Most people are familiar with the first step of addiction recovery as a way to break through denial and finally admit to yourself and others that you have a problem. There is more to step one than simply admitting to addiction, however, as the words in step one specifically state to admit you are “powerless” over your addiction. What does this powerlessness mean in terms of recovery and how does admitting a lack of power help to begin the process?
Being powerless means having no control and it is by realizing they have lost control that addicts develop the motivation they need to make important changes in their life. Although the first step can be one of the hardest, admitting to powerlessness can be freeing and open up possibilities to positive transformation.
Breaking through Denial
The reason that realizing they are powerless is such a big step for most addicts is that they have spent years believing that they can quit any time or that they are still in control. It can be a dramatic shift in their thinking to finally understand that their life is unmanageable for them and they have essentially lost all self-control.
Powerlessness means accepting the fact that you will never be able to drink safely again and letting go of the idea that you can simply “cut down” or manage your drinking. Once you admit to being powerless you can leave behind any of the ambivalence that could have been holding you back in the past and finally move forward into recovery.
When an addict understands that the drug itself has taken control over them, it can give them the drive to finally take back life into their own hands and be their own person again. They can take back their thoughts and actions and no longer be a slave to their addictive behavior.
Reaching Step One through Experience
Sometimes drug use can give addicts the illusion of having control especially over their emotional life. When feelings become overwhelming they may turn to drugs to control their anger, sadness or pain. Eventually, however, they begin to realize that their drug use is making their emotional life much worse and begins to actually control their feelings.
It is only after a great deal of suffering that an addict can finally reach the point of getting to step one. Their willingness to admit to having no power usually happens after they have repeatedly failed to control their intake or they have hit rock bottom, losing everything that’s important to them. People usually spend some time trying to moderate their drinking or drug use, maybe quitting for a few days or even months before slipping right back into their old behavior.
They might also experience circumstances that help them realize how much their drug use is negatively affecting their life such as losing their job, getting a divorce or getting in trouble with the law. It is through these experiences that an addict can finally get a sense that they are powerless over their addiction.
Powerlessness does not necessarily mean being weak; it simply gives an addict the opportunity to adopt a more humble attitude. Humility can be a great quality to have especially in recovery because it allows someone to be more open-minded and willing to listen or learn new things. Being humble can also prevent the kind of overconfidence in recovery that can ultimately lead to relapse.
An addict who understands that they are powerless over their addiction will be more vigilant about relapse and take all the necessary steps to prevent themselves from slipping back into their old ways. Admitting powerlessness is an essential part of recovery that every addict must understand and experience for themselves.