“Out of control” is one of the most popular phrases used to describe addicts. Not many people realize that despite their substance abuse being beyond their control, alcoholics and drug addicts are highly manipulative and controlling. A key characteristic of addictive personalities is their desire to control their environment and the people around them. As addicts undergo rehabilitation, they have to deal with giving up control of their surroundings and gaining control of their own behavior.

Addictive control is manipulation

Drug and alcohol addicts are known to control and manipulate their families, which is one of the reasons addiction is considered a family disease. An addict’s family lives in fear of their outbursts, of what they might do and when they’re going to do it. For example, an addict may ask his wife for something while under the influence. When he is refused, he is enraged and engages in destructive behavior. His family then starts to give him what he wants to avoid chaos and confrontation; the threat of the addict either getting drunk or high is now enough to scare his family, and he is fully aware of this control he has. He goes on to use it to get what he wants.

Addicts’ children tend to control

Children of addicts are also known to seek control in situations. This stems from the fact that they had very little control of what happened around them when they were growing up. They saw dysfunctional family structures where the addict controlled the rest of the family, and where other family members were willing to surrender control. The aforementioned example is fairly straightforward, but addicts and children of addicts also exert a more subtle form of control. They feel the need to have everything around them in accordance with what they want. They may skew conversations in their favor, lie, or force compliments out of people to boost their self-esteem.

Letting go of control in recovery

In order to make a full recovery, alcoholics and drug addicts need to let go of their need to control. First, however, they need to identify their controlling behavior. This comes with reflection. Addicts should ask themselves whether they feel threatened when someone has control over them, or whether they feel an overwhelming urge to make something happen. They should ask themselves if they constantly blame others, and if they feel powerless when they don’t get what they want.

Control vs. Power

Control and power are often mistaken to mean the same thing. It is when people feel the lack of power in being in charge of their own life; they resort to controlling others’. Addicts often feel that other people have power over them, and that the people around them are responsible for their unhappiness. They respond to this by trying to control these people and forcing them to be unhappy as well.

From self-will to ‘God’s’ will

Drug and alcohol addicts have to “turn [their] will” over to a Higher Power in the third step of the Twelve Step program, which forces them to give up control. Letting go of control is a monumental task for anyone who has been going through life controlling others. To let go, alcoholics and addicts need to observe their behavioral patterns and see when they feel the urge to control; then they have to decide what they need and start looking for it. They need to be honest with themselves and others, and ask direct questions instead of using conversations to seek out answers that they want. When alcoholics and addicts admit that they have low-self esteem, which causes them to imagine the worst in situations, they can work on letting go of the urge to control the outcome. This will force them to look at the positive side of every possible outcome, and give them a more positive view of life.

Hope Trust is an alcohol and drug treatment center that has a philosophy that its name exemplifies. It has integrated programs that help addicts let go of their need to be in control; thereby helping them make a full recovery. Ironically, once they let go of the need to control, they can take charge of their lives!