Step One to Life Transformation

Step One

We admitted we were powerless over alcohol and our lives had become unmanageable

Who cares to admit complete defeat? Practically no one of course.

So begins Bill Wilson’s, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), essay on the principles of Step One in his book “The 12 Steps and 12 Traditions” of Alcoholics Anonymous. Yes, practically no one wants to admit defeat, that they are licked. What most of us learn in popular Western culture are things like,

Never Surrender. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again! I think I can. I think I can. I think I can. Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.

A personal favorite was illustrated in a common 1970’s poster of a kitten hanging onto a rope:

Hang in there Baby! (When you get to the end of your rope, tie a big knot, and hang on!)

It is all about control


So how does this notion of control apply to alcoholism? This is a most puzzling dilemma for all involved.  Consider this, social drinkers never try to control their drinking. “The idea that somehow, someday he will control and enjoy his drinking is the great obsession of every abnormal drinker.” And it never never works. The very act of attempting to control means that alcohol is already in control.  Disagree? Well, non-alcoholics never try to convince themselves or others that they are not alcoholic. Lack of control then is really the basic tenant of Step One.

People come into recovery seeking help for alcoholism or other forms of addiction in varying stages of suffering, and if they are lucky enough, they have had enough suffering. The so called ‘bottom’. Everything about recovery is contrary to what most people learn from popular Western culture and from their families.  Most seek rehab or recovery hoping to learn tools to fight alcoholism. They say things like, “I’m going to fight this thing!”, or “I am going to win the battle against alcohol”. Hopefully they will stay around long enough to realize that this thinking is faulty and will soon get them drunk. When the fight is over, the battle is won. Freedom from surrender. The victor is alcohol. Step One is freedom for sure.

We admitted we were powerless over alcohol

Further on in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, we are told that we have “ceased fighting anything or anyone – even alcohol”. Have you ever played tug of war with a dog? Depending on the strength and size of the dog, you can struggle, pull and pull and pull. When you finally surrender, let go of the rope, there is no more pulling. No matter how insistently or what the dog tries to do, if you don’t pick up the rope again, the dog can’t fight with you. The game is over. This is what surrender to alcoholism is like. You simply “let go”. And then, through the next of the 12 steps, we surrender to a power greater than ourselves. Step One then is the gateway to the other steps.

step-one- tug-of-war-dog

The second part of Step One is that

and our lives had become unmanageable.

This is easier for some people than for others. People coming into addiction recovery who still appear successful on the outside can really balk at the idea that they have somehow failed. Not just through their alcoholism, but in all areas of their life that are governed by thinking and feeling. Remember Step One is about defeat.  Most people though, if they stay long enough (we suggest 90 meetings in 90 days), with the help of a sponsor, will see the truth of their whole lives.  Oftentimes shambles!

And then comes the good news. Once we have admitted our powerlessness, we find a power greater than ourselves in step two. When we surrender, we find, paradoxically, that we win. It is through admitting defeat that we find victory. Recovery is full of paradoxes; there is no logical sense to it at all. Soon you will find the new and improved answer to being at the end of your rope. Instead of ‘hanging on’, you just ‘let go’. And then, you are free!

Learning About The Steps in Panama

Serenity Vista Retreat in Panama is about more than just freedom from alcohol or other drugs. The basic, universal spiritual principles embodied in The Steps, are inherent in our approach to helping people transform all aspects of their lives, regardless of whether there is a preexisting chemical dependency or addiction. It is about achieving freedom from the bondage of self – freedom from anxiety, doubt, worry and self sabotage. More and more people are seeking this freedom even when substance or process addiction is not present in their lives.

If you are ready for freedom from ANYTHING that is keeping you stuck, thoughts, belief systems, relationships, feelings, behaviors, consider a 30 to 90 day intensive spiritual retreat that will TRANSFORM your life. Sadly, popular culture was wrong. If the lessons you learned growing up were true, you wouldn’t be reading this blog. Find out how Serenity Vista can help you create the life that you can live with, and love!

Click here for more inspiration on transforming your life!



Adapted from an article originally published by Jane Derry, Serenity Vista, in Magnifique online magazine, 2015,


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