Unfortunately, there are countless misconceptions about both addicts and how addiction works. Here are a few misconceptions and the truths that lie behind them:
Myth: Addiction is a Choice
Ignorant people love to argue about this and will do so until they’re blue in the face.
They’ll say that it was originally the now-addict’s choice to start using drugs and, because of that, their full-blown addiction is, essentially, their own choice. They say, “Well, he or she chose to become an addict” as if that person actually wanted their life to be ruined by drugs.
Those same kinds of people also sometimes claim that addicts can simply “just stop using” as if withdrawal symptoms aren’t real and overcoming addiction is really that easy. If that were the case, treatment centers and sober houses wouldn’t exist and many people who are currently suffering from the fallout of their addiction(s) would likely be living happy, fulfilling lives of sobriety.
But it isn’t.
Truth: Addiction Affects The Brain And How It Works
Realistically, addiction isn’t a “choice.” Nobody picks up a drug with the intention of getting hooked. Most people think they’re the exception to the rule and that addiction will happen to someone else but not them.
When scanned, the brains of addicts differ from those of people who do not struggle with substance abuse. This is scientific evidence that drug addiction affects an addict’s brain and the way it functions.
Furthermore, addiction has been proven to affect the impulse control and decision-making capabilities of addicts. Even if a person uses drugs for the first time of their own volition, “the progression of brain changes that occurs after that involves the weakening of circuits in the prefrontal cortex and elsewhere that are necessary for exerting self-control and resisting the temptations of drug use.”
So, basically, even experimenting with drugs just once can negatively affect an individual’s ability to resist using them in the future.
Myth #2: An Addict must hit “Rock Bottom” before seeking or accepting help
Addicts are most definitely not required to hit “rock bottom” before seeking help.
Though many individuals struggling with addiction don’t ask for help until they’re confronted with the gravity of their lifestyle through some devastating event (ex. overdose, death of a loved one), it doesn’t mean that they must forgo asking for help until something terrible happens to them.
Truth: “Rock Bottom” can easily be Death
Friends and family members often ask themselves where “rock bottom” is while they watch their loved one(s) spiral out of control. They’ll say, “This must be it,” when that person loses custody of their children and they’ll say it again when that same individual ends up losing their job or their home.
And those friends and family members will keep saying it throughout all of the struggles that person will face and, still, “rock bottom” will remain out of sight. Some addicts won’t reach, what they believe is “rock bottom,” until it’s too late and they die.
Knowing this, it’s important for friends and families to address their loved one before things get out of hand. While there’s no guarantee that that person will be receptive to what anyone has to say, it’s vital to make the effort anyway. For some people, just the fear of losing everything may be enough to keep it from actually happening.
There’s no reason to wait around for a loved one to overdose before reaching out to them.
Myth #3: If an Addict Relapses after going to Treatment, they most likely can’t be helped
This is blatantly untrue.
When it comes to drug and alcohol addiction, relapses are more common than not. Though that doesn’t excuse them, it does mean that A) there is hope following relapse and B) relapse is not the be-all and end-all of recovery.
In fact, most addicts go to treatment three or four times before sobriety actually “sticks.”
Truth: Everyone is Different
Furthermore, every treatment center is unique. Because of that, every addict’s experience in treatment will also be equally as unique. What might work for one person might not work for another and that’s okay.
Some treatment centers are particularly holistic while others prefer to take a much more clinical approach. In addition to that, some may rely heavily on the 12 Steps while others may incorporate them more subtly.
As the saying goes, there are “different strokes for different folks.”
There is no such thing as “one size fits all” treatment and, because of that, neither addicts nor their family members should be discouraged if that person relapses after discharge.
Relapse does not mean a person is hopeless and it most definitely doesn’t mean they can’t be helped. When relapse does happen, though, it’s important to continue moving forward and go back to treatment if need be.
Nobody is beyond help and nobody is a lost cause.