“We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.” When doing some reading and talking to some people about the first step in Alcoholics Anonymous (see 12 step articles). I came to find a couple of interesting and conflicting opinions on it. Many seem to argue whether or not it’s a two part step. This was news to me, I wasn’t quite taught that in my early stages of recovery. My ears were perked however and I like when there is a difference in opinion because generally I like to pick a side, you can say it’s in my nature.
What’s thought of as the first part of the first step is “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol”, this is not and admission to being an alcoholic contrary to popular belief. The admission to being an alcoholic is on page 30 of the Big Book, where it says “We learned that we had to fully concede to our innermost selves that we were alcoholics”, so that begs the question what does the big Book define as an alcoholic? There are definitions of being an alcoholic is all over the Big Book, however there is a test in the beginning of chapter 4 that can help you define the meaning if you’re looking for a quicker answer. It asks a. If when drinking alcohol do you find it difficult to stop? and b. If not drinking alcohol, do you experience difficulty in leaving it alone? The first part of this crucial step isn’t telling you that you’re an alcoholic, it’s not even asking you, in fact it’s only stating that you’re ready to admit that you’re powerless over the substance. If you’ve read “More about alcoholism” in the Big Book with your sponsor and you can answer yes to one or both of those questions then you should be ready to admit that you’re powerless. “Should” being the key word, many have to do more to damage their lives in order to be ready. In my opinion, that’s where the second part of step one comes into play.
“that our lives had become unmanageable” If you’re still having trouble admitting that alcohol is a problem, then go examine your life. I believe this is what the second part is asking you to do. Has your life become unmanageable? Can you identify with some of the descriptions the Big Book has laid out for you? “…illusion, delusion, self deception, peculiar mental twist….” and so on. If that still wasn’t enough, maybe your sponsor had you put down some thoughts or actions that may lead you to recognize where your drinking has taken you. Surely if you’re reading the Big Book with a sponsor you may have some issues in your life that you’re not too happy with. Actually in writing this I see now why people consider this a two part step, however that doesn’t mean I agree with them. The first step is saying this: Am I ready to acknowledge what alcohol does to me are certain situations in my life unmanageable? Okay so that’s 2 questions and in my opinion they go hand in hand. If I AM an alcoholic then more than likely my life is unmanageable in some regard. Just because the first step has two questions doesn’t necessarily mean it’s two parted, however. It seems like it’s stated that way in case you have any doubts about one or the other. I think the first step is a one parted step, then again I can admit when I’m wrong, so tell me what your opinion is about this.