Undoing Damage Caused by Early Unhealthy Attachment

In an essay by Jon Daily, LCSW, CADC II, published in the most recent newsletter for the California Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors, titled “The Interpersonal Neurobiology of Addiction,” we learn that the roots of addiction can stretch back to a person with substance use disorder’s earliest childhood experiences with their caregiver. Those seminal relationships wire the brain in a way that can put certain individuals at risk for addiction later in life. Daily tells us that “…consistent, warm, predictable responses to the child’s needs creates a secure attachment.  Secure attachment underpins healthy emotional, psychological and neurological development, hence, regulatory systems.” The converse is also true. Insecure or volatile attachments create unhealthy regulatory systems.

When a person with substance use disorder commits to working toward a healthy and drug-free life, with the help of an addiction treatment center, they soon learn to see that healthy relationships can provide the same feeling of intense satisfaction as a drug induced high. “Addicts are not addicted to drugs, they are addicted to a pathological relationship to intoxication which can often be a cause of and a solution for failed relationships.” This can be tenuous ground. And since the first relationship the client will make while in treatment is with a therapist, the best addiction treatment centers will work tirelessly to match each individual with the right therapist. When this is achieved, we soon see – often in a shockingly short period of time –that the realization that a relationship can be a safe and comforting place to rest will spark the beginning of a speedy and lasting recovery.


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