Once a (insert word) always a …

There is a common misconception that one who has experienced an addiction will always have that illness. I remember reading about anorexia when I was a teenager and all the literature said that the sufferer would always have a tendency towards that disease.

It is true that currently only a small percentage of people who go into recovery actually heal and recover.

In recovery circles, such as addiction programmes, it’s suggested that each member introduces themself as an addict, no matter how long they have been in the group for and how much recovery they have. Through studying Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and the power of language on our mind, I see how harmful it can be to label and identify oneself in this way. It can also be shaming and stigmatising, which we already experts at doing to ourselves if we have complex PTSD!

Someone may call themselves a “love addict”, for example, if they have experienced an addiction to certain people in their lives. However I see this as a coping strategy to avoid the pain, which stems from childhood, of not feeling worthy of being loved. It’s a behaviour, not an identity.

Another reason why people do not recover is because they stuggle with their symptoms, rather than considering what the cause of those symptoms might be.  For example, if a person is addicted to a substance, that person is subconsciously trying to avoid the deep pain in their inner being as a result of previous trauma. That person may be able to achieve some sobriety through a recovery programme.  However the addiction is always in danger of returning if the person has not dealt with the core issue of why they feel the need to avoid their feelings in the first place. Dr Gabor Mate speaks more about trauma being the root cause of addiction. According to him, the opposite of addiction is not sobriety, but connection.

So we CAN heal, but we do need to deal with the root cause of the illness. Many people avoid doing this as it easier in the short term to be in denial of our past traumas.  We are also conditioned by society to find the quick fix.

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