How Can I Have Self-Discipline and Self-Control?


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The quest for self-discipline and self-control goes way back in human history. There are answers aplenty, theories, practices, and opinions, with no shortage of things to try to seek resolution. For most of the world, it’s just a matter of choosing which theory seems to suit them best and finding out whether it works or not.

For those of us who are alcoholics and addicts, we come out on top in this age-old search. As if we weren’t already the luckiest people on earth, saved from the gates of death and given the tools to live a life beyond our wildest dreams, we now also have some very effective answers for problems that the whole world deals with.

Don’t We All Have Some Already?

Sure, everybody has a bit of both in different areas of life. But on the whole, most people think they would be happier with significantly more of each. Most alcoholics and addicts severely lack both. We are generally undisciplined people who lack good self-control. This problem is our big problem — the lack of power is our dilemma. If self-discipline and self-control were sufficient enough to work on their own, that’s all we would need to wrestle ourselves free of our disease. But clearly, that’s not enough, and we lack the power to effectively utilize these traits to any good degree.

We couldn’t self-discipline our way out of alcoholism or addiction. We needed help and guidance from a power greater than ourselves. The 12-Steps are how we found a relationship with this higher power. Once that relationship was established and became a working part of our lives, we suddenly had access to the power needed to change our lives, as long as we remained in contact with it.

It’s a much-debated topic among people in recovery, this issue of having or not having self-discipline and self-control. Our best answers will have to come from the book Alcoholics Anonymous, our trusted recovery community, and our own personal experience. As for how we can improve our self-discipline and self-control, there are some answers.

A Moment for Clarification

In our active disease, for most of us, willpower was completely useless. In fact, it was virtually non-existent. Self-discipline and self-control were right alongside it, all but vanished from us. Some alcoholics and addicts have relied on willpower and have had great troubles as a result. Some have experienced that through their higher power, they can finally utilize these faculties like they always wanted to. Indeed, that is one of the gifts of a relationship with a higher power — we are given sufficient power to live again, and to live our best lives. It should be noted that this power is only given to us while we remain actively engaged in all the activities of a recovery-centered way of life.

It should also be noted that from our experience, none of us who are alcoholics or addicts will ever regain total willpower, self-discipline, or self-control in regards to our disease. Once an alcoholic or addict, always an alcoholic or addict.

Defining Self-Discipline and Self-Control

We all have different definitions of how these traits will manifest in our lives. Some of us want the discipline to return to school and finish a degree, some want the self-control necessary to lose weight and get healthy. Self-discipline and self-control look different for everyone, and we mean different things when we speak of them.

The typical commonalities are meant to convey a state of existence where we are able to exert some control over how we act and behave. We wish to curb some behavior or build a new routine. We wish to say “no” to some things that feel negative and say “yes” to more things that feel positive. Self-discipline and self-control is essentially the active, willful participation in certain activities or behaviors that we have deemed good and that are in line with being the person we wish to be.

Alcoholic and Addicts Can Succeed        

Alcoholics and addicts are usually very undisciplined people with self-control issues. Can we learn these traits? Yes, absolutely. There is no limit to how we can transform and improve in our recovery, but recovery is the prerequisite. Once we are in recovery, we are empowered to start becoming the person we always wished to be and living the life we always hoped to live. How do we go about this?

The Big Book has some pretty clear directions. In the discussion of the 11th-Step on pages 85-88, we are given tried-and-true suggestions on exactly how to head towards our goal. We begin with regular, almost constant prayer and consistent meditation. We continue with daily and nightly inventory (as we have done in the 4th-Step), being careful to avoid morose negativity. Rather, we seek an objective review of our day and our behavior, so we may learn how to be better tomorrow.

We are also given in-depth instructions on how to pray each day, complete with effective suggested guidelines for prayer. With the help of our higher power, we are asked to pause when agitated, pray for its will to be done in our lives, and keep our minds and actions as centered in the spiritual principles as possible.

After incorporating this routine into our daily lives, we will find that: “It works, it really does. We alcoholics are undisciplined. So we let God discipline us in the simple way we have just outlined. But this is not all. There is action and more action. Faith without works is dead.” Now that we know how to build self-discipline and self-control, it’s time to get busy doing the work.

Alcoholism and addiction is a complex disease. Its causes and effects go well beyond willpower, self-discipline, and self-control. If it were simply a matter of willpower, no one would ever let themselves become an alcoholic or addict. Unfortunately, this is not the case. People who were once disciplined or controlled in other areas soon find themselves with no willpower at all. Though alcoholics and addicts never regain the willpower to resist alcohol and drugs on their own, there is a solution to the disease. The 12-Step program is designed to produce the necessary psychic change and vital spiritual experience that can bring about lasting recovery from the disease. This same spiritual program often helps people regain use of their faculties and functions in other areas of life as well. At Jaywalker Lodge, we believe that everyone deserves a chance to recover. We also believe that it is possible. Jaywalker Lodge is here to help you. Call us now at (866) 529-9255.

author avatar
Stefan Bate, MA, LAC, CCTP Chief Clinical Officer
Stefan Bate, BA, MA, LAC holds a Master's Degree in Applied Psychology from Regis University and is a Licensed Addiction Counselor in the state of Colorado. Stefan has wide-ranging experience in the field of addiction recovery including: working as a recovery coach, therapist, and program director.

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