500 Lambda Circle, Apt A, Wernersville, PA 19565 

Helping Those Who Need It Most - One Day At A Time

Unmanageability of the Disease of Addiction

When I first came into the rooms of the 12 step program I was exposed to people that seem to understand my experience. It was these people that began to show me the way out of the insanity of my disease. They began to expose me to the tools of the 12 step program -openness, honesty and willingness. They began to explain the 12 steps and what it was in each of them that I needed to learn so that I could begin to make the changes I needed to make if I were going to be successful in this thing called recovery.

It was in step one that I first heard the word unmanageable. It was relatively easy for me to see that my life indeed had become unmanageable. I did need to look any farther than the consequences of my illness. There was the denial and dishonesty, the accidents, the stealing, the jails, the hospitals and institutions and the wreckage of my life. At first, this is what I thought was the unmanageability in my life. But then my sponsor began to help me understand that these were only the symptoms of my unmanageability and that my problem truly ran much deeper.

He had me spend time reading the AA big book and we would begin discussing the various concepts that existed in those pages. He showed me that within the big book there were numerous examples of this external unmanageability. I have outlined several of these as described in the big book below:

1. being restless, irritable, and discontented (page xxvi),

2. having trouble with personal relationships,

3. not being able to control our emotional natures,

4. being a prey to (or suffering from) misery and depression,

5. not being able to make a living (or a happy and successful life),

6. having feelings of uselessness,

7. being full of fear,

8. unhappiness,

9. inability to be of real help to other people (page 52),

10. being like "the actor who wants to run the whole show" (pages 60-61),

11. being "driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity" (page 62),

12. self-will run riot (page 62),

13. leading a double life (page 73),

14. living like a tornado running through the lives of others (page 82), and

15. exhibiting selfish and inconsiderate habits.

These name just a few of the symptoms of the "spiritual malady" that's described throughout the Big Book. But still in all, these are just symptoms of the "spiritual malady." They describe the external unmanageability that all addicts and alcoholics must face in their lives.

But there is also the inward or internal unmanageability that we all experience. It is here that we find the root cause of our problems. If we do not address this internal unmanageability we find that we are putting ourselves at risk for a return to drinking or drugging. Ignoring our internal unmanageability will most certainly result in relapse. It may occur quickly or it may take years. Just what is this internal unmanageability and what does it look like. What is it really?

What is the driving force of the symptoms described above? On page 62 the Big Book explains that "Selfishness-self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles." This "SELFISHNESS-self-centeredness" (or the "ego", as some people refer to it) drives us to respond to life situations with the above "symptoms" as well as disorders and addictions other than alcoholism.

For me personally, I began to understand this as the psychology of "more" versus the psychology of "enough." In my active addiction I was always looking for more. I wanted more drugs, more alcohol, more power, more control, more money, more sex, more fun, more everything. I stopped drinking and using but this desire for more did not go away. I still wanted more. I still was experiencing internal unmanageability even though I had stopped drinking and using.. It wasn't until I learned that "I" was enough, that life was enough, and that the program was enough that I began to find inner peace. I had to learn that I was no better than and no worse than anyone else. I was a human being, an addict and alcoholic, with many flaws as well as some strengths. I needed to learn to be satisfied with myself and those around me. I needed to learn to be satisfied with life on life's terms. I needed to recognize that I was enough and that I had enough as long as I held onto my sobriety and worked a program.

I have a lot of work to do to address the underlying flaws and root cause of my disease. This underlying selfishness and self-centeredness, my ego and my need for more needed to change. I needed to change. And most of all I needed help because I could not do this alone. I needed help from power outside of myself. I needed a relationship with God as I understood him. It was only in developing this relationship that I could truly address the spiritual malady that existed within me. It was only in developing this relationship that I could become complete, whole, and fulfilled. It was only in this relationship with God as I understand him that I could find the answers that I was seeking. It was only in recognizing that I was not God and bringing him into my life that I was able to squash my ego and address my desire for more.But in truth it was going to take even more than steps two and three to arrest this internal struggle with ego. I needed a full and complete spiritual awakening. The only way to achieve this spiritual awakening is through working all 12 steps and learning how to live the program each and every day, one day at a time. I do not do it perfectly but believe I am and continue to make progress. Today I am happier and find that throughout my life I am enough and I have enough. Working the program brings true inner peace as well as a sense of satisfaction.


Questions you may want to ask yourself as you begin the process of growing in your recovery might include:

1.      Where am I at with regards to external unmanageability in my life at this time?

2. Where am I at with regards to internal unmanageability in my life at this time?

3. Where am I  at in recognizing that my way doesn't work and I need to rely on something other than myself?

4. Where am I at with serving others?

5. Where am I at with self-will?

6. Where am I at with believing that with God I am enough?

7. Where am I at with recognizing both the internal and external unmanageability that may still continue to exist in my life?

8. Where am I at with turning this unmanageability over and learning to follow God's will for me?

©2/2013 John W. Stiemke