Step One

Addicts or alcoholics have been described as people who are powerless over drugs or alcohol. It is widely believed that it is this feature that distinguishes the chemically dependent person from the non-alcoholic drinker or non-addicted drug user.

12-step treatment facilities declare it to be vital that every alcoholic or addict in treatment needs to develop a working understanding of his or her personal powerlessness over drugs or alcohol before acceptance of that condition can begin.

So how is ‘Powerlessness’ defined? On the whole, it looks something like this:

  • Loss of control over consumption amount after the first drink/hit.
  • Loss of control over feelings attitude and behaviour, leading to:
    • Inability to stop drinking/using
    • Intermittent attempts at stopping
    • Inability to stay stopped
    • Cannot predict behaviour after one drink/hit


There’s your text book description of ‘powerlessness’. The danger is, when we first start to climb out of the valley of addiction and we are heavy laden with a shattered identity, riddled in guilt, shame fear and regret, anything that sounds remotely familiar and seems to pacify the conscience, we grab on to it. “I’m powerless, it’s my disease” …

The notion that people are powerless over the focus of their addiction is in my opinion, wrong.

Addictions are, first and foremost, familial, social and cultural conditions which manifest as compulsions, emotional confusions, and psychological behaviours, conditions that everyone has to some degree.
More and more people in my care are experiencing a great sense of relief as and when I suggest that maybe the dogmatic 12-Steppers have it wrong. Maybe, just maybe, it isn’t a disease, and maybe, just maybe, the cry of powerlessness over alcohol is a convenient card to pull out in the dock facing prison.
Suffering from and addiction does not make you any different and/or any less than the rest of humanity.

But if you buy the idea that you are powerless over the chemical in a bottle (or the peanut butter on the shelf or the offshore gambling website) then you are deprived of this honest relief. Instead, you must admit your worst fear: you are in fact different and certainly less human than millions of people around you.


Consistent and repeated consumption of any mind and mood altering chemical, each of which carry significantly addictive qualities, is going to cause anyone with a belly-button to become addicted.


Recovery from an addiction has got very little to do with ‘not drinking or drugging’.

Recovery from an addiction is all about Character Development into Integrity of Character.

Integrity of Character is: The ability to face reality, the stability to embrace negative reality with a positive approach and the sustainability to make a positive difference to painful situations.

So … I would say … if you cannot get clean and stay clean it is more to do with your under-developed character than it is to do what you want to call powerlessness.

Character Integrity is always involved in Success (business, individual, marital … everything). Study any number of successful people and their life story and one thing they will have in common – they agree on the need for transcendence … the need to receive ‘meaning’ from a source beyond their will-power.