As introduced in the previous post, over the next few days I’m going to take a walk through each of the 12 Steps, examining each one for its pain relieving qualities. As you read you may want to keep in mind some painful aspect of your own situation and think about how each of the 12 Steps might bring relief.
Rx #1 Honesty – Step 1 Admit that you, of yourself, are powerless to overcome your addictions (or that you are powerless over the addiction of another) and that your life has become unmanageable. (AA Step – We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.)
Step 1 is the Lord’s prescription for the pain of pretending to be strong enough to overcome our problems on our own.
One of the most painful/fearful things in the world is pretending I can do something on my own that I am not fully equipped to do. For many years I lived with the pain of pretending I could manage or control or handle my problems by myself. My life was full of fits and starts, new plans and new beginnings, and lots of frustration. I was the queen of goal setting. Yet I lived with daily disappointment in myself for my lack of perfect self-discipline, and sometimes my frustrations spilled over on to the people I loved most—who didn’t always cooperate with my plans for the perfect day. In my attempt to dull the pain of trying to live on a little prayer and a lot of will-power, I became a compulsive eater (not to mention worrier and perfectionist). When I took Step1, I admitted that I was powerless. I was powerless over certain substances and certain self-defeating behaviors. I recognized that I was powerless over people and situations in my life. I got honest about the truth that I had become addicted and absolutely could not recover on my own. In essence, I acknowledged that life was painful and I could not deal with or control my pain responsibility. The substances and behaviors and attitudes I had used to medicate the pains of life had not solved my problems. In fact, my way had not only been ineffective, it had actually compounded my misery.
Now you may be thinking. “What? Are you kidding me! How can admitting powerlessness possibly bless my life? It seems like this recognition of complete defeat would be the end of me. What about the power of positive thinking? What about self-affirmations and the danger of negative self-talk? What about the truth I’ve been taught all my life, that God has given power to His children?” These were certainly my first thoughts when I was introduced to Step 1. What possible good could come from caving in? But I was pretty desperate. My way was not working. And I was sick of coming up with a new plan every morning for successful living, eating, relating to others, keeping my house, managing my time and my kids and my money and my church work, and in frustration, abandoning the supposedly improved plan by noon. My only option was then to trudge through the rest of the day, trying to patch it together the best I could. This trudging usually involved late nights and overeating which only compounded my feelings of failure.
The sad thing was that my days were full of good. FULL! There was so much to be thankful for, so many blessings, great moments of joy and love and inspiration. But as I knelt in private prayer at the end of the day, my heart was continually heavy with knowing I had failed to drum up enough will-power in all areas of my life. “Dear Heavenly Father,” I would start out each night, “I am so tired. Thank you for this day but…” In one aspect of life or another I felt like I was a daily disappointment to God and to myself. That’s a painful way to live.
It was a Sunday afternoon when I read the concluding advice in a book I had picked up in desperation as I browsed the self-help section of the book store. It read something like this, “If you can relate to the things written in this book you may be struggling with an addiction and we strongly recommend you seek the support of a 12 Step Addiction Recovery group.” Addiction! Are you kidding me! I can’t be struggling with addiction. I’m a good Mormon girl, I am! I’ve never had an alcoholic drink, never smoked a cigarette, and never been near an illegal drug unless you count the smell of marijuana in my high school bathroom or the scent looming in the air at the James Taylor concert I attended in the Hollywood Bowl in 1971. Addiction? Really?
It was the title of the book that had caused me to pay good money for it and devour it in a day. It was called, Will Power is Not Enough. I remember thinking that that was the truest statement I had ever laid my eyes on.
As I said, I was desperate. Not knowing anything about addiction recovery, Alcoholics Anonymous or the 12 Steps of Recovery, I located a meeting that night and with great trepidation entered the room. There were no LDS meetings twenty years ago. I was greeted by a roomful of men and women who seemed to be happy and very much at peace. I took a seat in the circle and they began to read in turn the principles they said were transforming their lives. The women across the circle started reading from the book, Alcoholics Anonymous. Replacing the word “alcohol” with the word “food” she read, “Here are the steps we took, which are suggested as a program of recovery. Step 1 – We admitted we were powerless over food—that our lives had become unmanageable.”
The group continued around the circle in turn, reading aloud each of the 12 Steps of Recovery, but that night I don’t think my mind ever moved past Step 1. Powerless?!?!? What possible good could come from admitting powerlessness… powerless, powerless, powerless. That word washed over me and through me. Though this felt like a very foreign concept, a feeling of peace and rest and relief settled over my entire person. I simply do not possess the power I need.
The shorthand for Step 1 is “I Can’t.” What might seem to others to be the worst possible news was the best information I could possibly receive. Though my life did not change overnight, the pain relief was almost immediate. Becoming honest about my weakness and the truth that I was powerless was powerful medication. I have come to know that this honest admitting is truly one of the Lord’s prescriptions. He says:
“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness [their powerlessness]. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” Ether 12:27
The Lord’s prescription for the pain of pretending to be strong enough to overcome our problems on our own is admitting that we can’t! When I know “I can’t” my heart becomes open to the One who can.
(To be continued)
By Nannette W. Posted Wednesday, October19, 2011
Copyright 2008 by Nannette W. All rights reserved. Making or sending copies is permitted if the page is not changed in any way and the material is not used for profit. This notice must be included on each copy made or sent.