So, what is the addictive character? The typical addictive character is, as I noted above, someone who is deceptive, and given to lying or being secretive. In addition, they exhibit a number of passive-aggressive characteristics such as a failure to follow through with responsibilities, a general irresponsibility and failure of priorities, chronic tardiness, money problems, a lack of judgment, unbridled anxiety or depression, a general disregard and lack of respect for themselves and for the sensibilities of others, poor boundaries – the list could be endless, but this is a fair, generalist picture.

With regard to the emotional state of the addict, many times it rests upon a depressive, melancholic or agitated depressive character. This personality style informs a great deal of the addict's general behavior. I call it "getting to be right".

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Addiction is a veil; it is a tangible mechanism of denial. If you engage in addictive behavior, you create a situation that demands that you ignore the rest of your life. As that life crashes and burns around you, you may finally get to a point where you say, "Enough." and get sober.

So, you get sober, but your life is a shambles and that sense of being overwhelmed that initially led you to that state of denial, and ultimately your addiction, is still there. You can't respond. You're stuck in the same emotional place.

You're sober, but nothing else has changed. As a result, your sense of yourself, your value, your self-worth and your sense of place also haven't changed. Why? Because you stay stuck and the denial, passive-aggression, irresponsibility and failure of priorities feeds on itself and you "get to be right"! This is also part of the mechanism for relapse.

The cycle of addiction is very powerful. I always tell my patients, "If you can get sober – really sober – then you can do anything." I honestly believe that there is nothing harder for someone confronted with the social and emotional challenges of mental illness. That's not because addiction is bigger and badder than, say, Schizophrenia or Borderline Personality Disorder, but it is because drugs and alcohol, legal or illegal, are so imbued in our culture and our way of life that, in addition to confronting the illness, you have to re-socialize and re-acculturate yourself just to survive.

 

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