This week on the Hope Dealer, Ed McDonough has on GateHouse alumnus and recovery program coordinator, Joe Kennedy on. Ed and Joe talk about the first step in a 12-step recovery program and what it took for them to get to that point of admitting powerlessness and recognizing that their lives were truly unmanageable.
Joe and Ed had both tried to do everything to get sober and stay sober besides working a 12-step recovery program. Ed said that he needed “A therapist to handle the clinical side, a safe, structured living environment, and a 12-step program.” He had tried Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT), Joe had decided to take the easier, softer way out of addiction and alcoholism. Nothing worked for either of them, besides working a 12-step recovery program.
In the 12 & 12 (The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions) which is supplemental literature to the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book there is a quote that Ed said is one of his favorites, “Who wishes to be rigorously honest and tolerant, who wants to confess their faults to another and make restitution for harms done? Who cares anything about a Higher Power, let alone meditation and prayer? Who wants to sacrifice time and energy in trying to carry A.A’s message to the next sufferer? No, the average alcoholic, self-centered in the extreme doesn’t care for the prospect unless he has to do these things in order to stay alive himself.” That is the basis of the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. All of that can only be achieved when we can get out of our selfish and self-centered ways that we can carry the message on. It is usually only when this is our last option left, do we give up and begin to work on a recovery program.
Most of us while in active addiction, and even when we first remove the substances, we don’t know how to live an honest life. We know how to manipulate and lie; everything is still based in selfishness.
What is the First Step?
Step One: “We admitted we were powerless over _____, and that our lives had become unmanageable.”
Joe said that he thought he was all-powerful because he was full of ego. There was no powerlessness, he just did drugs and drank because he liked the way it made him feel, he wasn’t an addict or alcoholic. When Joe crossed that line from “casual or risky use” to becoming addicted and not being able to stop, he still didn’t admit that he was an alcoholic or an addict. He accepted that he was powerless, but self-acceptance of that differs from admitting it. Joe pointed out that even when the substances were removed from his body whether he was in a detox or locked up, he was still powerless in his mind. The mental obsession was still as strong as ever. No matter how much Joe wanted to stop, or stay stopped, he couldn’t.
When you’re deep enough into addiction and alcoholism, you’re okay with dying from an overdose or a slow alcoholic death because we don’t know how else to live. We don’t know how to live while drinking and using, and we don’t know how to live without them. That is when we are in a tough spot.
The Solution Piece
When finally admitting complete defeat over drugs and alcohol, we can admit that we are powerless. Most alcoholics are egomaniacs with inferiority complexes, a term used in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous perfectly describes many alcoholics and addicts. Our heads are filled with negative self-talk, but we’re too proud to admit defeat from drugs and alcohol. The drinks and the drugs helped to manage the emotional unmanageability that we felt internally before we picked up a drink or drug until they don’t and cause more unmanageability.
Joey stated that he had to be beaten into a state of reasonability to admit that he was powerless finally. Ed and Joe both talk about how once they admitted that they were powerless that they were then able to be shown what to do about it. The solution can come in. When you begin going to meetings, you’ll meet others who admit that they’re powerless over whatever substances and can move on and be able to manage their powerlessness.