What Is Step 1 in the Alcoholics Anonymous Program?

Admitting Alcohol Controls Your Life is Step 1

Woman With Wine Bottle
Has Your Life Become Unmanageable?. © Getty Images

After many years of denial, recovery can begin when with one simple admission of being powerless over alcohol -- for alcoholics and their friends and family.

Step 1
We admitted we were powerless over alcohol -- that our lives had become unmanageable.

When alcoholism begins to take control of a family, usually one of the first things to go is honesty. The alcoholic lies about how much he or she drinks and those around them begin to cover for him as the problem progresses and they too become less than honest.

This cycle of lies and keeping secrets can go on for years and that in itself can create an atmosphere that actually causes the situation to deteriorate faster. Even the children get caught up in the lies. It's a family disease.

The family can become totally controlled by diseased thinking. Although the illusion of control may continue, their lives become unmanageable, because alcohol is really in control. It is cunning, baffling, and powerful.

But recovery for the entire family can begin when someone finally breaks the cycle of denial. That first step begins with admitting powerlessness. Finally being honest about the situation. How does that work?

Many times when one member of the family finally gets to the point where they admit they are powerless of alcohol - be it the drinker or a non-drinking member of the family - and begins a journey of recovery, it can have a ripple effect and influence others to find their own recovery.

Many members of Alcoholics Anonymous or Al-Anon Family Groups who visit this website have presented some great insight into the healing principles of the 12 steps.

Their stories about how Step 1 has worked in their lives begin here:

A Relief

Once I started taking the 12 steps like I should, my life did make some big changes; it hasn't been all roses or a picnic for me, but the first step was the beginning of a new life for me.

The first step has lead me to an unbelievable life. The first step was the beginning to help me believe in a higher power, which I choose to call God.

Today I am a proud Alcoholic. I did go back out after being sober for 7 years and stayed out for 10 years, at which time I became a full-blown drugger. And again tried to kill myself, but only through the grace of God and grabbing on to the first step again I have been able to stay sober for 16 years now. And I am damn well proud of it.

I have told many a newcomer to grab on to that first step and jump into AA with both feet, and stick with the winners.


Illusion Of Power

I had a difficult time admitting to being powerless, from my viewpoint and others like me, there is a feeling of having power, we are the ones that clean up the mess, who are responsible. We make things work and therein lies our "sickness".

I had to admit and still do, that on my best day, I could do nothing about my loved-one's drinking. I could only change myself, learn to be a better person by applying the steps to my life directly.

Admitting is no easy task, yet, it took the burden away. I could let someone else know that these thing were happening, and that I was living a crazy life in which I accepted crazy things.

And you know, through fellowship of people at all different levels of understanding, I found that I was not alone.

Admitting is the first step, seeing the insanity is the second, seeking God as we know him and letting go of the illusion of power. That's what I have done in step one.


Stop The Pain

When the 80`s started, I really was a mess. I wanted to stop drinking, called a friend in AA and went to my first meeting. It was a speaker's meeting and the man had such a horror story that I escaped at half time, vowing to never return.

Two years later, I was whipped. I was ready to try anything to stop the pain.

In 1982 I began my AA journey. It would take me five more years to pick up my 1 year chip. I had to let go of a relationship, job, friends. And this new life in AA has been worth every loss.

The serenity, new friends and joy that are now mine can only be called a true gift from God. Powerless to quit? Yes! A life out of control? For sure! At the end of my drinking, I could only manage to ask for help. I had given my adult life to drinking.


What Do You Mean Unmanageable?

Then one night I fell down 13 Cement stairs and died. I was looking at the twisted body, saw the blood and broken elbow and thought to myself "Wow, what a waste"!

A presence came next to me and said "No, not this time little girl, here is your life on a silver platter, but this time you had better do something with it"!

The doctor still considers me his Miracle lady, there was no blood clot on the brain that by all medical science there should have been, the shattered elbow was "mended" and he didn't have the heart to tell me I would never be able to bend it and touch my shoulder. But I did!

I went to my first AA meeting the next day.

I actually asked, What do you mean my life is unmanageable?

Only by the Grace of God as we understand it, 12 Steps and 12 Traditions, and thousands of loving A members have I not had to have a drink since 01-19-71. And I am still trying to "Do something with this new life that He has given me".


A Rude Awakening

After a series of events, I called a club in my town, and the guy said to me "You mean you've been drunk for three weeks straight and you think you aren't an alcoholic? Get your butt to a meeting!" I went that night.

That was May 4, 1985. How much has life improved since? Today I am married, with 2 kids. I have a job so much better than the one I had before, I make lots more money, work 10 minutes from home, and have more time off. I have real friends, my family talks to me.

I am a homeowner, with three cars, and now my wife and I are looking at another house with 50 percent more space. We are not debt free, but have sufficient money to cover our debts.

Over the years I have worked the steps, "Practiced these principles" (or tried to) in all my affairs, and did what I was told. Go to meetings, get a sponsor, work the steps, and help others.

It worked for me. I can't speak for anybody else. I can't sit here and say "if it worked for me it will work for you" because I know that isn't true. I can only say that I am grateful for everything Alcoholics Anonymous has done for me, and indeed, I owe everything I have to AA.

You see, all I did was not drink. AA and my higher power did the rest.


Index of the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions Study

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