Step 1: Powerlessness and Accountability

by Judy G.

None of us can do this alone. I always say that if I could do this alone, I wouldn’t be sitting here in this proverbial church basement at 7 AM on a Sunday morning.  We need to be accountable to each other to stay sober in mind, body and spirit.

The first step begins the beautiful, life-saving journey of recovery. “We admitted that we were powerless over alcohol, and that our lives had become unmanageable.” One of the most crucial words in this sentence is “we.” 

If your leg is broken you need a crutch

I always thought that Step 1 was a license to drink. I am powerless over alcohol, so what can I do? But once I admitted I am powerless over alcohol, that I am indeed an alcoholic, then I could work the steps in sequence (what a novel idea for this rebel) and learn where the power to stay sober would come from.

We sit in meetings and introduce ourselves as alcoholics. We say it out loud for everyone in the room to hear. That is the first step toward surrendering the old life that kept us in the gutter, lying to friends and family, waking up in strange places wondering where the car is, and not living the life our higher power wishes for us.

Alcoholics Anonymous is a rigorous program—a program of honesty, of showing up for meetings, of doing service, of being accountable for our behavior. Admitting we are powerless over alcohol makes it that much easier to dedicate ourselves to our recovery.

Not only are we powerless over alcohol, we come to learn that we are powerless over just about everything except our own reactions to things. We pray for serenity in every meeting because serenity helps keep us sober. We need to be free from anger and resentment to stay sober. Thinking that we can change other people’s behavior is sure way to not live in serenity.

Acceptance doesn’t mean that you like it

A program friend of mine was very upset with how her goddaughter was living. We were talking about acceptance of her goddaughter’s choices. My friend said it felt like accepting it meant that she liked it. I said acceptance doesn’t mean that you like it, it just means that you are powerless over it. That resonated and she could let go of some of the fear.

photo captions available upon request to thepoint@aasfmarin.org

The second part of Step 1 is the idea of unmanageability. When I first contemplated 12-Step recovery, I thought it was a crutch and I should be able to do this on my own. But if your leg is broken you need a crutch. If your life is broken, you need a crutch, but first you have to admit that your life is broken.

“I’m not that bad.” “I don’t drink as much as Joe.” “I’ve never had a DUI.” “I always hold down a job.”  There are so many reasons why we can’t admit that our lives have become unmanageable, but everyone has their own personal bottom. If you have ever gone to an A. A. meeting, or thought about going to an A. A. meeting, trust that little feeling in your gut that you need help. 

The Big Book talks about alcoholics as being maladjusted to life. Relief washed over me when I heard those works spoken aloud. I was not alone. There were words for how I felt. My life was unmanageable in so many ways, even though it didn’t always look that way from the outside. There is no shame in admitting that we need help. It is the first step to recovery and living the healthy life that the universe desires for us. 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email