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Step 1 of AA: Admitting You’re Powerless Over Alcohol

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Are you ready to achieve liberation and strength over your destructive drinking habits? If so, you must admit defeat, become powerless, and embrace Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) guiding principles, starting with Step 1 of AA.

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Step 1 of AA: Admitting Powerlessness Over Alcohol

 “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol­­—that our lives had become unmanageable.”

According to This is AA: An introduction to the AA Recovery Program, the first step to a life of sobriety is realizing you cannot control or handle alcohol. You must acknowledge that you have to live without alcohol to avoid disaster for yourself and your loved ones.

You may view alcoholism as a weakness of your character or will, but this view may hinder your ability to accept you have an alcohol use disorder. Your alcohol addiction is a physical compulsion beyond your control—a progressive illness that defies common sense. There’s not a simple pill you can take to cure this disease. Instead, the treatment available focuses on helping you manage your condition, so you can achieve sobriety and resist relapse to alcohol abuse.

Alcohol addiction may interfere with everyday living. You may have noticed your life in chaos—maybe you’ve lost your home, your job, your family, your possessions, or your self-respect. You may have seen the inside of hospital rooms or jail cells. Regardless of how you got to this point, Step 1 of AA is merely realizing that your alcohol abuse disorder was interfering negatively with your life, and you need to change.

Taking the 1st Step Toward Managing Alcoholism

Step 1 of AA can be one of the most difficult on your journey to sobriety. You must first admit powerless over alcohol and be honest with yourself about the situation. No more lying about how much you drink. No more secrets about your lifestyle. No more denial about your disorder.

According to Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions (1981), “Our admissions of personal powerlessness finally turn out to be firm bedrock upon which happy and purposeful lives may be built” (p. 21).

You might not be ready to take the first step at your first AA meeting, and that’s okay. It’s not easy to admit our inability resist alcohol or internal humiliation, but you’re not alone. If you want to reap the positive benefits of AA, you must accept your alcoholic abuse disorder and its consequences. Your sobriety will remain unpredictable, and you won’t find any enduring strength until you can admit defeat.

How does AA Step 1 help you continue with the remaining steps? When you’re able to accept the fatal progression of your alcohol use disorder, you can’t continue living in denial. This attitude will bring immediate and practical results. You must first adopt attitudes and actions of being honest and sacrificing your time and energy to help yourself and other sufferers.

Tips for Starting and Working Step 1 of AA

Step 1 of AA acknowledges the need for members to hit rock bottom to understand alcohol addiction’s destructive nature.

“…few people will sincerely try to practice the AA program unless they have hit bottom. For practicing AA’s remaining 11 Steps means the adoption of attitudes and actions that almost no alcoholic who is still drinking can dream of taking”

Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, 1981

Completing this step may be complicated and difficult. Here are some tips for starting and working through Step 1 of AA:

  • Abandon pride and seek humility.
  • Abstain from alcohol and drugs.
  • Ask what it will cost if you don’t change?
  • Become aware of the six characteristics of alcoholism.
  • Exercise your power of choice to heal and recover.
  • Keep an open mind about the process of recovery.
  • List what you may gain through the process of healing.
  • Overcome the stages of denial about alcoholism.

Utilizing Support Groups

According to Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions (1981), “Few indeed were those who, so assailed, had ever won through in singlehanded combat. It was a statistical fact that alcoholics rarely recovered on their own resources” (p. 22).

Humans naturally gather together, which is why group therapy remains a powerful therapeutic tool for alcohol addiction. Further, groups with trained leaders, such as AA sponsors, can positively promote substance abuse recovery. These include reducing isolation, providing a support system, and witnessing the healing of others.

Myths and Misunderstandings About AA Step 1

You might be avoiding taking the first step toward recovery due to myths and misunderstandings surrounding AA and its steps. Here are some of the most common myths debunked or explained.

Myth 1: Science does Not back AA

According to Kelly and Beresin (2021), the Recovery Institute founder and the executive director of the Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds, respectively, programs similar to AA are among the most effective and best-studied treatment for overcoming alcoholism.

Many prominent organizations back this statement, such as the National Institute of Health, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the American Psychiatric Association, and the Department of Veterans Affairs Health Care System.

Myth 2: Powerlessness Equates To Weakness

A crucial part of completing AA Step one revolves around admitting powerlessness. However, being powerless doesn’t mean you’re weak. Step 1 of AA requires a great deal of strength and courage as you accept that alcohol has taken over your life.

Myth 3: You Must Hit Rock Bottom, Literally

Step 1 of AA references the need for members to hit rock bottom before genuinely understanding their addiction. However, this doesn’t need to be literal. Your rock bottom is whatever makes you realize alcohol is destructive to you and your loved ones. Rock bottom gives you the motivation to open your mind to recovery.

Myth 4: You Must Seek A “Higher Power” or Turn to Religion

Some people believe AA is intricately tied to religion by seeking a “higher power.” Rather, AA members are encouraged to understand they’re powerless in changing their addictive behavior. In fact, many members don’t perceive a need for a “higher power.” Instead of seeking spirituality, which helps in recovery, they seek assistance from the AA fellowship. 

What is AA?

AA is a recovery program for multiracial men and women who are suffering from an alcohol use disorder. Through companionship, mutual respect, and shared experiences, AA members come together to maintain abstinence from alcohol and build sober lives. If you’re passionate about putting a halt to your alcohol consumption, AA membership is available to you. AA support groups are accessible and free, without any age or education requirements.

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