The Power of Choice in Recovery

Table of Contents

Nobody likes to feel powerless. It goes against our nature to readily admit that we have no control. So many of our mental and emotional processes are meant to give us a sense of power and control. These inner workings are quite problematic for many, often leading to stress, pain, and struggle. Therefore, it is truly fortunate that alcoholics and addicts are faced with the admission of powerlessness and unmanageability as the 1st-Step to recovery.

Indeed, no one likes making this admission. Yet those who honestly confess that they are powerless over alcoholism and addiction and that their lives are unmanageable can see and feel the first signs of freedom and peace begin almost immediately. It is one of the gifts of alcoholism and addiction, for those who are lucky enough and willing enough to enter recovery. Life is no longer a vain struggle for power and control, so we are able to free ourselves from the bondage of our disease and give up control to a higher power, then by working the remainder of the 12-Step program we are given access to the power we lack. As long as we keep working the 12-Steps, there will always be power in our lives.

Admitting Unmanageability

There are some common misconceptions to clear up about unmanageability. In recovery at Jaywalker Lodge, we do not stop making decisions or living our lives. Admitting unmanageability does not mean we walk around like unfeeling zombies, letting everyone else dictate how we should live our lives. But we do seek advice from our sponsors, from trusted friends, and most importantly from the 12-Steps and our higher power. We no longer make rash, emotional, or unconsidered decisions. This takes practice, but turning our lives over to a new manager simply means we run our lives — as we do all our problems — through the 12-Step process. It’s a design for living that really works, especially for those of us for whom nothing much worked at all.

Admitting Powerlessness

Likewise, the powerlessness we admit is actually the first action we take to access a power greater than ourselves — a power that allows us to become people we never thought we could be. Suddenly, we are not only able to stay sober, but we truly begin to recover. We learn to participate in life in ways that we never could before, all because we are no longer trying to do it with our own power. Accessing this power greater than ourselves and giving it the reins to our life transforms us. We no longer live as prisoners of alcoholism and addiction.

How the Power of Choice Fits In

These concepts, which are so expertly covered in recovery literature about the 1st-Step, are vital to our recovery. Yet there is a concept that precedes them and causes many to stumble — the power of choice. Many of us try to admit that we are powerless and can plainly see that our lives are unmanageable, yet we believe somewhere deep inside us that we still have the ability to decide. Believing that we have the power of choice makes it difficult, if not impossible, to truly take the 1st-Step. If we can still choose to drink or not drink, to use or not use, and how to run our lives, then we cannot truly admit powerlessness or unmanageability. Yet we proceed with the rest of the 12-Step program and wonder why it is not more effective.

Alcoholics and addicts have lost the power of choice. The disease of alcoholism and addiction is one of a three-fold nature: the allergy of the body, the obsession of the mind, and the spiritual malady. If we take the first drink or drug, we have no say in if or when we will be able to stop or what we will do in the meantime. Without the solution of the 12-Steps or a connection to our higher power, we have no defense against that first potentially fatal drink or drug. It can be devastating and destructive to incorrectly assume that we still have the power to choose when we do not. 

For some people who may not be alcoholics or addicts, they may still have the ability to choose whether or not they will start the vicious cycle again. Yet for those of us who are alcoholics or addicts, we must acknowledge that we have lost the power of choice. Leaving our literal survival up to our own willpower could cost us everything good in our lives, and potentially cost us our actual life.

Admitting that we have lost our power of choice and turning ourselves over to a higher power is the crucial 1st-Step. But we need the 12-Step process in its entirety to maintain contact with that higher power and to continue to grow in our recovery — and then one day, we finally realize how powerful life in recovery can be.

Alcoholics and addicts have lost the power of choice in their disease. They no longer have the willpower to decide to take it or leave it, even if they think they are still in control. They simply cannot say no. Unless alcoholism and addiction are treated with a solution designed to produce an entire psychic change and a vital spiritual experience, it will likely remain a matter of when — not if — they drink or use again. This is what the 12-Step program is all about. If you are ready and willing to engage in this proven solution to alcoholism and addiction, Jaywalker Lodge is ready to help you begin a meaningful, lasting journey in recovery. By admitting your powerlessness and giving up control to a higher power, you can conquer alcoholism and addiction and live the life you deserve. To learn more, call us today 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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