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Step One





PREFACE: How ironic that my own powerlessness and unmanageability have delayed the writing of this blog by 3 months. My full intention was to flow through the Steps and explain 1 per month, however, I was unable to do this. Always in the back of my mind, I finally had to admit that I was allowing life, and life’s “stuff” to control my schedule, and delay the article. I realized that, although I am powerless over issues that arise, I am in control of how I choose to prioritize my time. With that being said…


Step one states, “We admitted that we were powerless over ____ and that our lives had become unmanageable.”


As the dust settles, a battle-weary soldier emerges, scarred and tired from having fought a futile battle. In his hand waves the one thing that signifies hope and life: the white flag of surrender. The FIRST of the 12 Steps of Recovery is widely known as the “surrender step,” and allows much-needed REST to those struggling with mental illness, addiction, or any of life’s challenges, and simultaneously requires the seemingly impossible ACTIONS of admission and surrender. For those seeking mental health

recovery, sobriety, or serenity, neither “rest” nor “action” typically comes easily, and as with any 12 Step program, it is not something that a person wants to do but becomes the thing he needs to do to find renewal of body, mind, and soul. Surrender is the first step to long-lasting recovery from mental illness, addiction, relationship challenges, and many other life-controlling issues.


The word “admitted” often has negative connotations, and is defined this way by Merriman: “confessed to being true, typically with reluctance.” Just as a person cannot seek a cure without a known or ‘true’ illness, neither can recovery begin until we admit that there is something seriously wrong with life as it is. Maybe this ‘something’ is constant anger, depression, rumination about situations; maybe this ‘something’ is turning to substances to cope, only to find the problems are still there when the effect wears off, or maybe this ‘something’ is a lack of healthy relationships within the family. Taking the time to identify, or admit, what exactly is at the root of the concern can be cleansing and freeing. Admitting that we need help, seeking others to ask for support, and seeing the truth clearly with the assistance of this support change everything. With this search for and acceptance of the truth, the word “admitted” can now be redefined in this positive light: “allowing entry to, privilege, acceptance, affirmed.” Admission ‘OF’ the difficulties we are facing, and OUR part in these difficulties can grant admission ‘TO’ a new life. Admission will be granted to an exciting, challenging, and rewarding existence, a pathway toward wellness and hope. A life filled with peace and recovery.


“Life is a balance between what we can control and what we cannot. I am learning to live between effort and surrender (Danielle Orner). In Step 1, we face the reality that we are powerless over many aspects of what we define as the “problem.” Even with the best intentions, we cannot control our drinking or use. We cannot control our initial emotional or physical responses to others, and we most definitely cannot control the thoughts or behaviors of others. For years, many of us have lived with the “illusion of control,” which allowed us to believe that we are capable of independent change, that “if things get bad enough,” or “if we really wanted to change, we could.” As we seek and admit, and analyze what is REALLY happening, we come to a place that is both terrifying and liberating; we acknowledge our powerlessness over our current situation, and accept the fact that we are unable to change the past. It is at this point that one is fully able to surrender the illusion of control, and begin to search for the tools and supports that will help to find the things that we can gain control of that will point us to a bright future.


Questions to ask yourself reflecting on: What truth have I been afraid to admit? Why have these truths been hard to admit? What can I control and what am I powerless over? In what way has my life become unmanageable? How will admitting my powerlessness give me strength?


God Grant us the serenity to accept the

Things we cannot change,

The courage to change the things we can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.

( The Serenity Prayer)



As we boldly and humbly carry the “white flag” of surrender that Step #1 refers to, we will indeed find that ‘admitting our powerlessness and unmanageability’ will bring us closer to our inner strength, and put us on the path to recovery that we have longed to find.


SURRENDER IS A JOURNEY FROM THE OUTER TURMOIL TO THE INNER PEACE. (Sri Chinmoy)

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