Step 1 Is Powerful Action

Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over (name the addiction or behavior)
and that our lives had become unmanageable.

If we are to recover from our addiction to a substance or a behavior, we must first admit and accept deep within ourselves the fact of our addiction. Somehow we must come to terms with that hard truth.

The total, unrestricted acceptance that, by ourselves without help,  we cannot behave in a normal manner is exactly what’s meant by the admission of powerlessness. That’s how hitting bottom actually happens and when it does it’s replaced with the humility that let’s us accept the help the Program, the 12 Steps, offer.

But notice, our powerlessness is limited to our addiction(s).

Step 1 is about the addiction

Although it’s often implied that Step 1 says we’re powerless of our whole lives, and in the beginning of recovery it often seems that way, the Step makes it clear we’re powerless over only our addictions(s).  Our lives are a mess, that’s true, but it’s the addiction that’s the problem.

It’s important to understand this because coming to terms is indeed a powerful action, perhaps the most powerful action we can take on our own behalf.

Of course, this isn’t the usual view in our fellowships. One of the myths that have grown up in the Program is that we are perpetually powerless over everything. It’s the kind of thinking that moves us away from what our founders intended, which is a full rich life free from the addiction(s) that kept us from it.

This myth is based in fear of relapse

It’s hard to prove, but my hunch is this myth of what I call Perpetual Powerlessness is based in a fear of relapse. But the Program promises us that we can become free from fear IF we work the Steps well. In the Promises on page 84 of the 3rd edition it says “And we have ceased fighting anything or anyone – even alcohol.”

That’s not powerlessness. That’s the result of the powerful action of working the 12 Steps – which begin with Step 1.

Tell us about your experience with Step 1.

Love, peace and abundance,


Henry Hernadez September 23, 2011 at 4:02 am

….I’ve enjoyed browsing thru your site…. great little pitstop for a walker of Steps that by decision entrusts my journey to proven disciplines of direction and action for my life. …. look forward to including your site in my time of meditation and devotion. step 1 for me has been a starting point in the naming of a specific detrimental and destructive behavior….. I like that as I make progress in the steps, when I feel or see a stumble coming on, I can refer to the truth of step 1 as many times as i require. I find,when I do refer back, that somehow I ‘ve started to fall back on the assumption that “I can take it from here… thanx 4 letting me share

annew September 23, 2011 at 3:43 pm

Glad you like the site Henry – keep coming back as they say 😉

Ginger October 2, 2011 at 1:05 pm

I will never forget the evening I read Step 1 from the list on the wall at a meeting. I finally identified with the words Powerless and Unmanageable! What an eye opener! I finally understood what got me to AA. That was the beginning of a very small ray of light into the darkness I was imprisoned in for so many years. It was such a relief to know that there was actually hope for me. That was over 25 years ago and I am still sober. Thank you GOD.

annew October 2, 2011 at 2:20 pm

Yeah, when that penny drops it’s often dramatic.

uncadiane October 15, 2011 at 2:52 am

I’m in Al-Anon. For me, the importance of being powerless over just about everything is to remind me that I am only in control of ME. I am powerless over my husband and his decision to drink/drug or not. I am powerless over the people I work with. I am powerless over people in traffic or in the mall. But . . . I am NOT powerless over ME and my behaviors. By exercising my power over myself, I become happy, joyous, and free, because I’m not allowing myself to be jerked around by other peoples’ behaviors, and I’m free to pursue my own joy. I also find it’s not been easy to stop “holding court” over others, and it’s not been easy to assuming responsibility for my own behaviors.

annew October 17, 2011 at 10:53 pm

Well said.

Mark Douglas January 25, 2012 at 11:18 pm

You bring up significant point that I only recently began to grasp it’s power. Acceptance. As one of the stories relates “acceptance is the key to everything”. I agree wholeheartedly that it is at the point of acceptance that we find our bottom. I had many so called bottoms, including a serious suicide attempt. The Grace of God is the only way I survived, but I would not accept my problem of alcohol among many others. My pride was far to great and there was no room for humility in the slightest form. Acceptance of my problem meant killing off my old self and being made anew. As scary as this prospect was, I finally came to accept that this I must do or die for real.
I will always be grateful to AA for there I found the gateway to God Himself. But it was time to move on and live the life God had laid out for me and to live it with love and passion.
Look forward to visiting your site often.

annew January 26, 2012 at 4:08 pm

Mark, thanks for sharing a bit of your story – and as you and the big book say “acceptance is the key…”

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