It’s true that addiction and alcoholism can cloud a person’s perception when it comes to facing the reality of their situation, but there are also times when the truth becomes unavoidable. This moment of truth usually comes when an addict hits their bottom, and suddenly clearly see how out of control their life has become. Sometimes simply coming to this realization is enough motivation for a person to change their life around.
Other times, an addict or alcoholic will continue their self-destructive lifestyle despite having the awareness of the damage it’s causing. In these instances, an addict feels powerless over their situation and feels that nothing can be done to change it. This phenomenon is called learned helplessness.
How learned helplessness can hold you back.
Learned helplessness can be detrimental to making progress in life because it involves strong feelings of powerlessness. A person will strongly feel that they can never make any changes or do anything to improve their life. They feel hopeless and powerless when it comes to shaping their own future. A person will then accept the current conditions of their life, even if they are quite dismal. Learned helplessness can take such a powerful hold on a person that even if opportunities for help or escape do arise, they will choose to ignore them.
Other symptoms of learned helplessness include:
-Having very low self-esteem or sense of self-worth.
-Hesitating when it comes to making important decisions, or procrastination.
-Frequent feelings of frustration.
-A genuine belief that they have no control over the future.
-A belief that all decisions will turn out badly or lead to negative events.
-Not feeling competent.
-Having a strong tendency to give up when things get challenging.
-Having difficulty solving problems or dealing with conflict.
-Frequent feelings of emptiness and loneliness.
Helplessness and addiction.
When it comes to alcoholism and addiction, learned helplessness can be especially damaging. Oftentimes, a person will turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with feelings of helplessness that they are already experiencing. It may seem that using substances helps minimize their feelings, but it eventually only exacerbate the issue. There is also learned helplessness that comes as a result of abusing drugs or alcohol. This individual will often make several attempts at getting sober and finally come to the conclusion that they have no control over their drug or alcohol use. This decision to be powerless puts a person in a very dangerous place.
Steps to overcoming helplessness.
The good news about learned helplessness is that it can be overcome with the right guidance and most importantly, motivation from the individual to make a change. Some ways to begin taking back power in life and with addiction include:
-Understanding that feelings of helplessness are not based on reality. The feelings have been self-imposed, so they can also be unlearned by one’s self.
-Past attempts at getting sober that have failed don’t mean that there’s no hope. Being aware of the fact that multiple attempts are quite common among many people in recovery can be comforting and even empowering.
-Learn to recognize and challenge the negative thoughts that come with helplessness. Remember that these thoughts are not based on reality.
-Spend time with people who have empowered themselves in life and in recovery. These people will inspire and motivate you with your own journey.
-Working with a therapist, support group, or 12 step program can also be very helpful in building a greater awareness of the self and destructive thinking patterns.