Clay Cutts, L.C.S.W. | Alcoholics Anonymous Step 1 – Powerlessness and Unmanageability

Alcoholics Anonymous Step 1 – Powerlessness and Unmanageability

Alcoholics AnonymousNewcomers to Alcoholics Anonymous are usually introduced to the first of the twelve steps on their very first visit to the group.

Most Alcoholics Anonymous members with significant sobriety insist on the importance of beginning twelve step work as soon as possible.

Alcoholics Anonymous Step 1 – We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.

This step has two distinct parts.

Unmanageability of My Drinking Life

The second part of Alcoholics Anonymous Step 1, admitting that our lives had become unmanageable, asks us to take an honest look at our lives and our behavior. For many of us, such an honest appraisal is new territory. We have been used to fiercely defending ourselves from all comers in an attempt to defend our fragile egos.

As the owner of a particularly large and overly delicate ego, this was very hard for me to admit. I argued that I met my obligations! I went to work every day and mowed the lawn on the weekend. I came home from work every day rather than running around in bars like “some people I know”.

In my opinion, the fact that I got drunk every night was of no importance to the conversation! Of course, I was wrong and this behavior was the core of the issue. The days of drinking for pleasure were long gone. I drank because I had to. I was ruled by a compulsion so strong that I could not control it.

If that is not “unmanageable” I don’t know what is.

Powerlessness over Alcohol

Admitting powerlessness is a pretty tall order. After all, nobody wants to admit that they have no power. The truth is that power is an illusion. We cannot actually MAKE another person act in a certain way.

Many people struggle with this concept, but I could see the truth of it right away. I had gone to great lengths to control my drinking. I tried to only drink on weekends. I switched from brown liquor to clear. Deciding hard liquor was my problem I promised to only drink beer. Maybe if I drank wine or only started drinking after a certain time in the evening?

None of these efforts paid off and I always ended up drunk.

Grudgingly, I admitted alcohol was more powerful than me. I fought it and fought it…and lost every time.



on Alcoholics Anonymous Step 1 – Powerlessness and Unmanageability.
  1. […] Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable. Step 2: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. Step 3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him. Step 4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. Step 5: Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. Step 6: Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. Step 7: Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings. Step 8: Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all. Step 9: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. Step 10: Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it. Step 11: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out. Step 12: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs. […]

  2. Tammy B

    I am a 42 year old woman who has been sober for 14 mths. I have been miserable, although the whole time, I am not working a program, I also know better, but this time I cannot wrap my finger around this whole god thing again. I am angry at a lot of my life right now, and so my sponsor has me doing some big book work on powerlessness, and manageability. I hope to learn much more, I have been sober before, worked a program before, and I know the difference on how I felt then and how .I feel now

    • Clay

      Tammy, thanks for sharing your struggles with us. Putting down the alcohol is sometimes the easiest part of this whole process. Dealing with the underlying “stuff” often much harder.

      I’m glad you have a sponsor and it sounds like she’s guiding you in the right direction. When I sponsor someone with similar issues I also focus on gratitude in order to combat the anger (which you mention). In my experience, anger at ourselves and possibly at God points to self-hatred.

      Best of luck to you. I hope you will check back with us and let us know how you are doing.


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