Avoid Misperceptions About Substance Use Disorders and Recovery

You Can Be Wrong—Even When You Are Convinced You Are Right

Have you ever played a trivia game with your friends? Maybe you are a specialist in a certain category—literature or sports or history or what have you. You get a question in your best category, and you know the answer. You don’t think you know it. You know you know it.

With a smile, you announce the answer. You wait for your fellow players to congratulate you.

But they don’t—because, as it would turn it out, you are wrong.

You might be shocked. You might even object. You might grab your phone to check the answer. 

But you are still wrong.

A lot of people think they know a lot about substance use disorders—what they are, how you can overcome them, what they say about the people who suffer from them, and more. These folks, many of whom are no doubt well-meaning, are ready to offer all kinds of advice based on their “knowledge.”

But their certainty doesn’t make them right. Let’s look at some common myths about substance use disorders—and the realities, too.

Myth 1: A substance use disorder is a sign of bad character or a lack of faith.

This is a big one. Far too many people still believe that a substance use disorder is a sign that you have a moral or spiritual problem. Only a person whose character is questionable—these people might argue—or who does not put their full trust in God could develop a substance use disorder.

Let us be very clear: A substance use disorder is a treatable—but not curable—brain disease. Ongoing substance use changes your brain’s chemistry and pathways. Those changes have nothing to do with your character. While a decision to start taking illicit drugs might be reasonably questioned, the development of a disorder is not a reflection of your character or faith

Myth 2: If you can function in your day to day life, you must not have a problem.

Some people turn out to be so-called “high functioning” substance users. This means that—for a while at least—they are able to drink or use drugs and it seems to have no impact on their day-to-day life. They can still succeed at work, their relationships are intact, and they don’t have any obvious physical signs or symptoms related to their substance use. 

But here’s the reality: “high functioning” is a temporary condition. Eventually, your body and brain will start to feel the effects of ongoing substance use—and when they do, all of the things you have been holding together are likely to start falling apart. We would argue that it is far better to get help for a substance use disorder before everything starts going wrong.

Myth 3: You don’t need treatment until you hit “rock bottom.”

This myth is related to the last. Maybe you know you have a problem, but you think it is manageable. You might even set some kind of standard for yourself. 

If I ever suffer a blackout, then I will get help.

If I ever get pulled over for driving under the influence, then I will get help.

If I ever get in a physical altercation after drinking or using drugs, then I will get help.

The problem with those standards is that many people struggling with drugs or alcohol just reset the standard anytime they find themselves experiencing the original problem they promised themselves would lead to treatment. This tendency to “move the goalposts” can cause you to do more damage to your physical and mental health than you would if you got into treatment sooner. The time to get treatment is always the very moment you realize you have developed a problem with drugs or alcohol.

Myth 4: Once you have gotten sober you won’t—or at least shouldn’t—relapse.

We have come full circle. The same sort of folks who believe your substance use disorder is a sign of bad character are likely to believe that treatment for addiction is a “one and done” proposition. But they are not the only people who might buy into this myth.

This is a myth that can trip up a person in recovery. They might have unrealistic expectations regarding the challenges they might face after treatment. A kind of overconfidence might set in, and that, ironically enough, can set them up for a relapse. 

The reality is that relapses are common—and the best way to address them is to return to treatment, reclaim your sobriety, and restart your recovery journey. 

This Is No Myth: We Can Help You Get Sober

At Wooded Glen Recovery Center—located in Henryville, Indiana—we provide personalized treatment for substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health disorders. We will see you through medically supervised detoxification and a rehabilitation program that includes personalized individual therapy as well as group therapy. We will follow that up with a continuum of care designed to help you get your recovery journey started on the right foot. When you are ready to get sober, we are ready to help you do so.