The dictionary defines the word paradox as: a seemingly contradictory statement that may nonetheless be true. In Greek the word literally translates as “conflicting with expectation”.
Accepting powerlessness over our unhealthy habits, the unmanageability of our lives and the belief that a power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity, are the essence of recovery in so-called 12 step programs, like AA, Al-anon, CA, NA, OA, etc.
However, accepting our powerlessness and unmanageability is a hard nut to crack. We do not like to admit we are wrong or that we have “failed”. Basically it means admitting that until now, all the efforts that you have put in changing yourself or someone else were pointless. This a source of frustration to most people.
Secondly, accepting a higher power that can restore us to sanity is also difficult since many do not believe in a supreme being, a Higher Power, a God.
After all, isn’t this higher power also responsible for the current state of suffering in our lives and in the world? So how on earth can we turn to it for such a positive thing as our recovery.
Overcoming our mental resistance because of this paradox is key to recovery and is easier than you think.
We can only accept reality, now, as it occurs. Our lives are an inseparable part of this reality. The belief that we can change reality is – of course – insane. We cannot change the past, nor can we change the now as it occurs.
The only thing reality can logically collide with is expectation. If we expect something that is different from reality, this creates anger, frustration and fear. Once we stop expecting and accept reality as it occurs, our suffering disappears.
When we stop expecting our alcoholic partner to quit drinking, our children to stop smoking or to become lawyers or doctors, ourselves to lose (or gain) weight or to drive a new BMW, our lives suddenly change.
What seems to be so difficult (accepting powerlessness) is in fact totally logical and liberating. Reality is undoubtedly a power greater than ourselves. And this realization restores us to sanity.
Instead of using our lives and wasting our mental energies on fighting and resisting reality, by trying to force solutions on others, by trying to make reality agree with our own expectations of it, we now have the opportunity to make new choices in peace and serenity. We can stop judging, condemning, lying, cheating, pretending, yelling, wrestling, arguing, upsetting, fearing. We can start loving, we can be honest, we can be compassionate, we can forgive, we can give unconditionally, we can be grateful. What a relief!