What Does “Cunning, Baffling and Powerful” Mean?
Humans have struggled with addictive disorders for thousands of years. For much of that time, addiction was seen as a lack of willpower – a person consciously making poor decisions over and over again. The general population saw addicts as people who refused to say no, in spite of all the consequences. Today, we have a very different perception of this disease. In 12-Step settings, you have probably heard it referred to as cunning, baffling and powerful.
This phrase is an apt description of a complicated diagnosis. Addiction goes beyond the simple action of drinking or using drugs. The rituals surrounding use, the tactics used to obtain that substance and the mental gymnastics required to justify your addiction are all important factors to consider. Anyone who has dealt with out-of-control drinking or drug use can relate to feeling confused by (and overwhelmed by) the strength of these elements.
Today, we would like to explore the components of this 12-Step phrase and its role in your recovery.
Addiction is Cunning
Many who find themselves in the grips of addiction are clever, self-sufficient people. They are able to assess risk, make good choices and balance their work and home lives. What leads such upstanding individuals to choose lives of deception, struggle and substance abuse, even after completing a treatment program?
Addiction, at its core, is cunning. It can overcome just about any excuse or obstacle. Over time, you may find yourself bending to its will. No matter how much you know you should not drink, for example, a small voice may say that “you can probably handle having just one.” That same cunning can convince you to isolate from concerned friends, cope with stress through substances, lie to your family members or conceal the extent of your drug use.
Above all else, a substance use disorder will defend itself from outside influence – even if you want to stop. This is when addiction becomes baffling.
Addiction is Baffling
It’s very difficult to outwit addiction on your own. No matter how much you attempt to pull yourself up by the bootstraps and stop drinking or using drugs, you may find yourself back in the cycle of substance abuse again. It’s incredibly frustrating – even if you want to stay sober more than anything, you may just find yourself relapsing. This is the baffling component of addiction.
Willpower alone is not enough to overcome a substance use disorder. You have to create a strong foundation for recovery. For example, it is critical to set boundaries, regularly attend meetings and find alternative coping mechanisms for stressful situations. Without these elements, it is very easy for that inner voice to talk you into taking just one sip or just one hit.
Addiction is Powerful
We must also acknowledge that addiction is a powerful force. There’s a reason why this is the first step of the 12 Step program. We admit that we are powerless over addiction, and that our lives have become unmanageable, because our minds and bodies have been majorly affected by substance use.
Addiction rewires the brain, building new associations and changing the actions of certain neurotransmitters. Overcoming this is a daunting task, but it is completely possible with ongoing support, changed behavior and lasting dedication.
Keep Putting in the Work
Addiction is a complex, chronic condition. In order to recover, you must completely change the way you think, the way you feel and the way you react to triggers. Many of us achieve this reinvention by attending a residential treatment program, enrolling in outpatient therapy and joining an AA or NA group. Once you’ve taken all of these steps, you may assume that you can dial back your involvement and leave your sobriety on autopilot. This is not the case.
If you talk to anyone with a significant amount of time, they’ll say that no matter how long you’ve been sober, it always feels like your addiction is doing pushups in the corner. This is the “powerful” component of addiction discussed above. To contend with the cunning, baffling and powerful nature of substance abuse, it is necessary to stay heavily involved in your own recovery for the foreseeable future.
Here are a few ways to prioritize your sobriety and keep substance abuse at bay:
- Attend AA or NA meetings regularly
- Find a healthy outlet for stress relief (consider something physical, like running, meditation or kickboxing)
- Revisit and rework the Steps as needed
- Get a sponsor and regularly check in with them
- Attend alumni events at your treatment center
- Avoid isolation and stay connected with your sober support network
- Pray to a Higher Power, no matter what that looks like for you
- Take care of yourself by establishing healthy sleeping and eating patterns
- Be of service to others
If you remain dedicated to your recovery, it is possible to live a full, vibrant life without the use of drugs or alcohol.
Help for Addiction in Middle Tennessee and Beyond
At Cumberland Heights, we understand that addiction is cunning, baffling and powerful. That’s why we have designed an evidence-based clinical program that heals the whole person: mentally, physically and spiritually.
To receive your customized recovery plan, please contact our admissions office.