Making Deals With Yourself/Relying on Willpower
No one wants to be an addict. No one wants to admit losing control over one’s self or bear the stigma of addiction, so denial is natural. Part of denial is the belief that a potential drug problem can be dealt with by applying willpower. This almost always involves “making deals” with yourself about where, when and how much you can allow yourself to drink or use drugs.
As AA’s Big Book puts it this way in the chapter “More About Alcoholism, “…many who are real alcoholics are not going to believe they are in that class. By every form of self-deception and experimentation, they will try to prove themselves exceptions to the rule, therefore nonalcoholic. …. Here are some of the methods we’ve tried: Drinking beer only, limiting the number of drinks, never drinking alone, never drinking in the morning, drinking only at home, never having it in the house, never drinking during business hours, drinking only at parties, switching from scotch to brandy, drinking only natural wines, agreeing to resign if ever drunk on the job, taking a trip, not taking a trip, swearing off forever (with and without a solemn oath), taking more physical exercise, reading inspirational books, going to health farms and sanitariums, accepting voluntary commitment to asylums — we could increase the list ad infinitum.”
Addicts in denial usually blame their drug use on external factors: the people around them, the stress of their jobs, the place they live and the problems they’ve developed there. If they could get a fresh start in a new place with new people, they tell themselves, they’d be able to control themselves. So they move in an attempt to bolster their willpower by starting over somewhere else. And move again. And again. In the program, these moves are called “geographics.” The problem with “geographics” as a solution is that people take their addict brains with them everywhere they go and thus find themselves repeating all their previous behaviors.
Addicts make these endless deals with themselves trying to control themselves, all of which eventually fail. They all have the same thing in common: attempting to apply their willpower in a much more serious and successful way than they ever did before, despite all objective evidence that they’ve never been able to succeed at this strategy. They find over and over again that their willpower fails them. These continuous failures at internal deal-making are hallmarks of addiction.