When it comes to addiction and recovery, it’s vital to have the facts. The problem is that sometimes the facts are overshadowed by the myths that surround the world of addiction and recovery, and it can be difficult to sort what is true from what is not.
In order to help you make that distinction, the following are some of the most common myths about addiction and recovery, as well as the facts.
Myth: Addiction Is A Choice, And Someone With A Dependency Disorder Can Stop Using Whenever They Want
Fact: Despite what many people may think, addiction is not a choice and is not a matter of willpower. Those struggling with a dependency disorder cannot stop using easily or whenever they want because addiction and dependency go deeper than being a matter of willpower. In fact, for some, the body and brain become so dependent on alcohol or another substance that suddenly stopping use can be dangerous and even life-threatening. The inability to stop using a substance actually has to do with changes in the brain. According to ABC News, “…Any so-called lack of willpower in an addict has been caused by changes in the brain. Dependence on drugs or alcohol caused these very changes. The inability to make clear decisions is a by-product of the same disease from which the addict is trying to escape… The first step, therefore, is to call addiction what it is, instead of the well-worn metaphors that polite, embarrassed, or justifiably frightened people have used for generations. It is not a “problem.” It is not “a phase she’s going through.” It is not “shaking out the jams before he settles down.” It is a chronic, relapsing brain disease.”
Myth: Addicts Can Be Identified Easily Because They Are Poor, Homeless And Have Nothing Left
Fact: This may be true in some cases, but definitely not the majority. Many of those with a dependency disorder are high-functioning, meaning they still have jobs, relationships, and financial security. As they progress in the disorder, they may begin to lose these things, or they may not. What’s interesting is that being homeless and lacking money often leads to substance abuse, rather than the other way around. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, “In many situations, however, substance abuse is a result of homelessness rather than a cause. People who are homeless often turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with their situations. They use substances in an attempt to attain temporary relief from their problems. In reality, however, substance dependence only exacerbates their problems and decreases their ability to achieve employment stability and get off the streets.”
When it comes down to it, stereotypical images of addicts and alcoholics are not realistic and can be misleading for many.
Myth: Those With A Substance Abuse Disorder Are A Lost Cause
Fact: This is far from true. Recovery from a substance abuse disorder is possible if the right steps are taken. Sometimes the biggest battle is getting a person to accept help, whether that means attending counseling, inpatient treatment or outpatient treatment. However, the process can be a long and frustrating one for some. The National Institute on Drug Abuse states, “Gaining the ability to stop abusing drugs is just one part of a long and complex recovery process…Because addiction can affect so many aspects of a person’s life, treatment must address the needs of the whole person to be successful. This is why the best programs incorporate a variety of rehabilitative services into their comprehensive treatment regimens. Treatment counselors may select from a menu of services for meeting the specific medical, psychological, social, vocational, and legal needs of their patients to foster their recovery from addiction.”
After treatment, it’s possible for a person to stay sober, as long as they have the right tools. According to Renew Everyday, “In any given day, over 700,000 Americans seek treatment for alcohol or drug addiction” and “At least one-third of alcoholics fully recover.” These numbers are promising.
Myth: A Sober Life Is A Boring Life
Fact: Living a sober lifestyle does not have to be boring. This is perhaps one of the biggest fears for people when they start out on the path of sobriety and recovery. They may be afraid that old friends won’t want to spend time with them, or that they won’t be invited to partake in activities anymore. While it’s true that life in sobriety may look different than life in addiction, that does not mean that a sober life is boring. Often upon getting sober, people discover hobbies they are passionate about that they were unable to dedicate time to when they were using. Or maybe they become able to dedicate more time to a career, or even education. When you remove alcohol from the equation, many doors open.
Of course, these myths are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to addiction and recovery. A lot of misinformation about addiction exists, and before taking things at face value, it is important to do research on the topic in order to be fully educated.
Written by: Beth Leipholtz
Addiction & Recovery: The Stats. Renew Everyday. Accessed 20 December 2016.
Addiction: Why Can’t They Just Stop? ABC News. 7 March 2007. Accessed 20 December 2016.
Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Accessed 20 December 2016.
Substance Abuse and Homelessness. National Coalition for the Homeless. Accessed 20 December 2016. http://www.nationalhomeless.org/factsheets/addiction.pdf