The 12 Steps in Everday Living: Part One

This is the first in what will hopefully be a 12-part series, something that has been percolating in my mind for a while.  The 12 steps are an amazingly helpful tool in overcoming addiction, but they offer so much more.  At least for this alcoholic, the 12 steps are a framework for living my whole life happy, joyous and free.  So I want elaborate on how each step has helped me overcome addiction, and also how it continues to help me in all areas of life.

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

The essence of this step is surrender, something that is difficult to do under any circumstances.  We have an amazing ability to deny, to justify, and to defend when in the throes of active addiction.  For me, admitting I was powerless took some time, and even longer to see how my life had become unmanageable.  I knew I had a problem, I just thought I could figure out a way to control the problem.  The harder I tried to control it, the worse the problem became, and, if you have read A Series of Bottoms, Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4, then you know the end of that story.

But the good news is that once I finally surrendered to the idea that I was powerless, the solution became clear… not easy, but clear.  And to this day, step one is like the antidote to the thought of a drink or a drug.

So that’s how Step One helps my recovery, but here’s how it helps me in everyday life.  Mind-altering substances are not the only things over which I am powerless.  My life can still become unmanageable without picking up a drink or drug.  If I try to control those things over which I have no control, my life suddenly loses the serenity for which I have fought so hard, and step one helps me to keep all my thoughts in check, not just the ones concerning addictive substances.

When the people that I love are behaving in ways with which I disagree, and I fight to make them see my way is the right way, my life becomes unmanageable.

When situations arise that are unjust, and I am outraged with the injustice, my life becomes unmanageable.

When I am filled with fear over a future event, or filled with regret over a past event, my life becomes unmanageable.

When I am fixated on what is wrong in my life, instead of being grateful for all that is good, my life becomes unmanageable.

In each of those cases, and many others, simply admitting that I am powerless over those people, over the future, over the past, over so many things, frees me from the accompanying negative feelings, and allows me to remember what I can control, and restores me to sanity.

I am hoping my fellow friends in recovery will be willing to add to this post.  How does step one help in everyday living?  I can’t wait to read your ideas on this subject!

Today’s Miracle:

I showed up to a meeting today that I do not usually attend, and found a friend just coming back from a  relapse.  Watching the courage it took for him to admit his mistake, and the unconditional love he received, was heart-warming.  Remembering again how grateful I am to be sober is a miracle!

Posted on April 12, 2013, in Twelve Steps in Everyday Living and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve uttered the words, “Lisa, Lisa, Lisa, this is step one stuff.” I access this EVERY day! My job is to recognize that by ‘default’ I mismanage with or without alcohol in my system. I get to stay sober if I learn to manage me (my mind). The challenge (for me) is staying quiet and going within to find my answer. The longer I stay sober the better I get at learning to trust the voice within and actually listening and following through with the healthy/healing choice. I’m looking forward to the remaining eleven.


  2. Great stuff! I think you nail a lot of stuff here, about the surrendering and the path being clear, but not easy. I also think the idea that we can’t manage others (we can’t even manage ourselves, let alone someone else), and whenever we try to play God or control things, we are disturbed. When I try to shoehorn the outcome instead of leaving it up to God, then I go haywire. It’s in realizing that I cannot control things and that I cannot let them control me is where I get the simple, yet powerful realization that on my own, I am nothing. That I am the problem, not anyone else.

    As an addendum to the powerless over people, places and things idea – I feel that we *do* have power – we have power how we react to them. I can’t control what someone thinks of me, but I can control my reaction – I can get bent out of shape, or just let it go. Again, I am not in control. Step 1. I concede to my innermost self that I cannot run the show.

    I too look forward to the next eleven 🙂



  3. Great idea! Like Paul, i’m psyched to read the rest.

    For me Step 1 was the big step i took when i realized i could no longer be cavalier about my drinking. i could no longer laugh it off. Remembering this every morning, that trying to control my drinking led me to hell, is a key to having a good day!


  4. Great post! I had a horribly hard time with step one, the first line alone – had me stuck! -” who cares to admit complete defeat. ” – well damn, not I! I fought it with all my might! But when I finally accepted it, I felt an immediate relief, the war was over, I was done fighting! I was then ready to move forward, towards the solution. Towards sobriety.


  1. Pingback: My Big Bottom Saved My Life | Al K Hall-ic Anonymous

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