When I first started the 12 step program, I didn’t know much about it. But the first step was easy to understand. It just asked me to admit that I couldn’t control my problem. That was easy for me because my addiction had already ruined my marriage, my business, my house and my relationship with my kids. Even after all of that, things just kept getting worse. So, I had no problem admitting that I was powerless.
But then I started looking for excuses not to do the first step completely. I don’t know why I did that. I thought maybe if I only did half of the step, it would still work. I started thinking that maybe taking half measures would be enough. So, I looked for ways to cheat the steps. I even questioned if I was really powerless. I knew I could still do things like drive a car or write a check. And my argument sounded very logical in my head. But, I knew deep down that taking half measures wouldn’t help me.
But with the help of a great sponsor, I finally understood the first step. I looked up the word “powerless” in a dictionary from 1934 and it said “destitute of the ability (whether physical, mental or moral) to act.”
That made a lot of sense to me. When I took the first step, I was saying that I couldn’t do things like stay sober, stay married, support my family, be a good parent or keep my business. I wanted to do all of those things, but I couldn’t. My addiction had taken all of that away from me.
If I had understood this from the start, I would have easily admitted that I was powerless. I wouldn’t have looked for other forms of power to try and fix things. The first step doesn’t ask if you’re powerless over writing checks or driving a car. It just says “we were powerless.”
Before I got help, I had tried everything to defeat my addiction. I tried using my willpower, but it didn’t work. I went to counseling for years, but it didn’t help. I went to church regularly, but I still couldn’t stay sober. I tried everything and nothing worked. So, I finally agreed with the Big Book of AA and the dictionary, that I truly was powerless over my addiction.
When I had to make a drawing to show one word from each of the 12 steps, the word “powerless” was hard for me. I drew a leaf in a stream because it can’t control the water. I drew a person reaching for something they couldn’t reach. But, these pictures didn’t really show what I wanted to say. So, I asked myself, “What can lift anything, but can’t lift itself?” And I drew a big, powerful crane trying to lift itself up. At first, it looked silly, like a cartoon. But then, after praying and thinking about it more, I made a bigger drawing. And it was really powerful.
My experience showed that I can do a lot of things, but I can’t save myself. I need a higher power to help me.