"Lack of power that was our dilemma (Alcoholics Anonymous, Big Book, page 45)" is language that underlies the foundation for recovery from alcoholism and from addiction: "When we admit our powerlessness and our inability to manage our own lives, we open the door to recovery (NA Basic Text, Pages 19-20)." But what of powerlessness when an individual loves an alcoholic or an addict? Here is what Al-Ateen says about the effects of alcoholism on loved ones of the alcoholic:
"Unlike diabetes, alcoholism not only exists inside the body of the alcoholic, but is a disease of relationships as well. Many of the symptoms of alcoholism are in the behavior of the alcoholic. The people who are involved with the alcoholic react to his behavior. They try to control it, make up for it, or hide it. They often blame themselves for it and are hurt by it. Eventually they become emotionally disturbed themselves” (from Alateen – Hope for Children of Alcoholics, page 6).
Similarly, Nar-Anon's Step One is based on powerlessness over the addict: "… we are not responsible for the drug addiction. We did not cause it, we cannot control it, and we cannot cure it. If we do not learn how to cope with drug addiction, we will contribute to the disease."
Being in charge, in control, and self-sufficient, sounds like a good thing, but can, for the person in a close relationship with an addict or alcoholic, result in isolation, frustration, and mental turmoil and confusion. What we can learn in recovery in Al-Anon and Nar-Anon is a balanced understanding of what we can control, and what we cannot control, that is, what we are powerless over. Clearly we cannot control our significant other's behavior, including whether he/she drinks or drugs. What we learn is that we can control, with the help of others in recovery and our Higher Power, how we react to whatever it is that we cannot control. It is a great freedom to realize that we need not control anyone else, only our own thoughts, actions, and reactions.
As I have said often in my posts here, the Serenity Prayer offers sound guidance to the persons in a relationship with an alcoholic or addict: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change–OTHER PEOPLE; grant me the courage to change the things I can –ME AND HOW I REACT TO OTHERS; and the wisdom to now the difference.
As always, comments are invited. Jan Edward Williams,www.alcoholdrugsos.com. 08/01/2013.