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The Delusion of Control

April 20, 2018


“Addiction is a condition in which a person engages in use of a substance or in a behavior for which the rewarding effects provide a compelling incentive to repeatedly pursue the behavior despite detrimental consequences.” Psychology Today

It’s impossible to determine whether another person is an addict or not.  Of course, some people, including medical and helping professionals, may have a differing view of that.

But I believe that it is up to the individual to accept that that is the case for them. This is vital, in my opinion, because his or her recovery depends on acceptance of their condition.  When a person accepts that they are addicted, they are more likely to seek recovery.

However, getting to acceptance can be a long, hard road for the person who is addicted to a substance (e.g. alcohol, narcotics, food) or a process (e.g. gambling, sex, spending).

Without acceptance the addict will continue to delude themself that they can control their habit.

The Lie of Self-Control

 “Addiction lies to you in the scariest voice of all – your own.” Lorelie Rozzano

A major stumbling block along the road to acceptance are the lies the addict tells themself – lies about the level of their dependency and their ability to control it. For example, “I can stop this at any time, but just don’t want to right now.”.

By this time, the addict will probably have engaged in any number of control attempts. Mistakenly, they might explain away their failure to control their addiction as a lack of commitment or an insufficiency of self-discipline.

Failed Control Attempts Shine a Light on Addiction

“There is no such thing as an addiction ‘under control’.” Break the Chain

There is usually one thing all addicts have in common and that is that they’ve tried and failed any number of times to give up, curtail or control their substance use or problem behavior.

While the control attempt details may vary from addict to addict, they have one thing in common – they end in failure and despair.

That alone should tell the individual something. Addiction is beyond self-control. It takes something far, far greater to stop using. So, by looking at their history of failed control attempts, a person might clarify for themself whether their substance or behavior is addictive or not.

Remember, the words “control” and “addiction” are mutually exclusive terms.

Surrendering Control Opens the Magic Door

That’s where surrender comes in.  One wisehead said, “In a power outage, the first step is admitting you are powerless.”

Admitting complete defeat is thus the key to the magic door of recovery.

It’s counterintuitive, that’s for sure — that somehow within a state of powerlessness lies a power much more potent than that of self-control. Especially when it comes to addiction.

So, after accepting and surrendering, what remains for the individual, who knows or suspects in their heart that they are an addict?

It’s to take the next right action — to take a step through the magic door to seek help and support for their condition.

As they say in the 12-step world: “You alone can do it. But you cannot do it alone.”.