To begin the summary of the first step we will consider seven concepts which are built into the step. The first is the concept of denial. Individuals with addictive personalities are notoriously prone to denial, which explains why alcohol and drug use persists even in the face of negative consequences. From a psychological perspective, denial is viewed as a defense mechanism, which individuals use to protect themselves from pain. With that being said, admitting that we have a problem is paramount in this first step.
The next concept to consider is known as “hitting rock bottom”. This is a term used quite often in twelve-step programs and refers to a time in life that causes an individual to feel that they have reached the lowest point in their life. They feel that life could not get any worse and that there is nothing good left in their life left to destroy. Although “rock bottom” differs for everyone, hitting it is often necessary for most individuals in addiction to realize they have an issue with alcohol or drugs. Hitting “rock bottom” is not a pleasant experience for anyone, but by taking the first step in AA we are beginning the process of regaining happiness in our lives.
The third concept to consider is powerlessness. This is a very hard concept for many to grasp, after all, who wants to admit they are powerless? The truth is however, that at least in this instance, powerlessness does not equal weakness. In fact, the ability to admit to powerlessness over alcohol or drugs is a great strength and crucial to completing the first step. Admitting that we are powerless over alcohol or drugs simply means that when we drink or use a drug, we often have little or no control over the amount we consume or whether/when we are going to consume again. By admitting we are powerless over alcohol or drugs, we are actually taking the first step in regaining power over our lives !
The fourth concept we will consider is unmanageability. Because denial is so prominent in addiction, we are often unaware of how unmanageable our lives have actually become. We see our dysfunctional habits as normal and miss the fact that they are what will eventually lead to our “rock bottom”. It is difficult for many to think that they do not have a handle on all of their affairs, but in order to proceed and find happiness, we need to consider the concept of unmanageability in our lives.
The next concept to consider is reservations. A reservation in recovery is something you are holding on to that may lead to a future relapse. Reservations hold you back by giving you reasons to turn back to alcohol or drug use if recovery does not work out. A few common examples of reservations include: “I deserve to drink if someone in my family dies”, “After X amount of time I can start drinking again”, and “Once I get X, Y, and Z back I can start drinking again”. Reservations are normal, but they need to be addressed and resolved in early recovery in order to avoid future set backs .
Spiritual principles are the next concept we will consider. There are twelve principles of recovery that correspond to the twelve steps. They are guides to a way of spiritual growth and personal happiness. The spiritual principles are important to consider during early recovery and beyond. Each principle will be beneficial to consider throughout our recovery and life. The principles are: acceptance, hope, faith, courage, honesty, patience, humility, willingness, brotherly-love, integrity, self-discipline, and service.
Surrender is the final concept we will consider. Surrender is considered to be the foundation of recovery by many. It is another difficult concept for many to grasp as well, but is essential because without it, there is little to no possibility for change. Society has taught us to view surrender as a weakness, but in this case, it is actually a sign of great strength. It is an act of stepping into the unknown and takes an enormous amount of courage, hope, and trust. By surrendering you are in a sense admitting your powerlessness to addiction, and your unmanageability in life. You are truly taking the first step to a successful recovery.
Everyone has to start somewhere, and as far as the twelve-step programs , this is the addict and alcoholics beginning. Today you can increase your potential of remaining sober by incorporating the concepts mentioned in the first step into your every day life. Today you can overcome denial, your reservations, and your “rock bottom”. Today you can admit your powerlessness and unmanageability. Today you can incorporate the spiritual principles into your life. Today you can surrender and remain sober!