What does the term “unmanageable” even mean? I asked Google Bard AI for a definition, and here is what it returned: “Unmanageable means difficult or impossible to control or manage. It can be used to describe a person, an animal, a situation, or an object.” Synonyms include uncontrollable, unruly, intractable, willful, wayward, difficult, and impossible. Antonyms include manageable, controllable, tractable, docile, compliant, easy, simple, and straightforward.
The above synonyms for “unmanageable” describe the chaotic and out-of-control nature of an addict’s life. In contrast, the antonyms describe the peaceful and orderly nature of a sober life.
So what exactly does an unmanageable life look like for an addict? Many addicts claim they can control their addictions and/or compulsions on their own. This is impossible. If we are indeed addicted, then we can not find freedom on our own. We need the help of God and our fellows while working the Twelve Steps to make our lives manageable.
“You’re not talking about me,” the addict says. “I’m in perfect control. I can stop anytime I want to. I just don’t want to right now.”
Ask yourself if you are experiencing—or did in the past—any of the below behaviors and whether these really embody someone in “perfect control.”
- Do you go out at 3:00 a.m. to get more of your addictive substance because you must have it right now? That is unmanageable.
- Do you have stashes of your addictive substance hidden around your home, car, or workplace in case you need a “quick one”? That is unmanageable.
- Do you hide your addiction from those you care about? (Psst: They probably already know about it.) That is unmanageable.
- Do you miss work because of your addiction and/or compulsion? Do you show up to work drunk or high? That is unmanageable.
- Do you spend more money on your addiction than you can afford, risking debt, bankruptcy, and even homelessness? That is unmanageable.
- Have you missed a birthday or anniversary because of your addiction? Do you neglect your loved ones in favor of your addiction, risking arguments, resentment, and even divorce or the loss of your family? That is unmanageable.
- Have you been caught driving under the influence or been arrested and charged because of it? That is unmanageable.
Unmanageability is closely connected to powerlessness. Under the throes of addiction, we are powerless to control our addiction and/or compulsion, which makes our lives unmanageable. We desperately need help. Our loved ones definitely know that we need help. The good news is help is available, and with the right support and willingness we can recover.
If upon reading the first paragraph of this article you identify more with the synonyms of “unmanageability” than the antonyms, do not despair. There is hope—there is a solution. The Twelve Steps were created for those of us who are hopeless and whose lives have become completely unmanageable. Read the stories in the Big Book of AA, which detail the hopeless and unmanageable lives of people who eventually found recovery through the Twelve Steps.
So how do you get from an unmanageable life to a manageable one? Seek out a 12-step group in your area or online. I would strongly suggest also joining a Catholic in Recovery meeting, which you can find in-person or online.
Attending a meeting will confirm that you are not alone. You’ll find a group of loving and supportive people who have been where you are and who can gently guide you to recovery, healing, and a “manageable” life of peace.
Find a Catholic in Recovery meeting today and experience faith, freedom, and fellowship.
Celeste is a wife, mother, and grandmother living in Louisiana’s Cajun Country. She is a lifelong Catholic and committed to spreading the Gospel through small group formation programs. She is a recovering food addict (embracing the slogan, “If you can’t stop at one, have none!”), an avid knitter, and a lover of God.