One of the most challenging aspects of addiction is feeling powerless. When you’re addicted to a substance that has more control over you than you have over it, then powerlessness is a driving force in your life.
Powerlessness is a common experience that results from trauma. If you experienced trauma at some point in your life, and that experience remains unresolved, it’s possible to experience powerlessness again in other circumstances. In fact, there are a large number of people who struggle with addiction and who have experienced trauma at some point in their lives.
A traumatic event is one in which your life was threatened. And trauma doesn’t have to be experiencing abuse or being in a car accident. Trauma could also be many small experiences in life in which your needs weren’t met. Also, trauma could be the result of neglect. However, in all cases, traumatic experiences are those in which you felt powerless to the circumstances and you felt that your life was in danger. These feelings can happen consciously or unconsciously, depending upon your level of psychological maturity.
Having experienced trauma and powerlessness can play a role in the development of an addiction. If you’ve struggled with addiction, you have likely felt that powerlessness with whatever drug you were addicted to. Therefore, part of recovery is rebuilding your sense of power and coming to believe in your own abilities to create change in your life.
The Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) community addresses the problem of being powerless with the first two steps of their 12-step program:
Step One: We admitted we were powerless over our addiction – that our lives had become unmanageable.
Step Two: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
The path of beginning to find your power is first uncovering where you’ve been powerless in the past. And certainly, it was with drug addiction. By definition, addiction includes compulsive behavior to the point where someone is neglecting important areas of their life. For instance, they continue to drink despite knowing that their job is on the line. They might continue to drink despite knowing that their relationship will fall apart. So, the first task is uncovering where you’ve been powerless before.
Second, forming a relationship with a Higher Being can facilitate tapping into a power you didn’t know you had. By resting in the power of a Higher Being, we develop trust, hope, resiliency, and strength. Without such a relationship, it’s easy to feel alone, isolated, lost, confused, and weak.
Lastly, another way to build a sense of power is to build our confidence and self-esteem. This is a process that takes time. However, moving through the process can be a rewarding and fulfilling one. A few ways to begin to build that self-confidence includes:
Look at your past achievements. What have you accomplished in the past and what did it take to have these successes?
Ask your friends to give you feedback about who you are. Although this might be a strange request to make, you might share with your friends exactly why you’re doing it. There’s nothing wrong with reestablishing your sense of self, and your friends might even respect you for it.
Look at the strengths you have now. Although you might be struggling, there are still some incredible strengths that got you this far! Although you might have had a hard time with the addiction, you struggled because you were keeping yourself alive. You were doing the best you knew you could do.
Building your sense of power is going to take some time. However, if you’re willing to stick with it, the process will give you hope along the way. As you feel yourself getting stronger and stronger, you will likely feel more hopeful and resilient as you move forward in your recovery.
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