Alcoholism and addiction are sustained through denial, or a lack of awareness of how severe your problem is. You may have at some time realized that your behavior felt “out of control,” and so tried to “cut back,” but for the most part, you find ways to rationalize your behavior and not realize that you are not always in control of your behavior.

Addiction, both being under the influence of a substance, and then being unable to do or think about anything else until your next “fix,” takes over your entire being, and is not something you can regulate or simply switch off. You are not as “in control” as you think you are, and it is admitting this that is the first step towards realizing you need help.

Many people in the recovery community refer to this awareness as a sense of “powerlessness,” and while that can seem like a scary concept to some, it is a very important part of developing the self-awareness that is an essential tool in the struggle for recovery.

What powerlessness isn’t

Powerlessness should not be a cause to become discouraged, or be understood as saying we have no control over our actions and can do nothing to get better. Powerlessness is not the same thing as helpless, and even less the same thing as hopeless.  In fact, it is only after admitting powerlessness over an addiction that we are able to take the steps necessary to get our lives back.  Surrender is the first step towards working to freedom.

Powerless over Drugs and Alcohol

Powerlessness is just an important part of realizing just how much power our addiction has over ourselves.  An addict is powerless because he or she is unable to control intake of a substance and limit it to “responsible” levels, or stop when it becomes harmful. Many people drink to excess or use drugs irresponsibly, but then are able to stop or change their behavior after a few warning signals.

If you are truly addicted, that is not an option, and you can not compare yourself to those people.  You must start the recovery process knowing that sobriety is going to be your goal, because you have, after close scrutiny to your personal vulnerabilities, accepted that drinking is not something you can limit to moderate levels.

Behavioral Changes

You have to radically change your behavior, not simply cut substance abuse out of your life, but develop radically new coping strategies. This will not be possible unless you come to the recovery process totally committed to change things. Admitting you are powerlessness builds up a sense of both humility and self-honesty that is going to be essential in doing the hard work of finding new ways to be present in the world and deal with what’s going on in your inner life.

You may tried to do so much hard work building up your willpower in your efforts at self-improvement. You may have tried to control your behavior under the influence, or cut back on use to a level that feels more reasonable. Yet the addiction remains, as do the underlying tensions and issues that alcohol or drugs are masking. Surrendering in these surface battles really means letting go and focusing instead on the larger root causes, taking a break to pursue your own inner healing.

Our society places a lot of value on trying to look as good and “in control” as possible, and so it can be scary to admit that you are not as in control of yourself as you would like to be.  But it is an important step, to realize the severity of your powerlessness. Hope is very possible, but it must begin by realizing how much is at stake. One drink or drug hit could send you back into a state of powerlessness.