This post is an excerpt from the study guide which accompanies the “Overcoming Addiction” seminar. This portion is an excerpt from “Step Two: ACKNOWLEDGE the breadth and impact of my addiction.” To RSVP for this and other Summit counseling seminars visit

Think about a rainbow; not a bold-color-contrast rainbow like those in a children’s book, but a real rainbow in the sky. Can you tell the exact point at which “red” ends and “orange” begins? How about the point where “blue” quits being blue and becomes “violet”? On a spectrum, transitions are hard to define, but key distinctions are not. In the middle of each stripe it is easy to discern blue from green.

The movement from use, to abuse, to dependence is like this as well. But unfortunately, we often use this ambiguity in these transitions to deny that blue has become green; that use has become abuse or abuse has become dependence.

The purpose of this section is not to pinpoint moments where these transitions occurred. Likely they did not happen in moments. Instead, we want to look back and “own” (take non-self-deprecating responsibility for) the reality that these transitions have occurred.

We are not going to retrace our steps out of addictions; undoing each thing we did to get where we are. The only way out of addiction is forward. We can’t unwrite history. Even when we seek to make amends with those we hurt we are not trying to retrace our steps out of addiction. Instead, we are practicing non-denial and learning to tell our story accurately.

Exercise: On a separate piece of paper sketch out your answers to these questions. You don’t have to write in great detail, because you are outlining conversations, not writing a biography. As you build relationships with people who will play a key role in your recovery (i.e., support group, sponsor, close friends), these will be important topics for you to cover in conversation. Having these honest, accurate conversations about your history will be an important step towards having conversations with those you’ve offended or hurt as you seek to make amends.

  • When did you start using? Be specific for each substance of abuse you consume.
  • When did you stop being honest? Be specific about how dishonesty emerged in each circle of relationships.
  • When did the pain you were avoiding become more satisfying than the high you were gaining?
  • When did being sober begin to feel less normal than being high or intoxicated?
  • At how many junctures did your addiction change who your friends were (or could be)?
  • What rituals or daily routines have built up around your AoD usage?
    • Another way to ask this is, how would your rhythms of life have to change if AoD were not a part of your life?
  • When did you begin to feel a sense of shame about the things you were not doing in order to use AoD?
  • What were the key events that alerted you things had gotten worse than you meant for them to?
  • Make a list of the drinking rules (or their equivalent) you have made for yourself?
    • When did each rule emerge?
    • What was each rule meant to disprove or control?
    • How did each new rule “move the line” for a previous rule?

“Drinkers, for example, have their own definition of the amount or pattern of drinking they consider to be out of control. If the individual’s drinking does not meet this definition, he or she believes that it is under control. Such definitions might include drinking before noon; drinking hard liquor instead of beer (because beer is not considered strong alcohol); and drinking alone instead of at bars because there is moderation in numbers (p. 91).” Carlo DiClemente in Addictions and Change

It is as important to remember the successes you want to build on as it is to assess the failures you want to overcome. In that vein, consider these questions as well.

  • Since you began to abuse AoD, what are the longest periods of time you have been sober?
  • What were the most important factors that contributed to these seasons of sobriety?
  • What relationships or interests began to emerge during these seasons of sobriety that you enjoyed?
  • What are the skills and interests you have which would emerge if they weren’t crowded out or stifled by AoD?

Read Matthew 10:4; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15; and Acts 1:13. One of Jesus’ disciples was known as “Simon the zealot.” This meant he had been part of a violent group that sought to overthrow or undermine (whichever they could) the government. In our day his pre-conversion occupation would have been called terrorism or extremism. The frequency with which he is referenced as “Simon the zealot” in Scripture indicates that he learned to tell his story without shame or pride. That is the ultimate goal of this section. It won’t be completed in this step. But as you tell the story of how God changes your life it should be marked by decreasing amounts of shame (desire to hide details you wish were not true) or pride (using the severity of your struggle to discredit the ability of others to speak into your life or aggrandize the sin).

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Addiction” post which address other facets of this subject.