No….heck ,no…..bull. Addicts love social service professionals
that use this sort of waiting room wisdom because by adopting this type of
attitude, accepting relapse as a normal part recovery, especially for chronic
relapsers, and letting themselves off the hook is a sure fire recipe for
death. Addicts LOVE this slogan: Relapse
is part of recovery. Why? Because they
love knowing that being able to relapse in recovery allows them to use or abuse
if they need to.
Recovery by definition is “gradual healing (through
rest) after sickness or injury.” A relapse is to “deteriorate in health.”
So if you look at these definitions you can see that although during a
healing process addicts may suffer a relapse, the relapse is actually a part of
the sickness, but not the recovery process. Those are polar opposites.
Therefore, addiction is not a disease, it is a
choice. The recovery process for any
“choice” that a person makes in their lives requires that interruptions are
made in their current attitudes, behaviors and thought processes and how to
adjust plans to meet future needs. This
is true for addiction, divorce, marriage, children or jobs….we have free will
to determine exactly what, where and why we allow good or bad things into our
lives or mask or allow control through artificial means.
NO ONE forces an alcoholic to put alcohol into their
system – free choice. NO ONE forces a
drug addict to devour illegal or prescription drugs – free choice. NO ONE forces a gambler to hit the casino at
first light- free choice. NO ONE forces a sex addict to step outside the social
bounds of relationships or marriage – free choice. Just as having the
determination that one is tired of living the life of degradation and deceit
and seeking to do whatever is within their power to eliminate all means leading
up to active addiction in order to recover their sanity, their lives and their
The tendency to coddle an addict is widespread in
the social service profession or psychiatric community, less so in the medical
profession which treats the physiological changes that come with addiction with
medications or treatment plans or treat others who have been injured, harmed or
dying as a result of said addictions to alcohol or drugs (i.e. domestic
violence, assault, automobile accidents, etc.).
We allow the self-pity – poor me, poor me, pour me a
drink – mentality to overlook the fact that an addict has to accept total responsibility for their
attitudes, behaviors and consequences of actions in order to understand and
accept support systems for their recovery. It gives the individual the excuse
to not even try to improve their own situation. It ultimately leads to a form
of learned helplessness where the individual becomes completely dependent on
other people. Self-pity is easily the most destructive of the
non-pharmaceutical narcotics; it is addictive, gives momentary pleasure and
separates the victim from reality.
This refers to the tendency of self-pity to lead
people back to their addiction. It provides justification for a relapse because
it means the individual can blame other people, their circumstances, or their
luck for the decision. The individual may sometimes have good reasons to feel
sorry for themselves but indulging in such thinking is a risky and a waste of
time. It is going to be far more productive if the individual uses their
disappointments as a motivation to improve their life.
In recent empirical studies, what passes as clinical treatment
for addiction is psychotherapy, which essentially consists of various forms of
conversation or rhetoric. One person, the therapist, tries to influence another
person, the patient, to change their values and behavior. While the
conversation called therapy can be helpful, most of the conversation that
occurs in therapy based on the disease model is potentially harmful. This is
because the therapist misleads the patient into believing something that is
simply untrue--that addiction is a disease, and, therefore, addicts cannot
control their behavior. Preaching this falsehood to patients may encourage them
to abandon any attempt to take responsibility for their actions.
I am not a believer in the NA/AA halls of worship by
the addiction professionals as a cure-all for the addict – it is a tool in the
toolbox for those who feel they need it as part of their recovery. I have sat in many NA and AA meetings with
and without my clients, and topics of discussion are not geared towards
recovery or helping others in their recovery by longtime members.
More often than not, addicts are rehashing their
horror stories of drug use and remembering the great times being high and drunk
and not discussing how to deal with life on life’s terms as their steps and
traditions require. Emotional sobriety
is the ability to face life on life’s terms and it also means not
being afraid to feel emotions. It is possible to become physically sober in a
matter of hours, but it can take significantly longer in recovery to develop
Because emotional sobriety is a very strong issue
that I believe in, the programs and
services that I instituted at The Lighthouse for Recovery Ministries are
intended to provide for the human needs first (food, clothing, shelter, mental
and medical treatment plans, jobs). Then, once our client is ready, we
institute the means to eliminate demons of addictions, low self-esteem, mental
illnesses and disorders through dedicated programs that enrich the lives of our
clients and work towards a self-sufficient, future recovery without the need
for addictions to control their lives.
We work with the families, loved ones and support
units of the addicts in our Family of Addict Therapy programs in order to
overcome co-dependency in parents, spouses and children. We work with the addict and the family in
controlled sessions while they are in our program to eliminate the stressful
situations that have separated the boundaries in relationships and forge new
and improved communications between all involved. It is detrimental to the addict and their
loved ones to return to the same environment without some form of sustained
communications and involvement in realistic terms of what addiction is and how
to overcome it.
As a non-addicted former wife of four years of a
chronic drug abuser and chronic alcoholic with 28 relapses prior to our
divorce, I know from personal experience that no one can make an addict stop
their addictions or enter into “true” recovery other than the addict themselves! It is the story of Humpty Dumpty – all the
recovery programs, NA/AA and rehabs in the world cannot put the addict back
together without “the personal choice to stop”
being the glue to holding the broken pieces together again.
Interestingly, being in recovery creates triggers
the same way using creates trigger. This is one of the many reasons treatment
centers want patients to stay longer than thirty days. Repeated attendance in
group therapy and 12-step meetings results in cue-induced learning related to
For instance, when an addict hears in group
settings, from lots of other addicts, that when they experience a craving to
use they immediately call another sober person to ask for help, that individual
eventually starts to visualize performing the same action in response to a
craving. In so doing, the addict creates a trigger for recovery, and the next
time a powerful craving hits he or she will pick up the phone and call a sober
friend instead of the local dealer.
Thus, triggering cravings in a setting that’s safe
and reassuring—a setting in which the person being triggered is unlikely to
relapse—dissipates the anxiety and stress caused by the potential relapse
trigger. Over time the addict subconsciously dissociates the cue from the past
reward of using and associates it with the new reward of sobriety. Therefore,
relapses cannot be part of the recovery process or the addict is just taking
vacations in between using – which is a definitive description of chronic
Let’s be honest and face facts, addicts
are by nature liars, thieves, and master manipulators.
- They behave recklessly or put other
people in danger.
- They fail to hold a job, pay bills
or keep up with other responsibilities.
- They lack remorse for wrong-doing,
including for hurting others and place value on nonconformity combined with
weak commitment to socially valued goals for achievement.
- They demonstrate impulsive behavior,
have a sense of social alienation and tolerance for deviance with a lack of
Ultimately in order for someone to
succeed in addiction recovery they will need to hold themselves accountable for
all the bad behavior that they engaged in while actively addicted, as well as
for the choice to continue to stay in addiction while they did. It is also
important for the recovering addict to acknowledge that s/he is accountable to
all the people around the addict who were affected by the bad behavior and poor
choices that tend to go hand in hand with addiction.
Addicts often have no concept of accountability and recovery, and they are
often resistant to the accountability part. The problem is, it’s the vital
means to the desired end. Without accountability, there is no real recovery.
When I say desired end, I presume that addict really wants to
stay sober. This is an important qualification because not all that say they do
really want it. What they may want is for things to change, the misery that
accompanies active addiction, the money problems, the relationship troubles,
and so on, without actually changing anything at all. In fact, most untreated
addicts would like to learn how to use and not have any of these problems. Of
course, they can’t, but exactly what has to change is still a mystery to them.
Sure, they have ideas about what needs to change, but a deep realization that
their whole way of dealing with life, and their place in it, has not yet
occurred. This is recovery in a nutshell: a process of realization that they
must change everything to be sober.
The process of early recovery requires surrender after surrender. It
only begins with surrender of substance use. All the surrenders
after this are the giving up of many ideas, old and new (from the untreated
addict brain) that simply do not work in regards to recovery. This is why
accountability and recovery go hand in hand. Addicts want to be left alone by
others. They are resistant to doing things any other way than their way. And
they will use a myriad of plausible reasons why they should do things their