Admitting Powerless – a Defeatist Attitude?

powerlessnessIsn’t   admitting “powerlessness” over drugs and alcohol a defeatist attitude?

At first glance, declaring that one is powerlessnesss over alcohol sounds like a sad resignation to a lifetime of battling with the urge to drink.   Fortunately, the truth is just the opposite.   Both clinically and spiritually, this admission is the key to a lifetime of victory for the struggling addict.

A.         What “powerlessness” is not — Because there have been are some misapplications of this concept, we need to recognize that   the concept of powerlessness has nothing to do with:

  • Which drug or type of alcohol an individual uses.
  • How often or how much he or she drinks or takes drugs.
  • The will power to stay from taking a drink or ingesting drugs.
  • The determination to stay away from drinking friends, the liquor store, crack house or any other place he or she   and drink or finds drugs.

These are all choices that are within the addict’s ability to control — and for which they must be held responsible.

B.         What “powerlessness” is — The type of   “powerlessness” we are focusing on what happens when the addict uses his/her drug of choice (which may be ethyl alcohol).   In the beginning, anyone who starts using drugs or drinking alcohol has a lot of control over their using experiences.   They means they can still decision hen they will use, how much they will use, and when they will stop.   However, once an addiction progresses to the chronic stage, they lose the ability to predicate any of this.

C.         Loss of Control: the Hallmark of Addiction —   Some alcoholics have told me that they can’t be powerless because they can just stop for one or two beers and go home without it turning into a prolonged binge.   For them, I like to use the illustration of playing Russian roulette.   Just as every chamber of a gun does not contain a bullet, not every using experience ends up in days of out-of-control use and behavior.   Some alcoholics switch from beer to wine to hard liqour in hopes of gaining control over alcohol in one form or another. Others actually get into exercize, change their eating habits, lose weight, or even stop spending time with certain acquaintances in order to get a better handle on their use. Eventually, addicts will find themselves out-of-control while under the influence. When an addiction has progressed to the point of the loss of control, it is a “point of no return.”

D.       “The Illusion of Controlled Use” — This notion is at the very bottom of the addict’s denial system.   Some may be willing a admit that they “have a problem with alcohol” or that they “drink too much.” But, real recovery only begins when they are fully able to accept that they have totally lost the ability to control their alcohol or drug use once they start.   Destroying this illusion, forever,   is one of the most important tasks to complete in a recovery program.   If this does not happen, all the addict learns and experiences in the program will not be enough to keep him or her sober for very long.   If drinking or drugging again is even a remote option, they will eventual do it.

E.         A Personal Word – I am a Spirit-filled born-again Christian.   But I know in my “heart of hearts” that if, today, I were to introduce chemicals into my body, I would have no idea where I would end up.   This sure knowledge of my powerlessness over alcohol and drugs keeps me from gambling with my soul and my eternal destiny.   Just like any other alcoholic or drug addiction, the victory for me is won or lost over the first drink.     I am convinced that taking it would launch me into a dizzying, downward spiral and only God knows how or if I would ever emerge from it.

F.         Powerless: the Key to Spiritual Power — In 1 Cor 6:12, Paul makes an interesting statement, “Everything is permissible for me—but I will not be mastered by anything.” A true sense of powerlessness enables the addict so see that he or she will not overcome addiction simply through force of will.   Success will only be found by looking outside of themselves for the power to change.   This relates very much to the words of Paual in 2 Cor. 12: 9 & 10.   Paul said he would rather boast about his weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on him and that God’s power is “made perfect in weakness.”

G.       The First Step Exercise — This is an effective group exercise to help addicts grasp their own personal powerlessness over their drug of choice.   To begin, ask members to create a list of twenty examples of life experiences that illustrate how they   are powerless over their “dug of choice.” Then, have them share their lists with the group to get their feedback.   The counselor leading the group must be prepared to hear lots of excuses and blameshifting.   So, he or she must be prepared to keep the focus on the individual, their use, and the real life events that following the use of alcohol and drugs.   With the help of the counselor and their peers, the goal is to help progrm participants gain enough self-insight to see that only one thing led to their hardships; the use of alcohol and/or drugs.   Take this factor out of the equation and none of the rest would have followed.


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