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A scary implication of “convert disease” — the application to addicts

by Greg Krehbiel on 25 February 2012

From time to time I’ve mentioned the tendency of people who change from one political, religious, or other sort of ideology to another to forget what they used to know or believe. I call it “convert disease.”

The person who claims that he knows X because he used to be an X rarely shows any actual evidence of understanding X, and the people who actually believe X can see it plain as day. The convert misrepresents X so badly that the believers think he was never one of them.

The conversion process must scramble the brain … or … something is going on.

This evening I was thinking about a conversation I had a few years ago with an addict. He didn’t want to attend any kind of rehab or 12 step program or anything like that because “they don’t understand.”

At the time I thought he was just making excuses. “Of course they understand,” I said. “They used to be addicts as well. They know what you’re going through.”

But now I think he may have been right about that.

What if the former addict is likely to be just as clueless about what it’s like to be an addict as the former Protestant is likely to be clueless about Protestantism?

I wonder if the 12 step programs have a way of dealing with this.

-- 2012-02-25  »  Greg Krehbiel

Talkback x 2

  1. pentamom pentamom
    27 February 2012 @ 9:24 am

    Since the 12-step programs tend to emphasize that the person remains a potential addict throughout life and takes it “one day at a time,” I would think that would be a protection against that mentality. No convert of the type you have in mind would go around saying, “I’m really still an X who has to learn not to be an X on an ongoing basis.” It’s all, “When I was an X…but now I’m a Y.”

    I don’t have personal experience with this, but there are enough differences in the conscious view of the former X that I think there’s at least some likelihood it doesn’t work the same way.

  2. Greg Krehbiel Greg Krehbiel
    27 February 2012 @ 9:37 am

    That’s an interesting point. I wonder if the “I’m a recovering addict” emphasis in the 12-step programs helps negate convert disease.