A Lesson In Being Powerless
A Lesson In Being Powerless
By Ned Wicker
I have often compared being “powerless over drugs and alcohol” with being “powerless over the human condition,” when trying to give an example of how the disease of alcoholism robs us of any measure of control over our lives.
The addict is powerless over the drug because there is no cure. People want a cure for addiction and alcoholism. When you say there is no cure many people get angry and disagree because the concept of being powerless over anything is just simply unacceptable!
Because there is no cure for the “human condition” and our addictive personalities, there is no cure for alcoholism.Let’s look at the drug of alcohol to explain what I mean. We all want instant gratification.
A study of early childhood development teaches us that as children progress from infancy, to being a toddler, to pre-school age and into their grammar school years, they are able to learn about delayed gratification. If I’m good, or I do the right thing, then I will get a reward. The hard part is the waiting: I don’t want to wait, I want it now.
Drinking is a form of gratification. If I take a drink I will feel better, or I can numb the pain. Either way, I need to be gratified.
Unlike using heroin, alcohol is socially acceptable. People are not social heroin users. You don’t waltz into your local tavern to shoot up heroin. When people are seeking a cure for heroin addiction, they are trying to be set free and never use again.
With many alcoholics, they say they want relief from the disease that’s driving them insane, but it’s difficult to let go when everyone else seemingly can drink, have fun and not get hooked. Maybe when they say they want a cure, what they’re really asking is to be cured of being an alcoholic so they can drink and not get into any trouble.
I know that sounds harsh, but when thousands of everyday people are tailgating at the ball park before the game, drinking beer and cooking on the grill, it’s hard to be excluded from the full experience.
But alcoholics know that they can’t just have one drink. That little bit of gratification leads to more drinks. If only there was some way to enjoy a drink and not get carried away to the point of passing out. The addictive side of human nature says we want gratification, and not drinking isn’t gratification. If I were cured of the alcoholism, I could drink responsibly.
Recovery is a life-long path. It means seeking gratification elsewhere, and that means alcohol is not welcome at all, period. The 12-Steps go well beyond merely not drinking. They guide a person through a lifestyle change, and hopefully during that repeated process, the holes in their lives that alcohol was filling, are replaced by healthy and fulfilling choices.
Instant gratification? Moment-by-moment, we put our trust and faith in God, as we understand him, and allow God to fill the voids in our lives. We can rediscover the important things, the love of family, the satisfaction of a job well done, and the importance of developing relationships with people.
AA’s Twelve-Step program can work but only if you truly follow the program and accept that you are truly powerless over your addiction.
There is no cure for alcoholism, but there is hope and happiness. The emptiness of addiction can be replaced by the richness of human connection and a relationship with the Almighty. It’s a good trade.
Ned Wicker is the Addictions Chaplain at Waukesha Memorial Hospital Lawrence Center
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