Powerless Over Alcohol: Experiencing the First Step of Alcoholics Anonymous

I was drowning in a riptide of addiction. It was pulling me under and leaving me helpless to fight against its powerful pull.


The time had finally come to try accepting that I was an alcoholic and an opiate addict. It was also time to take on that frightening first step that Alcoholic Anonymous suggests:

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

Yes, I knew that I had a problem. But to go so far as to say that I was powerless or lacked control seemed… Severe.

Unmanageable? Again, I was aware that I drank and drugged too much, however I was still the captain of my ship. Or, was I?

Admitting Powerlessness

Step One tells us that the time has come to douse our bravado, to dock our ships and to take a close look at our egos.

I asked, “If I check my ego at the doors of AA/NA, won’t I therefore be without a coat of armor? Won’t I feel more vulnerable than I already do?”

Who wants to admit defeat? And how could I grasp humility at a time when confusion was rampant?

Having hit a bottom, or felt the overwhelming despair that eventually comes to all addicts, it was time to accept that my condition was indeed fatal. But could I? Fatal seemed awfully dramatic.

Was I sick? Sure. Frightened? Absolutely. But, fatal??

Well, I reasoned, something had to change. Confidently, I had abused and where had that gotten get me?

And then, with my spirituality turned on, I did accept the need for change. I accepted that this was serious stuff—that many who continued drinking and drugging wound up institutionalized, in prison, homeless or dead. And, of course, that could include me.

Embracing the First Step

I had a simple choice, really. I could either continue floundering in that addictive rip tide, or have faith in things greater than myself—a higher power AND rooms filled with other addicts who were working the Twelve Steps.

Feeling powerless over this disease, that I was needy and out of control, I reached out and humbly cried, “Help me.” My lack of pride was a milestone. The time had come to wipe my slate clean, to purge all the ‘stinkin’ thinkin.’

And with rigorous honesty, I began.

For a bit, I felt lost, overwhelmed and alone. And, it turned out that that was alright. At my first meeting, a fellow abuser reached out his hand and said, “Welcome!” Another nodded her head as if to say, “You are one of us.”

Leaning on my fellows’ good will, I knew then that I was not alone, not unique and not lost. That sea of strange faces became my brotherhood.

I had embraced the first step. I had finally found hope.

Author: Katie H. is a writer, recovering addict, and mother based in Connecticut.