Recently I had a client boldly declare, “Recovery is as easy as 1-2-3!” Of course, very curious to learn what exactly he meant by that, I replied, “Tell me more.”

Enthusiastically he responded, “You know, 1-2-3—the first three Steps in AA. You just keep using those three steps over and over again in daily life.”

I have to agree that if all of us in recovery would consistently utilize the first three Steps in every aspect of our daily lives, it would go a long way to helping us maintain sobriety and find a lot of peace, contentment and happiness. A big reason why the first three Steps (and all the Steps for that matter) are so powerful is in part because of the way the brain forms addiction.

The Computer Brain Loves Escape!

That 3 1/2 pound computer between our ears is built to focus on one particular priority above all others—SURVIVAL! The computer-machine-brain constantly scans our inner and outer environments looking for anything stressful, painful, awkward, worrisome, etc. When it detects a discomfort, it immediately looks for a way to escape and self-soothe . The more immediately accessible, reliable and powerful the solution, the more the brain likes it. So, if through experience my brain “learns” that alcohol or drugs or nicotine or food or sex are convenient, powerful outlets for escape and self-soothing, it will seek the same solution next time the discomfort appears.

Once the brain repeatedly and consistently links a specific discomfort to a specific powerful escape, the two become welded together and automatic. Over time this can easily evolve into an addiction, which simply means that in spite of the negative consequences, I keep turning to my drug-of-choice–I can’t stop! I try sheer willpower but the effort just wears me out and I eventually give in. No matter what I do or try, I just can’t break free!

Steps 1-2-3

Eventually, after endlessly fighting and failing, I come to realize that by myself I will NEVER overcome my addiction. By myself, I am POWERLESS! That is Step One. Then I come to realize that I need a power outside myself, something that is more than just me alone–a Higher Power. That is Step Two. And finally, I become entirely ready to stop doing it “my way” and instead turn my will and my life over to the the loving care and guidance of my Higher Power. I begin seeking to do things His way. In the moment of stress and discomfort, I listen and feel for His little nudge, idea or impression and I follow it. That is Step Three.

So, next time you find yourself faced with a stressful, painful or uncomfortable situation, rather than giving in once again to your ego-computer-machine-brain’s favorite escape, STOP and follow the first 3 Steps. With practice you will find that it can be as easy as 1-2-3.