Understanding Why Alcoholics Must Accept Their Powerlessness in AA

The idea that Alcoholics Anonymous’ first step is for members to admit they are powerless over alcohol and that their lives have become unmanageable due to their frequent and dangerous use of the substance is something most individuals struggle with when trying to join AA. Admitting to this powerlessness can sometimes seem unfair to certain individuals or like they are giving up their autonomy. But this is not the point of AA, and it is very important to understand why this step is a part of the program and what it actually means.

What are Alcoholics Admitting with Step One?

According to the National Library of Medicine, one of the signs of alcoholism, as opposed to alcohol abuse and other, less intense substance use disorders, is “loss of control [or] not being able to stop drinking once you’ve started.” By starting with step one in AA, you are admitting that you are personally unable to control your intake of alcohol. If you feel that you are in control, you may merely have an alcohol use disorder, but many people believe they are in control because substance abuse can cause denial. Once you admit to the problem, and that you cannot end it alone, you can begin to make true change and stop denying the issue. This is what step one is all about.

Step One and the Importance of Abstinence


Once you admit you have a problem, you can truly start working toward recovery.

It can also be necessary for recovering alcoholics attending AA to admit to their powerlessness over the substance for another reason. Being able to accept this fact can help an addict understand that there is no safe time in which they can drink, nor no safe amount they can consume, without dangerous side effects. Therefore, the program calls for complete abstinence from mind-altering substances like drugs and especially alcohol.

Without step one, many people in AA might believe that they can attend the program and fight their desire to abuse alcohol even while they are drinking. They may tell themselves that they will only drink a little or at certain times, which can lead to truly dangerous consequences. AA teaches the necessity of true abstinence from alcohol, which, while it is not for everyone, is often required for those who are dependent on alcohol and who

  • Have experienced cravings
  • Have strong triggers that cause them to want to drink or drink more
  • Have undergone alcohol withdrawal
  • Cannot control their intake once they start drinking

Over time, recovering addicts can become stronger, but this admission of powerlessness allows members of AA to understand their alcohol use is currently compulsory and that this issue could always occur again if they are not careful. In addition, support groups like AA help members with abstinence during their recovery and make it much easier for them to stay away from the substance, but it is still important for them to admit they need to do so, first and foremost.

Understanding Powerlessness and Success in AA

The program is not suggesting that recovering alcoholics are weak, merely that drinking has become an uncontrolled action for them and in order to avoid the issues caused by it, they need to stop drinking completely and reach out for support. If you would like to learn more about AA, call 800-839-1686Who Answers? today.

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