M(3), 1/20: Back To Sobriety Basics

And a happy Martin Luther King day to everyone!  It’s funny, I always think that a holiday of any sort is going to mix it up at my Monday meeting, and it never does.  Same core group, and each time one regular does not show up, a new person comes along.

Today’s reading selection was from the book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions; because it is January, we go back the beginning of the book, Step One:

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

It has been my experience that this step is the turning point, either towards or away from, a 12-step program.  The people who sat with me today, for example, can all share, in fantastic detail, the moment they accepted this step into their hearts and minds, and today’s group had lengths of sobriety ranging from 10 months through 28 years!   On the other hand, I read frequently in this very blogosphere opinions to the contrary:  it is because they do not believe in the concept of “powerlessness” that they are repelled from any fellowship that demands such a steep admission.

Here is my personal experience with step one:  for a very long time, I fought the idea tooth and nail.  When I was first exposed to it, I doubt I gave it more than a half second’s thought… of course I am not powerless, and my life is as far from unmanageable as you can get.  This was many years ago, and in my heart of hearts I believed my problems with alcohol were situational, and thus could be solved with a few lifestyle tweaks.

Needless to say, that period of sobriety did not last very long.

The next time I was to look at step one, I had a slightly more realistic view of my alcoholism:  I could acknowledge, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that I had an unhealthy relationship with alcohol/mind-altering substances.  I could clearly see that this “relationship” had devolved dramatically from even 5 years earlier, when I was confident that I could resolve my issues on my own.  Finally, I realized that there were significantly unmanageable areas in my life, areas that I tried hard to rectify, and was seemingly unable to do so.  But powerlessness and total unmanageability were still not things I was willing to accept.  I could still point to people who drank more than I did, who had consequences greater than my own, whose behavior was more reprehensible than mine, and those comparisons kept me firmly in the mindset of “if they can do it, why can’t I?”

And so on I continued in active addiction, and on I progressed with the disease of alcoholism, and on the consequences came, each one more dire than the last.

Until finally, in that darkest-before-the-dawn moment, when I got down on my knees (literally), threw my hands up in the air (metaphorically), and said, out loud, “I need some help… I have tried and tried to do this on my own, and it is clearly not working.  Please show me what to do.”  It was at that point that I could see, for the first time in my life, how powerless I was, and how unmanageable my life had become.  As soul-wrenching as that moment was, I look at it now for what it has become… a priceless gift.  Because in that moment, on that freezing night almost 2 years ago, I commenced a journey to the most peace, the most joy, and the most love I have experienced in my life.

Here is my final thought on step one, and then I will stop with the rambling ruminations:  it is a step that needs to be taken completely, and endlessly.  What do I mean by that?  Well, completely, meaning I believe, really believe, that I am powerless, and that my life in active addiction is truly unmanageable.  No equivocations, no “yes, but” mentalities are going to work on this one.  I have tried it, and demonstrated brilliantly how pointless believing a partial step one is going to be effective.  Endlessly means, simply, that there is no graduation from alcoholism.  Our minds may tell us otherwise, God knows the media and social conventions will do their best to convince us to the contrary, but, as they say, a pickle cannot be turned back into a cucumber.   So often the story is told… got some sober time, felt strong and confident, believed the problem has been solved, why not just have one?  And time and again, the ending is a sad one.  So as important as it is to “take” step one for the first time, it is just as important to continue taking it, one day at a time, for the rest of my life!

Today’s Miracle:

Speaking of powerlessness, I need to take Step One as it relates to winter weather… yet another storm is slated for tomorrow, and, as I type, it sounds as if a war is being waged by my children on the other side of the door… God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change!

Posted on January 20, 2014, in Monday Meeting Miracles and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Well, Josie. It’s late now and I know I can go on about this for a while, so I will try to keep it short and sweet (yeah right, me?) The idea of powerlessness is hard for us alcoholics. it truly is. As you mentioned, many of us out here (and in the outside world) see it differently. It’s about putting mind over matter, controlling the illness and taking power back from the alcohol(ism). Rational Recovery and other methods I believe work along similar paths. Urge surfing, AVRT and other methods / mentalities revolve around using the mind to battle the wolf knocking a the door. And I know some alcoholics who have been quite successful. Or use that and some 12-step stuff, or a combination of a whole lot of things (therapy, etc). So powerlessness does not enter that equation. It’s counter to those methods.

    And that’s fine.

    For me, like you, it was only when my ass was on fire and about the crumble into ever more of nothing, was I able to see that I was so damned powerless over alcohol(ism) that I was out of ideas. Period. That was it. I had nothing left in the tank. Bereft of thoughts and ways to get around drinking. Done. And that is where I got free. The door cracked open a bit there. There is the idea that powerlessness means weak, and that isn’t the case. Sensing that powerlessness brings me strength. But i can’t force powerlessness….it had to be beaten into me. Like many (not all) of us.

    the day I think I have it figured and try to take my will back and think I know what is best for me…well, that’s the day I probably become another sad statistic.


    But thank you for this…wonderful post and insightful and just lapped it up.


    P.S stay dry and warm tomorrow!


  2. Thanks (as always) for the comment, Paul, it truly means the world to me. I have witnessed what you have witnessed… those who somehow harnessed their mental capacities and put down the drink, never having to surrender as we have. And I will admit to jealousy at times… how come they were able to and not me? But then I think of all that I have gained, with that simple admission of powerlessness, and I am grateful for the way things played out in my life…

    Including getting to know you, Paul!


  3. I have nominated you for the Sunshine Award. Thank you for sharing your recovery.


  4. Hi Josie! Great post! I sure did not want to admint that i was powerless! Heck no! But it was inevitable that when i put alcohol in my body, i had no idead what would happen! I hated the idea that i was powerless, i thought that i had all the power (lol), but once i was able to accepted it, then i was able to move towards the solution – sobriety!


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