No matter what difficulties or challenges we may face in life, overcoming them is always best accomplished through garnering support from an outside source—such as the family, close friends, therapists, or self-help books. When it comes to battling addiction to drugs, finding help and support in the rooms of Narcotics Anonymous (N.A.) can be a significant tool in the recovery process.
Peer support is a powerful source of strength while navigating the recovery trenches. Having a community who shares the same ultimate goal, to live a life clean and sober, can play a pivotal role in the successful outcome of that goal. Social support allows individuals in recovery to feel they are connected to not only other people striving to remain clean, but connected to a much bigger source of strength involving one’s Higher Power. In both N.A. and A.A. the literature supports an individualized approach to what one’s Higher Power might be—whether it is God, or any person or God-like surrogate they may want to attach to that identity.
The 12 steps of N.A. provide a stepping stone-type blueprint for achieving sobriety, based on the underlying themes detailed in Alcoholics Anonymous. The individual may approach the 12 steps of N.A. in any particular order, although it is recommended that they be completed in chronological order for the most effective results. Practicing the 12 steps, combined with active participation in the recovery community, can be an important ally in the recovery from addiction.
About Narcotics Anonymous
Narcotics Anonymous (N.A.) became an offshoot to Alcoholics Anonymous in 1953, when it was determined that people struggling with drug abuse and addiction had unique challenges that could be better addressed within a more narrowed scope. N.A. serves individuals struggling with addiction to opioids, heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, benzodiazepines, or any mind-altering substances, including alcohol.
N.A. groups are available globally and are absolutely free of charge. No one is excluded in N.A.; its doors are open to all, regardless of religion, race, or socioeconomic status. The only requirement to N.A. is that the member be open to attaining recovery from drug and alcohol use. The main objective of N.A. is to provide a safe, nonjudgmental, and supportive space for recovering addicts to find fellowship.
How N.A. Meetings are Structured
N.A. meetings are, and always will be, based on anonymity. Only first names are used, and that is simply for the members to be able to address each other during meetings. Meetings follow a specific format, where a tradition is recited, a guest speaker (usually a fellow member) addresses the group to share their own recovery story, some discussion among the members of the group, and ending the meeting with the Serenity Prayer.
Before and following the meetings, members often spend time socializing with each other. This is an important aspect of the recovery group environment, allowing people in recovery to form new friendships with like minded individuals. This time also provides an opportunity for someone established in recovery to reach out to a newcomer, offering support. Some members may become a sponsor to another member, a helpful connection that allows someone an extra layer of support, especially in the early months of recovery while working the steps and stabilizing.
The 12 Steps of N.A.
According to the N.A. official website, these are the 12 steps of N.A.:
- 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.
The Importance of Social Support in Recovery
Peer support plays an important role in both treatment and recovery. This is why group therapy is such an intrinsic treatment element in every rehab program, people find mutual support and peer mentorship within groups of individuals who are struggling with similar issues. Challenges and emotional struggles are relatable, allowing members of a group or recovery community to offer sincere empathy and support to one another.
Establishing a sober lifestyle is not an easy feat. It requires the individual in recovery to basically start their lives over from scratch, eliminating toxic people from their life and changing entrenched habits that were detrimental to them. Finding a recovery community, as N.A., offers the potential to find new friends who are also committed to sobriety. Building these relationships over time leads to sharing activities and experiences while creating a new sober lifestyle with others in recovery.
Why Service to Others is Encouraged in N.A.
The whole N.A. apparatus relies upon a service structure, versus governmental. In essence, the leadership within the groups consists of members who have stepped up to assume a position of service to others. The groups are unfunded by any entity and based on volunteerism to perpetuate the mission to help others achieve sobriety.
Once an individual has achieved a certain amount of time in sobriety, they may want to begin giving back, that is offering their own unique support or skills to advance another member’s recovery prospects. Some members may become sponsors to other members, becoming available to them at all hours for support and guidance. Others may decide to volunteer for various aspects of the meeting, such as being the librarian or leading meetings. Some members might reach beyond the meetings and offer to assist at outside events sponsored by the local N.A. organization.
Service is an important recovery element, as it gives the individual an opportunity to reinforce their own recovery while helping others on their own journey. The act of sacrificial giving through volunteerism can be a powerful tool in solidifying one’s efforts to remain clean and sober for life.
N.A. as an Important Aftercare Element
From the day someone shows up as a newcomer through the many tokens someone may add to their collection, N.A. plays a vital role. Fellowship is a core aftercare element that can add an additional protective layer to recovery. With the help of a sponsor and the support of the N.A. community, these recovery meetings become woven into the regular weekly routine. Think of it as recovery maintenance.
N.A. is an integral aftercare component, right alongside ongoing outpatient therapy and sober living housing. Outpatient therapy offers the clinical support so valuable in early recovery efforts. Everyone is vulnerable to relapse, especially in the first year of recovery. Have a regular weekly outpatient session or two can give the individual a professional therapist in their corner to help navigate the challenges that can and will come one’s way. Stressful events, work pressures, relationship problems, and financial worries can all present relapse triggers. A therapist can successfully guide the individual through these challenges.
Sober living is another protective aftercare element. Too often, an individual returns home right after completing a treatment program only to lapse right back into bad habits that could threaten sobriety. Sober living provides a substance-free living environment that can help the newly sober individual transition back to normal life at a more realistic pace. Sober living provides additional social support, as well as the opportunity to be accountable to others. The regular drug testing will help reduce the risk of relapse as well.
The Role of Health and Fitness in Recovery
It is well established that regular physical activity and a healthy diet will improve overall wellness for anyone who decides to make their physical and mental health a priority. In recovery, the role of fitness and a healthy diet cannot be minimized. Addiction can exact a significant toll on one’s health, often resulting in nutritional deficiencies and an unfit body. Why not blend the effort of building a social support system in recovery with achieving health and fitness?
You may find new friends in N.A. who are also dedicated to improving their health and wellbeing in recovery. This provides an opportunity to form friendships that are built around getting healthy and fit, and offer many workout options to experience together.
There are other sources to find sober fitness friends, such as the various sober Meetup groups, or even searching Instagram hashtags such as #fitandsober or sobervegan, to locate others who value health and fitness in recovery. Regardless of where you meet others who strive for fitness in sobriety, it is important to make health and wellbeing a top priority in recovery.
Phoenix Rising Behavioral Incorporates the 12-Step Program
Phoenix Rising Behavioral is a Southern California outpatient addiction program that incorporates the themes of N.A. into their treatment programming. Understanding the role that peer support plays in recovery, regular attendance at N.A. meetings is expected of clients as one of their important treatment elements. The underlying themes found in the 12 steps of N.A. teach clients to practice humility, to be accountable for their actions, and to develop a strong spiritual source of strength using whatever Higher Power a client may relate to personally. Phoenix Rising combines the 12-step programing with evidence-based therapeutic interventions, evening classes, and sober living resources. For more information, please contact Phoenix Rising today at (877) 299-5694.