The concept of powerlessness is always a hot button topic amongst those sober (and not sober). I’ve heard heated post meeting debates on this topic. Sometimes it feels like oldtimers and newcomers cannot agree on this idea as it relates to recovery. Just what does ‘powerless’ mean as it pertains to the first step? Am I really helpless in this battle against alcoholism?

No one said it better than Tim H., an oldtimer who told his story one night at Discovery Place. “My sponsor told me that, since I was sober, I was powerless over alcohol and drugs. But I wasn’t powerless over my elbow. Now that I was clean, if I chose to drink or drug again, that was my decision.”

That statement really stuck with me. I’d been involved in the sober community on and off for years. Yet I’d never heard someone with 20+ years summarize powerlessness so elegantly.

I’m not going to dive into the medical explanation of why alcoholics are powerless over alcohol. I’d like you to stay awake for this article. Let’s just say that once an alcoholic takes a drink, a chemical reaction occurs within that body, setting off an intense craving for more. This craving doesn’t always occur, which is why some alcoholics can, on occasion, drink like normal people. (if you would like to read the medical explanation and research, see link below).