When an Addict Gets Clean for all the Wrong Reasons

When an Addict Gets Clean for all the Wrong Reasons


Sometimes an addict will get clean for all the wrong reasons.

I’ve done this myself. I tried to get clean for the sake of someone else. Of course it didn’t work out, and it didn’t last. Because my heart wasn’t truly in it, the change was only temporary. Because I was not being motivated by self, the changes that I was making were superficial. As such, I quickly relapsed and returned to my normal patterns of drug use.

So what are the wrong reasons to get clean, and how can someone avoid them?

Basically, the only correct reason to get clean and sober is if someone genuinely wants to change their life. This becomes a question of motivation. Why do they want to change their life? If the answer is “so they can finally win over the heart of that certain someone” then they are not going to make it in long term recovery. If their reason for getting clean is “so I can finally start being a better parent and example for my kids” then that person is also headed for trouble.

Why are these reasons not good enough? Because they don’t get down to the core of the issue. An addict who is abusing drugs is living in pain. On the other side of the equation is the fear of having to change. Changing our entire life and learning how to live sober is scary. It’s also a lot of work.

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So you have these two forces in the addict’s mind: the desire to change, and the fear of change. Now, what is the critical motivator in this equation?


I hate to say it, and I wish there were an easier, softer way. But it’s pain that finally makes an addict face the fear of learning to live sober. It’s pain and misery that forces us to change.

Does that sound like a great reason to get clean? No, of course it doesn’t. But it’s the only reason that counts. You decide to change your life because you are tired of living in pain and misery. You decide to change your life because you are sick of the endless cycle.

Don’t believe it? Check with anyone who has significant clean time under their belt. Ask them: were you absolutely miserable when you decided to get clean sober? They will inevitably answer “yes.” Pain is the great motivator for change when it comes to addiction.

So if you have a struggling addict in your life, and you want to see them get clean, how can we apply this knowledge?

It’s simple: Don’t deny the addict their pain.

Don’t rescue them. Don’t put pillows under them when they fall.

You don’t have to be mean or tricky or anything. But simply step back and let them endure the pain that they’ve created. Don’t “help them” by lessening their pain. Let it be. When they’ve had enough pain in their life, they will change.

For an addict, it is the only path to change.


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