The problem with the idea that I’m powerless over my addiction is that it’s not true.
Obviously. Even in the depths of my addiction, I made choices. For example, I don’t sit and watch porn on the computer that’s in our main living area. I used the laptop. So coming into recovery where these yahoos were telling me that I was powerless over my addiction seemed crazy. For me, there was a definite yucky, cultish-evangelistic-stupid feel to the whole thing. Truth be told, it led me right to the Orange Papers.
Since then, I’ve come to believe that I am powerless over my addiction. Believing this gives my brain a way to relax enough that I can have some hope of stopping. Plus, it’s a way that I can avoid the overwhelming shame that comes with doing bad stuff, and having little or no self-control. That does NOT mean that I don’t take responsibility for my actions, it means that telling myself over and over that I’m a worthless slut is not an effective strategy for getting myself to stop any kind of compulsive behavior.
Almost everyone has over eaten at some time or another. Has it helped to tell yourself that you’re a disgusting pig? That time that you called yourself those names and tossed the food in the garbage, was it the last time you over ate?
Ultimately, what’s been most helpful for me is to remember to treat myself with the same compassion as I would treat my daughter if she was me. Of course, in the midst of a slip, I did not remember to do that. But I reached out to my therapist and he helped me. He did not think I was a worthless slut, but rather a person who became overwhelmed and returned to compulsive sexual behaviors.
Once I become overwhelmed, I become unable to resist compulsive sexual behaviors that I’ve engaged in since before I was in kindergarten (the masturbation, not the porn!) add a health dose of self-hatred and you’ve got an addictive cycle that’s difficult to break. That’s powerlessness.
Managing my life so that I do not become overwhelmed, that’s power.
When I’m sober, I have power.
If you’re struggling with this whole powerlessness thing, think of it as a mental trick. It’s a way to free your brain from its chinese finger-cuffs. And if there’s a better metaphor for addiction, I can’t think of it just now.