Most of what people think they know about addiction recovery is wrong. Addiction recovery myths have gained a life of their own thanks to movies, TV shows, and years of inaccurate stereotypes. The most negative consequence of these recovery misconceptions is that they undermine treatment and even prevent addicts from seeking treatment in the first place.
Here are seven of the most common addiction recovery myths, debunked.
1. Addiction is a choice. You can stop whenever you want.
You chose this problem. You can choose to end the problem.
While the initial use of alcohol or drugs is a choice, ongoing use can lead to addiction, which is a complex physical, mental, and emotional disease. Withdrawal symptoms can be extremely painful, dangerous, and even deadly.
While the recovery from addiction requires an addict to make a choice to seek help, treatment from trained professionals is needed to help the addict understand the causes of addiction and what steps should be taken to get sober and stay sober.
2. If you go to rehab, then you’ll lose your job.
An addict in rehab can’t contribute. You’re a troublemaker and a problem not worth having.
In reality, if you spend any significant time with co-workers, they probably suspect you have an addiction. There’s a good chance you’ll lose your job if you don’t go to rehab. Even if you’re performing well right now, there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to maintain that performance.
Many companies offer employee assistance programs designed to help people get treatment for addiction. Use of this type of program allows you to seek treatment without your supervisor’s knowledge unless addiction has already caused problems at work. Many employers also allow you to use Family and Medical Leave Act coverage or take vacation time to receive addiction treatment.
3. You have to hit rock bottom before you get better.
You’re still doing well at work. Your family is happy. You don’t need help.
As with any disease, early detection and early action are critical to recovery. If you wait to seek treatment until you lose your job and the support of your family, you only compound your problems. The longer you wait, the worse the addiction will get, and the more difficult recovery will be.
Successful people can become addicted to drugs and alcohol. Good parents can be addicts. Good students can be addicts. Star athletes and performers can be addicts. Don’t wait until different areas of your life begin to suffer before seeking treatment.
4. Treatment will make the problem go away.
Once you get over withdrawal symptoms and complete a 12-step plan, you’ll be fine.
Like any chronic disease, addiction can be treated but not cured. Every addict can lead a happy, productive life with the proper treatment. That’s what we call recovery.
Of course, very few addicts complete their treatment and never look back. There will be cravings and urges. The strength of these cravings and urges can be based on the individual’s biological and psychological makeup, history, and surrounding environment. Recovered addicts who continue to follow the recommendations and strategies of their therapist and receive support are less likely to relapse.
5. A relapse means you’re not committed to your recovery.
If you start using again, you’re a lost cause. You’re not serious about getting clean.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, about half of addicts relapse during recovery. In fact, the isolation of the coronavirus pandemic is causing relapse rates to increase. Relapse can cause an addict to feel shame and regret. Referring to an addict as a failure or lost cause, especially for such a common occurrence, only increases these feelings.
Relapse should be viewed not as a failure, but as an opportunity to identify the cause and triggers of substance use, explore new treatment options, and reduce the risk of future relapse. Relapse is a common obstacle of an addict, not a sign of weakness or lack of commitment.
6. Detox will be the worst experience ever.
I’ve seen those TV shows with people in detox. It’s a nightmare.
First, don’t believe everything you see on TV, even if it’s a so-called reality show. While there is no getting around the fact that detox can be uncomfortable and even painful, detox is also a critical part of recovery. When detox is supervised and monitored by trained professionals, you’ll be in a better position to manage withdrawal symptoms. Also, medical detox is now being used by many treatment centers to make the process more comfortable.
7. Addiction rehab is just a bunch of people sitting around talking.
You sit there and talk to a therapist. You sit there and talk to a group. It’s boring.
Traditional individual and group therapy is certainly part of the road to recovery, but it’s not the only part. Experiential therapy, which involves activities ranging from music and the arts to dogs and horses to spending time with nature, allows addicts to recover through doing, not just talking. At Sea Change Recovery, our adventure therapy program includes surf lessons, oceanfront meditation, jiu-jitsu, and other activities that are both invigorating and relaxing.
Recovery Myths are Debunked at Sea Change Recovery
Sea Change Recovery offers a number addiction treatment techniques, including experiential therapy as part of residential treatment in our Southern California facility. At Sea Change, rehab is based on science and focused on healing, not addiction recovery myths.