Top 5 Myths About Addiction and Recovery

1. Addicts/Alcoholics Must Hit Rock Bottom Before They Can Recovershutterstock_92569951

Of all the addiction myths this is a tricky one because it’s not entirely wrong, it’s just not entirely right. If you interpret the phrase “hitting rock bottom” the way most people do, this myth would seem to imply that addicts or alcoholics have to lose everything before they can recover and that’s simply not true. However, if you interpret this phrase the way that many people in the recovery world do, that is- “rock bottom” is the point at which an addict/alcoholic decides they’ve had enough and are ready to get sober- it is true.

The truth is that most addicts/alcoholics do hit a so-called “rock bottom” before they seek recovery, it’s just not the “rock bottom” that most people think of when they hear that phrase. Just like each person has a different personality, each addict/alcoholic has a different “rock bottom”. For some, it really does take losing everything before they are ready to put down the bottle. For others, “rock bottom” can be something as simple as the look on their child’s face after arriving home from school to find mom or dad drunk again. So, while this myth may have some truth to it, the fact of the matter is that “hitting rock bottom” is not a prerequisite to recovery.

2. Addicts/Alcoholics are Bad People [Good People Don’t Become Addicts/Alcoholics]

shutterstock_216474817With several decades worth of research into addiction to suggest otherwise, the idea that only bad people become addicts or that good people can’t become addicts is one of the easiest myths about addiction to debunk. Research has consistently shown that addiction is a complicated brain disease that can strike anyone, at any time, regardless of race, gender, religion, intelligence, wealth, etc. While there are some common underlying causes for the disease, being a bad person is not one of them. Similarly, being a good person doesn’t prevent one from becoming an addict.

Merriam-Webster defines disease as “an illness that affects a person . . . a condition that prevents the body or mind from working normally; a problem that a person . . . has and cannot stop.” Addiction is a disease. As is sometimes the case with cancer or heart disease, some people are more susceptible to addiction because of their genetic disposition or other factors. Addiction is a disease. Good people are just as likely to get cancer as bad and the same is true of addiction.

3. Addicts/Alcoholics are Weakshutterstock_248801596

People who have loved ones struggling with addiction often say things like, “Why can’t they just stop?” or “If they really loved me, they would stop.” But recovering from addiction is rarely as simple as just stopping. The inability of an addict to overcome addiction has less to do with the strength of the person fighting addiction and more to do with the strength of the addiction itself.

After being continuously dosed with drugs and/or alcohol, the addict’s body moves past the point of just wanting drugs or alcohol to actually needing them.  Before the addict/alcoholic’s body can handle life without drugs and/or alcohol, the body has to detox and part of that process is withdrawal. Withdrawal is a serious, sometimes life-threatening, stage of recovery that often requires medical assistance to get through. So, getting sober is not as simple as having the will to do it, most addicts/alcoholics need help before they can get to the point where getting/staying sober is something they have control over.

Check out this article from the National Institute of Drug Abuse for more information about how drug abuse effects the body and brain.

4. Drug Addiction is Worse than Alcohol Addiction

shutterstock_279700697 Even though some drugs have the potential to be more detrimental to the body, alcohol addiction is far more widespread than drug addiction. I can hear the skeptics now, “But alcohol is legal, drugs are illegal. Drug addiction has to be worse!” Sorry to burst your bubble, but this addiction myth is no more true than the rest.

While heroin or meth may be more damaging to users, those drugs are illegal, making them harder to get and often too expensive to buy in large quantities. Alcohol, on the other hand, is legal and there’s often no limit on how much a person can purchase at one time. Obviously, the potential for overdose or overuse is much higher when the substance being used is readily accessible and affordable. Not to mention, alcohol use is glorified in movies and on TV all the time. You’ve probably never seen a billboard with a young, successful, good looking celebrity smoking crack but alcohol ads portray scenes like this all the time. The fact of the matter is, whether the addiction is to drugs or alcohol, the human body can’t handle long-term addiction to either without suffering damaging, potentially fatal, side effects.

5. Once Treated and Recovered, Addicts/Alcoholics can Use/Drink like Non-Addicts/Alcoholicsshutterstock_207392116

Addiction is a life-long disease. Recovering addicts/alcoholics aren’t “cured” just because they’ve gone through rehab or gotten sober on their own. The fantasy of one day drinking or drugging like a non-addict/alcoholic is just that, a fantasy.

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for addicts/alcoholics to test this theory. Step into any local NA or AA meeting, especially one with “No First Drink” as the topic, and you’ll hear story upon story from addicts/alcoholics who’ve tested this theory and barely made it back to recovery alive. Almost as telling is what you won’t hear at these meetings- stories from those who’ve tested the theory and didn’t make it back alive. Of all the myths about addiction, what makes this the most dangerous of them all is the fact that people, not just addicts/alcoholics but their friends and family too, want this myth to be true so badly that, despite all the evidence to the contrary, they can’t help but test it for themselves. This myth has already taken too many recovered addicts/alcoholics down the slippery slope of relapse, don’t let it take you or your loved one down too.


Sanford Behavioral Health is a residential and outpatient facility located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Sanford offers excellence in evidence-based practice models in a home-like, restorative setting. Our clinicians, supported by our medical team, focus on resolving the underlying issues that often cause substance use, such as trauma, unhealthy relationships, co-occurring disorders and isolation. Programs include both in-person and telehealth: residential, day programs, intensive outpatient, outpatient, medication-assisted treatment (MAT), education and relapse prevention classes, one-on-one and family therapy, and alumni and family support groups. At Sanford, we want to inspire you to find your inner grit, rekindle your interests and engage your passion.