The Clean Times
My Discovery in Early Recovery
Doing This Thing
The first time I felt a part of was in my Home Group, 2007, Farfromusing. I noticed a distinct feeling as me and the other home group members were joking around before the meeting: camaraderie. I had friends growing up, but never a group of friends. Also the interesting thing about it was my friendships were based in purpose. We all, or most of us, wanted the same thing; freedom from active addiction. We didn’t want to hurt anymore. So no longer was it important to me that old way of choosing people to hang out with. Judging based on
clothes, hair, style, music, money, etc, but a new way: The new criteria; do this person want to stay clean, can I help them stay clean, can they help me stay clean?
A lot of people in early recovery met this requirement for me, In fact the people I was accustomed to hanging out with didn’t appeal to me any longer. Please keep in mind, in hindsight, I realized that is who I stuck with, and the people that didn’t fit these attributes were slowly not part of my life.
The wall I built up of who I thought I was, and what was keeping me sick, was crumbling down. I might have had a smart ass
comment for some of my new friends discussing, but
it no longer was critical to me for my own self image.
Breaking my beliefs about myself was an interesting process, and not exactly smooth. For instance, I thought I had refined culture more than most anyone else in NA. When I would hear a discussion about current topic, I used to judge people so harshly. I would think to myself, “God these people are lame and typical.”
Recovery has changed me and my reactions.
Luckily, I grew to have a Higher Power that helps me know the difference, sometimes, from reality, and my own beliefs.
My ego told me, “you are grrrrrreat”, and my Higher Power reminded me, of the hell and trauma I had went through; the lack of joy or happiness, no friends, nothing of value in my life, suicidal hopelessness.
It was a pretty hard sell even to my stubborn brain: “leave these people and this program to go back to a life of no value?”
I slowly I no longer cared how a person looked, their age, their tastes, I just wanted to stay clean, and that was a big step in getting better.
For me, a lot of things were changing, and it was a painful process; that’s why I remind anyone, who will listen, the definition of addiction -the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.
I love the last part about trauma and agree it’s traumatic to break down those walls and find a new way to live.
First I have to admit I feared this step. These character defects had become a way of life and I had thought that they defined who I was. Not to mention gave me every excuse to use people, places, and things to get what I felt I deserved. I was a great victim oriented person and knew how to victimize others. Thinking it was their fault for my actions. This is how, as the literature says, “most of all we harmed ourselves.” To live with the guilt and shame of our actions do to this warp way of thinking. Knowing we were living a life that had no real value because it was based on total self-centeredness. Making drugs a way to deal with my reality.
So the real question was am I entirely ready for this way of living to go away? The answer was, not sure. But I was tired of feeling the consequences of my self-centeredness. Then the bargaining started. I was with only these defects but there is no harm on keeping these. In truth I wanted to feel in control of some part of my life by rationalizing, justifying, minimizing, or maximizing, (denial at its best) any character defect to hold on to the past beliefs that I was a victim. But Narcotic Anonymous tells me I could find a new way of life. The only thing I have to change is EVERYTHING.
Complete surrender takes a lot of courage, which I get with faith in a higher power. So I need support from the fellowship, sponsor, sponsees (family and the ones I sponsor) and other members who are working a program of recovery. This goes back to open-mindedness to listen to others and becoming honest with myself. By looking to see if it is true or not, and if not sure go to my supporters and ask their advice. By doing so I am keeping with tradition 2 were it says “not one of us is capable of making good decisions on a regular basis.” Then become willing to practice acceptance and ask God to give me courage to act on a spiritual principle instead. This allows me to not be perfect, just human. Then I am able to align my will with my Higher Powers to work in my life.
I wound up liking this step even though I have fought it and wanted to deny a lot of character defects. But how it helped me is by dealing with reality with a solution oriented mind and spiritual principles; I make more loving decisions, with God in mind, that have a greater positive impact in my life. Life today is an experience and I do not have to run around asking why me, instead I can ask for courage and what am I to learn from this.
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.
We cannot afford our message to be blurred by the association with a treatment facility, clubhouse, church, etc. Treatment facilities and other organizations have their own agendas and desires to make a profit. Their message may or may not be in line with the NA program but it doesn’t matter. Newcomers are not able to understand or separate our message from that of a treatment center or church. Our program is a set of spiritual principles to be lived by that if limited, changed or restricted by an outside facility can destroy our message of inclusion. Many times in the past, the line between NA and treatment facilities and churches became blurred. We learned that it is important to keep our relationships with outside entities at an arm’s length to avoid conflicts of interest which can harm our ability to carry a message of recovery. Early in my recovery the treatment center I attended had NA meetings several nights a week, took us out to NA meetings and a majority of the addicts that stayed around after treatment attended NA. Many of the counselors attended NA. The relationship caused an affiliation by association. Later when the addicts who attended NA behaved badly after they left treatment, the facility blamed NA rather than the individual addict. As a result, the center decided not to send their clients to NA. This result harmed the newcomer and forced us to change our relationship with the facility. We had become too much a part of the place, we had to separate. Ultimately our primary purpose is to carry the message to the addict who still suffers. No outside entity of any sort should profit by using our name and blurring our message of hope. By adhering to this belief, we preserve the integrity of the Narcotics Anonymous program.
I have been studying the concepts with my sponsor using the “Twelve Concepts for NA Service” booklet. The sixth concept states that “Group conscience is the spiritual means by which we invite a loving God to influence our decisions”.
It is important to understand the difference between personal and group conscience. With personal conscience, we determine what is best for ourselves as individuals, by applying spiritual principles, and communicating with our higher power through prayer and meditation. With group conscience, we use our connection with a higher power, and apply spiritual principles, to decide what is best for the group, rather than what is best for us personally.
There can be conflicts between what is best for us personally
, and what is best for the group. For example, it may be better for me personally if my home group does not meet at a certain time, because I want to watch a football game, or whatever, at that time. However, I should help my group formulate a group conscience, by putting aside these personal preferences, and voting what I honestly believe to be best for the group.
Votes should reflect differences in our interpretation of God’s will for our group, rather than differences in personal preferences. I should seek from my higher power guidance on what is best for our group, rather than what is best for me personally, and then vote what I honestly believe is best for the group.
In forming a group conscience, it is important that every addict get a say, not just the most popular addicts and/or the addicts with the most clean time. No addict’s input into the determination of group conscience is any more important or less important than anyone else’s. Hopefully it should be readily apparent what the group conscience is, but if not it may be necessary to have a vote, and everyone should get an equal vote.
It is important to realize that group conscience can be experienced in activities other than just making decisions. When we attend meetings and share with each other our spiritual awakening in a way that provides experience, strength and hope to one another, we experience our group conscience. The group conscience can be applied not to just a service issue but also to our own spiritual growth.
We can apply the sixth concept to our own personal lives, by seeking our own spiritual awakening which we bring to our groups and service work. We apply the sixth concept in our lives by seeking to carry out God’s will rather than our own. We apply the sixth concept when we seek to hear the spiritual message behind the words that we hear.
My Experience With Meditation
“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.”
There it is, right there in the steps. Kind of hard to ignore, isn’t it? Oh, we like to talk about prayer
, its power, and its value. And rightfully so. But many of us, especially when we’re new, want to just slide right over that meditation part. It’s kind of like the elephant in the room: Everybody knows it’s there, but nobody wants to talk about it. Many of us don’t have the slightest clue what meditation really does or how it works. So we ignore it. Many of us think we could never do it, that we could never “quiet our mind” enough to meditate. I was one of those, and for a long time.
The fact that meditation is prominently mentioned in the eleventh step told me that it must be something of value, and that I needed to find a way to make it part of my life. So I decided to find a way to learn about meditation. There are many ways to do that. There are hordes of books, CDs, DVDs, YouTube videos, and more tools that can help. I chose a more direct path. I found a continuing education course at a local college in the town I was working in entitled Mediation 101. And I went to class once a week for 10 weeks, and I was taught about meditation by somebody who knew. Kind of like how the program works, huh? One addict helping another.
I learned that I didn’t have to quiet my mind, I just had to focus on a single thing: it could be my breathing
, a mantra, an object of meditation…it was up to me. I learned I didn’t have to stop thoughts from occurring, I just had to exercise the discipline not to follow them when they arose. Most importantly, I learned that meditation was like anything else worth doing, it took practice and repetition to get better at it. It didn’t come overnight.
That was seven years ago, and since then I have had periods of great success with meditation, and periods that were not so great. Not surprisingly, the most success was achieved during periods when I practiced consistently. The benefits of consistent meditation for me have been better focus, more clarity of thought, and increased peace and serenity.
Over the years I have also learned there are many different forms of meditation
, all of which have benefit. I have meditated in groups with others, where I was taught walking meditation. I have also learned that anything I do where I can focus on a single thing can be used as meditation. I have meditated on the golf course; I have meditated while riding a bicycle; and more recently, I have meditated while running. All of these methods are useful and add to my practice. I will say that, for me, none of these is a complete substitute for classic sitting, breathing meditation, but they are very useful as an addition or when that is not possible.
Each individual may have a different experience from trying different forms of meditation. All forms may not be for everybody. If you already have a meditation practice, you know its value. If not, I encourage you to give it a try. I don’t think it will hurt you, and you might be surprised at what you get out of it.
I looked up the definition of complacency and I was surprised at how relevant and appropriate it is for me as an addict. “Complacency: self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies.”
When I am being complacent, I am taking my recovery for granted. I may still be doing some of the basics like attending meetings, sharing in meetings, calling my sponsor or doing service work; however, when I take a closer look at my actions, I start to have questions. Am I really listening to everyone who shares when I go to a meeting, or am I messing with my phone ….whispering to a neighbor….or planning in my head what I am doing after the meeting? When I share in a meeting am I sharing a clear message or recovery and expressing the gratitude that I have for my recovery, or am I complaining about being tired, stressed, broke, etc…? When I call my sponsor, am I really being honest about what’s going on with me? Am I listening to her and being willing to take suggestions… or am I giving lip service to it by saying “sure…I’ll look at that”? Mind you, I have done all of these things or I wouldn’t even mention them here. I am a work in progress.
The main thing that I think prevents me from falling into complacency is working with a sponsor. Some days I need a gentle nudge to remind me that it’s been a while since we went over a writing assignment. I need someone to ask me how many meetings I have been to THAT WEEK. Ask me every time you see me if you want…and I’ll do the same right back! I need someone to remind me that the reason I have a service commitment is to be able to carry the message to the addict who still suffers and to express my gratitude in a hands-on way. Being an active member of a home group is also a good way to stay grounded and connected to the atmosphere of recovery, but I have to make the effort to participate or I’m just taking up space. Because I stay involved, I really believe that if my home group members missed me at a few meetings, someone would seek me out. (Love you guys!)
Once I have fallen into complacency there are a few things that tend to snap me back to reality very quickly. Finding out that an addict I care for has relapsed always makes me question how diligent I have been in my own personal recovery. (Hint: A good tool to pick up is the Living the Program pamphlet.) Sadly, the most sobering jolt is when we lose a member to active addiction. This never gets easier. It breaks my heart, but it also makes me take a step back remembering that I am not exempt from the same fate, which starts me reevaluating what’s been going on in my life. I think, after a loss like that, meetings tend to be a little more focused and I can’t help but wonder if others feel the same way too.
If you go back to the definition that I found, I need to stay aware of the actual dangers of falling into complacency. We are each other’s eyes and ears too! I might get pissed off if you politely call me out for being
Cory C. 5yrs, Jeff L., Tomas T. 2 yrs, Apr 23 @ Primary Purpose
Steve A. 9 yrs, May 9, TBA
Christine J. 30 yrs., May 11, @ Thursday Nighters
Sara S. 2 yrs., May 12, @ Spiritual Awakenings
Landry 1 yrs., May 15, @ High on Life
Scott B. 1 yr., May 19, @ No Matter What
Cortez J. 21 yrs., May 26, @ Primary Purpose
Dave K. 9 yrs., June 19, @ Something Different
AWOL’s 10th Ann. Freedom Float, Harrison, AR., April 21-23, www.arscna.org
Jackson Area Exp, Strength, & Hope Day, April 15, Jackson, TN
NA in May, May 5-7, Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park, Millington, TN. www.nainmay.org
6th Annual Unity Spring Campout, Mulberry, AR., May 26-28, www.arscna.org
Marion Survivor’s NA Group Campout, May 26-29, Marion, AR
26th Anniversary Pig Roast, June 3-5, Stockton Lake, MO.,
3rd Ann. Camp Out, June 9-11, Pickwick Lake
Q. How many addicts does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A. 1, they just hold it up there and wait for the world to revolve around them.
How many Addicts does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
One to claim we are violating the traditions by screwing in the bulb we are endorsing light.
One to argue that the 4th tradition states that all light sockets are autonymous.
One Addict to ask if the light bulb wants to be screwed.
One to argue that we cannot judge the light bulb's desire.
One to say that it is not our primary purpose to provide light
One to say if we are going to give them light we might as well give them cupcakes.
One to say light is a NAW$ plot to sell more light bulbs.
One to provide a link to the history of a light bulb.
One to post articles they wrote about light bulbs.
One to post articles they did not write about light bulbs.
One to ask if the bulb a providing a "clearlight.
One to remind that it is program of complete abstinence and that includes SRs. (Sunlight Replacements)
One to say screw it and screw the light bulb in.
How many group posters does it take to change a light bulb?
1 to change the light bulb and to post that the light bulb has been changed
14 to share similar experiences of changing light bulbs and how the light bulb could have been changed differently
7 to caution about the dangers of changing light bulbs
27 to point out spelling/grammar errors in posts about changing light bulbs
53 to flame the spell checkers
41 to correct spelling/grammar flames
6 to argue over whether it's "lightbulb" or "light bulb" ... another 6 to condemn those 6 as anal-retentive
2 industry professionals to inform the group that the proper term is "lamp"
15 know-it-alls who claim *they* were in the industry, and that "light bulb" is perfectly correct
156 to email the participant's ISPs complaining that they are in violation of their "acceptable use policy"
109 to post that this group is not about light bulbs and to please take this discussion to a lightbulb group
203 to demand that cross posting to hardware forum, off-topic forum, and lightbulb group about changing light bulbs be stopped
111 to defend the posting to this group saying that we all use light bulbs and therefore the posts *are* relevant to this group
306 to debate which method of changing light bulbs is superior, where to buy the best light bulbs, what brand of light bulbs work best for this technique and what brands are faulty
27 to post URL's where one can see examples of different light bulbs
14 to post that the URL's were posted incorrectly and then post the corrected URL's
3 to post about links they found from the URL's that are relevant to this group which makes light bulbs relevant to this group
33 to link all posts to date, quote them in their entirety including all headers and signatures, and add "Me too"
12 to post to the group that they will no longer post because they cannot handle the light bulb controversy
19 to quote the "Me too's" to say "Me three"
4 to suggest that posters request the light bulb FAQ
44 to ask what is a "FAQ"
4 to say "didn't we go through this already a short time ago?"
143 to say "do a Google search on light bulbs before posting questions about light bulbs"
1 forum lurker to respond to the original post 6 months from now and start it all over again...