The 12-Steps Of Narcotics Anonymous (NA)
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What Are The 12-Steps Of Narcotics Anonymous (NA)?

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

July 30, 2018

Individuals suffering from drug addiction have likely heard of groups like Narcotics Anonymous and their dedication to the 12-step process. However, few people really understand what these 12-steps entail and how they can be used to overcome addiction. Understanding these steps can help individuals decide whether or not this process is right for them.

What Is Narcotics Anonymous?

Narcotics Anonymous is a sister program of Alcoholics Anonymous that was founded in 1953 to help people recover from narcotic addiction. However, it has since expanded its parameters and welcomes people with any kind of addiction problems, including heroin, cocaine, prescription drugs, and even alcohol.

It is an absolutely-free program that utilizes the 12-step program originated and mastered by Alcoholics Anonymous. They are especially focused on utilizing social support for overcoming addiction and surrendering your fate to a Higher Power. No religious affiliation exists within Narcotics Anonymous: they allow Christians, Jews, Buddhists, and Muslims.

No evidence of your attendance will be shared outside of the group and you are never forced to share anything. Many people find that simply attending, listening to others, and following the 12-step program is enough to help them obtain a drug-free life.

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Following The 12-Steps Of NA

A common misconception about the 12-steps in NA is that they must be followed in a specific order. This isn’t true: they are designed to be effective when utilized in any order, meaning you may be able to make the 10th step before the 2nd. However, most people find that following this order helps give their life a focus and order that addiction eliminated. These steps include:

  1. We admitted that we were powerless over our addiction; that our lives had become unmanageable: In this step, you face the reality of your addiction and come to terms with the fact that your life is out of control. You are preparing yourself to receive the help you need.
  2. We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity: In many ways, this is one of the most important steps: you are surrendering your fate to a Higher Power in order to help restore your life to stability. For many people, giving up this control will be a major challenge.
  3. We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him: Giving yourself over to the God of your choice and asking Him for help is a beautiful moment and one that will give you the strength to succeed.
  4. We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves: Total honesty is a must in this step. You need to grasp the ways that your addiction has changed your behavior and caused you to behave in harmful ways. However, you also need to identify your positive traits and work towards strengthening them: balance cannot be achieved without positive and negative traits.
  5. We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs: Here, you come to the realization of where your moral failings originated during your addiction. Were you abusing drugs to punish yourself? Were you rebelling against your true self and your faith in God? Whatever the reason, you identify it here and work to eliminate it from your life.
  6. We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character: This is a huge moment, as you are officially inviting your God to cleanse your life and help you make the changes you need to create a drug-free life.
  7. We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings: During this step, the power of your belief allows you to ask God to remove your flaws and give you the strength to overcome addiction.
  8. We made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all: During your addiction, there is a chance you’ve hurt others. Honestly assess the loved ones in your life, consider the pain you may have caused, and create a list of ways you will try to make things right.
  9. We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others: Making amends with hurt loved ones will be incredibly difficult: some will accept you right away, while others will reject your overtures. As a result, you need to approach this step with honesty, humility, and the understanding that you might need help from either your sponsor or God.
  10. We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it: Once you’ve learned about the poor habits and behaviors that influenced your addiction, you must make a lifetime commitment watch out for and eliminate them from your behavior.
  11. 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: Personal reflection is a vital part of the 12-step process, and in this step you dedicate yourself to prayer and meditation. This process allows you to reach out to your God for help and guidance through a continually difficult process.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs: After you have earned the confidence and skills to live a drug-free life, you can help spread the word by sharing your journey of recovery with others who suffer from an addiction.

Religion And Narcotics Anonymous

The spiritual aspects of Narcotics Anonymous make many people feel uncomfortable but even atheists can properly utilize this process if they are willing to utilize a God-figure in their life. For example, they could utilize a favored loved one or a literary figure they respect to serve as a surrogate.

The point of the 12-steps isn’t to indoctrinate anyone to a specific religion or force them to believe in a God. Instead, it is designed to open up your understanding of your illness and help you find the strength you need to beat it. Basically, you are admitting your addiction has pulled your life out of control and that you need help beyond yourself to achieve success.

General NA Meeting Structure

A typical Narcotics Anonymous meeting is spent meeting people, discussing your progress, and working together to reinforce each step of the process. Your first meeting is always difficult: you may anticipate a demanding environment, one in which people are confronting you angrily and demanding change.

That’s simply not how Narcotics Anonymous or the 12-steps works. No demands will be made on you during any meeting: participation in events and sharing is always voluntary. The only thing asked is that you share your first name so that people can identify you during meetings.

Typically, people will discuss their progress, setbacks, and look to friends and other group members to help support their recovery. Everyone will be on a specific step of the program and working towards achieving it. People who have finished that step may give them advice on how to finish. Or people on the same step may get together and share problems they are encountering.

Regardless of your progress in the 12-steps, there is always someone at an NA meeting that will be willing to help you along the way. That’s what makes this group and this process so powerful: a dedication to complete and long-lasting recovery.

Typical Narcotics Anonymous Rules

The rules of etiquette for Narcotics Anonymous and the 12-step program are simple and easy to follow. Generally, they are not designed to control your behavior or punish you for saying or doing the wrong thing. Instead, they are pointed towards one goal: cultivating a respectful and healing environment that lets everyone make progress in the 12-step programs. Typical etiquette rules include:

  • Respect is absolute
  • Honesty and integrity must be maintained
  • Judgments and biases are left outside the door
  • Privacy is always maintained and respected
  • Friendships are always encouraged

These simple rules of etiquette are designed to create a comforting and caring environment. In a way, they work as something like a retreat from the demands of the everyday world. They help you not only understand your addiction more fully, but gain you more self-respect.

Mastering The 12-Steps Of NA

The Narcotics Anonymous 12-step process is designed to help people beat their addictions privately. It is just one tool that you can utilize in your fight against addiction. If you are interested in learning about more ways you can gain sobriety, please contact us at

View “The 12 Steps Of Narcotics Anonymous” Infographic HERE

One Response to “What Are The 12-Steps Of Narcotics Anonymous (NA)?”

I am 10 months clean. I have recently moved home to reconnect with my son. It is a very rural area. I keep praying to find a meeting that’s a fit for me.

Thank you

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