Different Types & Levels of Drug Addiction and Alcoholism

Though no one is immune to drug or alcohol addictions, there are definitely varying levels of substance abuse severity as I have noticed.

Different Levels of Drug Addiction and Alcoholism
Over the years I have often thought about why it is that some people come into recovery with seemingly great ease, while others struggle and bounce in and out for years or even decades. I look at my story and how I struggled for so many years, and then I look at someone who abused drugs for 20 years longer than I did and then miraculously got sober and remained sober on his first attempt.
Now, if you’re in recovery, or in some other way well acquainted with the recovery process, you’re likely aware that many variables exist from addict to addict. You can literally take two people who abused heroin (or cocaine or meth or whatever drug) for the same exact amount of time, and with similar backgrounds, personalities and upbringings, yet both are living very different realities today. It could very well be that one entered residential treatment, or a similar recovery home environment, and from that point on was able to get sober and stay sober with relative ease. At the same time, the other one bounced in and out of drug rehabs for 10+ years and was never able to shake that obsession to use, regardless of how hard they tried. Every effort would seem futile and in each case relapse would be the final stop.

Of course, there’s always that all-important variable; is the person ready and willing to do whatever it takes in order to attain lasting sobriety? If no, then everything I’m talking about is basically moot. What I’m writing about here is under the assumption that the addict is serious about getting sober.

Of all the topics I remember speaking on during therapy groups (in treatment), the one topic I never recall addressing is how some people seem to be average drug addicts while others appear to be exceptionally bad drug addicts. I’m not talking about one being simply an abuser and the other being a bona fide addict. I am referring only to those who have crossed the line that separates drug abuse from drug addiction. What I’m talking about is how one drug addict is able to find relief from the obsession to use, while the other, having done the exact same course of recovery, cannot. No matter what they do they cannot escape that obsession to use.

For the record, my drug of choice is crack-cocaine. I am a “crackhead,” and I’m as bad of one as I’ve ever seen. I’ve been to countless drug treatment centers and more sober livings & halfway houses than I can count, I’ve even moved out of the country in an effort to get away from crack, twice in fact. I’ve tried Scientology, Orthodox Judaism, I’ve even tried this stuff called Ibogaine which is actually not legal in the U.S. It entailed crossing the Mexican border into Tijuana and taking these pills from a Mexican doctor that cause weird hallucinations. Evidently, it’s supposed to revert the brain to a pre-addictive state. I sat there for 3 days hallucinating watching a Sex In the City marathon (I can’t believe Big ditched Carrie on their wedding day). The first thing I did when I got back was call my coke dealer to tell him all about it…

No matter what I did I could not escape that obsession. Meanwhile many of my rehab buddies were building their new sober lives and standing on the sidelines watching me relapse over and over again. It got so tiring bouncing in and out of treatment centers and sober living homes. The euphoric recall would be so strong that my body would literally shake as I could feel the adrenaline being released. It was crazy. And I would try explaining this to therapists and no one seemed to really care or have any answers.

One day I had an epiphany. The idea came to my head that God was using me as an example to all those around me as to what would await them if they did not take their recovery seriously. Basically, I was being sacrificed for the purpose of helping to make everyone else’s life better. It made perfect sense, yet everyone I shared that idea with called me insane. I figured they were just appeasing me.


A psychological term for the tendency of people to remember past experiences in a positive light, while overlooking negative experiences associated with that events. Euphoric recall has been cited as a factor in substance dependence, as well as anger problems. Individuals may become obsessed with recreating the remembered pleasures of the past.(Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euphoric_recall)



The inability to feel pleasure — (WebMD: https://www.webmd.com/depression/what-is-anhedonia)

 * Anhedonia is a common condition among those new in sobriety

One day I was sharing about all this with a fellow newcomer. I was sitting there feeling sorry for myself and knew it was just a matter of time until the next relapse would come. Suddenly he stopped me and said, “Go be of service, help someone less fortunate. It works every time, guaranteed.” The crazy thing is I knew that all along and it never occurred to me. Nothing else worked, and the one thing I intuitively knew would work just happened to be the one thing that never came to mind.

I wholeheartedly believe that there are varying levels of severity when it comes to drug & alcohol addiction – I would bet my life on it. However, it really is a moot point. Let’s say I’m right, how does that change things? Whether I’m right or wrong nothing really changes. I suppose you could say that those of the more severe variety simply have to apply themselves all the more while in sobriety; though if you are an addict, a true addict that is, anything less than wholehearted dedication to sobriety is pretty much a recipe for relapse.

So what’s the point of all this? So maybe getting sober is more difficult for you than for your buddy who used drugs just as long and just as hard as you did. That’s life. Maybe his parents are dead and yours are still alive. Would you trade spots with him? Maybe his heart incurred much more damage than yours while using and consequently his days are numbered. Would you trade spots with him?

This is life, and it is what it is…


Progressive Living operates a network of sober living homes and addiction recovery houses throughout Pennsylvania, including; Levittown, Bristol and Morrissville (Bucks County), PA as well as a sober living apartment complex in Ewing, New Jersey — view our locations. Our recovery residences range from medium to higher structure and are available for men and women ages 18 and up that are new in their sobriety from drug or alcohol addiction. Reach us 7 days a week at: (215) 584-0340 or info@progressivelivingrecovery.com.


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Locations in Bucks County, PA and Ewing, NJ

(215) 584-0340



Progressive Living provides structured sober living homes and addiction recovery housing. Our focus is on helping men & women new in sobriety to re-acclimate into life in a manner that is conducive to living as a proactively sober individual. It is often the case that a client at any of our recovery residences will take part in outpatient treatment during their initial stay here. If requested, we are happy to provide clients with information on local outpatient rehab providers based on prior experience and their overall reputation. Information provided however, is not an endorsement nor based on any clinical matter or assessment.

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