Step One – Feeling Powerless

I took it so high, so low, so low, there was nowhere to go…
-Patti LaBelle. “New Attitude”

Ms. LaBelle’s lament embodies the 1st step of the 12-Step Recovery Program which now applies to literally dozens of addictions in addition to alcoholism. That first step says: “We admitted we felt powerless over alcohol, drugs, food, emotions, situations, problems, finances, health, relationships – that our lives had become unmanageable.”

People tend to resist this step because at first glance it sounds like negative thinking. It is enormously difficult to admit feeling powerless because previously we have used our will to try to control our lives over & over again. After all, shouldn’t we know what’s best for us? However, when we come out of denial, we can see that our former way of doing things has not gotten us the results we so deeply desired.

Being the clergy counselor for a 12-Step Rehabilitation program, I see dozens of people recovering from drugs & alcohol each month. One of my clients, Mark, had literally been on every drug possible plus alcohol all at the same time! He was extremely distraught when I met him, yet somehow he felt comfortable enough to tell me his story. When I started talking to him about his Higher Power, he responded disdainfully, “Yeah Right!” When I pointed out that he must have a purpose because he was actually still alive, he gave me a quizzical look. By the end of the session, he was willing to admit he had a serious problem & said, “Well, I’m not promising anything but at least I’ll think about this Higher Power stuff because nothing else has ever worked for me!”

I was overjoyed because the big key to this step is the word “admit.” Only when we “admit” something is wrong, can we “commit” to doing anything about it! It is then, that we become open to change. & once we are open to change, we are ready to move on to joining God as our partner in our program of renewal, recovery, revitalization, & victory!

Rev. Dr. Rainbow Johnson
ADAAP Outreach Minister