Will Power. Do I need it to recover?

The myth of will power and recovery

One great myth of addiction is that people need will power alone to kick their habit. This view is an oversimplification and complete misunderstanding of addiction and to say that if those in addiction tried harder then they would be able to break their addictive habits can diminish the resources someone in addiction has to continue to work to get their recovery.


In reality when people talk about this they are failing to understand what addiction is about as it is very complex nor how people recovery from addiction. Addicts will readily accept much of the time that they do not want to continue with this lifestyle. Addictive behaviours are the best responses that a person who struggles to manage their mental health, their sense of themselves in the world and their own ways of dealing with key incidents in their lives come up with at times. Addicts are sensitive, intelligent people who are often very caring for others but lack the skills and confidence to prioritise caring for themselves.


Instead of focusing on someone's ability to change being about their strength of personality there are often much more powerful tools. The craft to getting someone to find their recovery, centres on them finding an alternative approach to managing how they feel. If those who were in addiction knew an alternative approach they would have adopted it many years before, as a life in addiction is lonely, hard and unfulfilling.


To focus on capability or willingness to change or  to try harder to cure addiction misunderstands the complex nature of addiction. Even worse, suggesting lack of will power is the main reason for addiction could even prevent someone getting out of addiction. After a lapse, this approach blames someone for being weak by having no self control. Each time a person working towards ending their addiction experiences a relapse they will be de-motivated and vulnerable, blaming them for not having will power will further undermine their confidence and make it more likely that there lapse will be more long lasting than if they experienced a supportive rather than a blaming approach.

When working with people who have a broader understanding of recovery, even in the middle of a full relapse, they present as confident, accepting of their situation and are planning what they need to do differently next time they return to their recovery pathway.

Focus on Relapse prevention tools to be successful

Better than targeting will power, direct energy to using relapse prevention tools such as urge surfing, talking therapies, building self esteem.


Ultimately then, the key to unlocking people’s recovery is equipping people with the skills and confidence to accept themselves and the techniques of dealing with crises in early recovery like dealing with cravings. This process takes many forms and is discussed in treatments of addiction.

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