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NA group
March 26, 2021

Do I Need to Go to NA?

You’ve almost certainly heard people talk about 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Al-Anon and Alateen, but what are they, and how might participation in a group benefit you if you are living with a substance abuse disorder? 

What Is 12-Step Programming?

Many people worldwide who struggle with substance misuse have used NA and AA to build the foundation of a new, sober life. The origins of the 12 steps date back to 1939, when Alcoholics Anonymous founder Bill Wilson wrote them down in a book that became the backbone of all 12-step programs. 

Following the steps sequentially requires you to look within yourself and explore your spirituality. As you work your way through each step of the program, you can hone your sense of personal responsibility, become more emotionally honest and equip yourself to reverse some of the damage caused by a long-term drug problem. 

Do You Need to Be Religious to Benefit From NA? 

Because the 12 steps emphasize the concept of surrendering to a higher power, you might have heard the common myth that succeeding in NA requires you to be religious. While it’s true that the founders of AA and NA were devout Christians, you don’t need to believe in a deity to find meaning in 12-step recovery. Indeed, the 12 steps emphasize that the concept of a higher power is open to interpretation. 

If you’re an atheist or agnostic, your higher power could be anything that gives you a sense of awe or inspires you to connect with something larger than yourself, such as:

  • Nature
  • Science
  • The love of your friends and family
  • Art or music

Don’t worry that the members of your chosen 12-step group will expect you to meet specific criteria for religion or anything else before welcoming you to join. The only requirement for participation in NA is a sincere desire to improve your life by getting and staying sober. Rather than seeing aspects like reciting the Serenity Prayer as religious practices, view them as meditative or spiritual in nature.

How Effective Is NA?

People who thrive in NA and other 12-step groups often say the camaraderie found among their fellow members helps them stay sober by keeping them accountable to their recovery goals. Addiction can be isolating, but NA will give you a built-in community of people who have experienced similar challenges and overcome them.

Regularly attending meetings and talking through your emotional ups and downs reinforces the idea that you’re never alone in recovery. If you’re new to the 12-step community, the idea of sharing your problems with a room of strangers might seem intimidating. Rest assured that nobody will pressure you to speak up if you’re not ready. It’s OK if you want to be a silent observer for your first few meetings until you get a feel for what happens there. You might even want to bring a supportive friend along.

The final step of each 12-step program requires you to share the lessons you’ve learned with others who need them. Once you’ve made sufficient progress in your recovery and your sobriety is on stable footing, you may decide to pay it forward by sponsoring another person on their journey through NA. In determining whether you’re ready to assume the responsibilities of sponsorship, ensure you have the time and energy necessary to devote to helping someone else achieve their goals.

Where to Find an NA Group Near You

Thousands of NA groups meet in communities throughout the U.S. and worldwide, and participation is free. If you’re ready to join, you can find an in-person or virtual meeting on NA’s website

If you think you’d benefit from an inpatient rehab program, you will want to search for one that offers a full continuum of care, beginning with medically managed detox and progressing through evidence-based therapy and participation in 12-step recovery groups. Contact us today to learn more about finding lasting freedom from the cycle of substance abuse.

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