In active addiction, that Thing that feels so good is addressed as morally “bad.” And the humiliated addict’s promises to “be good” are also promises to suffer. This is a destructive twist of the pleasure principle – the idea that we are hard-wired to like those things that are good for us (food, warmth, touch), and dislike those things (too hot, too cold, ouch!) that will hurt us. Suffering carries with it a sense of moral superiority. In recovery, one is first asked to give up the only pleasure in a miserable life, in order to survive. Only considerable experience (and positive example) can bring the realization that the “high” and the suffering are unalterably intertwined.
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It’s a cycle of feast or famine. Mostly famine, with a few heady spikes of feast. While we, as clinicians, need to encourage any addict to put the drug down, we must also go further: we must understand that if the person cannot find goodness in life without the addiction, the addiction will reclaim them. We need to keep in mind that the full cycle needs treatment, not just the “high.”