Monday, May 3, 2010

Admitting We Are Powerless

Alcoholics Anonymous have their Twelve Steps, as do other recovery programs. Step One is:

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

That is where I got to, and not just with alcohol. I must admit that I’ve been prone to things all through life where I just had to say, ‘God, I just can’t control this thing.’ This is why I placed square parentheses around “alcohol,” for it’s not only alcohol we often have trouble managing... it can be any number of things.

And yet, self control is not really an issue in many other areas of our lives is it?—self control in this way is rather selective. Or rather, it weakens us selectively, I should say.

Admitting we’re powerless over something in our lives, particularly a sensate—something that massages and nourishes the senses—is but the first step in gaining victory and hence liberation from the tormenting force it usually becomes.

And we have every chance of recovering completely, if we’re honest.

“Those who do not recover [from whatever ails them—not simply alcohol] are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves.”[1]

Honesty is the final, lasting salve for the wound—our problem that has haunted us. And we all struggle far too much with this issue when we consider it just a little more.

If we only cast our minds back, for instance, to yesterday we’ll find that somewhere along the line we compromised where we shouldn’t have, or we made a promise we couldn’t or wouldn’t keep or we said something that wasn’t true. We weren’t true to ourselves. This is not something to get down about or to lose sleep over; it’s just the way we are. It’s a big part of the reason why we need God in our lives.

Knowing this fact, however, is power for us because when we establish a weakness to a particular thing we know that we’re especially weak to it i.e. we’re especially dishonest with ourselves about it. We’ve established the habit for it.

All we need to do, however, is ensure there are good sound ways of keeping ourselves accountable to the truth. Admitting our powerlessness over the thing that has kept us captive is the first step...

The second step is, of course, coming “to believe that a Power greater than ourselves [God] could restore us to sanity,” which I’ll leave for a separate article.

Over some things we will be powerless. It is only God that can truly help us with these. Honesty with God is centrally about surrendering our issues of dependency and addiction to him—the irony of giving up what we can’t keep to find what we cannot lose.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

[1] Alcoholics Anonymous, The Big Book (4th Ed) (New York City, New York, Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1939, 1955, 1976, 2001), p. 58. I have added the information in italics in the square parentheses.


  1. Hard words, liberating words... Now, to be honest with myself...

  2. That's a great response, Ian. It's the continual imperative, isn't it? And we strive for it in progress, not in perfection. Thanks for taking the time to add a comment - it's encouraging.


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