This is a settled fact by all researchers and practitioners.
Even the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous understood this in the 1930's, even though they had no 'addiction-research' to draw from. Well, today we have tons of research that indicates all addictions and subsequent behavior that follows are merely symptoms of deeper internal issues.
Now, before I get a bunch of ugly emails, let me state, emphatically, that YES, Addiction is also a genetic brain-disease that makes a vulnerable person much more susceptible to developing an addiction.
However, no one has ever recovered from addiction with brain surgery.
The areas of the brain that are vulnerable to addiction must be activated in order for the pathways to begin to change into a full-blown addiction (or alcoholism).
These brain-areas are ultimately activated through a series of emotional traumas, or, insults to the brain through poor coping skills, low self-image, a high need to feel in control, immaturity, and so on...
Even though a person may not begin to drink or use until late in their teens, the brain-pathways begin to change years before, as they encountered life-situations in which they didn't respond, well, or even know how to cope with these difficult situations (it doesn't take much to insult the brain).
The Addiction begins developing long before the person begins to experiment with drugs or alcohol (or both).
Once the person introduces drugs and alcohol into the body, the brain is primed and ready to go! This is a process known as 'Neuroplasticity', and it works both ways. Just as the brain was primed over many years to behave like an addict, it can also be re-programmed to behave like a 'normal' person in recovery.
The term "Addict-Behavior" refers to certain impulsive or compulsive behaviors when a person is sober that mimic similar behaviors to when they are drinking or using. They display the same self-destructive behaviors whether they are in a sober period or a drinking/using period.
It's about the behavior! We're dealing with a brain issue that can only be resolved through changing one's behavior.
Over time and through neuroplasticity, the addict's brain will also begin to change back into a normal state, or at least a very functional state.
In many cases, the person's traumas may have been so severe that their brain hasn't been in a 'normal' state since the age of 3 or 4.
Ever wonder why adult-addicts can act like 4 year old's when they don't get something they want? They pout, throw tantrums, run away, make demands... their emotional maturity is literally stuck at age 4.
A "trauma" does not have to be a horrifying event for the person's brain to be changed. The change comes in the way in which they were able to cope with it. And, now we're right back to 'coping skills'!
I really hope you're recognizing the association between addiction and coping skills. We must understand these critical elements if we want to truly achieve a life-long recovery from drugs and alcohol.
The reason most addiction-treatment fails is because, in a 30-day or 90-day period, there simply isn't enough time to instill and solidify the vast array of new behaviors, and most importantly, new responses to real world situations.
Keep in mind, the addict begins recovery with 10, 20, 30 years of improper behavior responses. A lifetime of that Neuroplasticity takes a strong hold in the brain, and that's before the person started drinking or using.
Does it seem like that kind of problem can be resolved in less than 90 days? Of course it doesn't. That would be insane, and, yet, that's exactly what most addiction treatments are "attempting" to do!
This short-term formula has confused addicts, alcoholics, and their families, for years, as they watch the Addict go in and out of these revolving-door treatments only to relapse quickly after returning home. Then, they are told by the practitioners that the Addict "has to want recovery more than they do"
Wait, what...? Want recovery more?
Nobody wants a new life more than the addict/alcoholic. The real problem is that the majority of addiction-treatments in our country are following a very flawed model.
Overcoming any addiction requires a full-spectrum of care under the same umbrella. It's called 'Long-term" programming, where the patient is allowed the time;
slow down in order to begin learning
space to practice what they are learning
touching old wounds to finally let go
slowly add new areas of life
face family issues at appropriate times
nothing is rushed which means it sticks
even time to resist the change process at times
As an 18 year practitioner in the addiction-recovery field, I've never seen one person walk through the front door who was ready to face their issues, head-on". It takes time to get ready. They have to slow down and get comfortable in a their new environment.
Early recovery can be a scary thing, even though the addict wants a new life, the old one is still very familiar and there's a comfort level to 'familiar'.
With all humans, we don't do well when we are forced to make changes quickly.
If you want real change then give yourself real time for it.
Addicts are humans with a whole lot of defense mechanisms. They don't just drop their guard because they're in rehab, now. The first 90 days is usually what I call the "Fake-it" stage where the addict is simply pretending to go along but real change hasn't even begun, yet.
Usually, the Addict will spend the first part of their rehab experience pretending to look good on the outside while complaining about everything that's wrong with the rehab and the counselors, and their group-mates, and the food...
If this first part of resistance is expected and accounted-for, as part of the treatment program's curriculum, then it isn't treated as a liability, but in fact, an asset. It shows that all Addicts are alike, which means the solution is the same for each one of them...Now, that's some HOPE!
I actually conduct lectures with our group on the very characteristics they will eventually display, including the resistance techniques, the mental complaining, and so on, in the upcoming months. Needless to say, they are shocked that I can predict their own behavior before they even act it out.
Of course, I'm not actually predicting anything... I've simply been observing for the past 18 years, and then share it with every Addict I work with. Addict's believe they are unique. Nobody understands them. They require a special solution because they are so different from others...
Nothing could be further from the truth, but, it takes time for them to realize this. It's all part of the process-of-change!
There's an old expression;
"You can't think your way into better-acting - You have to act your way into better-thinking"
As the process of change becomes solidified within the person, their neuroplasticity also reverses course, healing pathways and even creating new ones, in the brain.
If we can get to the core of a person's pain, regrets, resentments, disappointments, and so on, then, and only then, can they heal and be free to live a life they never imagined.
Addicts are masters of complicating simple issues and creating such a whirlwind around themselves that its very easy to miss what's really happening or how they have a role to play in their own destruction.
Time, structure, and full-spectrum learning, are the most important elements necessary to achieve real recovery- A change that will last.
It's really a no-brainer... If every addiction is driven by the internal flaws within a person, then once that person invests the time and effort to heal or change those same internal flaws, you are now dealing with a changed- person. They are different. They now possess new ideas, new responses, new abilities, and therefore will produce new results. It's who they are, or, who they have become, through a real process-of-change.
The old person has become new!
These are my thoughts,