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Success stories

The only requirement

Our Third Tradition states that "the only requirement for NA membership is a desire to stop using drugs." I don't know if I had a desire to stop using drugs when I walked into my first NA meeting. But I definitely wanted the pain to stop. I was very, very tired. Tired enough to be curious about NA. Tired enough to listen.

In my first NA meeting, I had a powerful experience: I met addicts who are recovering. I knew a lot of addicts, of course. By this time I had been living on the streets for years and everyone I knew was an addict. But all my addicted friends were still using drugs. I had never met a clean addict. This was something very new and attractive to me. These people told their stories and I immediately identified with them. These were obviously people like me. The only difference was that their lives weren't about getting their hands on drugs every day and not ending up in jail. They shared about their lives in recovery. Her eyes shone and her life seemed to be full of hope and opportunity.

In that first meeting, I was the last to share. I introduced myself as an addict and truthfully said I had many reservations about never doing drugs again. I told the group that I was taking a break from street life and had stopped fixing, but that I was on the methadone program and continued to use other drugs. To my surprise, no one judged me. They welcomed me into the NA community and told me to come back. "You're right where you belong," they said. They gave me phone numbers, a meeting list, and something that had an even stronger impact: their acceptance.

I don't know why in that first meeting I decided to be honest. After years on the road, lying and cheating were my natural reactions to any new situation. But for some reason I realized that lying to these people was pointless. The only person this would harm was myself. I thank my Higher Power that I was able to speak simply and honestly about how I really was, instead of fooling people. That decision probably saved my life. Because I was honest, people in NA could tell me what I needed to hear. I was very impressed that nobody told me what to do. Instead, they shared their own experiences. It was entirely my decision how I wanted to apply these new insights in my life. Over time, I began to accept that what worked for others might work for me.

When I was new to NA, one of the hardest things for me was that I was still in the methadone program. I had a lot of reservations about getting clean and very scared of going off the methadone. The methadone program had helped me bring some structure to my life after years of living on the streets. I had a roof over my head and went back to work. I was afraid that without methadone I would fall back into the madness of homelessness and crime. As always, the wisdom and experience of other NA members helped me find a way out of this dilemma. Nobody told me what to do. Instead, the others simply showed me how to live free from active addiction. Over time, I began to believe that just having a job and being off the streets wasn't enough. If I didn't stop using drugs, legal or illegal, I would not experience the full benefits of recovery.

I made the decision to phase out of the methadone program. Getting clean was very difficult for me, both physically and emotionally. I went to NA meetings every day for ten months before I had my first clean day. There were no role models for me in it. I was the only one in the methadone clinic who dropped out voluntarily. Every day I had to walk the gauntlet of pill dealers on my way to and from the clinic. I also had a problem in NA meetings. In my very first meeting, I learned that it is important to share openly and honestly. When I shared, I told the truth. I wasn't clean yet, but I was working hard to get clean. To my surprise, when I shared in NA meetings, some people got really upset. One person came up to me after a meeting and said that if I wasn't clean I had no right to share. I was very confused and hurt when this first happened. It was the first time I felt unwelcomed in NA. Luckily, an older member overheard the exchange and took me aside. She told me that the only requirement for membership in NA was a desire to stop using drugs. She reassured me and said, "Just come back, you are exactly where you belong." I thank my Higher Power that I could hear her message of love and acceptance. And I came back. Every time I shared about my struggles and doubts, other members shared something from their own experience that helped me.

The wisdom and experience of other NA members was critical to me in the process of getting clean. They even helped me get health insurance and go to the hospital to complete the final phase of detox under medical supervision. Now, for the first time in my adult life, I was clean and when I got out of the hospital, thanks to NA, I had a sponsor, home group, and ministry waiting for me. Most importantly, I had admitted that I was powerless over my addiction and had come to believe that only a Power greater than myself could restore my sanity. I didn't know it then, but by making a decision to come back, listen, learn, and follow the example of other NA members, I had made a decision to entrust my will and my life to a Higher Power. Thanks to this Higher Power, I am still clean today, twenty-one years later.

Story from: Basic Text 6th Edition, Copright Narcotics Anonymous World Services, Inc. Chatsworth, California