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A valuable tool for addicts who choose to participate in Narcotics Anonymous is the personal inventory. It’s also one of the most destructive tools we learn in recovery when used incorrectly. For many addicts, the typical approach is to attend meetings regularly, find a sponsor and work thru the steps. Some members use a process of questions and discussions to complete the steps that have been passed on for decades. The NAWS Corporation has produced a step working guide that is for sale at many meetings which is popular with new people.Whatever route you have taken I wanted to share my experiences with a step 4 inventory.
A lot of members start the steps in treatment centers. Treatment centers do not always to understand the nature of the program and the importance of unity to our fellowship. I needed an understanding of the 12 traditions in order to apply the work that I did in the steps. Clients will abandon the 12-step process after they have completed step 5, where they share the personal inventory that they take in step 4 with another individual or staff.The rooms of Narcotics Anonymous are full of treatment center victims. This endless cycle of abuse continues when they relapse and go back to treatment, starting another step series, always looking at recovery in Narcotics Anonymous as a self-help program. I never believed the steps were never intended to make you a better person but simply to take the focus away from self-obsession to a more spiritual focus. Clearly a less self-obsessed life might improve my living conditions but there are no guarantees. A spiritual life can involve sacrifices of money, time and selfish desires. Some of my most destructive traits took years to unlock and expose to the light of a spiritually centered life.
Narcotics Anonymous, IP No. 6 “Recovery and Relapse”, The White Book, and Any version of the Basic Text contains the phrase;
By the same token we have observed some members who remain abstinent for long periods of time whose dishonesty and self-deceit still prevent them from enjoying complete recovery and acceptance within society.
How can my dishonesty and self-deception manifest itself in daily living? This can be difficult to diagnose alone. I’ve always found it critically important to have a sponsor and a group I attend regularly. What part does Narcotics Anonymous play in the process? [Basic Text, Version 2 (Grey Book) Chapter two, “What is N.A.”]
N.A. is a non-profit fellowship or society of men and women for whom drugs had become a major problem. We are recovered addicts who meet regularly to help each other stay clean. This is a program of complete abstinence from all drugs.
I believe that we were recovered addicts when we help others and recovering when we tell others what we want to do about our problems and how they can help. Narcotics Anonymous was a safe place where we co-exist as equals, regardless of clean time or intentions beyond a simple desire to stop using. Some members struggle with active addiction for a while or taper off from drug replacement therapies like suboxone or methadone. I was taught that the program begins as I work the steps completely abstinent. My experiences in completing the steps mimic what the basic text says; (Basic Text, Version 2 (Grey Book), Step 12) “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.” From my observations, practicing these principles in all our affairs is a struggle and in some cases the principles were completely abandoned in some of my affairs early in recovery. Today is a different story and I feel clear in my mind and surrounded by the love of a healthy and vibrant fellowship.
Bob Stone was not a member, but he was the first executive director of the World Service Office for Narcotics Anonymous which would morph into the NAWS corporation. He remarked in his book (“My Years With Narcotics Anonymous”, Originally published and copyrighted in 1997 by Hulon Pendleton Publishing L.L.C.) at how petty members with significant clean time were, but his experience was with a small segment of the fellowship who were trying to manage a rapidly growing fellowship in the 1980s and early 1990s. Narcotics Anonymous is a spiritual movement and grows organically every day in other parts of the world without the need to be managed.I believe members acted dishonestly or allowed their self-deceptions to influence changes in our fellowship that had a far-reaching impact. Growth halted quickly in North America. The solution for them was to make service structures and events part of NA against the wishes of the Fellowship. The groups had already approved the original literature which referred to anything outside a group as not a part of NA.
With the changes, unfortunately, members who have never fully recovered can built entire lives inside the fellowship by filling their time with events and service work. Today members use the terms like event-based recovery or service-based recovery in a derogatory fashion to describe these behaviors. If events and service structures were outside enterprises, then members who have fully recovered would eagerly participate rather than being driven away by the lies and deception that can exist. Members use the inventory process as a weapon to drive away others and question their motives.Service bodies should be fully accountable to and supported financially by the groups. Some service structures function remarkably well and appears related to the strength of the unity of those groups who participate fully or substantially without the need to inventory each other. Look and see for yourself the effectiveness of service structures when they are accountable to the groups.Social media has opened the door to healthy fellowships around the world.
All members can freely exist and participate in NA as equals regardless of their place in the journey to complete recovery. The personal inventory I took laid the foundation for the rest of the work I did in the steps and traditions. The daily practice of applying spiritual principles in all my affairs continues. When I struggle with this practice in some affair, I ask for help from other members in the group I’m a member of. New people and a growing fellowship strengthen my recovery and offer me more freedom with each passing day. The diversity of my group gives me the opportunity to apply the traditions in my life and further strengthens my practice of applying spiritual principles.The stigma of being an addict is no longer a barrier. I can fully contribute to society and participate in all the world has to offer. The greatest freedom is from self-obsession as I remain vigilant in carrying a message to the still suffering addict.
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