Willpower

by Bill

Willpower, the idea that we can do things just because we want to, is magical thinking and has no place in recovery.  No one is in a better position to understand that than an addict in early sobriety, and yet most of us were highly resistant to the idea.  We are so accustomed to thinking in terms of having power over other people, places and things (even though it hasn’t been working for us) that it’s unnerving to be told that it isn’t true.

I tried to control my various addictions with “willpower” for years.  It didn’t work.  My will was singularly unsuccessful in its half-hearted efforts to affect my body chemistry and my unconscious mind.  That’s hardly surprising, since the part of the brain concerned with will can’t even communicate with the other sections that are involved in addiction.  The interesting thing is that one can know even that, and still fall into the trap of “self-will run riot.”

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, especially in recovery.  Blank slates have more room for useful information.

Turning our will over to a higher power doesn’t mean becoming some kind of religious nut.  What it does mean is that we at least accept (if not really believe) that our inability to get and remain sober is directly connected with our obsession for doing things our way, even in the face of massive consequences.  It’s thinking, not in terms of God Will Fix Me, but in terms of I Can’t Fix Me.  Whether or not we believe there is a metaphysical God, we must come to terms with the fact that we aren’t he, she or it.

We need to learn to lean on others, learn from others who have been successful at remaining sober, and stop thinking that the principles that have worked for millions of people don’t apply to us.  THAT is self-will run riot, and it will get us killed!

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