Powerlessness Over Ourselves

Let us love winter, for it is the spring of genius”.
Pietro Aretino

“We admitted we were powerless over drugs and alcohol; that our lives had become unmanageable”

12 Step Spiritual Recovery – Step Number One

Perhaps you’re not new to Spiritual Recovery Principles and like me, you find yourself wondering about why so much of your life seems still out of your control; that you cannot direct it, even with having released your will and life’s direction to your understanding of the universe or personal notion of a higher power. May I suggest adopting the notion of progress vs. perfection? Steady now,………..

As we face the end of January, moving on to our Second Step in February, let’s take one more look at powerlessness and unmanageability — over ourselves.
Just as we found ourselves unable to control our alcoholism, drug or behavioral addictions, we’ve concluded that all had an underlying anabolic condition: ” a lack of self control”. It wasn’t that we were lazy or didn’t try; it wasn’t that we weren’t willing; it was that we found we couldn’t direct our will to change by ourselves. So far, we simply lacked the power to do it! 
Like Pavlov’s dog salivating at the dinner bell, we kept instinctively doing the same thing over and over. That change we sought didn’t happen as miraculously as we’d anticipated. Sure, we prayed and gave a stab at meditation, living in the now, but we still suffered from what we thought was chronic depression, a feeling of helpless and hopelessness creeping into our overall perspective, no matter how many times we rattled through a slot machine approach of the Serenity Prayer — to the point of bewilderment. We wanted change within ourselves,……….. and we wanted it now!
Time for a little motivational music from the 1970’s Folk/Rock Band Clan: Crosby, Stills and Nash: Helplessly Hoping
It’s one thing to admit we haven’t the power to redirect our path – keeping from repetitive behavior that is nothing more than the same old thing – try as we may, but what is the point of talking about powerlessness without a plan to change or compensate for it? We might be powerless over ourselves, but we refused to accept being hopeless or helpless. What were we then to do?
“Bing”! Then it occurred to us, as the psychoanalysts Freud and Jung did, we would have to develop our own psycho-spiritual therapy. And no, it didn’t hurt for us to ask for spiritual guidance along the way to doing so! We’d have to have a plan, and no doubt repetition had to be a part of it. But, it had to have a direction, a purpose. Throwing the arm on the slot machine hoping the right number would come up just wasn’t going to work. The lottery approach had been far to long on successful scenarios! We needed to find a way to go “all-in”.

What then was the process of change which would bring us results?

  • We would start with a conscious desire, naming our needs in daily – sometimes hourly or in the moment reminders – reaffirmations that we were headed towards a new way of living – that it was possible. Others had done it for themselves through spiritual help and we could as well. Those old habits and attitudes had been deeply implanted; regular practices in our daily lives over decades, in spite of our lack of knowing they stood in the way of our progress.
  • We would need to gather virtuous attitudes. Acquiring Patience and Tolerance with ourselves had to be a part of the process. These would replace our pessimism, cynicism, bitterness  and doubt. After all, we weren’t on anyone’s schedule and the fretting and counting of time had been one of our biggest impediments – our enemy all along. Just like our friend the White Rabbit, we were always feeling behind.
  • Resetting our Default response was going to be required. We’d need to anticipate when our old behavior patterns were about to occur and stop to remind ourselves beforehand – “we wanted to change”.
  • There were specific attitudes and emotions that choked us up: Fear, Anger and Self-Pitying Sadness – these were our ingrained emotional responses. They stood in the way of our contentment, especially when they were irrational. In review, we discovered they just didn’t make any sense. Fear disabled us, riddling our confidence with doubt. Anger – especially at the level of Rage and Frenzy – was insanity. It time shifted our emotional state to a Neanderthal Cro-Magnon, “cave-man” level. But above all those was the dangerous vortex, the black hole of self-pity – “feeling sorry for ourselves” – as if we were being unfairly persecuted by some cosmic muffin, when in fact we were simply often at the wrong place at the wrong time. Sometimes, things do happen for no reason. It was clear that as to these emotional states, we would have to develop new habits of responses versus reactions. These were patterns in our lives, if not emotional instincts – that would require our continued effort to change.
  • We were going to need to keep our new attitudes and responses alive by being willing to persevere, to try repeatedly, reminding ourselves that in acquiring new levels of patience and tolerance with ourselves, we could succeed. We could do it. We loved ourselves enough to go at it over and over, and that tenacity was our cornerstone.
  • We needed counsel. We would talk with our spiritual advisers or attend fellowship meetings to share and listen to others who were trying to accomplish these same goals of change. This was one of our best fortifications towards success.
  • If we wanted change, having made the choice to diminish powerlessness over ourselves; we were going to have to be willing to be uncomfortable for a bit during the process.
  • We had to learn to adapt. No matter what circumstances life rolled our way, if we accepted that contentment was most easily achieved by having an attitude of accommodation as opposed to flight, fright or fight, it would go much easier for us. Reality was not Disneyland and although we were sure to have a serendipitous moment or to, more often we would have to be prepared to make lemons into lemonade. We could try to manifest a feast of joy, but needed to be prepared to make the best of things. That was just the way life was and the sooner we accepted it the better.

Got some ideas of your own? That’s why I give you a chance to add your comments at the bottom. This is a meeting in print and I can definitely use the benefits of your experience and thinking or the spiritual guidance’s that you have come to rely upon.

Now, lets close with the summary reading from my awarded book:

What It Was Like

One day, we found we had lost control of our drugging and drinking and as a result,… our lives. “Oh”! How difficult we found it in earnestly assessing the situation: we were powerless over alcohol and addictions and our lives had become unmanageable.
We learned we had acquired an illness of the mind and body: an
obsession and compulsion. In the realization that we were physically
allergic, we found that our bodies were drowning. Many of us were
so addicted or alcoholic that we might die without medical care during withdrawal. Incarceration, death, and destruction were what lay ahead if we continued living with addiction or drinking.
From our rock bottom, we stood at a turning point. It was suggested
that we soberly admit to ourselves and our fellows that we needed
help and could not go it alone. Humbly, we complied. The sting of
humiliation in our admittance tempered our earnest beginning in a
path of humility. We finally knew who and what we were by applying
the fundamental principle of our First Step.
With 100 percent sincerity (for none less would do) we vowed to
recite our condition and what it was like every day. Sobriety and Recovery would become our foremost quest and purpose.



  We’ll talk again soon!

Step One: What of Powerlessness and Unmanageability?

“Now is the winter of our discontent, made glorious summer by this sun of York”.
Coined by Shakespeare and put into print in Richard III, 1594

* An inside tip to using the blog – I often give you video and audio clips or web sites for info/reference to aid in your enjoyment of the blog, so open up two windows – one to listen and one to read while you’re listening. It makes the experience a lot better, but I have left you the choice, so you can do either or. When we switch from this format – (coming soon) – we will have all that synched so you don’t have to cobble it together like this. For now, I am going to resist the temptation to “rat-out” my long-time ISP Site Host who has gotten strung-out on money, forgetting about decent honest service and leaving me virtually powerless.  BUT – they WILL  get theirs on the way-out the door :).

Happy New Year 2014

Let’s begin our monthly rotation


“We admitted we were powerless over alcohol and drugs — that our lives had become unmanageable.”

Here’s an illustration from:


Available in NOOK/KINDLE eBooks or in signed print

An award winning book of daily affirmations in a Classical Revival of Spiritual Recovery using the Twelve Steps & Traditions.

Wherever she may be now, I offer grateful acknowledgements to my artist Jessica for her brilliant portrayals rendered from photographs of real people in recovery.

    “Coming to grips with reality”

*We better have some music to bring us into accord with the notion of being totally out of control. Whether Dope or Booze, both of them have cast a magic spell upon us, an obsession of our minds and a compulsion in our bodies:

Abracadabra – Stevel Miller Band

There are two condensed aspects of this step:

The admissions of powerlessness

I’m not an addict or an alcoholic. I can quit anytime that I want. I’m just not ready yet”. How many times have you heard that?

We might consider this statement laughable, yet it implies our common self-delusion. The truth is, we’re both Obsessive ( can’t stop thinking about drugs/alcohol ) and Compulsive ( unable to physically quit using or drinking because of uncontrollable cravings, added to cessation’s onset withdrawal and/or delirium tremens symptoms). This is in spite of our repeatedly failed efforts to do so. When confronted with PAWS (Post Acute withdrawal Syndrome – paws.pdf ) we discover the reality of Obsession and compulsion’s painful properties.

You see, “we” the afflicted are affected with persistent justifications and rationalizations for our conditions. This may be why we find ourselves redundantly telling each other who and what we are at our meetings with introductions like: “Hello, I’m Arthur. I’m an Addict and an Alcoholic.” One is just as debilitating as the other and many of us — are both. There is little difference in destructive affect, other than the substance and the method of ingestion i.e., you can drink drugs if they’re in a solution but smoking alcohol is just going to end-up in a flaming explosion :).

With me? Here’s a simple analogy presented on FB the other day to help understand the severity and permanence of our lack of self-control:

“There’s no going back”. Let’s liken Addiction/Alcoholism to the insanity of Heath Ledger’s portrayal of “The Joker” in this Batman adventure:

Batman: The Joker – “There’s no going back”

In both  our Primary Reference and our Big Book, the recovery guides for either of our main fellowships, this principle is introduced: the two dominant affects of our afflictions are compulsion and obsession, i.e. a disease centered in the mind – an allergic reaction or a genetic anomaly found in the body.

I’m not  a “Big Book Thumper”. Introduced in the late 1930’s, I’m of the opinion that there are fundamental concepts in it on which we have built our contemporary understandings of recovery, with a lot of additions and modifications as a result of our decades of experience. BUT —- there is a powerful passage (here paraphrased) which ought to be mentioned in relation to admitting powerlessness and the fundamental understanding needed for recovery: a complete surrender to the comprehension of our lack of self-control when it comes to addiction and alcoholism.

“The delusion that we are like normal people has to be smashed; that somehow, someway we will once again control our drinking and use of drugs is the great obsession of the addict and alcoholic. The persistence of this illusion is astonishing.”

It follows them in latent dormancy, even after years of recovery. Replacing this perception can only be accomplished by a fundamental daily exercise of admission of a complete lack of self-control, of powerlessness, upon which success is fortified by a daily spiritual reprieve.

Such being the case, here’s today’s essay from my book of daily affirmations:    

January 17
We Find Nothing Can Occur Halfway
We have found it is all or nothing. A mandatory 100 percent of our will
must be focused on accepting the reality of our First Step conditions.
We are out of control and we cannot change that alone. Nor can we
presently steer our lives back onto a road that has some good, orderly
direction without this earnest announcement: “we can’t control our
course with alcohol without help and guidance in our lives.”
With alcohol we are aimless, and the humble acceptance of that fact
precedes any chance we may have of recovery. Whatever structure we
seek in our lives must be rebuilt from here, standing on the threshold
of the First Step.
Pride held at bay, we accept that we must have support in order to
survive. At that instant, we have gone from half measures that availed
us nothing, to illuminating the first glint of the light of change.

How about some Bonnie Raitt to reinforce the perception of powerlessness and our love, hate relationship with Alcoholism and Addictions:

Love Has No Pride – Bonnie Raitt

We have a Death Instinct

 That’s defined as a primitive impulse for destruction, decay, and death, manifested by a turning away from pleasure, postulated by Sigmund Freud as coexisting with and opposing the life instinct. Also called Thanatos .

We sozzled smokers, snorters and droppers – because of our chronic substance induced depression – became compelled to attempts at suicide. Even in the throngs of recovery we reinforce our latent self-destruction tendency by doing things like drinking in spite of our Antibuse (Disulfarim) treatment, knowing that it will make us sick. In spite of that we give in to another corkscrew catastrophe – a bottle breakdown – one more pill or pipe parade.



In our underlying desire to “ESCAPE OUR REALITY” we have no self-control and cannot seem to keep from contradicting our search for pleasure by poisoning ourselves in the process. What once gave us a feeling of euphoria stopped doing so. We built up both a physical and mental tolerance to the effect and when we tried to solve its disappearance, we ended-up over-dosing ourselves. That, then became a habit so strong that we could not control or stop it, sometimes to the point of accidental suicide. We broke through the outside edge of the envelope ’cause “we were just dying to get off”! In a paradoxical sense, our pleasure became our poison!


Is this powerlessness? Is this a complete and pathetically total loss of all self-control to our addictions; our self-consuming desire for euphoria that we will pursue to our own hand in death? YOU TELL ME. That, my friends, is at this writing, as close as I can get to the notion of powerlessness.

Our lives had become unmanageable

None of us will have a difficulty knowing what is meant by this proposal, for in simple street terms our lives and all their regular orderly functions had become a mess.

We stopped doing what we said we would, becoming irresponsible and unreliable; we missed work and made up pathetic excuses; we neglected our spouses, children and families; we stopped bathing, brushing our teeth, changing our clothes; we stunk. We lied, stole, cheated and become captivated in the vortex of our own self-pity in a emotional state of fear, anger, and melancholy depression. We lost our appetites for food and closeness and we couldn’t sleep. We got in trouble with the law, slithering around hiding from everyone, living for one thing and one thing only,…booze and drugs — often both.

But wait! Now we’re clean and sober. So what’s the point of this exercise and why do we have to keep reminding ourselves of who and what we are and what we will again become if we decide to go back to drinking and using?

Those question answer themselves:

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

George Santayana – “The life of Reasons” 1905-1906