Dear Powerlessness: A Modern Love Letter to the First Step

By October 30, 2022August 23rd, 2023Modern Love Letters to the 12 Steps
the first step

This post is part of a series of modern love letters to the 12 Steps. To start at the very beginning, read To Whom We Owe Our Recovery: Modern Love Letters to the Twelve Steps

Dear Step One, 

You read as follows: “We admitted we were powerless over [our drug of choice], and that our lives had become unmanageable.”

The Start of A Good Life

Step One, I will always love you for one simple reason: you are the beginning of everything that’s good in my life now. 

Embracing powerlessness was the greatest relief, the starting point of freedom. The first step is a doorway into a completely different life, a life in which I am cared for, in which I matter. Step One is the kind invitation to drop an enormous burden, into the soft lap of a power so far better equipped to handle it than I am. 

Step One is clear and straight to the point. It acknowledges the plain truth. The addicted state is powerlessness. Whether it should or should not be that way, managing the situation is no longer a thing when we’re talking about addiction. 

Burdens Acknowledged

Thank you, Step One, for acknowledging the burden I have carried on my back for so long. Of not being able to force myself to be different than I am. Of things getting more and more out of hand. It seems that you understand what happened, that somehow in the course of my life I went from having things kind of together, to one day losing the balance and falling off the beam.  

Under a gun I had to admit that addiction had the upper hand. Addiction commandeered me, hijacked my life. This was the real reason for my trouble, my failures. Not for lack of trying, not for lack of wanting, nor for lack of goodness inside me. 

I now understand why this happened, why my own life force shut the path of addiction down. Addiction is not the way. If we keep trying that way, it closes up for us. Thank God.

Know Your Enemy

To understand our foe, to understand what we cannot truck with, cannot mess with, sometimes we have to find out the hard way. Addiction leads us to finding out about those spirits and energies in this world that we should not be messing around with, because we will lose our sovereignty to them. 

Addiction taught me we must always think about what kind of forces we are in consent with, who get into bed with, who we make deals with. When we make a deal with addiction, it’s a bad deal. 

Maybe we said, “Addiction, I’ll give you all of me, in exchange for feeling good, for numbing, for avoiding, for delaying.” Such deals are never worth it, because the power addiction gives us ultimately destroys the nature of what we are.  

The Paradox of Powerlessness

What does it mean to admit powerlessness over addiction, long past the deal was made? We tear up the old deal, but now what? Does it mean we’re powerless over everything?  

Maybe we are neither completely powerless in our lives, nor all-powerful. Sometimes I struggle in my head between these two poles, as though it could be finally decided once and for all, but perhaps it cannot. 

The space in the middle, where we have some influence, some power over our destinies, but not, specifically, the choice to use substances to avoid ourselves without ill effect, is an interesting space to sit in.

Choosing Life

Just because we are powerless does not mean we can abdicate our responsibilities. It actually does really matter what we do and don’t do. But all we can do is influence, choose, try, prefer, opt in or opt out, say yes or say no, do our best – but not control. 

What do we choose, knowing that we aren’t in control? What do we energetically vote for with our every breath? How do we choose to devote ourselves, what habits do we want to practice, for everyone’s sake?

It is within this curious existential place that we are confronted with Step One – to admit that we are powerless over our addictions and that life is/does become unmanageable when addiction is present. 

If I do what I must to make sure I’m not in the hands of addiction, I have some freedoms and some choices. In these parameters, we walk the beautiful path of recovery. With some freedom, but not all the freedom. Some power, but not all the power. Human life in a nutshell.  



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