Everyone knows step one of AA: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable. The very first thing you’re supposed to do if you want to quit drinking is admit you are powerless over alcohol. It seems a bit paradoxical and it is often misinterpreted. It’s easy to think that admitting you’re powerless essentially means you’re a victim. It’s not your fault you can’t stop drinking; you have this disease. Some recent studies support the idea that believing you lack free will–that you’re powerless–increases your likelihood of failure, simply because if you don’t believe you can succeed in controlling addictive behavior, you are less likely to try. One survey of nearly 200 people found a high correlation between addiction and not believing in free will. People who didn’t believe they had free will were more likely to abuse alcohol and other drugs and were more likely to have tried to quit and failed. Of course, this is only correlation. Their previous failures to quit might be evidence to them that they don’t have free will when it comes to addiction. Also, not believing in free will might be a sign of learned helplessness, which is a major predictor of depression. So both the addiction and not believing in free will might be attributed to depression, as opposed to the belief leading to the inability to quit. Another study found that when people describe something bad that happened as a result of drinking or drug use, they typically attributed the behavior to lack of free will caused by addiction. However, when the same behavior turned out fine, they didn’t mind taking responsibility for the behavior. This indicates that lack of free will is often an excuse for when things go wrong. Clearly, the founders of AA had something different in mind when they enshrined admitting powerlessness as the first step. Otherwise, why bother with the other 11 steps? Admitting you’re powerless over alcohol simply means that if you get in the ring with alcohol, alcohol is going to win, probably in the first round. Alcohol is such a strong trigger that drinking any amount will automatically lead to more drinking. The good news is that you can choose not to get in the ring. That’s why AA is all about abstinence. You may be powerless over alcohol, but you’re not powerless to avoid alcohol, and AA and other 12-step programs give you strategies to do that. The more you believe you can succeed, the better your chances of staying sober.
If you or a loved one struggles with addiction, we can help. Recovery Ways is a leading addiction treatment provider with an excellent recovery rate. Our expert staff includes masters and PhD level therapists and board certified addiction psychiatrists. Our comfortable facilities will help to make your treatment as enjoyable as possible and our therapists use proven techniques like sensory integration and recreation therapy to help to engage the world without the assistance of drugs or alcohol. Call us today at 1-888-986-7848 or email us through our contact page to learn more.