Why would you do such a thing? What were you thinking? How could you do this to us and yourself? Much is not understood about the behaviors of persons suffering from serious addiction problems. I am not a psychiatrist, nor a psychologist, but I have extensive experience in dealing with the mind of an addict; for I myself am a gratefully recovering addict. Be it an addiction to drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex, shopping, your job, etc. much comfort can be found in NA, AA, GA, and other traditional 12 Step programs. Why? Because 12 Step Programs all share one thing in common; the first step to recovery is to admit that you are powerless over your addiction. What this means is you must first come to the realization that you are incapable of solving your addiction problem by personal strength and logic alone. The first step is to drop all personal pride and admit that you have a problem, an illness, an allergy. This first step is quite often the most difficult.
Once admitting that they have a problem; why is it so difficult for the addict to cease the old behaviors to get on, and to stay on, the right path? The learned would point to cognitive dissonance and the aspect of intermittent response as being key factors in an addicts inability to “get their mind right” and stay on the path to recovery. In layman’s terms think of cognitive dissonance as extreme “chatter” inside ones mind that will not stop until much later in the recovery process. The aspect of intermittent response is the “remembrance” of euphoria originally experienced as part of the addictive behavior.
The addicts mind at the beginning, at least from my perspective, is a mind that is being constantly bombarded with cognitive dissonance or incessant “chatter” as earlier mentioned. Obsessive thoughts, and elaborate rationales as to why one should heed the call of the addiction and return back to the addictive behavior permeates the addicts active thought processes. One essentially uses a mix of very creative self-deceptions in an attempt to justify actions that would support the addictive behaviors. True logic has little or no place in the mind of an addict in the throws of their addiction. The chatter can be unremittingly overwhelming at first, and the desire for relief from the incessant chatter inside one’s mind can literally drive them to use, drink, bet, be promiscuous, shop, or work those extra hours to finish up the job. What I would like others to understand is that the chatter can be so overwhelming that it is actually painful, and those in great pain seek relief. This is why people just leaving detox are in such jeopardy of a relapse. Their mind is still going a hundred miles per hour and they are simply not even close to being fully recovered at this point.
Regarding the intermittent response component or the “remembrances” of euphoric moments from the past; these memories can be very powerful and unsettling as well to the newly recovering addict. They are best described as the urges that the addict gets to use again. These urges come right out of the blue without warning. In conjunction with the “chatter” already existing inside the mind, the addict winds up getting a double dose of the desire to use, use, use again. This is why many 12 Step Programs advocate “picking up the ten pound phone” and calling someone. Often the purpose of the call is simply to create a distraction or diversion in the addicts mind so the urge, or obsession, can pass. Time and conversation allows the addicts mind to calm down. Many are amazed at first just how well this works. The good news is that the occurrences of “chatter” and “remembrances” will dissipate over time when adhering to a regimen of taking medications, going to therapy, and participating in 12 Step Recovery Programs.
In conclusion, for the addict that has hit bottom or that is at least willing to admit that they have a problem, there is hope. The mind does settle down. Physical anxiety does diminish. Sanity returns. Trust levels will return to both sides of relationships previously damaged by the addition. Others can, and do, understand. The sense of being alone slowly melts away. It takes understanding on everyone’s part to have a successful recovery. Millions of people are actively recovering today and you, or someone you love, can have a successful recovery as well.