Merriam-Webster defines powerlessness as “devoid of strength or resources” or “lacking the authority or capacity to act.” You may have heard this word in the context of Alcoholics Anonymous or another recovery-related program. In AA, the word “powerlessness” refers to a lack of control over the addictive disorder itself – a lack of control over life. The word is meant to help program members recognize that there are things they can do to regain control over their own lives and understand that living a sober lifestyle essentially means taking back the power.
Admitting powerlessness over addiction is the first step in AA, and it is also one of the most difficult things someone in recovery will ever have to do. Even as our lives are being actively destroyed by substance dependency, we will convince ourselves that we are still in control. Addiction is a disease of denial, after all. The insidiousness of this specific brain disease works to convince that everything is just fine and dandy – even as the world crumbles down around us. However, to regain power we must first admit powerlessness. So how do we get to a point where we believe that addiction has truly (and comprehensively) taken over our lives?
Admitting Powerlessness Over Addiction
When trying to understand the powerlessness of active addiction, there are certain questions you can ask yourself. These questions might help you put things into perspective. Try to answer honestly. Your first inclination will undeniably be to again attempt to convince yourself that everything is fine. “I can stop whenever I want to stop, I’m just not ready yet.” “My drug use is only hurting myself – it shouldn’t matter to anyone else if it’s only affecting me.” Leave justification and rationalization at the door, and answer as honestly as possible.
The questions are as follows:
- Have you attempted to quit or cut back, only to find that you were unable to do so for any length of time?
- When you did pick back up, did you rationalize your behavior by saying something like, “I’ll only have one,” or, “Why am I even trying to quit? I don’t have a problem.”
- Have your friends or family members ever expressed concern, only to have you brush off their concerns or begin to act defensively?
- Has a medical professional suggested that you stop using chemical substances? Are you still using chemical substances?
- Have you gotten into trouble because of your drug or alcohol use? Did you continue to use your substance of choice anyway?
- Have you lost friends over your drugging or drinking?
- Have you ever felt out of control, like you want to stop but you aren’t able to, or like you want to only have two drinks but end up having six or seven within a short period?
- Have you ever embarrassed yourself while intoxicated?
Believe it or not, “normal” people – meaning people who are not suffering at the hands of a substance abuse disorder – will stop using as soon as they begin to experience interpersonal consequences. For example, most people will stop drinking entirely when they get a DUI, and even if they start drinking socially again down the road, they will never, ever get behind the wheel of a car when intoxicated. Most people will undergo one embarrassing drunk experience and cut back significantly, or be told by a medical doctor to lay off of the alcohol – and so they will do just that with absolutely no hesitation. If stopping is hard (or impossible), you have lost your power over chemical substances, and they now hold the power over you.
Get the Help You Need
At Garden State Treatment Center, we believe in the importance of admitting powerlessness before attempting to get clean and sober. For more information on our program of alcohol addiction recovery, please feel free to give us a call today.