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Damage caused by addiction far-reaching

By the time alcoholics or addicts makes it to some sort of treatment or recovery program, chances are they’ve made a lot of mistakes and probably left a trail of tears and heartache in their path.

The addict, in the early stages of recovery, normally has only an inkling of the real damage until sometime later when the fog starts to lift and details start to emerge. He or she usually thinks now they are “sober,” all is well.

In the early stage of recovery, the family, friends and employers are anxiously awaiting apologies, vast and immediate repairs to longterm damages to trust, polar personality shifts and an end to all conflict.

Both are unrealistic. Family and friends are still in the mode of “waiting for the other shoe to drop.” They tend to be waiting for the worst to happen, and even in a self-protective way, expecting it.

They are slow to re-establish much trust and take most opportunities to see old behaviors as the path to the next drink or drug. They have had to try to “control” the situation for so long they can’t stop any more easily than the addict can stop using drugs. In short, they’re hurt, scared and they don’t understand the process of recovery.

The alcoholic or addict has stepped into a whole new world of thinking.

They have removed the anesthetic and are attempting to live life without pain relief for the first time.

They usually aren’t very good at it.

They act immature, want pats on the back for things they should have been doing all along and often act their emotional age, which can be calculated by taking their chronological age and subtracting the number of years of alcoholic use.

Sometimes this doesn’t leave much.

Given the difficulties of maturity, misconception and human emotion, it’s a miracle that anyone ever recovers – but they do. They actually recover in great numbers.

• Richard Atwater is a licensed clinical professional counselor. He can reached by email by visiting


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