Step 1 in AA – Self Diagnosis and Alcoholism.

Introducing the Steps Series

This is the first part in a series exploring the steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). The series will draw on my personal experiences and opinions, aiming to provide helpful insights for those journeying the same path.

In AA meetings, you will often hear clichés surrounding Step 1: “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol, and our lives had become unmanageable.” While these statements sound profound, they often lack substantial detail, making Step 1 a challenging first stride.

Unraveling Step 1 – Self Diagnosis

To me, Step 1 is about self-diagnosing your alcoholism and determining if the AA program is worth your time. This article will explore the following aspects that might assist newcomers in navigating Step 1:

  • The Difficulty of Self-Diagnosis
  • The Role of a Sponsor
  • The Influence of AA Fundamentalism

The Challenge of Self-Diagnosis

Self-diagnosing alcoholism is far from easy. Several factors contribute to the complexity of this task:

  • Alcoholism is a multifaceted issue, encompassing both physical and behavioral dimensions.
  • There’s no definitive medical test or DNA marker for alcoholism or Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD).
  • Alcoholism diagnosis involves various factors, considering that medical professionals perceive AUD on a spectrum.
  • Ironically, you won’t know if you’re alcoholic unless you drink and observe the impact on your system.
  • AA’s diagnostic suggestion of trying “a few controlled drinks” is not helpful or wise.
  • The possibility of poly-addiction to other substances or behaviors further complicates the diagnosis.

Thus, while it may seem that being sent to AA to “get help with your drinking” should automatically mean you’re an alcoholic, the reality is far more complex. Hence, understanding alcoholism is crucial before embarking on the recovery program.

Navigating Self-Diagnosis with a Sponsor

Most seasoned AA members will suggest getting a sponsor to guide you through Step 1 and the rest of the steps. Sponsors, with their personal experiences, can provide a customized roadmap to sobriety that suits an individual’s unique needs and preferences.

While the details around sponsorship and the steps may vary, the focus should always be on progressing towards the goal of abstinence. A sponsor’s primary role is to facilitate this journey, employing whatever strategies work best for the individual.

Understanding AA Fundamentalism

Newcomers to AA will often encounter a fundamentalist approach that treats the Big Book as a literal guide to recovery. While this approach can be informative and rewarding, it isn’t necessarily the only valid interpretation of the text.

A more contextual approach can allow room for diverse interpretations and understandings. By asking questions and making connections, you can gain a broader perspective and ensure the program suits your individual needs.

The Importance of Accurate Diagnosis

Understanding whether you are actually alcoholic is crucial before you embark on the AA program. Misdiagnoses are unfortunately common, partly due to the lack of distinction between binge drinking and heavy drinking. Understanding these nuances can help clarify whether you truly need the program’s proposed solution: total abstinence.

The Binge Drinking Conundrum

The topic of binge drinking is seldom addressed in AA, complicating the diagnosis process. While binge drinking can lead to problems, it doesn’t automatically indicate a transition into heavy drinking or alcoholism. This lack of clarity often leads to confusion and misdiagnoses.

Conclusion and Next Steps

If you’re unsure about whether you belong in AA, consider the following steps:

  1. Commit to thirty days of attending meetings and listening to the experiences shared.
  2. Try practicing total abstinence from alcohol and other mind-altering substances for at least thirty days. Pay attention to your feelings and behaviors during this period.
  3. If you feel better after thirty days of abstinence, consider getting a sponsor.

Alcoholism is a complex condition, and while the AA program isn’t perfect, it can be incredibly effective when you truly need it.