Remembering that I am Powerless: It Really is a Daily Reprieve!


Powerless is an oft-repeated word in AA, it is used in the very first step, which states:

We admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable.

As my mind cleared, as I worked the steps, and as I deepened my recovery, I realized that I was powerless over a heck of a lot more than just drugs or alcohol.  I am, in fact, powerless over everyone and everything except for myself.  Depending on the day, this thought is either a relief or a colossal pain in the ass.

I have so many examples of how powerlessness came up in my day today, it would take too long to write them all.  Here’s just one example:  I have a friend in the program who relapsed about 2 weeks ago, and she feels like she is coming apart at the seams.  Her job is a trigger for her addiction, she cannot have a single conversation without crying, and her husband has said he is fed up with her.  She is panicked about whether or not to leave her job, she has no idea how to handle her husband, and she fears she is losing control over her kids.  And the harder she tries to hold it together, the more she seems to fall apart.

It’s an extreme example, but who hasn’t had days (or weeks, or months) like this?

In going through her story in more detail, the heart of the matter is that she cannot accept her powerlessness over anything.  She wants so badly to control her addiction, her husband, her children, and her job, that the more she attempts to control, the more her world is crumbling.

The happy ending to this particular story:  she shared about this at our meeting (which, by the way, was a Step One meeting), and the women present were able to stay with her afterwards and give her the support she needed to get through the day.

And, of course, I think, “there but for the grace of God go I.”  I remember well the chaos of early sobriety.  But just because those extreme calamities aren’t happening in my life, doesn’t mean that I don’t have to consciously revisit this step, examine my behavior on a daily basis, and remind myself that I am powerless over everything and everyone but myself.  More important, when reminding myself that I am powerless over the people around me, I also have to remember that I do have power over my reactions to the people around me.

Today’s Miracle:

Being a sober support for a friend is the gift that keeps on giving.



Posted on March 29, 2013, in Recovery and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Great post!

    I think that last caveat about having power over how we react to people. places and things is the key. I hear the “I am powerless over people, places and things” over and over at meetings, and what I (and more importantly, the newcomer) don’t hear is that I *do* have power. I have a power that I get from being plugged into the juice – God. ‘But there is One who has all power—that One is God. May you find Him now!’ – from How it Works. So I don’t have power, but He does. But I get to plug in and as long as my will aligns with His, I am groovy. I have the strength and courage and direction to do so many things that I was never, ever able to. That’s by being guided by Him.

    Controlling things is an old habit, and when I get into that, things go pear shaped. Your example is perfect in showcasing that. But if your friend realizes that in letting it go, she actually gains something, then it makes it easier. But ego likes control, as does our alcoholism. What I do have control over is how I react to my thoughts, other things going on around me, and how I can connect with my Higher Power. I stay grounded when i relinquish control to the Creator.

    I don’t have to be in the driver’s seat any more.

    Thanks for sharing 🙂



  2. i love this post! So often when i meet someone who’s relapsed, this is where it hung up. Ironically, it’s in the first step, yet people try to hedge it. i fear for people who say they are their own Higher Power or they don’t believe in giving up control… i tried to control my drinking for thirty years and that led me to death’s door. i can’t speak for anyone else, but in my case i’m lucky enough to know for sure that i have absolutely no control when it comes to alcohol. This is such a blessing because it takes me out of the equation and fighting to be part of the equation was so exhausting.


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