The Insanity of Addiction

The Insanity of Addiction


“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.”

People love to quote this definition of insanity, because it does a pretty good job of describing our addictions.

We know that using drugs and alcohol gets us into trouble, yet we think we can somehow do things a little bit different in order to get away with our using. And yet we find ourselves getting into trouble with drugs and alcohol, over and over again, and we never seem to learn.

This is addiction. We try to out-think our disease. We think that switching from liquor to beer might be the answer to our problems. We think that if we can just slow down a little bit, we can find a way to control our using, while still “having fun.”

This is insanity. This is addiction.  Pretty useful definition of insanity, right? So let’s apply this useful definition to our recovery as well (doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results):


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1) Recovery philosophy – Let’s say you are a chronic relapser and have tried to get clean and sober for many years and you simply continue to relapse. If you’ve honestly given it your best efforts and you genuinely wanted to stay quit, but could not do so, then perhaps you should consider a different treatment option. There is more than one treatment philosophy out there, just as there are many different religions in the world. They all lead to the same path (though some recovery programs may be more effective than others). If you continue to relapse, and you’re limiting yourself to only one treatment program, then maybe you should think about trying something different. You might get different results.

2) Quitting smoking – If you keep trying to quit smoking, and you continue to relapse, then perhaps you should try a different technique to help you quit. There are people out there who slap on a nicotine patch and say “here we go again. Maybe I can quit for good this time.” Yet when they continuously relapse, they always go back to the nicotine patch! This is insanity! Why not try something different? Never quit quitting, and never quit trying new things to help you quit. Eventually, you will find something that works for you and hopefully you can make it stick.

3) A Lifelong therapist – Some people get stuck in one-on-one counseling with a specific therapist. They get comfortable with the therapist and fall into a rut and aren’t really growing or making progress. Again, if you are just treading water with your therapy, or if you continue to make negative choices and decisions in spite of your therapy sessions, then why not try something different? If we get to comfortable with someone, it can lead to a pattern of laziness. Staying stuck in a rut like this is insanity.

4) Long Term Treatment – If you keep returning to detox centers and residential treatment programs, but continue to relapse, then perhaps it’s time to try long term treatment. This is what finally worked for me when shorter trips to rehab continued to fail me, and success rates are generally a lot higher for long term treatment programs.

In addition, I’d like to suggest another useful definition for you to ponder: insanity is self destruction. Period. Any behavior or thinking that leads you to self destructive behavior is insane.

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