The first step

It is inspiring to hear stories about good that came out of unlikely circumstances. Take Bill, for instance. He was a New York stockbroker with a bright future ahead of him, at least until the stock market crash of 1929 when he lost everything. He was soon living with his in-laws because his addiction to alcohol left him incapable of holding a job.

Nothing seemed to help Bill get off the bottle-not his willpower, not his wife’s concern, not hospital stays, and not even a barbiturate-and-belladonna treatment at a sanitarium. One day Bill had an epiphany: maybe the best way to help himself overcome his addiction was to help someone else who was struggling with the same problem. It worked!

  • He eventually began to meet with other people struggling with addiction and even wrote down his principles of sobriety in a book. The organization Bill W. founded in 1935, Alcoholics Anonymous, has helped millions of people all over the world reach sobriety. The simple philosophy behind A.A. has been adapted with great success for people struggling with other addictions, helping even millions more.

The first of the twelve steps states, “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol-that our lives had become unmanageable.” It is such a hard step to take. What is it about people that we struggle against admitting to ourselves-let alone other people-that we may not have everything in our lives under control? Because it is painful to acknowledge the hurt we cause ourselves and others, denial allows us to “put up a wall” that blocks out reality.

Yet those who take that step of working through their denial find that the pain lessens over time. As they continue in the process of working the twelve steps they find themselves developing new strength and purpose. But how to start?

You may feel like everyone else has their act together. As a result you never really feel comfortable or safe opening up to anyone. But believe me when I write that there are many people who will look at your admission as a sign of courage, not weakness. Bill W. wrote, “Because of our kinship in suffering our channels of contact have always been charged with the language of the heart.” Reaching out for the right kind of support at this point in your life is critical to recovery-whether that is a 12-step group, a trusted friend, mentor, or the array of substance abuse services at Family Services.

Ian Eastman, M.A. promotes the wellbeing of our community at Family Services of Warren County. The Kwik Fill Kinzua Classic Bike Race is August 10. Register at and benefit the work of Family Services.