the first step

i’ve been interested in the 12 steps for almost as long as i’ve been a counsellor – 15 years now. what first attracted me to them was their fierce commitment to honesty and being real, to be humble, and to follow an ethical and spiritual way of life.

the 12 steps came originally from alcoholics anonymous, back in the 1930s. it soon became obvious that they would be helpful for other situations as well – for people with alcoholics or drug users in their lives (alanon and naranon), gamblers (GA), drug users (NA), people with eating disorders (OA), people with codependency issues (CODA), people who are chronically in debt (DA), etc. for some background, history and the inevitable controversies, check out this wikipedia article.

a lot of people, me including, feel that the 12 steps can be guidelines for anyone who wants to live a better life. therefore, i’d like to start a series here discussing them, one step a month.

open-mindedness is something that the steps encourage. so i’d like to hold this as a place of discussion, of exchanging points of view, as differing as they might be, and of offering what “the program”, as it is often called by people practicing the steps, calls ESH: experience, strength and hope.

so let’s start with step 1.

“admitted that we were powerless over ___ and that our lives had become unmanageable.”


the idea is to fill in the blanks with what people are struggling with – alcohol, relationships, drugs, money … whatever.

but – POWERLESS? struggling is one thing but – POWERLESS? isn’t that the last thing anyone wants to feel? and by admitting it, aren’t we admitting defeat, once and for all?

that’s the reaction that i first had when i heard these steps. then, some time later, someone suggested that i can take this text and read anything whatsoever into it. and since i suspected that there was something to these 12 steps, i decided i was going to read into it what would work for me.

one of the perspectives that i took was to ask, “what does it mean that “i” am powerless?” this ended up opening a whole floodgate of realization about how connected i am to others. of course i knew that on a superficial level but this helped me get it on a gut level. i, on my own, don’t really have much effect on the world. for example, i wouldn’t keep on writing this blog if i felt no-one read it. this blog wouldn’t be what it is today if i hadn’t had help from people.

completely on my own, i’m not very powerful.

ok, so what about “my life had become unmanageable”.

again – what the … ??? what’s wrong with my life? yes, there are problems here and there, but excuse meeee – that’s different from “unmanageable.”

i really chewed on that one for a long time.

and then one day it dawned on me:

life. is. unmanageable.

and that’s a good thing.

because life is there to be LIVED, not to be managed.

without fail, whenever i LIVE my life, not manage it, i fare better.

isabella mori
counselling in vancouver

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *