Many people who are not addicts or alcoholics think that those who are must be weak willed. I am an alcoholic who after many years of struggling has not had a drink for nearly 4 years. Is this because of my strength of will? I certainly have a very strong will power and am a strong person. I always have been – even in the darkest days of my drinking. That is what got me in the mess in the first place, that I was strong willed and thought I could sort it myself. So my drinking and illness progressed as I struggled to apply my will power to the problem.
Then it was my will power that stopped me from giving in and accepting the help it was so obvious to everyone around me that I needed. Will power or foolish head strong determination? Will power or stubborn refusal to admit I had a problem which no amount of will power was going to solve? I needed help and desperately.
Everyone has to reach a point with their drinking or addiction when carrying on as it is is just too much, too miserable, too lonely etc etc. We struggle through each day just existing. This is usually the same experience whether your addiction is alcohol, drugs or prescription medication.
No one chooses to be an alcoholic or addict. We achieve this wonderful state through a combination of personality, experience, environment and genetics. Addicts will admit ‘I’m out of control. I can’t help it. I can’t stop myself. I know I need help.’ That’s what everyone needs to understand. Most alcoholics would like to cut back on their drinking and drink like so called ‘normal people’. But some unconscious force makes them take that fifth or sixth drink even when they know they shouldn’t. They have lost their off button. Once they start drinking or using, they cannot stop. That is why most people who are expert in the field of alcoholism and addiction know there is no cure for this and the only way forward once addicts get clean and sober is to remain totally abstinent. That off switch cannot be repaired and made to work.
If not a failure of willpower, then, what is alcohol or drug addiction? Some academics say it is about impulsivity. In other words, if there is something immediately available, you ignore the long-term consequences. In fact, the longer term the consequences are, the less influence they will have over your current behaviour. At some point in our lives, almost everyone is exposed to alcohol. Yet most people do not become alcoholics, even those who drink small or moderate amounts daily. It seems that the brains of alcoholics and addicts are actually different from those of people who are not susceptible to addiction.
For perhaps 5 percent to 10 percent of us, though, and for reasons as yet unexplained, drinking alcohol becomes an addiction with often disastrous consequences on our health, our freedom and the lives of others. So if it is not about will power, what is it about? What makes the difference between the alcoholic or addict who manages to remain happily sober and or clean? The simple answer is that it is about ACCEPTANCE. Accept that you can no longer have one drink or drug and stop fighting it with willpower. Then you can live your life in serenity and have a chance to be happy.
The Haynes Clinic is an alcohol and drug rehabilitiation clinic which successfully detoxes alcoholics and addicts and helps them to learn how to live a happy life free of their addiction. Call 01462 851414 for free and confidential advice.