Willpower is defined as the self discipline or self control of an individual. It is the ability to resist temptation, not to be influenced by other people. Willpower is the inner strength and resolve that a person has. Willpower is often defined as the strength of character which may be related to an individual’s ability to commit to certain causes or lifestyle choices and their resolve to resist harmful or lazy things. It can be strengthened through personal development, skill training and testing. Through this strengthening, individuals can gain the ability to overcome adversities, resist drugs, alcohol and can have a better lifestyle.
Drug or alcohol addiction is a primary, chronic disease that is defined as the repeated use of substances that alters brain reward, motivation, memory and related functions. Significant biological, psychological, social and spiritual changes occur through substance addiction which can make a person pursue reward in substances rather than other behaviours, activities and relationships. An addiction is characterized by impairment in behavioural control, cravings, inability to abstain and diminished recognition of problems associated with their addiction. Like other diseases, addictions are characterized by cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment, addiction will progress and can result in disability, secondary diseases or premature death.
People who treat addiction or alcoholism as a matter of will-power will be disappointed almost all of the time. In fact, this type of thinking is one of the most damaging forces in the advancement of addiction treatment methodologies and their greater acceptance by the general public. However, even people who understand that addiction is a medical disease like any other often subconsciously discriminate against addicts via stereotypical thoughts. This is because – for those who have never experienced addiction – it can be difficult to comprehend that in many cases it is practically impossible for an addict to stop using on his own. Nevertheless, there is substantial evidence to support the fact that addiction is anything but a matter of will-power. It’s easy for us to explain addiction and drug using behaviours out of a framework of personal strength and willpower. For those who are not addicted, willpower does control how much we drink, or even use illicit drugs. But for an addict, once drugs or alcohol abuse becomes addiction, willpower becomes irrelevant.
Many addicts believe that they can achieve recovery by sheer determination or willpower. This is destined to fail if willpower is the only motivating force behind the desire to overcome addiction. Sure, it would be great if willpower would prove to be the magic solution, but such is not the case. Willpower can’t be the only weapon in your arsenal of overcoming addiction, any more than saying you want to quit isn’t enough, or throwing away all your alcohol or drugs or just walking away from any addictive behaviour.
When the subject of drug addiction or alcoholism comes up, you often hear people saying it’s just a matter of “will power” to quit or control their use. Well what is will power anyway, really? Is this actually strong enough to overcome a powerful physical and psychological addiction?
Willpower isn’t the way into addiction, but it is part of the way out of addiction. Of course, willpower is an important part of the puzzle. Just as someone with diabetes requires medication and lifestyle changes to successfully manage their disease, you will need new coping skills, a support system, adequate education about the disease and new routines in order to stay clean and sober for life.
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