People have to hit “rock bottom” before they can get well.
Reality: This simply isn’t true, and it’s dangerous. The longer you wait, the sicker the person gets, and this can have deadly consequences. Studies show that people forced into treatment have an equal chance of success as people who decide to go on their own. Also, people who get help before their illness is so severe have more resources to draw upon, such as supportive family or a job, to help them successfully recover. So the sooner someone gets help, the better.
If someone relapses, they’re a lost cause.
Reality: Try not to be too discouraged by a relapse, which is a recurrence of symptoms. Addiction is a chronic illness very similar to type II diabetes or hypertension, meaning it requires lifelong management. Relapse is no more likely with addiction than it is for these other chronic illnesses. Getting well involves changing deeply embedded behaviors. This takes time and effort and sometimes results in setbacks. This doesn’t mean previous treatments failed, because the person with the disease still made progress overall in getting well. A recurrence may be a sign that the treatment approach or other supports need to change, or that other treatment methods are needed. There is hope. Keep in mind that most people with addiction who suffer a recurrence will return to recovery.
People with addiction are bad and need to be punished.
Reality: Sometimes, after prolonged substance use, people with addiction do horrible things. These bad acts are often impossible to understand. They’re due to profound changes in the brain that compel them to lie, cheat, steal or worse in order to keep using. While this behavior can’t be condoned, it’s important to understand they do it because they are deeply sick and need help. Sick people need treatment, not punishment, to get well.
Addiction mostly affects certain types of people.
Reality: This disease does not discriminate. Addiction can affect anyone. No matter your age or income, ethnicity or religion, family or profession. Nationally, about one in eight people ages 12 and up are impacted.
If someone has a stable job and family life, they can’t be suffering from addiction.
Reality: Many people live in denial because they’re successful in their professional lives, or because they don’t drink until after 5 p.m., or because they come from a “good” home. The reality is that anyone can be vulnerable to addiction. Many people hide the severity of their illness or don’t get help because of stigma and shame. If drinking or using drugs is causing any kind of conflict or problem in your personal or professional life, it’s worth seeking support.