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Twelve Steps Step One        

Step One

We admitted that we were powerless - that our lives had become unmanageable.

Alcoholics Anonymous
We admitted that we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable.
Narcotics Anonymous
We admitted that we were powerless over our addiction, that our lives had become unmanageable.
Cocaine Anonymous
We admitted that we were powerless over cocaine and all other mind altering substances - that our lives had become unmanageable.
Gamblers Anonymous
We admitted that we were powerless over gambling - that our lives had become unmanageable.
Food Addicts Anonymous
We admitted that we were powerless over our food addiction - that our lives had become unmanageable.
Question 1: How do I know that I am powerless over alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex or whatever else I might be addicted to?

One short answer is that you are powerless and addicted if you are suffering serious consequences and yet cannot alter your behavior.
Chris H

There are many paper and pencil tests for addiction. Click here to view some.

That is an extremely important question, because we are unable to do anything about our alcoholism until we answer that question for ourselves. Follow this link to the rest of this answer: http://aainsa.org/AlcoholFAQs.htm
AA In San Antonio

He or she has lost control, no longer has the power of choice, and is not free to stop.
Sexaholics Anonymous

Addiction Question
Question 2: I heard in a meeting that this step means that I have to “surrender to win.” What’s that all about?

Admitting that I was powerless, that I could not manage my own life sure felt like surrendering to me. At the end of my drinking and drugging career, life was very much an uphill battle. Surrendering meant I understood that things had to change but that I didn’t know how to make that happen. I became willing to learn, to take suggestions, to try another way, the way suggested by the steps and it has worked.
Rob K

Well one big thing I had to surrender was my uniqueness. I might drink and use drugs a lot but I’m not like those people – they really have problems. This AA and steps stuff might work for them but it will never work for me, I’m different. These people will never understand me. I’m way too smart to need a sponsor, can’t they see that? I was so unique that it nearly killed me. I had to surrender and admit that I was an alcoholic and an addict – that I was just like all these other alcoholics and addicts – before I could make any progress at all.
Robert P

Who cares to admit complete defeat? Practically no one, of course. Every natural instinct cries out against the idea of personal powerlessness. It is truly awful to admit that, glass in hand, we have warped our minds into such an obsession for destructive drinking that only an act of Providence can remove it from us. But upon entering A.A. we take quite another view of this absolute humiliation. We perceive that only through utter defeat are we able to take our first steps toward liberation and strength.
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions


Alcoholism Question
Question 3: Several times I have heard people say that the first step is the one step you have do to perfectly. What do they mean?

To me it means that I had to completely understand, and understand at a very deep, gut level, that on my own I could not win out over drugs and alcohol and that on my own my already unmanageable life would only get worse. Without this understanding of my complete powerlessness I would not have had the willingness to completely surrender myself to the process of working the steps, to surrender myself to the process of changing myself so completely and thoroughly that I can hardly recognize the person I once was. It was my willingness to do the work required by the steps that has produced the alert, happy, productive, in touch person that I am today.
Chris H

A friend describes the steps as “12 Unnatural Acts”. That captures exactly how I felt when I first saw the steps up there on the wall. It was through the process of working the first step with my sponsor that I finally realized how hopeless my situation was if I kept doing what I was doing. Every moment I was either completely under the control of alcohol or thinking about killing myself. Once I understood that my life defined the term “unmanageable” and that I was powerless to change on my own, I became quite willing to attempt the “12 Unnatural Acts.”
Peyton B


Question 4:

What does Step One mean by my life had become "unmanageable"? When do we first realize that our lives are unmanageable? I have been in and out of AA. Had 18 months sober and relapsed. Am going back to a meeting to try again.



You ask a great question – one that I had a great deal of trouble answering for myself. The short answer, for me, was I really understood that my life was “unmanageable” when I realized that without help I only got worse. I could not manage to improve my situation, over time it only got worse. It took a long time, much effort at trying to pull myself out of one bad situation after another and a lot of pain for me to admit to myself that I could not manage on my own, that my life was “unmanageable.” I hope you decide to give up the struggle, relax and let AA work for you.
Chris H

There is the old one liner with a lot of truth to it: An alcoholics life becomes unmanageable when he can no longer lower his standards fast enough to keep up with current events.
Bill P

This “unmanageable” thing was a big struggle for me. I thought my life was unmanageable so I checked myself into a treatment center. After my head started to clear up, I looked around and noticed the other people in there. Now their lives were really unmanageable! I had one failed marriage, most of them had three or four. I still had a job. I didn’t have any legal problems. These other peoples’ lives were a complete mess. Maybe, I thought, I had been a little hasty; maybe my life wasn’t so unmanageable. So I left the treatment center and started drinking again. Six months later I had lost my job and nearly everything else, including my sanity. I crawled back to that treatment center and have stayed in the middle of AA ever since. Now I know what people mean when they say “identify, don’t compare.” If I had paid attention to all the thousands of ways I was like the other alcoholics and addicts around me I might have realized that all those things that happened to them just hadn’t happened to me yet. I had to learn that the hard way.
Phil K