Step 1 from page 59 the AA Big Book reads – “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.”
Step 1 in the Celebrate Recovery ministry I am involved in reads – “We admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors, that our lives had become unmanageable.”
In Narcotics Anonymous – “We admitted we were powerless over our addiction, that our lives had become unmanageable.”
Same thing for SA and GA…just substitute “lust” or “gambling.”
Point is, if you didn’t already know, the first step is ALWAYS the same. For that matter, outside of some minor variations from fellowship to fellowship, the 12 steps of recovery themselves are always the same.
Outside society incorrectly reduces the first step to “admitting we have a problem.” We’ve always known we have a problem. The first step is admitting we are POWERLESS over that problem, and our lives are unmanageable. The spiritual principle behind this first step is honesty. We finally have to admit that we can’t control our addictions, whatever they may be. We admit we are powerless over alcohol, gambling, lust, opiates, and our lives are completely unmanageable and out of control.
So what is it about step 1 that I want to revisit? I think those of us in recovery, once we hit “bottom”, come to a unique point in our lives that “normal” people never have. That point is, specifically, HONESTY. We hit our bottom, our masks are removed, and we have no choice but to realize that we have no control. Over anything. At any point. We finally realize that we are powerless, and our lives are unmanageable. We come to a point of being honest with ourselves.
All of us, addicts or not, have a problem. It’s just that sometimes addicts are in a position to figure this out, while most go through their entire lives and never come to this understanding. It’s the reason Christianity itself is faltering in the U.S. It’s the reason divorce rates, and so many other societal ills, are not statistically different inside the church than outside. The reason goes back to the fall of man (and woman) in Genesis 3. We ate from the forbidden tree, the only tree in the garden that was forbidden. Why did we do it? For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. We did it because we want be like God. Sin entered the world because we want to be God. I suppose that’s why the first commandment was to worship no other Gods, and the reason why that is the commandment broken on a daily basis above all others. We think we are God, and we are in control of our own lives.
The apostle Paul got it right in Romans 7 – “And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.” Romans 7:18-20 NLT. Our Genesis 3 problem, our sin nature, controls us. This is the reason so many go to church every Sunday for decades, claim to be “a Christian,” but live the exact same way as the world around them the other 166 hours of the week – angry, bitter, hurried, resentful, impatient, dishonest. They claim “I am a Christian.” But they don’t live “Christian.” Their lives are not centered on Christ. They don’t put others above themselves. They serve no one besides themselves. If someone wrongs them, they will not rest until they do unto them double.
We addicts and screw ups find a very unique opportunity to really step back and look at ourselves. We get the opportunity to take honest look at ourselves, understand the “bad news” of our sin nature, so that we can then really understand the “Good News” of what salvation in Christ is and why we need it.
So, back to the point. Step 1 revisited. I would word step 1 this way for all of those who have no addiction of compulsive behavior they can (or will) identify. A step one “for the rest of us” – “We were powerless over our [sin nature] and our lives had become unmanageable.” I would go so far to call this step 1 of Christianity. So many don’t really understand the Good News because they have no understanding of the bad news. They don’t understand their own sin nature. They don’t understand the Good News because they don’t get the bad news. Why do I need a savior when I’ve got it all under control? The really bad news is that so many will never understand their own sin nature. That’s why we must always be prepared to share the Good News when someone has the moment of honesty with themselves, when they come to understand their own powerlessness and the unmanageability of their own life. A moment of honesty.
“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.”
Genesis 3:1-7 ESV
“And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.”