by Beth Livingston
Certified Recovery Specialist
Many recovery groups use some semblance of the 12 Steps originally coined by Alcoholics Anonymous as a guide for breaking free from addiction and unhealthy lifestyles. The first step of the 12 Steps is:
"We admitted we were powerless over ___________ (fill in the addiction or behavior), that our lives had become unmanageable."
I believe that this step contains three specific areas of difficulty for someone who's addicted:
Admitting - I think there's a big difference between saying, "Yeah, I have a problem with _______," and believing it deep down in our hearts, like a confession. Do you see any difference? I can remember saying, "I really need to quit smoking," as I'd laugh and light up another cigarette. That's not the kind of admitting that produces change. Have you spent months or years denying you have a problem? Then admitting you have one is a BIG step. Have you taken this step yet? Can you explain why it's so important or so difficult? Have you been hiding some behavior from your loved ones that you want to get rid of? There's no time like the present to take the first part of the first step and confess to God and admit to yourself that you know this is a problem that needs to be dealt with.
Powerless - Ouch! That means we have to put the familiar lie to rest that we can stop the behavior anytime we want. How many times have you tried to quit and were not able to quit? That's the most telling sign of powerlessness for us, don't you think? We thought we were choosing to do something, and over time our minds (and sometimes our bodies) have developed a dependence on this behavior; now we choose not to do it, but find ourselves doing it anyway. Something rules over us! As independent and self-reliant as we think we are, this shows that we aren't. Have you admitted you are powerless over some behavior? Are you ready to tackle this? Have you believed in your heart and spoken the words, "I admit that I am powerless over _______?" If you've been holding off, please make this the moment that you confess this.
Unmanageable - A lot of us have a hard time admitting that our lives have become unmanageable because we manage to keep a job, a place to live, etc. It's easier to admit this if you've been in trouble with the police, your spouse, your business. People who get in lots of trouble with their drug of choice can admit their lives have become a mess because it's so obvious. That doesn't make it any less of an important aspect of recovery to admit; it's necessary to agree that your life is unmanageable. However, for the not-so-obvious, I believe that when we hide a behavior from people we love, are ashamed of what we are doing, tell lies to cover up what we are doing - these are signs of unmanageable lives. Would you agree?
"I believe that I am powerless over biting my fingers, that I have no control over this self-injury." This is my current area of powerlessness, a habit I have not been able to do away with since childhood. But today, I am taking the first step to turn it over to God and will pick up a "Surrender" chip at the recovery meeting tonight. To someone reading this who's dealing with a heroin addiction or something real severe, you might think, "You've got to be kidding. Why would you need to work through steps to stop biting your fingers?" Well, for me, this is the behavior that I'm ashamed of, that I can't control. God has cleansed me of many, much worse behaviors and addictions, but He never stops helping me figure out what I'm still powerless over and that He has the power to set me free.
Maybe there's someone else who's been convicted in their heart of a need to seek God's help in getting rid of a behavior. I can testify that there are many, many people who have found that God can use these basic steps to cleanse more than addictions from our lives. There are people in our group working through steps to get rid of anger, codependency, pornography, pride, and overeating (to name a few). What does God want you to get rid of? Start today and if you feel like it, tell us about your decision.