The lives of addicts often reel out of control. Many feel ashamed and powerless over their addiction and many things in their lives. To counter their anxiety and attempt to gain some semblance of control in their lives, they try to exert “external” control over others and important aspects of their lives.
Some believe addicts are control freaks. Licensed clinical social worker Rita Milios explains why in her informative article appearing in Recovery.org titled Control Freak: How to Stop Trying to Change Your World and Change Yourself Instead.
“If a person feels that they have lost control of themselves and their substance use, they often shift their sphere of control to other areas of their life. Feeling out of control increases the anxiety, and becoming a “control freak” is one way an addict may attempt to reduce this anxiety. Exerting outward control may also be an attempt to manage other uncomfortable emotions, such as depression, low self-esteem or feelings of powerlessness.”
Which Comes First—Addiction or Control?
Yet, if addiction leads to the need to control, can it also be said that excessively controlling behavior can lead to addiction? An intriguing question, to be sure, given the toxic energy and anxiety created by such compulsive behavior.
Lisa, a recovering alcoholic, isn’t sure which came first for her. She explains it this way in her introspective article, The Link Between Addiction and the Need for Control appearing in Stop Frying Your Brain:
“Looking back on my sobriety so far, those early days were cruel and painful. I didn’t know what I was doing, and I hated it. I was out of control, and I hated it. For a control freak like me, that was hard to handle! I wonder what came first, Control Freak Personality/Type A or Addiction?….I do know that the more I abused alcohol, the more out of control I felt I was, therefore more anxious, therefore I drank more.”
Do Controllers Have More Control Over Their Lives?
I believe there is a significant link between control and addiction. Irrespective of what comes first, I seriously doubt that addicts gain more control over their lives by being controlling. In fact, in Losing Control, Finding Serenity: How the Need to Control Hurts Us and How to Let It Go, I demonstrate through true stories that the best way you can gain control of your life—to the extent that you ever can—is by losing or letting go of control.
And I believe the contrary also to be true:
The more you try to control your life, the more out of control your life becomes!
Indeed, this belief is a cornerstone of the widely attended Al-Anon Twelve Step Program, where the harms of control are examined and ways of letting go of it shared.
This conclusion is readily apparent if you consider that life’s natural currents are unpredictable and have a constantly moving, ever-changing ebb and flow. Some people refer to this as Life’s Impermanence. Things never remain the same. As such, life (and people) can’t be controlled and trying to do so is akin to gripping a rapidly moving conveyor built: you will either get burned or dragged along.
What’s your belief about the link between addiction and control? Do you believe that control itself is an addiction? Is there an addict in your family that tries to control everything? Does it alleviate his/her suffering? Please share with me and others your experiences with the addiction/control dynamic.
In the meantime, remember to
Let It Go!
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