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Old 05-03-2012, 05:28 AM   #1 (permalink)
Jake, 19
 

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Difficulty understanding the AA "12 steps".

I am having great difficulty understanding how these steps apply to true recovery from alcoholism. Obviously they can be applied - the high level of success and many satisfied testimonies are more than enough evidence. I can't quite get my head around them, however.

My main problem stems from step 1:

"Step One: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable."

Doesn't this defeat the object of self-help?

Many times i've seen people say things like "You can do this! Don't give up, just carry on, quit drinking forever" followed by "... work the AA steps, attend AA meetings etc etc".

Being fairly pragmatic, I like my theories to be applicable in a practical sense. I think that the first step is almost a self-defeating philosophy in the sense that it encourages a mindset of weakness, as opposed to the desirable and necessary strong mindset needed to overcome alcoholism long-term.

Obviously steps 2 and 3 raise questions in themselves - why must a higher power (as I understand 'it' to be) be responsible for me? Why can't I sort my own mess out?

4-10, when interpreted as instructions in cleansing ones own spirit are understandable - I believe them to be a symbolic representation of a process we all must go through, so I won't pick holes there.

11: similar to above but sounds like scapegoating, a skill alcoholics are notoriously good at. I believe my problems to be my responsibility and no-one elses. Yes, this places pressure on me, but it also encourages pro-activity rather than stagnation or pointing the finger of blame. Surely this is a more healthy approach?

12 sounds like an instruction to propagate the steps - perfectly reasonable if they have led to the spiritual awakening described.

So yeah, steps 1, 2, 3 and 11 are particularly hard for me to swallow. I could go into further detail if required, but i'd like to facilitate discussion of how others interpret these steps, and how they've worked for you.

I would love to buy into AA, but these (apparent) logical flaws have prevented me from doing so. I'd really appreciate a balanced discussion of the issues raised, hopefully with the conclusion being a little more understanding of the steps on my part!

Jake
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Old 05-03-2012, 05:38 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Jake, for me, Step 1 is all about surrender and acceptance. It doesn't necessarily mean that you are a weak person who can't take charge of your own recovery - it just means that you accept that where it comes to alcohol, you have not been in control. Once we take that first drink, we're finished ... it's like releasing the brakes on a runaway train. Have you read the Doctor's Opinion? It describes perfectly what happens to the alcoholic once that first drink is taken ... all control is lost. Basically, that's what Step 1 is about; acknowledging that where it comes to alcohol, we have no control. It DOESN'T mean that we are weak people who can't get sober. I hope that makes sense.

As far as Steps 2 and 3, let me ask you this: have you been able to get sober on your own, without help? Do you have the power within you to stop and stay stopped? Many of us don't. I didn't. It was only through surrendering my alcoholism to a power greater than myself and asking for help that I finally managed to give up the booze and get sober.

You're gonna have trouble with Step 11 if you're struggling with 2 & 3, because again, that relates to your higher power and surrender/acceptance. My higher power is God, and by turning my will and my life over to him to guide me and to do his will in my life, I am letting go of myself and my selfish way of living. In Step 11 we make the decision to let God (or whatever your higher power is) guide your life rather than living just for yourself. Living for ourselves is what helped make us alcoholic in the first place ... when we allow God/our higher power to direct our lives instead of making selfish choices, we find that we are living a more honest life - one that puts others first. That's when good things happen ... and in helping others, we are also helping ourselves.

Does any of this make sense? I haven't had my morning quota of coffee yet.
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Old 05-03-2012, 05:44 AM   #3 (permalink)
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If you are serious about the program of AA, Stay with Step 1 and don't think too much about the other steps at this juncture.

Are you working the steps with a sponsor?

I nearly killed myself trying to do them on my own.

Step one is simple. If you weren't powerless over alcohol, you wouldn't be on a site called Sober Recovery.

For me, I simple realized the consequences of my drinking, from hangovers to putting alcohol before nearly anything else, etc.

And Step 1 is a two-part step: Manageability. Can you manage your life drunk? I don't care if you are a high-bottom drunk,, low-bottom drunk, high-functioning alcoholic, whether you can make it to work with a hangover, whether you miss work after an all-out party weekend...Can you really manage life with alcohol? Can you imagine life without it?

If the answer is no and no, you're on your way to understanding Step 1.

Step 1 is the only one we have to get perfect.

If you can't stop drinking on will power, then you are powerless over alcohol.

Try this test. Stop drinking for 30 days. At the end of that period, look in the mirror. If you like what you see, just stay stopped.

If what you see in the mirror repulses you, work the 12 steps with a sponsor.
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Old 05-03-2012, 05:45 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Made sense to me...Not bad for no coffee.
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Old 05-03-2012, 05:48 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Hey Jake... honestly, I try not to talk too much about steps or the Big Book outside the 12-Step Forum. There are lots of ppl here on SR who don't use AA and I've seen too many discussions outside the 12-step area go pretty sideways pretty quickly.

I'd really reeeally recommend you copy/paste that post down there: http://www.soberrecovery.com/forums/...-step-support/

I'll tell you this...... EVERYone has problems with the steps when they get to AA. Just take a step back for a second and consider this: If everything in the program made sense to you it would probably be because you're doing that stuff or have done it. The reality is, most of us haven't done anything all that close to the 12 steps in our lives (I know I sure hadn't). Sure, there will be familiar parts here and there but that's about it.

Step 1 is the toughest of them all to "get" - IN MY OPINION.
You're correct.....it's meant to defeat self-help. If self help worked for everyone, there would be no need for AA.

Again, IN MY OPINION, comments like
Quote:
"You can do this! Don't give up, just carry on, quit drinking forever"
can be quite damaging. The analogy I like to use is it's like telling someone who can't swim but is drowning in a lake the same advice.....for that person, the advice is useless. It feels good to say and hear those things and it's considered "good advice" by most ppl.........but it's not necessarily, know what I mean?

I see a lot of other things I'd comment on but again, I refrain from doing that in the newcomers section. Feel free to pm me or check out that link to the 12-step forum if you'd like.

--there are some VERY knowledgeable "AA folks" here on SR. People who've successfully implemented the steps for years and decades, folks who've dissected and torn through each and every word of the whole Big Book (we alkies can be a tad anal retentive!), and folks who have some knowledge and wisdom I'm sure will be beneficial to you.

And just to mess with you.....LOL......AA's full of stuff that seems backwards such as: If alcohol is you're problem, you're not the type of alcoholic who needs AA. For a chronic alcoholic like myself, alcohol wasn't and isn't my problem......it "looked" like it was to everyone around me, but it wasn't. If you have an ALCOHOL PROBLEM, that advice above is great (don't drink, u can do it, etc). If you're an alkie like I am, not drinking baaaarely begins to touch on a solution.

Mike
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Old 05-03-2012, 05:58 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Most folks in AA wouldn't tell you that you can stop drinking forever. I can say I probably will not drink today. "24 hour reprieve" is what we call it.

Not that I plan on drinking tomorrow but I've "quit forever" a time or two and it didn't work out for me. I'll settle for today.

Maybe I'm not the best suited to comment here. I'm convinced that I did my first three steps sincerely while I was still drinking. My life was a certified disaster. I knew I couldn't straighten it out alone and sure hoped somebody could. And I turned it over. After intake at my rehab, I walked into my assigned counselor's office and told her, "I'm a mess. Tell me what I need to do."

The idea that I could straighten anything out, in that state, was illusion. I had the moment of clarity that got me where I needed to be and it's probably the only reason I'm alive.
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Old 05-03-2012, 06:27 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MightyMung View Post
My main problem stems from step 1:

"Step One: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable."

Doesn't this defeat the object of self-help?
Really quick I totally agree with DayTrader that this conversation should be held within the 12 step form. But, with your context above I will say that "for me" ... AA wasn't a "self help" program... if it was I would have helped myself stop drinking many times before. But, AA at the core of it's message is about a spiritual recovery that helps the true alkie stay sober one day at a time.

I wish it was about self help... cause God knows I would like to do this on my own most of the time.
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Old 05-03-2012, 06:38 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Being fairly pragmatic, I like my theories to be applicable in a practical sense.
If it's silly but it works,.... it's not silly.
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Old 05-03-2012, 06:39 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Why can't I sort my own mess out?
Well,..... why haven't you. Logic dictates that if you could, you would have long before this point.
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Old 05-03-2012, 06:41 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by MightyMung View Post

I would love to buy into AA, but these (apparent) logical flaws have prevented me from doing so. I'd really appreciate a balanced discussion of the issues raised, hopefully with the conclusion being a little more understanding of the steps on my part!

Jake
Logic itself is not the highest level of knowledge.
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Old 05-03-2012, 06:41 AM   #11 (permalink)
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--there are some VERY knowledgeable "AA folks" here on SR. People who've successfully implemented the steps for years and decades, folks who've dissected and torn through each and every word of the whole Big Book (we alkies can be a tad anal retentive!), and folks who have some knowledge and wisdom I'm sure will be beneficial to you.
Years and decades and all we have is today. I thought DesertSong's explanation was very good.
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Old 05-03-2012, 06:42 AM   #12 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MightyMung View Post

Being fairly pragmatic, I like my theories to be applicable in a practical sense. I think that the first step is almost a self-defeating philosophy in the sense that it encourages a mindset of weakness, as opposed to the desirable and necessary strong mindset needed to overcome alcoholism long-term.
Hi Jake, welcome!

I am pragmatic. I over intellectualized nearly every thing about recovery in early sobriety. Made myself freakin' nuts... None of this made much sense, practical or otherwise, LOL... I mean, really, does this whole alcoholism thing make much sense anyway... Like "Why am I an alcoholic?" We can start there, LOLOLOLOL

Yea, the 12 step program is, in a very fundamental way, self defeating.

Not self defeating in a negative way, far far from it. It does, however, remove you as the center of your own universe. I am not my own higher power. Thank... God...



Yea, I read here, a lot, about this perceived "mindset of weakness"... Whatever... OK, we see that the first step uses the word "powerless" ... over alcohol. That's the last time you hear that word. Interestingly, well, appropriately, it is also the last time you hear the word alcohol... in the 12 steps. I do not have a mindset of weakness.

So... I am powerless over lug nuts... if I get a flat tire, I can not remove the lug nuts myself... However, in the trunk is a wrench, a tool, I can use it to fix my flat tire.

AA is one program that gives you a tool to recover. It is a spiritual tool. AA is a spiritual program.

Check it out, I recommend it... Leave your pragmatism at the door, you can pick it up later, I promise.
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Old 05-03-2012, 06:46 AM   #13 (permalink)
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Doesn't this defeat the object of self-help?
AA is not a self help program. I only seek AA's solution when all my self-help has failed me.

I've seen it over and over, understanding the Steps is not required for their successful application.
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Old 05-03-2012, 06:50 AM   #14 (permalink)
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I can not understand the 12 step program of AA on reason alone. Concepts in AA like powerless, surrender and God all seem to be a mystical system that operates outside the realm of pure reason.
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Old 05-03-2012, 06:57 AM   #15 (permalink)
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I can not understand the 12 step program of AA on reason alone. Concepts in AA like powerless, surrender and God all seem to be a mystical system that operates outside the realm of pure reason.
It's not for everybody. I'm just happy it worked for me.
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Old 05-03-2012, 07:11 AM   #16 (permalink)
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AA is not a self help program. I only seek AA's solution when all my self-help has failed me.

I've seen it over and over, understanding the Steps is not required for their successful application.
+1

I can't help myself, unfortunately. Some people seem to be able to, but not me. When I try to help myself I just make things worse. Step 1 is essentially admitting that I can't help myself.
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Old 05-03-2012, 07:22 AM   #17 (permalink)
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Good question. I'm not sure how they apply either.
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Old 05-03-2012, 07:28 AM   #18 (permalink)
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Welcome...

I just read your first thread...and yes...I can see where your life as a drinker has become unmanageable. Also..when you drink...you are powerless over the results/outcome.

These actions are AA Step 1 material...
Yes you realy can win over addiction.:
A big plus about AA...you will get hands on support and help.

I too was not thrilled when I began AA....however it has proven to be the
wisest decision I ever made...please check out your local meetings.

At 18 you have so many great years to explore...don't get hung up on anything that prevents you from enjoying life.
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Old 05-03-2012, 07:42 AM   #19 (permalink)
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Hey Jake - I am going to be presumptuous and try to respond to your questions. I say presumptuous because in my several months sober, I have only set foot once in an AA meeting (so my rationale won't be a learned one...from meetings anyway). One last note before i respond; I'm either the essence of AA, or its antichrist. Because i don't go to meetings, but 100% of every word in the BB makes all the sense in the world to me (including the 12 steps), and I have been able (attempting anyway) to live by its code and understanding without the fellowship of meetings...(I see the contradiction in that last part, except that SR gives me fellowship too).

Powerless Over Alcohol:
I think everybody here trips over the term Powerless, and frankly for perspective reasons only. If I was in a small boat with a hole, that allowed water to seep in, I may decide that with 2 inches of water in the boat, it still floats, and I like the feeling of the water on my bare feet. Keeps them cool and hydrated. The problem is, it's a hole, I'm in the middle of the ocean, and frankly it doesn't stop at 2 inches, it keeps on filling up till the boat sinks. In this sense, "I am powerless over the ocean, in that I can't stop it at the 2inch fill mark". No matter how hard or fast i try, i just won't stop the boat from filling up. Understanding this, and despite the great feeling of wet toes, and the comforting shiver it sends throughout my body, I plug the hole with a stopper before it ever fills up. Did I exercise power over the ocean? In once sense, yes, the ultimate power - I stopped it from ever entering. But in another sense, I have reconciled the fact that once I open the hole, i will never be in control.

This is alcohol. If I was a normie, i could stop at 2 drinks. In my case, I can't. This inability to stop at 2 is what the "powerlessness" implies. The point of the first step is acknowledging, understanding, believing and resolving that YOU CATEGORICALLY CAN NOT CONTROL YOUR INTAKE OF ALCOHOL. The moment you have one drink, it's all out of your hands. It's purpose is not to say that you can't stop (i.e. powerless to stop); rather, don't try to moderate or control it, because you won't win. It has to be binary - I either drink and accept all its consequences, or I don't.

Higher Power
I believe the reconciliation with a higher power is purely to take the monkey off your back, because so long as it sits there, you will have a propensity to drink. Again, I am very lucky here, because my faith is very strong well before alcoholism. But permit me for a moment to point out the a_s_s_hole you are for even starting this post. The insensitivity you show to AA followers is frankly unfathomable and selfish. Frankly, it's unconscionable..........
Ok - You might guess that I am deliberately trying to insult you and cause all sorts of emotional anguish in your mind. I'm really trying to pierce right through you (although I might have failed), to prove a point about the 12 steps. Fundamental to AA is complete and total honesty. In this regard, it applies not just to lying but also to your intentions, your views, etc. I believe (although my belief is not relevant), that YOU BELIEVE that when you started this post, you had the most pure and honest of intentions. You really want to learn, you really want to heal, and this road block is standing in the way of your recovery. You are being HONEST. Nonetheless, in my above example, I reacted very very poorly to your thread. In fact I insulted you and told you how evil you were. Well how do you rationalize through it in a constructive way? First you ask, was I trying to hurt Mental? Nope. Was I sincere in my question? Yup. Am I really trying to help those around me by fostering this discussion? Yup. Then I was honest!! My Conscience is clear. But Mental still went "Mental" on me. Well I guess I am not in control of him or his actions....BAM - HIGHER POWER. THERE IS SOMETHING BEYOND ME AND MY WHEREWITHAL THAT CONTROLS MENTAL. IT MIGHT BE MENTAL HIMSELF, IT MIGHT BE NATURE, IT MIGHT BE GOD, BUT IT IS NOT ME!! Monkey removed, you are no longer accountable to everything that goes on in the world that you have no control over.

What if I continued to believe I control my own destiny (in this context, my virulent reaction to your post was part of your destiny)? Well, then you would have to accept that you failed miserably with this post, you hurt at least one person's feelings, and potentially every other AA'ers. GUESS HOW YOU ARE GOING TO TRY AND QUIET THAT GUILT?
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Old 05-03-2012, 07:50 AM   #20 (permalink)
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The steps, as written, are a summary of what we've done.

AA is full of paradoxes. The steps are to be experienced, not understood. It is the actions we perform that get us where we are meant to be. I am responsible and accountable for all of my actions.

AA works for me, but even the book Alcoholics Anonymous says it's not a program for everyone nor is it the only way to obtain sobriety. It's a program of spirituality.

I wish you well on staying stopped!
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