Step 1 of the 12 Steps

Step 1 of the 12 Steps is about breaking through your denial and facing the consequences of your addictions.

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

Step 1 of the 12 StepsThe first step in your recovery involves going to 12 step meetings, finding a sponsor and working through the 12 steps with your sponsor. A sponsor is someone in the program that has more clean time than you and has already worked through the 12 steps with their sponsor.

It is important abstain to start the working the 12 steps.

In Alcoholics Anonymous members work the from the AA Big Book and in Narcotics Anonymous members work the steps from the NA Stepwork Guide.

 What is Step 1 About?

Step 1 teaches you about the disease of addiction. It teaches you that you cannot be cured but you can manage your addiction by working your recovery program.

Step 1 starts you on your journey to break through the denial of your problem. You do this by looking at the consequences of your addiction, assessing the damages you have done. Every addict has caused damage in almost every aspect of his/ her life. We have lost jobs, been evicted from our homes and damaged our relationships. A lot of us have been arrested for things such as drunken driving, possession of narcotics or theft.

Step 1 of the 12 steps

Most of us come into the program because of a particular event or series of events, very often this is what we call our Rock Bottom. While working Step 1 you will look at what brought you to this point.

Until we came into the program we most likely believed we could deal with our problem on our own, that we could control our problem. Step 1 addresses our powerlessness over our addiction. It takes us through the ways we tried (and failed) to do things our way. If we continue to try and do things our way on our own, the result will just be the same. We will continue to use and continue to cause damage to ourselves and others.

step 1 of the 12 steps changeWe go back through our life and look at the way our addiction affected every aspect in our lives, how our lives had become completely unmanageable.

On a personal note I can say that my addiction reached and contaminated every part of my life. I couldn’t have a healthy relationship with anyone. This was partly due to my actual behaviour in the relationship, the way I treated others. But another aspect is that no healthy man would ever have considered me a viable partner, the only men interested in me were as sick as I was. The applied to friendships. The only people that would have anything to do with me were addicts, alcoholics and mentally unhealthy people.

Every addict fears not being able to use every again. This fear holds us back and prevents us from seeking recovery.Perhaps we are too ashamed to admit to our problem, too scared what others will think of us if they know we are an addict? I can guarantee you that going for help doesn’t mean that they will find out then that you have a problem. I am sure everyone knows, usually the addict/ alcoholic is the last one to realise!  We go through all our reservations and concerns about getting clean and being in recovery.

Step 1 also helps us Surrender. There is a difference between resignation and surrender. Resignation is what we feel when we realise we are addicts but we haven’t accepted recovery as the answer to our problem. Surrender is when we accept the First Step is true for us and accept that recovery is the solution to our problem. We want to recover and we want to live a different life.

Each Step in the 12 Steps focuses on spiritual principles.

Spiritual Principles of Step 1

  • Honesty: we admit to ourselves we are an addict. We continue to be honest on a daily basis.
  • Open-mindedness: being ready to believe there may be another way to live and being willing to try it out.
  • Willingness: being willing to go to meetings, to follow our sponsor’s suggestions and to give recovery our best shot
  • Humility: acceptance of who we truly are. Not believing ourselves to be less or more than we actually are.
  • Acceptance: when we accept our addiction there is an profound inner change. We start to feel a sense of peace and a sense of hope. Through acceptance recovery can become a precious gift.

My Personal Experience of Step 1

The truth about any addict’s rock bottom is that unless you are dead you can always dig deeper. This was true for me. Every time I thought I was at my lowest point I could be I still managed to carry on and make more of a mess of my life.

I bumped into someone I knew from school (yes 15 years after leaving school) and she asked how I was doing. I told her I had just come out of rehab and her response was “Thank God, it’s about time!”. Yes, everyone knows long before you do! It took me 15 years to come to my realization.

I couldn’t get clean until I was ready to, to get to this point I had to rack up a lot of consequences and damages first. I had to get to a place where I couldn’t sit with my blinkers on anymore and pretend (to myself and to others) that I didn’t have a problem. It is when I had nowhere to wiggle to, now way to get out of things, that I came to a place where I was ready to admit my problem.

This was a scary place for me, but it is also the place where I started to move forward for the what felt like the first time in my life and not backwards.

If you have any questions about Step 1 or have anything you would like to add please leave a comment.

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Addiction Treatment for Recovery: The Start of my Journey

The start of my addiction treatment for recovery was a 3 week stay in a psychiatric ward.

I was still in denial and didn’t have a clue how much trouble I was in. I had blue eyes and a broken nose when I arrived there, compliments of an abusive relationship. I was covered in bruises. I believed I was a victim and had done nothing to deserve where I was in life.

Every addict will lay the blame an anything and everything but herself or himself. If we are in denial we can continue using. We can also blot out everything shameful we have done or been through by using more. And so the cycle continues…

Addiction Treatment for Recovery

Denial

During my stay there I was allowed out for a walk, giving me the perfect opportunity to find my dealer and acquire 2 grams of cocaine. On my return the staff saw immediately something was not right and tested me immediately. They considered kicking me out, but for some reason let me stay. They did make me go to my first 12 Step meeting the following day at the adjoining Addiction Clinc.

I went to the meeting and announced that I was in fact not an addict but the staff at the psychiatric ward thought I might be so I had to come join in. Sound crazy enough to you? Of course it is, I was completely delusional. What sane person leaves a psychiatric ward, takes drugs and comes back an hour later thinking this is normal?

Manipulation

On leaving the clinic I was advised by my psychiatrist to not have any mood or mind altering substances for the next 3 months. Looking back it is clear they were aware I had a serious problem. I considered this advice, to take or not to take as it pleases me. I didn’t use anything for a few days, which to me was hard core proof I didn’t have a problem. A few weeks later I managed to embarrass myself in public by getting so drunk I vomited and then fell out of a truck into my own vomit. I won’t go into too much detail on how that happened, you can use your imagination or you can read about that story and a good few more in my ebook.

Now having blue eyes and a broken nose once again did not sit well with my family that were concerned about me. They wanted me to go for addiction treatment. Once again I couldn’t figure out what all the fuss was about. I managed to convince them that I could get by with an outpatient program instead of being booked in anywhere.

This didn’t work very well for me. I continued to use and I failed every drug test. By the 3rd drug test I came to realise that I was on the verge of being kicked off the program and my family would not be pleased. Instead of telling my family I had been using I told them I was “struggling” and wanted to move out of my parents home into tertiary care, which is a home of safety. Then I told the clinic where I was doing the outpatient program that I was moving to a house of safety and could they please let me continue the program.

They allowed this and I am not sure how I managed to complete this program. I think a miscommunication between the 2 facilities must have occurred because I continued to use and neither facility tested me again.

Now I found myself living in a house of safety and trying to hide my using, not an easy task! One night I overdid, as of course I would. It was 20 minutes before our curfew when I had to be home. I was so drunk I could barely walk and high on cocaine. There was just no way I would be able to pull that off. Instead I texted the manager and told him I had “relapsed” and would contact them in the morning.

At this time I still had no concern about getting clean, it was all about manipulating everyone to leave me alone so I could continue using. I wasn’t an addict! I was just going through a wild phase right? You know, like every normal person does at some stage. The fact that this “wild phase” was going on for about 15 years didn’t really occur to me.

I had to try and get myself out of this mess without my family writing me off. I called my parents and the owner of the house of safety and said I was “ready to get clean, what must I do?”. I thought perhaps acting like I would do whatever needed to be done and following their instructions (for a little while at least) would get me some breathing space while I figured out what to do.

I was told to go into Secondary Care treatment. I happily collected my bags and off I went. Only upon signing the contract upon arrival did I get the shock of my life realizing it was a minimum 3 month stay. What happened to the 28 days thing I had heard about? Oh well, I had to do it because I didn’t really have much choice did I?

Walking the Walk & Talking the Talk

My plan at this stage was to do the recovery act for the 3 months, make it out the other side and then carry on with my life as I felt fit. For about a month I did just this. I shared in groups, I went to AA meetings and I did everything asked of me. I said what I thought they wanted to hear and I followed every suggestion. Not because I wanted to get clean, but because I honestly believed there truly was some big mistake. This wasn’t the place for me, I was misunderstood.

Slowly things must have started to sink in. All that therapy, all those groups and meetings…

Breaking through the Denial

About 6 weeks into treatment I was sitting writing an assignment and I realized a few things:

  • I am an addict!
  • I want to be clean
  • I have a Higher Power and it is working in my life
  • I have been working this program (for a little while at least, certainly not from the start)
  • I feel good, not great but good

What confused me is that I can’t pinpoint the moment something in me had changed. I realised at that moment that I knew I was an addict, but it is not a realization I had that second. I had known it for a while. When did it change?

Where did this Higher Power come from, what is it and how can I believe in God when I am not religious?

What on earth happened?

I have been clean since 02 August 2008 when I arrived at the Secondary Care rehab. I have never touched another mood or mind altering substance and that is a miracle.

I really believe that being in treatment for those 6 weeks, having recovery shoved down my throat made the change happen in me. Without that I doubt anything could have saved me. It might sound crazy but I actually enjoyed rehab, it was the first time in many years I did something for myself, something I could be proud of.

If you are an addict or alcoholic in active addiction, please do yourself a favour and book yourself in for treatment. It can be the life-changing event you need to save your life.

I am sure every addict is scared of treatment but it can be a wonderful experience. I will share more in-depth at some stage about my experiences in treatment.

I hope you enjoyed reading this and got something of value from it, please leave a comment below!

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