Step 1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
Funny, I look at that now and think how obvious, simple and nonthreatening that sounds, but that is not how I saw it when I attended my first meeting of AA.
The human mind is a tricky machine. Admitting powerlessness was terrifying. I thought powerlessness was synonymous with loss of control, and that meant weak and stupid. I desperately wanted other people to think me strong and smart, but I seriously doubted that I was either. So I couldn’t even start that step.
Happily, some wonderful people I found in Alcoholics Anonymous helped me to see that I could cut that little step into two parts and we could attack the second part of it first. Maybe I could consider the possibility that my life was unmanageable. Well, I was resistant to that, but I had a sneaking suspicion that was an accurate representation of my circumstances. Other people in the groups freely talked about their lives being unmanageable, and I slowly began to see that maybe it was okay to be unmanageable, to admit being unmanageable, and that maybe, just maybe, being unmanageable could be manageable.
I said that “we could attack the second part.” I could not get sober on my own. There are people who can, and do, and I applaud them. We all need different things to heal our souls. It turned out what I needed was to fill my life with people who did not reflect my negative feelings about myself, unlike the people I often chose for myself. So, I had to get used to these odd new people who saw me as a valuable person who could flourish. Very slowly, I learned to see possibilities for success in myself.
My understanding of powerlessness came to me in small bits. Journaling helped. Writing about all of the trouble alcohol caused me slowly convinced me that I was powerless, else why would I allow so much of my life to be destroyed by it? At first, I kidded myself that I didn’t care about what I’d lost. Secretly, I didn’t think I deserved any happiness. I knew all my flaws and was filled with shame and remorse, but sharing these things with others was unthinkable, and I didn’t know yet that there is no way out but for the sharing. But that all comes long after step 1.
Powerless. No control, out of control, keeping things under control. I refused to be controlled. Control was a huge issue for me. So, powerlessness, no, I could not admit to that or it would be all over, end of game. I would be admitting defeat and then what? And admit it to others? Then everyone would know I was out of control and they would shun me or take advantage of me and I would be homeless, broke and alone. Scary stuff.
My understanding of the concepts of both “powerlessness” and “out of control” gradually changed. I came to understand the word “powerless” in terms of the second definition of Merriam-Webster:
- lacking the authority or capacity to act http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/powerless
Hmmm. Could this mean that I was not supposed to be able to quit drinking on my own, that perhaps this was an opportunity to discover the healing power of human relationships? I now believe that to be the case. Thinking of powerlessness in this way, I was able to open my inner barricade to open-mindedness just a crack, and see the possibility that maybe this mess I was in wasn’t all my fault, I wasn’t a complete unredeemable failure, and perhaps it might be okay if I could not quit drinking on my own, especially since I now knew rooms full of other people who had that same problem, and had found a way out. Quite a paradox that freedom from alcoholism would begin by admitting that I could not, by myself, get free.
I could then see “out of control” in terms of the definition of Dictionary.com:
Out of Control
- not under management or direction; unmanageable or wildhttp://www.dictionary.com/browse/out-of-control
I like this definition. There is no judgment here, it just says that I was not being managed and had no direction. With this definition to work with, I understood that I could choose a new manager, and decide whether to be wild, under strict management, or a contractor. For the first few years of sobriety I did what I was told to do in AA and chose strict management, since I had no clue how to live successfully in any area of my life. After learning and growing for a time, I was able to become a free agent, a contractor if you will. I had enough wild before sobriety, but do not despair! Plenty of people find their wild nature in sobriety, so if that’s what you want, you are free to pursue it!
This many years later, I no longer concern myself with whether I am powerless, out of control or both. I am now at peace with the concepts. To come to this peace, however, it was necessary for me to traverse the entire circle to settle comfortably into acceptance of what is.
Our minds can trick us to our benefit or our detriment. Choose benefit. Everyone is powerless and unmanageable if they care to take a look. Such freedom there is in that! #sobriety #recovery #aa