On the last track, we discussed three possible causes for relapse in addicts. These causes are leaving recovery programs prematurely, "dry drunk" behavior, and a lack of self-trust.
On this track, we will be talking about the Dream of Dependency and the three reasons addicts have this dream to be dependent. I feel three reasons for the addict’s Dream of Dependency are that their parents led them to believe someone would take care of them as adults, that their parents failed to teach them the skills necessary to take care of themselves, and that they never learned to feel capable of being responsible for themselves. We will also talk about the "Repetition" exercise.
I have found that one reason addicts have difficulty recovering fully from their addictions and continually slip or go back to using is that they have been raised to be dependent people. Jon, age 36 a well-educated well-respected businessman, has been drinking heavily since his early 20s. After he ran his car off the road into a ditch coming home from a bar one night, he reluctantly decided to start a 12-step program at his wife’s insistence.
However, Jon was having problems because as he put it, "I lack self-determination and self-respect." He stated, "I know I have a problem with alcohol. And I would like to stop drinking. But I still live my life as though someone else is in charge of it." Jon then admitted that he would not have started a program unless his wife had told him to. Does Jon’s following orders, so to speak, from his wife sound like any of your addicted clients?
Three Reasons for Dreaming of Dependence
As I mentioned earlier on this track, I have noticed that many addicts have the dream of dependence for three reasons. These reasons are:
1. that when they were children their parents led them to believe that someone would take care of them as adults,
2. that their parents failed to teach them the skills necessary to take care of themselves, and
3. that they never learned to feel capable of being responsible for themselves.
Let’s look a little more closely at how Jon exhibits these reasons.
Reason #1 - The first reason, regarding the parents leading the addict as a child to believe that someone else would take care of them as adults, is something Jon exhibits quite clearly. As Jon himself admitted, he would not have considered starting a program unless his wife made him. Jon stated, "I rely on my wife a lot. She cooks, she cleans, she does what most wives do. She pretty much takes care of me. I feel I couldn’t make it on my own."
Reason #2 - Rick, age 24 fit the bill for the second reason that many addicts have the Dream of Dependency. Unlike Jon, Rick was the only child of two alcoholic parents. Rick’s childhood and experiences growing up happened in a dysfunctional household. His parents often lacked the skills to take care of themselves, and consequently could not teach these skills to Rick.
He stated, "I sometimes felt like it was me taking care of them." As you can probably guess, Rick learned to take care of others but not himself
Reason #3 - The third reason that an addict has the Dream of Dependency is that he or she never learned to feel capable of being responsible for their own actions. Both Jon’s and Rick’s inability to take care of themselves also leaves them feeling like they cannot be responsible for themselves.
In Jon’s case because his wife takes care of him, Jon feels more like she is responsible for him than he ever could be. He stated, "I mean, if she doesn’t make dinner, I would starve – it’s her job to make sure I eat." On the other hand Rick whose parents failed to teach him the skills necessary to take care of himself stated, "I don’t feel I am worth taking care of."
'Slogan Repetition' Exercise
I suggested the "Slogan Repetition" exercise in the group Jon and Rick attended. There are five steps to the "Repetition" exercise.
Step 1 - To do the "Repetition" exercise, I first had Jon choose a positive statement about his ability to take care of himself. Because he was beginning the 12-steps, Jon chose the statement "I will stay sober today."
Step 2 - Second, I had him copy his statement to several note cards. I told Jon that they could be either decorative or simple, but to do them in a style that would catch his eye.
Step 3 - Third, I asked Jon to place the note cards in places where he would see them, like on his refrigerator, the bathroom mirror, or next to his bed at home, or on his desk at work. I suggested he might even attach one to the dashboard of his car and keep one in his wallet. I told him, "This will remind you often of your positive thought, that you will make it through the day without drinking."
Step 4 - Fourth, I asked Jon to repeat this statement every time he saw it. I explained to him, "At first this may create internal agitation, but don’t be scared of that. Your old, negative way of thinking will be clear, but the agitation means that the positive message is getting in."
Again Jon looked uneasy as he tried it out in my office. He read from the top note card "I will stay sober toady" but still looked uncomfortable. I told him to just allow the negative thoughts or feelings to pass. "The more you repeat it, the less uncomfortable it will feel."
Step 5 - Finally, I told him that once he had memorized and internalized his statement, "I will stay sober today," it would be time to choose a new statement. I told Jon he would simply have to repeat the steps with the new statement.
Do you have an addict who, like Jon, is struggling with recovery because he or she has the dream of dependence? Does he or she have a problem with self-determination and self-respect? Would your Jon benefit from the "Slogan Repetition" exercise?
On this track, we have talked about the addict’s dream of dependency and its three possible causes. The three causes could be the addicts parents led them to believe someone else would take care of them as adults, that their parents failed to teach them the skills necessary to take care of themselves, and that they never learned to feel capable of being responsible for themselves. We also discussed the "Repetition" exercise and its five steps.
On the next track, we will discuss the addict's three forms of internal resistance to change. The three forms of internal resistance to change we will discuss are the fear of the pain of emotion, the fear of the inability to learn, failure, unworthiness, and the belief that success is impossible.
- Streifel, C., & Servaty-Seib, H. L. (Jun 2009). Recovering From Alcohol and Other Drug Dependency: Loss and Spirituality in a 12-Step Context. Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly, 27(2), 184.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Berridge, K. C., & Robinson, T. E. (2016). Liking, wanting, and the incentive-sensitization theory of addiction. American Psychologist, 71(8), 670–679.
Piper, M. E., Baker, T. B., Mermelstein, R., Benowitz, N., & Jorenby, D. E. (2020). Relations among cigarette dependence, e-cigarette dependence, and key dependence criteria among dual users of combustible and e-cigarettes. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors. Advance online publication.
Stolzenburg, S., Tessmer, C., Corrigan, P. W., Böttge, M., Freitag, S., Schäfer, I., Freyberger, H. J., & Schomerus, G. (2018). Childhood trauma and self-stigma of alcohol dependence: Applying the progressive model of self-stigma. Stigma and Health, 3(4), 417–423.
Online Continuing Education QUESTION 9
What can be three causes for an addict’s dream of dependency?
To select and enter your answer go to .