Since even medical science cannot provide answers that apply universally to those living with addiction, it is still a matter of dealing with the individual rather than relying solely on any group approach. While this ensures the best course for each person seeking their road out of addiction, it requires separating dogmatic beliefs from science or more directly, the myths from the realities. By identifying some of the widespread myths of addiction, it becomes easier to see the individual in their completeness. Here are just a few of those myths.
Myth #1: Those that suffer from addiction are weak. Addictions affect people of all ages, cultures and socio-economic backgrounds, and no amount of moral, physical or mental fortitude can guard against falling prey to its grip. Researchers have shown that long-term substance use alters brain chemistry, which results in the very real physical and mental cravings for the drug of choice including alcohol. This makes it very difficult for the addicted person to quit using their own willpower and any sense of determination.
Myth #2: Addicts must hit bottom before they can be treated. With the countless people that have lost everything to addiction, it should be obvious that overwhelming loss and despair of hitting so called “rock bottom” is not an impetus for change or even a viable starting point for change. In fact, “hitting bottom” is such a nebulous concept that it is a life threatening myth that has caused the death of many a person. The goal should be to reach people wherever they are in their battle with addiction and provide the support necessary to help them get the necessary treatment that starts them on the road to recovery. The earlier that intervention and treatment begins the better are the chances of recovery.
Myth #3: The addicted person must surrender their will in order to get well. This can be another dangerous myth as our knowledge of addiction shows that it is a sense of helplessness that sets the stage for addiction. Consequently, surrendering their will is the exact opposite of what they need to do in order to begin the recovery process. It is actually the concepts of self-agency and engendering feelings of personal control that help the person suffering from addiction to fight the urges and become stronger as they move through the recovery process.
Myth #4: There is no hope for addicts who relapse. Like any chronic disorder, the process of getting well is one where setbacks are as much a part of recovery as making gains. As such, the concept of relapses as evidence of hopelessness for the addict getting better is a false one. This concept also feeds into the problems associated with that of starting over after every relapse, thereby negating the hard work that came before. What this does in practice is to create intense feelings of failure in the person battling addiction, which makes the fight to move forward even more difficult. Processing the events surrounding a relapse can be healthy and aid in preventing future relapses. Acknowledging that the progress that came before was real and that its benefits are still cumulative is a strong weapon in the growing arsenal of the person recovering from addiction.
Myth #5: Take One Day at a Time. While there is a psychological basis for the concept of breaking a task down into smaller parts to make accomplishing the goal easier, this is in no way true when it comes to addiction and the idea of “one day at a time.” By purposefully ignoring the future, the addicted person is more prone to being hit by intense feelings that are unanticipated in such a short-sighted viewpoint Psychiatrists and psychologists have shown that the ability to look ahead is a powerful tool for people that are traveling the road to recovery. It is a way of heading off addictive urges and anticipating a future free from the grips of their addiction.