What is Step One?

For nearly 100 years, the 12-Steps have helped countless alcoholics and addicts overcome their challenges with the disease of addiction and learn how to live without turning to the use of drugs or alcohol. Today, there are thousands of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings held in over 180 nations throughout the world, where the 12-Steps are practiced. However, people do not need to go to AA or NA to learn about the 12-Steps and adapt them to their lives, as they can also get exposed to them through professional addiction treatment programs. No matter how, when, or why a person begins utilizing the 12-Step model, doing so can be positively transformative.

Each of the 12 Steps has its own identity, as they focus on different areas of one’s development and growth post addiction. The first step is sometimes viewed as being the most difficult of them all, as it takes courage and a leap of faith to get moving on working this step. It reads:

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

Step One and Surrendering 

Step one is where it all begins. It is important for people to spend as much time as they need to work each step so that they can process it fully, understand it, and apply it to their lives and thinking. You might be wondering, “How do I do step one?” There are several ways that you can do step one correctly so that you can get the most out of it and utilize it as the foundation of your recovery.

The steps, while the same across the board, are subjective to each individual. This means that one person might go about completing step one in a different manner than another person. That is completely acceptable, however, it is important that when finished, individuals know their powerlessness over drugs or alcohol and surrender to the disease of addiction. Some ways to get to that point in step one can include the following:

  • Break down denial. It is likely that you have spent a great deal of time telling yourself and others that you did not have a problem with substance abuse. You might have even said it so much that you got yourself to truly believe it. You might even be realizing, for the first time, that you did have a problem as you begin the 12 Steps. Either way, it is imperative to break out of the fog of denial by looking around and assessing your relationship with drugs or alcohol. Doing so can help you get a grip on reality so that you can go forth in your truth.
  • Split the step into two parts. Look at step one as 1) admitting that you are powerless over drugs or alcohol and 2) that your life had become unmanageable. Focus on the first part until you are comfortable in saying that you are powerless over drugs or alcohol and believe it when you say it. Then, take the time to look at your life and experiences with an aerial view so that you can see the big picture of how unmanageable it was. 
  • Let go of ego and focus on humility. Try at least once to let your ego go out the window and adopt humility. This can be much harder than it sounds, especially if you are used to letting your ego run the show. The sooner you find ways to humble yourself, however, the more open you can be to step one and the rest of the steps.
  • Place feelings of guilt and shame on the back burner for now. These feelings are so incredibly common, however they can get in the way of you making progress in your recovery. Do not try to push these feelings down and try to forget them, as doing that will only stand in the way of your recovery. But, allowing them to “live” somewhere else while you focus on step one can help avoid distraction and emotional upset that can challenge your progress.

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How You Can Make Step One Easier to Accomplish

There is no doubt that when you start to fully immerse yourself in the 12 Steps that you will probably experience a number of different emotions. There is nothing light and breezy about step one, but instead, it is often viewed as being one of the most difficult steps to accomplish as it requires admittance of having a problem, which is notoriously difficult. However, when you do step one, it does not have to be any more challenging than it might already be, especially if you can do things to make it easier. 

Some of the most important things you can do when working the first step can include the following:

  • Get a sponsor. A sponsor is someone who has accomplished several or all of the 12 Steps and who is able to provide you guidance and support as you begin your own personal journey with the steps. The first sponsor you choose does not have to be permanent, as you may decide to ask someone else to sponsor you after you have gotten to know more people in your group. Your sponsor can not only offer you support, but also give you insight on how to own the first step since he or she has done it before.
  • Go to meetings. The vast majority of people who have attended a professional addiction treatment program have been exposed to the 12 Steps through their programming, however many of those same individuals don’t really begin diving into the steps until they start going to meetings like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA). Not only does going to meetings help immerse you in the Steps, but it also helps to hear the experiences of others so that you can gather strength, confidence, and perseverance for your own journey. 
  • Make the most of your time spent in 12-Step meetings or groups. Whether you are in treatment or already in recovery but are attending local meetings, you can make the most of your time by fully engaging yourself in those meetings. This can include ensuring that you are paying attention, sharing, asking questions, etc. The more involved you are in your meetings or groups, the easier it will be to accomplish your steps.

There is no specific way to do step one, as every person struggling with addiction is different. The most important thing that you can do for yourself when working on step one is to keep in mind the goal of the step, do what you can to fully absorb the meaning of the step, and take action that you believe will help you to surrender.