We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
There’s really two sub-parts that need to be understood in this step- powerlessness and the resulting unmanageability.
Linguistically, the use of “we” is used here to give the individual taking the step a sense of belonging to the larger group and promote unity – addiction itself is deeply lonely, and here the individual is given a sense that they are moving into a group that has found a solution to their common problem.
When I first did this step, I understood powerlessness to mean that once alcohol or the addictive substance is consumed, the individual has given their power over to the chemical, and no longer has their normal rationality and control.
It seems to me now that we are inherently different than normal people in the sense that even when sober we are mentally obsessed with relieving our discomfort with a chemical solution. The Big Book refers to “mental blank spots” – even after a lot of study and sincere effort, I relapsed.
It is really as if parts of my brains completely ignore obvious warning signals at times…My relapse was initiated by my leg breaking (my left femur, while standing, no particular reason), which meant I had to leave the Oxford House I was in (bedrooms were upstairs, insurance reasons)…my best friend really saved me by letting me stay with her and helping me out for the first few weeks. I started to drift away from my sponsor when I moved three hours away from her, and I was in a wheelchair in a new city, so meetings weren’t readily accessible to me at the point. I moved back to my home town after a while, and what really drove the final nail into the coffin was getting involved with people from my past…even if they weren’t from the completely chaotic period of me life, it put me into an old negative head-space and I put other people’s needs above my sobriety.
Briefly relapsing didn’t cause me to completely unlearn everything I had learned, but it’s put me back into a heavy obsession with drugs and alcohol. I don’t have the physical cravings I had in early sobriety the first time around, but my brain seems to be dedicated to all the drugs, all the time right now. It’s uncomfortable, but I still have the tools I learned I don’t think it’s particularly important if we were born like this or “broke” an internal control mechanism.
Unmanageability manifests itself in different ways and different degrees, but this part of the step furthers the admission of internal chaos with a direct admission of its manifestation into all elements our lives. We are not in control of ourselves, and our lives are now controlled by raw, insatiable need.
By noting that we are in a condition of powerlessness, we open the door to allow a higher power and the strength of the group in our lives. I wasn’t aware that this step had this element of allowing in God until recently. It’s not a major part of this step, but it creates an opening for the next two steps.