The Root Cause of All Addictions

The Root Cause of All Addictions

I have always had a problem with the concept that a physical allergy or disease is the root cause of alcoholism and chemical addictions. It does not explain the cause of chemical type addictions (including alcohol) and it absolutely doesn’t explain non-chemical ones like food addictions, compulsive gambling, compulsive sex and the like.  I have observed many recovering folks who, with numerous years clean and sober, pick up non-chemical addictions. If the allergy explanation was the whole story then working the 12 Steps for one of the chemical addictions should cover all the addictions, but it doesn’t. Something is missing.

A clue to the real root cause of all addictions can be found by carefully listening in meetings of 12 Step programs to members sharing their “how it was” stories. Someplace in those shares they will usually state how, when they took that first drink, hit, sex act, gambling game win or whatever, it filled “that empty hole inside of me!”  This is approximately the same rendition of that event for chemically and non-chemically addicted people. The narrative usually continues with a rendition of feelings of well being and relief, along with a new ability to do many things that heretofore they were inhibited from doing.

Everyone talks about “filling that empty hole,” but few bother to ponder what exactly that hole represents and what was not present that cause that hole. As best as I can figure out, that missing ingredient is self-esteem and usually, but not always, a lack of self-confidence.

I once had a client who, when describing his feelings when he attended his first AA meeting said, “The speaker was talking about how when he was newly recovering he had very low self-esteem. I thought to myself, ‘God, I wish I was able to have low self-esteem! Right now I have none!’”

Although the terms, self-esteem and self-confidence are usually associated with each other, and sometimes used synonymously, they have quite different meanings and functions. Self-esteem is a measure of one’s feelings of self-love and self-worth, whereas self-confidence is a measure of one’s evaluation of one’s ability to perform as task or a skill.

Although it is quite possible to develop a great degree of self-confidence without an equally high self-esteem, it is certainly a less than optimal state to be in, and in the case of very high performing people such as rock stars and high power executives, it becomes a perfect storm for the development of all sorts of addictions.

When people’s performance greatly overshadows their level of self-esteem, they are susceptible to feeling like a fraud, The accompanying internal dialog (self talk) is along the lines of, “if they only knew how much I’m messing up” or “If they discover the real me, I’m toast!” That paranoia of being “found out” can be enough to trigger a variety of coping behaviors including addictions, suicide and perfectionism.

Perfectionists are an interesting group. They have little or no self-esteem and are usually fairly high performers in what they do. Their paranoia of being found out leads them to attempt to do everything perfectly. Unfortunately, perfection is impossible to attain, so they continually fail, which creates a feedback loop that reinforces their negative self-evaluations. That in turn feeds into the obsession and another addiction is born.

Most people with low self-esteem including, unfortunately, many people in recovery, also have a similar feedback pattern. Less obvious, it appears as a habit of harsh self-criticism of their actions, their appearance and just about anything else that touches their lives.  Unlike the perfectionist, they are not obsessed with rectifying their uncovered flaws. They use their harsh self-criticisms and both actual and imagined failures as proof of their negative self-evaluations. These folks rarely give themselves an even break. For them the cup is always half empty. They beat themselves up at the drop of a hat. The slightest criticism from a boss, peer, or even a client can throw them into a depressive state akin to giving up.

High school age underachievers are a good example of this. Although usually misdiagnosed as kids lacking motivation, they are very smart with very low self-esteem. Actually they have very high motivation. It takes considerable motivation for a smart kid to intentionally fail. These are young folks who think of themselves as potential failures (aka, losers) and who voluntarily take themselves out of the competition. That way they don’t risk being actual failures, and have a perfect cover story, “I could have won, but I chose not to play.”  They are perfect candidates for a variety of addictions.

The value of learning self-enhancing techniques to boost self-esteem

Understanding that the lack of self-esteem is the core problem that drives people to adopt behaviors (addictions) in a futile attempt to cover up “that empty hole inside,” it stands to reason that once folks have developed great self-esteem and self-love that the empty hole will be truly and permanently filled, and the need for any addictions, chemical or otherwise, will be over.

For this reason, a major component of treatment needs to be teaching the tools that effectively promote positive self-esteem. Many of these tools are quite simply taught and through daily repetition are quite effective.

There will be noticeable improvement in the degree of self-esteem after a month of daily practice. The real payoff of learning these tools will come upon completion of the 9th Step. It is very difficult to work on self-esteem when “the real self” is viewed through lenses clouded by feelings and trauma that working The Steps will remove. As those negative feelings are eliminated, it opens up space for self-esteem to grow and, with these new self-enhancing habits firmly in place, that new self-esteem will grow automatically and exponentially!

©2015, Jason Wittman, MPS, CATC-IV, ILAADC

Note: This article first appeared as a column in the Keys to Recovery Newspaper.

[Permission to reproduce this article is granted as long as this notice and the “About the Author and the copyright information is included.]

*About The Author*
Jason Wittman, M.P.S. has his masters degree in counseling and psychology from Cornell University. He has over forty years of counseling experience and is certified as a clinical hypnotherapist and as a practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming. He is currently in private practice as a Confidential Consultant and Mentor Coach. As Certified Level IV Addictions Counselor, he assists people to figure out all the “getting on living skills” that they either neglected or never learned, do to their continued usage of drugs, alcohol and other addictions.. He can be contacted at or

Drugs and Alcohol: How Much is Too Much?

Drugs and Alcohol: How Much is Too Much?

After forty years of experience in the substance abuse field, I have finally decided that there is a simple answer to the question of drugs and alcohol, how much is too much? I will assume that a person asking this question of how much is too much is one that is looking to optimize his or her potential to grow emotionally and spiritually and to enjoy excellent mental health. My answer, therefore, is an optimum one.

The simple answer is that even one could be too much. Alcohol and drugs are attractive because of their abilities to, in various ways, ease people through social and other situations, in lieu of having the experience of walking and working through the fears of those situations and growing from those experiences. The only thing learned, when using these substances, is that the cure for social ill-ease is using more of them.

I am sure that the majority of the people who use drugs and alcohol will never become addicted to a point where they will need professional assistance. I am just as sure that their emotional and social growth will be stunted in proportion to the degree of use. Much of what I do when I am working with former users, is to assist them to grow up emotionally. The rule of thumb is that when they started to depend on drugs and alcohol, their emotional growth stopped. If a person is now 38 years old and started to use at seventeen, the chances are that that person is dealing with the world from the emotional perspective of a seventeen year old. A disastrous situation, for instance, if that person happens to be a father of three or the CEO of a large corporation.

Everyone has the potential to be an addict or an alcoholic. Proclivity has a lot more to do with environmental factors than genetic ones. By environmental, I mean such things as how a person is taught as a child to cope with life; if friends and associates encourage and approve of use and abuse of mind altering substances; the frequency of opportunity for use; and, most important, how they feel about themselves.

Very seldom, when listening to the life stories of recovering former addicts and alcoholics, do I hear that they were addicted after the first experience. They usually report that it was extremely pleasurable and that the usage gradually increased until they crossed a line where stopping became a difficult or impossible task. Where that line is, is impossible to predict and is different for each person. What is insidious is that the process happens so gradually that only in retrospect, after stopping, is it even apparent that such a line even existed. This is why I believe that using drugs and alcohol at any level, even “recreationally” can be the equivalent of recreationally juggling dynamite.

My mind has been conducting a debate with itself as I have been writing this article. The debate is between the part that cries out for a moderate liberal stance and the absolutist part, which has been doing the writing up to now. The liberal part argues that there is nothing wrong with having an occasional glass of wine with dinner, or an occasional marijuana joint after dinner or at a party, and that a person who might have a drink or a joint once a week is running a very small risk of becoming an alcoholic or a drug addict.

The absolutist part concedes that the chances are real slim. It then suggests that if that occasional drink just happens to occur on “special occasions” like dinner with an important client or that joint just happens to be smoked when first getting to know a new love interest and that the drink or joint sort of takes the edge of the tension of the moment, like its supposed to, then, at the least, it is impeding the person’s learning how to relax and walk through such situations. At the worst, it is letting the person’s sub-conscious, or as I now like to call it, “the inner mind,” know of a really neat way of not having to deal with similar tensions.

The inner mind does not know pasts and futures and just accumulates experience in the present tense. For this reason, each of these “occasional experiences” become an increasingly more powerful alternative solution that the inner mind knows it can call on. For the person who ends up as an alcoholic or an addict, the inner mind does call on that alternative with increasing frequency, while justifying it, consciously, as “just an occasional drink”. That is what the process of denial is all about.

So the absolutist part still insists that none is best and those who dabble infrequently should still be aware of the risks…. I, the judge in this debate, matched up the arguments with my experience and agree with the absolutist part. I think it would be irresponsible to give anyone the assurance that alcohol or drugs in any quantity is effect or risk free.

I also feel I need to point out that the infrequent users of marijuana are probably at the greatest risk since it is unlikely that they will just take one toke of the substance. They will, usually, smoke until the euphoria is felt (usually referred to as “being stoned”). The equivalent of this in drinking terms would be if the occasional drinkers drank until they were drunk.

The euphoria of being stoned is a powerful experience for the inner mind. What makes marijuana even more potentially addictive is that, since there is little chance of there being any negative physical side effects, gradually increased usage can be easily rationalized under the guise of fun or, at least, the absence of any obvious negatives.

Marijuana is the only substance where people who are addicted to it have no realization of just how much it controls their lives until they stop using for a while and look backward. Marijuana addicts seem to themselves to be operating super-functionally, when in fact the opposite is true.

As I stated in the beginning of the article, I am writing from the point of view of how to get the most out of one’s life experience. My bottom line advice for the person who insists on using alcohol and/or drugs recreationally is to be ruthlessly honest with themselves by doing the following self-test at least once, preferably twice, a year: For a period of a month, abstain from all mind-altering substances; drugs, alcohol, poppers, all of them, while you carry on your life as usual. Go to your business lunches, your first dates, your cocktail parties, do all the sex-type things you normally do, and make that after dinner speech. The only thing that will be different is that you will be doing everything without alcohol and/or drugs.

If your use of drugs and/or alcohol was strictly a recreational want and not a need or dependence, then you will have found no difference in your stress or tension level when you did all those activities drug and alcohol free. If you experienced increased stress the tension, it is a sign that, for the activities where the increases were noticed, you have been relying on those substances to get you through. The more stress and tension noticed, the more you were relying on them and the greater the risk of becoming dependent on them. This gives you a way to decide for yourself what level of usage is right for you. I am not saying “don’t use”, just keep your eyes open to what is going on and then make your decisions.

If you could not stay alcohol and drug free for the entire length of the test period, you either are, or are about to be in serious trouble. Incidentally, if you are actually someone who is using mind-altering substances addictively and has been denying to yourself that fact, your mind will come up with all sorts of good reasons why it is O.K. to stop this test prematurely or, maybe even why there is no need to even take it in the first place. So, for the purposes of this test, there is no valid reason to start using your mind-altering goodies again before the entire period you committed to before the test started is over. If you will not even consider taking the abstinence test, you might already be in deep water.

It is my experience that people who are addicted to mind-altering substances build huge walls of denial to rationalize their continued use. Occasionally, addicts and alcoholics will have a moment of clarity, when it will become obvious how addicted they really are. These moments sometimes occur immediately following a particularly bad experience, such as an overdose. At other times, it can be just a spontaneous insight after reading an article such as this one. These moments of clarity are truly “moments” and if assistance is not sought out quickly, the window of opportunity will slam shut as the rationales and denials come flooding back in. If you can relate to this last section, please seek assistance quickly for it might be a painfully long time before your next opportunity. You can call your local Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous,.Cocaine Anonymous, Crystal Meth Anonymous, Marijuana Anonymous offices. Call information and ask for their central offices. You can also contact me. Just click on my name, below.

Original copyright ©1986, Jason Wittman (rev. ©2016, Jason Wittman, MPS)

[Permission to reproduce this article is granted as long as this notice and the “About the Author and the copyright information is included.]

*About The Author*
Jason Wittman, M.P.S. has his masters degree in counseling and psychology from Cornell University. He has over forty years of counseling experience and is certified as a clinical hypnotherapist and as a practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming. He is currently in private practice as a Confidential Consultant and Mentor Coach. As Certified Level IV Addictions Counselor, he assists people to figure out all the “getting on living skills” that they either neglected or never learned, do to their continued usage of drugs, alcohol and other addictions.. He can be contacted at or

Planning on Stopping Smoking or Other Not So Good Habits? Here are Some Useful Suggestions

Planning on Stopping Smoking or Other Not So Good
Habits? Here are Some Useful Suggestions

It’s almost the first of the year when, for some strange reason human beings go through a curious ritual of making resolutions to change those things that didn’t work out during the just concluded year. The problem is that they might have all sorts of good intentions when they make those resolutions, but they lack most of the internal tools to keep the resolve up long enough to have any success. It’s one thing to acknowledge that a behavior has not been working in our best behalf and it’s another thing to let go of that behavior and all the short term goodies, sometimes referred to as secondary gains, that were derived from that behavior. It’s the biggest thing of all to actually make the changes.

For most folks, this won’t be the first time that they made these same resolutions. After many attempts that ended in failure there is a part of their inner mind that is as negatively powerful as the undesirable behavior. That part has a voice that says, “So what is going to be different this time? It doesn’t matter what you do, it’s just going to end in disaster as usual.”  Variations of this mantra will show up in one’s internal conversations. Sometimes it will manifest itself nonverbally as defeatist behaviors such as procrastination or flat out giving up. One way or another, unless this part becomes convinced that the desired change is winnable, it will sabotage all efforts.

What follows are some concrete suggestions for how to use your mind to successfully assist you to once and for all win the resolution game. Although I am talking about stopping the use of tobacco products, the suggestions are equally applicable to any habit you might want to change.

One of the most resolutioned behaviors is the use of tobacco products. These days with fewer people smoking, a more health conscious population whose tolerance for second hand smoke is at an all time low, and smoking banned from all public places and public transportation, the external pressure is on to stop. External pressures, on their own, are not usually enough to get one to resolve to stop. But all that pressure on top of becoming aware of the deteriorating condition of their lungs, as evidenced by smoker’s coughs and frequent colds, makes it hard to ignore that nagging feeling that maybe the jig is up and that they had better quit now before it is too late. 

Tobacco is the perfect drug. Its ingredients are both a stimulant, nicotine, and a calmative agent, acetaldehyde (the first metabolite of alcohol and the probable cause of hangovers). It is a literal smoke screen and it gives one something to do with hands. What more could you want? Well, maybe, the ability to breathe fully and live long. The problem is that those are long term goals and they are usually trumped by short term gains because the emotional costs of giving up those short term gains are too painful to withstand. Until the cost of the short term gains become too high or are satisfied by other means, smoking will remain as an entrenched habit.

If you are one of those who is resolved to be successful this time, here are a couple of my most useful tips:

A lot of folks use nicotine replacement aids, like the patch, to make the process easier. They work. The main reason they work has less to do with withdrawing from the nicotine — the body will be detoxed after a couple of weeks of abstinence — than giving the inner mind three months to get used to functioning without the physical act of smoking. 

If you are going to be using patches or some other type of nicotine replacement source like nicotine gum, you should know the physical addiction to nicotine would be over in a matter of weeks if one was to just quit cold-turkey. The main reason why the course of treatment with patches lasts for three months is two-fold. The first is that reducing the amount of nicotine in the system in increments gradually makes it less of a jolt to the system than cold-turkey. A sudden jolt could produce sufficient anxiety to trigger the urge to resume smoking. Furthermore, an even more important reason why the patches are used for three months has to do with the other part of smoking, the secondary gains or payoffs. There will be three month of break from the physical habit of smoking during which time the person will have the opportunity to develop new behaviors that will more responsibly satisfy those needs. A third and most important reason has to do with how the inner, or sub-conscious, mind works. 

The inner mind will automatically carry out whatever programs it thinks are normal and natural. After smoking for an extended period of time, the inner mind thinks that smoking is the normal program and will do everything it can to carry that program out. The longer one stays away from the physical act of smoking the better the chance of the inner mind understanding that just breathing air is the new normal program. Once it gets that that is the new program, the urge to smoke will be gone. 

It is very important to understand the concept that the longer the time away from the physical act of smoking, the more solid will be the inner minds adaption of the new behavior. Many people will have a cigarette every once in a while during the three months of the nicotine patch program. Every time they do that, they are effectively starting from scratch in the campaign to get the inner mind to adopt the new behavior. In coaching folks who are using nicotine substitutes to stop smoking, I have found that the success rate is way lower for those who occasionally smoked during the three months than for those who stayed cigarette free.

Regardless of what method one uses to stop smoking, those who daily visualize about their new tobacco-free lives have the most success.  The easiest way to do this type of visualization is to make yourself comfortable in an environment where you will not be disturbed. Take some nice, deep breaths letting them out slowly. As you take the breaths in, notice the parts of your body that are a bit tense and tighten the muscles in those areas even more. Then, as you let the breaths out let those muscles relax. Doing that regularly will teach the inner mind to associate slow, deep breaths with body relaxation. If you have problems with this exercise, email me and I will send you a free MP3 download called “Conditioning for Self-Hypnosis” that is a real good progressive relaxation training.

Once you are in a relaxed state, you can then run a little mental movie in which you visualize how you are now living a smoke free life. For each scenario where you used to use tobacco products, picture and imagine yourself easily, confidently, and happily doing that activity tobacco-free and notice how great it feels to be able to breathe freely again. Notice how much money you are now able to save or whatever are the reasons why you decided to become tobacco-free. The important ingredient of this visualization is that it needs to be done in the present tense, i.e.: “I am having……” rather than, “I will have…..” The inner mind does not distinguish past from future and only operates in the now so, even though it seems like a strange construction, say, “The next time I am in a social situation, I am totally at ease…” It works the best. 

The other oddity of the how the inner mind operates is that it drops out of the sentence any negative modifiers, such as “not.” If you were to visualize “I am in this social situation where in the past I would have always smoked and now I am not smoking…” the inner mind will drop the word “not” out of that sentence and will hear it as “and now I am smoking.” Since English is usually spoken in negatives and double negatives, i.e.: “He is not unkind,” it really takes practice to be able to do a visualization totally using positive descriptors. 

As a hypnotherapist, I have always known that what you imagine gets realized. As far back as the Old Testament, Job says, “What I imagined is upon me!” There is a famous study of basketball players practicing free throws where one group physically practiced doing free throws for a period of time while another group did not do anything physically — instead, only repeatedly visualized making perfect free throws. The group what did the visualization had the most improvement! This works, and if you regularly regarding visualize a life beyond tobacco, you will greatly up the chances of success. 

Until the inner mind understands that smoking and the use of tobacco products is a thing of the past, thoughts will regularly occur that call for and urge you to indulge. Since it is impossible to block anything from one’s mind, the easiest way to deal with these thoughts is to acknowledge that they are there and thank that part of you that keeps bringing it up for sharing. Then remember what you were doing before the thought and go back to doing it. For persistent urges, when that voice won’t shut up, I suggest using the following NLP technique:  

Since most people compartmentalize their mind when they describe what’s going on inside by giving each part a voice as in, “There’s a part of me that won’t…..” I find it useful to use that self-description as a way of explaining how the process of changing out of the smoking habit works.

As strange as this seems, there is no part of you that is trying to do you in. All parts of you have good intention, even that part that keeps you using tobacco products.  They are simply attempting to satisfy your needs. The problem comes with the behaviors that some of those parts adapt to satisfy those needs. This is a very important distinction because it takes the fight, that internal, infernal battle, out of the recovery equation. Once we have acknowledged that the part keeps us using has only the best intention for us, we can start an internal conversation where we can thank that part for its concern and intention, and then suggest that it might help us explore other ways of satisfying those intentions — the ones that also allow the other parts whose intentions are to keep the body healthy, wealthy and well — to be able to support the new behavior.

The way the internal dialog or conversation would go is something like this: “Thank you very much for your wanting the best for me. Right now I am working on other ways of satisfying those needs you are so concerned about. So, for the time being I would love your support in my explorations for more effective and healthier ways of caring out your good intentions. I welcome your feedback as we try out these new ways. I only ask you to give these new ways a good trial run before judging their effectiveness. I am told that six months would be a fair trial period. I know that since you have my best interests in mind that you will be totally on board to explore even better ways of getting your intentions met then that of smoking. Thank you…Now where was I?” That last question will bring you back to what you were doing before the thought of having a smoke or chew entered your mind. This conversation is an important one to have both before starting a tobacco-free life style and regularly during the initial stages of the withdrawal process. Another way of saying that is “what you resist persists.” The best way to stop negative thoughts is to acknowledge them and then get back to the new thinking. That is what that internal conversation accomplishes.

This all might sound silly at first until we realize that we regularly talk to ourselves. Unfortunately most of that talk is negative, especially when it comes to ceasing bad habits. There are a lot of positive payoffs or benefits that are derived from bad habits so the part that controls that habit will fiercely fight for the habit to continue until it understands that the habit is no longer needed to provide the benefits. 

In the case of smoking, there are a lot of payoffs or benefits – nicotine is a stimulant; the second most active ingredient, acetaldehyde, is a calming agent; the smoke, itself provides a literal “smoke screen to ease social discomfort; and the physical act of smoking, the moving of the cigarette to the mouth and back down again and again, gives the hands something to do when doing nothing with the hands is socially uncomfortably.

This process of acknowledging the intention of the controlling part of the mind, and enlisting its cooperation in exploring new methods and behaviors to still achieve the payoffs that the old habit provided, is a great technique because it utilizes the internal conversation that most people already use to explain why they are defeated from achieving their goals by their own mind and turns it into a positive force for change.

Some people find it quite helpful to have a counselor/coach to talk to as they go through this process. The inner mind work is much easier to do with a coach as a guide. Having gone through this process myself, I understand the feelings, the emotions, and what it takes to win. So call me!

Original copyright ©2009, Jason Wittman (rev. ©2016, Jason Wittman, MPS)

[Permission to reproduce this article is granted as long as this notice and the “About the Author and the copyright information is included.]

*About The Author*
Jason Wittman, M.P.S. has his masters degree in counseling and psychology from Cornell University. He has over forty years of counseling experience and is certified as a clinical hypnotherapist and as a practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming. He is currently in private practice as a Confidential Consultant and Mentor Coach. As Certified Level IV Addictions Counselor, he assists people to figure out all the “getting on living skills” that they either neglected or never learned, do to their continued usage of drugs, alcohol and other addictions.. He can be contacted at or

How to Win the Rehab Game

For those of you who are reading this article because you think that I am going to give you a method to make rehab easy so that you can slide right through, hassle  free, you are right but not the way you  think you  are right. What I am about to present is a way to get through rehab in the shortest amount of time and emerge from the other side with the tools and the skills to begin the journey to a wonderful life.

If you thought that by titling this “how to win the game” I meant “how to game the system” you couldn’t be farther from correct. If you are an alcoholic or drug addict, you are already an expert at gaming the system If you are now entering a rehab after a successful career of gaming the system, you know how well being successful at gaming the system really works for the quality and welfare of your life. There is an old rehab saying “The cheater cheats him/herself!” That is why when you are successful at gaming the system; you lose at the game of life.

When you are an expert at gaming the system, you also become an expert at gaming yourself. You lie to yourself so often that you believe your own lies. You take the easier, less painful way instead of choosing a path based on what will be a winning method because you tell yourself that it will work even in the face of overwhelming evidence that it has never worked before. You choose it because you choose anything that is less painful and less painful. That is why doing more of whatever it was that got you to the door of rehab became the immediate answer to most painful problems. When you scam the system you usually scam yourself in the process. So when I say I am going to teach you how to win the rehab game, I really men how to WIN! If you follow these simple suggestions you will have a tough but easy time in rehab and you will get through it and on to the rest of your life in record time.

How do I know this is true? Because I have been in this rehab game for a long, long time. I have worked in just about every part of the rehab game from being a counselor to starting and running a residential rehab and have managed to have lived a life without needing or wanting to use any of my old goodies for well over thirty years. I know what I am about to teach you  works because I have personally witnessed hundreds of folks just like you work their way through the rehab game. I am a keen observer.

I noticed what those folks, who got through rehab in record time and learned all they needed to have the tools to build a great life, did while they were in rehab. I also watched all the others who tried to do rehab the same way they did their life when they were using. They lied, to themselves and to the staff, and lots of the time actually got away with it. The problem is that when they lied and took the shortcuts, they never grew inside and never learned the tools that are so necessary for the outside of rehab.

They didn’t understand that rehab is just a rehearsal for life after rehab. It is time out from the real world where there are usually heavy consequences for goofing up and making lousy choices. They didn’t understand that in rehab, they could have the freedom to make wrong choices and just get the feedback they need to learn what choices really work, without having to risk anything. Many of these folks actually were good enough at lying and cheating and scamming that they gave the appearance of having gotten all they needed to get out of rehab and graduated. The problem is that they were all appearance. Then once again used all their cunning skills of their using life to give the illusion of having learned the lesions by feeding back to the staff all the right answers and doing all the right actions that the staff expected without doing any of the tough work on the inside. So when they graduated and went out in the real world with real consequences, they did not have the tools they needed to both survive and thrive and quickly turned to some form of addiction once again.

So here is my best suggestion on how to really win at the rehab game.

This is the most important thing that one must do to win at any game that involves learning new skills to win. This is the process that all winners do and all people who don’t win, never do. It is very simple while being painfully difficult at the same time.  One has to become ultra honest with oneself and admit that they don’t have the foggiest clue as to what to do next. They have to really know that they do not know. Only when you know that you don’t know are you ready to hear and do whatever it is you are being taught. If you have accepted that you do not know the answer because you have tried doing it the ways you have always done it and ended up without success, they you will be finally open for suggestion and direction.

Without getting to the point that you know that you do not know, what happens is that you are given a suggestion and you reject it without ever doing it. You will have a thousand reasons why it won’t work all of those reasons based on what? Oh yes, your old thinking which worked so well that you are now in rehab. Get it? Your old thinking patterns got you to rehab. The reason for being in rehab is to learn new patterns of thinking that will really serve you. If you have gut level gotten that your best thinking when you were using got you to nowhere except to rehab (possibly via jails and loony bins) then you will put your ideas of what sounds good aside and be open to not only hear new suggestions, you will actually follow through and actually do the suggestions and then notice what the results of doing the suggested work.

I can always tell who has accepted, gut-level, that they know that they do not know. They jump on every suggested course of action and put it into action, without question and then check out the result. Those who have not yet accepted that they do not have the answers and are still under the self illusion that they are smarter than their teachers, don’t do the work and instead spend their precious tie in rehab, punching holes in everything except their own baloney. They will have a thousand reasons why a suggestion will not work, without ever doing the work. I have actually said to counselees of mine when I kept getting reasons why what I was suggesting to do wasn’t going to work, “If you know so much about what works and does not work, how come it is that you are sitting in that chair (the resident in a rehab chair) and I am sitting in this chair?” When you hear yourself questioning a suggestion from someone who obviously knows more than you do on a subject before you do the suggestion and check out the results that doing the suggestion brings you, you need to remember that if you knew the solution you would have not asked the question and shut up and go do the work!

If you have embraced what I have written so far and are actually doing the work without reservation and excuses, then you have finished the preliminary work on the 1st of the 12 steps. for I believe that the essence of that step and the intended outcome of working that step is coming to the understanding that your best thinking hasn’t worked and that you know that you do not know. If you have done this, then you are well on the way to winning at the rehab game!

What you resist persists!

1st copyright ©2011, Jason Wittman (rev. ©2016, Jason Wittman, MPS)

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*About The Author*
Jason Wittman, M.P.S. has his masters degree in counseling and psychology from Cornell University. He has over forty years of counseling experience and is certified as a clinical hypnotherapist and as a practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming. He is currently in private practice as a Confidential Consultant and Mentor Coach. As Certified Level IV Addictions Counselor, he assists people to figure out all the “getting on living skills” that they either neglected or never learned, do to their continued usage of drugs, alcohol and other addictions.. He can be contacted at or