My name is Ruth H and I have been on this journey of Recovery for the last decade. In my roles of sponsor and counsellor, there have been many visits to the steps for me and the women who seek a better way to live life on life’s terms. Within these connections, of giving guidance, offering and getting suggestions, and the therapeutic value of one addict helping the other, we begin with step one…..
“We admitted that we were powerless over our addiction, that our lives had become unmanageable”
What makes us addicts is the disease of addiction- not the drugs (any mind or mood altering substance, gambling, and alcohol), not our behaviour but our disease. We find a measure of comfort in realizing that a disease, not a moral failing has caused us to reach a rock bottom.
The first step is the beginning of the recovery process. The “we”, is so important as it offers addicts an invitation out of the isolation of active addiction and into the fellowship of Recovery. We are not alone, nor are any individual who seeks recovery. You need company on this road; this journey is best done within the guidance and kindness of others, who can hold your spirit while you cannot hold it yourself.
Our addiction finally brings us to a place where we can no longer deny the nature of our problem. All the lies, all the rationalisations, all the illusions fall away as we stand face-to-face with what our lives have become. We realise we have been living without HOPE. We find we have become completely disconnected, that our relationships are a parody of love and intimacy. Though it may seem that all is lost, the truth is that we must pass through this part of the road and admit our powerlessness.
As addicts, we can react to the word “powerlessness” in a variety of ways. For some of us it describes our situation exactly, for others, it brings a sense of relief, and for some, they recoil, believing it to indicate some kind of weakness or character deficiency. We are powerless when the driving force in our life is beyond our control.
The first step asks us to admit two things; one, that we are powerless over our addiction and two, that our lives have become unmanageable. Unmanageability usually is twofold; outside and inside. Outside unmanageability is often identified by such things as arrests, job losses, relationship issues and family problems. Inner or personal unmanageability is identified by unhealthy or untrue belief systems about ourselves, the world we live in and the people in our lives. We may believe that it is not our job to take care of ourselves and give away that responsibility to others; we may think the world revolves around us and our needs and wants. Emotional volatility is often one of the most obvious ways in which we can identify personal unmanageability.
There is a huge difference between resignation and surrender. Resignation, is what we feel when we have realised we are addicts but have not yet accepted recovery as the solution. Surrender, is what happens after we have accepted the First Step as something that is true for us and have accepted that Recovery is the solution.
The focus of the First Step is on the spiritual principles of; HONESTY, OPEN-MINDEDNESS, WILLINGNESS, HUMILITY and ACCEPTANCE.
The practice of the principle of honesty starts with admitting the truth about our addiction and continues with the practice of honesty on a daily basis. When at a meeting we say “I am an addict”, it may be the first truly honest thing we have said in a long time. Practising the principal of open-mindedness mostly involves being ready to believe that there might be another way to live and being willing to try it.
Humility is expressed most purely in our surrender. Humility is most easily identified as an acceptance of who we truly are, neither worse nor better, than we believed we were when we were using, just human.
Moving through our Step One there is a profound inner change that is understood by a rising sense of HOPE.
This regained sense brings us to a place of coming to believe that some power, something other, beyond our will, beyond our brokenness has believed in us. We come to a place where we see the results of our old way of life and accept that a new way is called for. We may not yet see how rich with possibilities the life of Recovery is. The void we have been filling with drugs or other obsessive and compulsive behaviours begs to be filled…….
We begin Step Two, coming to believe that our Higher Power can restore us to sanity.
“Something inside cries out. “Enough, enough, I have had enough of being sick and tired of being sick and tired” and then we are ready to take the first and often the most difficult step toward dealing with our addiction” (Just for Today, pg. 234).
All material adapted from “The Narcotics Anonymous Step Working Guide” printed by NA World Services, Inc. Chatsworth, California.