Step 1: We Are Powerless

January is nearly here, and it is time to start thinking about Step 1.

“We must admit to ourselves that we are powerless against alcohol”.

I have specifically put “alcohol” in italics, as my hope is to highlight how these steps can be used for any person, addict or not, and how with the removal of one word and the insertion (or further removal) of others can alter the meaning of such a powerful phrase.

Powerless.

What is being powerless? How do we admit we are powerless? How can we even identify what we are powerless over…is it limited to things, like alcohol? Is it limited to things we crave, or can we include things that are required by nature, such as oxygen to breathe and food to sustain us? Can we be powerless over situations, people, the world we live in? Can we be powerless over things we have no real control over, such as God and fate? How far does one human’s “powerless” expand, and what does admitting our weaknesses really allow us to accomplish?

For an addict, admitting that one is powerless is the first step in recovery, because you are acknowledging the problem at hand. You are, to yourself (and yourself alone), facing the situation in front of you head first. The second line of the step, which I haven’t included here, is the understanding and acknowledgement that the situation has gotten unmanageable. I left it off since, in this context, powerless can go on to mean a great many of things, not all of them unmanageable. If your powerless notion has become unmanageable, of course add it back. The lesson is the same.

There is a quote I adore from Akeela and the Bee:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, but that we are powerful beyond measure.”

While the topic of this post is an introduction to being powerless, not powerful, this statement really solidifies the mind’s grapple with admitting weakness. Our deepest fear is not in actuality that we are inadequate, or powerless. It seems like a fearful act to admit that we are powerless, to admit shortcomings, to look them in the eye and succumb to the things that minimize perfection. But in ways, the lack of perfection is exactly what grounds us. It is status quo. It gives us a place to sink in to. An excuse. So we drown ourselves in thought to try to escape our inadequacies…which really are nothing to be afraid of. Fear is instead being powerful. Of being able to accomplish anything. Say anything. BE anything. Because then, when we are not those things, when we miss the opportunity to measure up, your ability to be powerful beyond measure but missing the mark becomes a flaw we cannot accept. And the cycle starts again.

So for the next month, I’m going to focus on the things I am powerless against. The things, people, concepts, moments that I am powerless against. That I cannot live without. That I succumb to. That control me. By acknowledging my weaknesses, it is the hope to make them just slightly less strong, to accept them (and myself) for having those weaknesses, and to learn to overcome them in order to be powerful beyond all measure, even if not perfect.

So for those of you who have decided to take this journey with me (are you out there? I’m hoping so), start thinking: what are you powerless against? What holds you back? What weakens you? Feel free to discuss.

-Joanie

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Taking the First Step… 12 Stepping Through 2017

I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I just never quite got there.

Sounds cliché right? Writing: this “dream” of a career that you just cannot quite grasp, whether because you just are not good enough at it or the timing is just never right. For me, writing was always a passion more than a career choice. Something I was good at and truly loved, but something that was lacking the financial backing to make it seem real. So instead, I became a PhD analytical chemist. I know…stay with me.

So for the last few days of 2016, in a time surrounded by resolutions and heartfelt promises to do those things you always put off until you inevitably check in in December, I’ve decided to pursue writing. Or, in this case, pursue blogging. Put my thoughts out there into the viral world of the internet. I’ve written blogs very religiously throughout my 28 years, particularly in high school and college. But instead of ramblings in a diary, I wanted to make this more constructive. Purposeful. Meaningful, if maybe only to me.

I sat down and made a list of the things I’m passionate about that could translate into a blog, and realized beyond writing (check) and science (dork-check), I really didn’t have much. I’m trying to be a better cook for my boyfriend and me, but I wouldn’t say I’m any Julie-and-Julia, and I’m not sure how to talk about food beyond YUM. I love makeup Youtube channels (NEVER thought I’d say that), but I’m still a tomboy at heart and frankly I’m terrible at taking anything from the screen to my face. The Philadelphia Eagles are a huge part of my life…but does anyone really need another sports commentary on Carson during the off-season? I don’t think so.

Then it clicked. Last week I went to my dad’s 7th anniversary meeting for AA. I’ve gone to meetings relatively frequently since he started getting sober and know the group (and the principles) pretty well. I sat through the roundtable reading, the discussion, the stories, and nodded along with every single person talking through the steps. I could relate to every single sentence spewing from the mouths of the recovering and the recovered: the hope, the anguish, the willingness to give themselves up to something larger than anyone in that room. The need for so many things that could be replaced and fulfilled by a drink: acceptance, compassion, escape from thoughts, independence, even love. It hit me then: maybe everyone could benefit from the steps. Maybe they fit beyond the tiny church walls that typically protect the anonymous. Not because I’m an addict but because I am the child of an addict, because I am a human being, and because I am passionate about the power of Bill W and the principles. The 12 steps gave my father back to me…maybe this could be my way of giving back. Share my stories, and share the paths of the steps that could be used by anyone.

12SteppingThrough2017 was born.

There just so happens to be 12 steps. 12 months of the year. 12 “focuses” to discuss, evaluate, and really devote myself to living every moment of every day. Yes, there will be cooking, and make-up, and I’m sure at least one powerful rant about the birds. But I’m hoping that by guiding myself through the steps, even as a non-addict, I can make a really positive change for 2017. I’m hoping to take you along with me too, so sit back and carry on!

-Joanie