Thursday, October 29, 2009

The 12 Steps of AA - Step 1

Step 1. "We admitted we were powerless over alcohol, and our lives had become unmanageable." I certainly had difficulty with this two part statement. First I didn't consider myself powerless "over" alcohol but rather 'under' the influence of alcohol. Under the influence of alcohol I was positively legless. Often I drank more than I intended. I made decisions I later regretted. And yes, I 'struggled' with alcohol. Sometimes it was to 'sip' my drink. Other times it was to keep my eyes open after I'd had a drink. Other times it was to focus my attention on those around me.
The first men of AA were fresh from the wars and personified alcohol as "John Barleycorn". They saw themselves in a fight with alcohol trying to get alcohol to fulfill that first promise to them which it had made, the promise of peace. At first alcohol was fun, then fun and trouble and then just plain trouble. Peace of mind, which came at the beginning of drinking was no longer possible as more and more problems arose as a result of drinking. More and more drinking didn't work. Increasingly it became more difficult to 'wrestle' some pleasure out of alcohol or life in fact. Alcohol is a chemical depressant and in time it leads to depression though often the depression is of the bipolar irritable kind, mood swings, snappiness, intolerance, mean words, and generally orneriness.
And the key to all compulsive disorders is to first stop the behaviour. "Don't pick up the first drink," is the key motto of AA. Don't struggle with whether or not to have the 5th or 17th drink but rather decide while sober not to have that first drink and do everything in your power on a daily basis to avoid that first drink. Without alcohol's interference the natural relationship with self or one's higher power corrects. The depression lifts, the fatigue goes, the 'poor me' syndrome lets up and increasingly one becomes open to learning new information. One can't 'think' their way into new actions when it comes to compulsive disorders, one must act their way into new thinking.
We don't say no to the 2 year old who insists on playing with the family pots but rather we re- direct him to the other cupboard where he can play with his pots. Similiarly "just saying no" is only enough if an alternative exists. Certainly AA provides that alternative. The detox's and treatment centres can help begin a new life course of action.

The second part of the equation , 'our lives had become unmanageable' is usually a whole lot easier for people who come into AA. It's not what most people plan on doing early in life but follows some mishap in their lives which involves drinking or seems to point to drinking as a problem. I personally couldn't maintain long term relationships with women and found that I was attracted to those who drank and together we had a grand time till the war of the roses or whatever came along and naturally we blamed each other rather than the bottle. Today I know that alcohol is at the root of so many of society's problems. That's certainly the evidence from the prospective Grant study which George Vaillant, MD studied extensively and showed how alcohol undermined jobs and relationships.
Not ironically in sobriety the plane of one's life seems to go better to the plotted destination without a drunk for a pilot.
That's what step 1 is kind of a bout. There's much more but that's usually found in the small group studies and the one on one work with sponsors.

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