Powerlessness and Unmanageability

The first step of the AA tradition is admitting you are powerless and your life is unmanageable.  What’s wonderful about this first step is the word “We.”  Bill Wilson and Dr. Smith chose these words carefully when developing the steps of recovery.  When using the word “We,” you don’t feel so alone.  You aren’t so unique.  Others are going through a similar pain.

Powerlessness is the ability to have no control over your actions.  You are captivated by the substance or behavior and can’t stop even when you know it doesn’t serve your highest good.  The craving and urges are so strong you forget about things and people who are important to you.  You are preoccupied by getting your next fix or searching for an image to masturbate to.  You lose time. Again you promise yourself not to participate in the behavior, but you do it again and again.  You can’t stop.

Unmanageability is the wreckage of your powerlessness, the outcome or the cause (of your effect).  As a result of not stopping the behavior, you’ve lost money, time, friends or jobs.  You have a string of priorities you haven’t attended to, causing a build-up of wreckage.  You may find yourself using to avoid your wreckage (causing it only to get worse).

I ask many clients to make a list of 25 examples of powerlessness and 25 examples of unmanageability.  I think this is important, because it gives you proof you made the right decision to come to therapy.  You are able to identify for yourself that letting go of the addictive behavior is crucial for your well-being.  You can refer back to this list when you have rationalizations of justifications for your past behavior, a reminder to stay on the path of recovery.

I challenge you to make a list of 25 examples of powerlessness and 25 examples of unmanageability.  I encourage you to share this list with your sponsor or therapist.  What did you learn about yourself and your behavior?

Elana Clark-Faler
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