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Demystifying the First 3 Steps of AA

Jan 17, 2021 | Blog, Addiction, Alcohol, Substance Abuse

In this blog, I will try to explain the essence of the first 3 Steps of the 12 Steps of AA. All steps in the 12-step process are important; however, the first 3 steps are fundamental, and it is imperative that a newcomer to sobriety is familiar with these steps and how they work, why they were written, and what the benefit of them can be.


The first step of the AA program states, “I admit that I am powerless over my addiction and that my life has become unmanageable”. There is a lot packed into this one single sentence. The first thing we seem to notice is the word powerless. It is hard for us to conceive of being powerless over our addiction because simply, it is our addiction. If I made the decision to start would it not be only me that can make the decision to stop? And since I am the one who will make the decision whether to start or stop, doesn’t it reason that I have power over that decision? Sounds logical.If only it were that easy.

First, when confronting our addiction, we must look at some of the damages that we may have caused because of our substance abuse. This damage may be in the area of relationships, jobs, finances, self-respect, and so on. I think it is safe to say that we do not begin drinking alcohol with the intention of having these negative consequences. We must understand that from the beginning very few of us set out with the intention of hurting others or hurting ourselves. However; due to our drinking we find that our selfish behaviors lead to making hurtful decisions that affect others. Knowing that I am hurting others when I do not want to, is a very good example of how substance abuse begins to take control over our lives.

If my actions continue to lead me down a path of creating embarrassing or humiliating incidents in my life, I have to take an honest look at what is causing this pattern. If I conclude that alcohol seems to always be involved, it may represent that I have no power over alcohol since these previous actions I mentioned were not what I wanted to do. If I avoid people due to my drinking or drug use, it appears that I would prefer the use of these chemicals over being in relationships. Once again, on the surface this is not what we believe is going on; however, when we examine the damage and look at the consequences, the evidence is always there. If we had control over substance use, we wouldn’t be making the same self-defeating decisions over and over again.


The next step we come to in the process helps us to look at ourselves and our spiritual health. Step 2 says, “I came to believe that a power greater than myself can restore me to sanity”. Most people when reading this step believe it is about religion or having to be indoctrinated into a spiritual concept of someone else’s making. Indeed, part of the process of looking at our life, including past, present, and future, includes acknowledging what fundamental beliefs may have been imprinted on us in our youth. Your past belief system, although important, is only used as a waypoint to where you are now or where you will be in the future. In the recovery process, we acknowledge the past, but it is the present and future we are more concerned about.

First, let’s take a look at the concept of a “power greater than ourselves”. For recovery to take hold there is no demand that you become a religious zealot or that you have to join any religious order. The beginning of the recovery process for you may not be the connection or reconnection of a power greater than yourself. The main requirement of this step is that you acknowledge that if you cannot help yourself out of the addiction cycle. Are you willing at this point in your recovery to admit that you cannot do this alone and that help from someone else experienced in this area can be a strong benefit? This support is invaluable and is logically the next step in any process. Doesn’t it make sense that if you can’t do something by yourself that you look for help from others? Think of all of the things in your life where you rely on help from others. Isn’t it logical that you can also find help from others in dealing with your addiction?

The 2nd Step also includes the acknowledgment that we need to be restored to sanity. As far as restoring yourself to sanity, this idea begins with the fact that there are some things that we do in day-to-day living that others would never consider. These things can be as troublesome as drinking too much alcohol or as seemingly minor as paying a bill late. Our goal in this step is to build new boundaries in or own life and then live according to those boundaries. That in essence is returning to sanity.


Once you accept that you must do something different and that you may need someone else’s help in doing it, you must take action for this to become a reality. Step 3 says “I made a decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of God as I understand him”. As stated previously this does not have to be part of a religious process. A goal in this step is to acknowledge the need for help in step 2 and in step 3 seek out that help. Although the step does use the word God, some people use this as an acronym for Good Orderly Direction. This direction may not have been taught to you in the past. This direction may be the variable that you have needed that was never available. No matter what that previous situation looks like, the present situation says that you must be willing to let something or someone else help you.

While many people have found that a spiritual connection has made a difference in their recovery, it is not a requirement. It is undeniable that turning your life over to this new concept may bring a lot of trepidation and fear. However, for most people, something strong needs to happen for them to take a different direction in their life. Taking the first 3 steps toward recovery begins with a new practical plan of loosening the grip on our own problems and sharing them with others as they share theirs with you. Remember, one of the truisms of recovery is that it comes with a 100% misery-back guarantee. If you find it does not work for you, all the misery that you were trying to eliminate or avoid when considering this process is still there and available to you. It does come back or stays around if we do not do something different.

New Dimensions Can Help!

If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the above symptoms or problems, New Dimensions can help. Our team of experienced therapists and psychiatrists can help you overcome these challenges and help you develop the skills you need to thrive. To schedule a complementary assessment or to find out more about our programs, contact us at 1-800-685-9796.

Our affiliate, MHThrive, provides Individual Therapy, Couples and Marriage Counseling, and Family Therapy at our locations in Katy, The Woodlands, and the Clear Lake area of Houston, Texas. We also provide telehealth therapy for anyone who resides within the State of Texas. To schedule an appointment with one of the MHThrive therapists, contact us at 713-477-0333 or visit to learn more.