The first step

Dear Dr. Brilliant cliché, 

Here’s a problem I have with the twelve step program, and I’d like your opinion. Why must I declare powerlessness? I am an alcoholic. I have been trying my whole life not to be powerless toward all the craziness and dysfunction that was dealt to me.  From childhood abuse to domestic violence to addictions, powerlessness is all that I have ever known! I refuse to yet again be passive, abused, and powerless.


Angry and Fatigued.


Dear A and F, 

The dervish call it cutting off your head. It isn’t about power. It is about EGO. All you know and all you have experienced goes into the big bucket you carry around as your sense of self. It makes no difference whether you are a hero out to better the world or an anti-hero blaming everyone else for your woes; it all goes into the bucket. 

The first step is a complete giving over; it’s dumping the bucket. Admission of powerlessness is admitting you just do not know. Admission of powerlessness is cutting out your ego. It is not a sacrifice to anyone or anything (as self sacrifice is), but rather a sacrifice of self. 

Love, and personal change, can only happen if you are capable of allowing someone in. The first step, by honestly admitting powerlessness, opens up your ego to allow something or someone else in.  That is the voice, the divine inspiration, that most addicts at some point experience which opens them up to change. Without the first step there is no room in your bucket for anything new. 

Chemically it is oxytosin moderating dopamine. Dopamine is the chemical behind your ego; it is pleasure, memory, and learning. Oxytosin is attachment. Normally people will not jeopardize attachments through excessive experience but for people with accelerated lives,  dopamine is so high it is no longer moderated by oxytosin. That’s when behavior becomes all about you and not about how your behavior affects others.  

Admitting powerlessness allows for the reestablishment of balance. 


Dr. Brilliant Cliché


Granny says: So far you have been powerless to deal with your problems because you were relying on your personal resources exclusively to deal with them. Anyone from a dysfunctional past doesn’t naturally have the tools to deal with adversity, conflict or abuse. This is a type of powerlessness that is destructive and demeaning and I fully understand your distaste for it.

Admitting your powerlessness is not the same as being powerless. It is actually the first step towards acquiring power. Why? Because a problem can’t be solved until it has been recognized and admitted. You admit that you have been powerless and that you have a problem- that’s just the first step, not the end of the line.

I think that the wording of the 12 steps is unfortunate because it does seem to imply that you are giving over your personal control to someone or something else. In fact, a better way to put it would be to say that you are giving up your dysfunctional thinking to make room for a more powerful sand effective system of thought that will enable you to deal with your problems rather than screwing them up.

The intent of AA is to help you quit drinking. They have a system that has helped a lot of people. They are not the only system that has helped people stop drinking, so if you really have a problem with their rhetoric, maybe you should look into other successful programs to help you. But whatever system you use, the first step will always be that you have to admit your current way of thinking is what got you in trouble in the first place. You will always need to learn a better system of thought if you want to break out of your abusive, addictive cycle. When you acquire that better system, it will be YOU who is using it. This is where you take your power back. AA can bring you to that point if you do the work, whether you like their rhetoric or not.





About Dr. Brilliant Cliché

Dr. Brilliant Cliché and the Granny Dr. are a fictional web presence and advice blog. Together we offer a joint perspective that is deep but not academic, entertaining but not fluff, and educated yet street smart. By joining the internet community we hope to share thoughts and stimulate insightful conversation around pressing issues that affect us all. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts. (This is not a site for therapy nor does it intend to replace medical or other professional care. ) You can leave comments here or email The Dr. at and don’t forget to like us on facebook. Our facebook page is Dr. Brilliant Cliche
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2 Responses to The first step

  1. Not Limited says:

    A&F – You are as powerless as you want to be. If you can’t do it alone, there are many tools out there that can help you. Because you are admitting that you have a problem and that is the first step. You are not alone or powerless!!!

  2. Not Limited says:

    Dear Audience
    Powerless does NOT only apply to alcoholism. It applies to ALL dysfunctional problems, for example, emotional abuse, physical abuse, obsessiveness, etc. Like Granny stated, the first step is to recognize and admit it, and there are organizations, friends, and family who can help you. You are NEVER powerless!!

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