Addiction: Why Some Recover and Some Don’t
Addiction is a powerful and mysterious disease. Why do some recover but others don’t?
Here’s my take: I have treated thousands of addicts over the past 20 plus years and have never seen anyone relapse who 1) entered a good rehab program, 2) did all the required work, and 3) continued to do the work daily after leaving the program.
There’s your answer – those who follow these steps will recover, those who don’t, probably will not.
Addiction is a chronic brain disease. Once a person has it, the disease will never go away. But the good news is that it can be treated effectively.
By Kari Mackneer, Clinical Director
The mind is key
Addiction is often described as a three-fold disease – spiritual, mental, and physical. Once the substances have been cleared from the body through detox, this normally clears up most of the physical symptoms and the body’s need for the substance.
But this disease is centered in the mind and that is where the bulk of work must be focused and then continued for a lifetime.
The brain of someone coming out of detox is scrambled. People emerging from addiction report many negative effects:
- Their thinking was never right.
- They were always projecting or living in the past with a complete inability to live in the present.
- They always had feelings of restlessness, irritability, discontentment, anxiety and depression.
- Consuming the substance brought relief but also had a down side – it led to a dependence and eventual addiction to the substance or substances they were consuming.
Hard work pays off
When someone successfully recovers, the brain becomes unscrambled. It has essentially been reprogrammed and must be maintained by daily refining the tools of that reprogramming. In addition, 12 step processes combined with deep clinical work aimed at changing core beliefs typically works quite well.
However – and this is critical – addicts in early recovery must “realize” they need to reprogram their brains and be “willing” to do the work required. The new thought patterns developed by this work are the exact opposite of the wildly negative and destructive thought patterns that result from active addiction.
As the judgment areas of the brain begin to awaken, the substance abuse has ceased. Initially, there are only negative memories/outcomes recalled and no coping skills to deal with them. This overwhelms many addicts and is a major reason why many relapse almost instantly. For this reason, beginning effective treatment as soon as possible after detox is crucial.
Doing the work quickly and thoroughly begins the reprogramming process. At this point, coping skills begin to develop, and outcomes/memories are vastly better than in active addiction.
Now the brain is beginning to make better judgments, greatly increasing the chances of long-term recovery.
Long story short, if the person is willing and able to get well, does the work daily, and continues to do the work required, they will invariably get well and stay well!