First Step in 12 Step Programs and What it Means to Admit Powerlessness

The Philosophy behind the First Step

The 1st step is an incredibly powerful one. As our problems with addiction grew, we hid them from others and ourselves. We pretended that we had the answers and could control our behavior. When we hurt others, we often blamed them. As we did so, our instincts and judgement led us astray over and over.

Our addiction has bled us dry. Many of us lost careers, marriages, friends, and ourselves as we succumbed.

Part of the problem is that we are taught to always remain in control and to win at all costs. Admitting you are a powerless addict seems like a form of defeat and something inside our very being rebels against that notion.

Don’t worry. This is only a partial admission of defeat. What you are admitting is that the means you have used so far to control your life have failed. But you are also getting ready to walk on a new path of recovery, one which will ultimately see you overcome and defeat addiction.

View & Download Free Step 1 Worksheet

The 1st step is where we let go of this pathology. Our attempts to control our own lives have fallen short. When we fail to gain control, our instinct is to try to hold on to control even tighter. However, in this step we act counterintuitively and let go instead.

It may seem like the last thing you want to do when your life is in chaos is let go and invite even less control. But remember, this process is a productive one. You are letting go of your old habits in order to build different and healthy ones. All forms of renewal and rebirth are painful at first. It is a healthy pain.

How do we let go? The most important part is to admit the depth of our addiction and that we have lost our ability to control it.

How to Work Step 1

One of the best and most simple ways to admit you have lost control is to go to a meeting and share. Be honest about how your attempts to manage the addiction have gone wrong. Tell other understanding people, how much damage you have done to your life and to those around you.

When you are ready to seriously work the steps, get a sponsor you can trust in order to help you with the process. They will begin to help you immediately in two ways. First, whenever you feel like you may relapse into addictive behavior, you will now have someone to consult. If you ever feel week, reach out! It is part of admitting that you are powerless.

Your sponsor will also play an essential role in facilitating your work on the first step. Sponsors often recommend that addicts working the first step compile a list of some of the worst behaviors and outcomes associated with their addiction.

Remember, the guiding principle in working this step is honesty. When you compile that list tell everything. Whatever it is, your sponsor and group have heard it before. No matter how shameful you believe the details of your story may be, other members will surprise you with their support and understanding.

Do not be afraid to tell your sponsor and other members if you have relapsed or are having trouble sustaining recovery in any way. Everyone runs into trouble at some point. As long as you are honest about it and prove willing to accept help, there is no obstacle you cannot overcome.

Step 2 >