“We admitted we were powerless over people – that our lives had become unmanageable.“
Many of us come to Parental Alienation Anonymous (PA-A) ﬁlled with despair and hopelessness. Some of us come to ﬁnd out how to get another person to stop alienating our children; others grew up in alienated homes or left alienating partners and no longer live with active alienators. We may not see the impact of having lived with alienation until we begin to acknowledge that there are familiar difﬁculties in our present lives and relationships. Many of us would not have voluntarily walked through the doors of PA-A if we were not in some sort of crisis or pain that forced us to seek help. Though we may not have labeled it this way, we come to PA-A because our lives are unmanageable – we come looking for relief.
The ﬁrst word of the First Step illustrates an important concept in PA-A recovery: We are not alone. In our early meetings, we realize this is true. As the PA-A Suggested Welcome says, “We who live, or have lived, with the problem of alienation understand as perhaps few others can. We, too, were lonely and frustrated, but in PA-A we discover that no situation is really hopeless and that it is possible for us to ﬁnd contentment and even happiness in the midst of alienation.” Just hearing those words may help us to feel that there is hope for us, too.
Once we acknowledge that someone else’s alienating behavior has affected our lives, we may want to blame everything on the alienation. We are sure there must be something more we can say or do that will convince the alienator to stop their behavior, thus resolving our problems.
Not understanding that alienation is a disease, many of us have tried to take things into our own hands. We may have sought our own remedies, made excuses, nagged, pleaded, protected or punished the alienator in our lives.
In order to take the First Step and admit our powerlessness over alienation. Medical authorities agree that alienation is a progressive disease that can be arrested, but not cured – it is a life-time disease.
Alienation a family disease. This means “. . . the alienation of one member affects the whole family, and all become sick. Why does this happen? Unlike diabetes, alienation not only exists inside the body of the alienator, but is a disease of relationships as well. Many of the symptoms of alienation are in the behavior of the alienator. The people who are involved with the alienator react to their behavior. They try to control it, make up for it, or hide it. They often blame themselves for it and are hurt by it. Eventually they become emotionally disturbed themselves.” (from Alateen”).
In PA-A meetings we hear the three Cs describing our powerlessness over alienation: we didn’t cause it, can’t cure it, and can’t control it. We begin to learn the basic PA-A premise of taking our focus off of the alienator and keeping the focus on ourselves. Hard as it is to look at our own part in our problems, acceptance of Step One brings relief from impossible responsibilities. We were trying to ﬁx a disease – and someone else’s disease at that!
To ﬁnd peace and serenity in our lives, we have to change – a challenging, and perhaps fearful, thought. We may have to re-learn to take care of ourselves. When we are focused on another person’s alienation and behavior, many of us develop the habit of putting that person’s needs ﬁrst. We may suffer from low self-esteem and not believe that we deserve to take time for ourselves. Whether we judge ourselves as good or bad doesn’t matter; we are always defeated by alienation. In PA-A, we will ﬁnd help.
Admitting our powerlessness may be very difﬁcult for us. After all, we are the competent ones who held the family, the job or the world together while the alienator in our lives created chaos. How can it be that we, the responsible ones, are powerless? In PA-A, we come to understand that our lives may be unmanageable because we are trying to control the people and situations in our lives. It can be hard to conceive that our well-meaning efforts have been part of the problem, but by the time we reach PA-A, we are ﬁnally ready to try something – anything – new. We have to admit that nothing we do or don’t do can control another person’s alienation. In PA-A we learn to accept the things we cannot change (the alienator) and change the things we can (ourselves). To recover we have to learn to keep the focus on ourselves.
As we look back on our lives, we are asked to acknowledge our powerlessness over alienation, the alienator and every person and event we sought to control by our own will power. By letting go of the illusion of control over other people, their actions and their alienation, we ﬁnd an enormous burden is lifted and we begin to discover the freedom and the power we do possess – the power to deﬁne and live our own lives. Unmanageability lessens. We begin to see the paths to our own recovery.
In PA-A we discover principles that work for us and help us relate to others. PA-A helps us learn new ways to have healthy relationships in all areas of our lives. Step One reminds us of our proper relationship with others – we are powerless over them. It places us in a correct relationship with ourselves – when we try to control others, we lose the ability to manage our own lives. Step One is the true beginning of our path to recovery.
Working Step One
We admitted we were powerless over Alienation – that our lives had become unmanageable.
Each of us is free to create our own solutions using the experience, strength, and hope of those who have gone before us. The following questions for self-study or group study may help you with Step One. As you work each Step, remember to appreciate yourself for the effort. Call a friend or Sponsor and share your success, too.
- Do I accept that I cannot control another person’s alienation? Another person’s behavior?
- How do I recognize that the alienator is an individual with habits, characteristics and ways of reacting to daily happenings that are different from mine?
- Do I accept that alienation is a disease? How does that change how I deal with an alienator?
- How have I tried to change others in my life? What were the consequences?
- What means have I used to get what I want and need? What might work better to get my needs met?
- How do I feel when the alienator refuses to be and do what I want? How do I respond?
- What would happen if I stopped trying to change the alienator or anyone else?
- How can I let go of others’ problems instead of trying to solve them?
- Am I looking for a quick ﬁx to my problems? Is there one?
- In what situations do I feel excessive responsibility for other people
- In what situations do I feel shame or embarrassment for someone else’s behavior?
- What brought me into PA-A? What did I hope to gain at that time? How have my expectations
- Who has expressed concern about my behavior? My health? My children? Give examples.
- How do I know when my life is unmanageable?
- How have I sought approval and afﬁrmation from others?
- Do I say “yes” when I want to say “no”? What happens to my ability to manage my life when I do this?
- Do I take care of others easily, but ﬁnd it difﬁcult to care for myself?
- How do I feel when life is going smoothly? Do I continually anticipate problems? Do I feel more alive in the midst of a crisis?
- How well do I take care of myself?
- How do I feel when I am alone?
- What is the difference between pity and love?
- Am I attracted to alienators and other people who seem to need me to ﬁx them? How have I tried to fix them?
- Do I trust my own feelings? Do I know what they are?