In Loving Memory of Vic

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Tradition Three

Tradition Three

“The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop using.”

Our new members are the lifeblood of our fellowship and our service to these members becomes the heartbeat of NA. Today, grateful for our lives as protected by a loving God, we become willing to venture into the darkness where they are and demonstrate that we truly do care and understand. We can welcome them to join us as they are, since we have faith today that they can no longer harm us, no matter what their situation, where they came from, or how they got here. We can allow them to become a member when they say so. Any addict, regardless of any other problem they face, is welcomed to find their home in NA. Narcotics Anonymous is a fellowship which is all inclusive with respect to any mood-changing, mind altering substances. All that is required is that one thinks they have a drug problem and has a desire to stop, nothing more, nothing less.

As for membership in NA; our position ought be one of unrestricted and inclusive participation. If spiritual progress was our goal, how could we claim such progress if we were to erect even the slightest barrier between ourselves and the still using or suffering addict? More often than not, these addicts will come to us as non-conformists, whereas many of us can identify with such a position. Therefore, we ought neither insist nor suggest that they conform, not even that they meet us at the half-way point. These individuals are often too sick, weak, and frightened to overcome any hurdles. In erecting them we may be sentencing our new members if not to death, to many more years of dereliction and institutions.

A member shares, “It is very important that the newcomer know that the only requirement for NA membership is the desire to stop using. I have heard it said that it must be an honest desire or a sincere desire, but I know that is not true. You only have to have a desire to stop using – any kind of desire. When I came to my first meeting, I had no idea what was going on. I knew I was not very honest at that time. If I was told I needed to have an honest desire to stop using I would have never come back to another meeting. It took me three months to finally get clean. I guess my desire to stay clean was greater than my desire to use.”

Desire and willingness are the two most important prerequisites to recovery. In order to recover, an addict must have the desire to stop using and in order to stay clean, and addict must have the willingness to follow suggestions so that they will continue to recover.

Pain doesn’t make us members. This is why it is important for us to share our pain, so others can respond to us and give us the beginnings of membership. If this sharing doesn’t make our desire for recovery clear to others, we can hurt a long time in helpless confusion. We can even blame others for not treating us with the respect and affection we think our agony buys for us. We may see recovery as a contest of pain. The person who hurts the most does not get the most help: it is the person who lets the group know they are open to help by asking for it. Our own personal acquaintance with desiring recovery initiates our recovery. Before this, we were only re-experiencing our past hurts and injuries. Desire implies a future and a change.

While NA clearly rests on the principle of “complete abstinence,” we do not use this principle as justification to exclude an addict from membership status. To deny any addict’s full privileges may lead one to believe that “desire” is not enough. If we are to seek an atmosphere of recovery in our meetings, such an atmosphere will also compliment each spiritual principle embodied in our steps and traditions. The practice of acceptance, patience, tolerance, and unconditional love support our aim of equality, which in turn prevents us from creating a “second class” of membership. It is understood that our membership is a rough mixture of people at different levels of disease and recovery.

Using refers to using drugs in one form or another and starts with an individual member’s drug of choice. The more we learn about the addicts we find in the meetings, the more we can discover similarities to what we have gone through and still experience daily. When we find we have enough in common with addicts in Narcotics Anonymous, we have shifted our identification from lonely scared addict in a world where we cannot recover, into a world where being an addict first means we cannot use drugs and live successfully and further that we can regain our health and a degree of good sense.

There is no “wrong” reason for coming to NA. Many of us came to escape jail or other institutions. We may or may not have found a desire to stop using because of this. Those who have are free to begin a new way of life. Those who do not have the desire return to their old way of life. We have learned through personal experience that no one can make an addict stop using other than himself. Being ready to stop using is a personal decision and NA must not try to force our way of life on anyone regardless of how apparent it is to us that the individual should join us. However, we can pray for that person and be ready and willing to help if that person decides to ask for help. The benefits of membership cannot be bought, sold or given to someone without the desire. It can threaten their life or make them insanely jealous to have contact with a clean addict before they are willing to surrender. We can make ourselves available and stay in touch only if they have this desire.

Desire, is also a quality which is necessary to understand. Desire is often quite personal to each and every one of us. To some this word brings forth in influx of emotions ranging from extreme fear, to intense hurt and near unbearable anxiety. To others it may not be so severe. Each of us has traveled different paths in our lives and has unique experiences in respect to others. It does not matter what got us here but that we accept each other as members in an atmosphere free from judgment.

Membership is the key to our personal recovery. We feel comfortable with and part of the group. Along with membership, certain responsibilities come in to play. We must provide an atmosphere of recovery to anyone seeking it. Membership should not be taken lightly; it is a privilege. To serve is not a chore. We have found growth and freedom from membership and should freely pass these things to others.

When we finally make the decision to stop using, we must take certain action in order to begin the recovery process. We must make a commitment to attend meetings regularly, to get a sponsor and work the Steps and Traditions. As we continue to recover, other actions must be taken in order to insure ourselves against complacency. These include carrying the message to the addict who still suffers as well as a commitment to service. It is only through these types of positive actions can we attain spiritual growth.

Membership in NA is something that is often taken for granted because the program works so quickly. In our disease, we may fail to value the peace and comfort that is coming our way. Life always has its little surprises around the corner. In recovery, these surprises are usually pretty good! As with many other groups, with membership comes certain obligations. We cannot just assume that meetings will automatically be there for us when we need them. We must get involved, attend business meetings and make a commitment to service. We must give back what was so freely given to us if we are to continue to recover as individuals and as a fellowship.

The desire to stop using is our only requirement. This does not refer to chemicals, people, food, sex, etc. Using refers to the way our addictive personality manifests itself in our daily lives. We live to use and use to live. We do not separate ways or means of usage nor do we focus on our use. We focus on freedom from active addiction. This freedom begins with putting down the most obvious. Chemicals allowed us to recognize and identify our disease. As we begin to recover, we may begin to see other ways we actively use. Identifying rather than comparing helps keep us focused on our desire. We must carry a clear message of Narcotics Anonymous recovery to enable newcomers to see what we have to offer and how we can help. When we cloud our message, we become inconsistent and this may confuse the newcomer. Membership is open for those with the desire. This does not mean that we do not carry our message to plant seeds with those addicts with potential desires. As long as the still suffering know about NA, we have carried out our primary purpose. We may not be able to keep a using addict clean, but we can give a struggling member a choice and a healthy environment for growth.

Though we have found that imposing conformity does not work, we do have the power of example. Unable to spiritually control the thoughts, feelings, and actions of our newer members, we can rely on our faith in a loving God that they will come to their own understanding in their own time. Eventually all addicts will conform to the principals that guarantee their survival, if not, they sicken and possibly die. These are facts of our experience.

Willingness is an action word. This program is for people who want it, not for people who need it. We have to reach a point of total surrender before the willingness comes. The breakdown of our personal world is part of what helps us get clean. It helps us remember what the last one did for us. We thank God for this tradition because if it was not there – we would not here. The desire to stop using is the only requirement for membership. It does not matter how much or how little, just that you want to do something about using. In order to have the necessary desire for recovery, we had to reach a point of desperation. On a deeper lever, we began to actively seek a new way of life.

Our recovering friend continues, “Although I have been abstinent for years and attend NA meetings on a regular basis, I am ‘not’ automatically a member of NA. A lot of the time I have no desire to stop using. At these times, even though I am clean, I do not consider myself a member because membership provides action. I can ‘desire’ all I want, but, if I do not act to make that desire a reality, it means very little to me. This is a ‘grow or go’ program. It works if you work it. When I am sitting in limbo, not using, but also not taking an active part in my recovery, I am not a member. Membership implies participation!

“‘The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop using.’ This is a passage in our literature that I have heard many times at the beginning of NA meetings. I have considered this an important issue facing our fellowship in the future as more and more people desire to stop using. I remember the first NA meeting that I attended. I was asked to leave because I would not say that I was an addict. In as much pain, anguish and despair as I was in at that first NA meeting, I was asked to leave and attend an open meeting. I cannot hear these words now and not shiver. Today I am an addict in recovery and I think back to that first meeting where the bondage of denial kept me from saying I was an addict. Today I know that I can only call myself an addict and I can only judge my own desire to stop using. So, when I see a new face in our meetings, I say to myself these very same words. As our fellowship grows, new controversies arise such as singleness to purpose or one disease, one program. I do not apply myself to these controversies. For no addict seeking recovery whether in denial or acceptance should be denied recovery the way I was at my first NA meeting.” This apparently negative experience may have triggered her desire.

It does not matter what, or how much any person used. Using is a term relative to each member as well. Neither excessive consumption nor sporadic maintenance changes the status of our membership. Each has paid the price for membership with their pain and each deserves the same chance at recovery as any other addict. We have learned that the disease of addiction knows no boundaries and holds no hostages. Any addict, regardless of the drug they used, duration they used, or length of abstinence is subject to the same misery, dereliction, institutionalization, and death as the next. Just as any addict, in any of these instances, deserves the same dignity and respect as anyone else. This is how the equality and inclusively of our membership compliments our unity, which in turn works to develop a fellowship whose only goal is to help one another find recovery, just for today.

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