20 Reasons People Are STUCK In Addiction

In episode number 252 of Elevation Recovery, Matt Finch discusses 20 common reasons people are stuck in an addiction. These range from being well-known reasons to prevalent reasons that many do not consider or talk about often.

Here are the 20 reasons Matt discusses:

  1. Withdrawal Symptoms (Physical & Mental + Synergy)
  2. Responsibilities (Work, Kids, Domestic Duties, Appointments, etc.)
  3. Distress Tolerance Not High Enough
  4. Intrinsic Motivation Not High Enough
  5. Not Enough Leverage
  6. Underlying Mental Health Issues (Anxiety Disorder, Depression Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, PTSD, Trauma, Emotional Suppression/Repression, etc.)
  7. Underlying Physical Health Issues (such as Chronic Pain, Chronic Fatigue, etc.)
  8. Not Enough Accountability
  9. Not Enough Support
  10. Not Working with Addiction Medicine Physician
  11. You Don’t Know How To Taper Off or Detox Off (or No Method You’ve Learned Has Worked or Seems Like it Will Not Work for You)
  12. The 3 Fears: Fear of Loss, Fear of the Process, Fear of the Outcome
  13. Not Enough Discipline
  14. Don’t Have Strong Enough Reasons to Quit
  15. Health & Vitality Are Not Strong Enough to Quit
  16. Addiction hasn’t become Exhausted Resource
  17. Have Limiting (Disempowering) Beliefs Regarding Ability to Quit
  18. Levels of Awareness & Consciousness Are Not High Enough (at least not on a consistent basis)
  19. Prefrontal Cortex is too Eroded
  20. Have The Sensory Processing Sensitivity (SPS) Trait Commonly Called the Highly Sensitive Person Trait

Here are some ways to learn from this episode:

Matt Finch: Of course, regular use of alcohol and/or drugs can deplete our levels of awareness and consciousness. This one becomes particularly helpful, awareness and consciousness after a person has quit. Once a person has healed from the withdrawal, or just healed their brain and get back to a good balanced state, then one of the best ways to stay off an addiction, long-term and lifelong, is to really focus on consciousness elevation, consciousness and awareness ascension.

Announcer: Thanks for tuning in to the Elevation Recovery Podcast, your hub for addiction recovery strategies, hosted by Chris Scott and Matt Finch.

Matt Finch: This is Matt Finch, and welcome to episode 252 of Elevation Recovery. Today, you're going to be learning about around 20, not a exact set number, depending on how long this goes, but somewhere around 20 of some of the most common reasons that people can get stuck in an addiction. Some of these ones are common reasons that pretty much everybody has heard of, and some of them are very, very prevalent reasons, but not a lot of people know about them. I'm going to do my best to not go super deep into all of these because this would probably be a four-hour podcast if I did that, but I just want you to be aware of all these different things. That way, you can assess whether or not you think you have some of them, a lot of them, which ones, and from that point, you'll know your situation and know thyself more, and you can learn more about these, and then come up with a plan to address them.

Matt Finch: Number one is withdrawal symptoms. Plain and simple, for a person that is physiologically dependent on either alcohol or drugs or both, the withdrawal symptoms, both acute withdrawal symptoms and potentially post-acute withdrawal symptoms, physical withdrawal symptoms, mental emotional withdrawal symptoms, and the synergy between the physical, mental and emotional, so depending on the person, this one will not be relevant for some people. For example, some people have problem drinking, but they're binge-drinkers, they're not physiologically dependent. Other people may be doing cocaine benders. A lot of people listening to this are going to be dependent on either alcohol, or opioids, or benzos, or some other type of substance, even an SSRI that they want to get off potentially, and so that's a huge reason that a lot of people are still stuck in the situation they're in, it's because of the withdrawal symptoms are too hard to bear.

Matt Finch: Number two is responsibilities. That goes from things like work, career, business, children, domestic duties, appointments, anything that you are responsible for, and of course, the more responsibilities a person has and the more stressful those responsibilities are, the more that can prevent people from getting a handle on and healing from the addiction. This is like if people could just take six weeks off of all responsibilities, then a lot of people would be able to quit an addiction that they have not been able to thus far. We live in a very fast-paced country here in America. Even with the pandemic, things are still really fast-paced.

Matt Finch: It's not conducive to just taking time off for your mental and physical health, and of course, there's the huge stigma regarding both addiction and mental health, things are getting better, but as of yet, as long as we still have the war on drugs, that's really what Dr. Gabor Maté calls, the war on drug addicts, and so there's a huge stigma, and that makes taking time off from responsibilities that can lead to people having fear, "What will other people think?," or, "Do I have to hide it from them?," shame, and, "How do I get out of these responsibilities? That's not a good enough excuse to go heal from my addiction," and thus, the rat wheel goes round and round. Number three is distress tolerance not high enough. This is very common when people start using drugs and alcohol. Whether they already had a low distress tolerance or not, certainly the regular habitual use of drugs and/or alcohol can lead to people lowering their distress tolerance over time.

Matt Finch: Distress tolerance is exactly how it sounds. It's simply a person's ability to tolerate distress, and so when it comes to healing from an addiction, that can be really, really difficult if somebody's got a very low distress tolerance, so if you imagine a spectrum, and lot of these points we're going to be covering, you can imagine these things are on a spectrum, so in the middle, someone would have a kind of a neutral point distress tolerance. Not a super high distress tolerance, not a really low distress tolerance, just maybe right in the middle would be the average person. Then, on the very left-hand side of the spectrum, that would be like a 10 out of 10 somebody's distress tolerance is just really, really not good, and then on the other side, someone's distress tolerance would be the highest. That means, I think of Navy SEALs like David Goggins and people that have trained for and won gold medals in the Olympics, and people that either have naturally or have more likely worked on through over the span of time, really, really increasing the threshold of where their distress tolerance caps out at.

Matt Finch: Number four is a person's intrinsic motivation is simply not high enough. Oftentimes it takes a 10 out of 10 motivation to get the job done. Unfortunately, for a lot of people, they might have a 10 out of 10 intrinsic motivation on some days, but it might go down to a six or seven out of 10, or even lower on other days, so this kind of fluctuating intrinsic motivation levels can lead to halting progress. Number five is not having enough intrinsic and/or extrinsic incentives. Oftentimes people can make a lot more progress than they have previously simply by assessing their incentive program and really figuring out how to optimize that.

Matt Finch: For example, I recently worked with a client where the parent of the client wanted him to quit drinking and quit using another type of drug, but the client didn't have very high motivation at all, but I asked him a question. I said, "If you were guaranteed to get $1 million tax-free from a benevolent benefactor, if you could go 60 days without any drugs or alcohol, how easy would that be?," and they said, "Of course, it'd be a breeze," and so obviously, that's not rational or logical for that to happen, but it gives you a really cool example of intrinsic incentives and extrinsic incentives. Number six is underlying mental health issues, such as anxiety disorder, depression disorder, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, emotional suppression and/or repression, et cetera. That's a huge one right there. A lot of people got into using drugs and/or alcohol in the first place due to self-medicating underlying mental health issues, and so if a person doesn't have alternative ways for managing, or hopefully even reversing these mental health issues, then quitting the substance that they've been using to self-medicate those can be a lot harder than it needs to be.

Matt Finch: Number seven is underlying physical health issues, things like chronic pain, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, and the list of this goes on and on and on again too. Some of the regular clients I get are individuals that are physiologically dependent on opioids and became that way through a prescription from a doctor to treat pain, and so if a person hasn't found a non-opioid alternatives to treat their pain, coming off of the opioids can be so much more difficult for certain individuals, such as somebody that doesn't have chronic pain. In this one's, it's really a matter of finding an adaptable, healthy way to treat either mental health issues and/or physical health issues other than perhaps the substance that the person is using, either prescribed or unprescribed for the physical and/or mental health issues. Number eight and nine can really be tagged together. Number eight is not enough accountability, and number nine is not enough support.

Matt Finch: Regular listeners will have probably heard me say this a bunch, and this is a really cool quote that's not mine, "Accountability is the glue that ties commitment to results." It was only when my co-host and friend, Chris Scott and I as well became accountable. We told our parents all of a sudden we had accountability and support, then we were able to do it. When it was our dirty little secret, it was basically impossible or close to impossible for Chris to heal from alcohol addiction and for myself to heal from alcohol, opioid and a bunch of other drug addiction, really, but predominantly for me, opioids, alcohol and benzos. A lot of people right now, if they don't have enough accountability or don't have any accountability, don't have enough support, or some people don't even have any support.

Matt Finch: For people that are hiding their substance use from everyone else and nobody knows, unfortunately, I've seen at least with the people that I've corresponded with and at least with the people that I've one-on-one worked with, this appears to be one of the highest, if not, the highest determiners of whether or not a person's going to be able to quit. Of course, it's possible to quit without anybody knowing, and I've coached a bunch of people that have been in that situation and that have totally done it, but one thing I've noticed is it's usually very often exponentially increases success rate percentages when a person has really, really optimized accountability and support. Number 10 is not having an addiction medicine physician. Most people have just a family practice physician, a typical general psychiatrist and people that are not totally skilled and educated on addiction medicine, so what I've noticed is that people that have an addiction medicine physician, often, they are much more able to heal from the addiction. Number 11 is that you don't know how to either taper or cold turkey detox off of a substance or no method that you've learned about has worked for you, or the methods that you haven't tried seem like it will not work for you personally.

Matt Finch: Number 12 is the three fears, and so this is the fear of loss, fear of the process, and fear of the outcome. Papaya is really vocal on this one. She wants to ... Yup, she said, "Uh-huh (affirmative)." This is my green-cheeked conure, female parrot resting on my shoulder for those of you who don't know that are going, "What's that noise? Is that a bird in the background?"

Matt Finch: This is my emotional support animal love. These type of birds are really known to have the intelligence level of around a five-year old human child, and I have found that to be very true with her. Sometimes she's very quiet during these shows, other times she's really vocal when she wants to get into it and infuse her energy and input and vibration into it as well, for those of you that speak bird, or that you can feel her vibrations of her chirps and get some healing out of it. The three fears are fear of loss. This is fear of losing the benefits that the substance is giving you.

Matt Finch: For people that are using opioids for pain, fear of losing those pain relief benefits, for people that are drinking alcohol for anxiety, for stress when they get off work throughout the day to cope, fear of losing those benefits of the substance. Then, there's, number two is fear of the process. Either one or more steps of the process of healing from an addiction seem like they'll be either too difficult or too painful, too hard, like maybe they're possible, but it's just going to be that you don't have the chutzpah to get through it. Number three is fear of the outcome. "What if I go through all this work to heal from an addiction, then I end up not being able to do it?"

Matt Finch: "What if I end up not being able to acute withdrawal? What if I can't get through the post-acute withdrawal? What if I get through everything, do all this work, and then two months down the line, I relapse anyways like I always do?" As you can see, these are non-physical threat fears. These are simply kind of mismanagement, or not really mismanagement, not really the optimized management of the mind, but since the body and the mind and the spirit are all a part of each other and you can't affect one without affecting the other, a lot of people's brains due to substance use are wired for fear, are wired for anxiety and that sort of thing, those sort of worrisome thoughts.

Matt Finch: As you can see, all this stuff can really connect together like this. Number 13 is not having enough self-discipline. A lot of the clients that I've worked with and people I've corresponded with, they have opted for going to either a home detox, a cold turkey detox from home, or going to an alternative or traditional inpatient or even outpatient medical detox facility, things like NAD+ 10-day infusion therapy, things like ibogain seven-day to 10-day or longer ibogain therapy in Mexico or Canada, things like a traditional inpatient medical detox where they're getting nothing but comfort meds and banana bags and those sort of things from doctors and nurses, or just getting something prescribed from their doctor, or even just using supplements in many cases to do a cold turkey detox from home when it's not a life-threatening detox situation. A lot of people have opted to do this that I've corresponded with and worked with because they stated that they did not have the self-discipline to taper. Tapering, a slow-regimented, self-disciplined taper is truly the easiest way, on your brain and body that is, to transition off of a physiological dependence, but for a lot of people, this is myself included, we were never able to taper.

Matt Finch: We're not able to taper. I didn't have enough discipline at all to taper off alcohol or opioids back in the day. I just didn't. I tried a few times and I'm like, "Wow, if I have access to the drug or the substance I'm trying to taper off, and I want to feel decent that day, I'm going to use it regardless of what it says the amount I'm supposed to use on the taper protocol." Number 14 is you don't have strong enough reasons to quit.

Matt Finch: This can be the underlying big why. Why does a person want to quit? For a lot of people, they simply just don't have a big enough reason why to quit. This comes down to the intrinsic incentives, and even extrinsic incentives. When your incentivization system is not set up proactively and not superoptimized, it can be difficult to have an underlying strong enough why or a group of strong enough reasons to quit the substance and to stay quit.

Matt Finch: Number 15 is your health and vitality are simply not strong enough to come all the way off of a physiological dependence. Number 16 is the substance has not become an exhausted resource for you, meaning that you're still getting more around the same amount of benefits and pleasure as the amount of negative consequences in pain. When you're getting substantially more negative consequences and pain, as a result of using the substance, then you are getting pleasure and benefits, then it's said to be an exhausted resource. This is something that I learned from neuro-linguistic programming, which totally blew my mind because it just seems to be so right on in such a cool, simplistic way of looking at it, that can help people to really understand this. When a person is getting way more pleasure and positive consequences, positive benefits from using the substance than the amount of negative consequences in pain, well, it's still a resource for them.

Matt Finch: It has a net increase on the awesomeness and quality of their life. Papaya is totally agreeing with this, but then what happens is eventually, the more someone uses down the line or drinks, typically not for all people, but typically, the longer a person does this behavior, in this regard using substances, and the more regular, especially daily, over time this can lead to tolerance dependence, and it can lead to the positive benefits, and that's going down, the amount of pleasure going down, and then eventually, it'll be a overriding of the negative consequences and amount of pain, and that way, it becomes an exhausted resource. Number 17 is you have limiting, that is disempowering beliefs regarding your personal ability to get off and stay off an addiction. One of the best things a person can do to improve the quality of their life is to work on getting rid of their disempowering beliefs, and oftentimes, the way to get rid of them is to replace them with the antithesis of the disempowering belief. That is the complete opposite.

Matt Finch: If the belief is, "Oh, I'll never be able to feel confident and comfortable and focused in my own skin without this particular substance," then the person's probably not going to take big enough action and consistent enough action to overcome that challenge, but if a person's belief is, "Oh yeah, I'm going to get through this, and I'm going to feel so comfortable in my own skin. I do not need this substance at all. I just need to go through the healing process, and then I can really, really reshape my brain through neuroplasticity and lifestyle strategies," that person is going to take massive action to overcome that challenge. Number 18 is your levels of awareness and consciousness are not high enough, at least on a consistent basis, and of course, regular use of alcohol and/or drugs can deplete our levels of awareness and consciousness. This one becomes particularly helpful, awareness and consciousness after a person has quit.

Matt Finch: Once a person has healed from the withdrawal or just healed their brain and get back to a good balanced state, then one of the best ways to stay off an addiction, long-term and lifelong, is to really focus on consciousness elevation, consciousness and awareness ascension. Number 19 is your prefrontal cortex is simply too eroded. Papaya says, "Heck, yeah." The regular use of alcohol and/or drugs can erode and disable function of the prefrontal cortex, the PFC. This is the very important area of our brain that has to do with decision-making, right between wrong, morals, ethics, critical thinking. When this becomes eroded, it makes it like driving a car without brakes.

Matt Finch: This is a quote from Dr. Nora Volkow, the Head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. She says, "Addiction is like driving a car without brakes. You may very well want to stop without brakes, you cannot." One of the guests we've had on this show many times is Chris Engen, and she is a big-time Advanced Recovery Nutrition Coach, who has really cool courses as well on these topics of healing the addicted brain with nutrients, it's kind of a similar way of Dr. Nora Volkow, saying the prefrontal cortex is eroded, and Chris Engen uses the word, offline. Your PFC goes offline.

Matt Finch: She says that also, one thing that can do this is hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia is the super-duper imbalance of blood sugar levels, and so it's not stabilized to wear really, really high blood sugar, and then really, really low blood sugar, these huge crashes of low blood sugar, and so when someone is severely, or even mildly hypoglycemic and having these hypoglycemia symptoms, then their prefrontal cortex is going to start going offline. I used to suffer from severe hypoglycemia even before I got addicted to alcohol. In fact, I think the predominant reason I became heavily addicted to alcohol at the age of 22 was diagnosed untreated hypoglycemia, and I knew what hypoglycemia did to my emotions and mental capacities, but I didn't know that it was perhaps one of the biggest relapse triggers that there is for alcohol. People with hypoglycemia almost always are more prone to alcohol use disorder, and most people that have alcohol use disorder, if they weren't hypoglycemic before, then usually alcohol use disorder can lead to hypoglycemia.

Matt Finch: Number 20 is you have the sensory processing sensitivity, SPS trait, commonly called the highly sensitive person trait, HSP, and/or you have the empath trait. Sensory processing sensitivity, highly sensitive person, this is a innate trait, as is the empath trait, but the highly sensitive person has a highly active more so than a regular person central nervous system to where sounds, any sensory stimuli sounds, touch, lights, vision, when there's bright lights, loud noises, too much chaos and too much stress, et cetera, people with highly sensitive person traits, they can become way more overwhelmed and fearful and stressed out quickly than people that do not have this trait. Then, the empath trait is simply absorbing other people's emotions. Both of these innate traits can be gifts, or they can be curses, depending on how you optimize your lifestyle for having them for a person that has one or both of these. These are both on a spectrum as well, just like the distress tolerance and some of the other things we've talked about.

Matt Finch: In my case, for example, I have the highly sensitive person trait and the empath trait both at moderate levels on the spectrum. Some people I've worked with or even dated in the past have had extremely, extremely high SPS and empath traits. Number 22 is your basal ganglia has strongly wired and conditioned the habit of using your particular substance. This is an unconscious area of the brain where is wired our habit loop. It comes from a stimulus, then a craving, then the habit loop, and it's just so unconscious that people can even get a frontal lobotomy to where they have like no memory and they're kind of like a vegetable in many regards.

Matt Finch: Then, you'll see them doing the same exact habits, many of the same habits they did before, even though they shouldn't have any memory of it, it's because the habits can be strongly wired in the basal ganglia. That's just one of the reasons why it can be so difficult to stay quit from a substance that you've recently quit from, or it can also be a reason why it can be so hard to quit the substance in the first place, is this basal ganglia habit loop. Couple amazing books to check out to learn more about this is The Power of Habit and Atomic Habits. Number 23 is you have a lot of stress in your life, typically chronic stress. Somebody that has a chronically stressful life, that's basically like you have stress 24/7, not acute stress to where it's this high level of a stress attack or something, but low to moderate level constant stress when your waking hours, just having stress, stress, stress, that this compounds over time, and this chronic stress can be one of the, by far, the biggest reason as a challenge and obstacle barrier to somebody quitting a substance, healing from an addiction, or even staying quit from an addiction, because stress is such a huge slip and relapse trigger.

Matt Finch: Number 24 is you don't exercise regularly. Quitting a substance, especially when people are doing a long taper, for the people that have the discipline to do this have the accountability, have the support, have the lifestyle. The people that I've worked with and corresponded with that seem to have the easiest times are the ones that have in their brain wired the ability to do the taper, the lifestyle to do the taper, the substance dependence to do the taper, the accountability and support and intelligence and wherewithal to be able to do the taper. The people that taper and also exercise regularly while they're tapering, eat healthy, take supplements, get good sleep, those sort of things, work on their spirituality, personal development, relationships, and then taper slowly over time, whether it's the span of a few months or even several months, these people just typically have the easiest time getting off. Unfortunately, a lot of us, myself included, as I said, during the addiction period, just that, just there's no way that was going to happen.

Matt Finch: Our brains, our lifestyles, our personalities, our substance, habits, it's a huge variety of things, lead to whether or not a person is a good fit for tapering or whether they're not a good fit for tapering, but this is just a commonality I've seen. People that exercise regularly often have an easier time getting off a substance and much easier time staying quit. There we go. I don't think I haven't checked the time, but I don't think I did too long on this, which is great, because I figured if I got really sidetracked into many of these, then this could have gone on and on and on and on. Now, one thing I want to say is that we have many episodes on this podcast now, including this one, I think 252 episodes.

Matt Finch: We have talked about many of these topics on here, out of these 24 potential barriers to quitting and/or staying quit. We have talked about, I'm thinking everything on here, at least once, if not, way more times on this podcast, so these are some of the recurring themes. For instance, we did an episode on self-discipline for addiction recovery. We did episodes on accountability and support on intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, on exercise, on the fact that addiction is an exhausted resource, on the power of having a compelling enough why, on withdrawal symptoms mitigation, on mental health issues, and then optimizing the recovery or management of those, on physical health issues, such as chronic pain and chronic fatigue. We've done a bunch of episodes now on chronic pain treatment.

Matt Finch: We've done episodes on tapering. I did an episode on what the three fears are and how to overcome those, so really, you can just look at the titles if you wanted to. Look through the titles. Go to elevationrecovery.com/podcast, and right there, you can just scroll through the titles if you want to learn more about one or more of these topics. Man, you can just learn so much and go so deep into all of these.

Matt Finch: If you are resonating with some or many of these, I recommend you to write down what you think your big areas are, that resonated with you on this and that seemed like things that you need to work on, then now you have the tools and the resources to take those studies further so you can know yourself more, know your predicament more, and know how to get out of this predicament more. That's all for today. Thank you so much for listening. Wishing you an awesome 2022. Hopefully this episode will help to give you a kind of jump-start moving into the new year. We love you guys so much, and this is Matt and Papaya, out.


  • Chris Scott

    Chris Scott founded Fit Recovery in 2014 to help people from around the world dominate alcohol dependence and rebuild their lives from scratch. A former investment banker, he recovered from alcohol dependence using cutting-edge methods that integrate nutrition, physiology, and behavioral change. Today, Chris is an Alcohol Recovery Coach and the creator of an online course called Total Alcohol Recovery 2.0.

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