Self will is described as stubborn or willful adherence to one's own desires or ideas. So it isn’t too difficult to imagine how self will can be problematic when we think about substance use dependency and addiction. The self will isn’t particularly interested in others, does not like hard work and does not value the larger picture. It centres around the “now” and focuses on immediate gratification. To be honest, this isn’t too bad as a means of survival in general, but it is problematic when this same self will convinces you that drugs and alcohol are OK as a means of survival.
Self will also dislikes emotional pain. The natural inclination is to bury, ignore or run away from it. When pain is successfully numbed through substance use, the self will adopts this as a perfect solution, which of course it isn’t. Self will doesn’t care that the solution will slowly kill us.
Recognizing that self will is causing harm is paramount to recovery, which is why for example, it is addressed in the very first step of Alcoholics Anonymous. Only when we are able to admit that our way of doing things wasn’t working can we reach out for the help and support we need.
Recognizing that there is something greater than the self is very difficult for many people. But once that realization is made, there is a profound sense of freedom, freedom from always having to call the shots and from living a life that you know is causing you great harm. When we let go of the self and it’s controlling nature, we see just how often we were only seeing things from our close minded point of view and we become willing to really listen.
When we chose to be truly honest with ourselves we put aside the ego and realize that our way of doing things did not solve our problems.
Attending treatment, taking advantage of support groups and being willing to share are great ways to find the support we need.
Paul, Addictions Counsellor