Step 1 in the Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon Programs

Admitting alcohol controls your life is step 1 in AA and Al-Anon

Man talking in AA meeting

 Daly and Newon / Getty Images

After many years of denial, recovery can begin for alcoholics and their families with one simple admission of being powerless over alcohol. This is the first step of the 12 step programs of Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon programs.

Step 1 in AA and Al-Anon Programs Is Honesty

"We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable."

When alcoholism begins to take control of a family, usually one of the first things to go is honesty. The alcoholic lies about how much they drink and those around them begin to cover for them as the problem progresses.

This cycle of lies and keeping secrets can go on for years and that in itself can create an atmosphere that actually causes the situation to deteriorate faster. Even the children get caught up in the lies. It's a family disease.

The family can become totally controlled by diseased thinking. Although the illusion of control may continue, their lives become unmanageable, because alcohol is really in control. It is cunning, baffling, and powerful.

But recovery for the entire family can begin when someone finally breaks the cycle of denial. That first step begins with admitting powerlessness. Finally being honest about the situation. How does that work?

Many times when one member of the family finally gets to the point where they admit they are powerless over alcohol—be it the drinker or a non-drinking member of the family—and begins a journey of recovery, it can have a ripple effect and influence others to find their own recovery.

How Do You Get to Step 1?

Members of Alcoholics Anonymous or Al-Anon Family Groups present some great insight into the healing principles of the 12 steps. Many have said that taking that first step is one of the most difficult things to do.

Some people go to their first meeting after a rude awakening. A friend or family member may confront you about your drinking. You may have a medical crisis or get stopped for a DUI. You decide you have to take action and go to a meeting.

If you are living with a loved one's drinking, it can be difficult to admit you are powerless and unable to keep cleaning up the mess and being the responsible one. You may continue to make things work and, therefore, be part of the sickness. Only after admitting you are powerless can you begin to make changes in yourself. You have to give up the illusion of power. From step one, you can continue to the rest of the 12 steps and 12 traditions.

You might not be ready the first time you decide to attend a meeting. You may leave early or continue to deny that you have a problem. But you may return at a later date when you are ready to take the first step and admit you are powerless over alcohol. Twelve-step groups will be ready when you are.

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By Buddy T
Buddy T is an anonymous writer and founding member of the Online Al-Anon Outreach Committee with decades of experience writing about alcoholism.