If you happen to be an auto racing fan, it is only natural that you might, from time to time, find yourself in a conversation about Will Power. The Aussie is a heck of a driver, having won at the time of this writing 39 Indy Car races—including the Indy 500. It is pretty easy to agree with someone who suggests that Will Power is great at getting his job done.

Willpower & Recovery

If you happen to be a person in recovery, it is only natural that you might, from time to time, find yourself in a conversation about willpower. Willpower is a favorite topic for many people who want to weigh in on what it takes to stop using drugs or alcohol. But while it might be possible to agree that willpower can be helpful, the truth is willpower alone is not enough to get the job of recovery done.

While a person who encourages you to dig deep/gut it out/employ your reserves of willpower to overcome a substance use disorder probably means well, they are giving you terrible advice.

Your Will Alone Is Seldom the Way

Many people (again, many of them well meaning) think of substance abuse as a moral issue. In this conception, a person always has the free will to choose the wrong thing (using drugs or alcohol) or the right thing (not using drugs or alcohol).

These folks will readily admit that sometimes people make the wrong choice. But to their way of thinking the choice is always there, so a person can use their free will—their willpower, if you will—to make the right choice next time. Direct your willpower correctly, the argument goes, and you will be able to avoid becoming a habitual user of drugs or alcohol.

In a certain sense, this argument is appealing.

After all, we all want to believe we are in control of our own lives. So it is nice to think that you can win any battle against any foe—including drugs and alcohol—simply by applying your willpower to the problem. An added bonus of this way of thinking is that if you succeed in overcoming a challenge, you can take all of the credit—and look down on folks who apparently just don’t have as much moral fortitude as you do.

Of course, if your willpower fails you, that would mean that you have failed. It might even be fair to say you are a failure. And now the only person you are looking down on is yourself.

And that is not very appealing at all.

The Truth About Substance Use Disorders

It is well established that a substance use disorder is a disease and that treatment is necessary to effectively help someone regain and maintain their sobriety.

While there is no cure, substance use disorders can be managed—and it is even fair to say that willpower is a component of the recovery journey.

But it is far from the only one.

The Key to Sobriety Is Ongoing Support

A person who tells you that you can just use your willpower to manage your substance use disorder probably thinks they are supporting you. They are telling you that you have the power to do something hard on your own.

But truthfully, that is not the kind of support you need when you are in recovery for a substance use disorder. Instead, you need friends and family who understand the challenges you are facing and are willing to help you through the bad patches. You need the support of a 12-Step or other recovery program so that you can learn and get encouragement from others who have been through what you have been through. And you need to know where you can get help if you relapse—or if you simply need some guidance and resources when the going gets tough.

Your willpower will help, too, but you should not fool yourself—or let anyone else fool you—into believing it is all you need to succeed.

Just Like Will Power, We’re Good at Our Jobs

At The Aviary Recovery Center, you will benefit from our combination of expertise and compassion. We can help you get sober and stay sober—and we can help you pick yourself up and start again if you suffer a relapse.

One thing you will never find at The Aviary is a spirit of judgment. We know how difficult it is to overcome a substance use disorder, and we know it requires evidence-based, personalized care—which is what we promise each person we serve.

Looking for dual diagnosis treatment in St. Louis? For more information about The Aviary Recovery Center, please contact us anytime at
(314) 464-0222. We’re here to help.