AA Step 1

Alcoholics Anonymous Step 1: Admit Powerlessness

What Is Step 1?
“We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.”

What Is the Purpose of This Step?

Step 1 is about letting go. You admit you have a problem and begin to seek out help. It isn’t easy, but admitting powerlessness allows you to break the cycle of addiction that you’ve been stuck in. Alcoholics Anonymous believes that admitting you can’t control your alcohol use is a necessary first step on the path to recovery.

How Do You Complete This Step?

  • Accept that something is wrong in your life and that you no longer have control. You must admit complete defeat before building a new life.
  • Embrace the truth and want to make an honest change.
  • Understand that recovery can’t be done alone, and acknowledge that you need help.

What Are Some Tips for Completing Step 1?

  • Abstain from alcohol and/or drugs: Alcoholics Anonymous believes you need to be abstinent to achieve recovery.
  • Abandon pride and seek humility: Once you admit your problems and mistakes, you will find modesty and humbleness. You can’t admit embrace powerlessness if you’re still holding on to your pride.

What Are Some Myths About This Step?

  • Powerlessness means you’re weak: Admitting powerlessness is a crucial step on the path to freedom and strength. It takes honesty and courage to accept that alcohol and/or drugs have taken over your life.
  • You have to hit rock bottom before you’re ready to get help: It doesn’t take a major life event to open your eyes to your addiction or a developing addiction. Sometimes all it takes is a realization that alcohol is causing you more pain than the pain you aim to escape from.


Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. (1981). New York: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services. Available at: www.aa.org/assets/en_US/en_step1.pdf

Perspectives on Step 1

By Dominica A.

Powerlessness. I never really liked the feel of that word. I mean, who wants to feel powerless?

But when it comes to Step 1, I’ve come to see the POWER in it.

Yes, Step 1 was difficult for me at first because I did not want to think that my addiction, attitude, and actions caused my life to become unmanageable. To me, that felt a lot like failure.

But I had hit my rock bottom due to a tidal wave of emotions that sunk my ship. My life was a mess, and I had no idea how to contend with the internal rubble. So, finally, after about a million tears, I humbled myself. I became vulnerable. I admitted that I was really powerless over addiction and my emotional life was out of control.

Springboard to Recovery

The good news is that my admission of powerlessness was the springboard to my recovery.

I guess I’d been living in some sort of alternate reality for much of my life. I stuffed my emotions beginning in childhood and let them stay buried because I did not want to feel the pain associated with them.

I leaned on alcohol for years, then replaced booze with a drug called love. Codependency. In my mid-30s, I encountered a traumatic event, the emotional dam broke, and all the feelings I’d stuffed for decades flooded out.

A freaking tidal wave of grief, depression, anxiety, fear, and more.

Step 1 made me realize:

  • I’d spent a good part of my life trying to control others so that I would feel safe and secure.
  • My self-will tended to lead me to trouble.
  • I am an addict through and through; my brain is hardwired for addiction.

Foundation for the Other Steps

Step 1 is the foundation for all of the other steps. This is the step where I own my reality. The step I run to when I’m feeling insecure. Angry. Triggered. Alone. I ditch the victim mentality, take a step back and take responsibility for my life and my emotions.

This step reminds me of how miserable my life was when I was in active addiction. When things are feeling out of control, I remind myself that “I am powerless over my addiction and I need some help.”

I surrender.

Step 1 is my surrendering step. My honesty step. My “Do you not remember the freaking pain you were swimming through in active addiction?” step.

It’s the foundation step that cultivates my continued healing, serenity, and joy. The first step might have been my toughest, but I’m so grateful I took it!

Author bio

Dominica A. has a love for the 12 steps, as working through them several times has helped her steer clear of addictions and grow personally and spiritually.She is committed to living out the 12-step philosophy and sharing the message of hope to those still suffering in addiction—and to those in recovery as well.Dominica has attended both Alcoholics Anonymous and Codependents Anonymous meetings over the years and appreciates the support she’s received. She’s got a deep-rooted passion for helping others heal emotional pain and trauma, as her own journey through love addiction has served as a catalyst for her own healing and transformation.

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