Will power isnÕt always enough, and hitting rock bottom isnÕt always the way.
For people caught in the clutches of active addiction, asinine adages about recovery can cause serious damage, by making treatment sound like a lousy idea to the very people who might benefit from it most. So as a public service, an outfit called The Recovery Place in Ft. Lauderdale recently compiled a helpful list of the most misbegotten misconceptions about alcoholism and addiction, along with some thoughtful responses from a panel of seasoned experts. We picked up four of the more prevalent cliches, while adding a bit of well-earned wisdom of our own. ÒMost people live in a myth and grow violently angry if anyone dares to tell them the truth about themselves,Ó the Recovery Place waxed poetically as a prelude to its piece. Nice! Try using that one on your alkie aunt the next time she gives you any guff about packing her bags for Betty Ford.
Myth #1: YouÕre just selfish and weak. If you exhibited just the tiniest bit of willpower than you could easily quit all this. Probably one of the most destructive myths around. Yeah, right! I really enjoy waking up in a Comfort Inn next to a transvestite who looks remotely like the handyman at work. ItÕs really fun to wake up in a pool of my own vomit. And I love blacking out six hours of my life every weekend. As The Recovery Place notes: ÒNo one would destroy their lives by a choice not influenced by some sort of psychological or physiological problem.Ó Addiction is caused by a complex set of genetic and psychological issues that nobody really understands. It really sucks. All you know is that when itÕs actively got you in its grip, willpower doesnÕt stand a chance.
Myth #2: Hitting rock bottom is the only way to successfully get through recovery. Simply ridiculous, the experts retort. ÒSometimes families intervene successfully, and convince their loved ones to trundle off to treatment without a whimper. Other people really do need to hit rock bottom before they turn their lives around. But for most of us, the realization that you have a problem is a slow and gradual process. No one likes to think of themselves as an addict or alcoholic. ItÕs all a tad tawdry and gauche. But one day, after a three day binge, you wake up and realize that if you donÕt get some help, youÕll end up permanently losing your family, your job, and maybe your life. ThatÕs when you get your priorities straight.
Myth #3: Once you relapse and take a drink or a drug again, you give up all the gains youÕve made since you started and have to start all over again. Utter bullshit, the experts retort. You can lose a lot of things in life Ñyour hair, your credit rating, your dignity, and possibly your liverÑbut the one thing you canÕt ever lose is your experience. Even if you suffer a few slips along the way, you never really have to go back to square one, because youÕve been there already. Even a short sint of sobriety can provide you with some positive groundwork on which to build a new foundation, and hopefully some support you can rely on. Your past successes (and defeats) provide you with a base of knowlege that can help you avoid future mistakes, and take you further along than you ever were before. We live in a world of endless possibilities. Giving up is the only thing that will keep you down.
Maer Roshan is the Editor in Chief of The Fix. He was the Deputy Editor of New York Magazine, Editorial Director of Talk Magazine, Features Editor of Interview and founded the award-winning RadarMagazine.
- A Disease You Can Get Yelled At For Having (addictionts.com)
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