- January 5, 2017 at 12:53 am #3743841
I came across this on another site. I hadn’t ever heard this and was wondering what others thought of this.
Step One – the most often misquoted Step of A.A.’s 12 Steps!
We sit around in meetings emphasizing the importance of a complete and perfect First Step –
and it’s Step One – that is one of the most misquoted Steps of the 12 Steps.
The word “and” is NOT in Step One.
I hear it over and over and over again “We admitted that we were powerless over alcohol
AND our lives had become unmanageable.”
That’s NOT Step 1.
Step 1 is “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become
Contrary to what is popularly quoted – and, I believe it’s fuel that feeds the resistance and
confusion about Step One – Step 1 is NOT a “two part” Step.
Step One is an admission of alcoholism. (See page 30 of the Big Book).
It is an acknowledgement that we have become convinced in our inner-most selves that
we are alcoholics.
I made the error, also – for many years, thinking that “Step One is a two part Step.” It isn’t.
When I read the descriptions of “what an alcoholic is” in the Big Book – I have yet to
find any reference that “and an unmanageable life” has anything to do – with whether
or not a person is alcoholic or non-alcoholic. It just isn’t there.
For me – when I was new in A.A., part of the reason I was confused and could not become
convinced that I was alcoholic – was because I was not convinced that “my life was
unmanageable” – like I was hearing about it in A.A. meetings.
Therefore, I concluded that “if my life is not unmanageable – then, I must not be an alcoholic.”
So… what did I do? I continued drinking and letting my life get progressively more screwed
up, and allowing my alcoholism to progress without treating it – until I could say “my life is
Had I known the proper description of an alcoholic – and realized that the “and my life
had become unmanageable” was not part of the description of an alcoholic – I might
have had a better chance of grasping the concept of alcoholism.
Why is this important?
I believe that the reasons that it is important are:
1. It’s wrong. And, it’s confusing.
2. Using the word “and” is adding a “condition” to alcoholism, that just isn’t there.
3. If we are ever to succeed in helping the still suffering alcoholics to “raise their bottom” the
easiest way to do that – would be to admit to our error and correct it.
4. We can better understand the meaning of Step One – by looking at it as it was written.
Notice in #4 above – where I used the dash.
To substitute the dash in #4 above, the thought and the sentence – wouldn’t make sense. Or
you could do it with the sentence preceding this one! Substitute the word “and” for the “dash”
and it makes no sense.
Take a look at Step One. Do you see the word “and”? It isn’t there.
What we have is a “hyphen” — a “dash”.
In our English language, when a hyphen is not used to break up a word, it is used to connect
a thought or phrase.
Often, we refer to it as a “dash”.
A dash is the mark or sign (—) used to note an abrupt break or pause in a sentence or
hesitation in an utterance, to begin and end a parenthetic word, phrase, or clause, to indicate
the omission of letters or words, to divide a line, to substitute for certain uses of the colon,
and to separate any of various elements of a sentence or series of sentences, as a question
from its answer.
From American Heritage New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition – dash
A punctuation mark (—) used to indicate a sudden break in thought, to set off parenthetical
material, or to take the place of such expressions as that is and namely: “He’s running for
reelection — if he lives until then”; “Very few people in this class — three, to be exact —
have completed their projects”; “She joined the chorus for only one reason — she loves to
sing.” In the last example, where the parenthetical material comes at the end of the sentence
rather than in the middle, a colon could be used instead of the dash.
Step One: “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become
If I were to paraphrase Step One, as it is written, using the dash as a concluding thought,
rather than an “and” — I could say “I admitted that I am powerless over staying sober —
because I can not manage to leave alcohol entirely alone.” Or – “We admitted that we were
powerless over alcohol – we could not manage to leave alcohol entirely alone.” The insanity
of the first drink. The obsession that prevents us from leaving alcohol alone – while we are
This, then means – that “my life had become unmanageable” – regardless if I was
drinking or sober – because I cannot manage to leave alcohol entirely alone. We know
from the Doctor’s Opinion, and from our own experience – that it is not safe for us alcoholics
to use alcohol in any form at all.
If it is unsafe for us to use alcohol in any form at all, and we cannot manage to leave
alcohol entirely alone – we are powerless over drinking alcohol. Simple. Complete. No
Those thoughts are more in line with our Big Book’s description of the alcoholic in Chapter
Three More about alcoholism and in Chapter Four, We Agnostics.
For references see pages 30, 24, and 44 of the Big Book – Alcoholics Anonymous .January 5, 2017 at 1:05 am #4834985
Very insightful… I wish I had a printer so I could so that to my sponsor… I think it makes sense to me. I was taught that step one was a 2 part step and I always hear people talking about the 12 1/2 steps… As for me I had become completely powerless over anything in life and everything was unmanageable so going over step 1 the 2 part way also made sense to me.. But I also see how it could make others feel the urge to continue drinking to find an even deeper bottom by doing the 2 part first step…
Overall I really like this post and it really came to be very insightful… I have to leave at this very minute to head to my homegroup, but I can’t wait to read over it again later and share it with my sponsor…
Thanks nacona!January 5, 2017 at 1:17 am #4834980
I didn’t know step 1 was a two part step. Guess I got this one right, or more specifically, my sponsor and home group taught me correctly.
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