The basic purpose of the 12 Step recovery program found in AA and NA is to help the addicted individual to connect with a spiritual source of strength and, thereby, find a way out of addiction. Powerlessness over alcohol, or other drugs, is the basic concept underlying recovery from addiction using the 12 Step recovery model.
As stated in the AA Basic Text ("Big Book"):
"Lack of power, that was our dilemma. We had to find a power by which we could live, and it had to be a Power greater than ourselves. Obviously. But where and how were we to find this Power? Well, that's exactly what this book [AA Big Book] is about. Its main object is to enable you to find a Power greater than yourself...(Alcoholics Anonymous, page 45)."
A few years ago I came across some language in the New Testament that opened additional doors of understanding for me about acceptance and powerlessness, two related concepts that seem to be key to a serene recovery. My version of the biblical passage I am referring to is this: "In weakness power reaches perfection...for when I am powerless it is then that I am strong..." (12 Corinthians 8-10).
In the 12 Step Programs, the foundational Step is, of course, Step One: "We admitted we were powerless" over alcohol, or drugs, or whatever the behavior may be. As long as the addicted individual hangs onto even a vestige of belief that he/she can control, has power over, alcohol or other drug use, he/she is not open to the need for help, including spiritual help. Very simply, after years of struggle and pain trying to control ones alcohol or drug use, the fortunate individual will find that self-centered pride and self-sufficiency give way, allowing the individual to come to believe, that is, internalize in his/her heart that he/she cannot control (Has no power over) use of alcohol or other drugs, setting the stage for being open to help, at first from others recovering from addiction, and then to seeking a source of spiritual strength.
The power of powerlessness lies in the fact that recognition of a lack of power means that the addict or alcoholic is now open to asking for help. The serenity prayer says it all. God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change (others and many events in life), the courage to change the things I can (me and how I react to others and events in life), and the wisdom to know the difference. Surrender to win is the 12 Step shorthand version of this post. There is infinite power in powerlessness. Recognition of powerlessness enables one to seek power from a source of spiritual strength.
As always, comments are invited. Jan Williams, www.alcoholdrugsos.com, 02/24/2015.