A Deeper Look at Alcoholics Anonymous Step One

by | Last updated Jan 23, 2023 | Published on Oct 20, 2020 | 12 Steps, Alcohol | 0 comments

alcoholics anonymous step one

Welcome to the first of the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. These steps provide structure in a peer-based setting to individuals who want to stop drinking alcohol. Individuals will work their way through, learning about themselves and adjusting on the way they view both the world and their addiction. The lessons of some steps may come easily to you, while others may take days or even weeks to fully understand. Rushing your way through the steps doesn’t help anyone, much less yourself. As you move through the steps, take your time when thinking about what each step represents and what it really means to “work the step.”

What is Step One of Alcoholics Anonymous?

“We admit we are powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.”

Admitting you have a problem is always said to be the first step of recovery. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you are heading in the direction of recovery or sobriety. Many AA beginners erroneously believe that since they are are attending a session or in rehab that they have automatically completed Step 1 of AA. Recognizing the problem is just the beginning.  Even if someone realizes or admits they have a problem they might still be unwilling to make the necessary changes. This is where the real work comes in.

There are two parts to this: 1) admitting powerlessness over alcohol and 2) admitting that one’s life has become unmanageable. Although it may seem simple to “complete” this step, failing to truly embrace this lesson can affect your ability to properly carry out the rest of the AA program. Step 1 is your first lesson in challenging your ego, allowing yourself to be vulnerable, and taking a hard look at the state of your life.  


What is powerlessness?

When referring to powerlessness in AA, it is referring to the inability to control how much alcohol you drink. Admitting that you are powerlessness over alcohol means that you cannot and never will be able to drink alcohol in a safe manner again. Any thoughts at all of drinking again in the future mean that you have not fully admitted to yourself that you are powerless over alcohol. In this way, admitting powerlessness means accepting that you can never drink alcohol again in the future – even in full amounts.

What does unmanageable mean?

Identifying a life that is “unmanageable” can be subjective, but there are a few clear ways in which one’s life could be labeled as such. If there are responsibilities at work, school, or in your personal life that are not being met, then this is a good sign of unmanageability. When drinking has become the priority and your career, relationships, finances, and other aspects of your life are suffering, these are signs that your life is unmanageable. Accepting that your life is unmanageable is often easier than admitting powerlessness over alcohol.

Working Step One

Although Alcoholics Anonymous was founded nearly a century ago, many of the teachings are still applicable in modern times. Although Step One of AA is something that has to happen within yourself, that doesn’t mean that outside influences can’t help you get there. Working one-on-one with a therapist or attending group meetings can provide the ability to hear how others have worked this step and allow you the opportunity to talk out your own through process. Although you can if you desire, there is no need to work any of the AA steps completely on your own. Contact us to learn more about how we support 12 step programs at The Freedom Center.

Written by: Nick B.

Nicholas B. is the Corporate Director of Admissions for our substance abuse and behavioral health company. Nick’s mission is to provide quality care to every person that reaches out regarding substance abuse or behavioral health questions. Knowledge of an ever-changing industry, compassion when dealing with people, and compliance in every decision are the forces that drive his personal and professional growth.

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