Why Doesn’t Self-Knowledge Fix My Problems?

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A fair amount of self-knowledge and introspection is necessary for recovery. We must know who we are, what we value, what we want, and how we can best serve others. Self-knowledge helps us discover these things, but self-knowledge on its own won’t fix our problems — it is a piece of the puzzle. It is a useful part of our recovery journey, but taken on its own and out of context it can do more harm than good.

Self-Knowledge Is Not Enough

We must remember that we are alcoholics and addicts. Our disease has warped our minds, and that’s where our problems are centered. So the knowledge we acquire in our minds won’t be of much, if any, help on its own. We often need the spiritual toolkit found by working the 12-Steps to help that knowledge travel from our mind to our heart. Being alcoholics and addicts, we have a precarious relationship with willpower, perspective, and our relationship to life. We could not stop ourselves from drinking and drugging, no matter how much we knew about ourselves or our habits. We knew we were killing ourselves, but that information wasn’t enough to save us or stop us. 

The same is true with self-knowledge. It is necessary to have, but only so that we can more honestly and thoroughly work the 12-Steps. Knowledge of ourselves or our disease likely won’t be enough to get us recovered, but it will allow us to reveal areas of our lives that need healing.

Find Your Power

Lack of power is our dilemma. If you need to power your television remote control, knowing how to make a battery is not the same as actually building one. We can see the blueprint and design, but that doesn’t give us the materials or the action. We can’t power an electronic device by merely knowing how batteries work. We must get the components, build the battery, and plug it in to access the needed power. Self-knowledge is knowing a little — working the 12-Steps is gathering materials, putting them together, and turning the power on. Through recovery, we begin to see that knowing how to fix a problem isn’t the same as having the tools and ability to do so.

Self-knowledge can be acquired by working the 12-Steps, but it can help us work those 12-Steps on a deeper level. Self-knowledge can help us be more honest and thorough as we work through recovery. It can also help us understand ourselves and our lives better after learning proper perspective and healthy action from engaging in the recovery lifestyle. But on its own, self-knowledge can do very little for us.

Why Not?

Because self-knowledge is not power, it is not action either. It is simply a basis from which we can understand ourselves better and become more honest. But even then, it does not help us see clearly. It does not make us continue taking an honest inventory of ourselves and our lives. It does not keep us focused on serving our higher power and our fellow humans. Self-knowledge keeps us thinking about ourselves, which can be more corrosive than constructive. 

The book of Alcoholics Anonymous tells us that as alcoholics and addicts, our very lives depend upon our constant thought of others. If we rely on self-knowledge outright and do not let others in, we run the risk of deceiving ourselves and trying to act under our own power. As alcoholics and addicts, we have already admitted powerlessness. If we don’t work the 12-Steps to keep in constant contact with our higher power, we may lose access to that life-changing power that got us into recovery in the first place. If we jeopardize our recovery and our life by being overly reliant on self-knowledge, we put our very lives at risk — and that is the exact opposite of fixing our problems.

The Solution To Our Problems

So, what is the solution to our problems? This will probably seem like an obvious answer — recovery based on the 12-Steps. The book of Alcoholics Anonymous essentially says that the 12-Steps are designed to help us get into contact with, and remain connected to, a higher power that can solve all our problems. We work the 12-Steps, we attend meetings, and we do our best to be of service to people all the time. Those few simple actions end up getting us through anything, and they are the best actions to take whenever a problem needs fixing. If this idea seems too mystical or simple, try it out for a while. Working on our relationship with our higher power, growing and learning in a loving community, and always trying to help people has a way of transforming not only our problems but our entire lives.

Alcoholics and addicts are often strong-willed, intelligent people in most aspects of their lives, except when it comes to drug and alcohol abuse and addiction. We can be as strong or as smart as anyone, but we lose all control once we are afflicted with the disease. Luckily, there is a solution, and it works. We do not have to go it alone or under our own power. All that we know or have tried before may not have worked, but the 12-Steps can and do work. If you are having difficulty remaining in long-term recovery, Jaywalker Lodge can help. We specialize in reaching alcoholics and addicts who have tried and slipped before, but truly want to find a new life in sobriety. Let us show you how. 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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