Step 1 - Powerless, but with a bad memory

12 Steps: Discussions related to the 12 Steps and using them as a treatment to recover from alcohol and drug addiction.
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Postby anniemac » Mon Aug 14, 2006 2:27 pm

Thanks to all who responded. I, too, feel the work is in 4, 6 & 7. I guess my initial question was to Jim W., who said on another post that a problem with any step is a Step 1 problem.

Interestingly, though, Step 1 came up for me this past weekend. I qualified at a meeting, and I am very honest when I share my story ~ part of why I take speaking commitments is so that I remember where I came from. A girl in her early 20's shared afterwards and thanked me so much for showing her "the inevitible hell she faced if she didn't stay sober".

Nothing wrong with that, right? Geez, then why was I suddenly hurting so much? After some soul-searching this weekend, I realized that although I have no qualms with talking about everything I've ever done while drunk (that I can recall), I have so cleanly detached my emotions from those actions that it doesn't even seem that I am talking about myself. That's why Steps 4 and 5 didn't produce any fear or guilt or shame in me.

So, now, I am going to re-look at Step 1. I "know" I am powerless over alcohol and that my life had become unmanagable, because I know the facts of my drinking days. However, do I truly "feel" it in my heart and soul? Probably not, as it will take time to reattach emotion to past events and to truly "own" them.

As we say around these parts, "AFGO" - "Another F-ing Growth Opportunity". :lol:

garden variety
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Postby garden variety » Mon Aug 14, 2006 9:30 pm

Hi again Annie,

I don't think the "feeling" is that important. My feelings are wrong most of the time. To me, and to the God of my understanding, its the reaction that counts. I can't tell you how many times I sure didn't feel like helping another alcoholic, but I went against my feelings and helped anyway. Like this Saturday when I put on struts and springs on an alcoholic buddy's girlfriends car (shes from Earth). I committed to helping him because he's one guy that really saved my life a while back, so it didn't matter what I felt...besides he paid me, but I made sure I didn't charge him an arm and a leg either.

Here's a funny sideline to that to...I told him a price at first, $75.00, and boy did I struggle with that car! Much more than I thought. I figured, I'd ask him for a little more, $100, but then he gave me like $5.00 more and said keep the change. I flinched on the inside and I FELT like asking him for the extra $20 I thought the job was worth. But, again, I didn't react on that feeling either.

Image my surprise when I hear his message yesterday on my phone? See his earth girl was really impressed with the job because it jacked up the back of her car and it looks real sporty again, like it was when she got it. And she was totally impressed at how the thing handled because both springs were broke. She also knew exactly how much I struggled, because she comes out and its 4 hours later and I'm grunting and lining that damn control arm and its pulling back against me, and the car is in a fight with me...I mean literally I'm pushing and the car is pulling.

Well don't you know she tells my buddy to give me an extra $20.00 because she was so happy with the car and she knew exactly the struggle I had, and she doesn't know anything about cars....but she somehow figured out the right price. I kept my big stupid mouth shut and I didn't react on my feelings, and I got paid exactly what I wanted to charge my buddy. Oh yeah God doing for me what I didn't want to do for myself.

So now the job is done, I'm a hundred bucks better off, and it didn't matter a single iota what I felt from the beginning! The ONLY thing that mattered was how I reacted. And that was helping out another alcoholic by giving him a break and using whatever gifts and skills I had because he took the time to give me rides to meetings when I couldn't drive and he kicked my self-pitying butt into action when I really needed it some years back when my head was up my behind.

So Annie, going back to your step one, all you really gotta do is answer those two questions: 1. Are you able to control your drinking? and 2. Can you go to a club, bar, or beverage store, and be perfectly happy after drinking one or two drinks and then stop? You can get off the floor because I know you are laughing. If you answered "no" to both which I think you did, then you did a perfect first step. Then whatever you feel doesn't matter, your feelings are lying to you. And with step one it don't even matter why...all that matters is that your're "convinced". You just don't pick up that first drink and put the "feelings" about it in the trash can!

This stuff is pretty simple to me. It only gets complciated when I put my dumb self in the way.

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Postby Dallas » Tue Aug 15, 2006 12:09 am

After reading those two questions, and answering them myself... it kind of made me think that perhaps... if that was proof that I had taken the First Step... I had been completing perfect first steps for at least 25 years before I ever got sober! :wink:

I knew the answer to those two questions when I was drinking... and it was the same answer when I was sober... but those answers sure didn't help me stay sober... and they surely didn't help me stay away from the next drink. :lol:

Maybe I'm just different. :wink:

Part of my problem was I was powerless over staying sober! And, when I was totally convinced of that fact... then, I was about half way through my first Step!

garden variety
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Postby garden variety » Tue Aug 15, 2006 12:41 am

Well the way I was taught is that if I do a first step, it doesn't matter how perfect it is, all I have is an admission that I am a powerless drunk. No that won't keep me sober either. The reason I said what I said to Annie is because I think she probably did more than the perfect first step.

They taught me to stay sober, I have to do all 12 steps. BUT I have to do the first step perfectly every day. But if the only thing it took to keep sober was a perfect first step, nobody would bother with the rest of them. I don't recall hearing that, but maybe I missed something, too.

What they taught me is I need to ask those two questions, and if I am convinced in my innermost self that there is no way I can ever drink again, then I'm ready for step two. I mean if I am convinced through and through that I can't control my drinking, and that I can't stop and be happy after only one or two, then I've done the first step right.

I don't know Dallas, did somebody teach you you can stay sober by doing a perfect first step? If they did, I think they was mistaken. But you just said you were powerless over staying sober. I don't know about that one either. I thought the first step said we admitted we were powerless over alcohol?

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Alcohol was my solution

Postby Dallas » Tue Aug 15, 2006 5:20 am

If alcohol was my problem... then, I could probably answer those two questions... and just stop drinking. I wouldn't need A.A. I wouldn't need 12 Steps. I'd just plug the jug and be done with it. :wink:

If alcohol was my problem... I could probably do like many do... just not drink and go to A.A. meetings.... and everything would be better for me.

Alcohol was my solution... not my problem. And, alcohol... still isn't my problem.

My problem is alcohol-ism.

My alcohol-ism makes it virtually impossible for me to stay sober... regardless of how long I've been sober.

Since my problem is alcoholism... what that means to me... is that I am powerless over staying sober.

"Lack of power... that's my dilemma."

I don't have the power to stay sober... and that's what makes my life unmanageable. (I cannot manage "well enough" to stay sober!) :wink:

My own design for living can't keep me away from the next drink. I've lost the choice whether I'll drink again. That's a done deal. My alcohol-ism guarantees that I'll drink again. I don't have the power to not drink again. :wink: (Thus, again.... "powerless over staying sober." )

There are two parts to the First Step... and those two parts go together.

Without taking both parts of the First Step... I'd be doing "half measures" on the First Step. :wink:

The only way that I can stay sober... is to treat my alcoholism. Not drinking.... surprizingly enough... will not treat my alcoholism. :wink:



BTW: With that said... I think this brings us full circle back to where this topic originated, when:

Anniemac wrote: On the Second Step thread, Jim W. posted that when someone feels they are having a problem with a Step, the problem is really with Step 1.

She was referring to the follow up message posted by Jim W. to the original topic posted here:
(Scroll down the topic to read Jim W.'s full reply... and be sure to close the "new window" that opens to that link, if you click it... to return here).

Jim W. wrote: People that believe they are having trouble with the second step aren't. If a person is having difficulty with Step 2, Step 3, the inventory, the fifth step, or amends, or any of the steps for that matter, really isn't having a difficulty with any of the above. The difficulty lies in the First Step. If you've truly experienced the First Step, where else is there to go?

Perhaps, Jim W. will log on and comment. :wink:

garden variety
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Postby garden variety » Tue Aug 15, 2006 2:21 pm

Well maybe I didn't make myself clear, because I'm still in perfect agreement with you. I can't stay sober if all I do is step 1. The two questions I mentioned keep it simple for me. If I answer no to either one, and I am convinced at the innermost level, I have done a perfect first step, both parts as you say. But that still is not enough to keep me sober, and it doesn't give me any power to overcome alcoholism.

question 1: Can I control my drinking?
question 2: Can I stop after 1-2 drinks and be happy?

Answer for me: No on both counts.
Am I convinced through and through? Without a doubt.

If I can't control my drinking (like you mentioned), and/or I can't stop after 1-2 drinks and be happy, that makes me powerless over alcohol. And because I am convinced through and through, I know that if I consume alcohol in any form, my life will again become unmanageable. It becomes unmanageable because I've lost the ability to control my drinking.

I don't know how I could get any simpler. I just don't think doing a perfect first step is complicated. I don't think I have "search for reason" or go back to my childhood, or nothing else. I do think it is the hardest step to take. But if I don't go to step 2, I'm going not going to get sober. I will be powerless, my life will remain unmanageable, and I will drink again because, like you said, lack of power is my problem.

I don't agree if you are having trouble with a step, the problem is always with step 1. I've been taught, that if I have trouble with a step, I always have to look at the step before it to see if that's where the problem lies. I mean it could go all the way back to step 1, but not always. If I'm having trouble with step 4, I first have to look and see if I did step 3 right.

I can do step 1 perfect, step 2 perfect, and step 3 perfect, but I will still go out drinking because thats where I stopped. I didn't go through all 12 steps. I seen that happen. The problem was not at all with step 1.

I'll respect your opinion on this Dallas, but I don't agree with saying I'm powerless over being sober. Theres people up here that intellectualize the crap out of things, and they think they're being cute or looking smart by saying a step backwards or saying something with an opposite meaning, or being sarcastic. It's all cutesy-wutesy BS thats said with a smile and a wink. They think they're being witty when they say "I'm so and so, and I'm a failure at social drinking." That's just BS I'm trying to be different stuff. I don't know about your neck of the woods, but up here that's common crap, and people don't get the program because it gets mudded up with stuff that makes something complicated out of something simple.

My experience with new guys has been this: they ALWAYS are looking for a loophole to weasel through. And they don't get it unless its plain and simple. The step says we were powerless over alcohol and our lives had become unmanageable. After we get there, we move on to step 2 which is where I find the power to overcome alcoholism.

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Postby Anne » Tue Aug 15, 2006 3:36 pm

I'm an alcoholic and my problem is Anne.

I had a hole in the soul long before I found the solution: alcohol

Years later, alcohol turned on me. It was no longer the solution, but I did believe it was the problem. So I quit drinking. A few years into sobriety, I realized I still had a hole in my soul. After doing steps 1 through 12, I STILL had a hole in my soul, though it was less gaping.

Whenever I get in a funk or feel bad or question my disease or anything like that, it'd not because I didn't take step 1 perfectly--or any other step for that matter--it's because I am not doing step 12.

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

A guy I know who, to me, follows these steps near-perfectly has a picture of his feet on his cell phone. It's a reminder to keep his feet moving. Our Monday night meeting is called Feet First.

7 or 8 years ago, I thought the steps were some mystical thing that I just wasn't sober enough to understand. I did them again a couple of months ago. Today, I know the newcomer should simply do them as soon as possible, and begin helping other alcoholics. Period. By taking these newcomers through the steps again and again (I'm ranging about one per week), I am working the steps for myself again and again. THIS is how I "work" the steps.

As for character defects: God has not removed all my defects, and I understand that's because he sometimes NEEDS those characteristics and will use them--to help others--when he needs to. So it's only that I am willing and ASK God to remove them. That's it. All done. No more mystery there. No more beating myself up because a character defect of mine comes up from time to time--'specially since I'm not a serial killer.

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Postby Dallas » Wed Aug 16, 2006 4:33 am

Well... GV,

I will admit that I'm cute :wink: and pretty good looking on top of that!!! 8) But, I sure wasn't intending to say something cute or funny, or to be different... by saying that Step 1 for me... is "Powerless to stay sober". That's exactly what it is for me. Alcohol will not jump off the shelf, crack it's own seal... and throw itself down my throat! Or... at least it hasn't done so yet :wink:

I've given this thought... about alcoholism and Step 1, much thought! I've never met any alcoholic who was drunk before they took their first drink. :wink: They were all sober before they took their first drink!

Most of what I've read in the Big Book, in regards to an alcoholic taking that fatal drink... (especially so, in Chapter 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11) is referring to alcoholics who are already sober.

Once I discovered that... most everything in the Big Book was written to those who were already sober... it took on a whole different meaning for me. It was like suddenly spotlights coming on, and the book came alive with living wisdom that I could use.... while sober.

I used to... also think... that "unmanageable" referred to "after I had started drinking." I sure don't think that way now. "Unmanageable while sober" is what makes me powerless over the next drink. "Unmanageable while sober" is what makes me alcoholic! And, that's the second half of Step 1.

Unmanageable while sober... is why I started drinking the last time I started drinking. I was sober and in A.A., thinking that "okay... as long as I don't drink, my life will not becme unmanageable."

If your life is only unmanageable after a few drinks... my hat (figure of speech, I don't really wear one)... is off to you!

It's none of my business what works for someone else, or how they understand or experience anything. I have no argument with anyone. And, I surely have no desire to convince anyone of anything.

My business is simply to know what works for me and to know what I understand about something, and to take personal actions on what I know and understand. My understanding is important to me because if my understanding is off base... it could lead to actions that may be fatal to my sobriety.

It's important to me, to seek (often through prayer, meditation, reflection, my daily inventories, listening to others, talking to my Sponsor, and reading the Big Book) to improve my conscious contact with my sobriety.

By improving my conscious contact with my sobriety... it has helped me to keep my sobriety as "first things first" and to enjoy my life being sober. And, it keeps me digging and mining the treasures that I find in the 12 Steps.

I've discovered that for me, as long as I'm taking those actions... it doesn't really matter if I'm powerless over alcohol... because those actions are leading me to staying sober instead of leading me to the next drink.

I love to live, laugh, love, learn, and to be sober! For me... that's what life is all about: Living, loving, learning, Laughing and being sober!

Cheerfullness and laughter... and me not getting wrapped too tight or taking things (especially myself) too seriously... makes for usefulness. :wink: BB page 132

garden variety
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Postby garden variety » Wed Aug 16, 2006 2:23 pm

Hi Dallas,

I'm glad your cute, its something that runs in my family too, but it ran right past me :wink: Anytime I show a picture of daughter, they tell me she must have got her looks from her mother. I thinks its just the AA up here...can be brutal.

So my friend, I wasn't saying or implying that you were trying to be cute or witty, and I wasn't trying to make you out to be anything bad or anything but the cute and witty alcoholic that I now know you must be. Up here, the guys that explain sobriety like you are con artists, and not very cute and witty. But that doesn't mean I think you're a con artist. If I thought you were an uncute, dim-witted, con artist, I would just say so, like I tell them. I also call them weasels. All to their face.

Anyway like you said, what worked for you might not work for me. But you know, there are some of us that can only figure things out exactly like the book says. See when I read your post, it looks like you actually was thinking about sobriety and alcoholism. Then you made correlations and the like. Well you see, "thinking" is not my strong suit. I was taught if I get alone in my head, I was in the bad neighborhood. Just the other night I asked my sponsor what the heck they meant by that "think, think, think" slogan we just heard in the lead and how come they never told me that. This is the truth too, I did talk to him about it. He said, you gotta wait another 5 years before we tell you that one.

Maybe thinking and looking at things from different angles works in your neighborhood. Up here, there are more "angles" than a geometry book that these guys "work" to weasel out of being thorough and doing the right thing. See if I tell one of these knuckleheads up here that the first step means your powerless over sobriety, they'll automatically think they are not powerless over alcohol, and they'll go and test that idea. I mean they make up more excuses up here than a crook going to jail to get out of working a recovery program and the steps. Maybe its just the area.

Well since my wit must be dimly lit, and I'm not so cute, I always gotta remember that I am powerless over the substance alcohol. I think I do have power over sobriety. I have a choice to stay sober each day, or to drink. I can "take" one day of sobriety, and the next day choose to get drunk. I can choose to take three weeks of sobriety, and then I can get drunk for another 3 weeks. Then somebody else stops me from drinking like the law, and I can choose to be sober for another week, and go in and out until I die.

I don't have that same choice with alcohol. Like the book says, I lost the ability to make a choice when it comes to taking a drink of alcohol. When I "take" one drink, I can't choose to stop. Sobriety doesn't trigger the phenomenon of craving for's drinking alcohol that does, and I have no power over that. I can't control my drinking.

My life had become unmanageable because I drank and couldn't stop. And when I wasn't drinking, I was obsessed with planning the next drunk. My life was unmanageable because I spent my life trying to manage something I was powerless to manage, the consumption of alcohol, or the consequences that came after drinking. So the other things in my life that needed my management went by the wayside, like money, relationships, home, job, and the other stuff that makes life worth living.

For me sobriety has always been manageable as long as I read the book, live the 12-steps, go to meetings, help others, and just do what my sponsor tells me to do. I don't think there is a softer easier way. Today my life is more manageable than its ever been.

Hey, but I understand what your saying, and it is a good thing to look at "not drinking" as "keeping sober". I see where that works for you. For me, that's the way I look at it too. Life is sobriety. I don't think of it anymore as "not drinking". But that was one of those things that just happened, and I didn't think about it ("God helps the simple and drunk"). So I figure I must have got that changed perspective from working the steps and having that spiritual awakening. No thinking involved. But it still got me to the right place.

Anyway Dallas, I'm glad what works for you does work for you. I also hope it works for the guys you help to help themselves, too. If it does then God bless ya! Maybe we're just a little bit sicker up here and need things drilled into our heads just the way it was written.

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Postby anniemac » Wed Aug 16, 2006 6:19 pm

Ya know, guys, I really admire your posts and your ability to soberly discuss your viewpoints. I've belonged to other forums where by the second reply, one would be name-calling and mud-slinging and the other would join right in. It's really refreshing to be able to read your insights and wisdom, along with your humor and kindness.

GV, I am a great thinker ~ although my thinking isn't all that great. Did you ever hear Dr. Paul run through the 20 Questions about Thinking? It's hysterical ~ Do you ever Think alone? Has Thinking ever affected your relationships? Do you wake up during the night to Think? LMAO, guilty as charged! At any rate, I certainly do see how my thinking can overcomplicate a simple Program. However, I've yet to find the Off switch.

So, that being said, I hear what you're saying about "feeling", yet I think (there I go again!) that for me, to "feel" is to "own", to be less delusional about my direct relationship with my drinking and its consequences. Agreed, my reaction is really the key there; however, I think (again) that I stand a better chance of reacting appropriately if I truly feel, instead of just know, that I am powerless over alcohol and that my life was unmanagable.

Anne ~ I love what you said about working the steps via the women you sponsor. I have not had much opportunity to do that, but am working with someone now.

Never heard that God does not remove all defects because he may need some of them ~ interesting thought.

Dallas ~ when you say that you are powerless over staying sober, are you basically saying that you only have this daily reprieve because you are maintaining your spiritual condition? Ya know, not sure if it's my views on spirituality, or if it's my pride/ego, and the lines get muddied...but I do not feel that I no longer have a choice about drinking. I choose each day to not drink. I have become empowered by working the steps and by finding my HP. So, does it all mean that I am nothing without HP? I suppose; however, with HP as a part of my life, I
do have power. Guess I'm saying the same thing, but in terms that I find more palatible (sp?).

Good discussion, thanks for sharing!

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