There are many misconceptions surrounding the nature of addiction. Many of these errors in thinking are employed by those who have no first-hand knowledge of the struggle, but some are espoused by the recovering persons, themselves. These types of myths can impede the road to recovery, through spreading misinformation and discouragement. In seeking to help ourselves, or our loved ones, away from addiction, it is important that these types of misunderstandings be corrected through proper consideration. As Confucius has said, “Education breeds confidence. Confidence breeds hope. Hope breeds peace.”
Myth #1: Addicts are Bad People
Those who work with others in addiction know, indisputably, that the majority of folks who struggle with substance abuse are just like everyone else. People in addiction have usually arrived there after making some counterproductive decisions in life, and often as a result of seeking a way to relieve severe mental health symptoms. Still others end up in addiction after following the orders of doctors to take highly addictive, prescription, medications for severe pain. Having empathy and compassion for the addiction as a symptom of distress – and not as a character flaw – is imperative for the recovery of those whom we wish to help.
It is pointless to deny the fact that addiction and criminal activity are associated. It is equally important, however, to recognize that a person under the influence of a substance is not acting as his or her true self. In addiction, the substance becomes the ruler of a person’s thoughts, emotions, and actions. It overrides any drives toward any goal other than feeding that next high. Don’t be too quick to ascribe to the person what can truly be blamed on the effects of the substance.
Myth #2: People Choose to Be Addicted
While it can be argued that there exists the presence of choice as related to initial use of a substance, there comes a point of addiction where it is no longer we who are choosing to live in such a way. The nature of addiction is that it takes over our conscious choice, and carries us down a river of destruction. For a person in addiction, the hunger for the substance is similar to our hunger for food, but with the added negative component of impairing rational thought. They may have initially contributed to the presence of that hunger, but they soon become the puppet of it.
The more highly addictive a substance, the less chances there are for us to rouse from our addiction coma, and the less opportunities for us to resist the primitive mental, emotional, and physical hunger for the drug. The experience of being trapped in the violent whirlpool of addiction makes it all the more imperative that, when we finally do see those exit routes, we take them.
Myth #3: Other People Can End The Addiction
Popular television shows tend to posit that addicts can be changed through outside influence. It suggests that loved ones can rationally explain the pain they experience over our actions, and can effectively guilt the addict into sobriety. Anyone who follows those types of stories to the end will be able to note that the changes – if any – are often only temporary. Intervention approaches rarely produce lasting changes, and can sometimes contribute to even more damage.
The decision to become sober ultimately has to stem from an internal motivation. For the addict who has used substances as a means of escaping negative experiences, heaping more negative emotions upon them – in the form of guilt or ultimatums – is unlikely to to produce the healing power which is required for the development of inner peace. It is the finding of inner peace which sustains recovery, and failure to find it often leads to relapse. It is highly likely that your loved one will eventually be able to feel remorse over the pain that the addiction brought to others, but his or her own pain must be dealt with, first.
Myth #4: Relapse Is Failure
The idea of relapse meaning that one has to return, full-fledged, to the behaviors of addiction is a form of cognitive distortion known as all-or-nothing thinking. We are often our own worst enemy when it comes to considering that one failure to live up to our goals means that continuous failure is inevitable. This type of thinking can even be what creates the scenario where we continue in our bad decisions, intent on fulfilling our own doomsday prophecy.
What do you do when you fall off the horse? You get back on. The idea behind this antiquated phrase can be applied to all manner of life difficulties, but it is especially relevant within the realm of recovery. Not only does your success in eventual sobriety depend on you not allowing yourself to consider a slip-up as anything other than a temporary state, you must also resist the fatalistic attitudes of others toward such an occurrence.
Myth #5: Addicts Have to Hit Rock Bottom Before They Recover
This particular myth has been propagated by former addicts, themselves. While it is sometimes the case that we refuse to change our behaviors until there are absolutely no choices in the matter remaining, it is equally possible for us to make a change based on cognitive reasoning. Considerations of the potential future, should we continue down our road of addiction, can be just as powerful in choosing recovery as actually experiencing the destruction of it.
As previously mentioned, there are points within addiction where we experience moments of clarity. It is during these moments where some will remember the pain and struggles in a way which prompt them toward taking that next hit of substance. Rather than letting that transient clarity move you back toward such a destructive form of escapism, that moment can be used as motivation to seek change. Wisdom is the ability to make decisions without having to go through the painful experience, first hand, and wisdom can lead us away from ultimately hitting that brick wall.