior to see what we want to keep and what we want to be rid of. No one is forcing us to give up our misery. This step has the reputation of being difficult; in reality, it is quite simple.

We write our inventory for ourselves without considering with whom we might share it. We work Step Four as if there were no Step Five. We can write alone or near other people; whatever is more comfortable to the writer is fine. We can write as long or as short as needed. Someone with experience can help with this. The important thing is to write a moral inventory. If the word “moral” bothers us, we may call it a positive/negative inventory.

The way to write an inventory is to write it! Thinking about an inventory, talking about it, theorizing about the inventory will not get it written. We sit down with a notebook, ask for guidance, pick up our pen and start writing. Anything we think about is inventory material. When we realize how little we have to lose, and how much we have to gain, we begin this step.

A basic rule of thumb is that we can write too little, yet we can never write too much. The inventory will fit the individual. Perhaps this seems difficult or painful. It may appear impossible. We may fear that being in touch with our feelings will trigger an overwhelming chain reaction of pain and panic. We may feel like avoiding an inventory because of a fear of failure. When we ignore our feelings the tension becomes too much for us. The fear of impending doom is so great it overrides our fear of failure.

An inventory becomes a relief to do because the pain of doing it is less than the pain of not doing it. We learn that pain can be a motivating factor in recovery. Thus, facing it becomes unavoidable. Every topic of step meetings we attend seems to be on the Fourth Step or doing a daily inventory. Through the inventory process, we

Page 30

are able to deal with all the things that can build up. The more we live our Program, the more God seems to position us to have things surface, so we can write about them. We begin enjoying our recovery because we have a way to resolve the shame, guilt, or resentment.

We are also able to be rid of the stress trapped inside. Writing will lift the lid from our pressure cooker to see whether we want to serve it up, put the lid back on it, or throw it out, we no longer have to stew in it.

We sit down with paper and pen and ask for our God’s help in revealing the defects that are causing pain and suffering. We pray for the courage to be fearless and thorough so that this inventory may help us to put our lives in order. When we pray and take action, it always goes better for us.

We are not going to be perfect. If we were perfect, we would not be human. The important thing is that we do our best. We use the tools available to us, and we develop the ability to survive our emotions. We do not want to lose any of what we have gained; we want to continue in the Program. It is our experience that no matter how searching and thorough, no inventory is of any lasting effect unless it is promptly followed by an equally thorough Fifth Step.

STEP FIVE
“We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”

The Fifth Step is the key to freedom. It allows us to live clean in the here and now. Sharing the exact nature of our wrongs sets us free to live. After taking a thorough Fourth Step, we have to deal with what we have found in our inventory. We are told that if we keep these defects inside us, they will lead us back to using. Holding on to our past would eventually sicken us and keep us from taking part in this new way of life. If we are not honest when we take a Fifth Step, we will have the same negative results that dishonesty brought us in the past.

Page 31

Step Five suggests that we admit to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. We have looked at our wrongs, have seen patterns on paper, and have begun to see deeper aspects of our disease. Now we sit down with another person and share our inventory out loud.

Our Higher Power will be with us when we do this, and will help to free us from the fear of facing ourselves and another human being. It seemed unnecessary to some of us to admit the exact nature of our wrongs to our Higher Power. “God already knows that stuff”, we rationalized. Although He already knows, the admission must come from our own lips to be truly effective. Step Five is not simply a reading of Step Four.

For years, we avoided seeing ourselves as we really were. We were ashamed of ourselves and felt isolated from the rest of the world. Now that we have the shameful part of our past trapped, we can sweep it out of our lives if we face and admit it. It would be tragic to have it all written down and then shove it in a drawer. These defects grow in the dark, and die in the light of exposure.

Before coming to Narcotics Anonymous, we felt that no one could ever relate to us or understand the things we had done. We feared that if we ever revealed ourselves as we were, we would surely be rejected. Most addicts are uncomfortable about this. We recognize that we have been unrealistic in feeling this way. Our fellow members do understand us.

We must carefully choose the person who is to hear our Fifth Step. We must make sure they know what we are doing and why we are doing it. Although there is no hard rule about whom we should choose, it is important that we trust the person. Only complete confidence in the person’s integrity and discretion can make us willing to be thorough in this step. Some of us take our Fifth Step with a total stranger, although some of us feel more comfortable choosing a member of Narcotics Anonymous. We know that another addict would be less likely to judge us with malice or misunderstanding.

Once we make up our minds and are actually alone with the person we have chosen to accept our confidence, we proceed, with their encouragement. We want to be

Page 32

definite, honest and thorough, realizing that this is a life and death matter.

Some of us have attempted to hide part of our past, and in doing so, have tried desperately to find easier ways of dealing with our inner feelings. We may think that we have done enough by writing everything down, and this is a mistake we cannot afford. This step will expose our motives and our actions for what they really are. We cannot expect these things to reveal themselves.

Our embarrassment is eventually overcome and we can avoid future guilt.

We do not procrastinate. We must be exact. We want to tell the simple truth, cut and dried, as quickly as possible. There is always a danger that we will exaggerate our wrongs, and an equal danger that we will minimize or rationalize away our part in past situations. If we are anything like we were when we first entered the N.A. fellowship, we still want to “sound good.”

Addicts tend to live secret lives. For many years, we covered low self esteem by hiding behind phony images that we hoped would fool people. Unfortunately, we ended up fooling ourselves more than anyone. Although we often appeared attractive and confident on the outside, we were really hiding a shaky, insecure person on the inside. The masks have to go. We share our inventory as it is written, skipping nothing. We continue to approach this step with honesty and thoroughness until we finish. It is a great relief to get rid of all our secrets and to share the burden of our past.

Usually, as we share this step, the listener will share some of his or her story too, and we will find out that the things about ourselves that we thought were so awful or different were not all that unique. We see, by the acceptance of our confidant, that we can be accepted just the way we are.

We may never be able to remember all of our past mistakes. We do, however, give it our best and most complete effort. We begin to experience real personal feelings of a spiritual nature. Where once we had spiritual theories, we now begin to awaken to spiritual reality. This initial examination of ourselves usually reveals some things about us that we don’t particularly like. However, facing these things and bringing them out in the open makes it possible for us to deal with them constructively. We cannot make these changes alone. We will need the help of God, as we understand Him, and the fellowship of Narcotics Anonymous.

Page 33

STEP SIX
“We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.”

Why ask for something that we are not ready for? This would be asking for trouble. So many times we addicts have sought the rewards of hard work without the labor. Willingness is what we strive for in Step Six. How sincerely we work this step will be proportionate to our desire for change.

Do we really want to be rid of our resentments, our anger, our fear? Many of us cling to our fears, doubts, and self-loathing or hatred of others because there is a certain distorted security in familiar pain. It seems safer to hold on to what we know than to let go of it for the unknown.

Letting go of character defects should be done decisively. We suffer because their demands weaken us. Where we were proud, we now find that we cannot get away with arrogance. Those of us who are not humble are humiliated. If we are greedy, we find that we are never satisfied. Where before we could get away with fear, anger, dishonesty or self-pity, we now see where they cloud our ability to think logically. Selfishness becomes an intolerable, destructive chain that ties us to our bad habits. Our defects drain us of all our time and energy.

We examine the Fourth Step inventory and get a good look at what these defects are doing to our lives. We begin to long for freedom from these defects. We pray or otherwise become willing, ready and able to let God remove these destructive traits. We need a personality change if we are to stay clean. We want to change.

We should approach old defects with an open mind. We are aware of them and yet we still make the same mistakes and are unable to break the bad habits. We look to the fellowship for the kind of life we want for ourselves. We ask our friends, “Did you let go?” Almost without exception the answer is, “Yes, to the best of our ability”. When we see how our defects exist in

Page 34

our lives and accept them, we can let go of them and get on with our new life. We learn that we are growing when we make new mistakes instead of repeating old ones.

When we are working Step Six, it is important to remember that we are human and should not place unrealistic expectations on ourselves. This is a step of willingness. That is the spiritual principle of Step Six. It is as if to say that we are now willing to move in a spiritual direction. Being human we will, of course, wander.

Rebellion is a character defect that spoils us here. We need not lose faith when we become rebellious. The indifference or intolerance that rebellion can bring out in us has to be overcome by persistent effort. We keep asking for willingness. We may be doubtful still that God will see fit to relieve us or that something will go wrong. We ask another member who says, “You’re right where you’re supposed to be”. We renew our readiness to have our defects removed. We surrender to the simple suggestions that the Program offers us. Even though we are not entirely ready, we are headed in that direction.

Eventually faith, humility and acceptance replace pride and rebellion. We come to know ourselves. We find ourselves growing into a mature consciousness. We begin to feel better as willingness grows into hope for relief. Perhaps for the first time, we see a vision of our new life. With this in sight, we put our willingness into action by moving on to Step Seven.

STEP SEVEN
“We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.”

Having decided we want God, as we understand Him, to relieve us of the useless or destructive aspects of our personalities, we have arrived at the Seventh Step. We couldn’t handle the ordeal of life all by

Page 35

ourselves. It wasn’t until we made a real mess of our lives that we realized we couldn’t do it alone. By admitting this, we achieved a glimpse of humility. This is the main ingredient of Step Seven. Humility has a lot to do with getting honest with ourselves, which is something we have practiced from Step One. We accepted our addiction and powerlessness. We found a strength beyond ourselves and learned to rely on it. We examined our lives and discovered who we really are. To be truly humble is to accept and honestly try to be who we are. None of us are perfectly good or perfectly bad. We are people who have assets and liabilities and most important of all, we are human.

Humility is as much a part of staying clean as food and water are to staying alive. As our addiction progressed, we devoted our energy toward satisfying our material desires. All other needs were beyond our reach. We always wanted gratification of our basic desires.

Character defects are those things which cause pain and misery all of our lives. If they really contributed to our health and happiness, we would not have come to such a state of desperation. We had to become ready to have God remove these defects.

The Seventh Step is an action step, and it is time to ask God for help and relief. We have to understand that our way of thinking is not the only way; other people can give us direction. When someone points out a shortcoming, our first reaction may be one of defensiveness. We must realize that we are not perfect. There will always be room for growth. If we truly want to be free, we will take a good look at what is pointed out to us. If the shortcomings we discover are real and we have a chance to be rid of them, we will surely experience a sense of well-being.

Some will want to get on their knees for this step. Some will be very quiet, and others will put forth a great emotional effort to show intense willingness. The word humble applies because we approach this Power greater than ourselves to ask for the freedom to live without the limitations of our past ways. Many of us are willing to do it without reservations, on pure blind faith, because we are sick of what we have been doing and how we are feeling. Whatever works, we go all the way.

This is our road to spiritual growth. We change every day to gradually, carefully and simply pull ourselves out of the isolation and loneliness of addiction into the mainstream of life. This

Page 36

comes not from wishing, but from action and prayer. The main objective of Step Seven is to get out of ourselves and strive for achieving the will of our Higher Power.

If we are careless and fail to grasp the spiritual meaning of this step, we may have difficulties and stir up old troubles. One danger is in being too hard on ourselves.

Sharing with other addicts in recovery helps us to not become morbidly serious about ourselves. Accepting the defects of others can help us become humble enough to be relieved of our own defects. God often works through those who care enough about our recovery to help make us aware of our shortcomings.

We have noticed that humility plays a big part in this Program and our new way of life. We take our inventory; we become ready to let God remove our defects of character; we humbly ask Him to remove our shortcomings. This is our road to spiritual growth and we will want to continue. We are ready for Step Eight.

STEP EIGHT
“We made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.”

This step is the test of our new-found humility. Our purpose is to achieve freedom from the guilt we have carried so far, so that we can look the world in the eye with neither aggressiveness nor fear.

Are we willing to make a list to clear away the fear and guilt that our past holds for us? Our experience tells us that we must become willing before this step will have any effect.

The Eighth Step is not easy; it demands a new kind of honesty about our relations with other people. The Eighth Step starts the procedure of forgiving others and possibly being forgiven by them, forgiving ourselves, and learning how to live in the world. By the time we reach this step, we have become ready to understand rather than to be understood. We can live and let live easier when we know the areas in which we owe

Page 37

amends. It seems hard now, but once we have done it, we will wonder why we did not do it long ago.

We need some real honesty before we can make an accurate list. In preparing to make the Eighth Step list, it is helpful to define harm. One definition of harm is physical or mental damage. Another definition of harm is inflicting pain, suffering or loss. The damage may be caused by something that is said, done or left undone, and the harm resulting from these words or actions may be either intentional or unintentional. The degree of harm can range from making someone feel mentally uncomfortable to inflicting bodily injury or even death.

A problem many of us have with the Eighth Step and the admission of the harm is the belief that we were victims, not victimizers, in our addiction. Avoiding this rationalization is crucial to the Eighth Step. We must separate what was done to us from what we did. We cut away all our justifications and all our ideas of being a victim. We often feel that we only harmed ourselves, yet we usually list ourselves last, if at all. This step is doing the leg work to repair the wreckage of our lives.

It will not make us better people to judge the faults of another. It will make us feel better to clean up our lives by relieving ourselves of guilt. By writing our list, we can no longer deny that we did harm. We admit that we hurt others, directly or indirectly, through some action, lie, broken promise, neglect or whatever.

We make our list, or take it from our Fourth Step, and add any additional people we can think of. We face this list honestly, and openly examine our faults so that we can become willing to make amends.

We may not know who it was we wronged. Just about anyone we came in contact with risked being harmed. Many members mention their parents, spouses, children, friends, lovers, other addicts, casual acquaintances, co-workers, employers, teachers, landlords or total strangers. We may find it beneficial to make a separate list of people to whom we owe financial amends. We may also place ourselves on the list because while practicing our

Page 38

addiction, we have slowly been killing ourselves.

As with each step, we must be thorough. Most of us fall short of our goals more often than we exceed them. At the same time, we cannot put off completion of this step just because we are not sure we are done. We are never done.

The final difficulty in working the Eighth Step is separating it from the Ninth Step. Projecting about actually making amends can be a major obstacle both in making the list and in becoming willing. We do this step as if there were no Ninth Step. We do not even think about making the amends but just concentrate on exactly what the Eighth Step says which is to make a list and to become willing. The main thing this step does for us is to help build an awareness that, little by little, we are gaining new attitudes about ourselves and how we deal with other people.

Listening carefully to other members share their experience with this step can clean up any confusion we may have about our list and the benefits of it. Also, our sponsors may share with us how it worked for them. Asking questions during a meeting can give us the benefit of Group Conscience.

The Eighth Step is a big change from a life dominated by guilt and remorse. Our futures are changed because we don’t have to avoid those we have harmed, and as a result of this step, we’ve received a new freedom which contributes to the end of isolation. As we realize our need to be forgiven, we tend to be more forgiving. At least, we know we are no longer intentionally making life miserable for people in our recovery.

The Eighth Step is an action step. Like all the steps, it offers immediate benefits. We are now free to begin our amends in Step Nine.

Page 39

STEP NINE
“We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”

This step should not be avoided. If we do, we are reserving a place in our Program for relapse. Pride, fear and procrastination often seem an impossible barrier; they stand in the way of progress and growth. The important thing is to take action and be ready to accept the reactions of those persons we have harmed. We make amends to the best of our ability.

Timing is an essential part of this step. We should make amends when the first opportunity presents itself, except when to do so will cause more harm. Sometimes we cannot actually make the amends; it is neither possible nor practical. In some cases, amends may be beyond our means. We have found that willingness can serve in the place of action where we are unable to contact the person we have harmed. However, we should never fail to contact anyone because of embarrassment, fear or procrastination.

We want to be free of our guilt, but we don’t wish to do so at the expense of anyone else. We might run the risk of involving a third person or some companion from our using days who does not wish to be exposed. We do not have the right or the need to endanger another person. It is often necessary to take guidance from others in these matters.

We recommend turning our legal problems over to lawyers and our financial or medical problems to professionals. Part of learning how to live is not to take on problems and responsibilities that we are not equipped to deal with.

In some old relationships, an unresolved conflict may still exist. We do our part to resolve old conflicts by making our amends. We want to step away from further antagonisms and ongoing resentments. In many instances we can only go to the person and humbly ask for understanding of past wrongs. Sometimes this will be a joyous occasion when some old friend or relative proves very willing to let go of their bitterness. To go to someone who is hurting from the burn of our misdeeds

Page 40

can be dangerous. Indirect amends may be necessary where direct ones would be unsafe or endanger other people. We can only make our amends to the best of our ability. We try to remember that when we make amends, we are doing it for ourselves. Instead of feeling guilty and remorseful, we feel relieved about our past.

We accept that it was our actions that caused our negative attitude. Step Nine helps us with our guilt and others with their anger. Sometimes, the only amend we can make is to stay clean ourselves. We owe it to ourselves and loved ones. We are no longer making a mess in society as a result of our using. The only way we can make amends to some of the people we have harmed is to contribute to society. Now, we are helping ourselves and other addicts achieve cleanliness. This is a tremendous amend to the whole community.

In the process of our recovery we were restored to sanity and part of sanity is effectively relating to others. We less often view people as a threat to our security. Real security will replace the physical ache and mental confusion we have experienced in the past. We approach those we have harmed with humility and patience. Many of our sincere well-wishers would be reluctant to accept our recovery as real. We must remember the pain they have known. In time many miracles will occur. Many of us that were separated from our families succeed in establishing relationships with them. Eventually it becomes easier for them to accept the change in us. Clean time speaks for itself. Patience is an important part of our recovery. The unconditional love we experience will rejuvenate our will to live, and each positive move on our part will be matched by an unexpected opportunity. A lot of courage and faith goes into making an amend, and a lot of spiritual growth results. We are achieving freedom from the wreckage of our past. We will want to keep our “house in order” by practicing a continuous personal inventory in Step Ten.

Page 41

STEP TEN
“We continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.”

The Tenth Step frees us from the wreckage of our present. If we do not stay aware of our defects, they can drive us into a corner that we can’t get out of clean.

One of the first things we learn in Narcotics Anonymous is that if we use, we lose. By the same token, we won’t experience as much pain if we can avoid the things that cause us pain. Continuing to take a personal inventory means that we form a habit of looking at ourselves, our actions, our attitudes and our relationships on a regular basis.

We are creatures of habit and are vulnerable to our old ways of thinking and reacting. At times it seems easier to continue in the old rut of self-destruction rather than to attempt a new and seemingly dangerous route. We don’t have to be trapped by our old patterns. Today we have a choice.

The Tenth Step can do this for us; it can help us correct our living problems and prevent their recurrence. We examine our actions during the day. Some of us write about our feelings, explaining how we felt and what part we might have played in any problems which occurred. Did we cause someone harm? Do we need to admit that we were wrong? If we find difficulties, we make an effort to take care of them. When these things are left undone, they have a way of festering.

This step can be a defense against the old insanity. We can ask ourselves if we are being drawn into old patterns of anger, resentment or fear. Do we feel trapped? Are we “setting ourselves up” for trouble? Are we too hungry, angry, lonely or tired? Are we taking ourselves too seriously? Are we judging our insides by the outside appearances of others? Do we suffer from some physical problem? The answers to questions like these can help us to deal with the difficulties of the moment. We no longer have to live with the feeling of a “hole in the gut”. A lot of our chief concerns and major difficulties come from our inexperience

Page 43

with living without drugs. Often when we ask an “oldtimer” what to do we are amazed at the simplicity of the answer.

The Tenth Step can be a pressure relief valve. We work this step while the day’s ups and downs are still fresh in our minds. We list what we have done and try not to rationalize our actions. This may be done in writing at the end of the day. The first thing we do is stop! Then we take the time to allow ourselves the privilege of thinking. We examine our actions, our reactions, and our motives. We often find that we’ve been “doing” better than we’ve been “feeling”. This allows us to find out where we have gone wrong and admit fault before things get any worse. We need to avoid rationalizing. We promptly admit our faults, not explain them.

We work this step continuously. This is a prevention, and the more we do it, the less we will need the corrective part of this step. This is really a great tool. It gives us a way of avoiding grief before we bring it on ourselves. We monitor our feelings, our emotions, our fantasies, and our actions. By constantly looking at these things we may be able to avoid repeating the actions that make us feel bad.

We need this step even when we’re feeling good and things are going well. Good feelings are new to us and we need to nurture them. In times of trouble we can try the things that worked before. We have the right not to feel miserable. We have a choice. The good times can also be a trap; the danger is that we may forget that our first priority is staying clean. For us, recovery is more than just pleasure.

We need to keep in mind that everyone makes mistakes. We will never be perfect. However, we can accept this fact by using Step Ten. By continuing a personal inventory we are set free, in the here and now, from ourselves and the past. We no longer are forced to justify our existence. This step allows us to be ourselves.

Page 43

STEP ELEVEN
“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.”

The first ten steps have set the stage for us to improve our conscious contact with the God of our understanding. They give us the foundation to achieve our long-sought positive goals. Having entered into this phase of our spiritual program through practicing our previous ten steps, most of us find that we can welcome the exercise of prayer and meditation. We have found that our spiritual condition is the basis for a successful recovery that offers unlimited growth.

Many of us really begin to appreciate the fact that we have been clean for awhile when we get to the Eleventh Step. In the Eleventh Step, the life we’ve been practicing begins to take on a deeper meaning. By the surrender of our control, we gain a far greater power.

The nature of our belief will determine the manner of our prayers and meditations. We need only to make sure we have a system of belief which works to provide for our needs. Results count in recovery. As has been noted elsewhere, our prayers seemed to work as soon as we entered the Program of Narcotics Anonymous and surrendered to our disease. The conscious contact described in this step is the direct result of living these steps. We use this step to improve and maintain our spiritual condition.

When we first came into the Program, we received help from some Power greater than ourselves. This was set in motion by our surrendering to the Program. The purpose of the Eleventh Step is to increase our awareness of that Power and to improve our ability to use it as a source of strength in our new lives.

The more we improve our conscious contact with our God through prayer and meditation, the easier it is to say, “Your will, not mine, be done”. We can ask for God’s help when we need it and our lives get better. The experiences some people talk about in regard to meditation no more apply to us than do their individual religious beliefs. Ours is a spiritual, not religious, program.

Page 44

By the time we get to the Eleventh Step, the factors that could cause problems have usually been dealt with by the actions we have taken in the preceding steps. Our deepest longings and images of the kind of people we would like to be are but fleeting glimpses of God’s will for us. Often our outlooks are so limited we can only see our immediate wants and needs.

It is easy to slip back into our old ways. We have to learn to maintain our new lives on a spiritually sound basis to insure our continued growth and recovery. God will not force His goodness on us, but we will receive it if we ask. We usually feel the difference at the time and see the change in our lives later. When we finally get our own selfish motives out of the way, we begin to find a peace we never imagined. Enforced morality lacks the power that comes to us when we choose to live a spiritually-oriented life. Most of us pray when we are hurting. We learn that if we pray regularly we won’t be hurting as often, or as intensely.

Outside of Narcotics Anonymous, there are any number of different groups practicing meditation, but nearly all of them are connected with a particular religion or philosophy. An endorsement of any one of these methods would be a violation of our Traditions and a restriction on individuals’ freedom to have a God of their own understanding. Meditation allows us to develop spiritually in our own way. Some of the things that didn’t work for us before might work today. We take a fresh look each day with an open mind. We now know that if we pray to do God’s will, we will receive what is really best for us, regardless of what we think. This knowledge is based on our belief and experience as recovering addicts.

Prayer is communicating our concerns to a Power greater than ourselves. Sometimes when we pray, a remarkable thing happens; we find the means, the ways and the energies to perform tasks far beyond our capacities. We grasp the limitless strength provided for us through our daily prayer and surrender so long as we keep faith and renew it.

For some, prayer is asking for God’s help, and meditation is

Page 45

listening for God’s answer. We learn to be careful of praying for specific things. We pray that God will show us His will and that He will help us carry that out. In some cases He makes His will so obvious to us that we have little difficulty seeing it. In others, our egos are so self-centered that we won’t accept God’s will for us without another struggle and surrender. If we pray for God to remove any distracting influences, the quality of our prayers usually improves and we feel the difference. Prayer takes practice and it may be well to remind ourselves that skilled people were not born with their skills. It took lots of effort on their part to develop them. Through prayer we seek conscious contact with our God. In meditation we achieve this contact and the Eleventh Step helps us to maintain it.

We may have been exposed to and practiced many religious and meditative disciplines before coming to Narcotics Anonymous. Some of us were devastated and completely confused by these practices, and we were sure that it was God’s will for us to use drugs to reach “higher consciousness”. Many of us find ourselves in very strange states as a result of these practices. We never suspected the damaging effects of our addiction as the root of the difficulty and pursued to the end whatever path offered hope.

In quiet moments of meditation, God’s will can become evident to us. Quieting the mind through meditation brings an inner peace which brings us into contact with the God within. A basic premise of meditation is that it is difficult, if not impossible, to obtain conscious contact unless our mind is still. The usual, never-ending succession of thoughts has to cease for progress to be made. So our preliminary practice is aimed at stilling the mind, and letting the thoughts that arise die a natural death. We leave our thoughts behind, as the meditation part of the Eleventh Step becomes a reality for us.

Emotional balance is one of the first results of meditation, and our experience bears this out. Some of us have come into the Program broken, and hung around for awhile, only to find God or salvation in one kind of religious cult or another. It is easy to

Page 46

float back out the door on a cloud of religious zeal and forget we are addicts with an incurable disease.

It is said that for meditation to be of value, the results must show in our daily lives, and this is implicit in the Eleventh Step:”… His will for us and the power to carry it out”. For those of us who do not pray, meditation is our only way of working this step.

We find ourselves praying because it brings us peace and restores our confidence and courage. It helps us to live a life free of fear and distrust. When we remove our own selfish motives and pray for guidance, we find feelings of peace and serenity that we never knew before. We begin to experience an awareness and an empathy with other people that was not possible before.

As we seek our personal contact with God, we begin to open up like a flower in the sun. We begin to see that God’s love has been here all the time, just waiting for us to accept it. We can put in the footwork and accept what’s being freely given to us on a daily basis. We find relying on God becomes more comfortable for us.

When we first come to the Program, we usually express a lot of things which seem to be important wants and needs. As we grow spiritually and find out about a Power greater than ourselves, we begin to realize that as long as our spiritual needs are truly met, our living problems are reduced to a point of comfort. When we forget where our real strength lies, we quickly become subject to the same patterns of thinking and action that got us to the Program in the first place. We eventually redefine our beliefs and understanding to the point where we see that our greatest need is for knowledge of God’s will for us and the strength to carry that out. We are able to set aside some of our personal preference, if necessary, to do this because we learn that God’s will consists of the very things we care most about. God’s will for us becomes our own true will for ourselves. This happens in an intuitive manner which cannot be adequately explained in words.

We become willing to let other people be what they are without having to pass judgment on them. The urgency to take care of things isn’t there anymore. We couldn’t comprehend acceptance in the beginning-now we can.

Page 47

We know that whatever the day brings, God has given us everything we need for our spiritual well-being. It is all right for us to admit powerlessness because God is powerful enough to help us stay clean and enjoy spiritual progress. God is helping us get our house in order.

We begin to see more and more clearly what is happening, and through constant contact with our Higher Power, the answers we are looking for come to us and we gain the ability to do what we once could not. We respect the beliefs of others. We encourage you to seek strength and guidance according to your belief.

We are thankful for this step because we begin to get what is best for us. The way we have sometimes prayed for our wants often got us into the trap of having to live with them once we got them. We could pray and get something, then have to pray for its removal because we couldn’t handle it.

Hopefully, having learned the power of prayer and the responsibility prayer brings with it, we can use the Eleventh Step as a guideline for our daily Program.

We begin to pray only for God’s will for us. This way we are getting only what we are capable of handling. We are able to respond to it and handle it because God helps us prepare for it. Some of us simply use our words to give thanks for God’s grace.

In an attitude of surrender and humility, we approach this step again and again to receive the gift of knowledge and strength from the God of our understanding. The Tenth Step clears the errors of the present so we may work this step. Without this step, it is unlikely that we could ever experience a spiritual awakening, be able to practice spiritual principles in our lives, or carry a sufficient message to attract others to recovery. There is a spiritual principle of giving away what we have been given in Narcotics Anonymous in order to keep it. By helping others to stay clean, we enjoy the benefit of the spiritual wealth we have found. We must give freely and gratefully that which has been freely and gratefully given to us.

Page 49

STEP TWELVE
“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.”

We came to Narcotics Anonymous as the end result of the wreckage of our past. The last thing we expected was an awakening of the spirit. We just wanted to stop hurting.

The steps lead to an awakening of a spiritual nature. This awakening within is evidenced by change in our lives. This change makes us better able to live by spiritual principles and to carry our message of recovery and hope to the addict who still suffers. The message, however, is meaningless unless we live it. As we live it, our lives and actions give it more meaning than our words and literature ever could.

The idea of a spiritual awakening takes many different forms in the different personalities we find in the fellowship. However, all spiritual awakenings have some things in common. Among them are an end to loneliness and a sense of direction in our lives. Many of us believe a spiritual awakening is meaningless unless accompanied by an increase in peace of mind and concern for others. In order to maintain peace of mind, we strive to live in the here and now.

Those of us who have made the effort to work these steps to the best of our ability received many benefits. We believe that these benefits are a direct result of living this Program.

When we first begin to enjoy relief from our addiction, we run the risk of assuming control of our lives again. We forget the agony