“It's the way you've lived that's brought all this on you. The bitter taste is from your evil life. That's what's piercing your heart.”
Jeremiah 4:18 The Message
“If, instead of failing, the person temporarily succeeds in stopping the addictive behavior, the greatest mind trick of all comes into play. It starts out very normally, with the natural joyfulness of liberation. ‘I can do it! I have done it! And it wasn’t even that difficult! Why, I actually don’t even have any desire for a drink anymore. I’m free!’ Before long, the natural joy will undergo a malignant change; it will be replaced by pride.”
- Gerald G. May, M.D.
We admitted we were powerless over our addiction,
that our life had become unmanageable.
Many of us have had the painful experience of having our weaknesses exposed and then being punished for those weaknesses. As a result, we’ve often developed a protective veneer of polite and subtle dishonesty. We usually don’t lie outright, we just don’t tell the truth about ourselves when we should. For us to admit that we were powerless over our addiction and that our life was unmanageable meant admitting defeat.And it was.We were defeated by our addictions whether we admitted it or not.
Admitting a personal defeat is counter to everything most of us have been taught. Culturally, in very subtle ways, we are brought up to be people who are determined, self-sufficient and strong. But, in the revealing light of addiction there is one absolutely essential question that needs to be answered: Are you going to recognize and are you willing to admit that your addictions are more powerful than you are?
For most of us, our upbringing instilled in us the instinct to try harder when we failed, and that we should never admit defeat, discouragement or weakness. This often turns into a stubbornness that can lead people with addictions into a continuous downward spiral of pride and failure and control. The more we’ve been determined to control ourselves, the more we failed. By refusing to admit our personal insufficiency, we pridefully puffed ourselves up and became determined to control ourselves better the next time. When we failed again, which was almost certain, we became all the more obsessed to control our life and the lives of others. Inevitably, the obsession to rule our life and the lives of others brought on more pride, which brought more failure, and addiction ruled all the more. Pride, failure and control are the building blocks of denial, which is the pride based bedrock of addiction. In denial and pride, our self–willed efforts to control our lives and others become one of our greatest liabilities.
So, we have to be willing to admit that we have been defeated by our addictions if we are going to recover from them. As counterintuitive as it appears to be, when we admit our powerlessness it becomes possible for us to transcend our powerlessness because we become open to solutions that we could not see through the eyes of denial and pride. When we get honest about our powerlessness it becomes possible for us to find solutions to the problems that we could not solve on our own. It’s not like we become stronger; it’s more like we are infused with a strength that is made available to us when we get honest. The power does not come from us. It comes from outside of us but connects with us on the inside. With this outside power coming in to us we get lifted up, from the bottom up. As we admit our addictions and powerlessness, we become part of a movement of change that is bigger than our own efforts could ever be. We move into solution. The cycle of pride, failure and control gets interrupted. Failures are no longer as fatal as they once were. When honest about them, our failures can become a small step sideways and not the inevitable free fall to the bottom that they were before.
We don’t need to make promises in our admissions and confessions. We just tell the truth about ourselves, the best we know how to do. We say it like it is. After all, we are only human. There is great dignity and freedom in being honestly human.