The First Step: Surrender

The first step in the Alcoholics Anonymous program has two parts: “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol” and “our lives had become unmanageable”. Both of these are absolutely essential to any path to recovery. There is a reason this is the first step, and many would argue that it is the most important step.

You’ll notice that the word in the first part is “admit”, not “accept” although acceptance is a big part of the first step. Acceptance, however, cannot happen without admission. You must admit and accept the fact that you have a different way of thinking about things and that your mind–if left to its own devices–can create a sick obsession. This admission does not come easy for many alcoholics.

Unfortunately, if you do not complete this first step, you cannot go any further with your recovery. For those who do refuse to surrender to the chronic and incurable disease or alcoholism, a state of sobriety that is frequently called “dry drunk syndrome” is entered. This can last for months or even years, and it can greatly inhibit your growth in the program and cause you to relapse.

If we look at the third tradition of Alcoholics Anonymous, membership to the group only requires a desire to stop drinking. However, for most alcoholics, it can take months or even years to get to this. Many alcoholics when they first get sober simply have the desire to stop suffering the consequences from drinking as opposed to the desire to stop drinking.

One way to get to this level earlier than most is to truly work the first step. You have to get to the point where you can fully surrender to and accept the fact that you are an alcoholic and you have a disease. Once you have admitted this, you can move on and continue your path to recovery.