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The First Step

This article is written by nationally recognized historian and oft-quoted Alcoholics Anonymous archivist Mitchell K.

As research continues with the study of A.A.'s History, we are going to make a slight departure from our series. The following is an Editorial from the Cleveland, Ohio Central Bulletin dated December, 1942.

The Central Bulletin was A.A.'s first newsletter and according to many A.A. Historians, contained some of the best early writing relating to recovery from alcoholism. This Editorial, one of a series on the Twelve Steps, is about the First Step.

The First Step
Vol. l - No. 3 -- December 1942

When we became members of A.A., we admitted that we were powerless over alcohol and that our lives had become unmanageable.

This was the most important step in our getting dry. We had to admit to ourselves that we were alcoholics. We had to recognize that all our efforts to control our use of alcohol had failed. We had to recognize that our periodic spells of not drinking had not given us the ability to control the use of alcohol. We had to recognize that we could make our lives manageable only when we had given up alcohol entirely.

Habits are tricky. They are the result of years of doing some thing under certain conditions. They have associations that we often are not aware of, which tend to lead us back to the path of that habit despite our efforts. The Devil within us is the prompting of our nerves, which leads us either to act without thinking or to think up excuses for denying the lessons we have learned.

The single act of confession that made us dry is not enough to keep us dry. The Devil within us prompts us anew in many mysterious ways. The habit that prompts us is an unconscious body yearning, which calls now and then for that "one little drink" that will line up the tracks for twenty drinks and a blackout.

To stay dry we have to continue to recognize that we can escape alcoholism only by not drinking.

Mental Reservations

There have been enough of us in the seven and a half years of A.A. who have been tempted to believe that through A.A. one could regain control over alcohol. The experiences of those thus tempted have been tragic.

Some men have had difficulty at the start, because they never really admitted that they were powerless over alcohol. They had a mental reservation. They kept debating with themselves and finally reached the wrong answer.

But some men get into difficulty long after they think that their troubles are over. They work hard. They pray. They attend meetings and work with new candidates. But the Devil of old habit, sleeping in the nerve cells, sneaks up on them and begins to whisper that they have themselves under control and it would be all right to take a drink now and then.

When a man tells himself "I know I can take a drink right now and nothing will happen," his old habits and body yearnings are prompting him to think dangerous thoughts.

That is the seed of disaster. Call the roll of those you know who have had to have this bitter experience of learning all over again that they were powerless over alcohol.

No Respecter of Geography

Strange too, how some members sometimes get the notion that because they have gone off to another city that the rules no longer apply. They couldn't drink in Cleveland, but they think it would be all right in New York or Chicago or Detroit or Akron! Of course we are just as powerless away from home as at home. Devil habit may prompt us to forget that first lesson and may whisper in our ear that "no one will know!" Well, call the roll, here too.
Wherever we are and regardless of the passage of time, we are alcoholics. We are powerless over alcohol. We cannot use alcohol and successfully manage our lives.

We learned that painfully. But our whiskey-hungry nerve cells have sly ways of working on the mind. If we yield, disaster awaits us.

That first step is important always: at the beginning, after the passage of time; at home and away from home. We are powerless over alcohol.

More will be revealed…

Mitchell K.

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