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New Beginnings: AA’s Important First Step, Explained

January is a time for new beginnings. But new beginnings require first steps, and taking that first step can be the most difficult, and perhaps frightening, step of all. Nowhere is this truer than with AA’s first of 12 steps to recovery:

“We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.”

While intimidating, of all of the 12 steps this first step is the most important step to get right. After all, there are some big, scary words in there: powerless, and unmanageable.

Break down what this step really means, however, and you’ll see it’s within your power to begin on the road to recovery. Let’s first consider what AA means when they use the word “powerless.”

• The person’s consumption of drugs and/or alcohol is out of control
• The person can no longer regulate how much they consume.
• To put it simply: the addiction is in charge

Next, in the context of AA’s first step, let’s take a look at what “unmanageable” means.
Signs that the consumption of drugs and alcohol have become unmanageable can manifest in the following ways:

• Relationship issues
• Health problems
• Feelings of guilt, shame, or remorse
• Legal difficulties

Seeking help for an addiction is an important, but difficult, decision. Even if you don’t follow a 12-step program, AA’s foundational step lays the groundwork for successful recovery. Reminding us all that in reality, we have very little control over most things in our lives.

But AA’s message is clear: what we can control, is our reaction to whatever comes our way. In the end, to admit that you are powerless in the face of drugs and/or alcohol, and that your consumption has become unmanageable isn’t easy, but it is a liberating choice. Because only when we take these words to heart, can real change come about.

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