The Role of Willpower in Addiction and Sobriety

As you read these words, think about you reading these words- then think about that. That’s, of course, a strange way to open up an article, but one that proves a point. The human brain creates its own perception of everything and the limitations are endless on one end of the spectrum. The things that gray, thriving organ does are astounding. However, the psyche is a fragile place. With that in mind, it makes sayings like “if you can dream it, you can do it” seem pretty weak. Not everything can be done like that with willpower at the snap of a finger- it takes understanding.      

You see, the mind is a sneaky thing that loves to play tricks on its owner. This is the case for most normal people. Then we take the mind of a normal person, tilt a funnel into their ear and dump alcoholic thinking in there. Then give it a few good shakes and VOILA- you have a recipe for disaster. Of course, this disaster can be tamed, not beaten, but tamed. However, this cultivation process is one that won’t work simply from willpower and a want. There are steps that must be taken (literally) and things that must be done to maintain sanity in the realm of recovery.  

Willpower is an Extra in this Movie

Yes, there are places to go and people to see in order to stay on top of our sobriety without becoming the dry drunks our alcoholism craves us to be. This disease wants us to white-knuckle everything and stay miserable even without the chemicals to delude our reality. That reality is that without some sort of 12 step program and an effort to find serenity, addiction will gladly take shape and start digging a hole out back with some cheaply made epitaph for you. Addiction will do whatever it takes to take out its host- plain and simple. In one weird sense, it has a mind of its own because willpower can’t beat it and psychology struggles to understand it.

Regardless, once we get clean, we are reintroduced to this fresh world again. Feelings of pleasantry and happiness return. We start looking up instead of down more and begin seeing the 9th step promises slowly coming true in our lives. But for some of us, we don’t really know how to deal with these good things as they show up and we gradually become complacent in our actions. We convince ourselves we did what we needed to to get to where we needed to, but now all we need is our own willpower. We don’t need fellowship. We don’t need God. We don’t need you. Just us, we got it. This is the addict mentality– and yes please, do roll your eyes at it.

Addiction is the Villain  

One would be lying if they said that entering a 12 step program was simple- or even fun for that matter. In regards to this pesky disease, you have to want the sobriety more than it wants you to get intoxicated. The thing with this illness is that it never goes away regardless of age, race, gender, creed, or sexual identity. Sores that were open wounds eventually turn to scab, but this is a bruise that time will not heal. Time will make us stronger in our endeavors against our alcoholic thinking, but there will never be a “win” so to speak.

So in order to combat it properly, the addict or alcoholic has to be constantly vigilant and on their toes. Making all the right turns and being at all the right places. Meanwhile, willpower is sitting on its fat ass eating handfuls of meth while your work diligently to be a better you. This means working the 12 steps on a daily basis and staying ahead of the game. Running off willpower will land us in

  •         Trenches of depression
  •         Rogues of anxiety
  •         Risks of relapse
  •         Hoards of Irritability

Doesn’t sound enjoyable to me. Chemical dependency is very much like an old Lewis Carroll quote referring to ‘Alice in Wonderland’-and it goes, “My dear, here we must run as fast as we can just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere, you must run twice as fast as that.” This is frequently going off on a loudspeaker between my ears for some reason.

You’re the Hero

Recovery becomes the top priority in our lives because it teaches us wisdom and keeps us running twice as fast like the quote says. Willpower and addiction mix in a way that will bring us right back to the villain’s layer unknowingly. It is through practicing the 12 steps and entering some form of a fellowship that we become people again. Yes, as active addicts and alcoholics we were people still, but we were shells of the human beings we had the potential to be.

You see, it’s here in the rooms that we learn about introspection and selflessness. We begin taking a look at our faults (something nobody really enjoys), and we commence the changing of our ways. We develop different relationships and begin to glow with happiness as the tormenting substances become a thing of the past. Everything mentioned right there was action- not willpower and thinking we have it beat.

The catch is that we can’t just wake up one day and decide to be sober. Dropping the substances for true addicts and alcoholics requires changing old habits and finding new routines. It’s a bit of work, but can be done by putting it in and avoiding shear willpower.

Take the Power Back

The greatest take away from this hopefully is that addiction takes a lot more to battle than prayer and crossing your fingers. Willpower won’t help us put the substances down or keep them away. If this is a job that has worked with fellowship for so long, why change a good thing you know? If you or a loved one has been struggling to make the next step, please call 866-433-1992 or visit www.anylength.net.  We have trained specialists on standby ready to help you start sending your life in a direction that will have you come out on top feeling healthy and happy with the outcome of your future. The time to love yourself is now.