The First Step: What Does It Really Mean?
Power is a vague concept. We want to assert control over our lives, we work to achieve influence at work and online, and we strive to manage expectations as they evolve, but how exactly does “power” play into these dynamics?
The first step in the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step process states, “We admitted we were powerless over our addiction; that our lives had become unmanageable.” Before delving into the nuances of control and powerlessness, it is important to note that this message is expressed in the past tense. We were powerless implies that we have progressed to a better, much healthier place.
You cannot improve upon history until you thoroughly understand it. By acknowledging our stumbles along the way, we can pick ourselves up and move forward with more meaning and purpose.
Powerlessness Can Be Empowering
Perspective is the foundation of sober living. As we think back to previous years in which substance use dominated our lives, we can create an instant comparison with the stability and lucidity in which we now exist.
Admitting to your shortcomings from the past helps to bolster your accomplishments in the present. You have moved on from your powerless days and are moving forward to an increased sense of self. It’s like a split-screen scene in a movie. The most current you is thriving, especially when you compare it to the uncertainty of the former you. By embracing the powerlessness that overwhelmed you during your youthful years, you are taking responsibility for your indiscretions and committing to a more enlightened path moving forward.
Hence, you are empowered by owning up to your powerlessness. It sounds complex, but when you think about it, you understand that you are a survivor on so many levels. Celebrate your wins and contrast how fragile you used to feel with how far you have progressed since that period in your life.
Compassion Is the Ultimate Power Trip
Here is one truism about recovery: you have to really want it. You can’t get sober for someone else; you need to do it for yourself. Family members who want to help you must try and understand this dynamic. They can only do so much to aid your recovery, but you need to do the majority of the heavy lifting.
The best way for loved ones to assist you on your quest towards sobriety is to give you the space to fail and/or succeed. Compassion is essential, but it can’t interfere with the individual process of healing. You need to do the legwork of improving your own life. Seek out meetings, establish connections with other people in recovery, and forge your future on your own terms. Only then can you transform powerlessness into empowerment.
Even though you cannot rely on others to guide you toward sobriety, you can invite their compassion into your life. Acknowledge their love and let it fuel your recovery. After all, they are still in your life because they know how strong and resilient you can be. They’re betting on you!
In addition to accepting others’ compassion, you must be merciful to yourself. You were powerless against that first drink or drug or choice, but now it’s time to forgive the younger you. Nothing is more powerful than atonement and you deserve to overcome your past regrets.
Power – Pay It Forward
Now that you have gained perspective over your powerlessness, it’s time to put it to great use. You can see your substance use as a remnant of your past. It’s like kryptonite because it’s an artifact from another planet where you had no power, but now you are Superman and your feet are firmly planted on Earth.
Seeing your addiction in terms of being powerless is essential to asserting your strength. You intimately understand your past transgressions, so you can avoid the pitfalls of succumbing to them again. This knowledge is valuable to your sobriety, but it can also be useful to others in your recovery group. Educate your peers, demonstrate how you are navigating powerlessness, and be an example for their journey towards sobriety. After all, there is nothing more fulfilling than helping others.
Reclaiming Control After Abuse
Abuse is not just a relationship between you and your substance of choice. Many addicts suffered abuse in their past. One extensive study surveyed survivors of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The probability that these individuals would develop a lifetime dependence on alcohol was 39%, marijuana use was observed at 44.8%, and opiate abuse registered at a rate of 6.2% among people with PTSD.
When past abuse predicts future addiction, power is at the core of the causality. If you relinquished control to your abuser, whether it was a parent, spouse, or even an institution, it is difficult to reclaim a sense of power. You must learn to find stability and structure in your life to feel like you are finally in control of your destiny.
Power Is a State of Mind
It is important to define the source of your power. Drugs and alcohol are external factors. They once controlled you, but now you control your own fate. By internalizing a sense of empowerment, you make yourself less vulnerable to outside influences. If someone offers you a drink, you are strong enough to turn it down. The bottle has no sway over you because you have harnessed your sense of self-control.
One great step towards crafting the sober life you want is to surround yourself by the proper support system. Our recovery community immerses you in empowerment so that you can dictate your own progress and experience various forms of therapy. The bottom line is wellness, and the only person who can achieve that wellness is you.
Powerlessness is like a rock in your shoe. You can let it irritate you or you can deal with it by marching ahead, stronger and swifter. There are so many variables that are within your control, like attending meetings and avoiding temptation. Instead of dwelling on the powerlessness from your past, you can focus on the possibilities in your future. Contact our office and tell us how we can join you on the road to recovery.
Author – Chris Howard
Chris Howard is the Founder and Director of Ethos Recovery. He has a B.A. in Psychology from UCLA and has served as a community advocate/mentor for men and women in recovery since 2010.