Reframing Powerlessness and Surrender
If there is one guiding principle that explains the difference between a person who is in the throes of addictions and someone who is living a life free of dependence on addictions, it would be the concept of “choice.” My belief system puts choice as the number one determinant of my future actions. Thinking that some external force, be it the law, family, or for that matter God, is going to intervene and strike me cured goes against all logic. Recovery folks talk about how people can only find recovery when they are ready and that recruiting and promoting their participation will not work until the people can see that there might be a better way of living that would bring them more joy than their addictions. The same folks who talk about how a using person must come to the point where they are willing to make the choice of recovery, then suggest that the newcomer must then accept that only by relying on some external forces, be it people, places, or even God to accomplish this new way of living. That seems to me to miss the point of this whole experience,
The primary determinant of whether people continue to use or go back to their addiction is “choice.” The first three Steps of the 12 Steps start out with the understanding that one’s old thinking and actions have been unable to produce the desired results in one’s life and have only lead to misery and personal destruction in one form or another. What that is really declaring is the new realization that one’s “best thinking” has not worked and that they are clueless as to what to do next. That realization is a necessary prerequisite to deciding to make a new choice. The two parts of the choice based on that realization are, first the need to stop doing what they have been doing and the second is knowing that they don’t know and must start to learn from those that are already living the “good, happy life” they desire. In other words, through this realization, they become teachable.
Unfortunately, the wording of the 1st Step has a built-in misdirection in that it introduces the idea that people are “powerless over their addictions” The powerlessness part is only true if they continue to think and act as they did before choosing to stop using and the reality is that when they made the choice to stop, they stopped and will stay stopped as long as they believe that this new choice will produce the results they hope for.
The misdirection in the 2nd Step is the implication that only if they then rely on some God force to lift that compulsion can they ever achieve the new addiction-free life they desire. To instill a belief system that only by trusting in some Divine intervention can there be any lasting recovery just feeds into an old belief system the looks at one’s experience of life as being the effect of what people, places, and/or things do to them or for them. In other words, life is about being the victim who is then rescued by something other than the choices they make. In this case, God is the rescuer.
The misdirection in the 3rd Step is the implication that it was God that got them to realize that “the jig was up” and had them make this choice to discover a new path, when in fact it was the results of what they were doing that caused the realization that they needed to change. As in Step 2, it also feeds into the belief of needing to rely on an outside rescuer rather than continuing to learn to make better choices.
These are misdirections because they shift the focus from a workable solution, that of learning a new way of living, by doing the rest of the 12 Steps and continuing to make good, responsible choices to one of labeling their habitual usage as an incurable disease that can not be cured and over which they are powerless if they don’t rely on an external force.
My belief system acknowledges that there is a Universal Life Force, God, that has given us, both, the power of choice and a great feedback mechanism, a Still, Small Voice inside of us that guides us to think and do things that will produce long term positive results in our lives. That Voice is always present although we have the Choice to listen to it or not.
To me, a better way of looking at how one moves from dependence on addictions to freedom from them is the following:
- First, there is a realization that their thinking and acting continues to produce undesired results and that their Still Small Voice inside tells them (a)that they need to change something and (b) that they do not have not a clue as to what to do next other than stop what they are doing. The chances are that that Voice has been saying this for quite a while and they ignored it until their life experience forced them to pay attention.
- That Voice then prompts them to search for new solutions and they choose to follow those promptings and find various recovery opportunities.
God’s contribution in this process is to give them that internal feedback mechanism, the Still Small Voice, and the ability to make choices. In this case, the choice is accepting that they are clueless as to the changes to make, becoming open to learning new solutions (become teachable) and to suspend their old thinking and just follow the new directions.
The misdirection in the 3rd Step that declares that only by giving up one’s choice of deciding how their lives will unfold, to a power outside themselves totally ignores that that Power, God, created and resides within them in the form of that Still Small Voice, sometimes referred to as conscience. That Still, Small Voice constantly provides good feedback and guidance, if listened to, and the very powerful ability to make great choices.
A better way of stating the 3rd Step might be that when people decide what is the next thing to do and then do the footwork, the Universe, God, will provide feedback for that footwork in terms of the results. My business is to do the footwork and God’s business is to provide the feedback as to the results of that footwork. When I let God take care of the results and concentrate on the footwork in front of me, I become free of anxiety. Anxiety is actually a fear of future results. By doing my work, the footwork, and staying out of all fear and speculation about the results which is in God’s realm, I become anxiety-free!
So rather than becoming powerless, if one recognized that God has provided them with a powerful ability to choose and a Still Small Voice to provide feedback and guidance, then they will search for new direction and teachings as needed and continue to make positive choices towards creating a meaningful, joyous, productive and successful life.
©2016, rev. 2020, J.Jason Wittman, MPS, LAADC, CATC-IV