Treatment and The 12 Steps – Step 1

Step One

February 2012

As we discussed here last month (please read the above or Jan 2012 article prior to this one if you can, if not no worries), 12 step recovery based treatment programs are, according to research, the most successful type of treatment programs. We broke this down a bit last month so now we will begin to explore treatment’s unique relationship with each of the 12 steps.

The 1st step in a 12-step program relates to the admission of a personal problem and the unmanageability of the life of the person in question. This is referred to in full as powerlessness. And that one term and what it represents makes the difference in millions of lives every day. The acceptance or the denial of one’s powerlessness creates success and failures each and every day, both in treatment and in the population at large. Only after a person has admitted their powerlessness will they be willing to admit their unmanageability as well.

What does it mean to be powerless? At first glance, it may seem simple and often it is, but as is the case with most meaningful things in life, if it is you we are talking about, it is not quite so simple. Personal powerlessness is one of the hardest things for a human being to admit to. We just aren’t wired to quit or give up, nor admit there is something we can’t do. In many cases, this serves us well. But in the matter of drugs and alcohol, it can literally kill us. A person must get to a place within them of admitting they have lost the power to choose, control, manage, or in any way maintain their alcohol and/or drug use. They must if they wish to have any shot and staying clean. But here is why treatment pays such an important role in this process. Anyone who has suffered even the most basic consequences after using may be able to admit this mentally. But only the person who can admit this to themselves mentally, emotionally, and spiritually (whatever that means for the individual) can get to an internal place of knowing they are beaten and have no hope for recovery on their own power. This, as you can imagine, is very hard for an addict/alcoholic to do.

Much care is taken during the treatment process to softly but honestly explain how one can do this. In programs like those at The River Source, a peer element is added, and people get to experience honesty from their peers in a way none of them ever have before. This process is life changing and literally opens people’s eyes for the first time. Work with staff, peers, and sponsors further locks in the honesty process. Once someone has admitted their defeat, healing can begin. After accepting that they are powerless over drugs or alcohol, or whatever addiction they may have, a person can more easily look at the unmanageability of their life and begin to see that many decisions that they made lead them to a place of not having control.

Treatment professionals are able to help clients see that if any area of their life is not going according to plan, then that is what is meant by “unmanageable”. Once someone can see this truth they can combine what they have felt about being powerless with what they have learned about being unmanageable, and they can take steps to understand what must be done. Simply put, what must be done is anything that needs to happen in order to experience recovery. This is a delicate process and one where many people who don’t enter treatment miss, which may be why individuals who enter 12-step based treatment centers, have a much higher success rate than people who do not enter treatment.

The 12 steps are like a house in which your spirit can grow and recover. The 1st step is the foundation of that house. Entering 12 step treatment is like hiring the best contractors in the world to build that foundation. Once that foundation is built, freedom from the destruction of drugs and alcohol lie ahead. See you next month!

**Please note that all matter stated here is that of an independent writer and does not represent The River Source trying to re-define the steps, this is simply a look at how treatment uses the 12 steps. In support of that purpose, only a synopsis of each step will be included every month. For a list of the 12 steps and the accurate definitions please contact AA world services or obtain a copy of the book “Alcoholics Anonymous”.**

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