Step One

We’re excited to begin to feature regular blog posts from a member of Awaken’s men’s recovery community. Our hope is that his posts will encourage and inspire you to believe recovery is possible, and to pursue it every day.

We admitted that we were powerless over addictive sexual behavior – that our lives had become unmanageable.”


Since January is the first of twelve months, let’s talk about the first of the Twelve Steps. Step One is the entry-point into the Twelve-Step program of recovery described in the Big Book of AA. And just for kicks, let’s talk about it in reverse-order. 

What it means to be unmanageable

I believe there are two signs that can show us just how unmanageable our lives have become. The first of these is repeated failed attempts to stop the unwanted behavior. We can look back over the course of our acting out behavior and think of all of the ways that we tried to stop. We might have prayed about it. We might have talked to a pastor or a friend about it. We might have chosen an accountability partner. We might have tried to white-knuckle it. But we realize that none of these things gave us any relief from our addiction. 

Another indicator of unmanageability is behavior that gets progressively worse. Are we acting out more frequently than we used to? Do we find ourselves doing things that we swore we would never do? Over time, does it take a more intense or exciting experience to satisfy our cravings? If the answer to these questions is “yes”, our life has probably become unmanageable.  

What it means to be powerless

Not only has our life become unmanageable – we are also powerless to change the behavior that has gotten us here. When I first heard the term “powerless” in the context of addiction, my first thought was that I had no power at all our my life and there was nothing that I could do about my addiction. As I began to work this step with my sponsor, I came to understand that even though we cannot pull ourselves out of addiction on our own, there are some things that we have the power to do. We have the power to ask God for guidance and help and freedom. We have the power to go to meetings and hear the experience, strength, and hope of others who have similar stories. We have the power to pick up the phone and call someone when we find ourselves triggered or not sure what to do next. We have the power to ask someone to sponsor us and to do what they ask to work a program of recovery. We have the power to ask others for help – which is exactly what we need. 

What it means to admit it

This part is pretty simple. I think it means to say out loud to another person that we are powerless over our acting out behavior and that our life has become unmanageable. It’s one thing to admit these things to ourselves in our own head, but I also believe there is power in admitting it out loud. It is the beginning of a program that requires “rigorous honesty” – and that means saying things out loud that we might have never been willing to say out loud before. But because we are powerless to do this on our own, we need to be willing to admit these things to another person who may be able to help us. 

How I worked this step

To work Step One, my sponsor asked me to write a one-page paper describing my own powerlessness and unmanageability. He asked me to try to write down all of the various things that I had done to try and stop acting out. He also asked me to write down the ways that my behavior had gotten progressively worse. This was not a complete moral inventory as described in Step Four. But it was a list of specific behaviors that had gotten worse over time. After putting these on paper, he asked me to read it to him. I have also heard of people reading their Step One during a recovery meeting. If you are part of a recovery fellowship and interested in sharing your Step One with them, you might want to ask a facilitator if you can have that opportunity during an upcoming meeting. 

Step One is not the most time-consuming of the steps. It doesn’t take a lot of physical effort to write a one page summary of powerlessness. But it is incredibly important because it is the beginning of a journey. It gets our addiction out of our head and into a shared experience with someone who can help. If you are not sure where to begin your program of recovery, I encourage you to go to a meeting and look for a sponsor. Pray for the wisdom to find someone who can help you along this journey. And when you find that person, do your best to do what they ask. There’s really not anything more you need to know at the beginning. A willingness to do “the next right thing” goes a long way in recovery.

– A grateful member of the Awaken community

Awaken is a Birmingham, AL based ministry walking with individuals, couples, and ministry leaders who have been impacted by sexual brokenness & addiction. Our goal is to help people experience hope, connection, and healing through the gospel and the recovery process. To find out more about Awaken, visit!