Powerlessness and unmanageability

“WE ADMITTED THAT WE WERE POWERLESS OVER ALCOHOL/ADDICTION….”
This quotation is the first half of the first step of the 12 Step Recovery Programme and contains the crucial term–POWERLESSNESS. Understanding and accepting that one is powerless is the key to recovery from alcoholism and active addiction. What does the term powerless actually mean? It means different things to different people and it is vital that everyone finds an understanding that they find meaningful.
Powerless means that the addict/alcoholic does not have the power to control this using or drinking and that once he starts, he will continue until interrupted or incapacitated, one has the choice to start but not to stop.
Powerless has something to do with unpredictability. The addict or alcoholic cannot safely or accurately predict his behaviour once he has had his first drink or drug despite his best intentions, resolutions or the promises he has made to himself or any other interested party.
Thirdly, being powerless to do something implies willpower alone is insufficient to achieve that end. Promising to stop drinking or using, as most of us did countless times, implies that by harnessing the power of the will, one intends to stop. The alcoholics track record shows conclusively that promises to stop, based on willpower alone, are futile.
Finally, being powerless over something does not mean that it cannot be done. Powerlessness implies that it cannot be done on one’s own but may be possible with help from some other source. The power of the group appears to be greater than the power of the individual.
Staying clean and sober hinges on accepting one is powerless over one’s alcoholism or addiction. It has nothing to do with willpower, promises, or attempts to exercise more control. In fact, powerlessness defines the addict or alcoholic and is the very feature that separates addiction from social and recreational use.
“that our lives became unmanageable…..”
This quotation is the second half of the first step and introduces the concept of unmanageability. What does this mean? It is many things to many people. The word should be seen as a broad term used to describe the myriad of problems and complications encountered in the life of an alcoholic or addict as a result of drinking or drug using. Unmanageability is the word that describes the quality of your life just prior to asking for help.
Unmanageability can be easily categorized into personal, emotional, financial, domestic, social, professional, moral, legal, medical, spiritual. The list is as long as all the aspects of our lives, because the damage from our addiction has infiltrated and affected every aspect of our being-the material world, the emotional sphere and the spiritual realms.
Unmanageability should be seen as a consequence and not as a cause of addiction. Most alcoholics or addicts continued to justify much of their using or drinking on the grounds of their unmanageability but this only allowed the addicted to deteriorate and the unmanageability to escalate.
Life was pretty unmanageable for many people long before they picked up their first drink or drug and will continue to be unmanageable long after they have had their last. However addiction only compounded any existing problems and created new ones in the process. The addict or alcoholic comes to see this addiction as the solution rather than the cause of unmanageability.
Getting clean and sober doesn’t guarantee that all the problems in our lives will disappear and that life will become manageable again. Many people are discouraged in early recovery when things are not instantly perfect. However, the likelihood that things will get worse is diminished.
Most people who require treatment for alcoholism or addiction have become masters of manipulation and deception but in reality are pretty unskilled in the art of normal living. Learning to make one’s life manageable again is a process that requires honesty, open mindedness to new ideas and a willingness to try new ways and is the very substance of recovery.

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