Do you or a loved one struggle with addiction? We all know the detrimental consequences associated with prolonged substance use. From strained relationships to diminished self-esteem to health complications (including death), addiction doesn't cut corners with its ramifications.
It's reasonable to desperately want recovery for yourself or an addicted loved one. That said, the process isn't always straightforward. Unfortunately, there are many toxic misconceptions about what recovery does and doesn't entail.
Let's get into some of the myths.
"You Can Stop If You Want To Stop"
There is no doubt that addiction can be frustrating. You watch yourself or someone struggle with the same negative cycles again and again. You know the decisions are dangerous and yet they keep being made.
Maybe you want to stop—and you have tried to stop—but the compulsion feels so consuming that it's easier to give into it. And so, the pattern continues.
Addiction is a chronic, medical condition that impacts one's neurobiological chemistry. It affects biological, social, and psychological functioning. The brain becomes hardwired to seek, crave, and withdraw from substances.
"Stopping" isn't as easy as wanting to stop. If it were that simple, everyone would do it! Instead, recovery often entails a process of intense trial-and-error, of learning new coping skills, and of learning how to manage intense cravings when they arise.
"Addicts Are Bad People"
Classifying any group of people as bad can lead us down a shaming rabbit hole.
Most people struggling with addiction have histories of co-occurring issues like depression or anxiety. They may have struggled with trauma or abuse in their past. Substances themselves aren't the problem; often, they are the escape and numbing solution for other issues the individual has faced.
It is both ignorant and unfair to assume that these people are "bad." While they may make choices that harm themselves or others, it's often unintentional and done as a means of survival.
"Abstinence Is The Only Way"
Many people stop using drugs and alcohol altogether when they enter recovery. This approach is known as abstinence, which refers to the elimination of mood-altering substances.
However, this treatment option doesn't work for everyone. Some people will benefit from more of a harm reduction approach. Others will need Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT).
"You Need Professional Treatment"
Treatment can be one of the best decisions you make for addiction recovery. Treatment options vary, but you can typically expect a combination of psychotherapy, medication, and other counseling-related services.
However, treatment is not always viable for everyone. For example, scheduling and financial constraints may make it difficult to pursue this option. Moreover, there are other options, like support groups and holistic care, that may be effective in supporting recovery efforts.
Addiction already has a terrible stigma attached to it. By perpetuating untrue myths, we only perpetuate this stigma, which further alienates and harms those who are struggling.
Knowledge is essential. The more you are willing to learn and integrate information into your life, the more you can help yourself and the people around you.