The first “step” in Alcoholics Anonymous or its 12-step brother and sister programs is “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.” But what does this mean? Am I really powerless when it comes to alcohol and drugs? What it is within my power, and what am I responsible for to change? How to define powerlessness in recovery and what does it mean exactly?
Many people can become easily hung up on this first step in treatment, never truly diving into what it means, or how it relates to their story. For some, it feels like a great relief to be reminded of their powerlessness over this all-consuming impulse, and helps them to make sense of their behavior that is not ultimately in line with who they want to be. For others, especially those who may have been victimized in the past, the weight of powerlessness feels impossible to bear, especially when they’ve built our lives on never feeling that way again.
However, admitting you are powerless when it comes to overcoming your addiction does not mean you have lost your innate power in all things. Rather, it meant that you’ve exhausted the options immediately available to you, and are in need of some new strategies.
Losing yourself in substance abuse often results in losing a sense of control and agency. However counterintuitively, when you are able to admit you have lost your power you can begin to get it back again. Admitting that you are unable to overcome your substance abuse on your own is a very difficult and vulnerable thing to do. Reaching out for support can feel challenging due to the shame and guilt associated with addiction. It is important to be compassionate with yourself and know you are not alone in these struggles.
No human is meant to go through life alone without support, we all need others. The sooner you can realize this and accept help the stronger you will be.
Seeking support includes allowing others to help you and possibly trusting in a “Higher Power.” Once you admitted you have a problem you can begin from there and learn how to come back into alignment with yourself, so you no longer need substances to cope with life.
The Power of Surrender
Step One on your recovery path is surrendering into the reality of the situation that you have lost your power and are willing to get help. We cannot start to change what is happening unless we can admit to what is going on. When you surrender to the reality that you have become powerless over the substance then change is possible. From this point, you are able to accept the situation as it is.
Carl Rogers, a famous psychologist explains that. “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am then I can change.” When you can accept that things have gotten out of hand and you do not have the control you thought you might have then you can actually overcome it. It is the resistance to what is that causes the most suffering.
It’s important to remember you are not your addiction, you are more than this and you just need to get back to yourself.
Here are some things you can do to help you through step one:
Make A List of Consequences
To help shed some light on your addiction it can be helpful to create a list of all the consequences related to the behavior. Ask yourself:
- How has this addiction affected me physically? Mentally? Emotionally? Financially? Relationally? Spiritually?”
- Have I used alcohol or drugs to control or suppress my emotions?
- What have I lost out on due to my addiction? What has been the cost?
Create A Powerlessness List
Make a list of the moments when you felt powerless over drugs or alcohol. Be as honest as you can, starting with early examples and then going to the most recent.
- Have I started and not been able to stop?
- Have you blamed other people for your addiction?
- Shed some light on the ways that your addiction has created destruction and chaos in your life.
- What does unmanageability mean to you?
Once you accept step one, you do something about this feeling of powerlessness and gain back your power. Recovery is about gaining the insights, tools and skills so you feel empowered and able to understand and overcome your need for substances. We are not meant to go through this life alone and we need other people so we can be healthy, strong and independent.
What is holding you back from taking the first step to empowerment?
Sober Living West LA
Riviera Recovery offers luxury sober living in West LA for individuals who are struggling with alcoholism, drug dependence, and other co-occurring disorders and looking to integrate new skills to a structured sober living environment. Our amenities include 24/7 supervision and local sponsorship opportunities to begin the process of accepting powerlessness and beginning a life full of possibilities. Call us today at 855-207-9708 for more information.