Often family members of our patients will be frustrated and confused over the perception of free will and the inherently bad choices made by their loved one while “in their addiction.” So let me explain how the brain of an addict, if functionally high-jacked in the mid-brain, works. It is as if the wiring is short circuited from what is otherwise the natural order of one’s priorities in life, because their “drug of choice” takes primary position above food, shelter, love of family or job.

Even one’s own children cannot compete once the addiction has been activated in the brain. Once addiction has been turned on, it’s on forever–and can never be un-done! The addict can be in recovery (hence remission from the disease) but we cannot go back to being a normie. Even worse, now we are at risk and vulnerable to anything addictive, and the reality of cross addiction potential ensues. Yikes!!

What we’re talking about here, is the phenomenon of willpower: otherwise defined as the ability to resist short term temptation to meet longterm goals. Self-discipline, according to the latest research from the University of PA, is actually more important than IQ in predicting a student’s academic success. Similarly, researchers from George Mason University, also found self-control scores correlated with higher GPAs, higher self-esteem, less binge eating and less alcohol abuse, even better relationship skills.

Thankfully, knowledge is power–and awareness is key: being mindful of this and not playing Russian roulette with our recovery is critical for relapse prevention. (example being the heroin addict that thinks, “I can drink, because alcohol wasn’t my problem…”) Family should be supportive and educated on the concept of cross-addiction so they can be a collaborative team–working together for the common goal of a better, different life. This can be challenging especially during the holiday season, so it’s important to remember to “be smart” is key: don’t put one’s self in harm’s way with the idea of “being strong”…especially in the vulnerable first year of one’s recovery journey. It takes more than just willpower to conquer this disorder!

…until next month, thanks for letting me share!

God Bless,

Dr. Kramer