Why Willpower Is Not Enough to Overcome Addiction

Published On: July 5, 2018

We are sure you have heard people spout out the advice that ‘all you need is willpower’ to stop taking drugs or alcohol. This advice is utterly incorrect. Afterall, addiction is a disease, not a choice.

One cannot ‘will’ away the disease of addiction in the same way one cannot ‘will’ away other diseases such as cancer or HIV.

Willpower infers that you have the tools to overcome addiction without the need to reach out to others.

Many highly effective organisations such as SMART Recovery and Alcoholics Anonymous have proliferated largely due to the fact that addiction is best defeated when tackled collectively. These fellowship meetings are the antithesis of ‘just relying on willpower’.

When it comes to overcoming addiction, willpower rarely works. If you are waiting for willpower to cure your addiction to drugs or alcohol, then you may be waiting for some time. We wouldn’t recommend you wait for willpower to work, because it is likely that it will not, and during this time it's also likely your body and mind will suffer from irreversible damage at the hands of your addiction.

We are not writing off the power of willpower in a general sense. Willpower may help you pass that exam, get that dream job or help you through that marathon finish line, but it’s unlikely to help you stop drinking or taking drugs. This reality is often hard to swallow for people who do happen to have a lot of willpower.

Why is willpower so ineffective at helping you beat addiction?

We answer this question below:

  • Addiction is a disease and not a choice: Although the concept of ‘addiction as a disease’ is not universally accepted, the majority of the medical community now agree that addiction is indeed a disease. If addiction is not a choice, then it logically follows that you cannot simply ‘choose’ to stop taking drugs or alcohol because you have the will to do so
  • Willpower may make your addiction worse, not better: Yes, you did read this correctly. Willpower might actually serve to make your addiction harder to defeat. Why? Because willpower helps you block out traumatic memories that fuel your addiction. However, blocking out traumatic memories does not fully diffuse them, meaning willpower might actually help to perpetuate the emotional causes of addiction
  • Willpower is merely a choice that’s incapable of addressing the complex causes of addiction: Willpower is a simple decision to do or not to do something. Addiction is caused by a complex mixture of genetics and your social experiences. Assuming you can tackle these factors by merely saying ‘no’ to drugs and alcohol makes a mockery of the many highly effective drug and alcohol addiction treatments that exist
  • Willpower is based on motivation, and motivation fades: Us humans are well known for building enough motivation to help us achieve our aims in the short term. However, as life continues to throw difficulties at our door, it’s easy to forget the reasons upon which this initial motivation was built up. The shifting sands of motivation mean willpower alone is likely to burn out at some point in the near future. Building your recovery merely on willpower is the psychological equivalent of building your home on quicksand. Basing your recovery on willpower is highly likely to result in early relapse
  • Willpower is selfish and isolationist: The last hundred years has taught us that addiction is overwhelmingly best defeated in group settings. Relying solely on willpower completely flies in the face of this reality

Reject your reliance on willpower and begin a solid recovery today

At Rehab 4 Alcoholism, we specialise in assisting you in selecting effective addiction treatment in your local area. We achieve this aim by relying on our network of treatment providers who operate across the United Kingdom.

Once you are given the effective tools to overcome your addiction, you will then be able to use your willpower to implement these tools on a daily basis. 

You can contact our helpline today on 0800 111 4108. Alternatively, contact us through our on-site contact form.

Merely using your willpower to say ‘no’ to alcohol and drugs is a reduction to the absurdity. Instead, apply your willpower to the carrying out of effective and tangible addiction treatments.

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