You may think that you have a pretty strong will, which is probably one of the reasons you are frustrated that it is not working for your efforts to stop your alcohol or drug use. Even people who are successful in exerting their will to reach academic, professional, and other personal achievements are baffled that the same determination will not seem to work for a substance abuse issue.

The truth is that willpower alone will not get you far when it comes to these complex issues. Here are five reasons willpower is not enough to conquer addiction.

1. Addiction is not a choice. First, if you had sufficient willpower, you probably would not have a substance use disorder. No one plans to become addicted to drugs or alcohol, but this develops when the power of choice disappears. At some point, you were no longer able to control the decision to drink, use drugs, or take part in other unhealthy behaviors.

2. Willpower suppresses trauma. According to Dr. Arnold M. Washton, people with trauma have a tendency to push it down with a strong will. It is difficult to overcome addiction with suppressed pain, and you will not be able to get to the root of your issues by continuing to fight a silent battle.

3. A decision is not enough. Have you ever just decided that you were going to stop using drugs or drinking and then found that you could not keep that promise? Resolve and commitment are well and good, but they are not sufficient to make this type of a change over the long-term. Medical care, cognitive behavioral therapy, and support through addiction treatment are known and proven treatments for addiction.

4. Willpower helps you avoid connections. The people who are most successful in addiction recovery get there with help. If you continue to believe that you have enough strength to handle anything and everything on your own, there will be no incentive to put your hand out to ask for help or let someone else get to know you. This is detrimental to your recovery.

5. Humans forget too quickly. Even if your willpower allows you to give up alcohol or drugs for a short period, this is not likely to last without other treatment and methods of support. Why? There is a tiny voice inside the addict’s head that loves to whisper, “It’s going to be different this time.” Willpower is never enough to overcome this because you are more likely to remember what drugs or alcohol did for you instead of what they did to you.

How Willpower Can Be Useful in Addiction Recovery

When you decide to stop using drugs and alcohol, you may be told to forget anything about using willpower. The truth is that you have just made one of the most important choices of your life, and now you need the willpower to follow through with the actions that will lead you on the pathway to a new way to live.

Changing the way you view the world and behave is a tall order, and it is not always comfortable. That strong will you have can help you stay in addiction treatment for the duration, pick up the phone to ask for help, and let someone new get to know you for support.

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Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.