Step One of the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon is “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol–that our lives had become unmanageable.” Because my life is often unmanageable and chaotic, I say the first step a lot, substituting other words for alcohol: sugar, my adult children, the government, the neighbor’s dogs, the weather, the church, my computer….” The list is endless.
A popular rewrite of Step One says, “We admitted we were powerless over people, places, and things.” A friend of mine likes to say, “We are powerless over ‘nouns’.” Step One is a way to acknowledge my inability to fix everyone or everything that displeases me or makes my life feel out of control. Step Two invites God into the chaos: “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” It doesn’t say God will fix the annoying nouns in my life to my liking; it just says God will restore me to sanity. My take is: God will fix me—or at least shape up my attitude.
When I wake up in the middle of the night obsessing about the crazy-making people and things in my life and creating new ways to repair them, I have a choice to make. I can continue down the delicious path of resentment, blame, self-righteousness, and Möbius-strip problem-solving. And I’ll lose all hope of sleep. Or I can wave my white flag and surrender to the prayers of Step One and Two. “I give up. I admit I am powerless over________. Please, God, restore me to sanity.”