The Third Barrier to Successful Recovery


The third and final barrier to recovery is guilt. Guilt acts as another strap in the harness that keeps the addict trapped in his addiction.

The addict feels guilty because he has committed dishonest deeds against the people he cares about. This is an integral part of the life cycle of addiction.

A person who becomes addicted to drugs or alcohol doesn’t just wake up one day and say, "Gee, I think I’ll start using drugs until I destroy my family, my relationships and my life in general."

As discussed in this booklet, addiction starts with a problem. Drugs or alcohol are chosen as a solution to relieve the discomfort one is experiencing by not being able to solve the problem. Physical and mental complications then follow. It all adds up to a serious decline in the person’s quality of life.

To be successful, a rehabilitation program must help an addict face his transgressions (violations of rules, laws or agreements) and enable him to clean up the wreckage of his current life that has resulted from the addiction and dishonesty.

Before addiction, most addicts are basically good people with a sense of right and wrong and with no intention or desire to hurt others. As the cycle of addiction progresses and the cravings and other mechanics of addiction begin to dissolve the individual’s self-control, they get into situations where they are doing and saying things they know deep down aren’t true or right. All these dishonest or damaging things are done to cover up and continue their drug use.

If the pattern of abuse continues, the addict eventually becomes trapped in a vicious cycle of using drugs, hiding the fact, lying about drug use and even stealing to support more drug use. At each turn, the addict is committing more dishonest acts and, with each act, is creating more damage in his life and relationships. None of these acts are truly overlooked by the addict; every misdeed is committed to memory.

The memory of each misdeed includes all the surrounding circumstances in place the moment the deed was done: who was involved, the time, the place and what the end result of the dishonest deed was. The addict knows these misdeeds are wrong and because the basic person himself (not the addicted personality) is good, he will feel bad or guilty after the dishonest act is committed.

Over time, these memories of guilt accumulate. When the addict sees people or places involved in his transgressions, these sights can trigger the guilt surrounding the misdeeds.

More and more transgressions are committed. And more and more, people and things related to the transgressions become triggers that remind the addict of the dishonest acts. For example, perhaps a young man steals cash from his father’s wallet and uses the money for drugs. Thereafter, whenever he sees his father, it triggers the memory of that stolen money. It can be enough just to see a person or an object to trigger the guilt! Sometimes no words even need to be said.

Guilt is an uncomfortable feeling and so can prompt the addict to use more drugs to temporarily relieve this unwanted sensation. In this way, guilt helps maintain the trap of addiction.

The addict will also begin to withdraw more and more from friends and family as the transgressions committed by the addict increase in number. He will eventually pull away from the family, seclude himself, even become antagonistic towards those he loves. Remember, the basic personality of an addict is good and the reason they end up withdrawing from those they love is because they know they are doing the wrong things. The act of withdrawing from those places and people that the addict has harmed is the addict’s attempt to restrain himself from committing any further transgressions toward those people and places he cares about.

In the early 1960s, L. Ron Hubbard’s research resulted in a heightened understanding of man’s basic goodness and the way his behavior and attitudes change after the commission of transgressions. He then developed techniques that would enable a person to obtain relief from past misdeeds and a fresh, new viewpoint toward life. When applied in the context of addiction treatment, these principles have been shown to help addicts recover fully from their addictions.

Turning the Corner to Recovery

Many forms of substance abuse counseling endeavor to create positive moral change in an addict. One of the most popular approaches is the Twelve Step program practiced by Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. In this approach, steps four, five, eight and nine of the twelve steps involve making a life inventory of one’s wrong deeds and determining who was affected by them. Once these are identified, the addict then makes up the damage created by his destructive actions.

This recovery approach can be effective for some so long as the addict still has the social skills to be able to communicate with and interact in a group setting. He or she must also have high enough levels of confront and responsibility to admit wrongdoings and make up the damage done. If an addiction persists long enough, an addict will lose even these basic social skills.

When drug addiction begins in the teens, individuals do not have the opportunity to develop these life skills. As a result, they do not perform as well in a Twelve Step program or other traditional treatment settings. In these cases, the addict needs to be educated or re-educated in these basic life skills before there can be any real hope of success in raising moral standards and bringing about permanent sobriety.

When conventional approaches are not working with a drug-addicted person, there are effective alternatives to pursue before one gives up. What has not proven effective is substitute drug treatment. Methadone, antidepressants or other prescription medications are designed to mask the symptoms of addiction that we have described. Essentially, an addict is trading one addiction for another.

These medications prevent the addict from developing the life skills necessary to restore his moral values and quality of life. Nor do they assist the individual in acquiring the necessary tools to remain sober. Thus relapse becomes inevitable.



The First Barrier To Recovery - Cravings
The Second Barrier To Successful Recovery - Depression
The Third Barrier To Successful Recovery - Guilt