Narcotics Anonymous (NA) is a global organisation of recovering addicts. NA members are people from all walks of life for whom drugs had become a major problem, who meet regularly to help each other stay clean, and recover from the effects of addiction in their lives. The NA programme is one of complete abstinence from all drugs, following a twelve-step programme, and regular attendance at meetings. It is based on a set of spiritual principles that are not associated with a particular religion.
Although our steps call for finding and believing in a “power greater than oneself”, this is a personal decision for each and every member to make. Experience of our members has shown that the spiritual principles work for all members, from the devoutly religious to the atheist and agnostic.
NA is not affiliated with any other organisation or institution. There is only one requirement for membership, the desire to stop using. There is no cost to attend meetings.
From our group experiences, we have learned that those who come to our meetings regularly stay clean.
The basic premise of anonymity allows addicts to attend meetings without fear of legal or social repercussions. This is an important consideration for an addict thinking about going to a meeting for the first time. Anonymity also supports an atmosphere of equality, meaning that no individual’s personality or circumstance will be considered more important than the message of recovery shared in NA.
Even though our members used a variety of drugs, in NA we speak of recovery from the disease of addiction, rather than specific drugs. We believe that drugs are a symptom of our disease, and recovery from the disease of addiction is through application of the principles contained in the Twelve Steps.
Someone who is still using drugs is welcome to attend NA meetings. Many NA members came to meetings while still using drugs and are now drug-free and recovering today. Often, if a member is still using, the person will be asked to refrain from speaking during a meeting. Instead, these addicts are encouraged to speak with members before or after the meeting.
How it works
NA’s approach to recovery is the belief in the therapeutic value of one addict helping another. Members take part in NA meetings by talking about their experiences and recovery from drug addiction. More experienced members work individually with newer members explaining the twelve steps and the program. This type of support is called sponsorship. The twelve steps are at the core of the NA program; these ‘steps’ are a set of concepts outlining a practical approach to recovery. By learning the twelve steps with a more experienced member and how to work the NA program addicts learn to stop using drugs and face the challenges of daily living.
Narcotics Anonymous is not a religious organisation and does not mandate any particular religious belief system. It does teach basic spiritual principles such as honesty, open-mindedness, faith, willingness and humility that may be applied in everyday life. The specific practical application of spiritual principles is determined by each individual. Recovery in NA is not a miracle cure that happens within a given period of time. It is a process, ongoing and personal. Members make an individual decision to join and recover at their own pace.
The only requirement for NA affiliation is a desire to stop using drugs.
NA meetings are held regularly at the same time and place each week, usually in a public facility rented by the group, informally structured, and are led by members who take turns opening and closing the meeting. NA meetings and other services are funded entirely from donations by addict members and the sale of recovery literature. Financial contributions from non-members are not accepted.
There are two basic types of meetings: those which are open to the general public and those closed to the public (for addicts only). Meetings vary widely in format. Some formats are: participation, speaker, question and answer, topic discussion, and some have a combination of these formats. The function of any meeting is always the same: to provide a suitable and reliable environment for personal recovery.
If you are interested in further information about NA please explore this site or visit our linked pages for more resources.
So you are thinking about coming to an NA meeting?
Most of us were a bit nervous at our first meeting so we thought we would share a bit about attending a meeting and what happens to help you feel more comfortable. Check out the meetings list and find a meeting that you would like to attend. You can call the 0800 number (0800 445 3362) or fill in the contact form and we will try to find an addict to meet you before the meeting.
The first thing to note is that you don’t have to say anything at a meeting if you don’t want to. It’s a good idea to try and arrive a bit ahead of the start time for the meeting. Meetings tend to start on time and it’s much easier to come in and find a seat when there are not too many people already there.
No one is in a better position to understand and help addicts than other addicts.
When you arrive someone might chat to you and ask if you have been to a meeting before. You can say that you are visiting if you like or you can say you have come to your first meeting to find out about NA – either way you will be welcome.
When you sit down you will probably notice that there will be reading cards laid out. If you would prefer not to read the card out during the opening stage of the meeting then you can always pass the card to someone else anyway.
Meetings in Germany start with the chairperson for the meeting introducing themselves and welcoming everyone to the meeting. After this people will say a prayer known as the Serenity Prayer. This is used at the opening and closing of the meeting and you won’t be expected to know it. Some meetings hold hands in a circle during the serenity prayer – some don’t; just follow the lead of the person next to you.
Once the meeting has been opened there is likely to be an introduction round. During this time members usually introduce themselves by saying their first name and identifying if they are addicts. At this time you can just say your name – or you can say your name and say you’re a visitor, or you can say you’re an addict. It’s entirely up to you – NA membership is entirely optional and saying you’re an addict if you choose to won’t mean you choose to be a member of NA unless you decide you want to.
After the introduction round the chairperson will ask members to read out the reading cards. After this the chairperson will introduce the topic and possibly there will be another reading and then the sharing will begin. It’s very unlikely that you will be picked to share, but if you are you can simply say “Thanks but I would like to listen” or if you like you can share about what has brought you to the meeting. Most meetings ask that you only share if you are clean for that day – so if you have used the day you go to the meeting you will still be welcome, but the meeting may ask that you pass if you’re asked to share.
The newcomers are the most important people at any meeting, because we can only preserve what we have by passing it on.
At the end of the meeting someone will be asked to close the sharing. After the sharing there will be announcements and maybe another reading, and then everyone will stand to close with the serenity prayer again. People will probably hold hands and if you’re in the circle you will be expected to join hands. After the meeting someone will likely approach you to talk to you – of course if they don’t you can talk to the chairperson and let them know you are new. There are pamphlets and small booklets at most meetings that will tell you a bit about NA and meetings.
Most members are friendly, they too all came to their first meeting and most will remember what that was like and will want to make you feel comfortable. It’s quite likely that you won’t be comfortable at your first meeting and this is really normal. After you have been to a few meetings and get to know some of the members personally you will start to look forward to the support and sharing at the meetings.