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12 Steps of Recovery | 12 Steps Step 1

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

To say that we are powerless, at all, in the day-and-age of championed phrases like, "you are free to be who it is that we want to be" is a tough notion to swallow because the phrase implies we have control over future outcomes. We have all heard people say things like, "it was I who got the 4.0 GPA in college, it was I who completed the perfect resume, it was I who nailed the interview, and it was I who took the steps toward the career that I currently hold." Maybe the reason for this talk stems from a nation of free people and from this understanding we have inherited the mindset of our innate freedom to choose. From this notion, no one is powerless because we can all choose to do otherwise, but freedom to choose is a misnomer phrase because it is largely tethered to the support and community that we have access to.

Missing from the proverbial success of the great "I", who has self-willed his or herself through the world, is the mistake of thinking that no one helped along the way. Another way of thinking about the above path to success might be, that, it was my professors, T.A.s, access to academic literature, and financial resources that allowed me to achieve a 4.0 GPA. It was the many online tutorials, friendly editors, and family who helped build the perfect resume. It was around friends and family members, debate teams and classroom settings that allowed me to hone and build the confidence to nail that interview. It was because of all this help and social nourishment that allowed me to take that first step toward the career I currently hold.

The point is not to say that we are entirely powerless over obtaining a job or powerless over achieving desired outcomes, but that, at the very least, we can say that we may have not been as effective without the support of others. Also, everyone is subject to the personal biases inherent in many of the people we will encounter throughout our lives. Recognized or not, many people still discriminate against others based on their gender, the color of their skin, choice of names, and sexual preference. The terrible stories of history are still very alive today and here rests the idea that perceived individual failures might actually lie outside the control of individuals in the first place, there are world forces we are subject to and powerless against.

Likewise, "I" has the power to choose whether to drink alcohol or begin experimenting with chemical substances, but nowhere do people choose to be addicted in that process. Like the outside forces that played a roll in directing us toward the career paths we are on today, many outside forces act on and lead us into addictive behavior. We have not found the addictive gene, but to say that our genetic makeup plays no roll over addiction outcomes is as useless as saying skin color plays no roll in the work force. There are certain predispositions that naturally affect outcomes and some people's bodies and minds simply respond to alcohol and chemical substances differently than others.

Maybe the supportive environment required to be the types of people we are today is lacking for the addict in the same way it is lacking for a homeless individual. Many people will lose their job, for example, and have the resources to change their path immediately. Others, however, do not have equal access to similar resources. For the man or woman who loses their job, they may have no family or friends capable of supporting his or her bills required to live. The deeper people fall into poverty, the surrounding community support grows thinner, making it even more difficult to reach the economic stability of weekly or bi-weekly income.

Considering both alcohol and chemical dependency, the majority of people are able to both drink or ingest drugs and, then, walk away the day after. For the addict, and like the homeless individual, the story is greyer. For example, an individual may currently be struggling with trauma associated with physical or sexual abuse. Without the proper resources, these traumatic events can distort and prevent individuals from developing appropriate coping mechanisms, making them more likely to use drugs in the first place. They simply do not have the skills to offset the disadvantages life may present them. We are all different and for that reason will react differently to our current environment.

For the alcoholic and those who are chemically dependent, the same sort of effect begins to take place. The more we use the desired substance, not only does our brain start to change, but our familiar support from family and friends begins to grow thin. The disease of addiction not only harms the individual, but it also deeply affects the surrounding community of support. For a list of reasons, the further down the rabbit hole the addict goes, the more difficult it is to gain clarity and stop the free fall.

Just as we accept the fact that no one does anything in this life on their own, the addict needs to accept the fact that he or she too will not overcome addiction on their own. Without the support of our family and friends when financial strains come about our lives become unmanageable. Anxiety, fear, depression, and a whole array of physical and psychological developments begin to take place. When we find ourselves head deep in our addiction our lives are equally unmanageable.

Accepting that we are powerless over our addiction and that our lives have become unmanageable is the first step of the 12 Step process. It does not matter what type of therapy you seek, this is a pivotal step for anyone suffering from alcohol and chemical dependency. The benefits to the 12 Steps after step one is that it allows us to form a special fellowship, not only by seeking a higher power, but it also allows us to build, from the ground up, a fellowship among new friends who seek to manage their lives once again and reconnect with their family in a stable, recovering environment.

Continue reading our series on a 12 Step Recovery | Step 2