It’s easy to have strong opinions about something when you haven’t been personally affected by it. Addiction is one such thing that draws criticism from people, and sometimes, the people with the biggest opinions are those who haven’t had to look addiction in the face.
If you or a loved one has struggled with addiction, you’re probably familiar with the common misconceptions that surround this brain disease, and many of them focus on control. I would never choose to be an addict. Why can’t you just stop? Don’t you care that you’re hurting your family?
Unfortunately, addiction doesn’t work this way. It’s very similar to other diseases of the body – you may not have control over the disease itself, but you are not a prisoner when it comes to making smart, healthy decisions that will set your mind and body up for success.
Let’s take a look at six of the most common misconceptions about addiction.
1. Addicts lack morals and integrity.
When an addiction take a hold of a person, they will lie, steal and hurt others around them to get their hands on drugs. Nothing else matters, and to the outside world, this appears that the addict lacks strong morals, integrity or decency.
However, anyone can have a genetic predisposition for addiction no matter what type of character they possess. Once the addiction is in full force, it strips the addict of their true self, so what people see is the addiction at work, not the actual person. While it can be hard to look past what a recovering addict has done, it’s important to know that addicts do have morals, values and integrity, and with help and support, they can show these qualities in time.
2. If the addict is strong enough, they can reach sobriety on their own.
Addiction is often associated with weakness. Some people believe that if you’re strong, you won’t become addicted, and if you do happen to struggle, you can stop using if you just put your mind to it. But, this isn’t how it works.
Addiction is not about weakness or strength. When an addiction forms, the addict needs professional help. Period. The type and length of treatment varies from one individual to the next, but professional help is what teaches addicts the tools and skills they need to quit using and live in a world without self medication.
3. An addict can’t be helped until they reach rock bottom.
This is not necessarily true. Many addicts do reach rock bottom before they realize how severe their problem is, but this is not the standard for seeking treatment. In fact, the sooner an addict is treated, the better. The addiction may not be as severe at this point, and it will be easier to treat. Sometimes, we have no choice but to wait until an addict hits the bottom in their mind and is ready for treatment. But, to stand around and wait for this moment is the wrong approach. Encourage help early on.
4. If rehab has failed once before, it will fail the addict again.
We get it – treatment is expensive. Getting an addict there is difficult. So, when rehab fails an addict, it’s hard to trust in it again. But, for some addicts, it takes several rounds of treatment before everything clicks. Each rehab visit is a stepping stone where the addict learns new skills and tools for handling their addiction. They may relapse and require treatment – again – but they should never be given up on. There are many recovered addicts who are leading productive, healthy lives but had been in treatment several times before progress was made.
5. Interventions should only be staged with close family and friends.
It’s difficult to predict how an addict will respond to an intervention. While it’s true that these meetings should be small and intimate and only include very close family and friends, they should also involve a professional interventionist who can manage the meeting and serve as a mediator. Professional interventionists ensure that everyone stays on track with what they are supposed to say without letting emotion, name calling or blame get in the way. An interventionist can also help keep the addict in control so that he/she does not lash out.
6. Once an addict, always an addict.
Addiction is a brain disease, but its symptoms can be successfully managed. A recovered addict may know that while they do struggle with addiction, that doesn’t give them the excuse to abuse drugs. What it means is that they must make smart choices for themselves and think twice about certain decisions, such as attending a party or agreeing to have a drink with friends. It takes time to feel confident about managing an addiction, but it can be achieved. In fact, it’s the ultimate goal.