What Is Narcotics Anonymous?
Narcotics Anonymous, often referred to as NA, is a 12-step program where people with drug addictions can find support in recovery. It is a group where people recovering from drug addiction can help each other pursue healthy choices. The NA literature describes it as a program "for addicts who wish to pursue and maintain a drug-free lifestyle."1
There are local NA meetings available every day throughout the United States and hundreds of countries around the world. Members often find the support they need to recover from addiction. Many people say it is a safe place to turn to when you need help getting and staying sober.
This article discusses how Narcotics Anonymous works and what to expect during NA meetings. It also covers the 12 steps of the recovery program.
Narcotics Anonymous' 12 Steps
NA promotes recovery through a 12-step program that incorporates peer support to promote abstinence from drugs and alcohol. The 12 steps of the program are:6
Step 1: "We admitted that we were powerless over our addiction—that our lives had become unmanageable." This step involves acknowledging the addiction and the damaging impact it has had on the individual's life. It is about admitting powerlessness in the face of addiction.
Step 2: "We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity." NA focuses on using spirituality and faith to help guide people on their path to recovery. It is about believing in a power bigger than themselves.
Step 3: "We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over the care of God as we understood Him." While this step specifically references God, it notes that it is the individual's understanding of their own spiritual beliefs that will guide their recovery. It is centered on surrendering to the care of a higher power. It also stresses the importance of actively deciding to work toward recovery.
Step 4: "We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves." This step focuses on taking stock of both individual burdens and strengths. It is centered on improving self-awareness and gaining a better understanding of the self. By taking this inventory, people can gain a better understanding of the challenges they might face and the tools they have to help them overcome those obstacles.
Step 5: "We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs." This step encourages those in recovery to talk about their mistakes and weaknesses. The goal is to gain a sense of release of shame and guilt that can help people avoid unhealthy coping mechanisms going forward.
Step 6: "We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character." This step focuses on letting go of the old coping mechanisms and behaviors identified and acknowledged in the earlier step. It signifies that a person is willing to let these things go and move toward healthier behaviors that will support long-term recovery.
Step 7: "We humbly ask Him to remove our shortcomings." This step centers on the idea that all people have shortcomings. Understanding these failings and being willing to ask for help and draw on spiritual strength is important. This step stresses that humility is essential because it prevents people from minimizing their own weaknesses when facing addiction.
Step 8: "We made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them." This step focuses on acknowledging the harm caused by an individual's addiction. It is about assessing harm and facing feelings of guilt. In doing so, people can then feel more motivated to stick to their recovery in order to improve or restore their relationships with others.
Step 9: "We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others." During this step, people offer apologies, try to fix the harm they caused, or ask for forgiveness. It is important to note that this is only if it will not cause further harm to the other person and with the understanding that being forgiven is not guaranteed.
Step 10: "We continued to take personal inventory and when were wrong promptly admitted it." This step of recovery involves actively monitoring behavior and being willing to admit and rectify mistakes as they happen. Imperfection and setbacks are expected, but staying accountable and honest can keep people from falling back into old habits.
Step 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 about living with intention and continuing to check in to ensure that the individual stays focused on their values and the demands of reality.
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." This step reinforces the lessons learned in earlier steps and encourages members to use what they have learned to help others on their path to recovery.