Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
It has been estimated that over two million people worldwide are currently partaking in the assistance provided by an Alcoholics Anonymous group, and AA has been in existence for 83 years. That alone should tell us that the twelve step principles are connecting with something common to us all. As Christina, one of our readers wrote last week, “I have come to believe that everyone should embrace a 12-step program and just adapt it to the areas of life that are particular to you.”
So here we are embarking on a journey that many people are already on. I have not found an exclusive attitude among any of the people I know in AA, such as, “You’re not an alcoholic or a drug addict? You don’t belong here.” Instead, I have found AA people to be the most accepting, non-judgmental people I know. They don’t care how you got there; they’re just glad you came. So with that knowledge, I am taking the liberty to borrow from the twelve steps that which is applicable spiritually to all of us. And there is much.
Take this first step. Who among you has not ever felt powerless or unable to manage your life? For that matter, who among you feels that way right now? We are talking about being able to cope with life on our own. How are you doing with that? Not too well? Welcome to the club.
There are a number of things in my life that I wish I could change, and these are things that have been with me for a long time. I thought that maybe with age I could overcome these weaknesses. With time I would fix myself. Yet here I am, staring at the same guy that’s been with me all along.
At some point I have to accept my limitations and learn to live with myself in order to cope. I have to accept that the person I am is not the person that I want to be, and should I ever become that person I want to be, it will not be because I have made myself into that person, but because Someone stronger and bigger than me has brought me to my new self. I have not changed myself; Someone has changed me. But here’s the key: that change can’t happen until I admit my powerlessness to produce it.
Helplessness, weakness, powerlessness, failure … these are all part of the pathway to something better. Embracing them is the only way to get there. There are no shortcuts around failure. This is the first step, and it’s unavoidable.
But it is also liberating. “I’m not the one you want, babe; I would only let you down,” wrote Bob Dylan about this step. It’s a step down — or maybe two or three steps down. Or maybe falling down the whole staircase or off the wagon. Whatever it takes to come to this point is humiliating and freeing all at the same time. We are all powerless to change, and our lives have become unmanageable. This is where we begin.
Anyone who says differently does not know the truth.
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.
– Reinhold Niebuhr