Thoughts on Step 1 from the 12 Steps of AA or ARP

One of my last posts was on the power of the 10th step.  It’s still one of my favorites and I use it all of the time.  But all of the steps are powerful and they have deep meaning for me.  Overcoming an addiction is a literal battle.  But not one fought person to person.  Rather it’s one you fight within yourself and with the help of caring friends and ultimately a loving God — or a higher power according to your own understanding.  I’m going to write about each of the steps and thought I’d go back to the beginning and start at one.  Which was the beginning of my journey to true sobriety as well.

The first time I really read and studied the 12 steps was when a trusted friend reached out to me and invited me to join him at his Sex Addicts Anonymous Primary Purpose (SAAPP) group.  He gave me an AA Big Book (I still have it and study from it often, it is well worn and well loved).  I was nervous and apprehensive about what would come next.  Most importantly though, I was ready.  I had hit bottom.  I was out of ideas of how to stop my addiction.  I knew I was beat.  I couldn’t fight this on my own.  I was helpless and hopeless.  I was hurting my wife and I was willing to do whatever it took to overcome.

It’s interesting writing this.  I’m filled with some powerful emotions right now.  They’re strong but not overwhelming.  I feel somber.  I feel a reverence for the path that I’ve trod.  I feel humbled that my God was willing to help a soul as broken as mine.  I feel a sense of peace that I have come so far and I know where to look for my strength and for answers to the struggles of life.  I am happy that God has trusted me to help so many others.  My heart weeps for their struggles and the pains of their own families.  But I also smile that knowing smile, because I know without a doubt if they’ll simply keep walking the road, never giving up, they will find the same solution I did.  They will find their sobriety.  In fact, several of them already have.  They are starting to help others.  I feel honored to have been part of their journey and hope to help many, many more — if God is willing.

AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) Big Book Step 1We admitted we were powerless over [our addiction*] — that our lives had become unmanageable.

ARP (Addiction Recovery Program) Manual Step 1:  Admit that you, of yourself, are powerless to overcome your addictions and that your life has become unmanageable.

I find it interesting and telling that part of the definition and explanation of Step 1 in the AA Big Book is in the first paragraph of the chapter called, “We Agnostics.”  If you do not believe in God, if you believe that God has abandoned you, if you believe God is for others but not you, if you believe that God is punishing you, or that God has given up on you, I definitely recommend reading chapter 4 from the AA Big Book.  But, more than that, I actually recommend that you find an addict in your area and ask them to tell you their story.  Speaking with someone face to face who has shared your struggles is like no other experience.  No one can understand what we go through except those of us that have gone through it.  Period.

Page 44 says, “If, when you honestly want to, you find you cannot quit entirely, or if when drinking [acting out], you have little control over the amount you take [use], you are probably [an addict].  If that be the case, you may be suffering from an illness which only a spiritual experience will conquer.”

Further down the page it also says, “To one who feels he [she] is an atheist or agnostic such an experience seems impossible .. To be doomed to an alcoholic death or to live on a spiritual basis are not always easy alternatives to face.”

That is a true statement.  I have always believed in God (though my understanding of Him has greatly changed over the years) — but even for a believer like me, learning to have a spiritual experience that would defeat my addiction was hard, very hard.  But it has been completely worth it.

Last weekend I was on a short trip with my children and as we stood in line at a convention I found myself turning to the ARP Manual online and reading from Step 1.  As I read, I felt a deep soberness come over me.  It was like I could remember the sadness and despair I had felt while I also felt empathy for those who still struggle.  I especially feel for those who know they are addicted, but lack the courage to take the steps, and so they continue to face the painful consequences of their choices in their addiction.  It is so hard to watch as they continue to tumble into the pit of their own despair.  I cannot pull them out.  I can only watch, wait, and pray for the day when they will finally say, “I cannot do this any longer — I am willing to do whatever it takes to be free, please help me.”  Then, with God’s loving power, I can grab their hand and show them the path that someone else showed me.  The path to God.  The path to healing.

Some of the things that stood out to me from my readings that day:

  • Many of us began our addictions out of curiosity [this was me].
  • Many began this path when barely older than children [I was 10].
  • .. we soon discovered that the addiction relieved more than just physical pain.  It provided stimulation or numbed painful feelings or moods [this was my go to method of dealing with difficult emotions].
  • It helped us avoid the problems we faced — or so we thought.
  • .. we tried to minimize or hide our behaviors.  We did not realize that by deceiving others and ourselves, we slipped deeper into our addictions.
  • We plunged into greater and greater isolation, separating ourselves from others, especially from God.

Even now that I type these lines I can vividly remember the pain and isolation.  The fear of being caught.  The self loathing for being unable to stop.  The sense of doom that I was going to be burdened with this forever.  The loneliness from God — why had He abandoned me to this disease when I wanted to quit so badly?  The loneliness from others — why was I the only one going through this?  (Or so I believed.)  And then I thought of my fellow brothers in their own struggles.  Oh how painful this journey is to go through — especially when we travel it alone.  I want to just stand on a platform and shout at the top of my lungs, “You do not have to be alone!  There are many of us who suffer just like you!  There is a solution!  It works for us and it can work for you — please join us!

I doubt it would do any good.  Each of us must find our own way.  When we are ready, when we’ve hit bottom, then God will lead us to those who can help us climb out of this hole and find the solution.  If you are not ready, don’t worry, the rest of us will pray for you — we will pray that you hit your bottom soon.  Sorry, that may sound harsh, but there is no other way.  The sooner the better.

If you’re at the bottom, if you’re tired of feeling alone and in despair, if you’re tired of hurting others — come find us!  You can find LDS Addiction Recovery Program meetings as well as Sex Addicts Anonymous meetings.  You will find that you are not alone.  You will find those of us that are ready to help you.  It may feel scary, but there is nothing to fear.  Be brave!  Be bold!  Be ready to change — you can be free!!  It feels wonderful to be free 🙂

My name is Mike


* All words in [brackets] are my own modifications to generalize the words from the AA Big Book to apply to any addiction, not just Alcoholism.

If you need extra encouragement, you may find these videos helpful:


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