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The Dirty Dozen: Ways To Sabotage Sustaining Recovery From Addiction

By Richard Kensinger MSW 04/19/18

A look into the destructive mindset which reinforces continuing use.

a businessman with a devil and angel over opposing shoulders.

This article incorporates both my 40+ years as a clinician in Behavioral Healthcare (BHC); and is informed by the work of Allen Berger, Ph.D. and Harold Doweiko.

Those of us in BHC acknowledge the challenges of recovery from SUD; and that many clients relapse and do so multiple times. The ultimate goal of care is “sustaining recovery” as it is defined by the client and clinician.

Some have described recovery as a “marathon” not a “sprint.” A number of known factors that prime relapse have been clearly defined and enumerated (Harold Doweiko, Chapter 30). This article focuses on a destructive mindset which reinforces continuing use. It is not meant to be exhaustive.

The following are presented in no particular order:

1. Poly-substance is the rule, and not the exception, so continue to use them all

2. Sustaining sobriety is a solution to all our ills

3. It is way easier to continue to use drugs, than to stop them

4. Continue to be dishonest to self and to others

5. Believe that you are not entitled to take better care of self and others

6. Continue to ignore how much you are harming yourself and others

7. Expect that life in sustaining  recovery will be a lot easier

8. Ignore those who will be critical to promoting your sustaining recovery

9. Take little or no responsibility for your own recovery

10. Continue to associate exclusively with others who are actively using

11. Hold onto the belief that during sustaining recovery your life will be easy from now on 12.

12. Psychotherapy will absolutely “cure” your SUD

The Seduction into a Life of SUD:

Psychoactive substances are very appealing and cunning. The following is my formulation of the induction into mind, mood, behavioral altered experiences (intoxication).

Picture a person (male or female) sitting on a stool and staring directly into a camera. A very seductive voice off camera asks the following queries:

“Would you be willing to give up some of your time for me?” You nod in the affirmative!

“Would you be willing to give up some of your money for me?” You nod in the affirmative!

“Would you be willing to give up your important relationships for me?” You nod in the affirmative!

“Would you be willing to give up your job for me?” You nod in the affirmative!

“Would you be willing to give up your life for me?” You nod in the affirmative!

The VOICE says: I knew that you would!!


Allen Berger, PhD. 12 Stupid Things That Mess Up Recovery. Hazelden. 2008.

Harold E. Doweiko. Concepts of Chemical Dependency 5th Edition. Brooks/Cole. 2002.

Richard G Kensinger, MSW

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Richard Kensinger, MSW, is a faculty member in Psychology and Community Counseling @ Mount Alouysius College located in Cresson, Pennsylvania, where he teaches at the undergraduate and graduate levels. He has been a practicing clinician in healthcare and behavioral healthcare for 44 years, and conducts clinical training and consultation via his private practice, The Center for Ethics in Human Services. He blogs here.

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