Myths surrounding Alcoholism can be harmful to those in recovery as the perception of addiction is not seen as a disease, but rather a choice made by those who are struggling. Unfortunately, most of what the public knows about alcoholism is surrounded by misinformation and myths about what is and how it affects the person struggling and those close to them. We gathered the top 10 myths surrounding alcohol addiction and have debunked them with the truth, but first, we provided a brief overview of what alcoholism is.
Alcoholism is considered a chronic disease due to the fact that it has genetic and behavioral components. Over a long period of time, alcoholism can progress until a person is physically dependent on alcohol. Unfortunately, because of the social stigma surrounding alcoholism, many individuals go undiagnosed and continue to struggle. This stigma also feeds into the myths that we will discuss below. Scientists and addiction professionals agree that alcoholism needs to be treated just like other health conditions such as asthma or high blood pressure.
A stereotypical image of someone with alcoholism is a person how has lost everything, living on the street with no family or friends. Most of the time, this isn’t true and rock bottom means different things to different people.
This myth allows those with alcoholism at any stage in their disease to rationalize their drinking. While some people do lose everything before they decide to seek treatment, individuals 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 must cross before it becomes “bad enough”. You can and should seek treatment any moment you feel you need help.
In our culture alcohol is ever-present. After work, it’s perceived as normal to meeting with coworkers for happy hour or having a glass of wine when you get home. 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, but it is also 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.
Thinking this way causes two major problems. First, it gives those with alcoholism 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 people who struggle with alcoholism. 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.
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.
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.
Most people who struggle with alcoholism 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.
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.
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 alcohol recovery community at your fingertips.
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 are 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.
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 the 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 and accountability process.
About the Author
Shelby Hendrix is a blogger from the Northern Midwest with close personal ties to the addiction world. She focuses on the addiction landscape to reach out to those fighting alcoholism and compel them to seek an informed, healthy recovery.