The Power of Surrender for Adult Children: Insights from Saint Joseph & Saint Thérèse for Step 1

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In our journey of recovery, Step 1—“We admitted we were powerless over the effects of living with alcoholism and that our lives had become unmanageable”—stands as a beacon of self-awareness and courage for adult children of dysfunctional homes. Drawing wisdom from the lives of Saint Joseph and Saint Thérèse, this exploration unveils specific examples of powerlessness and surrender, offering profound insights for those navigating the tumultuous waters of healing from the effects of family dysfunction.

Saint Joseph: Silent Strength Amidst Uncertainty

Saint Joseph, the guardian of the Holy Family, embodied silent strength in the face of profound uncertainty. Consider the moment when, after learning of Mary’s unexpected pregnancy, Joseph found himself at the crossroads of confusion and doubt. Powerless against societal norms and the unexpected turn of events, he chose surrender over control. 

His decision to take Mary as his wife, guided by the message of an angel, exemplifies surrender in the face of the unmanageable. Rather than succumbing to societal expectations or asserting control over the situation, Joseph embraced his powerlessness. In his act of surrender, he paved the way for the unfolding of God’s plan. Saint Joseph is a role model for those of us acknowledging powerlessness over the effects of family dysfunction in our lives.

Saint Thérèse: The Little Way of Surrender

Saint Thérèse, known for her “Little Way,” invites us into a world of profound surrender through small acts of great love. Reflecting on her life, let us consider the example of powerlessness in her struggle with tuberculosis. Despite her desires for grand gestures of service and sacrifice, her physical limitations rendered her incapable of such feats.

In her acceptance of the limitations imposed by illness, Thérèse embraced powerlessness with humility and trust. Instead of resisting or resenting her condition, she surrendered to the reality of it. Thérèse’s example of surrender can become a light for those of us navigating unmanageability in our own lives. Thérèse teaches us that even in the smallest acts done with love, there is a transformative power that surpasses the limitations of any circumstance.

Navigating Family Dynamics: Joseph’s Protective Surrender

Saint Joseph’s protective surrender resonates deeply with those navigating the effects of family dysfunction. Consider his journey to Bethlehem with Mary. He was truly powerless over the challenges of this journey. Joseph surrendered his need for control over the circumstances and instead focused on the safety and well-being of Mary and the unborn child.

This act of protective surrender becomes a guide for adult children facing unmanageability. It can prompt a shift from attempting to control or fix every aspect to prioritizing the safety and well-being of oneself and loved ones. Joseph’s protective surrender speaks to the strength found in vulnerability, offering a profound lesson for those of us acknowledging powerlessness over the traits developed in childhood. 

The Little Acts of Thérèse: Navigating Emotional Turmoil

In the emotional turmoil often associated with growing up in a dysfunctional home, Saint Thérèse’s “Little Way” becomes a roadmap for surrender. Her struggle with emotional wounds, much like the wounds carried by adult children, reflects a powerlessness over the impact of past experiences. Thérèse’s response was not grand gestures of codependency, but small, intentional acts of love.

Consider the little acts of kindness Thérèse performed for difficult sisters in her convent. In these small gestures, she found a way to navigate emotional complexities. Her surrender was not in eradicating the emotional challenges but in choosing love over resentment. Thérèse’s “Little Way” teaches that even in the most emotionally charged situations, there is transformative power in surrendering to love. 

Surrender as a Path to Transformation

In the lives of Saint Joseph and Saint Thérèse, we discover that surrender is not an admission of defeat but a courageous choice that opens doors to transformation. Powerlessness, acknowledged and embraced, becomes a catalyst for surrender. Saint Joseph’s protective surrender guides us in overcoming childhood traits, while Saint Thérèse’s “Little Way” illuminates the transformative power in small acts of intentional love.

Step 1 viewed through the lens of Saint Joseph and Saint Thérèse becomes an invitation to emulate their examples of surrender. In the midst of powerlessness and unmanageability, we find solace in the lives of these saints who navigated similar struggles. Their stories offer not only a reflection of our own challenges but also a roadmap for the transformative journey that unfolds when we choose surrender over control. Saint Joseph and Saint Thérèse, pray for us!

As adult children of dysfunctional homes, we attend meetings in order to heal, find peace, grow in our relationship with God, and forge a path toward healthier human relationships and ordered self-love. It is never too late to embark on this empowering journey and we welcome any and all adult children to join us on this grace-filled journey.


Born and raised Catholic, Chloe is an adult child of alcoholics who recently rediscovered the beauty of 12-step recovery through attending Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA) and Catholic in Recovery meetings. For many years, Chloe was an Evangelical Christian before the Blessed Mother, the saints, and the witness of a dear friend eventually drew her back to the Catholic faith.