By: C. W. Stratton
“Feeling powerless and not acting is like being hungry and not choosing to eat.” ~Naoshad Pochkhanawala
Step 1 or Stalled?
The recovery process is full of concepts, phrases, simple quotes, and words that we either take for granted or use them to our advantage in many ways. When we are first exposed to this enlightening and transforming process, it is often at a recovery support meeting, where we hear, “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol (or our addiction), that our lives had become unmanageable.”
This is a vital step to the recovery process. To admit powerlessness is quite difficult for many.
Powerlessness means lacking strength or power, being weak, or feeble. It’s also identified as the aspect of a lack of ability or capacity. With hearing these definitions of “powerlessness” this would be the last thing we would like to admit.
We may have gone through our active addiction with great courage, the sense of being invincible, powerful, or in control.
Powerful or Delusional?
When in fact, we were totally out of control, cowardly and quite vulnerable. Maintaining the altered reality that we’ve created for ourselves, was deceptive on so many levels. This reality that we protected for so many years kept us locked in, kept us suffering, and kept us sick.
Not facing the “actual” reality of our circumstances seemed like a feat we would never be able to conquer. We maintained this thinking in such a way that we made it part of our very being. Assessing the altered reality, we chose to exist in, created a clear and somewhat comfortable place for us to easily move into the “victim role.” As we settled into this role, we’ve subconsciously adopted the definitions of “powerlessness” into our actions and dealings with others.
Where Am I Powerless?
Adopting this term leaves many people at a disadvantage when it comes to the recovery process. It creates a convenient barrier between us and the very things we should be working on to increase our growth. Through the process, we verbalize the word (powerless) at times when we sincerely refuse to put forth “effort” to get resolve with whatever we may be faced with. Over time, it becomes a part of our language and our very being. We make this our “go-to” which is followed by excuses not to act. Obviously, there are things that we are in fact powerless over:
- Other people’s actions
- What others may say
This is only a few, but I’m sure you may come up with others. However, at the end of the day are we actually powerless over the above? The one thing that I always keep in mind when looking at the above examples, is that my response to these are most important. So, there is a level of power we can keep up with it comes to these events. There was a saying that I heard years ago that I continue to assess, “we are not only powerless over drugs and alcohol; we are powerless over other people.” Is this in fact true? We can say yes and some may so no, but whatever the answer, we must look at the situation on a deeper level than we have been accustomed to doing.
Effort at Honesty and Willingness
Recovery is an inside job that requires complete and total honesty and a willingness to look at ourselves and address the very issues that have plagued us for so long. If we can’t apply these concepts (honesty and willingness) into our personal recovery, we will be left with that feeling of being powerless and continue to use this as one of our many excuses we tend to use when we fall into the mindset of being “effortless.”
Lack of “effort” can be quite crippling to recovery. Effortless is the nature of not using physical and mental exertion. It is also seen as simple, painless, easy, or uncomplicated. These exact concepts are the same ones we displayed during active addiction. How can we expect to progress, transform and grow if we use the same thinking from the past? The very things we should be working on in our recovery that we choose not to, will eventually resurface at a time in our lives that we may not be ready to discuss. Of course I understand that recovery is a lifelong process, but keep in mind that it also requires rigorous honesty, work and effort.
Do we look at issues or situations in our lives and continue to say “I’m powerless over that” or do we say “I need to put forth effort” in resolving that?
Powerless to Making Effort
We become to sole decider of how this plays out. In looking at the commitment made to this wonderful process, many of us are fully aware of the crutches we use to avoid addressing struggles head on. A truth must be acknowledge about how we handle and manage difficult situation that arise in our lives. We know when we’re not putting forth effort; so be honest with ourselves. Understanding the real definition of recovery will better help us in this process. Any shortcomings that we may display isn’t an exact sign that we will return to active addiction, it’s an indication we have more work to do.
When we resort to using “powerlessness in situations that don’t necessarily warrant it, we convey to others that everything is alright and we have no problem with the current situation. Settling in this manner shouldn’t be an option. The goals in the process are to overcome, achieve, conquer, grow and obtain freedom. Moving from a state of “effortless” into “effort” can be a transforming experience. The fear of taking action will be non-existent at some point. We must remain diligent and true to our pursuits in recovery. Recovery literature discusses the promise of freedom. This cannot be obtained or accomplished by maintaining that alter-reality we had formed for ourselves. We can no longer use certain terms and phrases as crutches to not take action in our lives.
There are ways that we can better address our automatic thinking when it comes to our continued use of the word “powerless” and not putting forth “effort” towards a given situation.
- Identify the problem.
- Assess, honestly, whether this is a problem issue for you.
- Look at your history of responses to a similar situation; was the outcome negative or positive?
- What’s your level of commitment to resolving this issue?
- Ask yourself; am I really powerless over this situation or issue?
- Am I using the statement “powerless” as an excuse not to act?
- Do I want to stay within the definition of powerlessness; weak, feeble, lacking strength.
- If the situation is emotionally overwhelming, can I seek more assistance; support network or outside counseling if deemed appropriate?
- Am I avoiding self-defeating statements?
- What can I do to allow myself to be successful in the recovery process.
Reflecting on the aspects of “powerless” and “effortless” requires a brutally honest self-assessment. Do you tend to fall within the deceptive ideas? If so, you can take action and be more open and responsible for your personal recovery. Just as we have the ability to look at others and point our their faults and shortcomings; we can do that for ourselves as well.
Additional Posts by Craig W. Stratton
Writing, and recovery heals the heart