Back to Basics The 12 Steps – Step One
As much as I rail against the religiosity and cult-like aspects of Alcoholics Anonymous and the 12 Steps, one would think that I dismissed them in my recovery. Actually, the opposite is true. Like a lot of you who came into recovery via a twelve step program, I have just been around long enough to question some of the details, as they apply to my own life experience. But, in spite of my occasional skepticism –
Let’s face it – the twelve steps work. They are not perfect, but they help give addicts and alcoholics some guidance and structure, especially in the early days of recovery.
I’ve always been a seeker and a critic. I’ve always questioned authority and dogma. When I was about 13 years old, as a Catholic school boy, I would point out to the nuns the inconsistencies of the New Testament. Eventually, the good sisters encouraged my parents to place me in a secular school, and, because we were of modest means and Catholic school tuition was rising every year, my dad agreed. He proudly labeled me an agnostic, and I found myself in the Philadelphia Public School system – which is not unrelated to my drug use and alcoholism.
So, the 12 steps…
The next 12 podcasts are going to be something of a one-man step study. Based on the wisdom of many people who are smarter and more tolerant and understanding than me, I’ll take each step and try to share some insight and experience as it applies to my life as a sober person.
We admitted we were powerless over alcohol, (or narcotics, or food, or gambling, or cocaine, and so on), and that our lives had become unmanageable.
The first step is usually not a difficult one for most people. I was easy for me to see that my drinking and cocaine use had made my life into a complete mess. The unmanageability was evident for anyone to see. My life was quickly turning into a series of events that resembled a multi car pileup on an interstate highway. Did you ever see the videos on Youtube of car after car smashing into one another during an icy snow storm? As much as the drivers try to control their vehicles, they are helpless and the cars and trucks just smash into one another in a slow motion parade of carnage. Well, that was me. Unlike the cars on the highway, my situation wasn’t really an accident. My addiction was the cause. The effect was broken promises, destroyed relationships, financial hardship, lost jobs, lost loves, lack of self esteem, lying, cheating, and stealing to maintain my addiction. I only had to look in the mirror to see the cause of my unmanageability. Alcohol and drugs were my priorities. No matter what negative effects they had on my life – I couldn’t stop. I wouldn’t stop. I pretended to be in charge. I lived the lie that I was going to cut back, slow down, and eventually get a grip on myself. But, the addiction was all powerful and insidious. My powerlessness was plain to see – to everyone but myself.
My young life looked like a trailer park after a raging tornado passed through.
The first counseling session I had in treatment, the therapist asked me “Robert, do you consider yourself and alcoholic?”
I hesitated. I squirmed shook in my seat. Then I said “Yes.” For the first time I was 100% honest with myself.
That moment in time is etched forever in my soul. That moment, it seemed there was a huge weight lifted from me. That moment of truth was my first step towards recovery. That was the first step.