Step 1: Defining “Unmanageability”
“We admitted that we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become
–Step 1 of the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous
The recognition and acceptance of unmanageability is a key component to the
completion of Step 1 in our recovery from addiction. “Unmanageable,” according to
Merriam-Webster, means “difficult or impossible to control or manage.” That’s great, you
say… but what exactly does an unmanageable life look like? How far down must we
fall? To what levels must we stoop before our lives can be considered objectively
Many alcoholics enter the doors of AA seeking to answer these questions. If the
new alcoholic determines that his life is not necessarily “unmanageable,” he allows
himself a justification to keep on drinking. But in reality, each person’s definition of
unmanageability is directly relative to his individual life experiences. In other words, the
degree of one’s unmanageability in life is a subjective matter…and each alcoholic must
make this determination on his own.
It is often said that we should “look for the similarities” in each other’s stories
rather than the differences. For instance, I’ve never suffered any criminal consequences
because of alcohol. By the grace of God, I was never charged with an MIC, MIP, DWI,
DUI, PI, or any alcohol-related offense. However, many people in the rooms of AA have
blemished criminal records. Since I was never caught, I may be tempted think that I’m
“better than” others. I may tell myself, “I’m not that bad – he/she was a homeless felon!”
But when I use this type of logic, I dangerously challenge my notion of unmanageability.
This may ultimately give me permission to return to active addiction.
In a sober living environment such as Lakewood Recovery, you may hear vastly
different stories of “what it was like, what happened, and what it’s like now.” Look for the
similarities in these stories rather than the differences – feelings like hopelessness and
despair, and themes like dishonesty and recklessness. By finding common ground in a
community of like-minded individuals, you can be better supported on your road to
By: Dana M.