Does anyone other than an addict truly understand addiction or recovery?
If I don’t have cancer, can I ever really wrap my head around what it’s like to undergo chemo or radiation therapy? Can I possibly comprehend what it means to be in recovery, or remission, from that particular illness?
The same is true for addiction and recovery. Because not everyone can understand, there are lots of ideas, guesses, and assumptions about what drug addiction, alcoholism, and recovery from both entail.
Here are 5 common misconceptions about recovery. See where you stand.
1. Hitting Rock Bottom is a Must
There are actually lots of addicts and alcoholics who are now clean and sober even though they never really hit that proverbial rock bottom that everyone talks about as being required for recovery.
If you’ve ever seen the A&E show, Intervention, then you’ve watched people go into rehab without that one event that lead to a realization that rehab was needed.
In recovery from drugs and alcohol, an addict needs to feel it’s time for them to get clean and sober, but that does not need to come as the result of a rock bottom.
2. Addicts Lack Willpower
Non-addicts can have the mindset that addicts lack the mental strength to stop using, or to stay clean and sober in recovery. Instead, the brain and body of the addict has become accustomed to one or more substances dictating how they feel. When that is gone, the system has a hard time functioning on its own.
Willpower does not negate the strength of a physical and psychological illness like addiction. While addicts need to stay strong each day and choose recovery over using, willpower is really not part of the problem or the solution as some would like to believe.
3. Rehab is a Cure
Some people wrongly assume that when they see a loved one go to treatment, that he or she will be cured upon program completion. It’s almost like sending your car through the automatic car wash knowing that the end result will be that your car is cleaner than it was when you drove up.
Rehab is not like a car wash though. Every addict is different, and the timing of rehab in someone’s life can play a big part in its effectiveness. As we see through high-profile celebrities stories, there are a lot of people who have to participate in treatment multiple times before it has a life-changing impact on that client.
Look at people like Robert Downey, Jr. He was actively using drug heavily for many years. He went to rehab a few times, but it was not until the most recent stint that he actually changed his life, and has since resurrected his acting career.
While rehab is very effective for many people, it is not a cure. People in recovery are in recovery for life. Making good behavioral choices does not end when your time in treatment is over; making those decisions will be your reality in recovery for life.
4. Recovery is Boring
I guess for people who think getting drunk and high are exciting, and anything else is boring, then this may be true, but the misconception is included because for those in recovery, life without harmful substances is actually adding real excitement to their lives.
Instead of being in a bar drinking or at someone’s house using, addicts in recovery can be active. Being outdoors, meeting other people in recovery, and trying new activities is actually the opposite of boring.
5. Relapse is a Part of Recovery
While relapse can be a very real part of the recovery process for addicts, it is not definitely going to happen. What is meant by including it in recovery is that it does not mean that the person will continue using, it may just be a lapse, or a temporary slip.
Think of it from the addict’s perspective: people say relapse is part of recovery, so I have a relapse built-in whenever I want to use it. Instead, relapse prevention is a part of recovery. Learning how to spot triggers and deal with them is more important in recovery than going back to drugs and alcohol, even just for one day.
Common misconceptions about recovery can further hurt the people we are helping to get well. If you believed any of these 5, think through the other side of the argument and see if your opinion changes.
A little more understanding on our part can keep more addicts in recovery.
Andrew Sidoli is an expert at recovery for young men from his time spent working as clinical director for Shadow Mountain, a young adult rehab http://www.shadowmountainrecovery.com. To see more of Andrew’s writing on addiction follow him on twitter @SMRecovery.