Admitting powerlessness over your addictive behavior is essential to the use of Step One, the beginning of recovery.

Difficult to Admit

Powerlessness is not the easiest thing to admit. Most addicts tend to hang onto the illusion that they are in control, long after it becomes obvious that control is not working.

Loss of control, or the devotion of too much energy to maintain control can happen in many aspects of addiction:

  • Drinking, gambling, or using
  • Staying late at bars or parties
  • Concealing addiction
  • Obsession with appearance or weight
  • Bingeing, purging, exercise, or spending
  • Relationships with family or others
  • Memory of abuse or incest
  • Emotions and behavior
  • Promises to self or others

Powerlessness and Unmanageability

One trick the addiction uses is to try to block (through delusion) your awareness of powerlessness or unmanageability. If you are not fully aware of both, you are not likely to do what you need to recover. For example, if you realize that your life is unmanageable, but you don’t really think you are powerless, then you can ease your mind, since obviously you will get control soon. “I’ll quit smoking when I finish this carton,” or, “I can stop anytime I really want to.” If you admit powerlessness, but not unmanageability, then the disease can convince you that while you have not been able to control it, the situation isn’t that bad. This leads to all sorts of rationalizations, like “I can’t stop eating, but if I had to do without the foods I like I wouldn’t really want to live anyway,” or “Anytime my family tries to control my drinking, I drink more just to show that it’s my body and my life.”

Acceptance and Surrender

When you get tired of trying to hold everything together, tired of playing God (or the director of your whole world), you are ready to accept that you are powerless over your addiction, and that your life has become unmanageable. This is the necessary preparation for the spiritual awakening that will insure your recovery on a daily basis. It leads directly to Step Two.

Powerlessness, see also: Acceptance, Bingeing, Codependency, Contacts, Crisis, Delusion, Detachment, Half-measures, Hitting bottom, Honesty, Humility, Judgment, Obsession, Paradoxes in addiction, Power, Step One, Step Two, Step Five, Steps of AA, Stinking thinking, Surrender, Unmanageability.

Updated 9 Sep 2015

Creative Commons License
Addictionary 2 by Jan & Judy Wilson

is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.