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Powerlessness in Addiction Recovery


We, as human beings, have evolved over many years. Amongst those years of evolution, so has how we feel different emotions. Often when things go our way, we have a feeling of happiness. When things appear not going the way we’d like, we have a sense of anger or resentment. The list can go on and on when it comes to the emotions that we feel every single day. According to an article in “Greater Good Magazine,” they identified a list of 27 emotions that one might feel throughout a typical day. This number of emotions is rather profound when you think about it. Often we go through the day and don’t even recognize the different emotions we might be feeling. Indeed, those emotions dictate how we interact with people and ourselves daily.

The Feeling of Powerlessness

Now let’s talk about the particular emotional feeling of “Powerlessness.” There are many times when one can feel a sense of powerlessness. Maybe you are in a marriage that isn’t going the way you thought it would, or you have a spouse who won’t take the suggestions you give, however beneficial they may be. Maybe you have a child that isn’t listening to what you are saying, and you find yourself going to extreme lengths to try and find answers for your child. You have gone to therapists, psychiatrists, and doctors, only to see them saying all the same things. At some point, you will most likely feel “powerless” over the situation, like there is nothing more you can do.  

Powerlessness and Addiction Recovery

We see much powerlessness when it comes to addicts in recovery. When someone is afflicted with addiction, they are used to a life of chaos. They end up putting themselves and their loved ones in potentially dangerous physical, emotional, or financial situations. It happens all the time. A byproduct of these situations is feelings of “powerlessness.” Families can only go so far and do so much before they feel powerless over the situation. Addicts and Alcoholics are the same way! They can get so far deep into their addiction that they feel powerless over it. They think they can’t get sober no matter how hard they try or what lengths they go.  

Now, with that being said, it is a good thing, in most situations, for an addict to feel powerless. The feeling of powerlessness will cause them to dig deeper into their addiction and ultimately put their back up against a wall sooner. When this happens, and they no longer have anywhere or anyone to turn to fuel their addictions, they will get sober. But just because someone gets sober doesn’t mean these emotions go away.   

Learning to Cope with Emotions in Recovery

When we used drugs and alcohol, we often did so because we didn’t know how to handle these emotions. We didn’t like feeling these feelings, and we found that the only things that would work to make these emotions were drugs and alcohol. What do you think happens if you remove the drugs and the alcohol? We start to feel these emotions more! And, this time, we don’t have drugs and alcohol to turn to. So herein lies the problem. 

If we don’t know how to handle these emotions when they creep up, which they will, we are destined to relapse. We can’t go back to drugs and alcohol to escape these feelings. We need to learn how to handle these emotions and deal with them in a way that helps us build a more solid foundation of sobriety for the future.  

Handling Personal Growth in Sobriety

When people get sober for the first time, they often want to change everything about themselves, which can be a good thing to a certain extent. However, it can also be bad because we can ultimately set ourselves up for failure without realizing it.   

We see this a lot in the rebuilding of relationships. When one person decides to get sober and take a deep dive into therapy, they learn a lot about themselves. Whether good or bad, it is, in most cases, something that, in their mind, is an opportunity to change themselves. Now when that change does not have the desired outcome, they can start to feel powerless.  

Here is an example:

A husband goes to treatment for his alcohol addiction. Throughout the treatment process, he learns many new things about himself. He starts to be able to think for himself. He can analyze situations that used to baffle him. He can have conversations with people and begin to identify the feelings associated with those conversations. He is becoming more independent of a person and loves the way that he is starting to feel. He is now looking forward to going home and showing his wife the new person he has become. He is excited! He can’t wait! He stays in treatment for the next 90 days.  

During the 90 days, his wife deals with all the household stuff with a spouse gone. She becomes resentful towards him. She thinks, “Why am I being stuck at the house doing all this stuff? He is the one that has the problem with drinking, not me?’ “I wish I could just go somewhere for 90 days and not worry about anything at all” day after day; she continues handling his responsibilities. This extra responsibility is not something that comes easy for a spouse. 

Now you would think that when he comes home from treatment and is living a life of sobriety, she would be happy for him. It can sometimes be the exact opposite. When the husband gets home, he notices that she seems slightly “off.” Things are not the same. He is unsure as to what happened. He might say, “I went to treatment to better my life and marriage. Why am I being treated this way?”  

After a certain period, if these issues do not get addressed, he will start to feel powerless. He will feel powerlessness over his marriage. This powerlessness can be very dangerous for someone with a history of alcoholism. Because now, he may start to feel resentment and anger toward his wife and feel like he isn’t respected for the person he has become. He may feel powerless like he cannot do anything right. He may say, “No matter what I do, She just won’t ever be happy.” This is not a good place for him to be. In his head, many emotions are going on. If they are not treated and handled correctly, he is at a dangerous risk for relapse. 

Emotional Support During Sobriety

There is hope. These are real-life situations that can happen when someone gets sober, but it doesn’t mean that they are going to relapse. There are many situations in which these types of things happen, and the person stays sober. Not only do they stay sober, but they also build a more solid foundation of sobriety. Here are some resources you can look at when feeling “powerlessness” when newly sober.

  • Church
    The church is an excellent resource for someone when they are getting sober. Many people who attend a church have gone through similar situations. Often there are recovery and sobriety-driven groups within the church that you can rely on when you need them.
  • AA (Alcoholics Anonymous)
    AA is going to be one of the most useful among all resources available to you. Not only do you have other people in there struggling with the same issues as you, but they have also figured out a way to get to the other side. There are people inside the rooms of AA who have practiced sobriety for many years, with a massive amount of wisdom and knowledge, and are willing to share it for free.
  • NA (Narcotics Anonymous)
    The same as AA. Narcotics Anonymous is more geared toward people who struggle with drugs rather than alcohol. However, most of the principles are the same.
  • Licensed Therapists
    Having a therapist is crucial. Seeing a therapist regularly is an excellent step towards building a more solid foundation of sobriety. You can talk about the issues in your life, and they can help you navigate your situations according to what is best for you and your sobriety.

There are many ways in which you can get the support you need when getting sober. You do not have to go at this alone. There are many options for you. Ultimately, it is about finding what is suitable for you.
At Recovery Bay Center, we provide a safe and nurturing environment where you can focus on your mental health while receiving the specialized care required to overcome addiction. We understand that the holiday season can be a particularly vulnerable time, and we are here to support you every step of the way. To learn more about how we can help you, reach out online or call us at 833.991.2955 now.