I am a recovering alcoholic, addict and obsessive-compulsive woman of 29. I came to the rooms of recovery three years ago to work out my problems with sex addiction and figured if I was the perfect student, I could someday return to the bottle with grace and integrity. The program taught me to be a woman of grace and integrity without the bottle but as any good alcoholic will say, to drink normally is the great obsession. I did more than obsess. In fact, I methodically (and neurotically) planned it all out.
I didn’t plan my return to drinking in the fantastical, champagne-in-Paris-under-the-Eiffel-Tower kind of way that I’ve heard many a woman bemoan will never be her future. I didn’t plan where the first drink would be, at what time, under what conditions etc., though I did discuss the importance of being with people I trusted when drinking. I talked it over with my therapist, boyfriend, psychiatrist, friends, parents, and most of all, I discussed it with my sponsor.
I talked about drinking for a good two months before I had a drink. I felt that the more responsible I could be in returning to the drink, the more responsible I would be when drinking. As a skilled rationalizer and justifier, I made my way out of the beverage program and continued in the intimacy program, always reminding myself to “practice the principles” in all my affairs. Needless to say, the principles went out the window and the only thing I was practicing was shame after yet-another-blackout.
I worked a solid program regarding sex addiction, cocaine and marijuana but I held back when it came to alcohol, saying, “I am powerless over my sexually compulsive behavior, cocaine and pot and my life has become unmanageable. But one day, when I learn to like myself again, I will drink Manhattans like a lady.” I convinced myself that abusing alcohol was a result of selling my body and not a symptom of alcoholism. The truth is that the treasure chest of addiction is all embracing, and anything that will give me a head change will be something I come to abuse. For me, I found that First Step was the doozy it’s claimed to be, and even though I worked the other 11, the program didn’t mean a thing if I continued to dance around what powerlessness and manageability were really about.
Wikipedia says the word “doozy” means something “excellent or powerful.” I had no idea what it meant to be “powerful” unless it was in regard to false and unsustainable feelings of power. I hated the idea of being powerless because it was equivalent to being weak.
Unmanageability was for losers who couldn’t keep their shit together and neither of these abstractions were relatable until I started drinking again. It turns out that regardless of whether I sell my body, I am powerless over my actions after I take that first drink, and that includes my ability to say, “No” to another drink. Regardless of whether I can pay my rent, put gas in my car or make it to work on time, I am not the great life manager I once assumed myself to be. The First Step of the program wasn’t designed to make me feel like a weak loser. It was designed to remind me I am a human among other humans, a perfectly imperfect creature trying to connect with other perfectly imperfect creatures.
So, the quote didn’t originate in anonymous rooms. So, it wasn’t in reference to self-help programs combating alcoholism, drug addiction, sex addiction, eating addictions, body dysmorphia, OCD, etc., etc. When I hear, “The First Step is a doozy,” it means something different than when I first came into recovery. Now, it means the first step I take in regaining my power and my life is to admit that when it comes to (everything) I have no power at all. All I can do is ask for help, and be open to the suggestions that will come my way. Managing to ask for help required more power than anything I’ve ever done. Sometimes, it’s good to start from the beginning.
Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong/freedigitalphotos.net