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How to Work the 12 Steps of Narcotics Anonymous

Almost everyone with a substance use disorder has heard about Narcotics Anonymous (NA). These are programs that follow the 12-step process to help people navigate their addictions and find long-term recovery. However, most people don’t know how to work the 12-steps of Narcotics Anonymous, mostly because they’re not typical activities you do all at once. Here’s a closer look at how these steps can help you remain sober and continue your long-term sobriety.

What is Narcotics Anonymous?

Narcotics Anonymous is a sister program of Alcoholics Anonymous founded in 1953 to help people navigate narcotics addictions. However, today, NA allows people with drug addiction problems, including cocaine, heroin, prescription drugs, and more. 

These are free programs that focus on social support and surrendering to a higher power. However, unlike other 12-step programs, NA does not practice a religious affiliation. Those who are part of an inpatient or outpatient rehab program are likely to participate in these meetings, even after completing treatment.

The 12 Steps of Narcotics Anonymous Explained

Unlike other step programs, the 12-steps of Narcotics Anonymous don’t follow a specific order. Each step is designed to be effective, regardless of order. So, you could complete step 10 and then go back to step 2 without an issue. To some people, this lack of order can be challenging to assimilate. However, having the flexibility to commit to the steps at their own pace is critical for recovery.

1. We admitted that we were powerless over our addiction; that our lives had become unmanageable

This step is about facing the reality of your addiction and coming to terms with the fact that you don’t have control over your addiction or life. At this point, the idea is to set the intention and recognize that you need help.

2. We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity

Very similar to AA, you’re surrounding your fate to this Higher Power — whatever that means to you. It can be challenging to let go of your control, even though you don’t have it in reality. This step is about faith in the process, not necessarily a religious image. Although most people will choose to tap into their religion’s version of a Higher Power.

3. We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him

Again while no rule says you have to believe in God, this is about asking this Higher Power for help. Allow yourself to put faith in others; it could be a therapist, support group, or a God to give you the strength you need to succeed.

4. We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves

For many, this is a challenging step. It means you have to look back and see how your addiction has changed your behaviors and caused you to behave in harmful ways. It is also about recognizing the damage you may have done to others along the way. But, you should even remember and identify any positive traits that can help you during recovery. From now on, you’ll work toward strengthening those positive traits. 

5. We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs

It takes strength to go back and see where your moral failings started. What was the reason that led you to start using drugs in the first place? Why didn’t you stop? Were you punishing yourself for something? Were you rebelling? 

6. We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character

This is a crucial step; it means you’re officially ready to cleanse your life and start making changes. Here is where you absolutely surrender to treatment and start making the painful changes you need to create a drug-free life.

7. We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings

For those who are religious, here’s where they ask God to remove their flaws and give them the strength to fight addiction. On the other hand, non-religious individuals will ask themselves to let go of these flaws and stop blaming their shortcomings. Instead, they’ll focus on gaining strength to continue the process.

8. We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all

Very similar to the make amends in AA, this step is about taking ownership of your actions. Odds are you hurt a lot of people with your addiction. Don’t think about physical harm alone; think about everyone you lied to, stole from, cheated on. Think about all of those loved ones that in one way or another saw the worst of you and create a list of ways you will try to make things right by them.

9. We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others

It might be easy to create a list of people you hurt with your addiction. However, it can be quite challenging to make amends. Some will accept your apologies and actions right away, while others will reject you. This step is about humility, honesty, and understanding. To make this happen, you might need help from your therapist or sponsor. Sometimes having a middle-man involved can be helpful.

10. We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it

Making amends isn’t just about the past. Once you learn more about your bad habits, it’s about making a lifetime commitment to eliminate them for your behavior. Nobody is perfect, and mistakes will happen in the future. However, this step is about recognizing these mistakes, admitting to them, and making amends as we go. All while simultaneously working towards preventing them from happening again in the future. 

11. 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

This step is all about personal reflection. Here, you’ll dedicate yourself to prayer and meditation to reach out to God for guidance through difficult times. However, this step is also about spirituality, not just religious prayer. It’s about connecting with your inner mind and finding the balance between mind, body, and spirit. 

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

Most 12-step programs are about community and peer support. Once someone works through the 12-steps of NA and has fully recovered from addiction, they must share the word by sharing their recovery journey with others. Many members will participate in alumni programs, others will become sponsors, and some even try a career in addiction recovery. 

What to Expect from NA Meetings

Every NA meeting sets its own structure. However, most sessions involve progress discussions, reinforcing the steps, and sharing stories. Unlike other meetings, here, you don’t have to feel pressured to talk. These meetings are always voluntary, and you can choose to participate or not. The only mandatory step of these meetings is to say your first name to identify you during sessions. 

These group meetings are very collaborative and promote peer support and guidance. For example, those who have already mastered a step are encouraged to share their stories of successes and failures. Although they don’t have strict regulations, they do follow a set of rules, including:

  • Absolute respect among members
  • Honesty and integrity
  • Judgments and biases are not tolerated
  • Privacy is always a priority and respected
  • Friendships are always encouraged 

Other Ways to Beat Addiction

Narcotics Anonymous meetings alone are usually not enough to help you beat addiction. It’s important to seek addiction treatment that incorporates behavioral therapy and other evidence-based treatment forms to effectively treat this disease.

At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, we specialize in comprehensive addiction treatment plans that tackle the disease of addiction from every angle. We help people find the right path to recovery through our behavioral therapy, medical assistance, and support groups. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, don’t hesitate to seek help. While addiction is a difficult condition to battle, you’re not in this alone. Our clinical staff and addiction therapists will be there to support you every step of the way. More than another patient, everyone that walks into our rehab facility is part of our family.

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