Step One Aa Assignment

On By In 1

How to Work Step One

June 4, 2013Recovery at The Ranch

We admitted we were powerless over alcohol (or drugs, sex, gambling, eating, shopping, etc.) – that our lives had become unmanageable.

For a lot of people, walking into a treatment center or 12-step meeting for the first time is equivalent to working step one. The simple act of asking for help is, in and of itself, an admission of powerlessness and unmanageability. However, there is much more that an addict can do to fully work Step One. Most of this work is designed to unearth the addict’s complete history of use and abuse. In this way, he or she is able to see – usually for the first time – the totality of his or her addiction and its directly related negative life consequences. 

Task One: Consequences Inventory

For many addicts, addiction builds slowly over time, making it difficult to actually see how life has changed. Consequences that even a casual outside observer could readily identify as severe have gradually become the norm. Thus, the insanity of addiction looks perfectly ordinary to the addict. The easiest way to break through the fog of addiction is to create a list of consequences related to the behavior. In creating your consequences inventory you should list as many items as possible, breaking the list down into the following categories:

  • Emotional Consequences: These may include hopelessness, despair, guilt, shame, remorse, depression, paranoia, anxiety, loss of self-esteem, loneliness, emotional exhaustion, fear of going insane, feeling like two people (living a double-life), suicidal thoughts, homicidal thoughts, fear of the future, and more.
  • Physical Consequences: These may include ulcers, high blood pressure, weight loss, weight gain, self-abuse (cutting, burning, etc.), unintentional injuries (falls, car wrecks, etc.), abuse by others, trouble sleeping or waking up, physical exhaustion, sexually transmitted diseases, attempted suicide, and more.
  • Spiritual Consequences: These may include feeling disconnected, feeling abandoned, feeling anger toward God, emptiness, loss of faith, loss of values and morals, loss of interest in the wellbeing of others, and more.
  • Family and Partnership Consequences: These may include relationship strife, loss of respect, alienation, being disowned, threatened or actual loss of spouse or partner, threatened or actual loss of parental rights, jeopardizing your family’s wellbeing, and more.
  • Career and Educational Consequences: These may include decreased performance, demotion, underemployment, loss of respect, poor grades or job reviews, not getting promoted, getting fired or dismissed from school, losing a chance to work in one’s career of choice, and more.
  • Other Consequences: These may include loss of interest in formerly enjoyable activities, lack of self-care, loss of important friendships, loss of community standing, financial problems, involvement in illegal activities, near arrests, arrests, legal issues, incarceration, and more.

Task Two: Powerlessness Inventory

Generate at least 30 examples of your powerlessness over your addictive behavior. In other words, list examples of your inability to stop your behavior despite obvious consequences, such as: “I was warned that if I showed up to work one more time smelling of alcohol that I would be fired, and I still stopped off at the bar for a quick drink before work.” Be as explicit as you can, starting with early examples and ending with the most recent.

Task Three: Unmanageability Inventory

Generate at least 30 examples that demonstrate how your life has become unmanageable. In other words, list ways in which your addiction has created chaos and destruction in your life, such as: “I sold my car for thousands less than it was worth because I was on a meth/sex bender and needed some quick cash to pay for drugs and prostitutes.” Again, be as explicit as you can, starting with early examples and ending with the most recent.

Task Four: Sharing Your Step One Inventories

Now comes the hard part – sharing your Step One inventories with your therapy group and/or your 12-step support group. If you’re like most addicts, you are filled with guilt, shame, remorse, and self-loathing. Plus, you’ve gotten very used to keeping secrets from your loved ones, your employer, and the world at large. So opening up about the nature and extent of your behavior is anathema to your entire existence. It is completely unnatural and you probably don’t want to do it. However, sharing your history and consequences lifts the burden of compartmentalizing them and lugging them around in secret. Letting go of your secrets frees you up to move forward with a different, better life. For many people, the act of sharing Step One is the true start of recovery. Oftentimes recovering addicts state that their life began to get better the moment they got honest with their support network by sharing Step One.

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Step One - Brief Outline

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

1.           Every “natural” instinct cries out against the idea of personal powerlessness (defects of the thinking mind.)

2.           We perceive that only through utter defeat are we able to take our first step toward liberation and strength (making the admission we are unmanageable by us.)

3.           Until we humble ourselves (accept the devastating weakness and all its consequences), our sobriety, if any, will be precarious.

4.           The Principle: We shall find no enduring strength until we first admit complete defeat (that probably no human power could have relieved our alcoholism.)

5.           We are victims of a mental obsession - thinking (drinking is only a symptom) so subtly powerful that no amount of human will power could break it.

6.           By going back in our own drinking histories, we could show that years before we realized it, we were out of control, that our drinking even then was no mere habit, that it was indeed the beginning of a fatal progression.

7.           Few people will sincerely try to practice the AA program until they have hit their bottom through utter defeat.

8.           In order to practice AA’s remaining eleven steps we must adopt new attitudes and take new actions.

9.           We must become as open minded to conviction and as willing to listen as the dying can be.

First Step Guide

Step One consists of two distinct parts: (1) the admission that we have a mental obsession to drink alcohol and this allergy of the body will lead us to the brink of death or insanity, and (2) the admission that our lives have been, are now, and will remain unmanageable by us alone.

The first half of the first step - we admitted we were powerless over alcohol - is the beginning of the AA program which we strive to perfect on a daily basis. Since alcohol is but a symptom of our disease, we must realize that the thinking mind with its acquired traits, habits and character defects allowed itself to develop this obsession of the mind - to drink. “By going back in our own drinking histories, we could show that years before we realized it we were out of control, that our drinking even then was no mere habit, and that it was indeed the beginning of a fatal progression.” (12 & 12)

This idea of personal powerlessness goes against what the thinking mind is telling us. Only through utter defeat (having hit our own bottom) are we then able to take the first step toward liberation and strength. This utter defeat is necessary so we can become convinced, beyond any doubt, that we are powerless and our life is unmanageable by us alone. Until we so humble ourselves (accept the devastating weaknesses and all their consequences), our sobriety, if any, will be precarious.


The fact that our lives were unmanageable is apparent, else why would we be involved in AA? However, it is not readily apparent to most of us that, even now, our lives are still unmanageable by us alone. This fact must be driven home. This realization, within our lives on a daily basis - that we cannot manage our own lives – forms the basis for taking each of the twelve steps of AA in sequence.

In the process of accepting our powerlessness and unmanageability, we must be willing to put aside false pride, the pride which nearly killed us. Although the doing of Step One can be painful to the thinking mind, the road to recovery begins with surrender.

The facts of your life are just that - facts. It is not the purpose of this step to judge where you have been right or wrong. Therefore, the purpose of writing out the first step is to admit to yourself honestly that you are powerless and your life is unmanageable by your thinking alone.

Go through the following examples and be as honest and specific as you can. Give, specific examples and situations from your own life. Write down the facts - what, where when, how much - as they have occurred in your life. Try to see in your life how your disease has progressed.

Do It Now!!!

Addiction History: Answer the questions below specifically - dates, amounts, places, feelings, etc.

1.           Age and circumstance of first drink - how did you feel?

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2.           Age and circumstance of first loss of control - what happened? How did you feel?

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3.           Age when you were first concerned about your drinking - what, if anything did you do about it?

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4.           Others who have been concerned about your drinking? Who? When? Why?

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5.           What feelings did you get from drinking? When did you not obtain those feelings? How did you feel then? How much did you drink regularly? What was your longest period of abstinence and how did you accomplish this?

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Powerlessness: At some point in your history you became alcoholic, became powerless over alcohol, mood-altering chemical. It happened over a period of time. Define the process as it happened to you by answering the questions below. You will discover how your disease affected you and changed you so that you compromised your basic values.

1.           What did you drink, how much, how often? How and when did this change as time when on?

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2.           Growing tolerance: Did it take more to make you feel good? Did it finally take more just to make you feel normal? Did you gulp drinks? Order stiffer drinks? Protect your supply? Hide your supply? Hide your supply at home, in the car, at your job? What hangover symptoms did you have?

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3.           Growing preoccupation: thinking, planning or scheming how to drink or set up situations to drink. Were you preoccupied with drinking even when sober? What and how? (Day times, vacations, increased drinking time) Did your other activities then get in the way of your drinking? Did you increase your drinking during times of stress? (Job/family/personal) Did you begin to drink at particular time more regularly? (After work, weekends, before going to bed, before leaving the house, morning drinking?)

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4.           What accidents? Were caused by your drinking? What dangerous situations did your drinking get you into?

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5.           How and when did you attempt to cut down or control your use of alcohol? How did you feel as a result of your attempts to control or stop your drinking?

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6.           Loss of Control: You used alcohol and then it started to use you! That=s when you lost control. Give specific examples on each of the following:

Family: Broken promises, drunken embarrassing behavior in front of your family, sacrificing family for your drinking, physical and verbal abuse of yourself and your family.

LegaL: Drunk driving, drunk and disorderly, divorce, jail, bankruptcy, theft.

Social: Loss of friends/hobbies/community activities. Problems with sex.

Job: were you absent? Lose promotions? Were you fired from your job(s) or threatened with it? Did you quit your job(s) due to your drinking? What were the impacts of going to work hung over? Or of drinking while at work?

Physical: Were you hospitalized, or told by your doctor to cut down on your drinking? Were you using alcohol and/or other drugs as a medicine to sleep or relive stress? What were your withdrawal symptoms? Did you have blackouts?

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Unmanageability: Drinking or not, your entire life began to show signs of your disease. The harder you tried to “manage” the worse it became. Give examples of how your life has been and is now unmanageable.

1.           What is your present physical condition? Is it what you want it to be? Can you manage your own body? When did you last have a physical? Dental checkup? Are you willing to improve your nutrition?

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2.           Emotional and feeling life:

What is your self-image? Do you think you can manage yourself into being the person you want to be?


Try to see behaviors patterns of unmanageability - suppressing your feelings (with or without alcohol), setting unrealistic expectations and goals for yourself and others. Setting yourself up to fail – perfectionism, irresponsibility, procrastination, harboring resentments, self-pity grandiose beliefs, guilt, anger.

Are you aware that your drinking caused you to blame others for your problems? What special problems do you think cause you to drink? Of course, noting can make us drink - but what were your delusions?)

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3.           Spiritual life: Are you aware that you may be “spiritually bankrupt?” - Paranoid, suspicious, resentful, envious, untrusting, fearful, greedy, with drawn, self-centered?

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4.           Social and family life: How has your drinking affected your family? How is your communication with your family? How much time do you spend with any of your family members? How do you feel about that?

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5.           Occupational life: How are you handling your present job? Other jobs you’ve had? Your career? Your education?

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6.           Financial matters: Give examples of your irresponsibility with money - borrowing money, writing bad checks, misuse of credit cards, not paying your bills on time, whatever applies to you.

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Summary: Are you convinced that you are powerless over alcohol and that your life is unmanageable, even when sober? What am I going to do about the fact that I am powerless? What am I going to do about the fact that my life is unmanageable by me?

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