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The Power of Admitting Powerlessness

The First Step toward Addiction Recovery

The first step of a 12-step program is to admit that you are powerless over your addiction, and consequently, your life has become unmanageable. For many, this is one of the hardest things to do. While it is important to believe in your ability to overcome your addiction, you first must admit that you have an addiction and you need help in order for things to change. Until you do so, drugs and/or alcohol will continue to exert their power over you and control every aspect of your life. The power of admitting powerlessness is that it is the first step to taking back your life.

It is not difficult to overestimate the amount of control we have over our lives, particularly when addiction is involved. When most people begin abusing drugs or alcohol, they truly believe they can limit their use. They are convinced they are recreational users who take drugs and alcohol because that is what they want, not what they need. This is why hitting rock bottom plays such a large role in addiction. As addiction begins to overtake your life, you lie to yourself about what is happening. Unfortunately, many cannot shatter that illusion until they hit rock bottom and are confronted with undeniable proof that everything is not okay. Only then do they feel that powerlessness that comes from addiction. 

Many people resist the term powerlessness because it contradicts much of what we have been taught. Believing you can do anything and fix everything if you just try harder and want it enough is instilled in us at any early age. The truth is we cannot do or fix everything, regardless of how hard we try or how much we want it. We cannot control the weather, war, illness, or other people. You can no more overcome your addiction all by sheer force of will than others can treat their cancer or diabetes without the help of medical professionals. You have a disease. You need help. This does not mean you are weak or a failure. Embracing humility and seeking help are acts of strength. When you become lost, you consult a map or ask for directions. If you stubbornly forge ahead without an accurate idea of where you are and where you are headed, the road will be that much longer and frustrating.

Any admission that you are powerless over your addiction should be accompanied by a huge sigh of relief because you never have to find yourself in this situation again. You have not only admitted there is a problem, but by also seeking help you have already begun to address the issue. By letting others guide you through treatment and recovery, you are that much closer to a happier and healthier life. That is why so many people find Step One so freeing. After all, you cannot escape the chains that bind you until you acknowledge that there are, in fact, chains, and someone else holds the key to unlocking them.

Once you fully admit you are powerless over your addiction, you can begin the process of rebuilding your life. As you survey the havoc your addiction has wreaked, you can take comfort in knowing that the rubble will gradually be cleared away and a new landscape will emerge. That takes time, patience, and the support of others. If you continue to harbor false notions that you can accomplish this on your own, however, you will find that the rubble may be shuffled around a bit, but it will still remain and block the possibility of a sober life. On the other hand, with the right tools, expertise, and assistance, you can remove the debris and rebuild something far better in its place. Admitting powerlessness over your addiction opens the door to possibilities, and nothing is more empowering than crossing that threshold.

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