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Debunking 7 Myths about Addiction Recovery

Person's hands up in the sky displaying unlocked handcuffs representing freedom

Person’s hands up in the sky displaying unlocked handcuffs representing freedom

Recovering from an addiction is a challenge for everybody. Because it’s difficult, there are a lot of misconceptions and myths about what’s involved in addiction recovery. In fact, we spend a lot of time at Alpine Recovery Lodge debunking myths so that our patients and their loved ones know what to expect.

The thing about recovery myths is that they’re dangerous. Addicts sometimes use them as justification for bad behavior, and their loved ones may inadvertently encourage bad behavior because they believe certain myths.

With that in mind, we’ve put together this collection of 7 myths about addiction recovery. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll know what to believe – and which myths you can leave behind.

Myth #1: Relapse is a Normal Part of Recovery

The first myth we want to talk about is that relapse is a normal part of recovery. In a lot of ways, we consider this myth to be one of our worst enemies. Why? Because it encourages addicts to behave as though there’s no chance they can succeed the first time they try to overcome their addiction.

Like most myths, this one has some reality behind it. It’s true that many people who struggle with addiction relapse at some point. Recovering from an addiction isn’t easy and we’re all human.

The issue we have with this myth – and the reason it’s dangerous – is that it claims that relapse is normal. Normal is not a word we would choose. In fact, this myth may encourage self-defeating or harmful behavior in addicts. It can also lead to family members treating recovering addicts as if a relapse is inevitable.

The truth is that relapses happen but they’re not a foregone conclusion. One of the things we focus on in our recovery program is teaching addicts how to recognize – and cope with – relapse triggers. We believe that with the right tools and support, it’s possible for any addict to recover without relapsing.

Myth #2: Relapsing Means That You’re a Failure

Our next myth has to do with relapse, too. We hear from recovering addicts all the time who tell us that they’ve failed because they’ve relapsed. They are overcome with shame and guilt.

The danger of this myth is that it can make addicts feel that they are worthless when in fact the opposite is true. Addiction changes people’s brains. It requires time, commitment, and help to overcome an addiction, and some people need more help than others.

When an addict believes that relapse is a failure – or when their loved ones believe it – they may feel that it’s not worthwhile to try again. A sense of hopelessness is an addict’s worst enemy. So, if you or a loved one experiences a relapse, try to be gentle and understand that recovery is a process.

Myth #3: There’s Only One Way to Recover from Addiction

We often talk to patients who are resistant to some aspect of recovery because they haven’t known anybody who has tried it before. They know someone who quit cold turkey or used some other method to overcome their addiction and they think that’s the only way.

The truth is that every addict’s road to recovery is a little different. There are some elements of recovery at Alpine Recovery Lodge that are universal – for example, group therapy is a part of everybody’s treatment here. But, we also recognize that what works for one person may not work for another.

One of our specialties is working with patients who have a dual diagnosis of addiction and a mental health problem like depression or bipolar disorder. In other words, the recovery method that works for you is the one that’s right for you – and we’ll work with you to find it.

Myth #4: All Addicts Must Hit Rock Bottom Before They Can Recover

When you see movies and television shows about addiction, they nearly always represent addicts as people who must hit a dangerous rock bottom before they can admit they have a problem. That’s true for some people, but not for others – and that’s why this qualifies as an addiction recovery myth.

The truth is that most addicts have a breaking point. That’s the moment when they realize that their addiction is out of control and they need help to recover. Some people have what we call a high rock bottom. That means that even a small disruption of their lives may be enough to set them on the road to recovery.

Some addicts, sadly, never reach rock bottom. For them, rock bottom is death. Addiction is like a long train ride. Some people get off much earlier than others, and others stay on the train until the last stop. Ultimately, the addict is the only person who can decide to get off the train – and they’re free to do so at any point.

Myth #5: Recovery is Boring

It’s very common for recovering addicts to romanticize their former lives. When they’re in recovery – and spending their days in individual and group therapy – they may look back at the things they used to do and dismiss recovery process as boring.

This is a particularly dangerous myth. The truth is that a life of addiction is a life of crushing predictability. Addicts are always looking for their next fix. The things they used to love – including work, hobbies, and loved ones – fall away as their addiction takes over.

In recovery, there’s room for so much more than addiction. We often see people emerge from our programs with a new zeal for life. They’re ready to learn new things, meet new people, and remake their lives as they want them to be. There’s nothing boring about an opportunity for a fresh start in life – and that’s what recovery offers.

Myth #6: Recovery Is All About Deprivation

This next myth is related to the last one. We find that it’s common for people to think that being in recovery is simply a lifelong commitment of depriving themselves of something they love.

We choose to frame this issue in a different way. While it’s true that recovering addicts will be depriving themselves of addictive substances, we suggest that they view this as a choice instead of a deprivation. Depriving yourself of one thing is not the same as living a life of constant deprivation.

Instead, it requires an understanding that addiction has a price tag – and you can choose not to pay it. There are real rewards associated with recovery. Focusing on them can help make recovering addicts feel empowered instead of deprived.

Myth #7: Recovery Will Solve All Your Problems

For many of the people we treat at Alpine Recovery Lodge, the most dangerous point in their recovery is the moment when they’ve finished our program and they’re ready to leave. That’s because there’s sometimes a misconception that having completed a recovery program means that their problems have ended for good.

This is a touchy myth to overcome because recovery is such hard work. People who come here and commit themselves to recovery and therapy have already succeeded – but that doesn’t mean that life won’t present problems and challenges on the other side of rehab.

Both individual and group therapy can help recovering addicts prepare themselves to deal with the problems that exist outside of recovery. It’s common for addicts to have significant work to do repairing interpersonal relationships and careers. We work hard to give them the tools they need to do so.

Recovery is a long and difficult process. Understanding what’s true – and what’s a myth – can help recovering addicts and their families prepare for it and give them the best possible chance of success.