5 Dangerous Myths About Addiction

5 Dangerous Myths About Addiction

One silver lining of the opioid crisis in the US has been to bring the problem of addiction into the open. A lot of people have been personally affected by the opioid epidemic and their experiences have changed many people’s opinions about what addiction is and who struggles with substance use. Along with greater media coverage of the causes of substance use problems, attitudes are slowly changing.

However, there is still a long way to go and some of the persistent myths about addiction prejudice the public against people with substance use disorders and make people with substance use disorders less able or willing to seek help. Some common myths about addiction include the following.

“Addiction Is a Choice”

One of the most pernicious myths about addiction is that it’s a choice. This myth is dangerous because it implies that anything that happens to someone with a substance use disorder, whether it’s job loss, divorce, health problems, incarceration, or death, is their own fault. In this view, any sort of punishment is permissible and anyone who wants to avoid the consequences of substance use should simply quit.

In reality, it’s not so simple. While people who use drugs and alcohol typically choose to do so, no one chooses to become addicted. Many, and perhaps most, people who develop substance use issues begin using drugs and alcohol at a young age, sometimes even before adolescence, when they have little, if any awareness of the potential consequences. This behavior is often influenced by dysfunctional family dynamics, peer pressure, or nascent mental health issues, such as ADHD, OCD, depression, anxiety, or schizophrenia. In short, addiction is typically influenced by forces beyond our control and once we realize there is a problem, it’s already very hard to quit.

“Addiction Is Caused By Lack of Willpower”

Similar to the belief that addiction is a choice, many people believe that addiction indicates a lack of willpower or even a weak character. They think that quitting is mainly about showing a little grit and toughing it out. As discussed above, addiction typically has deep roots, including childhood environment, mental health issues, and genes. People do try to white-knuckle recovery but they typically don’t get very far.

In order for recovery to last, you have to get at the underlying causes of addiction. This means treating any co-occurring mental health issues as well as addressing trauma, which is incredibly common among people with substance use disorders. Recovery also entails learning essential skills to regulate your emotions and behavior and improve your relationships. It requires a good support system and healthy lifestyle changes too. Most people need a bit of help to do all of this.

“Once an Addict, Always an Addict”

You’ve probably heard this saying and it’s problematic for two reasons. First, the language is stigmatizing. Labeling someone with a substance use disorder an “addict” is common but also counterproductive. It implies that addiction is the person’s defining--and perhaps only--characteristic. Indeed, it implies they are hardly even a person but rather something more like a drug-seeking missile. Stigmatizing language compounds the shame of substance use and makes it harder for people to seek help.

Second, this saying implies that recovery is not really possible, that no matter how much effort you put into turning your life around, you’re always just one drink away from unraveling. Such cynicism about recovery can make you reluctant to even try, much less persist when things get challenging. In reality, people do make lasting change with the right attitude and the right help.

“You Can Always Spot an Addict”

We all have some stereotype of someone with a substance use disorder, and while there are probably people who fit that stereotype, it doesn’t even come close to encompassing everyone with a substance use problem. If the opioid crisis has taught us anything, it’s that anyone can develop a substance use issue under the right circumstances. While you might suspect the guy begging for change under the overpass has a substance use problem, you might not suspect the lawyer who lives in a nice house or the grandmother who was in a car accident last year.

In fact, people who are professionally successful are often just as capable when it comes to hiding their substance use problem, at least for a while. Sometimes even friends and family don’t suspect someone has an issue. One of the reasons so many misconceptions about addiction persist is that it’s a largely invisible problem.

“Drugs and Alcohol Fry Your Brain”

If you’re old enough, you might remember the “brain on drugs” commercials of the 1980s. Although those commercials are typically remembered with derision, the idea that too much drugs and alcohol can fry your brain still persists. This can make it hard to recover because some people feel like the damage is done, that they’ve ruined their brains, and no amount of effort will make them whole again.

In reality, the picture is more complicated. In some extreme cases, such as early-onset dementia or Korsakoff syndrome, which typically only happens after decades of heavy drinking, brain damage is permanent. There is also some debate over whether the structural changes that often occur in your brain after a period of addiction are ever fully reversed.

However, we also know that brains are highly plastic, meaning the structure will change, depending on what we ask our brains to do. With persistent effort and the right help, you can train your brain to focus, to regulate your emotions more effectively, to weather cravings, and to feel better overall.

Many of the myths about addiction are the result of victim-blaming while others pass as “tough truths.” However, these can perpetuate the stigma of addiction and make it harder for people to get help. It’s crucial to remember that people with substance use disorders are first and foremost people and that they are often people in pain. What’s more, recovery is possible.

At Enlightened Solutions, we know that addiction isn’t something anyone chooses. Few people realize how they got into their particular mess and they rarely know how to get out. That’s where we come in. We use a variety of evidence-based methods to address the root causes of addiction and lay the foundation for a long recovery. To learn more, call us today at 833-801-5483.


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Owning Your Choices In Recovery

In his book The Light in the Heart, author Roy T. Bennett talks a lot about choices. The human mind makes about 35,000 conscious choices and decisions each day. How many of them do we actually take time to consider? Despite our immense power as decision makers, we often give our power away when it comes to our choices. It might seem strange to ponder. Don’t we make our choices for ourselves? If we were to take the time to analyze each of our choices we would probably find a lot more inauthenticity than we were expecting. So often do we make a choice because of someone else, for someone else, or in spite of someone else. Each time we make a decision that goes against the authentic will of who we are we leave a little scar in our minds. Like giving ourselves a burn, we are left in pain. Though it feels easier to make choices that keep us safe as we assume other would want us to act this way, it actually harms us. We’re left with shame, guilt, and a damaged sense of self-esteem.

“Every choice comes with a consequence,” Bennett writes, “Once you make a choice you must accept responsibility. You cannot escape the consequences of your choices, whether you like them or not.” Problematically, when we make choices and decisions based on a source other than ourselves or the higher power of our understanding, we cease to take responsibility for them. If, or when, we must face the consequences of those choices, we hide behind the fact that they were for somebody else. Such behaviors continue to take away our personal empowerment and sense of agency.

Even if we make choices for reasons other than ourselves, we must learn to own them. Every choice we’ve made in our entire lives demands ownership. Taking ownership for choices is a critical part of the therapeutic process for recovering from drug and alcohol addiction. According to the biopsychosocial model, there are a variety of reasons as to why we started drinking and using. Our brains, bodies, and social environments in some ways conditioned us to choose to use substances to alter the way we felt. However, that choice was still entirely ours as well were the many choices that followed.

In recovery we continue making choices each day, choices we are unfamiliar with. We learn that we have the power to choose how we feel, how we react and respond, how we cope with life on life’s terms. Each day we are given an opportunity to own those choices and be fully empowered in who we are. That is a gift of recovery. “Happiness is a choice. Optimism is a choice. Kindness is a choice. Giving is a choice. Respect is a choice,” Bennett asserts, “Whatever choice you make makes you. Choose wisely.”

 

Choose treatment. Choose recovery. Choose life. When it comes to making that choice for one more hit or one more drink, the choice is yours. We hope you choose Enlightened Solutions to help you recover. Our goal is to provide a compassionate environment of holistic healing to help you end your destructive relationship with drugs and alcohol. Are you ready to make the choice? Call us today 833-801-5483.


Freedom is a Series of Choices

“We will know a new freedom and happiness”, promises the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. In a list of other promises, the authors tell us that by doing “the work”, however quickly or slowly, we will see results manifest before we can even recognize them. It is critical, though, that we choose to diligently do the work that comes with recovery.

 

Choosing means Not Choosing

Inherently, our choices are dualistic. When we choose something we are almost always not choosing something else. We don’t always realize this, often because we get wrapped up in the benefit of what we are choosing. Before making a choice, evaluate your not-choice. For example, if you get asked to take on another commitment at a twelve step meeting when you already have a few, you might be not-choosing balance, energy, and serenity. Commitments are important but not at the sake of your well being. Especially in the early recovery time period (30 days to 6 months), making balanced choices is important. We need sleep, rest, time to engage in our spiritual disciplines, and self-care.

We also need to choose our thoughts, behaviors, and actions very carefully. When we choose to feel resentment and anger, then choose to hold on to it, we actively choose to cause ourselves pain. We actively choose to suppress feeling freedom, liberation, and serenity. In contrast, sometimes we choose to be overly happy to ignore an uncomfortable feeling. We then choose against processing important emotions and gaining wisdom about a situation.

 

Self-Consciousness is Self-Obsession

Some of that wisdom we gain from making careful choices with our thinking illuminates the difference between self-consciousness and self-obsession. Alcoholism and addiction are diseases of the “self”. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous states that “selfishness and self-centeredness” were the roots of our greater symptom- substance abuse. Self-consciousness isn’t limited to insecurity, shyness, or doubt. We get self-conscious when social groups form in our treatment centers and we feel excluded. We get self-conscious when a parent doesn’t praise us the way we need or embarasses us. When we ruminate about these instances, we spend an awful lot of time thinking about ourselves. Assumedly, we make believe that every other person’s actions revolve around us somehow. This simply isn’t the case. It is often said that we might be less concerned about what people thought about us if we knew how little they did

Enlightened Solutions believes there is a path to freedom within the spiritual philosophy of the 12 steps. We infuse our holistic and evidence-based program of treatment with 12 step theory and practical application. Our program is open to men and women seeking recovery from their addiction to drugs and alcohol, in addition to co-occurring disorders. For more information call 833-801-5483.