Letter: Emotional barriers to addiction and recovery

Published 8:30 pm Friday, February 12, 2021

Addiction is a complicated brain disease. As it progresses, it can change the way an affected person thinks and makes decisions. A person in the throes of a full-blown addiction can’t choose whether they are going to use their drug of choice. No matter what else happens, the addiction always comes first.

Emotional barriers to addiction recovery occur because addiction is a chronic disease.  When someone goes to treatment, they don’t emerge from the process magically cured. Instead, the goal of drug and alcohol treatment is to give people the tools they need to learn how to live in recovery one day at a time.

Here are several emotional barriers that get in the way of addiction treatment and/or recovery:

Email newsletter signup


No one ever plans to become an addict. Some of the stigma surrounding addiction has been lifted, but there is still a certain amount of shame associated with substance use disorders. People who become dependent on drugs and/or alcohol will typically try to hide the  fact from family, friends, employers and doctors. They may even try to hide it from themselves by denying that they have a problem.


Guilt and shame often go together in our minds. Guilt can make someone feel as if they are a lost cause and beyond hope. Even during times when they are sober, they may not want to talk about getting help because they feel bad about the stress their substance use has placed on others. They might even believe they don’t deserve the help to get sober.


People with addiction know that the first stage of getting treatment is to undergo detox. Aside from any concerns about physical withdrawal symptoms, the idea of living without the thing that has been used as a main coping strategy, is scary.


Since those in recovery can feel they aren’t trustworthy, it can be difficult for them to open up and trust others. It’s also a good way to avoid getting their hopes up, in case they go to treatment and everything doesn’t work out exactly as planned. Cynicism is an attitude that hides this feeling very well and prevents others from getting close.


After someone has been in recovery for a time, they may feel as though they have a good handle on things. The person in recovery may start to become arrogant, thinking that they know best how to manage their recovery.

Displays of arrogance means conditions are ripe for denial to come into the picture. As soon as they start to think they no longer have to be vigilant about preserving their recovery, they run the risk of a slip or a full-blown relapse.

If you are struggling with addiction and/or recovery and would to talk with someone, I may be reached at gottahavehope38@gmail.com


Mark Jacobson