I started a Web Site in 1999 when I came back into the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous. Tripod decided to block me a few years ago , so I stopped writing, posting. SO I decided to take the posts I had there and put them here. Plus new ones I found on the net and shares of my own. Take what you need and pass on the rest! Blessings ds♥

Sunday, October 19, 2014

A Brief Survey of the First Step

Sometimes the First Step is the Hardest Step to Take

Step One:  We admitted that we were powerless over our addiction — that our lives had become unmanageable.

The First Step is always the hardest . . .
It is said that the First Step is the most important of all because it is only when it has been accepted as true for the individual that recovery may begin.  Drawing on the wisdom of recovery literature, this article will provide a general overview of the First Step.

To Admit or Not to Admit

Key to the First Step is the admission of two facts:  1) powerlessness over addiction; and 2) that our lives had become unmanageable.  With this in mind, it is first important to understand what it means “to admit” something.  Simply put, an admission is an acknowledgement of truth.  With respect to the First Step, the individual must review his or her own using history to determine whether or not an admission of powerlessness and unmanageability can honestly be made.

Powerlessness Over Addiction

Powerlessness in the context of addiction has two components:  mental obsession and physical compulsion.

With regard to physical compulsion, the addict must acknowledge that notwithstanding plans to the contrary, it is impossible to predict how much of a substance will be consumed once a drug-using session has begun.  It may be, for example, that the addict plans to use for just a short period of time.  Perhaps there are important engagements to be kept.  The intent may be to honor these responsibilities.  However, once the consumption of drugs begins, the addict experiences a physical compulsion to continue using that overrides any plans to the contrary.
Mental obsession involves unyielding thoughts of getting and using more drugs in spite of the negative consequences which always materialize in the aftermath of using.  The obsession to use eliminates any power of choice over whether or not using drugs will be resumed.  As noted in Alcoholics Anonymous, mental obsession ensures that “[w]e are unable at certain times to bring into our consciousness with sufficient force the memory of suffering and humiliation of even a week or a month ago.”  Using drugs becomes the main motivational drive for the addict overriding the typical defenses the mind provides against engaging in self-harming behavior.

In combination, physical compulsion and mental obsession form the vicious cycle of powerlessness.  The mental obsession drives the addict to use again and once begun the drug use will be compulsive.  This vicious cycle is eloquently described in “The Doctor’s Opinion” in Alcoholics Anonymous as follows:  “After they have succumbed to the desire again, as so many do, and the phenomenon of craving develops, they pass through the well-known stages of a spree, emerging remorseful, with a firm resolution not to drink again.  This is repeated over and over, and unless this person can experience an entire psychic change there is very little hope of his recovery.”

Simply put, the admission of powerlessness over addiction requires that a) the addict admit that he or she cannot control the amount of drugs he or she will take in any given session of using; and b) that the addict admit that no matter how great the desire and/or need to stop using for good, he or she is unable to do so.

Unmanageability of Life
Unmanageability is the manifestation in life of powerlessness over addiction.  It is what happens, both internally and externally, as a result of the power addiction wields over the addict.  The Narcotics Anonymous Step Working Guides provides a concise explanation of the two general manifestations of unmanageability.
The first manifestation is “outward unmanageability” which is the easiest to identify.  Homelessness, loss of career, poverty, incarceration, institutionalization are, to name a few, the results of the outward unmanageability of the addict’s life.
More subtle, though no less devastating, is inner or personal unmanageability.  It is often marked by unhealthy and untrue belief systems.  Symptoms of personal unmanageability include feelings of worthlessness, uncontrollable anger, paranoia, and high levels of fear and anxiety.
In admitting the unmanageability of life, the addict must acknowledge that a) his or her own devices and schemes have mainly led to negative experiences that were never planned nor intended; and b) that his or her general outlook, approach, and reaction to the circumstances of life is unstable and unhealthy.


In order to admit the truth one must first understand the facts.  Theories are interesting but have little meaning if not applied to particular circumstances and validated for accuracy. Working the First Step therefore requires an examination of the addict’s history of using. Based on experience, is it apparent that the addict has no control over using drugs and is therefore powerless over addiction?  And given this powerlessness, is it obvious that when the addict attempts to manage his or her own life in active addiction that only misery and despair ensue?  If these two questions can be answered honestly and concretely in the affirmative, then the First Step will have been accepted and successfully internalized.

1 comment:

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