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Staying Clean on the Outside

Many of us first heard the Narcotics Anonymous message of recovery while in a hospital or
institution of some kind. Transition from such places to the outside world is not easy under any
circumstances. This is especially true when we are challenged with the changes which recovery
brings. For many of us, early recovery was difficult. Facing the prospect of life without drugs can
be very frightening. But those of us who made it through the early days found a life worth living.
This pamphlet is offered as a message of hope to those now in a hospital or institution that you,
too, can recover and live freely. Many of us have been where you are today. We have tried other
ways, and many of us relapsed, some never to have another chance at recovery. We have written
this pamphlet to share with you what we have found that works.
If you are able to go to meetings while you are in a hospital or institution, you can start
developing good habits now. Come early and stay late at the meetings. Start, as soon as possible,
to establish contacts with recovering addicts. If there are NA members from other groups
attending your meetings, ask for their phone numbers and use them. Using these phone numbers
will feel strange at first, even silly. But, given that isolation is at the core of the disease of
addiction, that first phone call is a big stride forward. It isn’t necessary to wait for a major problem
to develop before calling someone in NA. Most members are more than willing to help in any way
they can. This is also a good time to arrange for an NA member to meet you upon your release. If
you already know some of the people you will be seeing at meetings when you are released, it
will help you feel a part of the NA Fellowship. We cannot afford to be or feel alienated.


Staying clean on the outside means taking action. When you get out, go to a meeting the first
day of your release. It is important to establish the habit of regular attendance. The confusion and
excitement of “just getting out” has lulled some of us into thinking of taking a vacation from our
responsibilities before settling down to the business of day-to-day living. This kind of
rationalization has led many of us back to using. Addiction is a disease which takes no time off in
its progression. If it is not arrested, it only becomes worse. What we do for our recovery today
does not ensure our recovery tomorrow. It is a mistake to assume that the good intention of
getting around to NA after a while will be sufficient. We must back up our intentions with action,
the earlier the better.
If you will be living in a different town after your release, ask the NA members for a meeting list
and the NA helpline number for your new area. They will be able to help you get in touch with NA
groups and members where you will be living. You can also get information about meetings all
over the world by writing to:
World Service Office
PO Box 9999
Van Nuys, CA 91409 USA
Sponsorship is a vital part of the NA program of recovery. It is one of the main channels through
which newcomers can take advantage of the experience of NA members who are living the
program. Sponsors can combine genuine concern for our well-being and a shared experience of
addiction with solid knowledge of recovery in NA. We have found it works best to find a sponsor
of your own sex. Choose a sponsor, even a temporary sponsor, as soon as possible. A sponsor
helps you work through the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Narcotics Anonymous. A
sponsor can also introduce you to other NA members, take you to meetings, and help you to get
more comfortable in recovery. Our pamphlet, Sponsorship, contains additional information on the
If we are to receive the benefits of the NA Program, we must work the Twelve Steps. Along
with regular meeting attendance, the steps are basic to our program of recovery from addiction.
We have found that working the steps in order and continuously reworking them keeps us from
relapsing into active addiction and the misery that it brings.
There is a variety of NA recovery literature available. The Little White Booklet and our Basic
Text, Narcotics Anonymous, contain principles of recovery in our fellowship. Familiarize yourself
with the program through our literature. Reading about recovery is a very important part of our
program, especially when a meeting or another NA member might not be available. Many of us
have found that reading NA literature on a daily basis has helped us maintain a positive attitude
and has kept our focus on recovery.
When you begin going to meetings, get involved with the groups you attend. Emptying ashtrays,
helping set up, making coffee, cleaning up after the meeting—all these tasks need to be done for
the group to function. Let people know you are willing to help, and become a part of your group.
Taking on such responsibilities is a necessary part of recovery and helps to counteract the
feelings of alienation that can creep up on us. Such commitments, however small they may
appear, may help ensure attendance at meetings when the desire to attend lags behind the need
to attend.
It is never too early to establish a personal program of daily action. Taking daily action is our
way of taking responsibility for our recovery. Instead of picking up that first drug, we do the
+ Don’t use, no matter what
+ Go to an NA meeting
+ Ask your Higher Power to keep you clean today
+ Call your sponsor
+ Read NA literature
+ Talk to other recovering addicts
+ Work the Twelve Steps of Narcotics Anonymous
We’ve discussed some of the things to do to stay clean; we should also discuss some things to
avoid. In NA meetings, we often hear that we must change our old way of living. This means that
we don’t use drugs, no matter what! We have also found that we cannot afford to frequent bars
and clubs or associate with people who use drugs. When we allow ourselves to hang around old
acquaintances and places, we are setting ourselves up for relapse. When it comes to the disease
of addiction, we are powerless. These people and these places never helped us stay clean before.
It would be foolish to think things will be different now.
For an addict, there is no substitute for the fellowship of others actively engaged in recovery. It
is important to give ourselves a break and give our recovery a chance. There are many new
friends waiting for us in Narcotics Anonymous, and a new world of experiences lies ahead.
Some of us had to adjust our expectations of a completely different world once we were
released. Narcotics Anonymous cannot miraculously change the world around us. It does offer us
hope, freedom, and a way to live differently in the world by changing ourselves. We may find some
situations which are no different than before but, through the program of Narcotics Anonymous, we
can change the way we respond to them. Changing ourselves does change our lives.
We want you to know that you are welcome in Narcotics Anonymous. NA has helped
hundreds of thousands of addicts to live clean, to accept life on its own terms, and to develop a
life that is truly worth living.

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