A Step One Reflection: Relinquishing Our Self-Appointed Kingship

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Step One: We admitted that we were powerless over [ ] – that our lives had become unmanageable.

I like to say I walked into overeaters anonymous looking for help with my “diet” problems and walked away with something else entirely. Step One was a jarring experience for me. I found it much harder than expected to admit I was powerless over my addiction to food and that my life had become unmanageable.

What got me to my first 12-step meeting was the birth of our second child. My second son came home from the hospital and my diet induced health problems were simply too much for me to be the husband and father that God was calling me to be. Before my second son came home, I was already irritable, impatient, wildly lethargic, and withdrawn. Once we brought that sweet boy home with us, I could not keep up with the challenge and—I’d say—even the joy of having a new child. My inability to cope had me sleeping on the couch for the first month of his life outside of the womb. I would often breakdown in tears and collapse with exhaustion—and my wife was the one doing most of the work! This was my “rock bottom.”

I had to decide in that moment whether I was going to settle for being the worst version of myself for God and for my family or if I was going to take this moment as a clear indication from God that I needed help.

As a Christian, I could almost too easily agree that I was “powerless” because I believed in the all powerful God. But I did not live as if He was the one with all of the power. Constantly trying to control everything and especially my emotions (when it came to my addiction to food) was clear evidence that I did not practice what—as a follower of Jesus—I preached. I realized in Step One that I trusted God with almost nothing. And my wife needed a lover and parenting partner, not another child to take care of.

Step One is something like a reflection of how every Christian journey begins. Like the “rich young ruler,” we approach Jesus and we ask him what we need to do to inherit eternal life (or get free from the addiction). He tells us to go and sell everything we own and to come and follow him in our new-found poverty. In like fashion we find ourselves in that first 12-step meeting. In these moments our “riches” are our habits and behavior patterns—all of the ways we have learned to keep ourselves in our addiction—and we are presented with the opportunity to take that first step and say, “I can’t do this anymore; this whole thing has gotten way outside of my control and way beyond my own understanding.”

In his book, The Twelve Steps and the Sacraments, Scott Weeman (the founder of Catholic in Recovery) writes, “The first step is a crucial starting point where the insufficiency of our human resources is brought to light. This step is a tangible way to carve space in our lives to surrender to the mercy made available by God’s grace.”

This “Step One moment” is when we look up from our place of despair and see the extended hand of Jesus. We have “completed” Step One, for the first time, when we take His hand and let him lift us up from the quagmire. Step One is something that we learn to live out at every moment of every day for the rest of our lives.

St. Aloysius Gonzaga once said, “It is better to be a child of God than king of the whole world.” It is indeed better to be a child of God, powerless and firmly in the lap of our loving Father, than trying desperately to manage and control, in our self-appointed kingship, every aspect of our lives in the heat of our addiction.

Read Charlie’s reflections on the other Twelve Steps: Step Two, Step Three, Step Four and Step Five, Step Six and Step Seven, Step Eight and Step Nine, Step Ten and Step Eleven, and Step Twelve.


Charlie lives in sunny Florida with his small (but growing!) family. He holds a B.A. in Religion and Apologetics and has a passion for writing about recovery and the Catholic Faith in his spare time. Charlie’s 12-step experience has been in overeaters anonymous, but he finds joy in “working the steps” in every aspect of his life and sharing those tools with others. You can also find him writing at tamingthewilds.com.