Part three of a three part series on the first step to recovery.

Step One:“We admitted that we were powerless over our addiction, that our lives had become unmanageable”

The first of the Twelve Steps states, “We admitted that we were powerless over our addiction, that our lives had become unmanageable” (Narcotics Anonymous: The Sixth Edition, 2008). This step is the foundation in which recovery is built upon.

When an addict is ready to admit that their life is unmanageable and that they are powerless to stop using, this is when surrender occurs.

All or Nothing

Surrendering to addiction means that the addict accepts that they are indeed an addict. It means that they are completely willing to end the fight and have become open and willing to ask and accept help.

Surrender is not to be confused with resignation. With resignation, the addict recognizes that their life is unmanageable, but still hold on to the belief that they are not an addict/alcoholic. It is this type of person that is often referred to as a “dry addict” or a “dry drunk”.

The individual has stopped using but has not accepted the fact that they are powerless to control their addiction. They fail to progress in their recovery and are unable to take an open and honest look at themselves.

This denial and inability or unwillingness to look inward causes many resigned addicts to relapse.

A recovering addict once said that there is “beauty at the bottom”. Meaning, that only when an addict has completely bottomed out, life is a total disaster and the only choice left is to surrender the fight and get help or die, does recovery actually begin.

Many have said that it is their best thinking that has taken them down the road of active addiction and that they were not able to break free until they had completely surrendered everything.

Sweet Surrender

Unhealthy or inaccurate thoughts about self and life must be surrendered.

It is a letting go of old ways, people, places, things and belief systems. When the first step is taken, it frees the addict from active use.

Many have believed that the word ‘powerless’ indicates a sign of weakness or points towards a character defect or moral corruption. What it in fact means is that the addict is powerless to stop using once started.

This does not define the person. It simply indicated that the person suffers from the disease of addiction. It is a disease of the emotion not the character of the person. Once the first step is embraced, the recovering addict begins to learn how to deal with life on life’s terms.

They are able to allow themselves to be vulnerable and to accept suggestions and become open to principles of honesty, open-mindedness and willingness. With the acceptance of these three spiritual principles, recovery is then possible.


The first step is also a promise of freedom; freedom from active addiction. Once the first step is embraced, an addict need never use again. It opens the door to spiritual development and healing.

Many addicts in recovery have said that once they took that first step, they felt an overwhelming sense of peace. They describe it as a “huge weight that had been lifted off my chest” and “for the first time in years, I was able to breathe”.

This freedom from active addiction allows the individual to become open to a new way of life. It does not promise that life will be perfect and painful times will never occur.

It promises that when times become difficult, the addict in recovery will learn healthy ways to cope and process emotional suffering without the use of drugs. Very often, an addict in the very early stages of recovery needs to learn basic life skills; how to eat properly, how to pay bills, how to socialize appropriately. This can often be overwhelming.

However, a recovering addict need never do these things alone. Being a member of a recovery program, means that a recovering addict has the support of those members who have gone before him, who have had to learn basic skills and how to live a life without the use of drugs and alcohol.

Within these programs, there is continuous support from other addicts who have walked the same path. Their experience will help guide the way into a life of recovery and teach the addict that they are not defined by the choices they made, the people they hurt or the drugs they used while in active addiction.

The lesson becomes that the addict is not responsible for the disease of addiction, but the addict is responsible for their recovery. This freedom from active addiction begins to restore the body, mind and spirit and opens the door to further recovery found in the next step.

Check back next month for a discussion on Step 2 of the 12 Steps to recovery.