Powerlessness

Celebrate Recovery, Principle 1:
Realize I am not God. Admit that I am powerless to control my tendency to do the wrong thing and that my life is unmanageable.
Happy are those who know they are spiritually poor.
Matthew 5:3

Biblical 12 steps, Step 1:
We admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors, that our lives had become unmanageable.
For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.
Romans 7:18

Celebrate Recovery Lesson 2 is about our being – about our finally realizing – that we are missing something inside us; that without it, we are powerless, we are out of control. Alone, on our own, despite many, many attempts to change ourselves, we are again in a bad place. We can not deny the evidence before our very eyes any longer. We find ourselves in: a prison cell. A rehab program. A hospital room. An empty house. Sobbing. In shock. In literal pain – but maybe from a hurt we can not see, only feel. At “rock bottom”, we are desperately ready to try something completely different to help us change. (We just don’t know what that something is, yet…)

Everyone is subject to this. Take, for example, those who make “New Year’s Resolutions”. Think to yourself how many times you have made such a resolution, and why. What brought you to that point, where such a “formal commitment of willpower” was necessary?  Why did you want to start something new – or to change something – neatly lining up with the first day of a new year, the annual symbol of “new beginnings”. But how many times did you make/have you made a resolution about that same behavior?

CR is based on the Bible, and there is a chapter that describes this condition of Powerlessness perfectly: Romans Chapter 7. Here, from the Easy-To-Read Version, is a section called The War Inside Us:

The War Inside Us

14 We know that [God’s] law is spiritual, but I am not. I am so human. Sin rules me as if I were its slave. 15 I don’t understand why I act the way I do. I don’t do the good I want to do, and I do the evil I hate. 16 … I don’t want to do what I do … 18 [So] Yes, I know that nothing good lives in me—I mean nothing good lives in the part of me that is not spiritual. I want to do what is good, but I don’t do it. 19 I don’t do the good that I want to do. I do the evil that I don’t want to do.

21 So I have learned this rule: When I want to do good, evil is there with me. 22 In my mind I am happy with God’s law. 23 But I see another law working in my body. That law makes war against the law that my mind accepts. That other law working in my body is the law of sin, and that law makes me its prisoner. 24 What a miserable person I am! Who will save me from this body that brings me death?

Again, we all know this experience: of wanting to do one thing, but doing the opposite.

What we want to do includes: what we know we should do, because it’s our responsibility or because it is the “right” thing to do; and what we know we should not do, because it is not the right time or place or it is not right to do something so much.

The principle says, instead of doing what we want to do, we have “the tendency to do the wrong thing”. This is lightweight. The step use stronger language, calling them what they are: uncontrollable “addictions and compulsive behaviors”. We know that the definitions of these words clearly indicate our lost ability to choose. CR in general describes them as “hurts, habits, and hangups”.

Regardless of what word you use, all of these behaviors started out as something we chose to do that simply felt good, and because it felt good it made us feel better – for a time. But somehow, we are now at the point where we can not resist doing these things we don’t want to do, no matter how much we try. We are Powerless over them. We are slaves to them.

Last lesson, we talked about Denial. We learned that the very, very first moment in recovery is the realization that we’ve been fooling ourselves. We saw in an instant that we do, in fact, have a problem. A big problem. Today, we begin to realize why: because we are – we have become – completely powerless in exercising our own willpower, in controlling our own bodies.

Close your eyes and imagine with me. (I assume we’ve all driven a car?) OK. You are in the car, in the driver’s seat. You know you should be able to control the speed and steering of the car, to make it go where you decide to go. But, the car doesn’t do what you tell it to. No matter how you spin the wheel or pump the pedals, the car goes its own way, like it was under someone else’s control.

Your mind is the driver. Your physical body is the car. Your mind should be able to control your body, but doesn’t. It can’t. Something else has taken over. Call it sin, weakness, addictive or compulsive behaviors, whatever. We suddenly understand powerlessness. We know we need help,and are ready to try something completely different – something from “outside” ourselves.

But first, we need to consider – not what the addictive or compulsive behavior is – we are well aware of that – but instead we have to begin looking into why we needed those behaviors to make us feel better in the first place. This need to feel better is a valid one. Something inside hurts, and, in response, we turned to our addictions.

The acronym for Powerless is a list of possible causes. Some of these are hurts buried deep in our past. Some are recurring annoyances or temptations or situations which disturb us and make us feel uncomfortable:

Pride – begins the list because it is the number one thing that gets in our way. Very simply, we know we should be able to control ourselves, to drive that car. We continue to think that if we just apply ourselves a little more, we can get control. We think we don’t need any help. “Pride comes before a fall.”
Pride ends in a fall, while humility brings honor. (Proverbs 29:23)
Beginning to realize our denial and our powerlessness is the first steps toward humility: admitting our own weakness and frailty, and our need for help. When we know what are weaknesses are, we can begin to be strong.

Only Ifs – Or “What if” or “if only”. If only this had/hadn’t happened. If only that person had done or not done that. This is the “blame game”. It is how we avoid dealing with reality. It is not accepting What Is, but rather whining full-time for “what shoulda/coulda/woulda been”.

Worry – There are so many things to worry about: financial, romantic, the future, our families, our jobs or how we will provide income. We can even worry about worrying too much. “Live one day at a time.” What we have lost or never been aware of is what it’s like to trust that someone/somehow we will be all right. We will learn more about this in the coming steps.

Escape – As addicts, we’re all very good at escaping – from reality. From our responsibilities. Escapism is what we have been practicing all these years of our addictions.

Resentment – is anger that we have hung onto, and let fester deep inside. It’s a slow poison to our good feelings of joy, peace, and love. It makes us impatient, harsh, and unkind with others and our situations. It keeps us from persevering, to see our resolutions through. It shows up in every situation as a big dark cloud over our heads.

Loneliness – Our hurts drive us away from others. We think we are unique in that we hurt. So, we isolate, become lonely, and our bad behaviors become our best friends.

Emptiness – We realize that there is something missing inside us. That our way of living, by running to these addictions and compulsions, is empty.

Selfishness – This is the hardest to realize. It seems like a contradiction. But we feel it, deep down: “It’s better to give than receive.” To give and receive, not to take.
Whoever clings to this life shall lose it, and whoever loses his life shall save it. (Luke 17:33)

Separation – This can be from other people, but primarily it is about separation from that something that we feel is missing in our lives. We will begin to learn what we have been missing (God) in the next lessons.

This is where we begin to see the need for a Higher Power – that something outside and above us is greater than we are and greater than we can ever be. Something – someONE – who cares about us, and wants to empower us to become the driver of the car.

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One thought on “Powerlessness

  1. I’ve been in Celebrate Recovery for awhile now. Last night I attended my first step-study. Although I’ve been in another 12 steps program and have 6 years, 6 months and 3 days clean today, Celebrate Recovery connects me with people who all have the same Higher Power; Jesus.
    That’s big to me.

    Liked by 1 person

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