not powerless over drugs and alcohol addiction

When you attend a 12-step meeting, you will be introduced to the first step which asks you to admit you are powerless over your substance and your life is unmanageable. This statement is true while you are stuck in the cycle of addiction, immersed in the culture and consequences that long-term substance abuse attracts. When you enter treatment or choose recovery the concept of powerlessness must be struck from your vocabulary and mindset. You are not powerless in recovery.

In treatment, you are given the power back. It is your actions that will nullify both powerlessness and unmanageability. You have no control over other people and certain situations, but you are not powerless over yourself, the changes you can make, or the decisions you now choose.


Once you bypass recreational or occasional alcohol or drug use and slip into physical dependence, experience increasing tolerance, cravings and urges, suffer withdrawals, and are driven by the need to use in order to feel normal, you have lost the power of good decision making.

Alcohol and drugs become the center of your world. The people you hang out with, the hours you keep, the ability to stay employed, to pay bills, to nurture relationships, will all change.

There is no escaping the predictable downward spiral that addiction follows. Addiction will take everything from you.

Caught in the cycle, you are powerless over your use. You have to use. Your mind and body simply have to have the substance in order to function. Your chemistry has changed to such a drastic degree that your body literally cannot function without using. It has come to rely on the substance. When it doesn’t get it, you get sick.

You are most definitely powerless at this point. Very few people are able to just stop using on their own, fix their lives, and never use again. The inescapable damage that addiction does to the body and mind make it nearly impossible to fix without help.

Still, you are only powerless over your use. The way you act and how you treat people is all on you. You are making decisions, albeit bad ones. Rest assured, all of the bad behavior you engage in during your lowest points in addiction will be addressed in recovery.

You will need help and treatment to get your life back, learn how to change and live clean and sober and rectify all the wrongs.


No one can make you go to treatment. Whether you were coerced by family, friends, the local judge, or other authority, the choice is ultimately yours. This will be your first big decision. Stay or go.

You made the choice, begrudgingly or otherwise to go to treatment rather than suffer any more consequences of your drug or alcohol use. Don’t you owe it to yourself to see what recovery is all about?

Admitting that you are powerlessness over your cravings and urges and subsequent drug or alcohol use is liberating and reduces your lack of control to a set of actions that can be changed.

Getting your butt into a bed or seat in treatment is the first step in overcoming powerlessness. You’ve got this.


Do not play the victim. You ARE the mind and body that has gone along for the ride of addiction. You cannot use your addiction and powerlessness over your using each day as an excuse for all of the bad things you have done.

Conversely, all of the bad things you have done, or have experienced while out and about were not done to you. You suffered the consequences of your actions. There was no conspiracy that made people target you. Crap happened because you were in the middle of addiction.

And you’re not a victim. You have a condition that requires a lot of hard work and diligence to keep under control. Your core beliefs and values have taken a hit, but you still did what you did.

Your buried trauma, emotions, hurts, anger, resentments, blame, and all of the other negative feelings you have been self-medicating will have to be dealt with.

All of the things you did to avoid being the person you are or to obliterate thinking, obviously didn’t work if you are in treatment. Your crap is all yours. Recovery is a time to sort it all out and reinvent a better, stronger, powerful you.

Repeat to yourself “I am not powerless in recovery.’


It is time to get to know the real you and to work on who you want to be. You have the opportunity to rebuild your core values and your belief system and get a solid foundation under you.

Understand that you are not strong enough to beat addiction without help, education, support, and a supreme effort on your part to remain clean and sober for every 24 hour period ahead.

Dig deep and do the work. You may never have known the person you are meant to be. You spent a lot of time running from thoughts, feelings and emotions and the expectations of others.

You get to take all of your power back by not using drugs and alcohol to keep you lubricated and in a fog. You get to choose every little thing you do from here on out. You are more than capable of turning your life around.


Once you accept that you can only control yourself and your response to outside influence, the weight of the world will start to lift.

One of the biggest lessons in treatment is that you have no control over other people, places or things. You may have influence or decision-making capability, but you have no way to know what is going to happen next.

All this time you have been trying to control every facet of your life. This is exhausting. Spending all of your time with your mind spinning out of control has you splintered.


You choose what your new goals are, and the solutions to the mess your life has become. You write down the steps to success and what action to take, and you start working on getting your life back in order.

You will learn about ‘doing the next right thing.’ It is such a simple construct, and if in doubt, it works every time.

Every action you take, every good decision you make is you taking back your power. Lasting change takes time, repetition, success and failure. It is up to you to make it happen.

Every time you feel out of control or powerless over something, break it down into smaller segments. Sometimes doing nothing is the right answer. Taking a bit of time to make a good decision is responsible and sensible.

Taking back your power does not mean you are cured, fixed, can bully other people, or run your mouth off. Your newfound power must come with humility and accountability.

Being well is all about balance. You cannot have good without bad, or happy without sad. You cannot have power without balancing the softer side of life.

Finding your balance will take time and practice. Find out what works for you and keep doing it.


If you become too confident or arrogant, you are setting yourself up to fail. Overconfidence will lead you into danger.

Taking back your power does not make you better than anyone else, and it doesn’t make you invincible. Every day is a learning experience. The more you learn the stronger you are.

Taking life for granted, slipping back into old thought patterns or behaviors is just the beginning of guaranteed failure. You will miss something important and end up slipping or relapsing.

As soon as you slip or relapse, your powerlessness will come roaring back. Your love affair with your substance will explode around you.

Your send of powerlessness will be immediate.

Your life will spiral back out of control.


Being in recovery can be slow or boring. It is such a change of pace from what you have been doing.

Deciding you don’t want to drink or use is only the beginning of recovery. Recovery is not meant to be a punishment.

Recovery is about saving your life in order to give you the opportunity to live the life you have always wanted or a new life that you want to aim for.

Powerlessness ends with you taking action. If you don’t like something, change it. Every single barrier or obstacle in your mind or in life is there as a challenge to you.

Problems are opportunities to solve a puzzle and learn from them. The next time you are faced with the same problem, you will know how to fix it.

Hate your life? Change it.


Once you are abstinent and in recovery, your powerlessness is gone. By choosing recovery you have already taken back your power.

If you assign blame to your problems and behavior on your addiction, you are denying that you made really horrible decisions.

You have the power to be a nice person or a really crappy person. It’s your choice. Don’t expect much help and support when you act like a jerk all the time.

Asking for help and support because you don’t quite know what to do is not powerlessness, it is simply a lack of information or assistance. Asking for help is a powerful step.

Powerlessness over having to use in order to keep your physical and psychological self-functioning has ended. Not using today is a powerful step.

Accept the responsibility of your life. You have the power to make good decisions and to create the life you want. You never have to feel such powerlessness in your life again.

Keep making good decisions.

11 Early Recovery Lessons. Information to help you be successful.

Prepare for rehab: what you need to know.
Recovery Myth: Only drinking or using on weekends means you don’t have a problem.
Recovery Myth: One week substance free and you are cured.
Recovery Myth: You have to hit rock bottom before you get help.


Below are a few articles from peer support groups or treatment centers with their take on powerlessness.

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not powerless over recovery


  1. Nice post thanks for sharing I really enjoyed it.

  2. Great article about taking control over your life and addiction. Love the part about admitting powerlessness, I think a lot of addicts have trouble doing that. Really appreciate this post!

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