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The first Step in the Alcoholics Anonymous program is the admission that "we were powerless over alcohol", and the concept of powerlessness is a major element in many recovery programs. The idea that the addict is powerless over his or her drug of choice is not, however, universally accepted.

Many addiction and substance abuse experts feel that it is a disservice to the recovering person to emphasize powerlessness, that in fact it is within anyone's power to resist the urges, to give up the habits and behavior patterns that are involved with drug abuse.

Some programs, such as LifeRing, just ignore the idea of power completely and substitute the concept of strength; to them, recovery from addiction involves strengthening the sober self, just as recovery from a physical injury involves strengthening the body.

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