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December 4, 2014

Narcotics Anonymous: Sort of

I have a close friend and she is addicted to drugs, specifically heroin. This prompted me to read the book Narcotics Anonymous, which has modeled itself after Alcoholics Anonymous, in hopes of helping her by better understanding her problem. I am writing this more for myself, to better focus, then for anyone else. However, perhaps someone will find it helpful.
Addiction is said to be a disease and when the addiction is to a harmful substance it can be life ruining and life threatening. There is no cure for the addiction. You either refrain from that which you are addicted or it consumes the individual and overtakes her. In some ways addition is like an allergy. I have a son who has a terrible reaction to bee stings that can be life threatening. He needs to avoid bee stings. The same is true of a drug addict. The only way to avoid the downward spiral of drug use by an addict is to abstain from drugs. There is no alternative of "I will only do it one more time."

What makes one an addict is her reaction to drugs, not how much she uses. The disease of addiction is habit forming, progressive and fatal. An addict to drugs will always be addicted. The solution is to become a clean addict. The only alternative to recovery is jail, institutions, dereliction and death.

Like AA, NA lists 12 steps the addict must go through to conquer the disease. The fist step is that the addict has to admit she has a problem. Like any other health problem a cure will not be sought without recognizing one is sick. Many of the remaining steps call for the recognition and following the will of  "God". Personally I believe there is a God, but I do not accept the fact that one must believe in a higher being in order to overcome ones addiction. Belief in God probably helps, but it is not a necessity. If you don't believe in God you can still help yourself. I broke down the NA's twelve steps into two groups. The first is a list of the steps not requiring a belief in a Supreme Being and the second group being the steps that includes God's presence.

The steps that are important with or without believing in a supreme being include:
  1. Admitting to ones self that you are losing your life to addiction and life has become unmanageable.
  2. One must make a complete moral inventory of ones self; the good, the bad and the ugly.
  3. You admit to yourself and to another person the exact nature of ones wrongs. This is where it gets serious. Do not hold back anything.
  4. You must make a commitment to correct these shortcomings. (Don't lie to yourself or it will not work.)
  5. Make a list of all the people you harmed and make amends to them. At the very least apologize and let them know you realize you did them wrong.
  6. Constantly take a personal inventory of when you did or do something wrong and take prompt steps to correct it.
Additional steps that require a belief in God.
  1. A belief that a Power greater than ourselves could restore the addicted to sanity.
  2. The addicted made the decision to turn their will and lives over to the care of God.
  3. The addict admitted to God the exact nature of his wrongs.
  4. The addicted was ready to have God remove all of his character defects.
  5. The addicted asked God to remove all of his shortcomings.
  6. The addict sought through prayer to improve his contact with God
A belief in God provides additional support, but it is most important to believe in yourself that you can recover with hard work, focus and effort. Your desire to recover must be stronger than your desire to get high. Having a peer group helps.

Confessing ones wrongs is hard to do but that is exactly why it is a powerful step. If you know that in the future you will be required to admit your errors you will be less likely to commit them in the first place.

For most it is not possible to use and not become addicted again. If you start using again you will continue to use. Addicts should not lie to themselves and think they can conquer addiction. Addiction will win every time.

The above is the plan that NA suggests all addicts follow. NA recognizes recovery does not happen overnight and the bulk of addicts cannot do it alone. Addicts have a better chance at recovery if they have a sympathetic coach and mentor that the addict can rely on. Who better to coach, guide and provide empathy then a recovered addict? The recovered addict has been their and done that.

When you think about it, we all need help at sometime in our lives. When someone sustains a back injury they hire a physical therapist. When we go for a workout at the gym often we hire a personal trainer. Tiger Woods, one of the worlds greater golfers, has hired coaches to assist him with his back swing. What do we do at work when we need to upgrade our data system; hire a professional. It only makes sense for someone striving to recover from an addition to work with someone who has experienced the road to recovery.

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