How Do You Deal With A Rebellious Child?

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But when he came to himself he said, “How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough to spare, and I’m dying with hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and will tell him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight. I am no more worthy to be called your son. Make me as one of your hired servants.'”

He arose, and came to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him, and was moved with compassion, and ran towards him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.

— Luke 15:17–20, World English Bible

The odds for someone having a Rebellious child are very high, if you have any children at all. I believe that most parents don’t set out to hurt or harm their children. I know without a doubt that my mother loved me, she showed it in many ways in my fifty eight years, and she never gave up on me. 

My experience, strength, and hope has taught me what does NOT work. I was the Rebellious child. I did not want anyone telling me what to do, or running my life. My mother did the best that she knew how to do at the time. I hope that my experience can help someone, if only one. 

In the sixties, parents were taught that if you “spare the rod” then you will “spoil” the child. So, my mother went overboard and God bless her, she tried to teach me right, and make me mind. She did not realize that the more she shamed me and beat me, the more she hurt me not just physically but mentally too. I grew more angry, depressed, and stubborn and I escaped my pain through my addictions. It was inevitable that I would grow up with some kind of addiction. I spent twenty years in my addictions, and miserable and depressed. 

My mother and I had a wonderful relationship the last six years of her life. She never gave up on me, she just learned to not “enable” me, but she was always there when I needed her. She lived with us and we traveled together and became very good friends. We each benefited from my twelve step program. She learned to not try to control me, and I learned the same. I learned to “let go” of the past, and love her unconditionally, because that is what I needed from her. I had to learn to accept that she was in her eighties and that she was not going to change, but she was my mother and I did not care and wanted to be with her anyway. I really ache for those that missed out on time with their loved ones because of hanging onto “resentments”. Enough about me for now. Now, for the solution. 

My advice on the other side of the fence, is that I was the Rebellious child like is written about in the Bible. It is written about the “prodigal son” but it also applies to the prodigal daughters too! I was the “prodigal daughter”. I know that praying continually and unceasingly is the number one answer. But…next and just as important is to take the right actions. NOT enabling our children is very important. Mother never gave up on me, but she did not enable me. I am so happy that she did not. I am the wonderful woman that I am today because of God, the twelve steps, and her.

Many parents “enable” their children out of love…but it is NOT good for them or you. If mother had continued to “enable” me…then I would have had no reason to ever grow up or become responsible for myself.

I know that are some parents that are so needy, and so desperate for love, that they allow their children to “use” and “abuse” them.

Thank God, my mother was NOT like that. She was a strong, and independent woman. She wanted me to be independent and to be happy. Today, by God’s grace and my wonderful mother, I AM grown up, responsible, and I am happy. 

I know some people that have mothers that are so needy and have suffered abuse and addictions from their own parents, that they allow their children to “use” and “abuse” them. They think that they are helping them, they are NOT. If you do NOT want your children to grow up or be “healthy” and become responsible for themselves, then just keep doing what you have been doing. If you want something different, then you must do something different. Parenthood is NOT for sissies! 

Let’s Celebrate! I Celebrated 29 Years of Recovery In Al-Anon Last Night!

LET'S CELEBRATE

Thanks so much for everyone helping me to celebrate my beginnings in Al-Anon. I celebrate my “New Beginnings” on this night. I have come a long way baby!

I thank God everyday that He led me to Al-Anon ( a free twelve step program) on a Friday, March 28, 1986. He knew what it would take for me to wake up and learn how to “Let go and let God” of my ex-husband who was in his active alcoholic lifestyle. He choose to continue in his disease and I chose not to continue in his disease with him. Thank God, I have a choice and I do not have to be miserable anymore. I choose recovery. 

I have no doubt whatsoever that without this program for living, I would not be married to the man that I am, be living where I am, nor be as happy as I am without it.

This program saved my sanity and taught me to have serenity even in the face of chaos and depression.  I am so grateful for all the special ladies that have helped me to stay sane and gave me hope for happiness and serenity.

I had family that had problems with alcoholism and they had found help and hope through the Twelve Step programs. So, I went to try and find a way to “fix” my husband. I did not have any idea what it was about. I believed that if I could “fix” my husband, then I could be happy. I did not think that I could be happy unless I “fixed” him.  

I found the hope and the help that I needed there. Even though things are not perfect in my life, and never will be, I have learned to be happy no matter what is going on in my life.

After three years of attending meetings and working the steps, I was finally able to accept the fact that I was trying to “play god” and I was trying to make him do as I wanted him to. So, I accepted the fact that I could not change him,  but also that I had a right to be happy too. I did not have to put up with his unacceptable behaviors unless I wanted to. I did divorce him, and I went on to work on myself.

I am happily married today, but without the program to teach me how to “live and let live”, I would not how to live “life on life’s terms” and to be happy. My happiness is not dependent on another person. 

I will never outgrow my need for the program and the fellowship, and my way of showing my gratitude for what I was freely given is to continue to give it back to the newcomers. 

“After having suffered alone with the effects of this brutal disease, the Al-Anon fellowship is an unexpectedly and nourishing source of compassion and support.” source: How Al-Anon works for Families and Friends of Alcoholics p. 11

Loving and Honoring Yourself Is NOT Selfish!

LOVE YOURSELF

As a child I was taught to not be selfish and think about all the other starving children or orphans. It was drilled into me that I should not think about myself, and to only think about others. I was so miserable, and I lived in constant chaos. I hated school! I lost my identity about the age of twelve when my addictions began.

No one told me to be good to me, or that it was ok for me to think about my needs too. I became an “enabler” and a “Co-Dependent” person. I hated me because I was never perfect, and could never live up to the expectations set on me by my parents. I grew to hate me and magnified all my flaws and did not look at the good things about me. I was terrified of being “abandoned” and not being loved, or being different from others. I allowed others to define me because I had no definition of myself, except so and so’s daughter, so and so’s wife. It was not alright for me to be me, or for me to choose who I wanted to be. I lived in Fantasy instead of Reality, because I hated myself and my life so much that I escaped the pain through my addictions. I had an “addictive personality”. 

Praise God, in my recovery, I have learned that I have a choice, and I can choose who I want to be, where I want to live, what I want to do, and that I AM Special, Loved, Wanted, and Needed, “Just as I am”. I am not Selfish, but I think of me less.

My program taught me how to have relationships with the priorities in order of number one God, then myself, and then others. I don’t have to give up me to be loved by you. I can be happy serving God, but taking care of me and my family too. We are supposed to take care of ourselves first then others. Like the example of the oxygen mask, if I don’t take care of me then I am not strong enough to help others. I cannot save the world.

C.S. Lewis

Complacency Can Kill

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“Complacency is

1:  self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies
2:  an instance of usually unaware or uninformed self-satisfaction

Examples of COMPLACENCY

  1. The public was lulled into complacency.
  2. <a momentary complacency that was quickly dispelled by the shock of cold reality>
  3. He sees a dangerous sense of complacency about the U.S. stock market—where investors were emboldened.” source: Merriam Webster
“I’m worried that students will take their obedient place in society and look to become successful cogs in the wheel – let the wheel spin them around as it wants without taking a look at what they’re doing. I’m concerned that students not become passive acceptors of the official doctrine that’s handed down to them from the White House, the media, textbooks, teachers and preachers.”
Howard Zinn
I believe without a doubt complacency is exactly what happened to our country.
We all got too comfortable and took for granted our freedoms that we enjoy in America. Our freedoms that we enjoy because of all of our Heroes that fought and died to protect.
We sat back and allowed them to take God out of our schools, and to “socialize” our children into believing  that everything would be better if we had socialism in America. We were taught to share with those less fortunate, and that somehow we “owed” it to them, or that we did not deserve what we had that we had obtained by working for it!
We allowed others to “use” and “abuse” us, and to “rob” us of our freedoms.
No one owes them anything!
They are NOT “entitled” to what others have worked to get. If they want something then they should be taught to get out and work for it! It is NOT OK to con, lie, cheat, or steal things from others. Morals and Manners have all but been forgotten.
In the past, I had not cared about politics at all. I had never even discussed them before. My mother and grandfather had voted Republican, but I always voted for the person not the party.
I took for granted that we would always have our freedoms. I was never afraid of losing them until obama was allowed to STEAL his way into our W.H. through voter fraud and the financial backing of Corrupt, Communist, Demon-Rats!
I am awake now!! And…I am angry, and disgusted with what that Demon has done to our country!
We the People, who have morals, and integrity, and who love our country MUST take back our country before the Demon completely destroys our beloved America.
We MUST all unite and vote straight Republican, so that we can take back the Senate and keep the House.
We will have the Power to Impeach the Usurper if we stick together.
If we do not then the Demon will have his way and finish turning our country into a third world Hell Hole like the one that obama conned his way out of by using “white guilt” against suckers who he robbed them of their money to buy his way into our W.H.!! Supposedly, he was a “foreign student” when he robbed us taxpayers of our money to pay for his college! He is a THIEF!
Sobriety works the same way. Complacency kills many an alcoholic and addict. If they do not keep watch on their sobriety and do whatever it takes to stay clean and sober many of them will die from the disease.

Step 10~Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it

AA Big Book
AA Big Book (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Cover of
Cover of Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions

Step 10 Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it

“As we work the first nine Steps, we prepare ourselves for the adventure of a new life. But when we approach Step Ten we commence to put our A.A. way of living to practical use, day by day, in fair weather or foul. Then comes the acid test: can we stay sober, keep in emotional balance, and live to good purpose under all conditions?

A continuous look at our assets and liabilities, and a real desire to learn and grow by this means, are necessities for us. We alcoholics have learned this the hard way. More experienced people, of course, in all times and places have practiced unsparing self-survey and criticism. For the wise have always known that no one can make much of his life until self-searching becomes a regular habit, until he is able to admit and accept what he finds, and until he patiently and persistently tries to correct what is wrong. “

-Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, p.88

How It Works = HOW = Honesty, Open-mindedness, and Willing.

This thought brings us to Step Ten, which suggests we continue to take personal inventory and continue to set right any new mistakes as we go along. We vigorously commenced this way of living as we cleaned up the past.

We have entered the world of the Spirit. Our next function is to grow in understanding and effectiveness.

This is not an overnight matter. It should continue for our lifetime. Continue to watch for selfishness, dishonesty, resentment, and fear.

When these crop up, we ask God at once to remove them. We discuss them with someone immediately and make amends quickly if we have harmed anyone. Then we resolutely turn our thoughts to someone we can help. Love and tolerance of others is our code. 

-A.A. Big Book p.84 

More about Step 10 in the Big Book

A 10th Step prayer for Growth and Effectiveness:

“God, please help me Watch for Selfishness, Dishonesty, Resentment and Fear. When these crop up in me, help me to immediately ask you to remove them from me and help me discuss these feelings with someone. Father, help me to quickly make amends if I have harmed anyone and help me to resolutely turn my thoughts to someone I can Help. Help me to be Loving and Tolerant of everyone today. Amen” (84:2)

Tenth Step Prayer

My Higher Power, My daily prayer is to best serve you,
I pray I may continue to grow in understanding & effectiveness;
Help me to watch for selfishness, dishonesty, resentment and fear;
Help me to be willing to have You remove them at once;
I must be willing to discuss them with someone immediately;
I will make amends quickly if I have harmed anyone;
And then I will turn my thoughts toward helping someone else;
Please help me to remember to practice love and tolerance of others. (84:2)

Tenth Step Amends Prayer

“God, please forgive me for my failings today. I know that because of my failings, I was not able to be as effective as I could have been for you. Please forgive me and help me live thy will better today.  I ask you now to show me how to correct the errors I have just outlined. Guide me and direct me. Please remove my arrogance and my fear. Show me how to make my relationships right and grant me the humility and strength to do thy will.”(86:1)

The emphasis on inventory is heavy only because a great many of us have never really acquired the habit of accurate self-appraisal. Once this healthy practice has been groomed, it will be so interesting and profitable that the time it takes won’t be missed. For these minutes and sometimes hours spent in self-examination are bound to make all the other hours of our day better and happier. And at length our inventories become a regular part of everyday living, rather than unusual or set apart.
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, p. 89-90 

The Tenth Step can be a pressure relief valve. We work this step while the day’s ups and downs are still fresh in our minds. We list what we have done and try not to rationalize our actions. This may be done in writing at the end of the day. The first thing we do is stop! Then we take the time to allow ourselves the privilege of thinking. We examine our actions, our reactions, and our motives. We often find that we’ve been “doing” better than we’ve been “feeling”. This allows us to find out where we have gone wrong and admit fault before things get any worse. We need to avoid rationalizing. We promptly admit our faults, not explain them.

We work this step continuously. This is a prevention, and the more we do it, the less we will need the corrective part of this step. This is really a great tool. It gives us a way of avoiding grief before we bring it on ourselves. We monitor our feelings, our emotions, our fantasies, and our actions. By constantly looking at these things we may be able to avoid repeating the actions that make us feel bad. 
Narcotics Anonymous, Basic Text, Step 10 

Step 7-Humbly Asked Him To Remove Our Shortcomings

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The Seventh Step Prayer


from page 76 of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous

My Creator, 

I am now willing that You should have all of me,
good and bad.
I pray that You now remove from me
every single defect of character which stands in the way
of my usefulness to You and my fellows.
Grant me strength, as I go out from here,
to do Your bidding.

Amen


“Faith without works is dead.”

Copyright © Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc.

In practicing our Traditions, Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. has neither endorsed nor are they affiliated with Silkworth.net. Alcoholics Anonymous®, AA®, and the Big Book® are registered trademarks of Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc.

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AA’s 12 Step & 12 Traditions book online: http://www.aa.org/twelveandtwelve/en_tableofcnt.cfm

AA’s Big Book online: http://www.aa.org/lang/en/subpage.cfm?page=359

Are You Helping or Hurting = Enabling??

I am re-posting a earlier post that I hope everyone who needs to see it does. I pray to “help” not “hurt”.

I woke up today thinking about the topic of “hurting” or “helping” again today. I have been praying for God to “direct my thinking” and to help me to share what I need to share to try to help others find peace and serenity like I did. I am again dealing with trying to “help” not “hurt” a close family member that I love dearly and only want to help.

My natural instinct is to try and “fix”, “control”, or “cure” them. I admit that I hate being powerless! And…that reminded me that~~I have no right to try and do my will instead of God’s will. I wanted to fix the world, but I learned that was God’s job not mine. Thank God for AA, AL-ANON and all the twelve step programs.

“Acceptance is the answer to my problem. When I stopped living in the problem, and started living in the answer, the problem went away.” (AA Big Book, page 448) ~~the quote out of the book saved my sanity and serenity many times in the last Twenty Six (26) years. 

Sally's Serenity Spot

This close to Mother’s Day, and working in the field that I do, I have really been remembering how I was taught to be a Caretaker. My Mother raised me to be a loving, kind, unselfish, independent, strong, and moral person. I grew up living in my dream world, where everyone loved everybody, and there were no mean, hateful, and abusive people.

I have tried to help others all my life. I married an abusive and unfaithful man, and tried to fix him. Of course, it did not work, because we cannot Control, Change, or Cure anyone. I had to learn the difference between helping or hurting. I had to learn the meaning of “Enabling“. Enabling is doing for someone else, what they could do for themselves. If we continue to “enable” someone, then it serves to make them irresponsible, and not be responsible for their own…

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Step 6~Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character

6th-step-prayer

Step 6 Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character

How It Works – We have emphasized willingness as being indispensable. Are we now ready to let God remove from us all the things which we have admitted are objectionable? Can He now take them all, everyone? If we still cling to something we will not let go, we ask God to help us be willing. 

-A.A. Big Book p.76 

More about Step 6 in the Big Book

Comments from Web Sites and Publications

Step 6 is a step of preparation and reflection. I have been preparing for a significant change in my life and now I need to make sure that I am ready. I need to make sure in my own heart and mind that I am truly willing for God to remove these defects of character that have enabled my addictive behaviors. It might mean letting go of other things in my life in order to allow God to do the work that needs to be done. I need to determine if I am truly ready. 
– From 12Step.org


So Step Six – “Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character” – is A.A.’s way of stating the best possible attitude one can take in order to make a beginning on this lifetime job. This does not mean that we expect all our character defects to be lifted out of us as the drive to drink was. A few of them may be, but with most of them we shall have to be content with patient improvement. The words “entirely ready” underline the fact that we want to aim at the very best we know or can learn. 
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, p. 65


When we tried to clean ourselves up with our own power and “discipline” we kept ourselves agitated, confused, in denial, and worn out, and we were in almost constant emotional pain. We were like the man who tore the scab off his arm every morning to see if his wound had healed.

But it was in doing the sixth Step that I saw why I had become so exhausted. I’d been trying to do God’s part in the spiritual growth and healing process. In the program I was told that my part was “being entirely ready”, being ready tolet God be the controller and life-changer of myself and others. When I did that, my sponsor said, I would see how God’s power is released to flow through our lives to clean them only when we quit trying to control the how and when he is to use that power…At first this sounded like a call to complacency – until I got into Step Seven. This attitude of readiness to let God reach into our lives and uncover and remove the things that make us spiritually and emotionally sick is paradoxically the doorway to active and effective change of specific lifelong habits and sins. But it means turning loose of our control-even of our healing. 
A Hunger for Healing, p. 112-113


When we are working Step Six, it is important to remember that we are human and should not place unrealistic expectations on ourselves. This is a step of willingness. That is the spiritual principle of Step Six. It is as if to say that we are now willing to move in a spiritual direction. Being human we will, of course, wander.

Rebellion is a character defect that spoils us here. We need not lose faith when we become rebellious. The indifference or intolerance that rebellion can bring out in us has to be overcome by persistent effort. We keep asking for willingness. We may be doubtful still that God will see fit to relieve us or that something will go wrong. We ask another member who says, “You’re right where you’re supposed to be”. We renew our readiness to have our defects removed. We surrender to the simple suggestions that the Program offers us. Even though we are not entirely ready, we are headed in that direction. 
Narcotics Anonymous Basic Text, Chapter 4/Step 6


We must be specific in our identification of individual defects of character, and we must be specific about the changes required to recover from them. One cure does not fit all! The approach for addressing one addiction may not work at all for another. For instance, the rageaholic may need to reduce anger expression. Conversely, the anger phobic person, who has no permission to feel or experience anger, may need to mobilize anger expression and assertiveness. The treatment has to be very specifically tailored to the defect and to the person.

As a rule, most defects of character involve some imbalance in the expression of and the experience of our most basic human needs. For example, sexuality and ambition are not bad unless our experiences of those drives are imbalanced or codependent. If we are addicted to sex or driven by ambition to the point of workaholism, these expressions have become defects we must address. Our sixth step prayers would not be “Make me asexual” or “Take away my ambition.” Rather, we might pray, “Grant me a healthy expression of my sexuality” or “Channel ambition into enhancing my private life as well as my work life.”

As we hold known defects of character up to God, we must avoid self-shaming and self-condemnation. The goal here is spiritual release, not spiritual self-punishment. For most of us, this process is ongoing. We will not be healed and sent forward immediately; rather, recovery will be a daily effort to evaluate, balance, and adjust the healthy expression of all of our God-given needs. 
– Serenity, A Companion for Twelve Step Recovery, p. 50-51

INTO ACTION

Having made our personal inventory, what shall we do about it? We have been trying to get a new attitude, a new relationship with our Creator, and to discover the obstacles in our path. We have admitted certain defects; we have ascertained in a rough way what the trouble is; we have put our finger on the weak times in our personal inventory. Now these are about to be cast out. This requires action on our part, which, when completed, will mean that we have admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being, the exact nature of our defects. This brings us to the Fifth Step in the program of recovery mentioned in the preceding chapter.

This is perhaps difficult–especially discussing our defects with another person. We think we have done well enough in admitting these things to ourselves. There is doubt about that. In actual practice, we usually find a solitary self-appraisal insufficient. Many of us thought it necessary to go much further. We will be more reconciled to discussing ourselves with another person when we see good reasons why we should do so. The best reason first: If we skip this vital step, we may not overcome drinking. Time after time newcomers have tried to keep to themselves certain facts about their lives. Trying to avoid this humbling experience, they have turned to easier methods. Almost invariably they got drunk. Having persevered with the rest of the program, they wondered why they fell. We think the reason is that they never completed their housecleaning. They took inventory all right, but hung on to some of the worst items in stock. They only thought they had lost their egoism and fear; they only thought they had humbled themselves. But they had not learned enough of humility, fearlessness and honesty, in the sense we find it necessary, until they told someone else all their life story.

More than most people, the alcoholic leads a double life. He is very much the actor. To the outer world he presents his stage character. This is the one he likes his fellows to see. He wants to enjoy a certain reputation, but knows in his heart he doesn’t deserve it.

The inconsistency is made worse by the things he does on his sprees. Coming to his sense, he is revolted at certain episodes he vaguely remembers. These memories are a nightmare. He trembles to think someone might have observed him. As far as he can, he pushes these memories far inside himself. He hopes they will never see the light of day. He is under constant fear and tension–that makes for more drinking.

Psychologists are inclined to agree with us. We have spent thousands of dollars for examinations. We know but few instances where we have given these doctors a fair break. We have seldom told them the whole truth nor have we followed their advice. Unwilling to be honest with these sympathetic men, we were honest with no one else. Small wonder many in the medical profession have a low opinion of alcoholics and their chance for recovery!

We must be entirely honest with somebody if we expect to live long or happily in this world. Rightly and naturally, we think well before we choose the person or persons with whom to take this intimate and confidential step. Those of us belonging to a religious denomination which requires confession must, and of course, will want to go to the properly appointed authority whose duty it is to receive it. Though we have no religious conception, we may still do well to talk with someone ordained by an established religion. We often find such a person quick to see and understand our problem. Of course, we sometimes encounter people who do not understand alcoholics.

If we cannot or would rather not do this, we search our acquaintance for a close-mouthed, understanding friend. Perhaps our doctor or psychologist will be the person. It may be one of our own family, but we cannot disclose anything to our wives or our parents which will hurt them and make them unhappy. We have no right to save our own skin at another person’s expense. Such parts of our story we tell to someone who will understand, yet be unaffected. The rule is we must be hard on ourself, but always considerate of others.

Notwithstanding the great necessity for discussing ourselves with someone, it may be one is so situated that there is no suitable person available. If that is so, this step may be postponed, only, however, if we hold ourselves in complete readiness to go through with it at the first opportunity. We say this because we are very anxious that we talk to the right person. It is important that he be able to keep a confidence; that he fully understand and approve what we are driving at; that he will not try to change our plan. But we must not use this as a mere excuse to postpone.

When we decide who is to hear our story, we waste no time. We have a written inventory and we are prepared for a long talk. We explain to our partner what we are about to do and why we have to do it. He should realize that we are engaged upon a life-and-death errand. Most people approached in this way will be glad to help; they will be honored by our confidence.

We pocket our pride and go to it, illuminating every twist of character, every dark cranny of the past. Once we have taken this step, withholding nothing, we are delighted. We can look the world in the eye. We can be alone at perfect peace and ease. Our fears fall from us. We begin to feel the nearness of our Creator. We may have had certain spiritual beliefs, but now we begin to have a spiritual experience. The feeling that the drink problem has disappeared will often come strongly. We feel we are on the Broad Highway, walking hand in hand with the Spirit of the Universe.

Returning home we find a place where we can be quiet for an hour, carefully reviewing what we have done. We thank God from the bottom of our heart that we know Him better. Taking this book down from our shelf we turn to the page which contains the twelve steps. Carefully reading the first five proposals we ask if we have omitted anything, for we are building an arch through which we shall walk a free man at last. Is our work solid so far? Are the stones properly in place? Have we skimped on the cement put into the foundation? Have we tried to make mortar without sand?

If we can answer to our satisfaction, we then look at STEP SIX. We have emphasized willingness as being indispensable. Are we now ready to let God remove from us all the things which we have admitted are objectionable? Can He now take them all–every one? If we still cling to something we will not let go, we ask God to help us be willing.

Step 5~~Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs~~How It Works

Cover of "Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story...
Cover via Amazon
AA Big Book
AA Big Book (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Big Book Covertwelveandtwelvebook

Step 5 Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs

How It Works

This is perhaps difficult, especially discussing our defects with another person. We think we have done well enough in admitting these things to ourselves. There is doubt about that. In actual practice, we usually find a solitary self-appraisal insufficient. Many of us thought it necessary to go much further. We will be more reconciled to discussing ourselves with another person when we see good reasons why we should do so. The best reason first: If we skip this vital step, we may not overcome drinking. Time after time newcomers have tried to keep to themselves certain facts about their lives. Trying to avoid this humbling experience, they have turned to easier methods. Almost invariably they got drunk. Having persevered with the rest of the program, they wondered why they fell. We think the reason is that they never completed their housecleaning. They took inventory all right, but hung on to some of the worst items in stock. They only thought they had lost their egoism and fear; they only thought they had humbled themselves. But they had not learned enough of humility, fearlessness and honesty, in the sense we find it necessary, until they told someone else all their life story. 
-A.A. Big Book p.72-73 

More about Step 5 in the Big Book

Chapter 5

 
 

HOW IT WORKS

Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves. There are such unfortunates. They are not at fault; they seem to have been born that way. They are naturally incapable of grasping and developing a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty. Their chances are less than average. There are those, too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders, but many of them do recover if they have the capacity to be honest.

Our stories disclose in a general way what we used to be like, what happened, and what we are like now. If you have decided you want what we have and are willing to go to any length to get it–then you are ready to take certain steps.

At some of these we balked. thought we could find an easier, softer way. But we could not. With all the earnestness at our command, we beg of you to be fearless and thorough from the very start. Some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas and the result was nil until we let go absolutely.

Remember that we deal with alcohol–cunning, baffling, powerful! Without help it is too much for us. But there is One who has all power–that One is God. May you find Him now!

Half measures availed us nothing. We stood at the turning point. we asked His protection and care with complete abandon.

Here are the steps we took, which are suggested as a program of recovery:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol– that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God AS WE UNDERSTOOD HIM.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God AS WE UNDERSTOOD HIM, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

 

Many of us exclaimed, “What an order! I can’t go through with it.” Do not be discouraged. No one among us has been able to maintain anything like perfect adherence to these principles. We are not saints. The point is, that we are willing to grow along spiritual lines. The principles we have set down are guides to progress. We claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection.

Our description of the alcoholic, the chapter to the agnostic, and our personal adventure before and after make clear three pertinent ideas: 
(a) That we were alcoholic and could not manage our own lives. 
(b) That probably no human power could have relieved our alcoholism. 
(c) That God could and would if He were sought.

Being convinced, WE WERE AT STEP THREE, which is that we decided to turn our will and our life over to God as we understood Him. Just what do we mean by that, and just what do we do?

The first requirement is that we be convinced that any life run on self-will can hardly be a success. On that basis we are almost always in collision with something or somebody, even though our motives are good. Most people try to live by self-propulsion. Each person is like an actor who wants to run the whole show; is forever trying to arrange the lights, the ballet, the scenery and the rest of the players in his own way. If his arrangements would only stay put, if only people would do as he wished, the show would be great. Everybody, including himself, would be pleased. Life would be wonderful. In trying to make these arrangements our actor may sometimes be quite virtuous. He may be kind, considerate, patient, generous; even modest and self-sacrificing. On the other hand, he may be mean, egotistical, selfish and dishonest. But, as with most humans, he is more likely to have varied traits.

What usually happens? The show doesn’t come off very well. He begins to think life doesn’t treat him right. He decides to exert himself more. He becomes, on the next occasion, still more demanding or gracious, as the case may be. Still the play does not suit him. Admitting he may be somewhat at fault, he is sure that other people are more to blame. He becomes angry, indignant, self-pitying. What is his basic trouble? Is he not really a self-seeker even when trying to be kind? Is he not a victim of the delusion that he can wrest satisfaction and happiness out of this world if he only manages well? Is it not evident to all the rest of the ‘players that these are the things he wants? And do not his actions make each of them wish to retaliate, snatching all they can get out of the show? Is he not, even in his best moments, a producer of confusion rather than harmony?

Our actor is self-centered–ego-centric, as people like to call it nowadays. He is like the retired business man who lolls in the Florida sunshine in the winter complaining of the sad state of the nation; the minister who sighs over the sins of the twentieth century; politicians and reformers who are sure all would be Utopia if the rest of the world would only behave; the outlaw safe cracker who thinks society has wronged him; and the alcoholic who has lost all and is locked up. Whatever our protestations, are not most of us concerned with ourselves, our resentments, or our self-pity?

Selfishness–self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles. Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity, we step on the toes of our fellows and they retaliate. Sometimes they hurt us, seemingly without provocation, but we invariably find that at some time in the past we have made decisions based on self which later placed us in a position to be hurt.

So our troubles, we think, are basically of our own making. They arise out of ourselves, and the alcoholic is an extreme example of self-will run riot, though he usually doesn’t think so. Above everything, we alcoholics must be rid of this selfishness. We must, or it kill us! God makes that possible. And there often seems no way of entirely getting rid of self without His aid. Many of us had moral and philosophical convictions galore, but we could not live up to them even though we would have liked to. Neither could we reduce our self-centeredness much by wishing or trying on our own power. We had to have God’s help.

This is the how and the why of it. First of all, we had to quit playing God. It didn’t work. Next, we decided that hereafter in this drama of life, God was going to be our Director. He is the Principal; we are His agents. He is the Father, and we are His children. Most Good ideas are simple, and this concept was the keystone of the new and triumphant arch through which we passed to freedom.

When we sincerely took such a position, all sorts of remarkable things followed. We had a new Employer. Being all powerful, He provided what we needed, if we kept close to Him and performed His work well. Established on such a footing we became less and less interested in ourselves, our little plans and designs. More and more we became interested in seeing what we could contribute to life. As we felt new power flow in, as we enjoyed peace of mind, as we discovered we could face life successfully, as we became conscious of His presence, we began to lose our fear of today, tomorrow or the hereafter. We were reborn.

We were now at Step Three. Many of us said to our Maker, AS WE UNDERSTOOD HIM: “God, I offer myself to Thee–to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life. May I do Thy will always!” We thought well before taking this step making sure we were ready; that we could at last abandon ourselves utterly to Him.

We found it very desirable to take this spiritual step with an understanding person, such as our wife, best friend, or spiritual adviser. But it is better to meet God alone than with one who might misunderstand. The wording was, of course, quite optional so long as we expressed the idea, voicing it without reservation. This was only a beginning, though if honestly and humbly made, an effect, sometimes a very great one, was felt at once.

Next we launched out on a course of vigorous action, the first step of which is a personal housecleaning, which many of us had never attempted. Though our decision was vital and crucial step, it could have little permanent effect unless at once followed by a strenuous effort to face, and to be rid of, the things in ourselves which had been blocking us. Our liquor was but a symptom. So we had to get down to causes and conditions.

Therefore, we started upon a personal inventory. THIS WAS STEP FOUR. A business which takes no regular inventory usually goes broke. Taking commercial inventory is a fact-finding and a fact-facing process. It is an effort to discover the truth about the stock-in-trade. One object is to disclose damaged or unsalable goods, to get rid of them promptly and without regret. If the owner of the business is to be successful, he cannot fool himself about values.

We did exactly the same thing with our lives. We took stock honestly. First, we searched out the flaws in our make-up which caused our failure. Being convinced that self, manifested in various ways, was what had defeated us, we considered its common manifestations.

Resentment is the “number one” offender. It destroys more alcoholics than anything else. From it stem all forms of spiritual disease, for we have been not only mentally and physically ill, we have been spiritually sick. When the spiritual malady is overcome, we straighten out mentally and physically. In dealing with resentments, we set them on paper. We listed people, institutions or principle with who we were angry. We asked ourselves why we were angry. In most cases it was found that our self-esteem, our pocketbooks, our ambitions, our personal relationships, (including sex) were hurt or threatened. So we were sore. We were “burned up.”

On our grudge list we set opposite each name our injuries. Was it our self-esteem, our security, our ambitions, our personal, or sex relations, which had been interfered with?

We were usually as definite as this example:

 

I’M RESENTFUL AT THE CAUSE AFFECTS MY
Mr. Brown His attention to my wife Sex relations 
Self-esteem (fear)
Told my wife of my mistress Sex relations 
Self-esteem (fear).
Brown may get my job at the office Security 
Self-esteem (Fear)
Mrs. Jones She’s a nut–she snubbed me. She committed her husband for drinking. He’s my friend. She’s a gossip. Personal relationship. 
Self-esteem (fear)
My employer Unreasonable–Unjust–Overbearing–Threatens to fire me for drinking and padding my expense account. Self-esteem (fear) 
Security.
My wife Misunderstands and nags. Likes Brown. Wants house put in her name. Pride–Personal 
sex relations–
Security (fear)

 

We went back through our lives. Nothing counted but thoroughness and honesty. When we were finished we considered it carefully. The first thing apparent was that this world and its people were often quite wrong. To conclude that others were wrong was as far as most of us ever got. The usual outcome was that people continued to wrong us and we stayed sore. Sometimes it was remorse and then we were sore at ourselves. But the more we fought and tried to have our own way, the worse matters got. As in war, the victor only SEEMED to win. Our moments of triumph were short-lived.

It is plain that a life which includes deep resentment leads only to futility and unhappiness. To the precise extent that we permit these, do we squander the hours that might have been worth while. But with the alcoholic, whose hope is the maintenance and growth of a spiritual experience, this business of resentment is infinitely grave. We found that it is fatal. For when harboring such feeling we shut ourselves off from the sunlight of the Spirit. The insanity of alcohol returns and we drink again. And with us, to drink is to die.

If we were to live, we had to be free of anger. The grouch and the brainstorm were not for us. They may be the dubious luxury of normal men, but for alcoholics these things are poison.

We turned back to the list, for it held the key to the future. We were prepared to look for it from an entirely different angle. We began to see that the world and its people really dominated us. In that state, the wrong-doing of others, fancied or real, had power to actually kill. How could we escape? We saw that these resentments must be mastered, but how? We could not wish them away any more than alcohol.

This was our course: We realized that the people who wronged us were perhaps spiritually sick. Though we did not like their symptoms and the way these disturbed us, they, like ourselves, were sick too. We asked God to help us show them the same tolerance, pity, and patience that we would cheerfully grant a sick friend. When a person offended we said to ourselves, “This is a sick man. How can I be helpful to him? God save me from being angry. Thy will be done.”

We avoid retaliation or argument. We wouldn’t treat sick people that way. If we do, we destroy our chance of being helpful. We cannot be helpful to all people, but at least God will show us how to take a kindly and tolerant view of each and every one.

Referring to our list again. Putting out of our minds the wrongs others had done, we resolutely looked for our own mistakes. Where had we been selfish, dishonest, self-seeking and frightened? Though a situation had not been entirely our fault, we tried to disregard the other person involved entirely. Where were we to blame? The inventory was ours, not the other man’s. When we saw our faults we listed them. We placed them before us in black and white. We admitted our wrongs honestly and were willing to set these matters straight.

Notice that the word “fear” is bracketed alongside the difficulties with Mr. Brown, Mrs. Jones, the employer, and the wife. This short word somehow touches about every aspect of our lives. It was an evil and corroding thread; the fabric of our existence was shot through with it. It set in motion trains of circumstances which brought us misfortune we felt we didn’t deserve. But did not we, ourselves, set the ball rolling? Sometimes we think fear ought to be classed with stealing. It seems to cause more trouble.

We reviewed our fears thoroughly. We put them on paper, even though we had no resentment in connection with them. We asked ourselves why we had them. Wasn’t it because self-reliance failed us? Self-reliance was good as far as it went, but it didn’t go far enough. Some of us once had great self-confidence, but it didn’t fully solve the fear problem, or any other. When it made us cocky, it was worse.

Perhaps there is a better way–we think so. For we are now on a different basis; the basis of trusting and relying upon God. We trust infinite God rather than our finite selves. We are in the world to play the role He assigns. Just to the extent that we do as we think He would have us, and humbly rely on Him, does He enable us to match calamity with serenity.

We never apologize to anyone for depending upon our Creator. We can laugh at those who think spirituality the way of weakness. Paradoxically, it is the way of strength. The verdict of the ages is that faith means courage. All men of faith have courage. They trust their God. We never apologize for God. Instead we let Him demonstrate, through us, what He can do. We ask Him to remove our fear and direct our attention to what He would have us be. At once, we commence to outgrow fear.

Now about sex. Many of needed an overhauling there. But above all, we tried to be sensible on this question. It’s so easy to get way off the track. Here we find human opinions running to extremes–absurd extremes, perhaps. One set of voices cry that sex is a lust of our lower nature, a base necessity of procreation. Then we have the voices who cry for sex and more sex; who bewail the institution of marriage; who think that most of the troubles of the race are traceable to sex causes. They think we do not have enough of it, or that it isn’t the right kind. They see its significance everywhere. One school would allow man no flavor for his fare and the other would have us all on a straight pepper diet. We want to stay out of this controversy. We do not want to be the arbiter of anyone’s sex conduct. We all have sex problems. We’d hardly be human if we didn’t. What can we do about them?

We reviewed our own conduct over the years past. Where had we been selfish, dishonest, or inconsiderate? Whom had we hurt? Did we unjustifiably arouse jealousy, suspicion or bitterness? Where were we at fault, what should we have done instead? We got this all down on paper and looked at it.

In this way we tried to shape a sane and sound ideal for our future sex life. We subjected each relation to this test–was it selfish or not? We asked God to mold our ideals and help us to live up to them. We remembered always that our sex powers were God-given and therefore good, neither to be used lightly or selfishly nor to be despised and loathed.

Whatever our ideal turns out to be, we must be willing to grow toward it. We must be willing to make amends where we have done harm, provided that we do not bring about still more harm in so doing. In other words, we treat sex as we would any other problem. in meditation, we ask God what we should do about each specific matter. The right answer will come, if we want it.

God alone can judge our sex situation. Counsel with persons is often desirable, but we let God be the final judge. We realize that some people are as fanatical about sex as others are loose. We avoid hysterical thinking or advice.

Suppose we fall short of the chosen ideal and stumble? Does this mean we are going to get drunk? Some people tell us so. But this is only a half-truth. It depends on us and on our motives. If we are sorry for what we have done, and have the honest desire to let God take us to better things, we believe we will be forgiven and will have learned our lesson. If we are not sorry, and our conduct continues to harm others, we are quite sure to drink. We are not theorizing. These are facts out of our experience.

To sum up about sex: We earnestly pray for the right ideal, for guidance in each questionable situation, for sanity, and for the strength to do the right thing. If sex is very troublesome, we throw ourselves the harder into helping others. We think of their needs and work for them. This takes us out of ourselves. It quiets the imperious urge, when to yield would mean heartache.

If we have been thorough about our personal inventory, we have written down a lot. We have listed and analyzed our resentments. We have begun to comprehend their futility and their fatality. We have commenced to see their terrible destructiveness. We have begun to learn tolerance, patience and good will toward all men, even our enemies, for we look on them as sick people. We have listed the people we have hurt by our conduct, and are willing to straighten out the past if we can.

In this book you read again and again that faith did for us what we could not do for ourselves. We hope you are convinced now that God can remove whatever self-will has blocked you off from Him. If you have already made a decision, and an inventory of your grosser handicaps, you have made a good beginning. That being so you have swallowed and digested some big chunks of truth about yourself.

 

Step 4~~Alcoholics Anonymous -The Big Book Comes Alive ! Steps 4, 5, 6 With Joe and Charlie

Step Four~~Made a Searching and Fearless Inventory of Ourselves

Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves

 

How It Works

A business which takes no regular inventory usually goes broke. Taking commercial inventory is a fact-finding and a fact-facing process. It is an effort to discover the truth about the stock-in-trade. One object is to disclose damaged or unsalable goods, to get rid of them promptly and without regret. If the owner of the business is to be successful, he cannot fool himself about values.

We did exactly the same thing with our lives. We took stock honestly. First, we searched out the flaws in our make-up which caused our failure. Being convinced that self, manifested in various ways, was what had defeated us, we considered its common manifestations. 
-A.A. Big Book p.64 

More about Step 4 in the Big Book

 

Comments from Web Sites and Publications

During the first three steps I have turned my attention from my addiction and the wreckage that it has done to my life to the God that I have come to realize can deliver me from my addiction. I have faced the truth of my situation and turned this situation over to the God who can help me. Now it is time to start seeing things as they truly are rather than through the glass of my addicted mind and heart. The first step in this process of “getting real” is to take an honest inventory of my life. Exactly where have I been, what have I done and how far did I go in my addictive behaviors? When and where did they start and where have they led me? This is a vital step away from my addicted life filled with chaos and insane behaviors towards a conscious life filled with more personal power and serenity. 
– From 12Step.org


We want to find out exactly how, when and where our natural desires have warped us. We wish to look squarely at the unhappiness this has caused others and ourselves. By discovering what our emotional deformities are, we can move towards their correction. Without a willing and persistent effort to do this, there can be little sobriety or contentment for us. Without a searching and fearless moral inventory, most of us have found that the faith which really works in daily living is out of reach. 
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, p. 43 


In Step Four we call it a “moral” inventory because we compile a list of traits and behaviors that have transgressed our highest, or moral, values. We also inventory our “good” traits and the behaviors that represent them. In our life’s moral inventory the defects or dysfunctional behaviors might include some that once worked; some dysfunctional behaviors may have saved our lives as children, but they are now out-of-date, self-defeating, and cause us a great deal of trouble when we use them as adults. 
A Hunger for Healing, p. 61 


The purpose of a searching and fearless moral inventory is to sort through the confusion and the contradiction of our lives so that we can find out who we really are. We are starting a new way of life and need to be rid of the burdens and traps which have controlled us and prevented our growth.

As we approach this step, most of us are afraid that there is a monster inside us that, if released, will destroy us. This fear can cause us to put off our inventory or may even prevent us from taking this crucial step at all. We have found that fear is lack of faith, and we have found a loving, personal God to whom we can turn. We no longer need to be afraid.

… Step Four will help us toward our recovery more than we imagine. Most of us find that we were neither as terrible, nor as wonderful, as we supposed. We are surprised to find that we have good points in our inventory. Anyone who has some time in the Program and has worked this step will tell you that the Fourth Step was a turning point in their life. Some of us make the mistake of approaching the Fourth Step as if it were a confession of how horrible we are-what a bad person we have been. In this new way of life, a binge of emotional sorrow can be dangerous. This is not the purpose of the Fourth Step. We are trying to free ourselves of living in old, useless patterns. We take the Fourth Step to gain the necessary strength and insight which enables us to grow. We may approach the Fourth Step in a number of ways.

It is advisable that before we start, we go over the first three steps with a sponsor. 
Narcotics Anonymous Basic Text, Chapter 4/Step 4


A personal inventory is crucial to understanding the new direction of our spiritual growth. What aspects of our character do we need to retain and emphasize, and what should be modified or discarded? Six components that might go into such an inventory are described in the following paragraphs.

First, we may need to “tell our stories.” This can be accomplished by journaling, that is, by writing out our stories, and by sharing them with others in recovery meetings or private dialogue…

A second component in our inventory is discovering the roots of our addictions and codependencies. In most cases, this means we have to examine our childhoods. What needs were not met there? What negative experiences or messages about ourselves did we absorb in the dysfunctional family of origin? …

Third, we must confront and assess the full extent of our dependencies. Doing so, we will learn more about the severity of our primary addictions, and we may uncover other peripheral addictions we had not previously recognized. We should inventory and identify all of these codependent symptoms and addictions, which have manifested themselves in our adolescent and adult lives….

Fourth, we need to look back at our relationship history with the people who have been significant in our lives – parents, teachers, mentors, friends, romantic interests. We need to inventory all the ways we have hurt them and hurt ourselves by practicing our adult addictions and codependencies…

Fifth, we must address our guilt feelings. We realize that most addictions are shame-based and shame-propelled. To move beyond this shame-base, we need to distinguish between two major forms of guilt: 1) False shame, or carried shame… 2) Authentic guilt

Sixth, we must “look for the good”. An important counterbalancing dimension is that a Step 4 inventory should include the positive, as well as the negative, things about us… 
– Serenity, A Companion for Twelve Step Recovery, p. 38-42

Step 1~Powerlessness

Step 1 

We admitted we were powerless over our addiction – that our lives had become unmanageable

 How It Works

The fact is that most alcoholics, for reasons yet obscure, have lost the power of choice in drink. Our so-called willpower becomes practically non-existent. We are unable, at certain times, to bring into our consciousness with sufficient force the memory of the suffering and humiliation of even a week or a month ago. We are without defense against the first drink. 
– A.A. Big Book, p. 24 (Substitute your own addiction for drink if your addiction is different than alcohol) 

More about Step 1 in the Big Book

Comments from Web Sites and Publications

Step 1 is the first step to freedom. I admit to myself that something is seriously wrong in my life. I have created messes in my life. Perhaps my whole life is a mess, or maybe just important parts are a mess. I admit this and quit trying to play games with myself anymore. I realize that my life has become unmanageable in many ways. It is not under my control anymore. I do things that I later regret doing and tell myself that I will not do them again. But I do. I keep on doing them, in spite of my regrets, my denials, my vows, my cover-ups and my facades. The addiction has become bigger than I am. The first step is to admit the truth of where I am, that I am really powerless over this addiction and that I need help. 
– From 12Step.org


The principle that we will find no enduring strength until we first admit complete defeat is the main taproot from which our whole Society has sprung and flowered. 
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, p. 22


Why all this insistence that every A.A. must hit bottom first? The answer is that few people will sincerely try to practice the A.A. program unless they have hit bottom. For practicing A.A.’s remaining eleven steps means the adoption of attitudes and actions that almost no alcoholic who is still drinking can dream of taking. Who wishes to be rigorously honest and tolerant? Who wants to confess his faults to another and make restitution for harm done? Who cares anything about a Higher Power, let alone meditation and prayer? Who wants to sacrifice time and energy in trying to carry the A.A.’s message to the next sufferer? No, the average alcoholic, self-centered in the extreme, doesn’t care for this prospect – unless he has to do these things in order to stay alive himself.

Under the lash of alcoholism, we are driven to A.A. and there we discover the fatal nature of our situation. Then, and only then, do we become open-minded to conviction and as willing to listen as the dying can be. We stand ready to do anything that will lift the merciless obsession from us. 
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, p. 24


I believe the delusion of control and power finally breaks down at the point where we are not able to alleviate the stress and our pain thorugh any effort in our repertoire. Evidently what we all want is happiness, yet with all we have accomplished or acquired with our attemps to be in control, many of us reach a place at which we not only cannot control our happiness – even with an addictive substance or behavior – but we cannot control our pain and stress, which has reached an agonizing level. By this time the family may have left; the job may be gone; or one’s health may have been destroyed.

But we don’t have to go this far down. We can see the patterns of powerlessness and go for help. When we begin to realize how we act and feel when no one is around, or in our car alone in traffic, or in line in a store, or when we listen to a political commentator, or in our most intimate relationships in our homes or in our beds, we can look around in our lives and see other signs of powerlessness and unmanageability. In the end it is usually the pain of our compulsions, addictions, and denial and the resulting strained or broken relationships that drive us to the stark awareness of our powerlessness. Unfortunately it may take a tragedy or crisis to break through our delusion of power – a divorce, a family member’s addiction, a runaway child, a terminal illness, a bankruptcy, a death. 
– A Hunger for Healing, p. 25


When we admit our powerlessness and the inability to manage our own lives, we open the door to recovery. No one could convince us that we were addicts. It is an admission that we had to make for ourselves. When some of us have doubts, we ask ourselves this question: “Can I control my use of any form of mind or mood-altering chemicals?”

Most will see that control is impossible the moment it is suggested. Whatever the outcome, we find that we cannot control our using for any length of time.

This would clearly suggest that an addict has no control over drugs. Powerlessness means using against our will. If we can’t stop, how can we tell ourselves we are in control? The inability to stop using, even with the greatest willpower and the most sincere desire, is what we mean when we say, “We have absolutely no choice”. 
Narcotics Anonymous Basic Text, Chapter 4/Step 1


Admitting powerlessness is absolutely essential to breaking the addiction cycle, which is made up of five points:

  1. Pain  
  2. Reaching out to an addictive agent, such as work, food, sex, alcohol, or dependent relationships to salve our pain 
  3. Temporary anesthesia  
  4. Negative consequences  
  5. Shame and guilt, which result in more pain or low self-esteem  

For example, the workaholic who has low self-esteem (pain) begins to overwork (addictive agent), which results in praise, success, and achievement (relief). However, as a rule, family relationships and his personal relationship with God suffer terribly because of preoccupation with work (negative consequences). The result is an even greater sense of shame and guilt because of inadequacies, both real and imagined, which brings him back to point 1 in the addiction cycle. Now the workaholic feels compelled to work even harder to overcome his guilt.

Understanding the addiction cycle is important because it helps explain why for both the Oxford Group and for Bill Wilson, the admission of powerlessness is the first step to recovery. Otherwise, we remain caught. If we rely on willpower alone, then the only thing we know to do is to escalate our addiction to get out of the pain. Step 1 calls us to do less – to yield, to surrender, to let go. 
– Serenity, A Companion for Twelve Step Recovery, p. 22-23


The central task of Step 1 is to recognize that our lives are beyond our control, and we cannot continue our superhuman efforts at patching up the many mistakes we make. We recognize that it is time to move from a crisis mode to a prevention mode.

Here are some familiar patterns:

  • Alcoholics or drug abusers find that no one will believe their promises anymore.
  • Overeaters recognize that all diets have ultimately failed and that they are now facing life-threatening illness.
  • Co-dependents find they are too ill or exhausted to go on doing everyone’s work and that others have become more and more resistant to the co-dependent’s efforts to control them.
  • Workaholics find deadlines passing by unmet, forget to write down appointments, or fall ill with no “contingency plan”.
  • ACOAs become so overwhelmed by their standards and commitments that they cannot get out of bed to act on anything.

– The Twelve Step Journal, p. 39

Cover of "Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditi...
Cover of Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions

Wants vs Needs

There are actual needs, and there are arbitrary wants. The most basic needs you as a human require for survival are oxygen, water, food, clothing and shelter. Anything beyond those are “wants”.

Many things can satisfy your basic needs. A cave for shelter, a blanket for clothing, rainwater for water, but you must have them for basic survival. Wants have nothing to do with actual survival.

When you cannot distinguish between wants versus needs, or if you can’t identify a want as a want, you set yourself up to live in a constant state of craving and disappointment.

If you don’t get an item or situation you have been hoping for, ask yourself if it was just an arbitrary want. Was it something you decided to want based on an advertisement or suggestion, or did it just pop into your head?

Don’t get me wrong–I want things I don’t need just as much as anyone. But when it looks like I may not get them, I ask myself what it is, and realize in almost every case, it was just an arbitrary want, brought on by a “that would be cool” whim that popped into my head out of nowhere.

When you recognize a want as just a want, you begin to realize the silliness of wanting things and situations based on nothing in particular, and the futility of being disappointed when they don’t materialize.

But isn’t it selfish to want money or a job or a relationship or cool stuff? It depends. If your desires are born of the ego, of a desire to avoid bad feelings or lack or loneliness or to boost your identity, yes–that is selfish, and even if you get what you want, it will not help you to feel good. But if your goals are born of spirit–of a desire to share, to create beauty and good, to help others lose their ever-present fear that drives them to seek happiness in things that cannot give it to them, no, that is not selfish. That is spiritual. That is God-like. Yes, you can want and have abundance.” 

I spent most of my life searching for something or someone to make me happy, or to change the way I felt. For some reason I believed that if I had the “right” body, the “right” husband, the “right” house, the “right” job, and then I would be happy.

Then in my addiction no matter what I had there was nothing that filled that empty hole in my soul. I was never happy or serene. I did not even know what that was. I lived in Chaos and from “crisis to crisis”.

I wasted a lot of years “wanting” something else besides what I had.  By the grace of God and the twelve steps I learned to be content with what I have, and to “live life on life’s terms”.

My grandfather used to say, “Always wanting what is not. When it’s cold you want it hot. When it is hot you want it cold.” No matter what I had I always thought that I should have something else. By following the principles that I have learned in my program of recovery, I have learned “in whatsoever state I am in to be content.” God supplies all of our needs and some of our wants. I had to learn to be happy with whatever God gave me, and stop being an ungrateful brat.  Our minister put it in a sermon, “More, More, More“.

For the first time in my life, I am happy with exactly what I have. I have a wonderful husband and family, a comfortable home and a paid off truck to drive. We have all of our needs met by God’s grace.  I have few wants nowadays, so I am happy with little. I have had much and I have had little.

Things cannot make you happy. I have had the “things”, that I thought would make me happy, but they did not. And…really it is all just “stuff”…and can be taken away at anytime.

God has to be number one then me choosing to do God’s will for me has given me peace and serenity.

12 Step work takes me out of me (It is the 12th. Step in action) it remind us to be grateful, and that But for the grace of God; I could be in jail or dead. No, life is not perfect, but I love being free and saying, doing, and feeling whatever I want to. I just have to be willing to reap my Consequences. I got “sick and tired” of being “sick and tired”.

I found my “higher power” in AA. At three years, I went back to church and studied the Bible, but my recovery came from the twelve steps. I was a very unhappy and depressed child. I lived in my own “fantasy” world. I hated “reality”.

My “higher power” at first was my group and my sponsor, because I hated God so much and I felt he never answered my prayers when I had prayed for protection from my abusers. You probably have already heard it before but just in case you haven’t: God never gave up on us, we gave up on Him.

HANG ON FOR ONE MORE DAY! MY FAVORITE SONG OF ALL!

This is one of my all time favorite songs. I have been singing it since it came out. My little boy even sang along with us. It helped lift my spirits, and helped me to “hang on for one more day”. My “New Life” began on Friday, March 28, 1986–26 years of growing up and being responsible for my own feeling, thinking, and acting. Never, never give up!