Regression to the mean

It’d be really nice if  this was simply a theory piece about the practical application of the statistical phenomenon in the title, and its psychological impact on addiction.  Unfortunately, this is one of those pieces I write after I’ve relapsed.

There is plenty on the theory available online, Here, Here and Here for example. But the simple idea is that when something extremely good happens, it is most likely to be followed by something less extreme.  This is most typically true of events that are random in nature, but the idea can be used elsewhere.

In this case I am comparing it to levels of connectedness.  If I have a day during which I am and feel incredibly connected, the simple statistical likelihood that I will feel just as connected the next day is still going to be fairly small.  Unfortunately, I expect the extreme to continue.  (take a look at Bayes’ Theorem for an explanation of why that is.)  When the extreme connection (which is rather nice) does not happen repeatedly, I become disappointed, and start longing for anything that looks like connection.  I grasp indiscriminately after connection.  This, can lead to problems.

I don’t know that I’ve explained myself all that well in this post.  (I’m kind of exhausted at the moment.)  Hopefully it will make more sense when reading through the prevention sheet below.

Relapse Prevention Sheet


Interrupted Sleep, regression to the mean re:Connection, sexual chat online and via SMS,


I had recently had some experiences of what I think were good healthy connection with two of my friends, as well as a common interest group surrounding one of my new hobbies. As I was coming off those positive experiences, I was contacted by someone whom I had deleted from my contact list on the online chat program I used. Talking to him felt like a way to regain the level of connection that I thought was slipping back to normal.  When that connection turned out to be unhealthy, it already had me, and as a result I was sling-shotted to a connective low.

Thought Analysis:

Automatic Thought:

Connection is needed

Rational Response:

Connection is good, and is needed, but the value of each connection is different.  The level of connection will vary with time, and such variance is to be expected.

Challenge Statement:

Evaluating not only the level of connection, but the relative amount of connection over time will give a more complete picture of where I am headed, and help me to be on guard when I need to be.

Automatic Thought:

Deleting contacts from my Yahoo account is enough.

Rational Response:

You may not be able to contact them, but they can still contact you.  This leaves a way for needy individuals to squeeze their way back in, enticing you to rescue them, letting your guard down, especially when you are regressing to the connective mean.

Challenge Statement:

I can be ok, even if I don’t have a fall-back source of connection.  A safety net made of razor wire is not really a safety net.

Automatic Thought:

Frank discussions are healthy.

Rational Response:

Frank discussions can be healthy, but they can also be an unhealthy reinforcement of thought patterns I am trying to demolish.

Challenge Statement:

Is this discussion helping me get where I want to be?  Is it pulling me into places I don’t want to go?

Preceding Behaviors:

I had a pretty amazingly connective week when my relapse happened.  I had gone to see the musical put on by a friend and his school.  After the musical, I waited and got to chat with my friend.  He walked over to me and gave me a big hug, and thanked me for coming.  As I was driving home, he thanked me again for coming, and told me that it meant a lot to him.  I told him that I wouldn’t have missed it.  A tentative friendship was strengthened.

Later that night, I was enjoying the connective high, and I started connecting with some people I had previously stopped talking to.  A gay man I know chatted with me online. (I had deleted him from my contact list, but he could still see when I was online. I hadn’t realized this was the case.) He told me of his relationship problems, and I started to rescue him.  In doing so, I reactivated thought patterns that led to a near relapse.

A few days later, I had an amazing day in terms of connection.  It started with me spending several hours doing my new hobby, and being told that I was pretty good at it. (connection, plus ego boost.)   After that, I had a lovely lunch with people about whom I care a lot.  Later that evening, I went and watched a friend who is a professional fighter.  He won his fight, and at the after party we hugged, after not having seen each other for a couple of months.  Again, this was a connective high for me.  The following day, I did very little that made me feel connected to much of anyone other than those who were online.  This led to discussions of an overt sexual nature.  That night I was able to pull away, but when I woke up early the next morning, the limbic brain maintained control, and I relapsed.

Negative Consequences:

Sobriety is now reset at 2/27/11

I have remained fairly positive, but it has taken a fair amount of energy to do so.  I’ve wanted to just sit in a corner and cry, but haven’t.  I’m mixed as whether moving back to forward progress immediately allows me a proper amount of time to mourn the sobriety that was reset.  I certainly don’t want to dwell, but I also don’t want to minimize the legitimate impact it has had on me.

Recovery Techniques and New Behaviors:

I deleted my Yahoo account.

I had a trusted friend change the access password on my internet filtering software.

I’ve paid more attention to the time after I’ve felt particularly connected to others.

Positive Consequences:

As I no longer have my go to source of unhealthy connection, I have reached out to a new friend, and have developed what looks to be a really good friendship.

Understanding that I’m sensitive not only to the level of connection, but to the rate of change of connection over time, I can be on guard during times that my level of connection is dropping.


2 thoughts on “Regression to the mean

  1. Just want to say: Thank you for making this blog. I haven’t read much of it but I support you in your decision to move out of homosexuality. You have the right and freedom to define who you want to be. I think your comments for why you are doing this are spot on. Mormons who have experienced attraction to others of the same sex and who have diminished those attractions rarely speak openly about it…(people like me). It can be very hard when the world around tries to impose on you a definition of who you should be and all you can see are examples of the other type. I wish you the very best! -A brother.

    1. Pete,
      You are welcome. I’m going to be writing about some thoughts I’ve had recently on terms and definitions as we apply them to ourselves, and as others apply them, as well as the potential effects of each. I’ve not yet come up with the right term, but hopefully we’ll all be able to have a conversation about them, instead of hiding from them. (general we, not you or I specifically. not singling anyone out here…)
      Thank you for reading, and please let me know if there is anything in particular that I should write about.

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