Powerlessness and Recovery

The Truth Based on One’s Experience with Powerlessness

Understanding the depths of powerlessness can be likened to comprehending the state of incomprehensible demoralization. This is especially true for those grappling with the consciousness levels of shame, guilt, apathy, grief, and fear, particularly when they are at the epicenter of their own destruction.

The Improbable Journey of Recovery

It’s akin to imagining Tom Brady returning to the New England Patriots and winning his seventh ring – a scenario that seems nearly impossible, not for lack of talent, but because of existing commitments that make it legally unfeasible. In this analogy, New England would need a miracle. Similarly, my journey through addiction and recovery felt less like a miracle and more like a saving grace.

Hitting Rock Bottom: A Necessary Descent

This divine source of consciousness pulled me, a chronic alcoholic, back from the brink of death and destruction. Hitting rock bottom was necessary for me. It allowed me to delve deep into the underworld, confronting the demons clinging to my soul.

Digging Deep

The process of recovery is not unlike digging from a third-story building; it involves exhaustive experimentation. By the time someone reaches ground zero, they are just beginning to scratch the surface of the lessons learned from past traumas.

The Allure and Irony of Substance Use

Seeking an escape, many turn to alcohol and drugs, which offer a temporary respite. These substances altered my reality, making me feel beautiful when I felt ugly, strong when I was afraid, and gave me the courage to interact with others. It was a magical elixir that allowed me to see the world through a lens of pride and desire instead of shame.

Surrendering to Addiction: The Shift in the Journey

However, this was a self-imposed crisis. It was an ultimate act of self-centeredness to escape the torturous hell I had created for myself. The irony was that this hell was a construct to escape past traumas.

The journey shifted from escaping these traumas to surrendering to the invisible grip of addiction. Alcoholism, as a disease, manifests in various ways. It is often a manifestation of past traumas and a quest for relief from an obsessed mind.

Embracing Step One: Admitting Powerlessness

The truth, as I discovered in Step One of the 12-step program, is this:

Step 1: Admitted I was powerless over alcohol – and my life had become unmanageable.

This step is about the grace of willingness to surrender. But what was I surrendering to? To the authority of alcohol and drugs, which had become my masters.

Step One is about recognizing the loss of choice and control. If I could control my drinking, I would be able to use substances like crack cocaine only briefly and then continue with my day. But for an alcoholic like me, this level of control is a fantasy.

The Foundation of Recovery in Four Chapters

The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous discusses this in four chapters: “The Doctor’s Opinion,” “Bill’s Story,” “There Is a Solution,” and “More About Alcoholism.” These chapters emphasize the need for a solid foundation in recovery. If there are cracks in this foundation, the entire structure of recovery is at risk.

Understanding the Unmanageability

Step 1, Continued: Our lives had become unmanageable.

This part addresses the loss of choice and the insanity that precedes the first drink. The unmanageability is not just about the actions taken in active addiction; it’s about the lies we tell ourselves, leaving us defenseless against that first drink.

From “The Doctor’s Opinion” to page 23 in the Big Book, the focus is on the compulsion of the illness – the craving that goes beyond mental intellect. It’s a hunger for more, addressing the first part of Step One: admitting we were powerless over alcohol.

The Insanity That Precedes the First Drink

From page 23 to page 43, the focus shifts to the insanity that precedes the first drink. On page 23, in the chapter “There Is a Solution,” it states that these observations would be academic and pointless if our friend never took the first drink, thereby setting a terrible cycle into motion.

The main problem with the alcoholic person is centered in the mind rather than the body. The first 23 pages discuss the allergy, the phenomenon of craving, and the physical compulsion. From page 23 onwards, the focus is on the insanity that precedes the first drink, which is why the dash exists in the middle of Step One.

Embracing the Journey of Recovery

As we explore the depths of our struggles, we begin to see the importance of surrendering to a higher power and admitting our powerlessness. This admission is not a sign of defeat but rather the first step towards reclaiming control over our lives. It’s about breaking the cycle of addiction and starting on a path to healing and self-discovery.

Remember, recovery is not a journey you have to undertake alone. There is strength in seeking support, whether through 12-step programs, therapy, or community support groups. Each step forward, no matter how small, is a victory in the battle against addiction.

To anyone on this path, know that your journey is valid. Your experiences are a testament to your resilience. The road to recovery may be challenging, but it is also filled with moments of profound transformation and hope. Keep moving forward, one day at a time, and trust in the process of healing and growth.

Eddie Payne
Written By

Eddie Payne

Eddie Payne is a dedicated 12-step group facilitator at the Massachusetts Center for Addiction.... Read More

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