The Science of Recovery

Over the past few years, I have written many short essays on new findings in psychological science. Most have these have appeared in this blog, “We’re Only Human,” but many others have been published in and, more recently, in the “Full Frontal Psychology” blog at True/Slant. At this point, I have written enough that I am beginning to identify clusters of essays all focusing on a particular topic, and I thought it might be useful to organize these topical essays in a way that’s more useful to readers.

One such topic is the science of recovery. There have been volumes written on the science of alcoholism and others addictions, but surprisingly little on the behavioral and brain science underlying recovery from addiction and relapse prevention. Many recovering alcoholics and addicts believe it is unimportant to understand the why and how of the sober mind, indeed that science cannot fathom the spiritual aspects of 12-step programs. No argument there, but many others may be curious about what science has to say about this program and its principles. For those readers, I have compiled an annotated listing of essays on this subject. Some of these essays address specific steps and principles of recovery–like powerlessness and pride and moral inventory; others deal with what might be called the folk wisdom of recovery. It’s a work in progress, and will continue to grow as new science emerges. I also invite reader comments and suggestions of related reading, with the goal being the most thorough resource available on the psychology of sobriety.

“The future is lookin’ sweet” The HALT principle, specifically the H

“The Science of Prayer” The destructiveness of resentment, and a strategy for defusing it

“The Perils of Willpower” The counter-intuitive idea that willpower is a character flaw

“I am a lovable person.” “Not” On the harmful message of the self-esteem movement

“Hey, you’re wearing me out!” The power and peril of the group

“Try a Little Powerlessness” The first step to recovery

“The Paradox of Temptation” Relapse prevention and “forbidden fruit”

“A Recipe for Motivation” The KISS principle: Keep it simple, stupid

“Sudoku in the Saloon” Alcohol and aggression

“Neurons of Recovery” Honesty, authenticity, moral inventory

“The Two Faces of Pride” Healthy pride, and perilous pride

“Destined to Cheat?” Attitudes, beliefs and cheating

“Pumping Emotional Iron” Overtaxing the mind’s powers

“Who Says Quitters Never Win?” When to throw in the towel on moderation

“Oops, I did it again” Arrogance and mistakes

“Why Does Self-Reliance Make You Sick?” The (fatal) risks of social isolation

“Talking the Talk” The value and danger of public declarations

“A Willingness to Wonder” Willpower vs willingness

“The Power of Gratitude” The #1 AA topic

“Emotions by the Roomful” The power of the room

“I’m sorry. I’ll change. I promise.” The 9th Step: Trust violation, amends, and foregiveness

“Knockoff psychology: I know I’m faking it” Authenticity and phoniness

“Pack Up All Your Cares and Woes” Giving up resentments: God Jars

So let’s get the discussion going. This blog posting is free for the taking, as is any of the essays in “We’re Only Human.” Journalists, bloggers, website editors–indeed anyone with an interest in this topic–is encouraged to link to this post or to reproduce it, either electronically or in print. Please link back to The Science of Recovery so we can grow this resource and develop a network of interested readers.

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