A First Step Recovery Workbook

“I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.” Anne Frank

“We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable”.

What do you think when you hear this?  To me, it brings up helplessness and hopelessness.  It means I am weak, not in control, and that I have no will power.  But let me tell you- Don’t ever let anyone tell you that!  There are no stronger people than those that are battling addiction or alcoholism.  It takes tremendous strength and willpower to continue with your life when you have this disease.  

Powerless does not mean that you have no strength-in fact, it is the opposite.  “Powerless over alcohol or drugs” means that you cannot control how the substance reacts inside your body.   

Powerless means that you are absolutely convinced that if you put alcohol or drugs in your body again, disaster will follow.  That the exact place you are right now, no matter how low that might seem, will look better than where your next use will lead you.

Powerless over alcohol or drugs means that you have strength, are self-aware, and honest-you realizes that without alcohol or drugs, you can succeed and accomplish goals.  Powerless is recognizing the limitations placed on you through the use of alcohol or drugs.

Admitting powerlessness is Strength,  You are taking the first step forward for the rest of your life!  You are convinced that alcohol or drugs are toxic for you- they are poison for you-and today, you do not want to use them again.  

Powerless over alcohol or drugs means that you have control over your future,  You have control over the direction of your life.  You have the strength to achieve your goals and dreams.  Powerlessness = Recovery.  Today, This day, you have a choice

I was 19 years old the first time I went to an AA meeting.  I was the only girl in a room with a lot of older men.  I convinced myself, quite easily, that I was most certainly not like them and I never went back.  It was 26 years later, a couple of wrecked cars, divorce and not a little heartache along the way that I finally found recovery.  I went through a couple of detoxes and rehabs before I managed to start to learn to live sober in my own skin.  It is not an easy road, not in any way, shape or form.  And there isn’t any map.  Just a lot of good and some bad folks along the way.  

So take a deep breath, grab a cup of coffee, and pick up your journal & a pen.  (You can answer these questions in a journal or download the pdf version on this page)

  1.  Why are you reading this today?  

  2. What do you want for yourself?  (The consequences of use to end?  To learn how to drink or use socially?  To be OK with stopping completely?)

  3.  What has it been like for you before to physically stop drinking or using? Are you completely nauseated and throwing up?  Is there physical pain or complete exhaustion?  Do you shake?  If you have no symptoms of withdrawal, does this convince you that you are not an alcoholic or an addict?   

  4.  How much money do you spend on alcohol or drugs each day?  Each week?  Each month?  (Be honest with yourself here; this is an area that is easily underestimated)  

  5.  How often do you drink or use each day?  Each Week?  Each Month?  How much do you drink or use each time?  Is it more on weekends or under duress? Do you drink or use more with friends or when you are alone?  Do you have separate drinking or using buddies from other friends?  

  6. What is it like for you to be around family members?  Do you abstain around them or drink or use with family members?  Do you drink or use more or less with them?  Do you drink or use drugs before you meet with them because you can’t or won’t drink or use them in front of them?  

  7. What types of consequences have you experienced from drinking or drug use?  (Include physical and mental health, financial and economic problems, family, friends, social strains, and estrangements).  

  8. Describe the first time you used alcohol or drugs?  (How old were you, what happened?  How did you feel before using, while using, and the next day after using). 

  9. Describe when you began using regularly (may be daily, every weekend, whatever your pattern of use became).  

  10.  What happened the first time you tried to control your use?  What factors came into play that created the first thought that you might need to slow down or stop using?  (Missed workdays, school day, positive drug screen, accident, ticket, family or friends expressing concerns).  

  11. What happened the next time you tried to control your use?  What factors came into play that created the first thought that you might need to slow down or stop using?  (Missed workdays, school day, positive drug screen, accident, ticket, family or friends expressing concerns). 

  12. What happened the next time you tried to control your use?  What factors came into play that created the first thought that you might need to slow down or stop using?  (Missed workdays, school day, positive drug screen, accident, ticket, family or friends expressing concerns).  

  13. What types of things did you do to stop drinking or using?  (Changed the type of alcohol, changed friends, jobs, started/stopped exercising or other activities, started/stopped school, started 12 step meetings, treatment/detox).  

  14. What brought you back to use following each period of abstinence?  How did you feel about yourself when you were sober again?  Were you angry?  Disappointed?  Blaming others?  Or did you not really think about it?  Did you convince yourself that you did not have a problem with alcohol or drugs? 

  15. When was the first time you believed you might have a problem but believed you could control your use because you were now aware of it?  What happened?  

  16. Do you believe you can ever drink or use socially again?  What would change within you to make that a reality?  

  17. What are the benefits to you by drinking or using socially?  

  18. What are the consequences if you begin drinking again or using socially? 

  19. Why would it be important to drink or use socially?  

  20. What would the consequence be for you if you did not drink or use socially?  

  21. What would be the benefit for you if you did not drink or use socially? 

  22.  Have there been other drugs that you have used in the past, where the consequences (vomiting, bleeding, physical pain, etc.) were greater than the ‘high’ and you stopped using that drug permanently?  What was it, what happened, why did you make that decision?  

  23. Based on your ability to stop using that drug, are you confused as to why you are struggling with your current drink or drug?  

  24. What does the term  “Disease of Addiction” mean to me?  

  25.  Are you uncomfortable with the term ‘Disease”?  Why or why not?  

  26. How does my use affect my life and the life of those around me?  

  27. Have I blamed other people for my behavior? 

  28. How did I get my ‘disease’? 

  29. Have I compared my use/addiction with other people’s use/addictions?  

  30. Do I use less or more than the people I compare myself to?  Why?  

  31. What does un-manageability (being unmanageable) mean to me? 

  32. Have I used alcohol or drugs to change or suppress my feelings?  

  33. What reservations about entering recovery am I still holding onto?  

  34. Do I accept that I’ll never regain “control” over drinking, even after a long period without use? 

  35. What could my life be like if I surrendered completely?  What does ‘surrender’ mean to me?

  36. Am I WILLING: to follow a sponsor’s or counselor’s direction, go to meetings regularly and give recovery my best effort?  Why or why not?  

  37. Have I made peace with the fact that I’m an alcoholic or addict and that I’ll have to do things to stay clean?  Why or why not? 

The first step of any recovery program, whether you are suffering from alcoholism, drug addiction, Diabetes, or Heart Disease, all center on one thing:  Acknowledging that you have a problem and that you have to do something about it.  If you are diagnosed as ‘pre’-diabetic, the doctor will let you know that there have to be changed in your life:  

  • Eat healthy foods. Choose foods low in fat and calories and high in fiber. Focus on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Eat a variety of foods to help you achieve your goals without compromising taste or nutrition.  Pastas, 

  • Be more active. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week.

  • Lose excess weight. If you’re overweight, losing just 5% to 7% of your bodyweight — about 14 pounds (6.4 kilograms) if you weigh 200 pounds (91 kilograms) — can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. To keep your weight in a healthy range, focus on permanent changes to your eating and exercise habits.

  • Stop smoking. Smoking may up your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

  • Take medications as needed. If you’re at high risk of diabetes, your doctor might recommend metformin (Glumetza, others). Medications to control cholesterol and high blood pressure might also be prescribed.  

  • Limit or Avoid:

    • Processed meats.

    • Fried foods.

    • Fatty red meat and poultry with skin.

    • Solid fats (e.g., lard and butter)

    • Refined grains (e.g., white bread, pasta, rice, and crackers, and refined cereals)

    • Sweets (e.g., candy, cake, ice cream, pie, pastries, and cookies)

There are many causes of Diabetes, including genetic, environmental and mental/emotional health.  Regardless of how you got here, now you are here, and in order to live a healthy life, and not advance further, you must follow this advice.  If you don’t, your health will decline, your choices become limited, and in the end, if you want to live, you will do these things anyway,  Some may lose limbs and be placed on daily injections.  Some progress further along to heart disease and more.  Many die.  And this is an arrestable disease.  

Alcoholism and Addiction are the same.  Addiction is a treatable, chronic medical disease involving complex interactions among brain circuits, genetics, the environment, and an individual’s life experiences. People with addiction use substances or engage in behaviors that become compulsive and often continue despite harmful consequences.

 38.   After reading about Diabetes and the Definition of Addiction, how do you feel now about your own drinking or using patterns?   

 39.  Do you believe you have the disease of addiction or alcoholism?  Why or why not?  

 40.  This first part of the workbook- “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable” is crucial to your recovery.  It is the only part of recovery that must be completed absolutely honestly and with conviction.  What do you think now?  Have your opinions changed?   Why or why not? 

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