Addiction Assessment and 
Intervention Services


Addiction Recovery Blog

Welcome to my Blog...

I will use this blog-space to answer some of the key questions clients or callers ask me. I will try to make these answers as concise as possible and not be too clinical. However, some questions do require some clinical background or more detailed answers. In this case I will provide further references or links for you to do further learning and research.

Please feel free to add your comments or questions below the blog or email me with suggested topics or questions you have: [email protected]

Sharing Hope, Experience and Courage,

Peter Guess


view:  full / summary

What Lurks Beneath Addiction?

Posted by Peter Guess on June 27, 2013 at 4:20 PM Comments comments (90)

Yes, addiction becomes a primary condition of physical and psychological addiction.

But, in my experience, below that condition is PAIN! This pain usually takes time to access, through a process of working through the outer layers, like getting to the core of the onion. The pain comes in varied forms, from different sources. Here are some examples:

  • the pain of abuse; 
  • a troubled childhood; 
  • disconnect from the self; 
  • lack of a core identity (similar to borderline personality disorder); 
  • feeling different or disconnected from others; 
  • un-processed grief; 
  • disconnect from a Higher Power; 
  • buried or hidden character deficiencies; and more.

We stay in denial or relapse repeatedly, if these areas of pain are not dealt with effectively and with deep compassion, within a caring and supportive recovery process - such as 12 Steps groups, psychotherapy and recovery coaching.

The Feel-Good Factor: Alert to Danger

Posted by Peter Guess on May 25, 2013 at 10:00 AM Comments comments (8)

It’s Quit Day 27 from smoking. It's been a much better week. Clients have paid and money in the pocket. And I’m at my favourite seaside Cape Town spot! Brass Bell, Kalk Bay. The sun is shining and it’s a stunning day. I’ve overcome many challenges this year and the last 27 days. I feel good. Real good.

And, I’m also at great risk to relapse! That’s why I’m capturing this blog immediately as a way to help me Stop, Think (reflect), consider Options to consolidate my recovery and Plan what to do... Thank God for the STOP acronym for impulse control! Yes, I battle with impulse control. Every addict does. It’s part of the package deal. I used to be so sane. So rational. Think through things carefully. Choose wisely. As an addict, I have become out of control at times due to letting my impulses go totally wild. And always with dire consequences. I’ve said very hurtful things. Over-reacted. Damaged relationships at work and in the family. Made bad business decisions...

The Feel-Good Factor often comes for addicts as they leave intensive treatment or after reaching goals and progressing well. So what is the problem?

If I begin with myself, I am feeling healthy after a rough time with flu and asthma. And I feel “better about myself” and my self-esteem is pumped, because I am doing good work with clients and they are paying.

Then there’s the “excess money” – definitely an illusion of the mind. I need every penny in the bank at the moment. Addiction always needs the fuel of money. More cash money on hand, more risk to relapse. Some say money talks. And it lies. “Just a little money on one packet. That’s no big deal.” Then there is still stress I am facing from starting up life and business again in Cape Town. Of course, I would want to feel a higher lift – even better than I already feel. And nicotine does that for me – after all the conditioning time.

In between all of this, is addictive thinking and denial. - the twin big baddies of recovery! This thinking minimises the exact nature of my illness. The seductive and crafty side of the addict within, is carefully building a series of cunning emotive arguments to bargain with my rational mind. The power of my addiction lies more in the emotional hooks in me. All the facts of my asthma, mother dying from emphysema, cost of smoking and many more facts – just never seem to outwit the persuasive power of the emotional and deeply embedded addictive roots in my mind-body-spirit.

The Feel-Good state of mind may be further fuelled by the inner trigger of “euphoric recall”. I recall the release from stress the smoking experience gives, the carefree feeling on the weekend (such as today), the socialising with others who smoke, maybe chatting up a woman... or two. Euphoric recall is re-experiencing the fantasy in the past of the highs, the buzz, pleasures and experiences associated with the use of my drug of choice. In addition, while the mind over-emphasises the positives, it simultaneously suppresses and denies the negative consequences (past, present and future).

Is my addict mind conspiring against me? Actually, yes! The addict mind wants it’s desires met at any cost. Yet, even as an addiction counsellor I’ve known this for years. A friend challenged me recently “practice what you preach”. Or “healer, heal thyself” others would say. What could I say? It’s true. It's so easy to talk and so extremely different to walk.

When I allow myself the time to STOP, I face the reality of my addiction. In Twelve Step lingo, my “addiction is powerful, cunning and baffling”. It is a part of me. An illness that I will forever need to be vigilant about. Some days will be easy. Other days sheer torment. Let’s be there for someone.

7 Ways to Prevent and Reverse Relapse (Part 1 of 2)

Posted by Peter Guess on October 29, 2012 at 6:45 PM Comments comments (0)

Published October 12, 2012 | By Daphne E. Tarongo on

Recovery is a life-long journey. It’s day in and day out–morning, noon, and night. We rejoice with our victories, and we sob with our defeats.

Many times, our missteps teach us the greatest lessons. But if we’re not careful, our missteps can also send us head first into a full-blown relapse.

Today–and in my next post, I want to use the letters in the word “RELAPSE” to share with you seven ways we can prevent—and even reverse—relapse on our recovery journeys.

1. Reflect

Think about the things you are doing that remind you of your “former self”—that is, pre-recovery. Lately, I’ve been getting angry easily and making sarcastic comments—signs of “old Daphne” resurfacing. Maybe you are: 

  • Criticizing others
  • Trying to please people
  • Taking a drink here and there
  • Bursting out in anger
  • Mistreating your body
  • Flirting with pornography

 Identifying these signs will help you uncover any underlying issues that need to be addressed. God will show you those signs as you quietly listen to Him and ask Him to “search you” (Psalm 139:23).

  • Expose your triggers and plan your escape strategies
  • Look up and re-learn scripture passages

7 Ways to Prevent and Reverse Relapse (Part 2 of 2)

Posted by Peter Guess on October 29, 2012 at 7:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Published October 21, 2012 | By Daphne E. Tarongo on

In last week’s post, I introduced three of the seven ways we can prevent—and reverse—relapse in our recovery journeys.

Let’s recap…

R is for Reflect.

E is for Expose your triggers and plan your escape strategies.

L is for Look up and re-learn scripture passages.

I hope you’re already putting those into practice. I know I am!

Today, we’ll complete the acronym “RELAPSE” with the letters A, P, S, and E.

Here goes…

4. Activate your accountability partners

Our enemy wants us to stay silent and pretend all is okay. He wants us to keep our struggles to ourselves. Remember: Silence comes with a cost.

When I refused to confess my sin, I was weak and miserable, and I groaned all day long. (Psalm 32:3)

Silence pains us physically, emotionally, mentally, relationally, and spiritually.

It’s better to have a partner than go it alone…. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But people who are alone when they fall are in real trouble…. A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

Accountability partners who struggle with similar issues can empathize with us, they can share what has worked for them, and they keep us on track with our recovery. They are there for us when we’re tempted to give in. Most importantly, they can pray for us.

If you haven’t talked to your accountability partner in a while, give him/her a call and catch up. If you don’t have an accountability partner, pray. Ask God to place someone on your heart and to lead you to the right person—someone of the same sex whom you can trust and share your struggles and victories—big and small.


Pray, pray, pray

Share your story

Evaluate regularly

Thanks to Daphne E. Tarango for these publications.

Quitting Nicotine Addiction: Day 16

Posted by Peter Guess on April 21, 2012 at 9:35 AM Comments comments (0)

Quit Day 16:

Going well. Urges less frequent. Less intense. And positive feelings & signs emerging. Recovery from Nicotine addiction is, in essence, like any other addiction - as I've had to discover...

I'm posting my experiences, both up's and down's as part of my journey in recovery. I've tried to quirt many times before. I started smoking only at age 40! Real weird. But that, I may comment on later. All I know is that when I started experimenting in my 40's, I passed through the "social" (using) and abusing phases very quickly and moved into the addiction phase, within months.

My Tools

The programme I am using is the Twelve Steps from AAA. I therefore regularly do the following at this early stage of recovery:


  • I admit I am powerless over my addictiion and that it makes my life is unmanageable (e.g. I do what I hate doing, spend money I can use elsewhere, my health is in shreds, my head is pre-occupied with smoking, I'm compulsive, I'm on edge if not smoking, cravings have become almost impossible to fathom and bear, and many more...)
  • I have come to believe that a Power Greater than myself can restore me to sanity (balance, health, freedom from obsessive thinking and compulsive behaviour). This involves allowing people and God, as I understand God, to help and support and guide me.
  • I ask for daily guidance and power because I have turned my will and life over to the care of God , as I understand God. This, with the two above points, is how I surrender and admit I cannot do this alone and I actively CHOOSE to NOT do it alone. Stubborn self-will and so called "willpower", create the illusion of control. This illusion is the main root of relapsing from all addictions, in my view.
  • As a result of the above 3 steps of the programme, I share freely with selected people about my progress, in a humble and cautious way, to be open to wisdom and support.
  • I express gratitude. Every clean day is a victory I am deeply grateful for. I thank God for the daily courage and wisdom.
  • I share with others people to encourage those who may be battling with other or similar addictions or other life issues.
  • I reflect and learn from the process of recovery and keep notes of lessons learnt.
  • I use the Serenity Prayer frequently, when I battle with craving, stress or things beyond my control that may trigger a relapse or cravings.



God, grant me the


to accept the things

I cannot change


to change the

things I can



to know the difference

- Attributed to Reinhold Neibuhr



How Do I Know This Is An Addiction?

Posted by Peter Guess on June 24, 2011 at 7:05 PM Comments comments (2)


I am writing this in a way that can be used as a Self-Administered Addiction Check-Up (before going to the online self-test) to identify signs that indicate the presence of an addiction. The first thing I look at is the PATTERNS of usage (whether drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, food, internet gaming, etc.). These I will refer to as DOC (Drug of Choice). The second is the IMPACT of the patterns on the functioning of the individual and the family and loved ones. These are not in clear, distinct categories, as you will see as I ask the questions. I will be framing the questions as if you are the one with the possible addiction.

Note your "Yes" answers as you go along. So here goes...


  • Are you losing control over your using of your DOC?
  • Do you need more and more of the DOC, stronger doses or more frequently?
  • Do you make promises to cut down or stop and fail continually to do this?
  • Do you go on binges (weekly, monthly or for whatever period), believing you are in control?
  • When you do stop or cut down drastically, do you experience any signs of *withdrawal? (*Note: These signs are in two basic categories: (a) psychological symptoms like: irritability, aggression, depression, mood swings, emptiness, craving, obsessing over the DOC and/or (b) physical symptoms like: sweating, headaches, pain, insomnia, changes in eating patterns, shaking, fever...)
  • Have you been referred to a health professional or treatment centre due to concerns over your DOC? Or sought help for yourself as a result of your usage?
  • When you use your DOC are you experiencing more and more discomfort, guilt or shame?
  • Are you beginning to isolate yourself or withdraw due to your DOC?
  • Are your friends, family, spouse or partner asking you (no begging you) to cut down or stop?


  • Is your life becoming unmanageable in one or more of these areas: Career? Money? Relationships? Confidence? Self-esteem? Spiritual life? Social life? Hobbies? Sport?
  • Are people withdrawing from you due to your DOC or the changes they see in you?
  • Do you continue using in spite of some serious consequences you have experienced? For example: loss of a job, traffic accident, police arrest, threats of divorce, drop in achievement (in studies, career, sport...)
  • Are there clear signs of weight loss or gain; changes in eating patters; or deterioration of general health?
  • Is your social circle changing and you tend to spend more time with other using your DOC or in that environment (e.g. bars, hotels, strip shows, adult shops, gaming stalls)

This is not a comprehensive list by any means. These are just key questions I probe or information I listen for. If you can identify with even ONE of these questions, I suggest it is worth having a Risk-Assessment and talking to someone as soon as possible. Why? Because denial is a part of the development of any addiction. It blinds one to the reality of what is happening.


Denial is part of the disease of addiction. Denial keeps the addiction going. It feeds the addiction like fuel to a flame. Denial locks in the disease of addiction. Both the user or addict and those closest to the person, experience denial. Denial is a set of cunning ways the addiction "fools" everyone that everything is OK or "it will just go away if we/I leave it". Here are some ways we deny the reality of addiction:

  • Minimisation: "It's not as bad as person X?" When confronted the person says, "You are making a big deal about nothing. Lighten up. I'm just having fun."
  • Projection: The person blames the economy, bad boss, bad marriage, drinking partner, a crisis, some stressful situation...
  • Rationalisation: "It's just a bad habit. You also have some bad habits." "Everybody does it." "I'm just going through a stage." "I can stop if I want to."

As you can see, this "faulty thinking" or denial is also a clear sign of the presence of addiction. The sad news is that denial perpetuates the progressive growth of the disease. It masks the problem. People help and enable the problem by believing these lies. These lies contribute to and compound the problem and delay the person and the family from getting the help they need.

Click here for Your Check-Up and Risk-Assessment

So, my appeal to you is to get professional help as soon as possible. the longer it continues the more the addiction becomes treatment resistant! And that's the bad news.

The good news is this. Yes, addiction is difficult to treat. Yes, to date, we know of no cure for addiction. And we know you cannot try to control it either. Untreated addiction always gets worse. It is a progressive disease and takes down the individual and those around the person.

But, the good news is that it is treatable. There is hope for living a new life. Millions of people across the world, from all walks of life have found new hope and courage to live sober and meaningful lives using simple principles and steps, with support systems including other recovering addicts.

Just a question. Do you realise why I started the blog with the headline:

"The First Key Step In Recovery?"

The 12 Steps of Recovery, based on Alcoholics Anonymous, says the first step is this:

"We admitted we were powerless over our addiction, and that our lives had become unmanageable."

Based on this blog, if you identify the problem clearly and begin the process of surrender, you (as a supporter, loved one or the person with the addiction) are taking the first crucial step. Surrender means you are raising the white flag and saying "OK, I need help. And I will do whatever it takes to recover." Without this step done thoroughly, no long-term recovery is possible. You may be a spouse or employer of a person with this addiction. Or you have the addiction yourself. You need not do this alone anymore.

I know the desperation of struggling alone. Why? Though I am a qualified counsellor, I am also an addict in recovery. And I know the pain of seeing my Mother and Father struggle with their addiction and feeling helpless to stop the downward spiral. Both died with unteated alcoholism. This has been one of my sources of inspiration to find answers for myself and others.

In my next few blogs I will discuss the process of recovery - principles, steps and support systems - in some detail, and why they work "if you work them".

Don't wait though. Call me now! Any time. And let's have a chat. I really want to help and inject some hope.

To Your Health and Wholeness,

Peter Guess

Click here for Your Check-Up and Risk-Assessment