Addiction is an incurable but manageable disease
The Twelve Steps – Step 1: “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol [or any other addiction] – that our lives had become unmanageable”.
People argue about describing addiction as a disease. The disagreement is, for the most part, about how much is cause and how much is effect: Is the brain of some people hard-wired from birth for being taken over by a substance or behaviour or does repeated use of a substance or behaviour result in permanent physiological changes to the brain?
Setting aside this cause-or-effect debate, there is little argument about the result. People who have become addicts cannot just choose to switch off their addiction. They are, in important, essential and involuntary ways, “different”. They are powerless over their addiction and cannot manage their lives generally and specifically cannot just choose to become ex-addicts.
If I have a broken leg it really doesn’t matter whether it results from genetic fragility, a chronic degeneration or falling down the stairs – I have a broken leg and I can’t make it better by any amount of will-power.
And so the first of the Twelve Steps, the one without which the way to recovery cannot be opened, is the acceptance of powerlessness and the need for help.
It takes courage, immense courage sometimes, to accept being out of control. But the seed of that courage, the spur to progress, is the realisation that there IS a way forward to a long, happy and successful future.
Once someone has become an addict it’s a permanent state, there is no cure. But addiction is manageable (with help) and there is no limit to the possibilities and fulfillment which the recovering addict can achieve.