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.


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.



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