First Step: Powerlessness and weakness

2 Corinthians 12:9: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.

The First Step of AA is “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol-that our lives had become unmanageable.”

Many believe through misrepresentation in movies and TV that the first step is in admitting that you have a problem. This is wrong. You can admit to having a problem but still feel that using your own will you can beat it. (Although there are many alcoholics who have in fact beaten their alcoholism using their own will, or through some treatment program other than AA, this blog is focused on the Twelve Steps, and ultimately the Catholic Faith in liberating oneself from the drink. There are numerous paths to sobriety. This particular one uses the Steps for the foundation, and then Catholicism for the above ground floors.)

And so the first step is in admitting that you are powerless over the problem. I am an alcoholic, this means that I cannot drink safely, nor ever normally (because if I were able to drink normally, I’d drink all day), and I have tried on my own to stop drinking but was unable to do so, and only by the grace of God was I able to stop. Where I failed, God succeeded. I have surrendered to the fact that I cannot ever drink and have forsaken all possibility of doing so. Period. No matter how good or how bad, drinking is simply never an option. Ever. I cannot drink. Were I to do so, I would find my decision-making processes compromised and my cognitive reasoning skills sabotaged. There is no hope ever of me drinking again because of the crippling and disabling power of it.

And this is pretty OK with me. By accepting that I am powerless over alcohol, in that if I allow it the slightest amount of chemical influence over me I would then lose, disinclines me to drink. By detaching myself from the need to drink alcohol to cope with any trouble or problem or difficulty, I am liberating myself to deal with whatever the issue is in a rational and proactive manner. I allow the graces of God in me to assist me in meeting the challenges. I am stronger as a result. My will decreases so that His will in me increases, hence the strength.

I sometimes envy those who can drink normally, that is just have a few and stop. I miss the opportunities to share a glass of wine or beer in a spirit of conviviality. But there are other ways of getting that. Blessed be those who can drink a little and just enjoy it and stop. It is a gift. But not everyone needs it.

St. Paul, in the Scriptural quote that opened this entry was referring to a particular problem that he had. God’s grace was sufficient to aid Paul in dealing with that problem, and that the power of God’s grace worked more completely in Paul’s weakness. Paul had begged to be released of his problem, but it was allowed to continue. Just as we alcoholics may beg God to be released of our alcoholism (so we can drink), we are not released. But God’s graces are sufficient to relieve us of the need to drink. The problem is there, but we have the freedom from using it. We are stronger than the problem, due to God’s graces.

Dwell on this and roll it over in your brain. We cannot cope with our addictions alone. We cannot get sober in isolation. We need God and others.

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)

"The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts"

and "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"