Lack of power? That is my dilemma…

 

At the start of this new year, AA fellows from our Central European Region share their experience, strength and hope about their own new beginnings. They talk about how they began a new life without alcohol and how every day is a new opportunity, a chance to start over. 

For many of us, it was hard to imagine how we could change our lives. It wasn’t easy to take that long hard look in the mirror.  

First, we needed to get honest with ourselves. 

May you be blessed and happy 2023!

 

Nature gave him the resources to distinguish between true and false. And he neglected them, and now he can’t tell the difference. 

– Marcus Aurelius 

 

Nothing made sense to me at my first meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous until a man said: When I drank my life was about alcohol, and now my life is about what I want it to be. 

He was talking about choice. In active addiction I had no choices, I had no power to choose; King alcohol ruled supreme, served by his Four Horseman: Terror, Bewilderment, Frustration, and Despair. 

The balance of power was not in my favor. I didn’t stand a chance. 

During his reign, before Step One, I stood no chance. For a long time, lack of power really was my dilemma. I thought I could stop. I thought I could quit. I knew I had to quit, I knew alcohol was killing me, I thought if I just tried hard enough that I’d get it I’d fix it I’d stop it. I thought I was the power by which I was supposed to be living. Obviously. But obviously, I was wrong. I wasn’t and I just didn’t get it. I thought alcohol was the problem and I thought I was the solution. Whoops. 

I had it all wrong. Obviously. And in spite of all the evidence, I could not read the writing on the wall. Two plus two equaled drunk. I kept jamming the square cork peg into the round red wine bottle. I led the horse to drink and drank alone. What a cowboy I was. Over and over. Same mistakes; insane mistakes. 

Then one day, my grandmother died. I always knew her death would bring about a change in my life. I had no idea it would bring me close to recovery – but it did. I realized then and there that I needed to quit drinking. I didn’t find AA right away, instead, I found a therapist who asked me to write an essay, to answer the following question: How am I powerless over alcohol and how has my life become unmanageable?

Convinced the question was weird, I poured myself a glass of wine and began writing. I knew I was powerless over alcohol and I knew the unmanageable was too much to even consider. I knew all of it in the corner of my soul and I finally began to let it out, a beginning, writing what I knew and discovering what I did not. I wrote away alcohol and wrote a surrender, a beginning of sobriety. I woke up the next day without a hangover and a fresh start. It was the last night of winter. 

That dark night of the soul set the scene for my surrender, my spiritual awakening, it was a mighty Step One long before I knew what that meant. (Was it my surrender? Was it my spiritual awakening? Probably not, looking back I understand they happened to me; all I did was keep drinking and writing.) Nevertheless, I woke up with the gift of sobriety the next day. It has been my responsibility to watch over ever since then. God did God’s part and gave me the gift; my part is to guard it – with complete abandon. 

Step One helps me watch over this gift every day. Without Step One, I’d have nowhere to go with the madness that litters my brain and it would go unchecked. Now when I wake up I bring the morass of fears and resentments to Step One. If I can just get my head to Step One, I’ll be ok because once there, I lay down the frustrations like so many ugly suitcases and I go to Step Two where I remember that God, a Higher Power, exists. In Step Three, I decide to turn my will and life over to the care of that God; God cares. Obviously. Already that’s enough to make me feel better and I can get on with my day. 

Step One used to be so monumental, now it has become momentary. A stepping stone to safer ground, a hot potato to get off my hands, I know not to stay there long because at Step One, I’m only heading towards the solution – I’m not there yet. I must keep moving, to Step Two, to Step Three. Step One is not a campground or a parking lot, but more of a Stop sign or a gas station, a place I need to be – but not for long. 

Isn’t that the beauty of recovery? We move forward again. Before there was no motion, no beauty, no progression, there was just me in my mud puddle hangover. Every. Day. Today, I enjoy the motion and beauty that a life in recovery provides me. It is a life of choice. Before there were no choices, just wine and hangovers and regret. Today, I choose not to drink, today I choose what I want my life to be. Today, it is a life worth choosing and a life worth living. 

For this, I am so grateful. 

– Jim

 

For me, it’s important to remember that Step 1 is a two-parter. I am powerless over alcohol AND my life has become unmanageable. I need to accept and surrender to both of these statements for Step 1 to work. I knew I was an alcoholic for many years before I got sober. I knew that I was powerless over alcohol, but I didn’t see it as a problem as long as my life felt manageable. If I could control everything else and keep it all together, who cared if I couldn’t control my drinking?

It wasn’t until I lost control of everything, my actions, emotions, relationships, finances, living situation, health (the list could go on) that I was ready to make an attempt at a new way of living. Life wasn’t just unmanageable, it was unbearable, unlivable. Sure, I couldn’t imagine a life without alcohol or drugs, but now I couldn’t imagine one with it either.

When I walked into my first meeting I had no idea how to stay sober or what my life would even look like, but I knew that I couldn’t keep living my unmanageable life as I had been.

They say Step 1 is the only step we can work perfectly, a step we have to work every day. Not just because I can easily forget that I am powerless over alcohol, but I’m also powerless over lots of other things too, and I sure am skilled at making my life unmanageable, even in sobriety.

– Dana

 

In order to stay sober, I have to practice honesty every day. It allows me to see things how they really are and approach my life with humility. I have to apply the principle of Step 1 on a daily basis: I’m neither better nor worse than everyone else. When I align myself with reality, I’m shown how to surrender. I’m able to learn how to let go. That’s how I begin to rightly relate myself with God. Honesty requires humility and vice versa. 

– anonymous 

 

When I left home at 18, I managed to live and work consistently with a lot of creatives, musicians and freelance types. None of us had much structure in our week and so we could treat every day like a weekend. This meant a lot of drinking and using but it also gave me the ability to go unnoticed as being a particularly problematic drinker.

As a musician, my life was consumed by alcohol. I was constantly on tour and it was easy to fall into the party lifestyle. At first, it was just a way to have fun and let off steam after shows.

But before long, I found myself unable to control my drinking or problematic behaviors that my sober self knew were causing me and others harm.

I had a lot of problems, but I was in denial. I told myself that I could handle it and that it wasn’t affecting my work. But the truth was, my drinking was ruining my relationships and my career. I was constantly late, lying, manipulating, losing belongings (including 5 passports which lead me to be questioned by police who thought I was dealing passports), breaking the hearts of people I loved and I alienating the people I cared about.

Finally, I had to come out of denial. It took one year of an ex-partner shining a light on my behavior and breaking up with me for me to finally cave and stop being defensive about my problems. I went to my first AA meeting and I understood quite quickly that it was necessary for me to fully accept my powerlessness and take the first steps toward recovery.

When I could answer the simple questions “Do I have a problem with drinking?”, “Is my life unmanageable?” with an emphatic “Yes!” I was ready to work the steps with a sponsor.

So, I couldn’t control my drinking and my life had become unmanageable as a result.

I had to be honest with myself and my sponsor about my alcohol use and about the effect my behaviors had on myself and everyone around me. This was uncomfortable, but it was necessary and surprisingly rewarding. For me, Step one is all about its core principle: 

Honesty.

Honesty has set me free.

– Harry

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