Do I need to admit powerlessness over my addiction?

A common “requirement” that many recovery programs profess is that if you want to gain long term sobriety, you must admit that you are powerless over your alcohol/drug/porn addiction. Many counsellors, sponsors and people in recovery will, with absolute conviction, explain that you simply cannot overcome your habit until you are clear on that point.

I disagree. There are many ways to progress toward healing and sobriety and, unless you are truly compelled to do so, there is no need admit powerlessness (in whatever form that might take).

Powerlessness happens on its own

If you’re not sure, don’t worry about it. If you merely suspect have problem, and it moves you to action, that’s enough. Spending precious brain cycles stressing about it won’t help. Making healthy changes, cultivating new friends, building positive habits and attitudes, this is the real work of recovery. There’s no need to fret about admitting powerlessness to oneself and there’s  certainly no need to openly confess it in a recovery meeting.

Words don’t mean much

We can wholeheartedly admit powerlessness in one breath and then drink the next. We can passionately declare our undying love for a person in one moment and then despise them the next. We can start a diet one day and break it the next! Our sincerest admission of powerlessness, as an attempt to stop a severe addiction, is just our ego’s desperate attempt to control the situation.

It’s like like trying to stop a run-away train with heart-felt words.

But Twelve Step groups require this!

Yes, admitting powerlessness over our addiction is step one. So how can you move forward without that?

Some people do need to make very open, clear statements about their powerlessness over their addiction. For those who are convinced they need this, I support them. Everyone is on a different path and I support that.

I also agree that, at some level, there probably is acknowledgment of a real problem. Otherwise, an addicted person wouldn’t seek help (or even have a thought about seeking help). But, in my experience, a genuine admitting of powerlessness happens as a private, unspoken acknowledgement, deeper than words. It happens within one’s own heart. And like fruit ripens on a tree, it happens on it’s own. Admissions, however their done, don’t make it happen any faster.

Work your program, but follow your heart

Staying committed to whatever program your in, including 12 Step groups, is really important. With the right mix of people, these groups hold immense wisdom. But, at the same time, stay open to your own heart. Part of you may be genuinely questioning whether a certain practice or attitude is healthy or helpful. Listen to that.

I had a hard time ending my addiction and I agonized over what principles (and what programs) I needed to follow. In the end, before I finally started my long term sobriety, I decided to drop all the worry and do what I thought was best for me. I did this while I continued relapsing, so it took extra courage to stick with it. Shortly after, I’m grateful to report, my long term sobriety began (after 25+ years of addiction).

By the way, just to be clear, I was still working hard on my healing, making changes and cultivating the healthy habits I thought I needed. This included regular meditation, exercise,  sleep and eating well, cultivating healthy friends, deepening my spiritual life, and pursing long held passions.

That’s what I support in my clients and what I believe everyone who wants long term healing must do anyway. The details may differ, but the larger pattern is the same: We have to connect our own inner compass and do what it tells us. That might include admitting your powerlessness over addiction in some way. I suspect, however, many people can just drop this worry and get on with the real work of healing (which includes also living your life).

Please share in the comments below. Agree? Disagree? Other ideas? Let us know!

Need help reconnecting with your inner compass? Need help following through with what you find?

I’m a recovery coach and I specialise in helping people with both of these. Contact me about a free consultation. I’d love to help!

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