The First Step of the 12 Step Programs for alcoholics and addicts (Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous) involves admitting that "we were powerless" over alcohol or other drugs and that "our lives had become unmanageable." This admission of powerlessness and unmanageability lays the basis for abstinence and recovery from addiction via a journey through the 12 Steps. Steps Two ("Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity") and Three ("Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him") provide a spiritual foundation for recovery. These three Steps have been given this shorthand: "I can't handle it; God (or other source of spiritual strength) can; I think I'll let God (or other spiritual source) do so.
This post suggests that learning to be on the lookout for incidents of powerlessness and unmanageability during a recovering individual's life can, by use of the spiritual principles summarized in the first paragraph, become a vital tool in maintaining emotional and spiritual balance, and, of course, abstinence and sobriety. Thus, the goal here is to try to recognize life situations over which one has little power and then to apply spiritual principles to those situations.
As everyone soon discovers, recovery from addiction does not provide immunity from the sometimes trying and traumatic realities of life. We all face such realities just like those fortunate enough to have avoided addiction. However, the point here is that recognition of incidents of powerlessness and unmanageability can trigger the individual to apply spiritual tools that worked in recovery from addiction. When serious life difficulties, such as, job loss, loss of a relationship, or diagnosis of a serious medical condition, occur, as they will, the recovering alcoholic or addict can recognize the situation as one where application of the well-learned spiritual lesson of Step One's powerlessness is appropriate; can take whatever action is indicated (look for a job, couples counseling, consult a physician); and then apply the spiritual principles embodied in Steps One, Two and Three: "Having take appropriate action, I now recognize I am powerless over the result of the situation and turn it over to God, a Higher Power, or other source of spiritual strength."
Not to be forgotten as an important spiritual tool is the value of sharing one's trials and tribulations with another trustworthy person. A passage in the meditation reader of Al-Anon (Courage to Change: One Day at a Time in Al-Anon II, October 1) has some helpful language applicable to this post:
"If problems arise today, I will try to acknowledge them--and then put a little spiritual space between my problems and myself. If I can share about them with another person, I will further diminish their power. Recognizing that my life is unmanageable is the first step toward managing it."
As always, comments are invited. Jan Edward Williams, www.alcoholdrugsos.com, 10/01/2015.