What is the NA Program ?
NA is a nonprofit fellowship or society of men and women for whom drugs had become a major problem. We are recovering addicts who meet regularly to help each other stay clean. This is a program of complete abstinence from all drugs.
There is only one requirement for membership, the desire to stop using.
We suggest that you keep an open mind and give yourself a break. Our program is a set of principles written so simply that we can follow them in our daily lives. The most important thing about them is that they work.
There are no strings attached to NA. We are not affiliated with any other organizations. We have no initiation fees or dues, no pledges to sign, no promises to make to anyone.
We are not connected with any political, religious, or law enforcement groups, and are under no surveillance at any time.
Anyone may join us regardless of age, race, sexual identity, creed, religion, or lack of religion.
We are not interested in what or how much you used or who your connections were, what you have done in the past, how much or how little you have, but only in what you want to do about your problem and how we can help.
The newcomer is the most important person at any meeting, because we can only keep what we have by giving it away. We have learned from our group experience that those who keep coming to our meetings regularly stay clean.
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There is also an app for finding NA meetings near you!
One of the first suggestions many of us hear when we begin attending NA meetings is to get a sponsor. As newcomers, we may not understand what this means.
What is a sponsor?
How do we get and use one? Where do we find one?
This pamphlet is intended to serve as a brief introduction to sponsorship:
Our Basic Text tells us that “the heart of NA beats when two addicts share their recovery,” and sponsorship is simply one a ddict helping another. The two-way street of sponsorship is a loving, spiritual, an d compassionate relationship that helps both the sponsor and sponsee.
WHO is a sponsor?
Sponsorship is a personal and private relationship that can mean different things to different people. For the purposes of this pamphlet, an NA sponsor is a member of Narcotics Anonymous, living our program of recovery, who is willing to build a special, supportive, one-on-one relationship with us .
Most members think of a sponsor, firstand foremost, as someone who can help us work the Twelve Steps of NA, and sometimes the Twelve Traditions and Twelve Concepts.
A sponsor is not necessarily a friend, but may be someone in whom we confide. We can share things with our sponsor that we might not be comfortable sharing in a meeting.
WHAT does a sponsor do?
Sponsors share their experience, strength, and hope with their sponsees. Some describe their sponsor as loving and compassionate, someone they can count on to listen and support them no matter what. Others value the objectivity and detachment a sponsor can offer, relying on their direct and honest input even when it may be difficult to accept. Still others turn to a sponsor mainly for guidance through the Twelve Steps.
Sponsorship works for the same reason that NA works—because recovering members share common bonds of addiction and recovery and, in many cases, can empathize with each other. A sponsor’s role is not that of a legal advisor, a banker, a parent, a marriage counselor, or a social worker.
Nor is a sponsor a therapist offering some sort of professional advice. A sponsor is simply another addict in recovery who is willing to share his or her journey through the Twelve Steps.
As we share our concerns and questions with our sponsors, sometimes they will share their own experiences. At other times they may suggest reading or writing assignments, or try to answer our questions about the program. When we are new to NA, a sponsor can help us understand things that may confuse us about the program, from NA language, meeting formats, and the service structure, to the meaning of NA principles and the nature of spiritual awakening.
WHAT does a sponsee do?
One suggestion is to have regular contact with our sponsor. In addition to phoning our sponsor, we can arrange to meet up at meetings. Some sponsors will tell us how often they expect us to contact them, while others don’t set those kinds of requirements. If we cannot find a sponsor who lives close to us, we can look to technology or mail to keep in touch.
Regardless of how we communicate with our sponsor, it is important that we be honest and that we listen with an open mind.
HOW do we get a sponsor?
To get a sponsor, all we need to do is ask . While this is simple, it may not be easy. Many of us are afraid to ask someone to be our sponsor. In active addiction, we may have learned not to trust anyone, and the idea of asking someone to listen to us and help us may feel alien and frightening. No netheless, most of our members describe sponsorship as a crucial part of their recovery. Sometimes we finally gather our courage, only to have someone say no. If that happens, we need to be persistent, have faith, and try not to take his or her decision personally. The reasons people may decline probably have nothing to do with us: they may have busy lives or many sponsees, or they may be going through difficult times. We need to reaffirm our faith and ask someone else.
The best place to look for a sponsor is at an NA meeting. Other places to seek a sponsor are NA events, such as service m eetings and conventions. In seeking a sponsor, most members look for someone they feel they can learn to trust, someone who seems compassionate and who is ac tive in the program.
Most members, particularly those who are new to NA, consider it important to find a sponsor with more clean time than they have.
A good rule of thumb is to look for someone with similar experiences who can relate to our struggles and accomplishments. For most, finding a sponsor of the same sex makes this empathy easier and helps us feel safe in the relationship.
Some feel gender need not be a deciding factor. We are free to choose our own sponsor. It is, however, strongly suggested that we avoid getting into a sponsorship relationship that may lead to sexual attraction. Such attraction can distract us from the nature of sponsorship and interfere with our ability to share honestly with each other.
“ When I got clean, I was insecure, lonely, and willing to do anything for some comfort and company. My natural tendency was to satisfy those desires and not have to focus on what was necessary to build a foundation for my recovery. Thank God for the integrity of those members who supported me and didn’t take advantage of me in the early days of my recovery.”
Sometimes members wonder whether it would be okay to have more than one sponsor. While some addicts do choose this route, most caution against it, explaining that having more than one sponsor might tempt them to be manipulative in order to get the answers or guidance they are looking for.
WHEN should we get a sponsor?
Most members consider it important to get a sponsor as soon as possible, while others explain that it is just as crucial to take a little time to look around and make an informed decision. Going to a lot of meetings helps us to determine who we are comfortable with and who we can learn to trust. While we are looking for a sponsor, if someone offers, we do not have to say yes. One thing to remember is that, if we get a sponsor to help us in our early recovery, we are free to change sponsors later if that person isn’t meeting our needs.
“ I compared the timing of when to get a sponsor to drowning. I needed that life-saver/sponsor immediately!”
When we are new to the program, we need to reach out to other addicts for help and support. It is never too early to get and use phone numbers and begin sharing with other recovering addicts. Our program works because of the help we can offer each other. We no longer need to live in isolation, and we begin to feel part of something larger than ourselves. Sponsorship helps us to see that, in coming to NA, we have finally come home.
You may have questions about sponsorship that this IP did not answer for you. While there may not be “right” or “wrong” answers to your questions—the experience of our fellowship varies from community to community and member to member—we do have a book on sponsorship that addresses many issues related to sponsorship in greater depth.
How It Works
If you want what we have to offer, and are willing to make the effort to get it, then you are ready to take certain steps. These are the principles that made our recovery possible:
We admitted that we were powerless over our addiction, that our lives had become unmanageable.
We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
This sounds like a big order, and we can’t do it all at once.
We didn’t become addicted in one day, so remember—easy does it.
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.
Three of these that are indispensable are honesty, open-mindedness, and willingness.
With these we are well on our way.
We feel that our approach to the disease of addiction is completely realistic, for the therapeutic value of one addict helping another is without parallel. We feel that our way is practical, for one addict can best understand and help another addict.
We believe that the sooner we face our problems within our society, in everyday living, just that much faster do we become acceptable, responsible, and productive members of that society.
The only way to keep from returning to active addiction is not to take that first drug.
If you are like us you know that one is too many and a thousand never enough.
We put great emphasis on this, for we know that when we use drugs in any form, or substitute one for another, we release our addiction all over again.
Thinking of alcohol as different from other drugs has caused a great many addicts to relapse. Before we came to NA, many of us viewed alcohol separately, but we cannot afford to be confused about this. Alcohol is a drug. We are people with the disease of addiction who must abstain from all drugs in order to recover.
The Twelve Traditions of NA
We keep what we have only with vigilance, and just as freedom for the individual comes from the Twelve Steps, so freedom for the group 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.
Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends on NA unity.
For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority— a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.
The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop using.
Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or NA as a whole.
Each group has but one primary purpose—to carry the message to the addict who still suffers.
An NA group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the NA name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, or prestige divert us from our primary purpose.
Every NA group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.
Narcotics Anonymous should remain forever nonprofessional, but our service centers may employ special workers.
NA, as such, ought never be organized, but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.
Narcotics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the NA name ought never be drawn into public controversy.
Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films.
Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.
Understanding these Traditions comes slowly over a period of time. We pick up information as we talk to members and visit various groups.
It usually isn’t until we get involved with service that someone points out that “personal recovery depends on NA unity,” and that unity depends on how well we follow our Traditions. The Twelve Traditions of NA are not negotiable.
They are the guidelines that keep our Fellowship alive and free.
By following these guidelines in our dealings with others, and society at large, we avoid many problems. That is not to say that our Traditions eliminate all problems. We still have to face difficulties as they arise: communication problems, differences of opinion, internal controversies, and troubles with individuals and groups outside the Fellowship. However, when we apply these principles, we avoid some of the pitfalls.
Many of our problems are like those that our predecessors had to face. Their hard won experience gave birth to the Traditions, and our own experience has shown that these principles are just as valid today as they were when these Traditions were formulated.
Our Traditions protect us from the internal and external forces that could destroy us. They are truly the ties that bind us together. It is only through understanding and application that they work.