Step One of 12 Step Programs states simply: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol (insert your own problem), that our lives had become unmanageable.
I have said before that there are consequences to belief systems. Well, what would be the consequence of believing that you had become powerless, that your life had become unmanageable? On the surface the concept is totally self defeating, and the concept offers only despair. That is the great paradox – surrender to win.
What are we talking about? Are we to admit that we lost our family because of our own behavior? – wasn’t she the problem? – didn’t my children ignore my advice? – wasn’t my former employer just a prick? – didn’t I try to make those house payments? The drug affected mind of the addict cannot discern truth. And to accept the truth is to accept our own actions – actions that resulted in trauma for the folks we love the most. It is not surprising that the addict falls into a state of denial.
Denial is an interesting word. The word is too often used in a negative connotation. Denial has taken on a meaning of intentional and malicious lying. Some go so far as to say that it is in the nature of an Alcoholic or addict to be a liar. The supposition is misleading: Addicts will intentionally manipulate and lie to anyone in their selfish desires. This concept is wrong. The negative connotation serves only to blame and shame – it does not serve the treatment of the basic illness.
It is true that many in active addiction cannot see themselves honestly. But who would? What is denial? If someone came to my door today and told me that you had been killed in an auto accident, I would punch them in the face for saying something so horrific, for being so cruel. Then I would get in my truck and head to
If the person came to the door and told me you were dead and I accepted it at full force – then I would likely fall over dead myself – my system could not take the reality. Denial takes its cue from the trail of devastation left in the wake of addiction. Lost families, lost jobs and careers, lost homes, loss of materials, loss of health, loss of friends – extreme loss. To accept this reality at full force is to crush one’s sensibilities – it is not going to happen. To attempt to force this acceptance is to stir the natural human tendencies of defiance.
Step One is about honesty. But it is not about honesty with others – it is about honesty with self. It is the first step – the intention is to get the addict in the car and headed for
The AA Big Book is very clear – don’t worry about perfection because …more will be revealed….” The adopted motto of AA, taken from Shakespeare, is “To thine own self be true.” The process of healing cannot begin until some pain of reality is accepted. The power of the pain will be the source of the strength to combat the addiction.
See Also: On Addiction