Step 1 of the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous is “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable”.
One could say that I took this step on a daily basis for the last ten years of my drinking. I knew that I could not stop drinking once I started and I also knew that my life was unmanageable in many ways. If I was taking this step every day for so long, then why did I continue to drink and live an out of control life?
The first half of this step – admitting powerlessness over alcohol – was merely a self perception but my actions were not aligned with this thought. If I truly knew that I was powerless over alcohol, then it makes no sense that hundreds of times I went out to ‘just have a few’. I always failed at this. It would be the same thing if every day I went out in the front yard and tried to push over a large oak tree. If I truly knew I could not uproot the tree, why would I keep trying to push it over? Somewhere deep inside me, I continued for years to believe that I could control my drinking on my own. In my mind, one day I was eventually going to drop that oak tree to the ground.
I tried all sorts of things to control my drinking. If I only would just drink on weekends, I would be just fine. If I only did not get behind the wheel after drinking, everything would be all right. If I only could go to the bars and be home by midnight, it wouldn’t be so bad. If I only…. All of these things failed. Until I quit trying to quit on my own and decided to seek help outside of myself had I truly taken the first half of Step One of Alcoholics Anonymous. AA is a program of action, not of idle thoughts.
The second half of this step – that my life had become unmanageable – was quite clear to me and anyone that knew me well. I was constantly in legal trouble related to my drinking. I never held a job for longer than a year. I kept my family at arms length because I did not want them to know the extent of my drinking. I lived a lifestyle that was very dangerous in many ways. Even though I usually made pretty decent money, I always lived paycheck to paycheck.
Once again, even though I was quite aware that my life was unmanageable I took no action to remedy the situation. I kept trying to do things my way and continued to make the same mistakes over and over. Until I was willing to listen to someone else, my life would remain unmanageable.
At first glance the First Step of Alcoholics Anonymous may not appear to be actionable step; but it had to be for me. I not only had to admit these two things to myself, I had to admit them to someone else and reach out for help. I had to surrender the fight and trust in someone else for the first time. That was the part that took me a decade to learn.