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Learning Step One the Hard Way

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The first time I heard about the 12 Steps was the first time I went to treatment. I saw them on the board and remember thinking, “what is this all about?” Further into my treatment the steps were explained to me, but I never fully grasped the first step. I had my spiritual experience and could believe Step Two, then went on to Step Three and believed if there was a Higher Power that it could help me. But, Step One it difficult because I didn’t believe I had a problem with all drugs and alcohol. Because I was a heroin addict, I thought I could still drink alcohol and smoke marijuana, which was an idea that stuck with me when I graduated from that treatment center. When I got out, I continued to drink alcohol and smoke marijuana, and within a month or so I was back to my drug of choice.

The second time I went to treatment was at Stepping Stone Center for Recovery. I started looking over the steps again and finally understood what Step One truly meant – I was powerless over ALL drugs and alcohol. My experience showed even when I wasn’t doing my drug of choice that my life was still unmanageable, and that any mind altering substance brings me back to my drug of choice and inevitably ruins my life.

I did a lot of therapy while I was in treatment at Stepping Stone to focus on why I used. All those feelings of inadequacy, not fitting in, or not being good enough for anyone were a skewed perception I had of myself. Once my therapist and I cracked that open, I was able to start working the steps with my sponsor. Step One is broken down into two parts: you’re powerless over drugs and alcohol, and your life has become unmanageable. When you grasp those ideas and really understand it, that’s doing step one. I had to look at it and tell myself that these conceptions are true and I had to believe it whole heartedly with every fiber of my being.

The other 11 steps can be done and redone to figure out the kinks, and you can still stay sober. If you don’t get Step One down and don’t truly believe you’re powerless or your life is unmanageable, no matter how much you believe in a Higher Power or how much service work you’re doing, you’re not going to stay sober. For me, I had to learn the hard way, but fortunately I was able to get another chance and found a great sponsor who was able to explain things to me. A woman in my home group said something that always sticks with me: “I didn’t do anything perfectly. I’ve never worked any step perfectly, except for Step One because without that you have nothing.”

  • Lexie is an Aftercare Coordinator for Lakeview Health. As someone in long-term sobriety herself, she enjoys helping others begin their journey into recovery.

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