When embarking on the recovery journey, you will undoubtedly be introduced to Alcoholics Anonymous and its Twelve-Step program. A.A.’s program has become ubiquitous in the recovery landscape, providing peer support and guidance around the globe for decades.
The Twelve Steps take you on a personal journey of repair, restoration, and renewal of mind, body, and soul. Someone new in recovery will begin with Step One and continue onward “working the steps,” through the 12th Step. It isn’t just about checking off boxes, however, but to learn a new way of living by applying the tenets to all aspects of life.
Step One: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
Step One is hard. It sits there glaring at us like a test of wills, our will versus the substance. There is no doubt that submitting your will over to the healing touch of a Higher Power is both frightening and empowering. Read on to learn more about tackling Step One of A.A.’s Twelve-Step program.
What is A.A.?
Two men who were struggling with alcoholism, Bill W. and Dr. Bob, created Alcoholics Anonymous in 1935. The basis of their nascent program was to provide a safe place where people could engage with others, share experiences, and care for each other. From the seeds of this humble little group grew a global network that now serves about 2 million people.
A.A. is built upon Twelve Principles and Twelve Steps. The Principles guide the logistical aspects of the organization and help define its stated mission. The Twelve Steps of A.A. represent the benchmarks that incrementally guide a person toward achieving sustained sobriety.
Along the way, the individual experiences personal growth that culminates in a spiritual awakening. The program does not adhere to any particular spiritual belief system, and leaves it up to each person to define his or her own spirituality.
Why the Twelve-Step Program Works
There is a popular A.A. slogan: It works if you work it. This is a succinct way of explaining why the Twelve-Step program is so effective. If you work the steps, preferably along with attending meetings regularly and having a sponsor to guide your progress, you will learn a new way of navigating life without the substance.
A substance problem can cause people to become self-centered. A.A. helps people to get outside of themselves and submit to the care of a Higher Power. The Steps are rooted in Judeo-Christian values, especially the virtue of humility. The meetings provide a supportive environment where members not only learn from the topics discussed, but can also fellowship with each other. Together, these elements offer the support needed to persevere in recovery.
Exploring the First Step
A.A.’s Step One is the starting point, the key that opens the door to a new life in recovery. Some may mistakenly believe that admitting powerlessness equates to being a weak person. If anything, being able to admit being powerless against the disease of alcoholism is an incredibly courageous statement. By acknowledging the grip the disease has on you it means you understand it as a foe, something to be conquered and bound.
Tips for completing Step One:
- This first step is all about honesty, about getting real. In this step you will break the cycle of denial by accepting that you have a problem, one that has caused your life to become unmanageable.
- By accepting this truth you are agreeing to begin the process of change.
- Along with the desire to change is an understanding that you cannot make the needed changes alone, that you will need help.
- You will accept the truth that the only way to make progress is to abstain from alcohol.
Ashley Alumni Coordinator, Louis M., describes his experience with Step One like this:
They say the first step is the only one that you need to do perfectly, and I did not at first. I thought that maybe I could still have a little bit of this or that if I stayed away from the hard stuff. This mindset closed me off from working the program, and eventually took me back to a drink.
When I came back, I realized just how powerless I had become over alcohol and drugs. I knew that there had to be no doubt in my mind that once I picked up, I could not stop. I also had to realize that once I put it down, I am undoubtedly going to pick it back up again if I do not find a suitable replacement. Reflecting on my past experience with a sponsor helped me reach this point, and frequent meetings and contact with other people help me keep this mindset.
Taking that first Step provides the foundation for all subsequent Steps to build upon. Just as Louis states, it all begins with acknowledging being powerless over the substance. And in that moment of surrender, you will find the power to help you overcome the substance disorder.
Follow our blogs this year to learn about all of the Twelve Steps. We will break down one Step in order each month and explore how best to approach and complete them, further enhancing your recovery success. Tune in next month to learn more about Step Two of the Twelve-Step program.
Ashley Addiction Treatment, formerly Father Martin’s Ashley, is a nationally recognized nonprofit leader in integrated, evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders and is accredited by The Joint Commission. We offer both inpatient and outpatient programs, holistic addiction treatment, drug detox, relapse prevention plans, family wellness programs and a variety of other services tailored to each patient’s needs. Our driving principle — “everything for recovery” — reinforces our mission to heal each individual with respect and dignity, and reflects on our ongoing commitment to meet new challenges. For information about our comprehensive programs, please call (866) 313-6307