Tag Archives: first step

"Whenever you take an adversarial attitude towards something you give it power."  Dr. Christiane Northrup

The first step of just about any 12 step program wants us to admit that we are powerless.  For many, whether in New Thought or not, powerlessness is simply not something that is done.

New Thought teaches us that we have power over our thoughts and beliefs and emotions, and that what we think tends to manifest in our lives.

For others, powerlessness signifies some type of weakness.  How many times has the average alcoholic heard someone tell him that if he were stronger he could control his drinking?

The reality is, we do have a lot of power, but it is misplaced power.  We give power to the substance.  We give power to people in our lives.  We give our power up to all sorts of things:  possessions, jobs, busyness.  And I would venture to say that if we really stopped to take a look at what we give our power to, it would be a love/hate relationship.  We love the temporary escape the subtance provides, but hate the consequences.  We love all our possessions, but it really complicates lives.  They say busyness is a status symbol, but how come we are so tired all the time?

So we move through life living out of congruence with our true values, giving power to something we really don't believe in, because we think there is no other way.  And in the case of substance abuse, we can't fight it, because we've given all our power to it.

Eventually there comes a time when something has to give.  Something has to change.

So we go to a 12 step program and it tells us the first thing we must do is declare our powerlessness.  This goes against everything we've ever been taught, and goes against most societal value systems.  It also goes against New Thought teachings.  And because of these values and teachings, we instead create an adversarial relationship with whatever it is we are having problems with.  Instead of helping, this simply gives it more power and takes more away from us.

So now we find ourselves between a rock and a hard place.

What's a person to do then?

I advocate a different way of looking at the first step.  In my book, I've reworded it to say, "We admitted we were ready for a change in our lives."

If you find yourself unhappy, overwhelmed, consistently worried, experiencing stress related health problems, or unable to accomplish what you wish in your life, you may be ready to admit that a change is necessary.  The good news is that you get to decide what to change to!

In the next blog post, I will speak to this in more detail.  You can sign up to receive notification of new posts at the right if you are on a computer and at the bottom if you are on a device such as phone or iPad.  You can purchase the book here:  http://karenlinsley.com/?page_id=1174#!/A-New-Thought-Journey-Through-the-12-Steps-book/p/70971359/category=0



I believe the language in the first step, "admitted we were powerless..." is really another way of saying we are ready for a change.

In my book I mention that when we reach this point in our lives, it means we have a quality of life that sucks.  Historically in the 12 step world, one has to reach a point of hopelessness before one is able to work that first step perfectly.  A perfect working of the first step means that one is free.  It is both an ending and a beginning.  It's an end to a sucky lifestyle, and a beginning of a way of living which is usually unknown, but....as I said to myself in my early recovery, "anything has to be better than this!"

James Hollis, in his book "What Matters Most: Living a More Considered Life," says, "something in me had to die before the rest of me, the larger part, could live."

In New Thought, the teaching is that what we think manifests, and that our thoughts have power.  In what has been called a First Step Promise in the text book of Alcoholics Anonymous, it declares, "they have solved the drink problem."  And, "there is a solution."  What it is speaking to is the solution to a quality of life that sucks.  But the focus needs to be on what one would like their new life to look like, not on not wanting the old life anymore.  As James Hollis says, the old life must die.  As they say in meetings, we must give up our old playmates and playgrounds. I don't know about you, but when I want to release something, it simply does not work to tell myself I don't want it anymore.  I must instead ask myself what I do want....and focus on that.

If we want anything to change in our life, we must first be willing to give up the old way.

Unfortunately it can be extremely scary to give up a way of living when the option is to step into the unknown.  All those "what ifs" and "yeah buts" come up, and our ego, whose job is to keep us safe, steps in to talk us out of stepping into the unknown.

And....this happens not just with addiction and alcoholism, but with everything.  Ways of thinking and believing that used to serve us quite well sometimes stop serving us.  Yet we cling to those old ways in spite of them not working, because it means stepping into the unknown.

If you are experiencing unpleasantness, or a quality of life that sucks, you may want to consider that the call is to release an old way of being or thinking, and step into the new.  In my experience that has always worked extremely well.


Today I want to talk about the first step.

They say in meetings that it is the only one that needs to be done perfectly.  And yet it seems to be the most difficult one.  And not just for New Thought folks but for everyone.  If you are a New Thought person, then you know what the objection is.  That one word: powerless.  We are taught in New Thought that we are most definitely not powerless.  Others object because they simply don't want to stop the old way of living, and still others object because they are too afraid of the unknown to let go of the known.

I've seen people use these very objections and allow themselves to be dragged into a pit of non-recovering toxicity that never fails to shock me.

So today I want to present another way to view the first step.  I think if viewed in this way some of the objections might be removed, hopefully all of them and you will enter into a new way of being that is more wonderful than you can imagine.

When an addiction doesn't work anymore, it's like a door has closed.  And if we don't listen and learn when one door closes, others begin to close.  Try and open a door that has closed.  Try and drink successfully.  Try and control and manipulate members of your family.  Continue to enable loved ones to be the worst example they can be.  How is that working?  The truth is, it doesn't. It has never worked and never will.  A door is firmly shut.  And to continue to try and reopen it means you stay in a hallway of uncertainty and dissatisfaction and misery and denial of who and what you were meant to be in this world.

Drinking, or thinking about drinking, is to keep facing the door.  Attempts to control or manipulate or enable mean you are still facing  the door.  It just keeps you in the hallway.

What the first step can do is allow you to turn away from the door. Say goodbye to the old behavior, turn your attention away from it and toward something different and more productive.  Do your inner work, grieve properly the loss of an old friend, and move into a new way of living with courage and enthusiasm.

I was a New Thought person when I got into recovery.  I looked at that word powerless and thought, "no.  I'm not powerless.  But I don't want to drink anymore.  So what do I do now?"  And I turned away from that door and began to look for new ones.  The new ones showed up as promised.  I began a new way of living that was somewhat clumsy and inelegant at first, but I kept looking forward and have never looked back at that firmly closed door.  I don't miss my old way of life, nor do I regret it.

It isn't about missing and regretting and hanging onto the old way of life.  It is about embracing a new way.  It is about turning your thoughts from the old and towards the new.  It is about letting go of that which does not work, and then healing, and then facing the new doors with an air of excited expectancy.

As Parker J. Palmer say, turn away from the door.


You can puchase the book A New Thought Journey through the 12 Steps on Amazon in either print or e-version.

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Does your life suck?  Or maybe not all of it sucks, maybe only one aspect sucks.  It doesn't matter:  suckage is suckage, whether it is your entire life or just one part of it.  If you have some suckage going on in your life, the only thing you need to do to begin to change that is acknowledge that you want to change it.

That's it.

The traditional wording of the First Step speaks to powerlessness.  I prefer to look at it this way:  my life sucks and I want to change it.  Then I begin to envision what I want to change it to.  There is no shame here, no blame, and certainly not a lack of power.  It's about focus, and training our minds, and this is the beginning of that process.

This is the beginning of the empowering process that allows us to totally take personal responsibility for our lives.

If this scares you, welcome to my world.  It scared me too.  No longer could I blame the circumstances of my life on God, or someone else, or them, or even alcohol.  Scary, but also a doorway into a life I never dreamed possible.

Someone once told me in a class that if my dreams and visions did not scare me, they weren't big enough.

Life sucked, and at that time my dreams and visions were very small:  start life over again with a new way of living that did not include alcohol and drugs.  It wasn't a matter of hanging my head in shame for being an alcoholic.  It was a matter of refocusing my attention to what I wanted to occur in my life.  I wanted to live differently.

If you want to live differently, then you have made a beginning.  Acknowledge that.  Then begin the process of dreaming big.  Do not deter  your focus from the prize.  Take your focus off a life that sucks and place it on that which you wish to be and do.

I'd love to hear about your journey!