AA step 1

Step 1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable. Are you struggling with Step 1 in AA? Read more about how you can apply Step 1 in your life in this passage from Rabbi Shais Taub.

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Step 1: First step trust

The Unwritten God in the First Step

This idea of looking for power beyond one’s own ego is the content of Step One in which the addict admits his or her own powerlessness. Thus, in a very important way, the process of finding God as Highest Power subtly begins before Step Two has even introduced the notion of a Higher Power. In other words, before we can begin to honestly look for God as a Power, we have to admit our own limitations. As is often said in recovery circles, “There is a God . . . and you are not Him.”

It might be useful to note that Chasidus teaches that the opposite of serving God is not idolatry but the service of self. At least idolaters turn to an entity outside of themselves whereas egomaniacs—and addicts, almost by definition, fit that profile—cannot peacefully defer to anyone or anything aside from their own egos. Thus, the mental shift that is most critical and urgent is that of the addict’s adherence to the simple piece of advice often heard in the rooms: “Get out of your own head.”

The Talmud relates that God says of an arrogant person, “It is impossible for him and Me to dwell in the same place.” Although God is omni-present, His Presence cannot be felt where there is haughtiness and pride. To allow the Power of God into one’s life, one must first acquiesce to the
fact of his or her own lack of power. The story is told that when the famed Chasidic master, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Morgensztern of Kotzk was but a small child he was asked, “Where is God?” to which the young rabbi-tobe replied, “Wherever you let Him in.” This same idea is expressed by the midrashic saying, “You cannot pour into a cup that is already full.”

In other words, God will always fill whatever space we make for Him but He will not intrude where He is clearly unwelcome. In order to experience God’s Power in Step Two, one first makes a “power vacuum” in Step One. This recognition of the limits of personal power sets the scene for entering into a relationship with that which is Unlimited Power.

About the author
Rabbi Shais Taub is one of today's most respected young scholars of Jewish spirituality and practice. National Public Radio called him "an expert in Jewish mysticism and the Twelve Steps." He is the author of God of Our Understanding: Jewish Spirituality and Recovery from Addiction.
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