George A. Sheehan, a physician, athlete, and writer exclaimed, “We may think that there is willpower involved, but more likely…change is due to want power. Wanting the new addiction more than the old one. Wanting the new me in preference to the person I am now.” When we think of willower, we understand it to be a strength within each of us that has the ability to supersede any type of weakness that slows us down. Sheehan was talking about running and getting in shape in this quote, but his thesis applies to overcoming any negative addiction, and replacing it with something positive.

Sheer willpower alone cannot permanently help one recover from a drug or alcohol addiction. Many of us have tried time and again to use our willpower to cut back, control, reign in, or quit our bad habits all together. Some have succeeded for long periods of time, others only last a few days at the most.

The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous explains to readers that trying to use willpower is a dangerous approach. Step 3, Page 40 says, “Our whole trouble had been the misuse of willpower.” Step One sums it up quite clearly on Page 22 by reiterating, “Our sponsors declared that we were the victims of a mental obsession so subtly powerful that no amount of human willpower could break it.”

Psychology Today further explains that, “When your motivation (willpower) lags, your social support network made up of family, friends, peers in recover, and a sponsor, will be there to remind you why you’re committed to your recovery and to help you stay in track.” In other words, nobody can be strong on willpower alone forever. When willpower fails, we need a higher power and a support group or community to guide us along the way. That’s what the program of Alcoholics Anonymous teaches us.

The other problem with acting on willpower alone is that even if one is successful in staying sober, it is harder for that person to heal emotionally over the long term. This is because if one is constantly relying on themselves as a source of strength, it can be physically and emotionally exhausting. None of us are perfect, which is why relying on a higher power for strength is much simpler for recovering alcoholics and addicts. When we feel weak, frightened, or tempted, we can call upon our higher power to guide us through the moment. Our higher power uses the community around us-meetings, sponsors, friends, and other positive distractions, to help us when our willpower is weak.

In other to find true peace and happiness in sobriety, we must seek to replace our old, negative habits with positive, healthy addictions. We must be a part of a community of supportive friends and fellow recovering addicts who can help us when we need a hand.

Psychology Today explains that “Willower isn’t the way into addiction, but it is part of the way out of addiction. Of course willpower is just a piece of the puzzle. Just as someone with diabetes requires medication and lifestyle changes to successfully manage their disease, you will need new coping skills, a support system, education about the disease of addiction, and new routines in order to stay clean and sober for life.”

Addictionblog.org talks about the main benefits of support groups, whether they are twelve step meetings, a rehab facility, or simply a group of family and friends who understand your recovery journey. Here are some of the main benefits:

  • People you can identify with.
  • Meeting mew friends with common interests.
  • Expanding one’s sober support network
  • Feel a sense of belonging after the debilitating tendency of isolation in drug and alcohol addiction.

You can find a support group that is narrowed down to what your specific interests are, and what area of addiction you are struggling with the most. For example, Celebrate Recovery is a 12 step program similar to Alcoholics Anonymous, but it is solely Christian based and relies only on Jesus Christ as a higher power. Similarly, there are Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous groups for recovering addicts in the LGBTQ community. Finding a group with people similar to yourself can make you feel more comfortable in early sobriety, as well as increase your chances for long term success. Rehab facilities such as Kool Living Recovery Center offer holistic treatments like Yoga and Meditation, which can be helpful for those who wish to pursue these types of treatment methods.

There is no reason to tackle your drug or alcohol addiction alone. Using willpower to overcome a bad habit may make you feel like you’re being strong, but it’s actually a sign of weakness. The main problem we have faced as addicts and alcoholics is that we believe we have all of the answers. If we surrender our will to a higher power and join a community that can support us along our journey, we will learn that real, long term recovery is not only possible-but more enjoyable.

Are you or someone you know struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol? Contact certified treatment specialist Linda Rose at Footprints Behavioral Health at (949)-558-4723 and speak to one of our certified treatment counselors. Start planning your road map to recovery today.