Tradition 4

"Each Group should be autonomous, except in matters affecting other Groups, or N.A. as a whole."

The autonomy of our groups is necessary for our survival. A dictionary defines autonomous as "having the right or power of self-government...undertaken or carried on without outside control." this means our groups are self-governing and are not subject to outside control. Every group has to stand and grow on it's own.

One might ask, "Are we truly autonomous? What about our service committees, our officers, activities, and all the other things that go on in N.A.?" The answer is that these things are not N.A. They are services we utilize to help us in our recovery and to further the primary purpose of our groups. Narcotics Anonymous is a Fellowship of men and women; addicts meeting in groups and using a given set of spiritual principles to find freedom from addiction and a new way of life. All else is not N.A. Those things we mentioned are the result of members caring enough to reach out and offer their help and experience so that the road might be easier. Whether we choose to utilize these services is up to the group.

A Narcotics Anonymous group is any meeting which meet regularly at a specified place and time for the purpose of recovery provided that it follows the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Narcotics Anonymous. There are two basic types of meetings: those which are opened to the general public and those closed to the public (for addicts only). Meetings vary widely in format from group to group. Some are participation meetings, some speakers, some question and answer, some special problem discussion.

Despite the type or format a group uses for it's meetings, the function of a group is always the same: to provide a suitable and reliable environment for personal recovery and to pormote such recovery. These Traditions are part of a set of spiritual principles of Narcotics Anonymous, and without them, N.A. does not exist.

We say that for N.A., autonomy is more than this. It gives our groups the freedom to act on their own to establish their atmosphere of recovery, serve their members, and fulfill their primary purpose. It is for these reasons that we guard our autonomy so carefully.

It would seem that we, in our groups, can do whatever we decide regardless of what anyone says. This is partly true. Each group does have complete freedom, except when their actions affect other groups or N.A. as a whole. Like group conscience, autonomy can be a two-edged sword. Group autonomy has been used to justify the violation of the Traditions. If a contradiction exists, we have slipped away from our principles. If we check to make sure that out actions are clearly within the bounds of our Traditions; if we do not dictate to other groups, or force anything upon them; and if we consider the consequences of our action ahead of time, then all will be well.