Are Addicts Truly Powerless?

Habits don't reflect desires.

Addiction is often connected with the idea of powerlessness, compulsion, or having one’s agency ‘hijacked’. That idea shows up, for example, in the first of Alcoholics Anonymous’s 12 steps:

1.    We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable.

AA is an incredibly popular organization. Organizations that take the same approach to addiction, but focus on different objects of addiction – e.g. narcotics, food, sex – are also globally successful. So, the idea that addiction involves powerlessness has resonated with a vast number of people who have first-hand experience of addiction. It deserves to be taken seriously. Should we also take it literally? Well, that depends on working out what it would mean to take it literally. And that turns out not to be obvious.

It might help to focus on this question to have an example in view. Susan is an alcoholic who is having some early success in being abstinent and is slowly

Continue reading

Enjoy unlimited access to the world's leading thinkers.

Start by exploring our subscription options or joining our mailing list today.

Start Free Trial

Already a subscriber? Log in

Join the conversation

Pham Hieu 31 August 2022

It's bad isn't it? I hope we will live healthier lives.

Pham Hieu 26 May 2022

Great article!

Arnold Shcwain 24 April 2022

Very useful post about addiction. What you think about game addiction? I think that it exists but in childs. Adults can more control theirselves. If u are gamer and play game because of fun and relax i do recommend you the rndplace to get all the games you want for cheap price. I got gta 5 acc and still happy <3

killer smile 2 September 2021

This is a good post. This post gives truly quality information. I'm definitely going to look into it. Really very useful tips are provided here. Thank you so much. Keep up the good works.

coca mary 26 August 2021

You have given very useful information. Keep it up and keep blogging. I look forward to reading your next post.
<a href="">cookie clicker</a>

Brown Bee 12 July 2021

Sorry to bother. but i found this game too good so i wanted to share. friday night funkin

Steve Carnes 28 June 2018

For an alternative understanding of "addiction" I would direct you to Stanton Peele's "Recover!"

As he says, and then goes on to scientifically and philosophically support, "For decades you've been told that addiction is an irreversible disease over which you have no control. That defeatist message is not only without scientific foundation, but actually prevents your overcoming addiction."

Alain Savard 15 April 2018

With 5 to 10% sucess rate for AA, this is greatly controversial but interesting read.
The Interview: Does AA fail addicts?