Addiction leaves no corner on the planet untouched. It destroys the lives of anyone who’s unlucky enough to stand in the way, whether it be knowingly or unknowingly. The soul of the addicted individual gets trapped along the way, as it gets dragged further and further away from the core of the person. The core that consists of ambitions and dreams, of hopes and fulfillment. There are many misconceptions regarding addiction that are thrown around casually like a frisbee. Below we seek to dissect seven of such myths, and we hope you get something out of it. If you yourself can relate, we sincerely desire you get the help you deserve.
One of the most common misconceptions about addiction. “He/she needs to have more willpower,” “If he/she prayed more, they would have no issue.” Regardless if you’re a religious person or not, addiction is a disease, and has been labelled as such by the American Psychiatric Association and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Addiction, and therefore mental diseases in general, are not matters to be “willed” away or prayed away. Of course you can seek comfort through prayer and spiritual matters, but the issue of the matter remains. It must be addressed head on, be it through hospitalizations, 12-step programs and support group meetings, additional psychiatric help, etc.
Hashish/alcohol not addictive
“I don’t use hard drugs.” “At least he/she isn’t using heroin.” Addiction strikes and takes control over one’s life regardless of what you consume. Alcoholism is a term for a reason. No one likes to admit complete defeat by their once upon a time ally. Addiction has nothing to do with the substance itself, or the compulsive behavior that the individual runs after. True, not everyone who smokes hashish or drinks alcohol are addicts, they may even be heavy drinkers or smokers. However, there is that percentage that do not use them like others. That cannot function in all areas of their life without them. That lie about how much they consume of it. That fail in relationships and social life without their ‘fix.’ It is not the substance. It is about how unmanageable their lives have become with it. Brain chemistry and upbringing do play a role, as addicts may not fully comprehend why it is they can’t have a night out with just a few drinks, and then head on home and live a successful and happy life afterwards. There is no trivial form of addiction. Though everyone’s circumstances are different, the one binding factor that connects all addicts together is their addiction. One may be addicted to taking sleeping pills, one to hashish. However, the route is the same, and the unbearable feelings are mutual.
“He/she’s cured now”
Addiction is a progressive disease. It is not a curable matter, and can only be treated. A daily maintenance is required to keep the addiction at bay, and through the support of addiction consultants, psychiatrists, recovering addicts and others, this is possible. The myth of them being cured now and forever is extremely dangerous and misleading to the “former” addict. Addiction does not bid you goodbye. It is there, waiting, plotting, and when you least expect it, the sounds of your former companion seems to be the best of company for the addict’s mind. “You’ve been sober for five years now, maybe you ought to celebrate.” “Everyone trusts you now, you’ll be ok with a glass of wine.” Implying that an addict is cured can be confused with a “dry addict,” meaning they simply haven’t acted out just yet, regardless for the length of time. Addicts have and do easily fall into the vicious cycle after 10 years or more, and it isn’t uncommon. Why? There are numerous reasons, but one fairly common one is due to forgetting and the feeling of complacency with the years of sobriety under their belt. “It’ll be different this time,” is certainly a common phrase and belief on the matter. Once the substance use is stripped away, the addict is still left with him/herself. Substance abuse is but a symptom of their addiction, but the fact is, substitutes, extreme behavior, and the issues that led them to using in the first place still lie within.
After some time, they can control it
Similar to the previous myth, this belief is almost every addict’s dream. That one day, be it in a week, a month, or five years, they may “successfully” use in a controlled manner. If you try to control something, then it means it is out of control. The question that must be asked here is, why would it be different this time? According to the individual’s experiences, their trial and errors with relapses and short-lived sobriety, how would it be different again? This in itself is the very cunning thought process of addiction. Known to be the ultimate conman, and waking up before you do, such a belief is the very definition of insanity. Repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results. There is no grey area with addiction. It is either you take all, or you leave all. Having a few beers or a few lines and then calling it a day is not addiction. Waking up with it, hiding it, taking unnecessary risks, prioritizing your fix over your marriage, your family, your work, your health, your sanity, your life, is what I mean with addiction being a black and white spectrum. The addict does not choose the consequences of their life spiraling with their addiction, but nonetheless, the consequences will inevitably catch up to them, suffocate them, and take hold with no escape until of course, the next fix. And even with that, it’ll inevitably betray you. That once dreamlike fix will no longer bring the same joy it once did. The higher you go, the fiercer your fall. Even if one is sober for years, there is more work to be done on the character itself. Changing the way you live without substances is another journey on its own. Staying sober is a lot harder than getting sober. By not resorting to the old ways of living with behavioral relapses, an addict has a better chance for a higher quality of life and ultimately, long lasting sobriety.
Outwardly success means they’re fine
“I haven’t lost my job at least.” Sure, you may have gotten lucky throughout active addiction to not have lost your marriage, your career, been kicked out by your family, or other consequences. However, this superficial outlook of still maintaining one’s job and family has no room here for equating to their addiction merely being a mild one. They may not look rugged or have a lifestyle that one believes and envisions an addict looks like, and they may not be sleeping under a bridge. However, addiction strikes any home and individual, regardless of your “respectful family,” your status, and each person’s set of losses will undoubtedly be different than the rest, depending on their own personal rock bottom. The question is, when will you stop digging?
It’s just a phase
When someone’s addiction will start to really unfold and stretch its wings varies from person to person. Your addiction might take hold and consume you completely from the age of 11, or from 35. That’s not the point though. It can be confusing when a teenager is experimenting with substances at a young age, and when this might transform itself into a full blown matter that encompasses the individual’s life for who knows how long. “It was just a rough patch,” “If only I moved out of my house then it would be different,” are a few examples of an addict firmly believing that if their external circumstances were different, they would be too. However, if an addict wants their fix, they will get it by all means, regardless of which nation they’re in or circumstances that are present at the moment. Addictive behaviors and signs show up before the day they consume substances, and for those with addictive personalities, this “phase” transforms into a living nightmare that has no set duration until they receive help, stay clean, and find new ways to live. Of course this is with the hopes that their lives have not been cut short due to their addiction.
It’s about drugs
I’ve used the word “using” and referred to specific narcotics/substances, but what is addiction? “Addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking, continued use despite harmful consequences, and long-lasting changes in the brain.” Although this is true, it’s missing quite a chunk. According to DSM-5’s update on addiction, it also includes that of addictions to pathological gambling and overeating. Compulsive stealing (kleptomania) and sex addictions are also not ones to be undermined. The compulsive journey of addiction takes hold in all areas regardless of what the addiction is. Stealing for no gain or profit or overeating for no specific nutrition or health benefits, for instance, are yet another serious matter. Sex addiction takes hold of the affected individual and crosses over into his/her personal and work life, leading to a deterioration of mental health and the need to get a “fix.” And, much like that of an alcoholic and drug addict for their next fix, the negative consequences that emerge despite his/her actions are not enough to stop them, and their compulsive behavior leads the way to an immensely low quality of life and one of unmanageability.