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The first step of anything is a beginning, so the first step of the Alcoholics Anonymous 12 steps is the beginning of your recovery process. It’s actually really exciting, because it’s the first day of a new life. This is where the healing starts.
Doing the 12 steps is also referred to as “working” the steps, because it requires willingness, effort and action. It is said the 12 steps of AA is compared to markers put out lovingly on a path by those who preceded us, to direct us on our journey. The journey can seem daunting from the perspective of a person at the beginning but fortunately all we are asked to do is to take one step at a time.
If lucky, our journey has taken us to arriving at a point of surrender. For some people the road they traveled getting to the first step in AA has been more than enough to convince them that unconditional surrender is the only option for recovery.
For a lot of people in recovery, walking into a treatment center or an AA meeting the first time is a major part of “working” step one. Your simple and humble act of asking for help is effectively an admission of powerlessness and unmanageability.
Most addicts are filled with guilt, shame, remorse, and self-loathing when they come into the rooms of AA. They’ve also gotten very used to keeping secrets from pretty much everyone, so opening up about the nature and extent of your alcoholic behavior is going against the grain. It may even feel completely unnatural and you probably don’t want to do it. But sharing your experience and the unmanageability lifts the burden of lugging them around in secret. Letting go of your secrets frees you up to move forward with a different, better life. For many people, the act of sharing Step One in an AA meeting is the true start of recovery.
However, becoming abstinent from alcohol will also be a requirement for starting to work the first step. The first step is all about looking at the effects of alcoholism in your life and for what is needed to be clean: to find a way to stop the behaviors with a perspective that isn’t clouded by alcohol. If you’ve been clean for a while, then the first step is about powerlessness over behaviors that make your life unmanageable.
There are a lot of things alcoholics can do to fully work Step One. Most of the work is designed to unearth your complete history of use and abuse.
Inventories are a great way to work the steps—even starting with Step One. You can make a few lists:
For each and every one of the millions of success stories in AA you will hear repeatedly about responsibility. It is our responsibility to stay involved in sobriety and follow our sponsor’s suggestions. It is our responsibility to actively cultivate and grow willingness. It’s important to grasp that you are not “powerless” completely: you do have the power to engage in a program of recovery, the power to choose not to abuse substances….but you are powerless over drugs and alcohol if you put them in your body.
Acceptance comes when we feel a profound sense of hope and peace in coming to terms with our addiction and recovery. We don’t dread a future of meeting attendance, sponsor contact and step work; instead we begin to see recovery is a precious gift.
It has been my experience that doing the steps has brought me serenity and the welcome realization that AA is not just a program where sick people get well—it is a way of living that is rewarding in and of itself.
Lot’s of people find that once they do Step One, that all manner of help appears! I feel grateful to have a program that expands as I grow. Having a firm foundation in recovery through steps has also given me a welcoming fellowship to accompany me in my journey.