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Uncovering the Truths: Myths About Addiction Recovery


In the world of substance use and mental health treatment and recovery, there are a lot of myths floating around that have somehow become the guide for what it right. You've probably heard and seen some of them on TV, in the movies or from friends whose "uncle had that problem". What if I told you that many of these ideas aren't true? That they are arbitrary numbers or statements that worked once but are not backed by science? By offering a new perspective on the real facts, we can help more people, in better ways, and create a societal understanding about substance use, addiction, and how to support someone in recovery.

Myth 1-Treatment should be 28 days

Reality: You might have heard, or experienced that treatment has to last exactly 28 days, like in the movies, or by your insurance company. But in real life, treatment should be tailored to each person's specific needs. Some people might need more time, while others might need less. If someone enters a residential program that ends after 28 days, that should be approached as step one in a longer support structure to insure lasting recovery. That does not have to look like a treatment setting. There are many ways that a person can create wrap around support. One key to successful treatment is finding the right fit for each individual, whether it's in a residential treatment program, outpatient therapy, recovery community groups or something else altogether.

Myth 2-Treatment is about the spa-like amenities

Reality: Sure, some treatment centers might have fancy amenities, and private chefs, but that's not what really matters. What's important is getting evidence-based treatment that addresses the root causes of addiction and helps people build a new life without harmful coping skills. It's about therapy, support and processing groups, community, and learning healthy coping skills, not about luxurious accommodations and private rooms. These items may remove blocks from someone's willingness to attend treatment, but in the end, they are nice, not necessary.

Myth 3-Once an addict always an addict

Reality: You might have heard people say that once someone's addicted, they're always going to be addicted. That is not true, 72% of people who have had a substance use disorder consider themselves to be in recovery or recovered from their drug or alcohol use problem. (SAMHSA 2023)

Myth 4-Rock Bottom is needed to start recovery

Reality: It is frequently said that people need to hit rock bottom before they can get better, but that is not true. Recovery can start at any time, no matter how severe the consequences of their behaviors, or even if there are none. When families use a connection approach to supporting their loved ones, they have the power to create an invitation and influence long before harder consequences are felt. It's important to be curious and help someone get help when it's needed, which may look a lot sooner than you want to admit.

Myth 5-Detachment is Love

Reality: Some people think that detaching from someone with addiction and mental health challenges is the loving thing to do. I call BS on that. That statement gives permission for family members to remain in a victim mindset when it comes to loving their person. What's really important is learning to set boundaries, that are about protecting YOUR dimensions of wellness. Stated clearly and kindly with expected followthrough. It's about learning to show love and compassion for someone who is not their best selves while taking care of yourself and your own needs for sustainability of this journey.

Myth 6-Addiction is Addiction

Reality: Addiction isn't one-size-fits-all. It shows up in various forms and severity levels and is now medically identified in pre-Addiction, mild, moderate and severe. Talking to your doctor or mental health professionals early is important to understanding and finding the right treatment and support.

Myth 7-All substance use follows trauma

Reality: While trauma can be a major factor in substance use and mental health diagnosis, it's not the case for everyone. There are many factors that contribute, including genetics, environment, mental health and other vulnerabilities. Understanding underlying reasons behind the behaviors can better help address behaviors and provide effective treatment.

Myth 8-Traditional Interventions are the only way to get them help

Reality: Most of us have seen the reality TV and movie versions of traditional interventions that include confrontations and ultimatums. Shaming or scaring someone into getting help. These approaches often do more harm than good. Evidence-based approaches that include motivational interviewing and cognitive-behavioral therapy are more effective and respectful of individuals autonomy and needs. A family-focused approach is the most effective for long term recovery and maintaining community and family connection.

By addressing these myths we can help people better. It's not always easy, but with comprehensive and appropriate support, people can overcome people can recover and live fulfilling lives.

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