Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Do Alcoholics Have the Option to Choose Self Control?

My ten year old daughter continues to exhibit bipolar symptoms, specifically anger and irritability, morning, noon, and night. Yesterday morning, I kept my cool with her and my serenity was not affected. This morning, on the other hand, I responded to her disrespectful actions and words with my own anger and frustration and my serenity vanished. Poof! Gone…

Afterwards, I went outside and sat in the morning sunshine to read a spiritual (although, not recovery-based) meditation book a friend gave to me this week. I immediately felt a sense of peace and relief as I read the words I needed to hear until I got to the last part which discussed self-control. It reads:

I choose self-control…Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. To these I commit my day. If I succeed, I will give thanks. If I fail, I will seek his grace.
My blood pressure rose as I read those words and I tore that page right out of the flippin’ book!

Self-control??? I have no self-control! If I did, I wouldn't need a 12-step program for my alcoholism. WTF? Does this mean normal people have a choice when it comes to self-control because I sure don't.  On the contrary, I am out of control.  I am powerless.  My life is unmanageable by me.  I am unmanageable by me.

Definition of self-control: "Control of one's emotions, actions, or desires by one's own will."

I thought this picture was cute, however, a cork wouldn't work because I'd have to buy a bottle of wine in order to get the cork (oh, the irony! :)

I am not in a great place at the moment. Therefore, I am reaching out to my fellow alcoholics and humbly asking you to share your experience, strength, and hope on this self-control thing.  Am I missing something?

I choose to admit that I am powerless (step 1.)  I choose to believe my life is unmanageable and that God can restore me to sanity (step 2.)  I choose to make the decision to turn my life over to God (step 3.)  I choose to write down my faults (step 4.)  I choose to talk with my sponsor about them (step 5.)  I choose to be willing to have God remove my faults (step 6.)  I choose to ask him to remove them (step 7.)  I choose to make a list of those I have harmed (step 8) and to make amends except when to do so would injure them or others (step 9.)  I choose to review my conduct each day (step 10.)  I choose to pray and meditate (step 11.)  I choose to try to practice the principles of the program in all of my affairs and to carry the message of the program to other alcoholics (step 12.)

But can I choose to have self-control?   Can I choose to control myself?  Can you?


  1. I have control UNTIL I introduce an addictive substance (in my cae, alcohol) into my body. Then, all bes are off.

  2. yes, I can relate to that Dave. I guess my frustration with the whole self-control issue is due to working steps 4-7 last night with a woman I sponsor and going to a step meeting last week on step 6...we talked at length about how the more we tried to "control" our character defects the worse they got, as the drinking did.

    And that the whole point of steps 6 and 7 is to be willing and then ask God to remove those defects, which to me implies we do not have control over them, hence, no "self-control" in the truest sense of the word...

  3. I think it's the use of the word self-control that is throwing me here. Since the book you were reading was not "program based" then I think self-control is probably a pretty big deal to the folks reading it and would make sense to them. The only time the word self-control is in the big book is on page 26. I guess I'm thinking of self control in terms of being able to hold my temper or not eat the cup cake (which I have little control over) things like that.

  4. Interesting question. I understand Dave's answer and then thought about your reply to him. It's not really black and white is it?

    I believe that 95% of the time I have the choice to act correctly. I am aware of my defects and though I pray for God to take them away, he can not do so if I continue to make a choice to engage in them. I still have to take action to help them be removed -- it's a partnership.

  5. Just checking back to read any postings you may have written.

    I’ve been following and enjoying your blog for a while now and would like to invite you to visit and perhaps follow me back. Sorry I took so long for the invitation.

  6. wow, you guys are awesome. Thanks for the feedback. I really appreciate it :)

  7. We alcoholics spend a lot of time thinking and talking about control, self and otherwise. It seems just about all things boil down to whether we have control or not. I've tried and failed repeatedly in the realm of control.

    It is my opinion that self-control is actually a position of yielding to the will of my Higher Power. So in that sense, I don't believe I'm self-controlled at all. It depends on how much light I'm living in as opposed to the darkness.

    Not sure if I'm making any sense, but I will share that I pray daily for God to control my life (thoughts, actions, will). It gives me peace.

  8. Heidi,
    yes! That makes perfect sense (to me :)

  9. I agree with the other Heidi. I have no data that tells me I can be self-controlled. What I can be is walking in the light. I find that easier when I begin my day in meditation and end the day with the reading from 86 to 88. This keeps me grounded and when I get to struggling with everything again because I want my will, I pray the Serenity Prayer.

    No magic, just good practices that keep my mind quieter and keep my actions saner. It all boils down to His will versus mine. I find I struggle less with controlling myself when my motives are thus in check. Does that make sense?

  10. I'm a little late to the party here, but I feel that self control has little to do with alcoholism. In my experience the only self control an alcoholic has is whether or not to take that first drink, and once that drink is taken it is a disease that is in control. I have lots of self control in every other part of my life and only lose it once alcohol activates my disease.


Thank you for sharing!