Building a psychology of recovery is everyone’s responsibility

So, much is made about the problems that Addiction presents. The awareness exists because, well, problems are pretty easy to spot. Really, I can hang out within any group of people and if given enough time, they will start complaining about a myriad of things. I was watching the Notre Dame-Northwestern game last weekend while at a birthday party, and a couple of people sitting by me began discussing their ideas about why Marijuana should never, ever, EVER be legalized. They went on and on about how it’s a gateway drug and how using it escalates into other, “harder” drug use. They both appeared to “know someone” who started using marijuana and then, in time, escalated to heroin use. Of course, the heroin use indicated a coming apocalypse.

I listened to them while they indignantly presented a case against not only marijuana and heroin, but all of Addiction, in general. Once Notre Dame fell behind for good, I was plenty angry enough for an argument. But, I wasn’t going to argue with them about the legalization of marijuana or the scourge of heroin addiction. Instead, I asked them, “Well, what did you do to help the people you know who succumbed to heroin addiction?”

Their words that had flowed like the water at Niagara Falls suddenly stopped. I could see the hamsters behind their eyes spin on wheels looking for anything else to say besides the truth, which was that they did nothing. After a bit, one said, “Her family did all they could, but she couldn’t stop using.”

“Fair enough,” I said. They must have watched Dr. Drew or some other pop treatment professional to know that it’s common that families struggling with an addiction sometimes burn all know avenues and still can’t make headway against an addiction. But even though I was cutting slack on my first question, I was still in an argumentative mood. “I’m curious, though, since both of you clearly understand the path to heroin from marijuana, what do you recommend for recovery?”

Once again, the hamsters in their heads began working overtime. I was awaiting the common response, which usually involves a combination of 12 step stuff and laws. Their eyes blanked out, though. They were quite stumped. So I let them off the hook, entirely. “Look,” I said. “The reality is that there is a psychology associated with recovery, just as there is one associated with Addiction. The substances, really, are irrelevant. Whether or not marijuana is legal, the underlying force behind any addiction is emotional compulsion related that derives from anxiety. That force exists independently of any substance. What we all need to do is try to disrupt compulsive mechanisms and build a psychology of recovery, which involves financial, physical, spiritual, and emotional health.”

They both nodded in agreement and left their seats next to me. Though they, like most, could easily see the problems that accompany Addiction, they didn’t want to hear that the psychology of recovery is everyone’s responsibility to build.

I didn’t care that they left. I wanted to watch the Florida State-Miami game in peace….



  1. “…the underlying force behind any addiction is emotional compulsion related that derives from anxiety.” If more people understood this fact, I believe that they’d understand much more about addiction and how their own behavior can assist or worsen behavior.
    Thanks for all you do, Juan.


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