Last updated: 09 November 2023 & medically reviewed by Dr. Kimberly Langdon
The 12 step program of Alcoholics Anonymous is a world-renowned system for helping those addicted to alcohol get the help they need to achieve long-term sobriety. Below we look at the first step and what the principles of AA are.
Once a person decides to get help through the AA 12 Step system, they have entered into a commitment towards recovery.
Declaring you are powerless in the face of alcohol addiction is the basis for making powerful changes in order to get free of it.
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Where to start: 1st step prayer
The first part of the journey to recovery from alcohol dependence is to admit you have a problem and that you want to stop drinking. That is why the first step of the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) begins with making a declarative statement:
“We admitted we were powerless over alcohol and that our lives had become unmanageable.”
While this may seem like a simple statement on the surface, declaring you are powerless in the face of alcohol addiction is the basis for making powerful changes in order to get free of it.
Dr. Matt Glowiak had this to say about the first step of AA;
The process of the 12 steps
Once a person decides to get help through the AA 12 Step system, they have entered into a commitment towards recovery. This does not mean that they will not fall down sometimes and members may have to return to the first step and begin again.
It is important to start here, especially after relapse, as it serves as a constant reminder that those suffering from addiction will always be powerless towards alcohol. It helps to remind them that the tools and strategies, support structures and sponsors, are all part of a larger journey to sobriety that can not be accomplished alone.
Important principles Step 1 teaches
Step 1 teaches valuable lessons and principles that are valuable throughout a person's entire recovery journey. These range from support techniques to how meetings are organized.
Speaking at a meeting
Regardless of how long someone has been attending AA, if they speak at a meeting they first need to state their name and that they are an alcoholic. This means that they are always revisiting the first step, regardless of their current relationship with alcohol.
It serves as a reminder that all present are powerless in the face of alcohol, and that they are all equal in this regard. This is especially important for new members as it sets an equilibrium and helps remove nerves when facing sharing their experiences.
Telling someone if you feel like drinking
A common misconception amongst those who are beginning their recovery from alcohol addiction is that they aren’t supposed to be tempted by alcohol anymore. Not only is this notion wrong, but it can also lead to relapse as people withhold their desire to drink from others and keep it inside. Telling another person that you are tempted to drink helps cement that you have a problem you can’t control and that you can only overcome it through sharing with others.
Get a sponsor or seek help from a counselor
Admitting you are powerless in the face of your addiction is also admitting that you need help overcoming it. Speaking to a counselor can help develop tools and strategies to manage impulses and having a sponsor through AA means you have a person who is available to speak to when you are having a bad period or struggling with addiction.
If you drink, tell someone
Once someone enters into the 12 steps, there is often a deep-rooted sense that drinking means you have failed the whole process. This is why some people will continue to attend aa meetings without admitting they have drunk alcohol.
Telling someone you have relapsed can help as they will be able to support and reestablish you from step 1 as you accept you are powerless to your addiction.
How can I get help from Alcoholics Anonymous?
The 1st step of Alcoholics Anonymous is one of the most difficult for people to take. Whether you are attempting to get sober for the first time or you are returning to sobriety after a relapse, it can be scary or embarrassing to admit that you are unable to stop drinking on your own.
If you’re ready to get help with alcohol addiction, visit the AA website to find a support group near you.