That Powerlessness You Feel Is Called “Moral Distress”

This can induce a state of prolonged anxiety and learned-helplessness, which is triggered by association with the original stimuli. Once we become trapped in this spiral of learned helplessness, we feel unable to take on new challenges and continuously anticipate the worst. As worry and anxiety sets in, we lack the autonomy and drive to propel us forward; reverting to repetitive cycles of defensiveness such as avoiding situations, procrastination, emotional withdrawal, panic attacks or angry outbursts. The concept behind the references to God or a higher power in the 12-step program is to support addicts in the understanding that they need to find a source of strength that’s greater than themselves alone. This could mean God, a general belief system or the recovery community itself.

As you ask yourself whether or not you’re recognizing your own powerlessness, there are a few different phrases or ways of thinking to notice. Pay attention to the statements below that sound familiar to you. They don’t talk about how that connects to drug addiction, but one can instantly see the relationship without a proper definition.


In cognitive psychology, the concept of perceived powerlessness vs control can be traced to social learning theory, and Rotter’s concept of locus of control (1966). Belief in an external locus of control is a learned, generalized expectation that outcomes of situations are determined by forces external to one’s self such as powerful others, luck, fate, or chance. The individual believes that he or she is powerless and at the mercy of the environment. Belief in an internal locus of control (the opposite) is a learned, generalized expectation that outcomes are contingent on one’s own choices and actions.

examples of powerlessness

We are so fixated at our problem that we are blind to the solutions. Even when someone offers us a solution, we might dismiss it and think that it won’t work. That’s why people who feel helpless often find it difficult to get out of the state they are in. For many individuals in recovery, embracing a higher power or spiritual connection Allergic to Alcohol? 10 Common Symptoms of Alcohol Intolerance is a significant tool in surrendering to powerlessness. This can involve finding solace in a religious faith, connecting with nature, or exploring spiritual practices that resonate with personal beliefs. Embracing a higher power allows individuals to let go of the need to control every aspect of their lives and trust in a greater force.

Embracing a Higher Power or Spiritual Connection

Until we can accept powerlessness, we will not fully seek Power. Accepting our powerlessness (complete defeat) is the bottom that an alcoholic and addict must hit. We’ve had good reasons to quit for good, and we continued drinking or using drugs anyway. This understanding of the word obsession explains why we keep going back to pick up the first drink or drug. It makes so much sense when we look back at our behaviors—the threat of relationships ending, poor health, work-life, bad decisions, legal trouble, etc. We’re powerless when our mind is obsessing, so it’s nearly impossible to make the right decision.

examples of powerlessness

It involves acknowledging that addiction is a complex and powerful force that cannot be easily overcome through sheer willpower alone. By recognizing the lack of control over addiction, individuals can begin to explore alternative paths towards recovery. The AA first step, admitting powerlessness and acknowledging the unmanageability your addiction brings, is a crucial leap toward lasting recovery. It’s a moment of profound self-realization and humility, opening the door to hope, healing and transformation.

What is Step 1 in AA?

Understanding that you have the power to make changes in your life and seeking out resources such as therapy, community support groups, or treatment centers like ours can help you take back control of your life. Once you realize that addiction is a disease, you can start to see yourself as someone who is sick, rather than someone who is weak or morally flawed. With addiction, there are a lot of emotions that come with the territory. From feelings of guilt and embarrassment to powerlessness and helplessness, it can be hard to determine which one is actually the most accurate representation of how we feel.

  • But, as we shall see, this combination can lead to a rather strong inference about the measurement model.
  • Regardless of what addicts identify as their own personal higher power, it’s an expression that means they’re accountable to someone or something that’s bigger, more powerful and more influential than themselves.
  • It involves acknowledging the limitations of control over addiction and surrendering to the process of healing.
  • Through building resilience and humility, developing trust and surrender, and finding freedom and inner peace, we can cultivate a more fulfilling and transformative recovery experience.

However, the reality is that addiction makes individuals vulnerable and exposes their limitations. Accepting these limitations and acknowledging vulnerability is a powerful step towards personal growth and recovery. It involves recognizing the need for support, seeking help when necessary, and understanding that it’s okay to ask for assistance. By accepting vulnerability, individuals can connect with others who share similar experiences and find strength in community.

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