I'm wondering what you all think.......

Do addicts ever REALLY recover?
I'm thinking about addicts to anything. Drugs. Alcohol. Sex. Gambling. Shopping........the list is endless.

Can addicted people really change?

I'm throwing this out as a general question because I'm wondering the attitudes that exist on this topic.

I of course have my own point of view but I want to know what everyone else thinks first.

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Based on my own personal experience, I believe that addicts can learn to stop using and to control the impulsive behaviors that go hand in hand with addiction but that doesn't mean they aren't still addicts. No matter how far someone comes in recovery, the thoughts and feelings that accompany addiction never really go away. We can work on ourselves, work the steps and work on living life on life's terms (not our own) but at our core we'll always be addicts and we always need to remain vigilant.
Also, recovery is something we work on every day - we're never "recovered"

I quit smoking many years ago. Yet I can still imagine the pleasure of smoking and really think that I could smoke again.  Then I realize how free I am from the filthy habit.  I am surrounded by people who smoke.  They spend their days obsessing about smoking and where their next pack will come from.

I don't need that again.

I think that the underlying impulse and the thought patterns of an addict can be modified. I am not convinced that an addict can ever develop a completely neurotypical brain chemisty and thought patterns. So, yes they do change if they work their asses off and do a lot of CBT and behavior modification, but I believe they will always carry the legacy of the disorder with them. That most likely means that they have to work at 'being normal' and regulating themselves more than a non additict. Are they cured? They're more like an HIV patient whose very strong meds have dramatically reduced their viral load. They'll always be treating their disease.

Have you ever met a dry drunk...someone who has quelled the addiction but still thinks and acts in the twisted ways that addicts do? It happens when someone can control their drinking but never addresses the underlying causes of the addiction. These people can be just as hard to deal with as addicts. In these cases, you see a 'cure' that is very superficial, perhaps allowing the disease to fester beneath the surface.

My two cents, anyway.

This is risky saying this, but I am leaning toward thinking that addicts can, as was said about me recently, transcend addiction.  I wasn't soliciting this remark. 

Is that a cure?  I don't know, but it doesn't rule my life. 

How do you know that when a sober person is an asshole, that its a direct result of their drug/alcohol addiction?
That term,"dry drunk" is straight out of A.A, where that righteous type of judgement is encouraged, but based on what evidence?

None.

Yes, I think addicts can recover, meaning they can return to a normal state of health, mind, and strength.
12 step programs will teach that one never recovers, but how are they defining "recover, and what evidence supports this?

I just celebrated 30 years sober. I am a completely different person now, compared to who I was under the influence.
For all intents and purposes, I'm "normal."
I'm "recovered."

I've met people who have never had a substance abuse problem, yet they have anger issues, or any number of problematic character issues.
I find the term "dry drunk" intellectually dishonest, and factually false.



"How do you know that when a sober person is an asshole, that its a direct result of their drug/alcohol addiction?"

When their behavior and thought patterns mirror those of an alcholic, yet they do not use alcohol, it seems likely that this is connected to their past abuse of alcohol.

The thought processes connected to addiction can remain after the addiction has been contolled. This is why people can relapse or replace one addiction for another.

Alcoholism is more than drinking too much--it's also the psychological structure behind the drive to abuse alcohol as a coping mechanism.

I'm happy to hear that you've been sober 30 years! Congratulations!!!

I don't want to dig into your personal situation because I don't want you to feel attacked. Please don't feel this is personal.

"I've met people who have never had a substance abuse problem, yet they have anger issues, or any number of problematic character issues."

Anger issues may or may not correlate to addiction. Have you met people who've never had a substance abuse problem but talk and behave like addicts? Because I have only encountered these characteristics among former addicts.

My opinion is that there is a spectrum of treatment success, recovery, or whatever you want to call it, and that controlling the addictive behavior is part of this spectrum.

If a cocaine addict quit cold turkey without any introspection, I would not consider them cured because their internal thought processes have probably not changed. If they've sought a support system (I absolutely do not advocate trying AA), done therapy, or participated in self-reflection, they will probably have established new neural pathways and have a greater defenses against relapse. This person is farther along the spectrum.

I'm not a doctor, I've just been around a hell of a lot of addicts in my life and done my fair share of self-improvement. These are my opinions, not something I'm parroting from Al-anon or AA or any of those Anonymous groups. I am very critical of the 12 step support system, which was not develped my scientists or medical professionals.

"When their behavior and thought patterns mirror those of an alcoholic, yet they do not use alcohol, it seems likely that this is connected to their past abuse of alcohol."

Please tell me specifically which thought patterns and behaviors are a direct result of, or connection to, alcoholism and addiction.
There aren't any.
Addiction/alcoholism, are limbic based, emotional reactions which aren't specific to addicts/alcoholics.

"The thought processes connected to addiction can remain after the addiction has been contolled. This is why people can relapse or replace one addiction for another."

Again, you're implying that addict thought processes are different, please provide a peer reviewed source, if you can, that confirms this.
I agree that an addict can go back to using or drinking for emotional reasons, but those emotions, and the power to choose to use or not to use, are are the same in all of us.

"I
'm happy to hear that you've been sober 30 years! Congratulations!!!"

Thanks :)

"I don't want to dig into your personal situation because I don't want you to feel attacked. Please don't feel this is personal."

No worries, I don't. I'm pretty confident that the main reason I've remained sober for 30 years, is due to prioritizing facts and evidence over my emotions.
Please don't take it personally when I ask you to support your claims.
I've watched too many good people go back to drinking and using, based on inaccurate information being fed to them.


"Have you met people who've never had a substance abuse problem but talk and behave like addicts? Because I have only encountered these characteristics among former addicts."

I don't know what you think an addict acts like, so I can't really answer.
I've met people who have never ingested a mind altering chemical in their life, and yet they're thieves, liars, and downright shady, if that's what you mean.
A lot of them, in fact.

I've also met humble, honest and kind, intelligent people who are junkies.

Being shitty is not an addict problem, its a human problem, both learned and biological.

"My opinion is that there is a spectrum of treatment success, recovery, or whatever you want to call it, and that controlling the addictive behavior is part of this spectrum."

Again, what is "addictive behavior" meaning behavior that is specific to addicts?

"If a cocaine addict quit cold turkey without any introspection, I would not consider them cured because their internal thought processes have probably not changed."

I quit cocaine cold turkey. I weighed 89 lbs, and had a hole in my nose.
Once the physical substance was out of my body, I was recovered from cocaine abuse.
My thought processes were and are a separate issue, and are not specific to drug use, but instead, to how I had been influenced throughout my life.
If you can provide evidence that says different, that says addicts and alcoholics have thought processes that exist only in their brains, I'll change my position on this.

"If they've sought a support system (I absolutely do not advocate trying AA), done therapy, or participated in self-reflection, they will probably have established new neural pathways and have a greater defenses against relapse. This person is farther along the spectrum."

New neural pathways?
Do you mean create new thought patterns? Thoughts that counter the thought to drink or use?
CBT deals with this, and is successful. 
It's not about new neural pathways, but instead, about deploying logic (prefrontal cortex) in the face of limbic based, emotional thoughts.
Nothing physically new happening, just exercising what's already there.















It is my opinion that Alcoholics have certain thought processes that tend to be unique to addicts. I do not have peer reviewed research backing up my opinions, because I am not a medical professional, scientist, or researcher. I have to reiterate that my opinions are based soley on my life experience with alcoholics and I'll add that I feel no responsibility for anyone's hypothetical decision to return to drinking after reading the contents of an internet thread. I don't think I've ever linked to research for a casual discussion and I don't expect that of you as you assert your own opinions.

I don't believe people relapse strictly for "emotional reasons" or that all relapses are a result of emtions. All people have emotional upheavals in their life. Why are former addicts more likely to abuse during these times? Why do some people conceive of getting high/drunk as a "temporary" solution to their problems (or even an option after successfully quiting)? I think it's the illogical, disordered thought processes that remain with a person which allow them to fathom taking up the substance again.  

Off of the top of my head, some of the thinking patterns I've observed in alcholics are:

  • denial of personal responsibility
  • tendency to think in extremes (black and white thinking)
  • a victim mentality
  • lack of self honesty
  • ability to rationalize anything to self and others
  • self-pity and self-involvement
  • entitlement
  • impaired self-esteem

Addiction is sometimes associated with personality disorders and can also be the result of coping with other mental illnesses, which would bring other styles of thinking into the picture. 

"My thought processes were and are a separate issue, and are not specific to drug use, but instead, to how I had been influenced throughout my life."

I agree that thought processes are related to influences in a persons life. Are you saying that as soon as the cocaine was out of your body, you never again had the thoughts that inspired you to do cocaine or allowed you to continue abusing it? I'm not sure I understand what you're saying.

I disagree that nothing new is physically happening when CBT is used to control responses and change behavior. As you hone a skill or even if you continually revisit a memory, the pathways in your brain strenthen and become more easily accessible. This is what I mean by new neural pathways. 

April 10th, 1989 was the last time I had a drink or a drug.

I'm an addict, I arrested my addiction one day at a time. If I ever thought that I had recovered then I may as well say that "I'm cured". If I'm cured than I should have no problem with that new exciting flavor of Johny Walker Scotch Blue Label... Stinkin' Thinkin'.

I think that ex-addicts like to tell themselves that they will always be addicts. This 1) makes them a hero for winning, every day, that battle against the evil addiction; and 2) gives them a lifelong excuse if they ever do indulge again (not my fault - that addiction monster was too strong and, after an epic battle, it defeated me).

We have choices.

I was FULLY addicted to nicotine (~40 Camel Straights every day for over 15 years). When I decided to kick the habit, I knew that conquering the physical addition was only half the battle. Before embarking upon this journey, I accepted that, every day for the rest of my life I would have to choose whether or not to give in to temptation. I was wrong. After a year without cigarettes, I never again even CONSIDERED smoking tobacco. That was over thirty years ago.

That's really great that it never bothered you again. I wish it were the same for everyone. I know a group of people who quit and five years later they decided to smoke again just through the last weekend of their vacation. A decade later and they are still smoking. It really puzzles me that they a) decided to smoke again and b) didn't think it would be hard to stop on Monday.

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