Article 10 - Behaviour and Addiction

Behaviour is the observable fibre running through a human being’s life. It is the visible, outer expression of their inner experience. Their behaviour reflects for example their thoughts, emotions, intentions, goals, joys, doubts, conflicts and challenges.

This is very apparent in addictions, where behaviour is a prominent feature of the illness. We observe certain key behaviours in active addiction. These are negative behaviours and may be referred to as “addict behaviour”.

It is important to remember that there are also key behaviours required in treatment and ongoing recovery. These are positive, life-preserving behaviours, which make the lifelong process of recovery viable.


Behaviours in active addiction: Addicts are not “bad people”. They are generally good people with an illness. This illness, when active, results in negative behaviours, symptomatic of the illness. In active addiction, addicts prioritise their drugging over everything and everyone else. Behaviours observed in active addiction promote and protect an addict lifestyle and the addict’s access to drugs. They include for example:

  • dishonesty, manipulation & theft to support the habit
  • keeping secrets & isolating from family
  • procrastination & spending time with others who use drugs

Behaviours in treatment: Addiction treatment is not just about stopping drug use. Getting off drugs is simply the beginning. In a treatment program the addict is challenged on a deep level to reflect on his/her life and identify changes in behaviour needed to embrace recovery. These include for example:

  • becoming honest, open and accountable
  •  communicating emotions effectively rather than shutting family out & blaming others
  • terminating associations with people who trigger him/her to use drugs

Behaviours in ongoing recovery: Recovery does not end on completion of a treatment program. It is a lifelong process. This means that certain recovery-based behaviours must remain in place to sustain a drug-free life on an ongoing basis. These include for example:

  • maintaining honesty with oneself & others in all things, even non-addiction matters
  • remaining accountable to a sponsor and/or family
  • identifying triggers & keeping an updated, detailed relapse prevention plan
  • confronting and resolving problems & negative emotions as they arise
  • attending support groups such as Narcotics Anonymous [NA]

A safeguard for addicts in recovery is to apply these simple rules of behaviour. By monitoring that one is not falling into one’s former addict behaviours, relapse can be avoided.

Addicts in recovery usually live more positively than the average population, due to the need for them to be self-aware and monitor their behaviour closely. Thus recovery behaviour not only saves their lives, but can also improve their lives!