I propose a simpler explanation why “Once an addict; always an addict” is not true.

The last time I wrote on this subject, it was from the perspective of twelve step programs being nonsense. While they are absolute tripe, it occurred to me this morning that considering them clouded my view and there is a much simpler explanation for the idea that addicts can not change being untrue. I’ll keep this short, and it comes down to a reluctance to change, psychological inertia we have that causes us to resist that feeling of discomfort when breaking habits.

Consider this: I was late every day of my life. Right through junior school, and then high school, I was late every single day. In high school it became part of my identity, in that I’d have to sit in a “latecomers room” instead of attending assembly where they sang hymns and said prayers… and did whatever else they did in assembly. There I’d write essays mocking the stupid system, and even had a couple of teachers who used to pass those essays around and have a good laugh. After that, I continued to be late for more than another two decades. People accepted it because I told them, “I’m not a morning person” and also accepted that I am “slow” in the mornings.

And then, around two years ago, I decided not to do that any more. I need to make sure my son is ready for school by about 6:30AM, and I see no reason to sit around at home after that. So I leave early enough to be able to get to work at around 7AM, which gives me time to attend to anything urgent if there is anything, and if there isn’t, I can write a blog-post and still start working half an hour before office hours are supposed to begin.

So at around 43 years old, I proved that the idea that I could not change, and was not a morning person, was bullshit. After all the years believing it, one spontaneous decision two years ago, to go to work early… changed all of that.

Ending addiction was the same. In September 2013, after around eight years of meth being part of my identity, and me being unable to function without being high, I chose to stop. And like getting up early, which took a little bit of effort at first to jump out of bed when the alarm went off, it took some effort at the beginning, but became a habit too after a while.

To conclude, I believe that ending addiction is just the same as ending any other habit. It’s only difficult because we are reluctant to change, to leave our comfort zone. But once we overcome that initial inertia, we can use the psychology in our favour. If you break a habit, doing the opposite of whatever that habit was itself becomes a habit, a part of your identity and a part of your behavioural comfort zone. So for me, just like being up early so I can write is now part of who I am, so is being clean and sober.

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About Jerome

I am a senior C# developer in Johannesburg, South Africa. I am also a recovering addict, who spent nearly eight years using methamphetamine. I write on my recovery blog about my lessons learned and sometimes give advice to others who have made similar mistakes, often from my viewpoint as an atheist, and I also write some C# programming articles on my programming blog.
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4 Responses to I propose a simpler explanation why “Once an addict; always an addict” is not true.

  1. Jerome says:

    Don’t diss me too much here… I’m being optimistic, OK?

    Addiction does change your brain chemistry and I understand that, but what I’m trying to say here is that simply staying clean long enough also changes your brain chemistry. You don’t have to know how it works.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. It is interesting, I’ve heard a lot of smokers say this, but this past quit feels so different for me. I don’t feel like an addict that isn’t using, I feel like someone that doesn’t smoke anymore.

    Now to apply whatever switch I flipped to my other bad habits…that is the hard part.

    Liked by 2 people

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