The Illusion of Control

I used to know the mail delivery schedule well enough to know when I needed to leave work to get home for mail carrier dropped the mail in our box.

I used to know the date our credit card statement closed each month, what day it would be sent, and how many days it would take to arrive at our house.

This may not be odd information to have. Probably many people are so well-organized and structured they have this type of knowledge and recollection handy. Here’s the thing: I’m not one of those people. I am not well-organized and structured. I am repeatedly surprised by the monthly arrival of numerous bills (Didn’t we just pay that one a few weeks ago?).

The only reason I knew about the credit card bill and its arrival in the mail is because I was hiding those purchases from my spouse. I did not want her to see how I was spending money (that we didn’t have).

The funny-not-funny element in all of this is that I thought this was a sign of how much control I had over my life. I mean, if I put that much effort into hiding what I was doing, I must have it all together, right? It couldn’t mean I was spiraling out of control, could it?


My life in addiction was not only marked by an inability to stay sober. It was also marked by the outrageously arrogant belief that I had everything under control. Unfortunately, too many things worked out in my favor to bolster that belief. I got away with it. I could cover my tracks. I could hide what I was doing. I never missed work.

But every day (Every. Day.) I had the thought that I was worthless, useless, weak, and awful. I had momentary thoughts of wanting to stop or at least recognizing that what I was doing was not good. Yet each of those momentary thoughts could be quickly washed away and drowned out.

The illusion of control allowed me to continue doing whatever it was I wanted to do. The illusion allowed me to believe that I was in charge. The illusion allowed me to close my eyes to the reality of what I was doing to myself and my family.

And here’s the thing: I don’t think you have to be an addict to fall victim to this illusion. How many of us are controlled by our desires yet think it really isn’t such a big deal? That extra trip to the buffet line, that impulse item you buy on Amazon, that movie that you know shows stuff you really shouldn’t see, that juicy piece of gossip you can hide behind a “prayer request” or “I thought you should know.”

Most of us have encountered multiple instances in our lives when we can polish ourselves up enough and escape consequences often enough that we think our lives are moving along just fine.

After all, if we are putting that much effort into it, we must have it all together, right? It couldn’t mean we are spiraling out of control, could it?

It’s not normal to follow the mail carrier’s schedule. It’s not normal to pass out every night and come to every morning. It’s not normal to eat to the point of heartburn and bloating every meal. It’s not normal to pay interest on impulse items just because we have to get them now.

All those things may be our routine; that does not make them normal. They are all indicators of the illusion of control.

So stop. Take a breath. Step back. Ask what is controlling whom? Ask if you can truly step away. Recognize what you are hiding and reflect on why you think it needs to be hidden.

And give up the illusion. It will be an important step in moving into a life of freedom.

One thought on “The Illusion of Control

  1. 40 Day Journey; First Sunday Wrap-Up – A Second Time Paul

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