Individuals with an alcohol problem can successfully stop drinking, thousands do it every day, on their own, by changing their own behavior patterns and thinking.

The human brain is very plastic, meaning that it adapts to change. This is known as neuroplasticity which can change behaviors and thought patterns surrounding an alcohol abuse problem. For example, a stroke can cause serious damage or even death to brain tissue. Neither the stroke nor the damaged tissue are examples of neuroplasticity, which refers to the changes that take place in the brain after the damage has occurred as it compensates for the harm done. The process of regaining function by re-learning to walk or talk again demonstrates the brain’s amazing ability to adjust to damage.

Similarly, excessive consumption of substances can cause temporary alterations to the brain through a buildup of toxins. These changes are not examples of neuroplasticity. Through the body’s natural process of detoxification, this accumulation of toxins is eliminated. After this occurs, the brain returns to its normal condition. Therefore, there is no physical change or “brain addiction” after the body detoxifies itself, even though many alcohol rehabilitation centers claim their clients are addicted to substance.

According to Hebb’s Law, “neurons that fire together, wire together” (Hebb, 1949). This creates a bigger and more efficient pathway for repetitive thoughts to travel. This is a major reason why it becomes much easier and “more natural” to make the same choices the more often they are repeated.

Thought patterns can be positive if they lead to good outcomes or negative if they lead to undesirable consequences. In either case they will cause neuroplasticity to occur. The brain simply processes the thoughts and facilitates them through building better pathways.

Many habitual behaviors are typically associated with substance use and they all have an impact on the brain. Consider the case of a habitual drinker who went to the same bar every day for years to get drunk. Although the drinker now chooses to either quit or moderate consumption, the neural pathways earlier created continue to remain. Therefore, the idea of stopping at the bar has become very easy and natural. Fortunately, habitual thoughts are can be changed. People can and do train their brains to change the neural pathways every day throughout their lives. It’s a normal and continuing part of learning (Heyman, 2009).

There is no loss of control and no physical craving that’s beyond a user’s ability to resist. Scientific research studies have clearly established the fact that substance users most often stop or moderate through their own neuroplastic power. They use their minds to change their brains and behaviors (Schwartz & Begley, 2002).

Millions of people labeled as chronic addicts have stopped or moderated their substance use on their own without any help. For example, a nationwide federal government survey of 43,000 U.S. adults found that 75% of those who had been diagnosed as alcohol dependent (alcoholic) now abstain, drink in moderation, or are in partial remission (Dawson, 2006). Most never received any treatment and the same has been found in many other studies.

When society disapproves of a pattern of choices, it labels them as an addiction. When it approves, it sees them as desirable and doesn't call them addictions. Instead the reaction is "She’s so industrious,” “He’s so helpful,” or “They’re so generous.” Repetitive positive thoughts create positive “addictions” because addictions are simply neuroplastic responses to what people choose to think about in repetitive patterns.

This is good news. The brain can change to reverse the effects of earlier negative thoughts. People can change their “addictions” themselves!

The Saint Jude Retreats is a non-disease, non-treatment based drug and alcohol program implementing proprietary methodology called Cognitive Behavioral EducationSM(CBE). The program is the only effective alternative to alcohol rehab and drug treatment centers in the United States. The program is endorsed by internationally acclaimed professionals and addiction research authors such as Prof. Emeritus David Hanson, PhD; Prof. David Rudy, PhD; Dr. Joy Browne and the late Joseph Vacca, PhD, among others.