Addiction, Healing, and Transformation


My work as the consulting psychologist for a drug and alcohol addiction treatment center for men taught me a few things.

Most of the men were clear that they wanted to overcome their primary addiction. Additionally, many of them were clear that they didn’t want anything else to change. They didn’t want to lose their friends, their jobs, their marriages or their homes…

With a little probing, however, it became clear that the motivation for dealing with their addiction was often not about the addiction itself, but about preserving those things they didn’t want to lose. The addiction was putting their jobs, or their marriages, or their properties at risk. If they could secure all those things and still abuse alcohol, that would be their choice, people told them where to buy kratom so that they were able to better themselves.

It is no wonder that so many treatment programs become recycling programs. The client stops drinking while he is in the program and for some time afterwards. He feels better physically. Things feel more secure in his life, so after a time he starts drinking again. As the drinking escalates, the risks return: he is charged with impaired driving, or his wife threatens to leave…again. He returns to the treatment program and the whole cycle repeats. I have seen this cycle repeat as many as eight times for some.

Why does it happen? Drug addiction treatment Prescott AZ says, “It happens because the substance abuse is often not the primary problem.” It may have become a serious problem, but the primary problem usually turns out to be some aspect of life that is keeping the person stuck… and turning to alcohol.

Within a year or two after the initial inpatient services that I received at my local rehab, I knew something else was wrong. As it turned out, the heavy drinking had been masking a deeper issue. I was a tenured university professor, but towards the end of that career I felt stuck and unfulfilled. The stuckness was not about anything external, but about an internal voice that was telling me I should be doing something else. The more I resisted, the more trapped I felt. I was confused, because being stuck in a good job is usually not considered a bad thing.

Nevertheless, the years that followed my quitting the alcohol and leaving the University have been very fulfilling. In fact, so many things changed, both internal and external, that my quitting drinking can be seen only as the first step in a transformational process.

When someone comes to me with anxiety, grief, a marriage bump or an addiction, I help them deal with their problem. That’s what psychologists do. But what I find personally fulfilling is watching that client transform into someone much more alive and excited about life, as the problem they came with fades into history.

Internal and external problems that keep you stuck inevitably arise. That’s life. However, when you find yourself stuck, I encourage you not only to find and fix the underlying problem, but also to look at your situation as an opportunity for transformation. Have you already experienced this?

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Dr. Neill Neill retired his psychology practice at the end of 2013. He maintains an active coaching practice via telephone or Skype with select clients dealing with alcoholic husbands or ex-husbands. Check out his book, Living with a Functioning Alcoholic: A Woman's Survival Guide.

5 thoughts on “Addiction, Healing, and Transformation

  1. Your articles always seem to land in my inbox at just the right moment, sometimes I feel you must be writing to me personally because they are such an accurate reflection of what I am experiencing right now.

    My partner of 4 years is a functioning alcoholic although he denies it rigorously! Things have been getting worse over the last 2 years since our son was born. He seems to want the security of having a family, but still wants to act like a responsibility free single man. He rarely goes out to drink, but spends most Friday and Saturdays drinking at home and then Sundays sleeping it off. It’s heightened around pay day when he really goes overboard with beer, cider and wine and more recently bottles of whiskey. This leads to him having to take time off work to recover.

    I left my full time job to care for our son and I know he feels pressure to provide for us all, but the drinking is driving us apart. I need his emotional support, not his money, but he doesn’t seem to want to participate in family activities.

    We talk and he promises to change, but it never happens.

    I love him and I want us to be a family, but how many times can I keep giving him the opportunity to change his drinking habits?

  2. I think that this must be a great career in helping people, so very rewarding. Recently I have changed my course in my career in being a career for the elderly. This is something that I found was lacking in my community and I get so much joy out of it.

  3. How can I get my fiance to admit that he’s an alcoholic without offending him or arguing with him about the subject? We have 2 children and my oldest daughter is 8 and she’s terrified of him when he’s drinking. He’s never hurt her, he’s just loud and obnoxious. He goes in different rooms and yells really loud, bangs on walls and slams doors. He also uses a lot of profanity. Where can I get the help we all need?

  4. Hi Dr Neill. Your site is just wonderful. Thank you for your insight to all theses issues. My husband of 25 years has just confessed to me and our daughters that alcohol has been ruining his life and ours and he has decided to quit, after having a huge blowup the night before his birthday when he told us all he was done with us (drunk of course). Big apologies the next day of course and our girls are very upset. As for me, I have heard this song and dance so I proceed with caution. I actually felt some relief when he said those things and I thought great, now I can get on to living a normal life. So I sit here and think now what? He is not drinking and acting like everything is just fine. But it is not, at least with me. I don’t know if I am supposed to bring up the subject at all or if that will make him angry… He has decided to check out the organization called Moderation Management and I have read their program and although I think he need psychological help at least it’s a start. I told him so and wished his success. He has been drinking daily for the last 30 years and very heavy for the last 20… Of course our relationship is strained and not intimate at all. Should I expect him to even consider how I might be feeling right now? Or is that out of his realm of realism? He has not asked me and I don’t know if I should share or just wait and see how this all plays out. I know I need counseling too and am in the process of finding one. I just don’t understand how he can appear to change overnight? Calling me darling and sending me links to love songs… I am not at that place at all, when just a couple weeks ago he was calling me a bitch and giving me the evil eye! Is this a normal behavior for someone who quits all of a sudden? It’s so confusing to me…

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