I attend AA weekly on Sunday nights. I feel that this gives me a good jumping off point for the week. It sets the right tone, and I can tackle my busy life with the right mindset. This week’s meeting was powerful for me, and has stuck with me. At the suggestion of one member, we discussed Step One of the AA’s 12 Steps:
We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
We specifically discussed the importance of repeating this step every day, rather than ignoring it because we have “already done that one.”
Many people in the group expressed the belief that the first step is really the only step that matters. Once you admit that you are powerless over alcohol, then you can begin the real work of recovery. Before you make that decision, you can’t truly heal. Afterward, you can not only heal, but you can begin your work on the other steps, if you choose, and you can make your life even better than it was before your addiction took hold.
One member of the group said that they had noticed that the first step is the only step to actually mention alcohol. None of the other steps are specific to alcohol, and could be applied to almost any aspect of ourselves that we are trying to improve. But the first step says quite specifically that we must acknowledge that we cannot manage our lives under the influence of alcohol. I found this realization to be quite prophetic. Our only job, truly, as addicts is to admit we are addicts, and to always be aware of the presence of addiction as part of our being. Once we have mastered that, we can accomplish anything.
Still others brought up the concept of “going back out there.” Or, getting caught in the trap of thinking we’ve been “healed” or “reset.” Many alcoholics, after a certain amount of time has passed, will begin to think that it’s ok for them to drink again. They will assume that they’ve been “fixed”, or that in the amount of time that has passed, they have matured to the point that they could handle using alcohol again without allowing addiction to take over. But, as one person mentioned, “those people are wrong 100% of the time.” An addiction is an addiction, and no amount of time separating you from your substance of choice will ever make the addiction go away. In some cases it only intensifies over time, and the experience will be even worse than it was the first time around.
Some people are uncomfortable admitting powerlessness over alcohol, fearing that it makes them seem weak or that they have a character flaw. Some will only introduce themselves by name at a meeting, and will not also say, “I’m an alcoholic,” as per the AA tradition. I too felt uncomfortable with Step One at first. At rehab I was urged to say to myself that I am powerful over alcohol because I was able to make the choice to get sober. But, I have learned over time that while I am powerful for seeking help and getting sober, I am also still powerless should I ever take a drink. While under the influence of alcohol, I would still be powerless. It doesn’t make me any less powerful now to admit that to myself.
Another member at the meeting said that, “Each of us is always still on Step One, every single day.” And they are right. No matter how much work we do on the other 11 steps, and no matter how much progress we make on those steps, we must take a moment each day to remind ourselves of Step One, and what it means. We must remember how important it is to stay away from alcohol to avoid losing control of our lives again. And we must remain humble enough to admit that we can never, and would never want to, go back to our lives as participating alcoholics.
In recovery we are often reminded that each new day is a gift, and should be treated as such. And if every new day is a gift, we must begin that day with a reminder that we are powerless over our addiction and therefore will take every step to ensure we remain powerfully sober.