Chapter 5: We Can Do It?

Chapter 5 Page 52

What Can I Do?

Begin your own program by taking Step One from the previous chapter, “How It Works”. When we fully concede to our innermost selves that we are powerless over our addiction, we have taken a big step in our recovery. Many of us have had some reservations at this point, so give yourself a break and be as thorough as possible from the start. Go on to Step Two, and so forth, and as you go on you will come to an understanding of the program for yourself. If you are in an institution of any kind and have stopped using for the present, you can with a clear mind try this way of life.

Upon release, continue your daily program and contact a member of N.A. Do this by mail, by phone, or in person. Better yet, come to our meetings. Here you will find answers to some of the things that may be disturbing you now.

If you are not in an institution, the same holds true. Stop using for today. Most of us can do for eight or twelve hours what seems impossible for a longer period of time. If the obsession or compulsion becomes too great, put yourself on a five minute basis of not using. Minutes will grow to hours, and hours to days, so you will break the habit and gain some peace of mind. The real miracle happens when you realize that the need for drugs has in some way been lifted from you. You have stopped using and started to live.

The first step to recovery is to stop using. We cannot expect the Program to work for us if our minds and bodies are still clouded by drugs. We can do this anywhere, even in prison or an insti-

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tution. We do it anyway we can, cold turkey or in a detox, just as long as we get clean.

Developing the concept of God as we understand Him is a project we can undertake. We can also use the steps to improve our attitudes. Our best thinking is what got us into trouble. We recognize the need for change. Our disease involves much more than using, and so our recovery must involve much more than simple abstinence. Recovery is an active change of our ideas and attitudes.

The ability to face problems is necessary to stay clean. If we had problems in the past it is unlikely that simple abstinence will provide the solution to them. Guilt and worry can keep us from living in the here and now. The denial of our disease and other reservations keep us sick. Many of us feel that we cannot possibly have a happy life without drugs. We suffer from fear and insanity and feel that there is no escape from using. We may fear rejection from our friends if we get clean. These feelings are common to the addict seeking recovery. We could be suffering from an overly sensitive ego. Some of the most common excuses for using are loneliness, self-pity and fear. Dishonesty, close-mindedness and unwillingness are three of our greatest enemies. Self-obsession is the core of our disease.

We have learned that old ideas and old ways won’t help us to stay clean or live a better life. If we allow ourselves to stagnate and cling to “terminal hipness” and “fatal cool”, we are giving into the symptoms of our disease. One of the problems is that we found it easier to change our perception of reality than to change reality. We must give up this old concept and face the fact that reality and life go on whether we choose to accept them or not. We can only change the way we react and the way we see ourselves. This is necessary for us to accept that change is gradual and recovery is an ongoing process.

A meeting a day at least the first ninety days is a good idea. There is a special feeling that comes over a person with our disease when they discover that there are other people who share their difficulties, past and present. At first we can do little more than go to meetings. Probably we cannot remember a single word, person or thought from our first meeting. In time, we relax and enjoy

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the atmosphere of recovery. Meetings strengthen our recovery. We may be scared at first because we don’t know anyone. Some of us think we don’t need meetings. When we hurt though, we go to a meeting for relief. Meetings keep us in touch with where we’ve been, but more importantly with where we could go in our recovery. As we go to meetings regularly, we learn the value of talking with other addicts who share our problems and goals. We have to open up and accept the love and understanding we need in order to change. When we become acquainted with the fellowship and its principles and begin to put them into action, we start to grow. We apply our efforts to our most obvious problems and let go of the rest. We do the job at hand and as we progress, new opportunities for improvement present themselves.

Our new friends in the fellowship will help us. Our common effort is recovery. Clean, we face the world together. We no longer have to feel backed into a corner and at the mercy of events and circumstances. It makes all the difference to have friends who care if we hurt. We find our place in the fellowship, and we join a group whose meetings help us in our recovery. We have been untrustworthy for so long that most of our friends and families will doubt our recovery because they think it won’t last. We need people that understand our disease and the recovery process. At meetings we can share with other addicts, ask questions and learn about our disease. We learn new ways to live. We are no longer limited to our old ideas.

Gradually, we replace old habits with new ways of living. We become willing to change. We go to meetings regularly, get and use telephone numbers, read literature, and most importantly, we don’t use. We learn to share with others. If we don’t tell someone we are hurting, they will seldom see it. When we reach out for help, we can receive it.

Another tool for the newcomer is involvement with the fellowship. As we become involved we learn to keep the Program first and take it easy in other matters. We begin immediately by asking for help and trying out the recommendation of the people at the meetings. It is beneficial to allow others in the group to help us. In time, we will be able to pass on what we have been given. We learn that service will get us out of ourselves. Our work can begin with

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simple things: emptying ashtrays, making coffee, cleaning up, setting up for a meeting, opening the door, chairing a meeting, and passing out literature. Doing these things helps us feel a part of the fellowship.

We have found it helpful to have a sponsor and to use this sponsor. Sponsorship is merely a way of describing the special interest of an experienced member that can mean so much to newcomers after they turn to N.A. for help. Sponsorship is also a two-way street, helping both the newcomer and the sponsor. The sponsor’s clean time and experience may well depend on the availability of sponsors in a locality. Sponsorship is also the responsibility of the group for helping the newcomer. It is implied and informal in its approach, but it is the heart of the N.A. way of recovery from addiction-one addict helping another.

One of the most profound changes in our lives is in the realm of personal relationships. Our earliest involvements with others often begin with our sponsor. As newcomers we find it easier if we have someone whose judgment we trust and can confide in. We find trusting others with more experience to be a strength rather than a weakness. Our experience reveals that working the steps is our best guarantee against a relapse. Our sponsors and friends can advise us regarding how to work the steps. We can talk over what the steps mean with them. They can help us to prepare for the spiritual experience of living the steps. Asking God as we understand Him for help improves our understanding of the steps. When we are prepared, we must try out our newly found way of life. We learn that the Program won’t work when we try to adapt it to our life. We must learn to adapt our life to the Program.

Today we seek solutions, not problems. We try what we learn on an experimental basis. We keep what we need and leave the rest. We find that by working the steps, communicating with our Higher Power, talking to our sponsors, and sharing with newcomers we are able to grow spiritually.

The Twelve Steps are used as a program of recovery. We learn that we can go to our Higher Power for help in solving problems. When we find ourselves sharing difficulties that used to have us on the run, we experience good feelings that give us the strength to begin seeking God’s will for us.

We believe that our Higher Power will take care of us. If we honestly try to do God’s will to the best of our ability, we can

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handle the results of anything that happens. Seeking our Higher Power’s will is a spiritual principle found in the steps. Working the steps and practicing the principles simplifies our lives and changes our old attitudes. When we admit that our lives had become unmanageable, we don’t have to argue our point of view. We have to accept ourselves as we are. We no longer have to be right all the time. When we give ourselves this freedom, we can allow others to be wrong. Freedom to change seems to come mainly after our acceptance of ourselves.

Sharing with fellow addicts is a basic tool in our Program. This help can only come from another addict. It is help that says, “I have had something like that happen to me, and I did this …. “. For anyone who wants our way of life, we share experience, strength and hope instead of preaching and judging. If sharing the experience of our pain helps just one person, it will have been worth the suffering. We strengthen our own recovery when we share it with others who ask for help. If we keep what we have to share, we lose it. Words mean nothing until we put them into action.

We recognize our spiritual growth when we are able to reach out and help others. We help others when we participate in Twelve Step work and try to carry the message of recovery to the addict who still suffers. We learn that we keep what we have only by giving it away. Also, our experience shows many personal problems are resolved when we get out of ourselves and offer to help those in need. We recognize that one addict can best understand and help another. No matter how much we give, there is always another addict seeking help.

We cannot afford to lose sight of the importance of sponsorship and of taking a special interest in a confused addict who wants to stop using. Experience shows clearly that those who get the most out of the N.A. program are those to whom sponsorship is important. Sponsorship responsibilities are welcomed by us and accepted as opportunities to enrich our personal N.A. experience.

Working with others is only the beginning of service work. N.A. service allows us to spend much of our time directly helping the suffering addicts as well as insuring that Narcotics Anonymous itself survives. This way we keep what we have by giving it away.