“We admitted we were powerless over our addiction – that our lives had become unmanageable.”
-- Narcotics Anonymous (NA) Step One
Note: In this blog post, we reference the first step as outlined in the NA Basic Text interchangeably with the first step as outlined in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).
“We admitted we were powerless over our addiction…”
Let’s begin by exploring the first part of step one. The term “powerlessness” may seem confusing or rigid. For example, a person struggling with addiction might be president of a large corporation or a single parent juggling a full-time job. He or she might not feel powerless inmost realms of life. The first step is strictly referring to powerlessness over one’s addiction.
Clinging to the idea that we maintain any shred of control over our substance of choice will only serve to maintain the cycle of addiction. I know I blacked out last time, but the time before, I didn’t…so maybe if I drink/use again, it will be okay! Admitting powerlessness means accepting that once a drink or drug has been ingested, the outcome cannot be predicted.
“That our lives had become unmanageable.”
Now, let’s look at the second part of step one. We can think of “unmanageability” occurring on a continuum. In AA and NA, we might refer to this as “reaching a bottom,” an individual’s perception of the point of no return. The “bottom,” however, can vary greatly from one person to another. Needing a drink or drug first thing in the morning might signify to one person that a “bottom” has been reached. For another, a “bottom” might not be reached until the consequences begin to pile up…jail, divorce, bankruptcy, etc.
Accepting powerlessness is necessary to achieve true freedom from the disease of addiction. It may seem counterintuitive but the thousands upon thousands of AA and NA members who have successfully worked the 12 steps will agree this is the case. “Our admissions of personal powerlessness finally turn out to be firm bedrock upon which happy and purposeful lives may be built.” (AA Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions).
It is often said that the first step is the only one that must be done perfectly. Why? Because we must concede that we have no control over our addiction—after all, we’ve proved this fact again and again—before we can begin to change.
If you’re in need of addiction treatment, First Step Recovery can help! Contact us today at 330-369-8022.