It does not really matter if you are working a twelve step program or not, you still need to come to grips with the first step of AA or NA if you want to quit using drugs and alcohol.
The first step states that you admit that you are powerless over drugs and that your life is unmanageable. This is important for you to admit if you want to overcome your addiction for a number of reasons. Let’s take a look.
Stop fighting for control
Typically what the addict or alcoholic does during their active addiction is that they fight for control. They notice that their life is spiraling out of control due to drug or alcohol use and so they attempt to pull back a bit and get things more under control.
The thought is typically along the lines of “I don’t need to give up my drug of choice, but I definitely need to slow down a bit.”
At this point the person has no intention of stopping entirely. They would not dream of complete abstinence from their drug because, in their mind, the benefits of that drug (or alcohol) are just so incredibly high. They would not dream of giving it up at this point.
And so the battle rages on within this person: they attempt to do 2 things with their drug of choice, both of which are in conflict:
1) Have fun using their drug of choice, and
2) Control the use of their intake.
The addict or alcoholic cannot do both of these consistently. They can do it for a day, or maybe for a week. But eventually, they go over the deep end and lose control again. If they don’t lose control then they are not having any fun with their drug and they are miserable with their life. They cannot find the “happy medium” of self medicating properly.
So the addict continues to struggle for control. That is always their goal: to control their drug or alcohol intake. And they always lose this struggle eventually. At some point, they lose control, and their drug or alcohol use gets them into trouble. This is the nature of addiction.
Step one is the point where the addict says: “I’m done struggling for control. I give up that fight.”
Surrender and ask for help
Some people get close to the admission of step one but then they quickly take it all back because they believe that they should be able to solve all of their own problems.
Obviously those who have struggled to gain control for years and years with addiction have proven thoroughly that they cannot solve their own problem, and that they need help.
The “unmanageable” part of step one is an acknowledgment that the person needs outside help in order to recover. Their life is a mess. They have to admit this, and ask for someone to help them get it back in order.
This can be a shameful admission for the alcoholic but it has to be done if they are to achieve a new life. One way that they might seek this help is to check into drug rehab or an alcohol treatment center. Simply checking into such a place and staying for residential rehab is an admission that you need to be taught how to live again, without turning your life into a complete mess.
Yes, that is the point of rehab. Sure, there is the physical detox part in the beginning, but ultimately they are attempting to teach you how to live again.
If you cannot ask for this level of help, if you are not seeking advice on how to clean up the mess that has become your life, then you are probably not ready to get sober just yet.
Moving forward in your recovery
Some people consider the idea that there are actually 12 steps in AA and that they are all critical for your recovery.
In fact, this is not true at all. Really the only step that is critical is the first one. If you screw that one up, you will surely relapse. But if you get step one down 100 percent, you will stay clean and sober.
This is true even if you do not work a 12 step program.
In other words, if you forget step one, if you forget that your life is completely unmanageable when you are drinking and using drugs, then you will relapse.
If you forget that you are powerless over alcohol, and that when you take the first drink that it sets off a chain reaction that is beyond your control, then you will end up relapsing.
If you forget the principles behind step one then you cannot stay sober. This has nothing to do with AA necessarily. It has everything to do with alcohol and how it affects the alcoholic.
If you are going to work one step perfectly, make it step one. Respect the disease and always remember how close you could be to a relapse. This is the vigilance that is needed to maintain long term sobriety.