The 10 Most Damaging Myths About Alcoholism
1. The Only Way to Get Better is to Hit “Rock Bottom”
This myth allows alcoholics at any stage in their disease to rationalize their drinking. While some alcoholics do lose everything before they decide to seek treatment, people should and do seek help before they reach this point. You can seek help at any stage in your drinking – whether it’s the first time you binge drink or you’ve been drinking habitually for 25 years. There’s no line you have to cross before it becomes “bad enough”. You can and should seek treatment the moment you feel you need help.
2. Drinking Culture is Harmless
In our culture alcohol is ever present. After work you’re expect to meet coworkers for happy hour. Binge drinking is viewed as a harmless rite of passage during college and drunken escapades are often considered funny even if they cause significant harm. Not only is this irreverent attitude toward alcohol consumption dangerous, it is yet another way people with dependency issues rationalize their habits. It can make those who desperately need treatment, put off getting help for years longer than they should.
3. “You have a job, you’re not an alcoholic!”
Thinking this way causes two major problems. First, it gives those alcoholics whose drinking is not yet negatively interfering with their job an excuse to rationalize and deny their drinking. Second, it increases the shame associated with alcohol dependence. There is fear surrounding admitting you have a problem and it stems from the negative stereotype of alcoholics. These two effects can cause someone to delay seeking treatment and cause potentially irreparable damage. Alcoholism is a disease that spans all socioeconomic ranks; anyone can find themselves in the grips of addiction.
4. Willpower Alone Can Stop an Addiction
There are people who are able to stop drinking cold turkey, but they are the exception not the rule. There are two things to note here: (1) The decision to stop drinking is often the result of an emotional event, such as the death of a friend due to alcohol poisoning, a pregnancy, or a drunk driving accident, and (2) a person who stops drinking without processing the “why” for their addiction is at high risk to pick up another addiction in its place. Addiction is not a switch you can turn on and off at will.
5. Controlled Drinking is Possible
Alcoholics who try to drink socially or have “just one” drink are usually playing with fire. Most will quickly end up in a full-blown relapse because the mind and body fall back into old habits. People who try to push you to drink in moderation probably don’t have your best interest in mind. Having a strong sober support network you can call on when you’re thinking that having “just one” won’t put you back on a harmful path is key to a successful recovery.
6. Everything will be Perfect Once You Stop Drinking
Most alcoholics didn’t start drinking because their lives were perfect. More likely, it began as a reaction to a painful or traumatic situation. If you never deal with trauma in a direct and healthy way, its effects will still be waiting after you stop drinking. Early sobriety can be tough because all those emotions you tried to avoid by drinking can come back to the surface. But dealing with those feelings and tackling the “why” of your alcoholism is the only way to get on a healthy recovery path.
7. Treatment is the Magic Cure
Participating in an organized treatment program can be extraordinarily beneficial for someone suffering from alcoholism. While in treatment alcoholics have the opportunity to develop healthy coping mechanisms and network with others seeking sobriety. But treatment programs aren’t a one-stop shop to fix alcoholism. Alcoholism is a chronic disease and maintaining sobriety will be a lifelong journey. Continuously tending to your recovery is a rewarding process because you will be building lifelong relationships and a gratifying life outside of alcoholism.
8. Alcoholics Must go to AA
Alcoholics Anonymous can be very helpful for people fighting alcoholism. But the recovery community is not limited to one way of doing things. Maintaining sobriety and establishing a fulfilling life outside of addiction is a unique journey for everyone. So figure out what works best for you by trying different things. For example, you can go to a few AA meetings per week but also incorporate activities like yoga and meditation to maintain sobriety. There are countless options and an enormous recovery community at your fingertips.
9. Sobriety is Boring
A lot of people mistakenly assume that after they get sober, life will be boring. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the vibrancy and support that can be found in the recovery community is unlike any other. Clearing your mind of the fog of your addiction opens it up to so much more. Now is the time to discover or regain beloved hobbies and restore meaningful relationships. Most people who are seeking sobriety report that they have renewed appreciation for life and making the most of their time.
10. Getting Sober is Impossible
Some people may feel like they’re too far gone in their disease to get help. This is simply NOT true. At any age or stage in your alcoholism, you can successfully seek sobriety. Once you enter treatment, or start your recovery journey, you may feel overwhelmed. That’s normal, but it’s important to remember that you have the ability to change your life and sobriety is within your reach.
If the first step is awareness, the next step is to stop widespread acceptance of false information. Stop believing and perpetuating these myths so we can open up a truthful dialogue about alcoholism and create a better treatment process.