Complacency is the enemy
When Narcotics Anonymous first started in 1953, early members were trying to adapt what had worked for alcoholics in Alcoholics Anonymous. Some drug addicts found success in AA but it was rare. The prevailing idea was that once you were a drug addict there was little hope for you. Once an addict, always an addict was a common saying.Even today, the emphasis is not on treatment but maintenance using suboxone, methadone or other drugs for many addicts. Members wrote about the successes they were finding and what was working in the early years of NA. One example is from the White book published by Narcotics Anonymous in 1966 which states; “For the first time in man's entire history, a simple way has been proving itself in the lives of many addicts”.This literature evolved and was expanded to be published 16 years later as the Basic Text or Grey book. There are six references in the Grey Book of Narcotics Anonymous to complacency when it was published in 1982. One reference to complacency is familiar to many of the members as it is the most often repeated.(Basic Text, Grey book, Chapter 7, “Recovery and relapse”, Page 97) “Complacency is the enemy of members with clean time.” What is complacency and what role does it play in recovery for drug addicts?
One definition of complacency that came up on the internet was “a feeling of smug or uncritical satisfaction with oneself or one's achievements.” This general feeling of being content without critical observation is a feeling I’m able to relate to. Complacency is positive outlook on a self-examined life. I remain ignorant to the problems that exist when I fail to look critically at my life in relation to the world around me. Worse are the friendships that form in recovery that celebrate their achievements, becoming cliques and forgetting the carnage that exists today.I can justify acceptance of some unpleasant situation if the effort to change is more than I am willing to commit to. I understand these feelings all too well as I am sure many addicts do, and even for a recovered addict complacency is death and the weapons are contempt.
(Basic Text, Grey Book, Chapter 8, “We do recover”, Page 112) “As our lives become more comfortable, many of us lapse into spiritual complacency, and we find ourselves in the same horror and loss of purpose from which we came. We forget we are given only a daily reprieve.” I believe in the idea that each day addicts face the same disease that they arrived in Narcotics Anonymous with at their first meeting. Narcotics Anonymous is not a cure, but a manner of living. I try and attend regularly to help other group members stay clean and seek solutions to my problems. I work the steps to not only learn about myself but also about how to apply spiritual principles in all aspects of my life. No aspect is more important than carrying the message to another addict because if self-obsession is the core of my disease, then getting outside myself is critical. Each day I am clean because of the grace of some higher power that I have found for myself. Nothing I learn will spare me from the horrors of active addiction until I apply those same principles in all my affairs. When I accept that I am bound with other members to carry a message then I have a hope of staying clean for another day.That is the NA way as I understand it. Recovery is not always pretty and staying involved can be a challenge; everything I do must be to further the primary purpose of carrying a message to the still suffering addict.
(White Book, published 1966, “Relapse and recovery”, page 10)
We in the recovery program of Narcotics Anonymous have noted with some satisfaction that many of the relapsers, when again active in their prime or substitute addiction have dropped many of the parallel behaviors that characterized them in the past. This change alone is significant to us. Honesty of a kind has penetrated their character. Yet there are others completely abstinent, whose dishonesties and self deceits still prevent them from enjoying complete recovery and acceptance within society. Complete and continuous abstinence however, is still the best ground for growth.
It isn’t that difficult to find members with clean time who are dishonest and failing to live by spiritual principles, but the worst part was seeing that behavior in myself. Service can become another addiction. I took money for travel costs for NA service commitments that were clearly never going to effectively achieve anything for the groups.I was so willing to part with my money to feed my addictions and now I justify being selfish because I’m clean. I traveled to many events labeled as NA, never considering that they were intended to promote personal recovery ahead of our primary purpose. I would celebrate my achievements forgetting the thousands of suffering addicts who litter the streets. I and other members talk of building unity but never measure the effectiveness of our efforts. I realized recently that the growth they spoke of in the above quote was not just personal growth but growth of the Fellowship as well.
(Grey book, Chapter 10, “More will be revealed”, page 120)
Concern and attention on the part of trusted servants is required at every meeting, group and service committee. Spiritual Vigilance is required to apply our Twelve Traditions and to bring up at times the ties which bind us together. Complacency has no place in all this; openness, freedom and spirit are the marks of recovery.
This statement was quite revealing because part of being a member of Narcotics Anonymous is a commitment we take on in step 12, which is to carry the message to the suffering addict. In a way, we all become trusted servants of the Fellowship. Those are the ties that bind us together regardless of the quality of our personal lives.It’s what separates members from self-seekers who are only interested in their own recovery. This is evident in a quote from ‘our symbol’ first published in 1975 in the NA Service Tree booklet and still published in all versions of the Basic Text.
The greater the base, as we grow in unity in numbers and in fellowship, the broader the sides and the higher the point of freedom. Probably the last to be lost to freedom will be the stigma of being an addict. Goodwill is best exemplified in service and proper service is "Doing the right thing for the right reason." When this supports and motivates both the individual and the fellowship, we are fully whole and wholly free.
Narcotics Anonymous is not for everyone. The rooms can end up full of self-seekers who want recovery with no investment in Fellowship. The Fellowship will stagnate and eventually die with this attitude. Some people attend only considering what the program can do for them, never accepting the responsibilities of membership and the commitment to help others. Self-obsession is the core of the disease according to the literature.Complacency is self-obsession and self-deception multiplied and is much worse than the disease that we arrived with because it kills newcomers to the program who learn from bad examples.
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