Even if you have never struggled with alcohol or addiction, you are probably aware of the programs that are set up to help people who are struggling, especially with alcohol. One of the overarching themes within many of these programs is the idea that a person cannot deal with their addictions on their own. Some even tout that a person will not be successful without certain beliefs and actions stipulated by their program. There is a lot of controversy surrounding whether or not a person is predisposed to addiction and whether or not that person can overcome the chemical reactions that occur within their bodies when they consume alcohol. Fortunately, there really is no definitive proof that any of this is true. There is proof, however, that the ways in which a person is able to quit drinking and become successful in sobriety and recovery are vast and varied. You just have to be open to the possibilities and options available to you.
There are differing opinions about how programs work in addiction and why those who have had success in programs swear by them unwaveringly. Some feel there is only one true way to overcome addiction. I will never be able to argue with someone who believes something is working if it is working for them. That is part of a bigger picture I believe in and part of what I would like to impart here. However, there is one specific belief in some of the programs I have seen that rub me the wrong way, at my core. I understand there are multiple ways in which this belief can be perceived and used to help a person work through their addictions. I understand the religious component present in this belief as well, and I can even concede that there may be something larger than ourselves always present and at work in our lives and the universe. With that said, I cannot help but feel this core belief also carries with it a horribly damaging and negative connotation that may even enable the very behavior it is striving to eradicate.
I am Powerless
As you undoubtedly know by now, I have to explore definitions of words. The definition of powerless is as follows: Adjective; without ability, influence, or power. The use of this phrase by programs is in regard to a person’s inability to control their drinking. It supposes that the only way to overcome their drinking is to give up their power to a high power that will act on their behalf. This goes back to the idea of an abnormal chemical reaction that takes place within a person predisposed to alcoholism. I recently read a study whose findings leaned away from this idea. The study showed that people who drank a non-alcoholic substance they thought was alcohol drank twice as much as people who drank an alcoholic beverage they thought was non-alcoholic. If the predisposed alcoholic idea were true, the person drinking the alcoholic beverage would have involuntarily wanted and consumed more of the alcoholic beverage regardless of whether or not they thought alcohol was present. The study showed that people consumed more of the beverage that did not contain alcohol because they believed there was alcohol present and they wanted to drink more alcohol; not because their body could not resist the chemical reaction taking place.
Now, I am aware that studies can be biased, and we can prove anything to be true through the use of strategically angled statistics, but I also believe the mind holds an enormous ability to create perceived realities from unrealistic circumstances. The placebo effect is a perfect example of how the mind can create a reality out of an unreal circumstance. If you are not aware of the placebo effect, it is the idea that the body can physiologically react to something that has no physiological attribute if the person believes it does. For example, a person taking a sugar pill they believe contains pain relief medication actually receives relief from pain after taking the sugar pill, which has no pain relief attribute. Does a person’s belief that they are powerless to the effects of alcohol actually make them powerless to the effect of alcohol? I believe it does.
Alcohol is an addictive substance
Alcohol is proved to be and widely accepted as one of the most addictive substances on the planet. Because of this, it makes sense that some people may struggle with moderating their alcohol consumption. The addictive nature of alcohol will, over time, create a physiological ‘need’ for more of the substance in any individual that consumes it. I put quotation marks around the word need because I have to question whether it is a need or a want. Think back to the study I mentioned earlier. The people who drank the non-alcoholic beverages drank twice as much because they ‘thought’ alcohol was present. The people who actually drank alcohol did not ‘need’ to drink more, they in fact drank less.
Want is a powerful human emotion. When we make more money, we like the benefits of having more money and tend to want more. When we fall in love, we like the benefits associated with that feeling and we tend to want more of that feeling. When we do something really fun, we enjoy the feelings associated with that activity and naturally want to do it more. All of these wants can be consuming and can take over our lives in search of more of whatever that want is associated with. But, do we need to have it? The answer is no.
Powerless or Powerful?
The biggest problem I have with the phrase, “I am powerless” is that if you believe it to be true then it, unfortunately, is true. What if we take the same energy we put into believing we are powerless and focus that energy instead on this phrase, “I am powerful.” Let’s look at the definition of the word powerful. Adjective; having great power or strength. If I believe I have strength, do I? Why are people able to generate inhumane strength in times of crisis? They are able to generate that strength because one, the strength is present within them; and two, they believe wholeheartedly at that moment they have access to that strength. The biggest inhibitor of our strength; physically or emotionally, is our personal belief in our ability to access that strength. We can only access the level of strength to which we believe ourselves capable.
A new core belief: I am Powerful
I am powerful, therefore I have power over my decisions and actions. I am powerful, therefore I believe I deserve more than a life of pain and misery. I am powerful, therefore I live the life I want to live. I am powerful, therefore I am able and willing to help others. I am powerful, therefore I know I can quit drinking.
If I believe the above statements to be true, are they true? I am here to tell you yes, they are true. Since I quit drinking, I have gained an enormous amount of personal, physical, and emotional strength. I believe this is not because I gave up my power, but because I made the decision to believe I held the power necessary to achieve my goals. Do I believe there are other external forces in the world that have power? Yes. Do I believe those external forces affect me and the way I see the world? Sure. Do I believe external forces hold all my power and make me powerless to the effects of alcohol, nicotine, sugar, food, or any other substance that is addictive? No, I do not.
I am powerful and I have quit alcohol, nicotine, and other addictive behaviors. You are powerful too, and you can do the same; if you believe it.