Indifference or Intolerance towards spiritual principles

By rebelsmed 11/11/19
Narcotics Anonymous, addiction, recovery

My life prior to recovery didn’t seem like the nightmare that is often portraited as ‘active addiction’ as seen on TV.  There were lots of times where my life was peaceful.  I never made the connection between the declines in my standard of living and the use or abuse of drugs. Drug use was what kept me from struggling with life sometimes. Impaired driving is a much easier decision to make when once you are loaded.  When I wasn’t high, my thoughts were wallowing in self-obsession, focused on obsessive thinking until I could numb my feelings by getting loaded again.  I had principles that I lived by, and some of them were likely considered spiritual. I didn’t believe it was ok to kill anyone, but I had made some sort of peace with impaired driving. Spiritual principles seemed to be in a grey area, and some areas of my life were lived completely without principles at all, and all my principles were negotiable depending on how loaded I was. When I made the decision to get into recovery I was at a new bottom in my life. For the first time I was forced to confront some of the decisions I made, and I clearly needed a new way to live. In Narcotics Anonymous, in the Little White Book (first published 1966, “How it Works, page 5), there is a line; “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.” It turned out for me that learning about those spiritual principles was only half of a lifelong commitment.

I was under the impression that NA was a self-help program when I first started attending NA meetings. Every meeting I went to seemed to have two posters up, one with the 12 Steps and one with the 12 Traditions.  I took some suggestions and joined a group, found a sponsor and started working on the steps. (LWB, page 4) “These are suggested only, but they are the principles that made our recovery possible. “

I decided to get a better understanding of the importance of the traditions as I worked thru the steps.  The traditions were discussed as topics at meetings. Many of the meetings I attended did a Traditions reading that begins with; (LWB, page 8)

We keep what we have only with vigilance and just as freedom for the individual comes from the Twelve Steps so freedom for the groups springs from our traditions.

As long as the ties that bind us together are stronger than those that would tear us apart, all will be well.

The Little White Book was the foundation for the Basic Text of Narcotics Anonymous. By the early 1980’s the Fellowship had grown to a size where many thousands of addicts in a thousand groups were getting and staying clean. Those early ideas captured in the LWB were carried over to the Basic Text. I read the Basic Text of Narcotics Anonymous three times the first two years. The book profoundly shaped my ideas of what it meant to recover but how I was going to recover. In the beginning of the Basic Text (Grey book, published 1983, ‘Our Symbol’)


All parts thus far are closely related to the needs and aims of the addict seeking recovery and the purpose of the fellowship seeking to make recovery available to all. 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.

This idea of freedom and being tied to a fellowship was difficult to manage.  I was quick to judge others and found myself sometimes manipulating the program to suit my needs.  It was good to have an awareness of my defects and shortcomings. This allowed me to continue to practice spiritual principles in all my affairs. Being honest with myself and the NA group I was a member of became critically important. The LWB reminded me of what happens if I did not; (LWB, page 8) “Yet there are others, completely abstinent, whose dishonesties and self-deceits still prevent them from enjoying complete recovery and acceptance within society.” Seeing myself as I truly was and being accepted in Narcotics Anonymous as a member was critical to my ongoing success as a recovered addict.  I realized that I need to continue to practice living by spiritual principles on an ongoing basis. The freedom I achieved increased as I worked with other members of my group to carry the message to the still suffering addict. Each new member of my group increased my freedom.

Unfortunately, at a critical time in the growth of the Fellowship, a small group of individuals changed the entire fabric of what was working for so many. I’ve discussed this with members, who believe that critical concepts were altered in Tradition 4 and 9. The original material which was removed that was created and approved by the groups is underlined below (Basic Text, published 1983);

Tradition 4; They are services we utilize to help us in our recovery and to further the primary purpose of our groups. Narcotics Anonymous is a Fellowship of men and women; addicts meeting in groups and using a given set of spiritual principles to find freedom from addiction and a new way to live. All else is not N.A. Those things we mentioned are the result of members caring enough to reach out and offer their help and experience so that our road might be easier. Whether we choose to utilize these services is up to the group.

Tradition 9: The Ninth Tradition goes on to define the nature of the things that we can do to help N.A. It says that we may create service boards or committees to serve the needs of the Fellowship. None of them has the power to rule, censor, decide, or dictate. They exist solely to serve the Fellowship, but they are not part of Narcotics Anonymous.


My experience is that some addicts believe that attending meetings, participating in service structures or going to conventions makes them a member. That doesn’t make any sense at all. Going to a Christian church or helping at the church run food bank doesn’t make you a Christian.  Many service bodies for Narcotics Anonymous struggle to find people willing to participate and I’m not surprised. Some of these service bodies are unsupported by many of the groups they are servants for because they are self-serving. Servants fully participate in the disbursement of travel funds with no regard of how that money was spent.   Worst still are the behaviors of members who feel entitled to behave any way they like in service positions without accountability. Long-term members are coming to recognize that service is an outside issue and they eagerly participate in service bodies that have nothing to do with NA. Being of service is critical to our success as recovered addicts and that often means leaving toxic service structures that label themselves as NA. Today I believe in finding a balance of learning about spiritual principles and the practical application of them in all my affairs from many sources.

Alcoholics Anonymous has service corporations with the groups serving as members. They are largely self-supporting from contributions from those groups and the servants who serve on the boards of those corporations are a mixture of alcoholic members and non-members alike so that they can draw on the best talent available. Groups participate in the nomination of board members at a grass roots level. AA’s world service body is 80% self-supporting from the groups they are accountable to and the unfortunately named Narcotics Anonymous World Services Corporation could clearly learn a lesson from this as they are less than 20% self-supporting, a board entirely made of addicts and are not accountable to any groups as members.  


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