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9 Myths about Recovery (that everyone believes)

Author: Justin Mckibben

The concept of recovery from addiction to drugs or alcohol is a strange and abstract idea to people who aren’t in recovery.  Even everyone in recovery can remember a time when they themselves had no idea what constitutes as working a program, or what being in recovery means and what kind of life is possible without drugs and alcohol being your whole world. So it is only natural that there are misconceptions and assumptions about recovery that get spread around like gossip. Next thing you know a misunderstood incident or opinion becomes mythology like a flying dragon with five heads, who just happens to have a drug problem. Here are 9 myths about recovery (that everyone believes).

  1. Your real problem is one substance

Some people believe that the only problem is what specific substance has brought them to their knees enough to need recovery. If you are a heroin addict you might assume the only thing you really have to give up is heroin. You might have this conception that you can one day use other drugs and drink alcohol recreationally because that was not what hurt you the most.

Truthfully, even people in recovery forget the reality; that the substance does not matter. A true addict has a problem far deeper than a drug or a drink, and it will manifest itself in different destructive ways and toxic habits, with any drug. The drug does not pick the addict; the addict just picks a drug.

  1. You can be cured forever

Recovery is a cure right? You only need to do a couple things once, and you will have the addiction complete removed forever right? Some people actually believe they can simply apply a few ideas and cure themselves for good. That they will never be tempted to use or drink again, or that if they do it will remain in control through self-knowledge.

Even people in recovery tend to let themselves get fooled into believing this. Even if they won’t say it out loud and they speak as if they know better, they still subconsciously convince themselves they are so much better now, they couldn’t possibly go back with how spiritually fit they are. Nobody is perfect, and recovery is a journey, not a destination.

  1. It is just NOT using

Most people who have never been in recovery and are not familiar with it believe it just means you do not do what you used to, nothing special. You just avoid something you have an issue with, and you try not to do it again. Even people in recovery will latch onto the saying “just don’t use no matter what” as if that is all it takes.

Truthfully you have to do other stuff, on top of not using no matter what. It doesn’tseem very fulfilling to just white-knuckle the rest of your life. Recovery means taking action. It’s working a program, developing relationships and principles, and growing and contributing to others.

  1. Must become religious

Some people assume, and you see it a lot in the media, that recovery means religion. Some people even act like it is a cult of religious crusaders who try to convert and judge others. Because of the spiritual side of most 12 Step programs, and the emphasis many people put on the relationship with a Higher Power, some people expect to be ridiculed or forced into a belief.

In actuality, there is no requirement for 12 Step programs other than the desire to recover. There is no ax to grind, no one to convert and no faith to make any vows to. There are merely suggestions on how to find a Higher Power of your own understanding through your own journey. No strings or expectations attached.

  1. It is a matter of willpower

The myth that recovery is only possible through absolute willpower is a foolish misconception, at least in regards to those who are true addicts and alcoholics. Some people think you “just have to want it” and that’s it. Unfortunately, if everyone who wanted it got it, we wouldn’t see thousands of addicts dying every day.

Again going back to the idea that you just have to not use, there is action that needs to be taken. And even with that action, it requires a little more than just the force to do it, but the honesty, and humility along with the willingness. And a little faith goes a long way, especially in early recovery.

  1. You will be miserable

Misery comes with letting go of the one thing that you have to make you happy or that makes life enjoyable right? At least that’s what most people who aren’t familiar with recovery would suspect. You have to get used to the idea that life is going to be painfully dull and sad no matter what. At least while you’re not drinking or using drugs anymore.

This couldn’t be any less true. People in recovery who actively seek out fulfillment typically find it. Passions are rediscovered, and joy is actually easier to come by a lot of times because of appreciation for the beautiful things in life.

  1. You cannot go out in sobriety

You might as well become a hermit, because sobriety makes you a regular boy scout. No parties, no going out dancing, no nothing! You might actually believe that by becoming clean and sober, you give up everything fun and become boring, conservative, and transform suddenly into a 95 year old.

I’m not sure why people really believe this, but in recovery my experience and my sponsorship family has shown me that life in sobriety is incredible and full of going out and living it. As it was explained to me, we do not undergo the process of recovery so we can hide from the world, we recover for the freedom to enjoy all of it without drugs and alcohol.

  1. Must hit a horrible rock-bottom

You hear “they have to hit their bottom” all the time, especially from people who are in recovery. As if people expect that first you must suffer some ridiculously horrific circumstances in order to find enough reason to recover.

This may be true for some cases who are so defiant and desperate they need a few more bumps on the head, but not everyone has to suffer an intense physical, financial, or even mental trauma to reach a bottom. You can recover, whenever you decide you have had enough. Your pain is for you alone to examine and determine what to do with it.

  1. Those who relapse are hopeless

Relapse happens. It does not have to, and there are many who never do. People outside of the program of recovery who are unfamiliar with this concept may be terrified or feel like all is lost when someone in recovery relapses. Remarkably even people in the fellowships of recovery will see a repeat offender who relapses over and over and assume they are hopeless.

I relapsed, I know people who have relapsed multitudes of times. Back and forth addicts can rise and fall depending on what we are willing to commit to doing, and how we take action. The lucky ones make it back, but some never do. But those who relapse are not hopeless.  It is not a shock when addicts drink or use drugs in my experience, it is a miracle every single day that we do not. And there are so many addicts and alcoholics who can personally testify that after several relapses, they were gifted with decade’s worth of miracles.

The difference between the facts and some of the fiction that people hear and believe about recovery are quite often complete opposites. Frequently assumptions and opinions get misconstrued and exaggerated to the point where recovery becomes a tall tale in itself filled with urban legends and mysteries. Do not let the myths about recovery hold you back from truly experiencing sobriety for yourself. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

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