Written By: Fiona Stockard

The Basic Text Broken Down – Part Four

Narcotics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who help each other recover from drug and alcohol addiction. It was founded in July of 1953, just celebrated its sixty-first anniversary, and boasts over 60,000 meetings worldwide.

NA’s central literature is the Basic Text. With a sponsor, the Basic Text, and a workbook, NA members work the twelve steps. Through working these steps, NA members learn that “Just for today, you never have to use again!” (xxiii)

NA Basic Text

Today, we’re going to examine part of Chapter Four of the Basic Text, “How It Works.” This chapter breaks down the twelve-steps of NA.

How It Works

This chapter is the meat and potatoes of NA’s Basic Text. It’s divided into an explanation of each of the twelve-steps NA members use to overcome addiction. I’ll be going step by step through “How It Works.” Today, let’s look at the intro and Step One.

The intro of “How It Works” ushers in a famous phrase, “…one is too many and a thousand never enough” (18). My experience getting high confirms this! If you’re reading this, chances are your experience was the same! People like me simply CAN’T use drugs successfully. If I have one pill, one line, one blunt, one anything, I set off the physical allergy (explained in detail later) and can’t stop. Simple as that.

Also in the intro to “How It Works,” a very important point is made – alcohol is a drug! NA states, “Before we came to NA many of us viewed alcohol separately, but we cannot afford to be confused about this. Alcohol is a drug. We are people with the disease of addition who must abstain from all drugs in order to recover” (18).

I needed to hear that! I was guilty of thinking I could quit drugs, but still drink. After all, I got sober at nineteen. I hadn’t even had a legal drink! Turns out, nope, alcohol is a drug. I can’t drink. Not even a little!

Next, we’re introduced to the idea that the twelve-steps are our solution to addiction and life. NA says, “We learn to work the steps in the order that they are written and to use them on a daily basis. The steps are our solution. They are our survival kit” (19).

Okay, sounds fair to me. I mean, I couldn’t control my addiction. I couldn’t control my emotions. I couldn’t control my relationships. I couldn’t control anything! So, finding out there’s a solution to my many problems was relieving. It gave me a sense of hope, a desire to recover.

“How It Works” then goes into Step One. It says, “We admitted that we were powerless over our addiction, that our lives had become unmanageable” (19). Simple enough, right? A quick look back at my track record made it clear I was powerless.

Maybe it isn’t so easy for others to admit powerlessness. Well, NA has that covered, too. They say, “When some of us have doubts, we ask ourselves this question: ‘Can I control my use of any form of mind or mood-altering chemicals?'” (20).

Ask yourself that question and answer honestly. That’s what I thought, you’re in the right place! Moving on, “How It Works” breaks down the three part disease of addiction.

“The physical aspect of our disease is the compulsive use of drugs: the inability to stop using once we have started. The mental aspect of our disease is the obsession, or overpowering desire to use, even when we are destroying our lives. The spiritual part of our disease is our total self-centeredness” (20).

Okay, when I use, I’m compelled to keep using. That’s the physical allergy. Once I take a drug, my body processes it differently and demands more.

When I start thinking about drugs, I can’t get the thought out of my head. That’s the mental obsession. Once the idea of using enters my mind, I can’t shake it…until I use.

Oh, and I’m self-centered in the extreme! That’s the spiritual malady. That’s why I gravitated to drugs and booze in the first place.

That’s my disease. It’s three parts and it’s deadly. So, how do I begin to recover from addiction? How do I begin to change from this deadly disease? I admit defeat.

The chapter reads, “The foundation of our program is the admission that we, of ourselves, do not have power over addiction” (21). That’s how I begin the first step. That’s how I begin to change. That’s how I begin to heal.

There’s more though! I need to accept and understand that my life is unmanageable. How can I do this? Once again, the answer is as simple as looking at my past. NA says, “Unemployability, dereliction and destruction are easily seen as characteristics of an unmanageable life. Our families generally are disappointed, baffled and confused by our actions and often desert or disown us” (21-22).

That described my life to a T. It was unmanageable and I was powerless! Remember though, there’s hope. NA’s description of the first step ends with this uplifting message. “When we admit our powerlessness and inability to manage our own lives, we open the door for a Power greater than ourselves to help us. It is not where we were that counts, but where we are going” (23).

There’s hope and lots of it! Find out how a Higher Power offers a new life in the next installment of Faith Facts Friday with Fiona – NA Edition!

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