"We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable."
When I got to AA, I knew I drank WAY too much. I knew I was sick of it. I knew that there was something very very wrong with my life. I knew I was suicidal most of the time. I knew I was a lousy wife and mother. A lousy housekeeper, a lousy bookkeeper, a lousy most everything. When I got to AA, I was honestly thrilled to think that I might have *one* problem instead of the thousands I thought I had.
I thought I might be a little bit of an alcoholic. It only took a few weeks in AA to realize that I related to the drinking of almost everyone. The housewife, the nun, the stock-broker, the doctor, the bank robber, the Larimer Street (it used to be skid row in Denver before it got gentrified) wino, and the person who was locked up in the nut house. I sat around an AA club and swapped stories with bikers and truckers and bankers and lawyers. It took only a short while to realize that not once had I ever said "holy cow, I never drank like you guys!" Not once.
I was thrilled to stop drinking. It hurt like hell for the first weeks. I was shaking. I was sick. I was waking up with night sweats. I was sick as a dog. But I was so relieved. It was actually easier to be sick than to be doing what I had tried for years - controlled drinking. I loved being sober. I loved throwing in the towel and saying I couldn't do it anymore. It was a tremendous relief.
But after a few months of sobriety, I didn't get the idea of powerlessness. I thought I was powerful enough to stop drinking. I thought I was powerful enough to go out and get a job and leave my husband and get an apartment and pay my bills, etc. It took me nearly five years to "get" the idea of powerlessness and unmanageability.
When I woke up on the wrong side of the locked doors of a psychiatric ward at 4 1/2 years of sobriety, I suddenly knew what it meant for your life to be unmanageable. I had managed my life well enough to drive myself into suicidal exhaustion. I had always laughed at the folks in AA who had lost everything but then would say "but I didn't pick up a drink!" As if that was a good thing! Well, on that morning in January 1989, I realized that the fact that I hadn't taken a drink WAS a good thing indeed, in fact miraculous, and that it was good enough. I knew I had lots of work ahead of me and I was willing to do it.
Somehow it is a lot easier to turn it all over to God when you are in such a jam. And I did. But this time I never took it back... but I am getting ahead to other steps.
For me, Step One is ever-evolving. I have over the years come to know my powerlessness on a cellular level. I am sure it will continue to evolve as long as I am open to learning and haven't decided that I know it all.
One of my favorite Step One stories is this: I was sober almost 6 years. I was about to marry a man. I was living as an illegal alien migrant farm worker in Canada (I thought that was a hilarious, but oh-so-accurate way to describe my status). He was an Australian crop-duster. I was working for him doing the books. We were in a remote town in Alberta. I could not find an AA meeting. I think I went 6 weeks without a meeting - however long we were in that place. One fine day, my soon-to-be-husband asked me to stand in the road and stop traffic so that he could use the highway as his runway.
I started crying. I started walking around in circles, pulling my hair. I told him "I am from Chicago! I can't do this! I don't belong here!" Suddenly it occurred to me that I was behaving like a wimp! I knew I was not a wimp, so I asked myself what was wrong with me that I was acting like this. The thought came to me like a thunderbolt - "You need a beer." And then next thought was "WHAT? I haven't had a drink for nearly 6 years! How can I need a beer?"
Then I realized that I either need to be actively involved in AA, or I truly do need a drink. Left to my own devices, I am not capable of quitting drinking, or being a viable human being. I need to acknowledge my powerless over alcohol and my inability to manage my own life.... and then things change. And my life begins to look like something that is desirable. It may look manageable because it does have a manager, but the manager is not me!
Step Two tomorrow...