Isn't Admitting Powerlessness a Defeatist Attitude?

At first glance, declaring powerlessness over alcohol may sound like esigning to a lifetime of constantly battling with the urge to drink. Fortunately, the truth is just the opposite. Both clinically and spiritually, this is actually the starting point on the road to victory for the struggling addict.

What "powerlessness" is not
There are misapplications of this concept, so we must recognize that power- lessness has nothing to do with:

  • Which drug or type of alcohol an indidual uses ,
  • How often or how much he or she drinks or uses drugs
  • The will power to stay away from drugs and alcohol
  • Staying away from people, places, or things that involve drinking or using

These choices are all within the addict's ability to control-and the addict must be held responsible for making them.
What "powerlessness" is - We need to first focus on what happens when the addict uses his/her drug
of choice (which may be ethyl alcohol). Before addiction sets in, drug and alcohol users do have control over how much they use and when they stop using. Once addiction progresses to the chronic stage, they have lost the ability to predicate this. The role of will power goes completely "out the window" after the first drink.

Loss of Control: The Hallmark of Addiction
Some alcoholics switch from beer to wine to hard liquor in hopes of gaining control over alcohol. Others begin to exercise, change their eating habits, lose weight, or even stop spending time with certain acquaintances in order to better handle their use. Some users have told me that they can't be powerless because they can drink 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. 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."
The "Illusion of Controlled Use"- Some alcoholics are willing to admit
they "have a problem with alcohol" or that they "drink too much." But, real recovery only begins when they are genuinely able to accept that they have totally lost the ability to control their alcohol or drug use. Destroying the "illusion of controlled use" is one of the most important tasks for a recovery program. If this does not occur, nothing they have learned or experienced in the program will be enough to keep them sober for very long. If drinking or drugging again is even a remote option, they will eventually use again.

A Personal Word
I am a Spirit-filled, born-again Christian. Yet, in my "heart of hearts" I know that if I were to introduce mind- altering chemicals into my body, I have no idea where I would end up. This acknow- ledgement of powerlessness over alcohol and drugs keeps me from gambling with my soul and my eternal destiny. Like all
other alcoholics and addicts, the victory for me is won or lost over the fIrst drink. I know that taking it would launch me into a dizzying, downward spiral. Only God knows how, or if, I would ever emerge from it.

Powerless: The Key to Spiritual Power
In 1 Cor 6: 12, The Apostle Paul says, "Everything is permissible for me-but I will not be mastered by anything." A true sense of powerlessness helps addicts to see that they will not overcome addiction simply through force of will. Success is found only by looking outside of themselves for the power to change. Paul states in 2 CO1: 12: 9-10 that he would rather boast about his weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on him. God's power is "made perfect in weakness."

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 "drug of choice." Then, have them share their lists with the group to get feedback. The counselor leading the group must be prepared to hear lots of excuses and blame-shifting. He or she must keep
the focus on the individual, their use, and the real life events that follow the use of alcohol and drugs. With the help of the counselor and their peers, the goal is to help program participants gain enough self-insight to see that only one thing led to their hardships; the use of alcohol and/or drugs.

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Copyright by Michael Liimatta. All Rights Reserved.
Mr. Liimatta is the past President of Christians in Recovery®
and currently serves on its Advisory Counsel. He has been instrumental
in the program of Alcoholics Victorious for over 20 years. He is a Social Entrepreneur,
Consultant to Nonprofit Organizations with OneAccord, Chief Academic
Officer at City Vision College and has been involved
with drug and alcohol counseling and recovery education for 30 years.
Visit his web site

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