Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over our addiction - that our lives had become
There is no soundness in my flesh because of your indignation;
there is no health in my bones because of my sin.
For my iniquities have gone over my head;
like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.
My wounds stink and fester because of my foolishness,
I am utterly bowed down and prostrate; all the day I go about mourning.
For my sides are filled with burning, and there is no soundness in my flesh.
I am feeble and crushed; I groan because of the tumult of my heart.
O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you.
My heart throbs; my strength fails me, and the light of my eyes—it also has gone from me.
My friends and companions stand aloof from my plague, and my nearest kin stand far off.
Those who seek my life lay their snares;
those who seek my hurt speak of ruin and meditate treachery all day long.
But I am like a deaf man; I do not hear,
like a mute man who does not open his mouth.
I have become like a man who does not hear, and in whose mouth are no rebukes.
Here we see the psalmist in great pain and misery because of the sin in his life. As addicts we can
identify with these types of feelings or conditions that have come from our sin as well. No sane
person would want to find themselves in this state of corruption and decay. But because of the sin
in our addictive behaviors and our inability to say no to those behaviors, we find ourselves feeling
bad in body, heart, mind and soul. Notice the many areas of consequences. In the soul there is a
feeling "as a heavy burden they are too heavy for me." In the body, there is "no soundness in the
flesh" and even a "loathsome disease". In the heart there is "turmoil of my heart" and the resulting
groaning. In relationships, there is a turning away of lovers, friends and family. In society there
are "snares" and people say mischievous and deceitful things about us. There is a hint in this psalm
also of the solution in laying it before God (38:9). These are what should be covered in the
following steps of the program - how to turn it over to God and begin making things right before God
and man. But first we have to admit that we need help, that we are powerless to overcome this
addiction in our own strength.
Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.
Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.
Both of these verses from Proverbs can be relevant to how we probably have lived before taking the
first step. In verse 11, the fool returns to his folly as a dog returns to its vomit. Our addictive
behaviors have been our folly, that which makes a fool out of us. And just as the dog returns to
what it knows and is familiar with, even though it may be unhealthy and nasty from an objective
viewpoint, so also we have returned to our own addictive behaviors over and over again, even though
they are unhealthy and nasty from any objective viewpoint. What may have blinded us to the insanity
of this behavior is given in the next verse, verse 12. If we have been wise in our own eyes, saying
to ourselves that most everyone or everything else is stupid or wrong or too inhibited or dull in
their beliefs and life (name your own excuse that allows you to be wise in your own eyes), then we
set ourselves up for being a fool or worse. In reality, we have really become addicted and have let
that addiction rule our reason, rather than the other way around. We usually only wake up to this
fact when we find our lives out of control and have to admit that perhaps we were not so wise after
all. This can be a difficult thing to do, but is the first step on the road to recovery.
And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an
He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain,
for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke
the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him.
Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with
And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him.
And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High
God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.”
For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!”
And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.”
And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country.
Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside,
and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.”
So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs; and the herd,
numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the sea.
The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was
that had happened.
And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting
there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid.
This passage tells of the healing by Jesus of a man who had many demons. In modern times we may
wonder about what demon possession was really about. But regardless of our conclusions, there are
many parallels between someone with demon possession and how we can act in our addictive behaviors.
Verse 5:5 tells of the man crying and cutting himself with stones day and night. If we have gone
very far into our addictive behaviors we most likely have found ourselves crying and hating
ourselves afterwards for what we have done. The hatred may even have gone as far as cutting or doing
bodily harm to ourselves in one way or another. It may go on day and night, having no end to the
addictive behavior until we finally collapse in sheer exhaustion. And when we get up from the sleep
of exhaustion the addictive behavior may take over again until exhaustion, creating an utterly
self-destructive form of living. Also, we see in verses 5:3 and 5:4 about the incredible strength of
this man. In our addictive behaviors with our adrenalin rushing through us, we also can often have a
physical strength beyond our normal day to day strength. This may even be a source of pride and one
reason that we turn to our addictive behavior, to have a feeling of strength or empowerment that we
normally cannot find within ourselves. The lie of the addiction is, of course, that when we are
through with our addictive behavior then we are usually weaker overall than before, having exhausted
our strength or goodwill from others in often daredevil or foolhardy schemes that bring us no
lasting good and often destruction. In verses 5:6 and 5:7 we see the answer to this man's dilemma.
By God's grace this demon possessed man has the sense to run and worship Jesus. Whether it was the
demons within this man or the man himself, there was an acknowledgement of Jesus' position as the
"Son of the most high God". Following this, Jesus yielded His power over the man's demons and by
verse 5:15 we see that this man had been returned to his right mind. So from the 12 step
perspective, one might say that this passage covers steps 1 through 3. The last phrase in verse 15
is very telling also. Instead of rejoicing with this man that he had been delivered, the towns
people "were afraid". So it may be also as we turn from our addictive habits. Instead of support and
appreciation it may be that others shun us or are afraid of us, especially those who somehow benefit
from our addiction (e.g., fellow addicts). This should not deter us from moving forward. In the
context of the 12 step program, going forward would mean creating an inventory, the 4th step. In the
case of this demon possessed man, an inventory would remind him strongly what he had been delivered
from and help motivate him to never return to that state of being again.
For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is
right, but not the ability to carry it out.
For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.
Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.
For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being,
but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to
the law of sin that dwells in my members.
This is a classic passage for addicts that tells of how the apostle Paul was ultimately powerless
over the sin in his life apart from the power of God. He had the will to do what is right, but at
the same time he also had the inclination to do what brought him into the "captivity of sin". In the
facing of our addiction and the taking of our first step, we also become aware of how powerless we
are over the sin of our addictive behaviors. We realize that no matter how strongly we might will or
want ourselves to be a certain way, to do a certain thing or to not do a certain thing, then we find
that we are not able to carry through with that in a consistent manner. We find ourselves back to
the same old self-destructive behaviors that we have grown accustomed to, that have become so much a
part of our lives. In our "flesh", we are not able to carry through on staying away from our
addictive behaviors, even though we may want to and know at some level how self-destructive they
are. We have been powerless over our addictive behaviors and our life has become unmanageable.