Guest Post: Powerlessness- Still Misunderstood, Still Mistreated

Chris Schroeder is the Director of Media for C4 Recovery Solutions. In his role with C4, he has been tasked with hosting and developing the webcast show, The Afflicted and Affected, interviewing leaders in the addictive illness field and other interesting personalities revolving around the recovery world. Chris comes into contact with those who research and apply the latest methods of treatment and those who are a force in positive change in outcomes and funding both politically and in the media.

The 12- step model of recovery, that so many treatment centers profess to embrace, states in Step 1 that an admission of powerlessness needs to be made; a complete concession to the innermost self that one is alcoholic.

We know that a fundamental personality change or more accurately, a complete rearrangement in attitudes, ideas and behavior is needed to become safe from the obsession that leads one back into drink. This makes a lot of sense when confronted with someone who really wants to stop and doesn’t. It also means that the alcoholic drinks and is not responsible for drinking – they may have no ability to do any different.

The question I would like to ask is this:

Why expect someone who is powerless to respond to treatments that have very little to do with a spiritual awakening?

Why would you hold someone responsible for drinking during your program when they are in a state of powerlessness, why would you toss them out of your center or expect them to use judgment that they don’t always have access to? Why would you rely on relapse prevention programs that are about self-knowledge when self-knowledge is not a defense against the first-drink?

Many alcoholics and addicts work steps 1 through 3 in treatment; what we fail to address is that it is one thing to admit powerlessness and it is quite another to become connected to an alternative source.

Treatment centers are beginning to acknowledge that it takes more than 30 days to start the process of a change of this nature; and much longer after that to blow the embers into a fire. Without an alternative source of power, it is no surprise that the success rates of our treatment centers are so unsatisfactory.

Undoubtedly powerlessness can be a hard sell. However, I see the success of treatment centers hinging on how they take this issue in hand. Underscoring the need for a spiritual awakening is our duty, especially for those of us in recovery who have enjoyed the fruits of long-term sobriety.