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LCSW, CCS
Clinical Social Worker/Therapist

We think of willpower as innate self-discipline and restraint, but if we broaden our definition of willpower to be something we achieve through consistent effort and by seeking support, we find that becoming more (will)powerful is attainable.

Addiction is the single most destructive force on earth. It is a tyrannical infection of the body, mind, and spirit. It destroys good people, healthy bodies, and ravages our will. It is unique from all other diseases in two important ways:

  1. It is the only disease in which remission can be chosen.
  2. It is the only disease that tells us we don’t have it.

To battle alone with the disease is a losing proposition. The best possible outcome is loneliness. This approach means remaining constantly vigilant against ourselves and external triggers. This is surviving, not living. 

By the time we enter into recovery, we find ourselves bent and broken. Counterintuitive though it appears, we receive the “gift of desperation.” The gift provides clarity and dramatically increases willingness – an important aspect of willpower. We know that we must go to any lengths necessary to achieve sobriety.

Unfortunately, clarity is fleeting and knowing is not the same as accepting. As soon as your ass is no longer on fire, you find yourself struggling with the same problems and irresistible urges. This is the greatest pitfall of willpower: it too often means perpetuating a battle with oneself.

Forget traditional ideas of solitary willpower: get support and build recovery (will)power with greater accountability, resolution and conviction.

Accountability, Resolution & Conviction

We in recovery found that we must “surrender to win.” We surrender to a 'Higher Power' in recognition that there must be a better way than the one we have consistently chosen. We admit defeat over our disease and accept the support and guidance of good people who have achieved what we seek. Here we are taught that our will alone is insufficient because we remain conflicted, emotionally labile, and incapable of trusting ourselves. Increasing willpower therefore, is a matter of becoming accountable, achieving resolution, and living based on conviction (rock solid belief).

Accountability

Moving from ideas to follow-through.

The first two words of recovery are responsibility and accountability. Without these, our efforts remain individualistic and problematic because they constitute little more than a set of nice ideas. When we share our goals with those who can hold our feet to the fire, we put those ideas into practice. This increases our follow-through and provides us with frequent assessment, encouragement and feedback.

Resolution

Choosing a better life.

Resolution means working through internal conflict. We come to understand the recovery adage that the longest distance in the world is between our head and our heart. Abstinence provides the return of free will – the biggest and most foundational part of willpower. The more we are able to see how addiction has turned us against ourselves, the more we are able to choose that which is in our best interest. We stop shaming ourselves, stop living in fear, and move toward freedom.

The greatest exertion of willpower is the choice between being your own worst enemy or your own best friend.

Conviction

Stay true to your goal - one day at a time.

Making healthy choices leads to a healthy lifestyle, yet the fear of regression remains. We fear disappointing ourselves and others. We fear relapse, complacency, back tracking, or otherwise “screwing up.” This underscores the need for living, “one day at a time.”

Twenty four hours is plenty of time to live by conviction. We start anew each day. Anyone with long term recovery will tell you that it was achieved, “twenty four hours at a time.” Days add up and progressively we find that our choices become habits, which become routines, which then become practices. Living by healthy and adaptive beliefs over time leads to confidence and ultimately, to the greatest form of conviction – believing in yourself.

Building Willpower

Gathering Support

There is no such thing as a self-made man or woman. Willpower doesn’t mean we know how to do things. It means we dedicate ourselves to a specific outcome. The more we involve supportive others in that outcome, the more easily and readily we succeed.

Making Positive Choices

Willpower is too often about what we won’t do and not about what we will. We choose to not drink or do drugs. We choose other healthy goals: to quit smoking, to not overeat or be unfaithful. We are guarding against repeating unhealthy patterns or behavior, which means we must continue to learn, and grow and heal.

Growing Spiritually

Ultimately, most in recovery find that success comes from growing spiritually. The greatest form of willpower is turning over our will and the direction of our lives to a 'Higher Power'. We seek to embrace something far more powerful, loving, and beautiful than ourselves and so we say “Thy will not mine be done.”

About the author Jim LaPierre:
My story is I'm forever a work in progress and I love connecting with REAL people who are doing great things. I'm blessed to be making a living doing something I love. I'm a proud dad and the luckiest husband ever. I'm an aspiring author - check out my recovery blog at: recoveryrocks.bangordailynews.com Thanks! Jim
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Page last updated Mar 28, 2014

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