On This Page:
- Myth #1: “You’re imprisoned in rehab until treatment is complete.”
- Myth #2: “If you work extra hard, you can make recovery a quick process.”
- Myth #3: “You must be religious in order for addiction treatment to work.”
- Myth #4: “A relapse will put you back at square one to start over again.”
- Myth #5: "Recovery will fix all your problems."
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The human race has an extensive history of using mind-altering substances for recreational purposes. In fact, people have been enjoying alcohol for at least five thousand years 1. However, we’ve become much more aware of the numerous effects, both great and small, that excessive substance abuse can have, especially as it has affected a rapidly growing portion of the population. It’s currently estimated that one in ten Americans over the age of 12 is suffering from a substance abuse problem, making it an alarmingly common problem with profound consequences at both the micro and macro levels.
With numerous recovery resources available, it’s perplexing that only ten percent 2 of all addicts receive treatment. Unfortunately, a number of pervading misconceptions and myths regarding addiction recovery discourage those in need from seeking rehabilitative treatment. In many cases, the myth represents a misunderstanding that can be resolved with facts. Therefore, the following are factual explanations for common addiction recovery myths that have contributed to so few individuals being in treatment.
Myth #1: “You’re imprisoned in rehab until treatment is complete.”
One of the most common myths about going to rehab is that one is forbidden from leaving for the duration of the program, essentially being a prisoner in a rehabilitation facility. This couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s true that patients aren’t typically allowed to leave the premises while in treatment, but this is to ensure safety. It prevents individuals from being able to bring contraband back to the facility with them, compromising the recovery process. Remaining in the safe, alcohol- and drug-free environment of a rehab is intended to aid the recovery process by protecting patients from the temptation to use. However, individuals who choose to leave prior to the completion of their programming — typically referred to as leaving against medical advice, or AMA — are free to do so 3. Even addicted offenders who chose rehab over a prison sentence in drug courts can leave, but this will likely mean a prison sentence instead.
Myth #2: “If you work extra hard, you can make recovery a quick process.”
In most cases, working extra hard at a task can mean a better finished product or completing the task faster, but that’s not the case with addiction recovery. Although putting all one’s effort and focus into recovery can only help, it’s not going to reduce the amount of time it takes to achieve sustainable sobriety. Additionally, a common cause of relapse is an insufficient amount of time in treatment 4. Time and again, the tendency to seek a quick fix 5 has proven to be many individuals’ downfall, resulting in repeated relapses and multiple stints in rehab no matter how much effort one exerts in that short time. Therefore, it’s often said that the longer one spends in rehab receiving treatment, the better his or her chance of remaining sober will be.
Myth #3: “You must be religious in order for addiction treatment to work.”
Many people associate recovery with faith and religion. This is likely due to the emphasis on spirituality of support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and the equally well-known Serenity Prayer, which often becomes a personal credo over the course of the recovery process. However, most facilities that offer faith-based treatments aren’t explicitly religious rehabs, but rather they offer faith-based programming in addition to many other types of treatments. This allows these facilities to accommodate diverse preferences and needs. Those patients that prefer to incorporate their beliefs into the recovery process can do so while those who aren’t religious or spiritual can choose not to receive faith-based treatments.
Myth #4: “A relapse will put you back at square one to start over again.”
There’s a common assumption that recovery means a person goes to rehab, completes his or her treatment program, and then never touches alcohol or drugs ever again. However, this is very rarely the case. Relapse is typically considered a natural, expected part of the recovery process with between 70 and 90 percent 6 of all recovering addicts experiencing at least one mild to moderate slip before becoming able to remain sober for good. Therefore, a relapse doesn’t mean that one’s recovery has been compromised or that he or she is back at square one and must start over from the beginning. A relapse should be acknowledged and treated like a learning experience so that a slip doesn’t turn into a return to active addiction.
Myth #5: "Recovery will fix all your problems."
While it's easy to focus on the physical and psychological deterioration one experiences as a result of alcoholism or drug addiction, the effects of an addiction extend far beyond one's body. Many addicts lose their careers, financial independence, homes and even their families because of their substance abuse problems. Since recovery is intended to free individuals from their chemical dependencies, many assume that overcoming addiction will solve all of one's problems. Unfortunately, getting sober doesn't fix one's problems any more than drinking alcohol or using drugs solves one's problems. Recovery can't immediately restore a lost job, fix a broken family or put a roof over one's head. Instead, overcoming an addiction allows a person to regain physical and psychological wellness and begin resolving his or her own issues while free from the interference of substance abuse. It's important to be aware of this since many individuals relapse when they can't handle stress and hardship 7. By becoming aware that sobriety isn't a cure-all for life's problems and that a person needs to learn some effective strategies for coping without alcohol or drugs, newly sober individuals can avoid one of the most common relapse triggers and reinforce their sobriety.
Addiction may be incurable, but it's surely treatable. Although there are a number of misconceptions that people have regarding the recovery process, there are countless resources available by which individuals can become better informed about this potentially deadly disease and how to fight it. It may not be easy, but regaining one's health, independence and happiness definitely make it worth it.
1. http://www.drugfreeworld.org/drugfacts/alcohol/a-short-history.html2. http://www.casacolumbia.org/addiction-research/reports/addiction-medicine3. http://alcoholism.about.com/od/pro/a/drug_rehab.htm4. http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/principles-effective-treatment5. http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/04/effective-addiction-treatment/?_r=06. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/where-science-meets-the-steps/201210/why-relapse-isnt-sign-failure7. http://addictions.about.com/od/Motivational-Interviewing/tp/Top-Five-Causes-Of-Relapse.htmWritten by Dane O'Leary