Step One of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) – Powerless Over Alcohol

Soberlink Recovery Circle

This is it. This is it! Step One.

The moment when people step forward and step up and begin to claim back their lives from their addictive behavior. Step one of the twelve-step program that leads us to start to fight against alcohol addiction. It reads:

We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.

Step 1 alcoholics anonymous powerless alcohol

It is the first of the steps of alcoholics anonymous. It is the most vital step of all which, when we admit in earnest that we have an alcohol problem, changes our lives. It is more than just the first step in a twelve-step program. It is the admission that alters our futures and allows us to start this incredible journey of recovery.

At first, I hesitated to take this step. I paid lip service to it. I went to an AA meeting to impress my girlfriend, nothing else. She has three drinks a year, so as far as I was concerned didn’t understand “normal” drinking. I stopped in at a bar for a few drinks on the way home. I would use raw garlic to cover the smell of alcohol. It might taste awful but does mask smells.

It’s ridiculous to look back now at how I was hiding my drinking and convincing myself I wasn’t the one with the drinking problem.

We often need to reach rock bottom before we are ready to make this admission.

The book Twelve and Twelve reflects that in the early days, Alcoholics Anonymous only dealt with “low-bottom” cases, but that as the program grew, people who weren’t on skid row started to also acknowledge that their lives had become unmanageable. (pp. 22-23)

I thought of rock bottom a little differently after I read that and offer this definition:

Rock bottom is that moment when we find we can no longer hide the truth of our problems from ourselves.

Rock bottom is the moment of our lowest emotional point, the moment when there is a sub-conscious realization that we have defects of character that need to be dealt with and that we needed a new way of living if we wanted a life of sobriety.

Rock bottom is the moment we have to admit to ourselves that we are powerless over our alcohol abuse disorder.

For me, the day came when my girlfriend had to cover my portion of the rent when I had to cover my bar tabs at a couple of locals. The choice became startlingly clear. Mess up my future or stop this alcohol abuse.

Choose a new life or a life that would escalate increasingly out of control. For the first time, I admitted my life had become unmanageable. It took an effort to admit that the source of this was my alcohol problem.

It is surprising how, as I sit here and type this post, I see how much this admission was the start of my journey in AA. The first of the twelve steps is an admission of powerlessness and the beginning of resuming some control of our lives.

So much flows almost automatically from that acceptance. Whether we realize it or not, at the time, it is the beginning of a spiritual awakening and the start of a move to a relationship with a Higher Power.

It is the start of a recovery journey along with spiritual principles that will free us from our mental illness caused by our drinking and lead to addiction recovery.

Step one is the minute we stop lying to ourselves and accept personal responsibility. If you were like me, and the odds are you were, facing up to your own experience is the most important thing you are ever going to do.

What next? Move on to the next step and know that the result of these steps will change who you are.

There is one essential requirement as you move forward is honesty. The Big Book says,

Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves. There are such unfortunates. They are not at fault; they seem to have been born that way. They are naturally incapable of grasping and developing a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty. Their chances are less than average. There are those, too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders, but many of them do recover if they have the capacity to be honest.

In taking the initial action, people become honest with themselves and that is a great start. If you have not been to support groups get to one, find an AA sponsor, and start on this AA program of recovery. Change the direction of your own journey. I didn’t know when I admitted to this problem that it was the beginning of a conscious contact with God and I started to place myself under my Higher Power’s care.

By going to AA meeting groups we meet AA members in who we can see the effect of continuing with the rest of the steps. They will approach us with an open mind as they talk to us because once they were such people as we are now.

I want to go personal for a minute and say that if you have just taken this first step, congratulations. The warmest, sincerest congratulations that I can give.

If you have not yet taken this step, but are starting to see that your life is unmanageable because of booze, then it probably is. So if you are thinking about taking this step just do it. It will change your life, from a guy who left school in grade 10 to someone with a family, an apartment, a son, a master’s degree and became an IT manager at a five-campus university.


Besides the fact that I would never have managed any of this if I had not had the spiritual experience of the AA recovery program, I would not have managed to support my wife following a miscarriage or raised my amazing autistic son. You see, life will not become a bed of roses, but by taking this first step your life will change as will your ability to deal with the curveballs.

I know that this program works because it worked for me. There is no reason not to take this step. Please do it.

Note: Except where specified all quotes are from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous

Step One Worksheet