We admitted we were powerless over nicotine — that our lives had become unmanageable.
Step One is how we start the recovery process. We begin to honestly face our use of nicotine. For this journey, we either need to bring with us, or find along the way, spiritual principles such as honesty, willingness, humility, acceptance, kindness, and open-mindedness.
At first, all one may hope for is to stop the compulsive use of nicotine and reduce the concerns of the physical and/or financial consequences. However, members who have come before us have found the true gifts of working the Twelve Steps of Nicotine Anonymous to be the spiritual awakening and the enhanced quality of their lives. The road to recovery, which often takes us «beyond our wildest dreams,» begins with the First Step.
Remember, this is a «WE» program. Together we change is one of our slogans. We do not travel this road of recovery alone. Each of us is helped along the way by our fellow members, a sponsor, and our Higher Power.
Admitting anything can be difficult. To expose ourselves, to be vulnerable to others, can be uncomfortable, even frightening. This may be due to the magnitude of the moment, or it may raise painful memories from the past where it was unsafe to do so. Here, at Step One, admitting is vital. Hopefully all members find that Nicotine Anonymous meetings offer a safe place to do so within a supportive group of recovering people who understand.
It is empowering when a person admits the truth outward. Doing so also admits (lets) the truth inward. The denial that has let the lies, excuses, and rationalizations permit us to continue using nicotine needs to be dismantled and shattered. Denial can no longer be what enables our behavior. We have a program of recovery that can support us through a life-affirming process.
Denial is a common reaction to the realities of addiction. In denial we are not able to realize or fully accept the facts in front of us—that we are hooked on a drug we cannot stop using, and that there are many negative consequences to ourself and others.
We may say, «I love to smoke» while completely ignoring or minimizing the consequences of this toxic relationship. We ignore or avoid learning how nicotine manipulates brain chemistry to create this «love illusion.»
We may believe that nicotine relieves stress. The one basic stress relieved by using nicotine is a temporary relief from the nicotine withdrawal symptoms that begin about 20 minutes after each dose.
This drug induced belief also ignores (or does not realize) the immediate extreme physical stress caused by inhaling nicotine and the many other poisonous substances in tobacco smoke. Many of the same poisonous substances are also contained in nicotine delivery systems unrelated to smoking. Smoking always makes carbon monoxide that blocks and inhibits our absorbing oxygen. The body screams in a nightmare panic, while the brain dreams on nicotine. No matter the public health announcements, we imagine the facts do not apply to us.
Yes, we may believe we are somehow special, somehow immune to the dangers. Denial will minimize what we do and may point out how others use more than we do. We may only focus on specific nicotine users who appear to live long lives without health problems, and ignore that five million people a year die from smoking related diseases, while millions more are suffering with serious illnesses.
We may believe that our cigarettes are our «best friend» who is always with us in good times and bad. But are we not denying what a best friend really is? What best friend would want us to smell bad? What best friend would want us to burn holes in our clothes and furniture, and basically burn up our money? What best friend would want us to put a smoke screen between them and us? What best friend would threaten and cause us so many debilitating and deadly diseases?
The spiritual principles of honesty, willingness, humility, acceptance, and open-mindedness, as initially stated, will be exercised in taking the First Step. We honestly admit to our addiction. We willingly surrender to the truth of our situation with humility and acceptance. We maintain an open mind to learn and reduce resistance.
1-1: Am I ready to sincerely admit I am powerless over nicotine?_______Why?
1-2: Can I accept that I cannot continue to use nicotine?____Why?
1-3: Am I concerned with what others will think of me if I admit to my addiction? Explain.
1-4: What have I said or done to justify or excuse my use of nicotine?
1-5: In what ways may shame affect my willingness to admit certain truths?
1-6: To what lengths have I gone, and/or what lies have I told myself, in order to use nicotine? Describe and list.
1-7: Do I dismiss how my addiction impacts others? If yes, what are the impacts?
1-8: Do I not risk quit attempts because I fear the feelings from the failure I expect? Explain.
1-9: Do I think I can deal with ending my addiction on my own, without any need of others’ support?_____Explain.
1-10: Have I already begun to feel relief from admitting any lies or false excuses regarding my addiction?______Explain.
Powerless over nicotine is a state of reality and statement that can be easy for some newcomers to admit. Stating this truth aloud can bring them relief. They may have struggled to stop using nicotine for years, but could not get free, or stay free. They realized that with nicotine in their body, they had no personal power to control their use of nicotine.
However, for other newcomers, powerlessness may not be a state of acceptance they want. They may misunderstand powerlessness to be a weakness or a character flaw. After all, many of us used nicotine because we wanted to feel more powerful, more in control.
Typically we have been in a battle with ourselves, as well as family and friends, defending our nicotine use. We remained on guard against perceived attacks to our sense of self determination, our «rights.» Therefore, switching gears into «powerlessness» in order to move forward in recovery can be a challenging concept at first.
Admitting we are powerless over nicotine is actually empowering. As the adage states: «The truth shall set you free.» If we had power over nicotine, if using was really a choice, would we have done much of what is in our personal history of behaviors and attitudes related to our nicotine use?
Nicotine addiction is a powerful force, not only due to its chemical affect on the brain, but also the cultural history of nicotine use, the media campaigns, the movie icons, our role models, peers, and our own personal rituals about using nicotine—all «stored» in our heads. Also, the addiction typically begins in our youth, while our brains and self identity are still being formed. Inhaling nicotine in smoke speeds it to the brain. This nearly instantaneous spike of nicotine greatly increases the grip of the addiction.
Surrender is what one needs to understand (probably in a new way) in order to experience the purpose of Step One and the positive possibilities that can result. Surrender is not merely a resignation to simply accept we are nicotine addicts. Surrender is an acceptance of the entire truth and purpose of Step One.
For some members it was painfully clear they were addicts, and unconditional surrender to the truth of their entire situation was obvious and necessary for them. For others, they may have come to Nicotine Anonymous thinking that smoking or chewing tobacco was merely a «dirty habit» that they should stop and the behavior had little or
no connection to other areas of their lives and attitudes. A full commitment to change, to surrender, may not yet seem necessary.
However, it’s important to understand how this addiction impacts our lives in ways which are both obvious and inconspicuous. Keeping an open mind will be important throughout the recovery process. Humility allows discovery. After all, members came to realize that «if nothing changes … nothing changes.»
1-11: How often and on what notable dates have I promised myself and/or others that I would quit smoking or using tobacco?____________________________________________
1-12: How many times have I actually tried to quit?________
1-13: What other methods have I used to try to stop using nicotine?
1-14: To what risky or extreme lengths have I gone in order to buy nicotine products?
1-15: What am I powerless over?
1-16: Before joining Nicotine Anonymous, what have I understood surrender to mean?
1-17: Do I resent in any way the fact that I’m told I need to «surrender»?_Explain.
1-18: What do I think addict behavior looks like?
1-19: Can I identify any of these traits in myself?___Describe.
1-20: Do I tend to act first, regret later?____If so, identify in what situations.
1-21: How does my nicotine use affect me physically, emotionally, and spiritually?
1-22: Have I accepted that I cannot use nicotine again, even after a long time of abstinence? ______Why?
1-23: Have I willingly sought a sponsor yet, and accepted his or her suggestions or guidance?______Explain.
Our lives had become unmanageable in many forms. The evidence of unmanageability often proves our powerlessness over nicotine. This unmanageability can exist in our external daily activities as well as within our internal thoughts and beliefs. Sometimes there is chaos that is quite apparent, but often we ignore it. Sometimes we are so used to the chaos that we do not even realize the stress and dysfunction it creates in our lives.
Externally we may limit our access to positive experiences with people, places, and things because we smoke or chew tobacco. Careers and job options are limited. Health insurance rates are higher. We may forego paying bills or buying necessities, or experiencing positive pleasures such as vacations or a nicer living space. Family and friends may continually argue with us about stopping our use of nicotine products.
We may spend less time with our children or leave them unwatched just so we can use nicotine. Now, with most school children being taught how dangerous tobacco use
is, we cause them constant anxiety about our getting sick or dying. Our children may get sick from our smoking. Or they may start using nicotine themselves, and we have no good example to set, and little credibility if we try to discourage them from using.
Internally, our unmanageability manifests itself in lies, misbeliefs, false fantasies, guilt, shame, arrogance, self-centeredness, self-loathing, and many other negative forms. These can become ingrained and difficult to root out. Working the Steps is part of the process of getting «clear-headed,» and among the reasons why recovery is more than just stopping the use of nicotine.
«Hitting bottom» may not be the same for each of us. Some bottoms are deeper, darker, and more dangerous than others. Sometimes we believe we hit the bottom, but it is not the final bottom; we stop using, then relapse, and suffer more losses. We may also hit our bottom due to a sudden hospitalization.
A bottom will likely be a place of despair and isolation. It may include a health crisis. No lie or excuse can extricate us. Blaming other people, places, and things does not divert the fact that we find ourselves feeling alone with our problem.
As miserable as a bottom can be, it can become the place from which to push up and out to freedom from nicotine. When it becomes more uncomfortable (miserable) to continue using nicotine than to go through the anticipated withdrawal and the anxiety of going into the unknown or unfamiliar, we begin to make changes.
Another aspect of unmanageability is the all too common experience of relapse for nicotine addicts. However, beware: do not use unmanageability as an excuse to use nicotine and relapse. If we let a relapse linger, it may be a long time, if ever, before we get free again.
Hopefully, any relapse brings us back to work Step One again, to renew and deepen our surrender. We may have had a situation, even a moment, when we «forgot» we were powerless over nicotine. We may have thought we could have «just one» to manage a situation. The threat of a relapse is one reason we work this program «one day at a time.» We can never take our recovery and freedom for granted.
A relapse need not be a failure if it is exchanged for lessons learned. Among the statements in «Our Promises» is, «Gradually our interest is focusing on Nicotine Anonymous rather than nicotine.» A relapse can happen when we focus on nicotine rather than the principles and mutual support of the program.
If we step away from the humility of Step One, we risk stepping off a «cliff» and falling deep down into our addiction. A relapse starts in our head before we put nicotine back in our brain. Heed the warning signs at the «cliff’s edge» and Step Back to Step One.
1-24: What happens when I exert my will power on my nicotine use?
1-26: How have I used nicotine to escape or avoid life’s problems and daily challenges?
1-27: How much money do I spend for my nicotine/tobacco products per year? $_ 1-28: How would it feel if I got an annual increase in income equal to this amount?
1-29: Have I used money to buy nicotine products instead of taking care of other financial responsibilities or necessities?______Identify and list.
1-30: Have I ever ruined clothing or furnishings due the products I have used? Identify and list.
1-31: Have I had ongoing arguments with others about my nicotine/tobacco use? Who?
1-32: What do the children in my life think about my nicotine/tobacco use?
1-33: How does using nicotine affect my relationships with family, friends, and co-workers? ___________________________________________________________________
1-34: Am I ashamed of my addiction?_______Why?
1-35: Have I avoided being with people who do not use tobacco products?_________
Avoided places where I couldn’t use?______
1-36: Have I taken care to not smoke around people who do not smoke?________
1-37: Have I taken care to not litter public areas with my butts or spit juice?_
1-38: Do I use tobacco products even when I am sick, impairing my ability to improve my condition?_______
1-39: How much time do I spend to obtain and use tobacco / nicotine?
1-40: How much time do I spend emotionally wrestling over these issues with myself and / or others?
1-41: How has the belief that I can’t stop using contaminated my attempts at other challenging tasks or opportunities in my life? Describe.
1-42: What are the excuses or rationalizations I’ve used for my areas of unmanageability? ________________________________________________________
1-43: When the same consequences of my actions keep crashing in front of me, do I experience regret, make up excuses, or blame others?_Identify and describe.
1-45: Who among my friends or family members is good for me to spend time with?
1-46: What can I do to establish a tobacco-free home and vehicle?
1-47: Would I risk being around nicotine users in an effort to show how capable I
1-48: Do I practice using the tools of the program regularly or only when I suddenly need them? Explain.
1-49: Are there situations that I don’t think I could get through without using? Describe.
1-50: Do I avoid asking for help and / or developing an alternative response plan to risky situations?_______Why?
1-51; Have I identified when, where, and why I resist using the tools of the program, and which ones?________Describe.
1-52: Am I ready and willing to move forward to Step Two?_________
By attending meetings we are aware there are Twelve connected Steps (a stairway, if you will), which are worked one at a time, one followed by the next. If we have worked Step One with rigorous honesty, we can be ready to come to believe in the care and comfort of a Power greater than ourselves; in whatever way each of us may understand such a Power.