If at first you don’t succeed …

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Feet of clay

One of the biggest stumbling blocks to recovery seems to be placing unrealistic expectations on… others.

Basic Text, p. 82

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Many of us come into Narcotics Anonymous feeling pretty poorly about ourselves. By comparison, the recovering addicts we meet at meetings may seem almost superhumanly serene. These wise, loving people have many months, even years of living in accordance with spiritual principles, giving of themselves to others without expecting anything back. We trust them, allowing them to love us until we can love ourselves. We expect them to make everything alright again.

Then the glow of early recovery begins to fade, and we start to see the human side of our NA friends and sponsor. Perhaps a fellow member of our home group stands us up for a coffee date, or we see two oldtimers bickering at a committee meeting, or we realize our sponsor has a defect of character or two. We’re crushed, disillusioned—these recovering addicts aren’t perfect after all! How can we possibly trust them anymore?

Somewhere between “the heroes of recovery” and “the lousy NA bums” lies the truth: Our fellow addicts are neither completely bad nor completely good. After all, if they were perfect, they wouldn’t need this program. Our friends and sponsor are ordinary recovering addicts, just like we are. We can relate to their ordinary recovery experience and use it in our own program.

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Just for today: My friends and my sponsor are human, just like me—and I trust their experience all the more for that.

Rebellion

We need not lose faith when we become rebellious.

Basic Text, p. 35

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Many of us have lived our entire lives in revolt. Our initial response to any type of direction is often negative. Automatic rejection of authority seems to be a troubling character defect for many addicts.

A thorough self-examination can show us how we react to the world around us. We can ask ourselves if our rebellion against people, places, and institutions is justified. If we keep writing long enough, we can usually get past what others did and uncover our own part in our affairs. We find that what others did to us was not as important as how we responded to the situations we found ourselves in.

Regular inventory allows us to examine the patterns in our reactions to life and see if we are prone to chronic rebelliousness. Sometimes we will find that, while we may usually go along with what is suggested to us rather than risk rejection, we secretly harbor resentments against authority. If left to themselves, these resentments can lead us away from our program of recovery.

The inventory process allows us to uncover, evaluate, and alter our rebellious patterns. We can’t change the world by taking an inventory, but we can change the way we react to it.

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Just for today: I want freedom from the turmoil of rebelliousness. Before I act, I will inventory myself and think about my true values.

Humility expressed by anonymity

Humility is a by-product that allows us to grow and develop in an atmosphere of freedom and removes the fear of becoming known by our employers, families, or friends as addicts.

Basic Text, pp. 75-76

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Many of us may not have understood the idea that “anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions.” We wondered how this could be. What does anonymity have to do with our spiritual life?

The answer is, plenty! By guarding and cherishing our anonymity, we earn spiritual rewards beyond comprehension. There is great virtue in doing something nice for someone and not telling anyone about it. By the same token, resisting the impulse to proudly announce our membership in NA to the world—in effect, asking everyone to acknowledge how wonderful we are—makes us value our recovery all the more.

Recovery is a gift that we’ve received from a Power greater than ourselves. Boasting about our recovery, as if it were our own doing, leads to prideful feelings and grandiosity. But keeping our anonymity leads to humility and feelings of gratitude. Recovery is its own reward; public acclaim can’t make it any more valuable than it already is.

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Just for today: Recovery is its own reward; I don’t need to have mine approved of publicly. I will maintain and cherish my anonymity.

Higher Powered

Daily practice of our Twelve Step program enables us to change from what we were to people guided by a Higher Power.

Basic Text, p. 86

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Who have we been, and who have we become? There are a couple of ways to answer this question. One is very simple: We came to Narcotics Anonymous as addicts, our addiction killing us. In NA, we’ve been freed from our obsession with drugs and our compulsion to use. And our lives have changed.

But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Who have we really been? In the past, we were people without power or direction. We felt like we had no purpose, no reason for living. Our lives didn’t make any more sense to us than they did to our families, our friends, or our neighbors.

Who are we really becoming? Today, we are not merely clean addicts, but people with a sense of direction, a purpose, and a Power greater than ourselves. Through daily practice of the Twelve Steps, we’ve begun to understand how our addiction warped our feelings, motivations, and behavior. Gradually, the destructive force of our disease has been replaced by the life-giving force of our Higher Power.

Recovery means more than cleaning up—it means powering up. We have done more than shed some bad habits; we are becoming new people, guided by a Higher Power.

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Just for today: The guidance I need to become a new person is ready at hand. Today, I will draw further away from my old lack of direction and closer to my Higher Power.

Real values

We become able to make wise and loving decisions based on principles and ideals that have real value in our lives.

Basic Text, p. 105

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a6611c1404a8643627530964370f34d0Addiction gave us a certain set of values, principles we applied in our lives. “You pushed me,” one of those values told us, “so I pushed back, hard.” “It’s mine” was another value generated by our disease. “Well, okay, maybe it wasn’t mine to start with, but I liked it, so I made it mine.” Those values were hardly values at all—more like rationalizations—and they certainly didn’t help us make wise and loving decisions. In fact, they served primarily to dig us deeper and deeper into the grave we’d already dug for ourselves.

The Twelve Steps give us a strong dose of real values, the kind that help us live in harmony with ourselves and those around us. We place our faith not in ourselves, our families, or our communities, but in a Higher Power—and in doing so, we grow secure enough to be able to trust our communities, our families, and even ourselves. We learn to be honest, no matter what—and we learn to refrain from doing things we might want to hide. We learn to accept responsibility for our actions. “It’s mine”is replaced with a spirit of selflessness. These are the kind of values that help us become a responsible, productive part of the life around us. Rather than digging us deeper into a grave, these values restore us to the world of the living.

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Just for today: I am grateful for the values I’ve developed. I am thankful for the ability they give me to make wise, loving decisions as a responsible, productive member of my community.

Gratitude

Hopeless living problems have become joyously changed. Our disease has been arrested, and now anything is possible.

Basic Text, p. 106

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The NA program has given us more freedom than we ever dreamed possible. Sometimes, though, in the daily routine, we lose track of how much we’ve been given. How, exactly, have our lives changed in Narcotics Anonymous?

The bottom line of recovery, of course, is freedom from the compulsion to use. No longer must we devote all our resources to feeding our addiction. No longer must we endanger, humiliate, or abuse ourselves or others just to get the next “fix.” Abstinence itself has brought great freedom to our lives.

Narcotics Anonymous has given us much more than simple abstinence—we’ve been given a whole new life. We’ve taken our inventory and have identified the defects of character that bound us for so long, keeping us from living and enjoying life. We’ve surrendered those shortcomings, taken responsibility for them, and sought the direction and power we need to live differently. Our home group has given us the personal warmth and support that helps us continue living in recovery. And topping all this off, we have the love, care, and guidance of the God we’ve come to understand in NA.

In the course of day-to-day recovery, we sometimes forget how much our lives have changed in Narcotics Anonymous. Do we fully appreciate what our program has given us?

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Just for today: Recovery has given me freedom. I will greet the day with hope, grateful that anything is possible today.

Doing good, feeling good

We examine our actions, reactions, and motives. We often find that we’ve been doing better than we’ve been feeling.

Basic Text, p.43

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The way we treat others often reveals our own state of being. When we are at peace, we’re most likely to treat others with respect and compassion. However, when we’re feeling off center, we’re likely to respond to others with intolerance and impatience. When we take regular inventory, we’ll probably notice a pattern: We treat others badly when we feel bad about ourselves.

What might not be revealed in an inventory, however, is the other side of the coin: When we treat others well, we feel good about ourselves. When we add this positive truth to the negative facts we find about ourselves in our inventory, we begin to behave differently.

When we feel badly, we can pause to pray for guidance and strength. Then, we make a decision to treat those around us with kindness, gentleness, and the same concern we’d like to be shown. A decision to be kind may nurture and sustain the happiness and peace of mind we all wish for. And the joy we inspire may lift the spirits of those around us, in turn fostering our own spiritual well-being.

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Just for today: I will remember that if I change my actions, my thoughts will follow.

Over time, not overnight

We found that we do not recover physically, mentally, or spiritually overnight.

Basic Text, p. 28

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Have you ever approached a recovery celebration with the feeling that you should be further along in your recovery than you are? Maybe you have listened to newcomers sharing in meetings, members with much less clean time, and thought, “But I’m just barely beginning to understand what they’re talking about!”

It’s odd that we should come into recovery thinking that we will feel wonderful right away or no longer have any difficulty handling life’s twists and turns. We expect our physical problems to correct themselves, our thinking to become rational, and a fully developed spiritual life to manifest itself overnight. We forget that we spent years abusing our bodies, numbing our minds, and suppressing our awareness of a Higher Power. We cannot undo the damage in a day. We can, however, apply the next step, go to the next meeting, help the next newcomer. We heal and recover bit by bit—not overnight, but over time.

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Just for today: My body will heal a little, my mind will become a little clearer, and my relationship with my Higher Power will strengthen.

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