Smarmore Castle’s treatment is based on the 12 Steps of addiction recovery, which takes people who are suffering with addiction and helps you learn how to beat your addiction. This article provides an overview of Step 1, and it may be helpful for anyone who has already been through 12-Step treatment to return to this from time-to-time.
Step 1: “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable.”
To admit that you are powerless over alcohol or drugs is one of the most challenging yet crucial aspects to recovery. This step can be very difficult to internalise because it is asking you to stop trying to overcome your addiction your way and instead admit that you have no power over alcohol or drugs and that your life has gotten totally out of control. This can be a very challenging process, especially if there is any lingering denial that you even have a problem. Your addiction may have started recreationally, as a social activity, a way of escape or even as part of medical treatment. As your addiction progressed, you may have continued to justify your using and ignored the harmful consequences it had on your personal and professional life.
Getting sober is not easy. It is difficult to admit that you have a problem because it means you must be honest with yourself and with others. We live in a society that tells us we should be able to figure out our problems and overcome any challenges on our own and if we cannot, we are weak. However, being honest, open, and willing to try something new requires a huge amount of courage because you are admitting that you need help and that you do not hold all the answers.
Step One is about accepting what is and what is not. It is a gateway to freedom and a proclamation of progress. As you go through the process of Step One, you are moving from a lack of awareness into an awareness of the reality of this disease and the possibility of change. You are beginning to believe that you can live in a different way. This is a journey. You must wrestle with the idea of powerlessness, which includes acknowledging the many reasons why it is hard to admit to, doing the work to see how powerlessness seeps into every crevice and corner, taking the time to figure out what this really means for the future, and continually returning to this step throughout your recovery journey.
Many people struggle with the term “powerless”, but it is not meant to disempower. Quite the opposite in fact. Although you may be powerless in the fact that you struggle with addiction (‘Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change’) you are not powerless over the actions you take because of that knowledge (the courage to change the things I can). Admitting and accepting your powerlessness over your addiction is liberating as it can give you time and energy to spend identifying the things you can do to create the life you want and to learn how to live a life of sobriety and recovery.
Recovery is not always a straight line and for some can involve relapse. Telling your 12-Step group, sponsor, or therapist that you’ve relapsed is difficult because it feels like you’ve failed. However, this could not be further from the truth. A relapse is an opportunity to change and take another look at your treatment, living situation, behaviour, and other factors that contribute to your ability to maintain long-term sobriety. Maintaining honesty with yourself and others is a key aspect of recovery and will ensure that you can keep living the type of life you want to live.
As part of completing or returning to this step it is important to reflect on the following questions:
- What does the disease of addiction mean to me?
- How has my disease affected me physically? Mentally? Spiritually? Emotionally? Financially?
- How does the self-centred part of my disease affect my life and the life of those around me?
- Have I blamed other people for my behaviour?
- What does unmanageability mean to me?
- What troubles have been caused because of my addiction?
- Have I used alcohol or drugs to change or suppress my feelings?
- What reservations am I still holding onto?
- Do I accept that I will never regain “control” over drinking or drugs, even after a long period without use?
- What could my life be like if I surrendered completely?
- Am I WILLING: to follow a sponsor’s direction, go to meetings regularly and give recovery my best effort?
- Have I made peace with the fact that I’m an addict and that I’ll have to do things to stay clean?
Should you be struggling with any of these questions, reach out and ask for help.
‘We cannot control the direction of the wind, but we can adjust our sails’.
If any part of this article has made you realise you need help with your addiction or that of a loved one, please send us a message or simply call us now on 041 214 5111.
Last updated & clinically assessed 20 April, 2021