Recovering from addiction isn’t easy, and it’s even harder if you have unrealistic ideas about recovery. You might feel like you’re not progressing as fast as you should or that you’re having problems no one else has. In reality, although everyone’s story is unique, there are very few unique problems in addiction recovery. However, having unrealistic idea about how recovery should go can be discouraging when problems arise. Here are some common misconceptions about addiction recovery.
Relapse is inevitable.
It’s true that under certain circumstances, relapse rates are very high. Some studies have estimated that long-time heroin users, for example, have relapse rates around 90 percent in the first year of recovery. However, there is also huge variation in estimates of relapse rates, and it largely depends on what substances you have used, how long you were addicted, and the quality of your treatment. For example, most people who struggle with addiction also have a co-occurring disorder, such as depression or anxiety, and if that disorder is not treated, the risk of relapse remains very high. Success also depends on your commitment to sobriety. The closer you stick to your recovery plan and the more social support you have, the lower your risk of relapse.
Progress is linear.
Sticking to your recovery plan increases your chances of long-term success, but improvement is never steady. Some days will be worse than the day before. One day you might feel like you’re doing great and the next day you might feel like you’re heading for disaster. It’s normal to be up and down, especially at the beginning. You have to learn new skills and make lifestyle changes, which can be challenging. Also, life will occasionally challenge you in ways you’re not quite ready for. It’s normal to feel a bit lost or hopeless when you’re suddenly overwhelmed by some nasty surprise. However, if you keep working on your recovery, even in the face of setbacks, you can succeed in the long run.
After treatment, you can go back to “normal” life.
Addiction treatment isn’t so much a cure as it is a reset. You detox from whatever substances you were using, you go through intensive therapy to figure out what’s behind your addiction, and you start creating a strong sober support network to keep you on track. However, all of this is only a start. Relapse remains a real possibility for a long time, perhaps forever. Staying sober requires an ongoing commitment and lifestyle changes. Just as you wouldn’t expect to have bypass surgery and go right back to eating cheeseburgers, you can’t expect to go back to your old ways and stay sober. Someone recovering from bypass surgery has to adopt a healthy diet and exercise regularly if she doesn’t want another surgery and someone recovering from addiction must live differently if she doesn’t want to relapse.
A slip-up means you’ve failed or have to start over.
Since progress is not linear, but rather up and down, slip-ups and even full relapses do happen. A slip up is usually a one-off. You might have drink, or many drinks, wake up in the morning full of remorse and head straight to see a counselor or attend a meeting. You can learn from your mistake and get back on track quickly. A full relapse just keeps going. You typically get back into the mental space of not caring. Typically, a relapse begins long before you actually start using substances again. It’s more about your state of mind than just using a substance. A relapse is a setback, but it doesn’t mean you’ve failed. It doesn’t even mean you have to start all over from scratch. If you’ve been through detox and treatment, and started attending mutual aid meetings like SMART, AA, or Refuge Recovery, and started building a sober network, you’re already far ahead of where you were the last time you got sober. It’s true you have to do a little more work to get back on track, but once you do, you will be stronger for the experience.
Medication assisted treatment is just replacing one drug with another.
The current gold standard for treating opioid addiction is cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, and medication such as methadone or Suboxone. This has sometimes been called replacing one addiction with another, but that idea is misleading and dangerous. It’s true that many people would prefer not to take anything at all and if they would prefer not to use medication, it’s their choice–assuming medication wasn’t ordered by a drug court. However, some people have found that medication is the only way they can stay sober and function normally. If that’s the case, then taking a regular dose of methadone or Suboxone is far better than continuing an opioid addiction. No one would suggest that someone with diabetes shouldn’t take insulin shots and the situation for many people recovering from opioid addiction is similar.
You have to become religious to stay sober.
AA has existed for more than 80 years now, and it’s well known that a central part of the 12 steps is reliance on a “higher power.” Although members are given a lot of latitude in defining their own higher power, it’s generally assumed the higher power is God. Many people recovering in 12-step programs become devoutly religious, so you might assume you will have to become religious if you want to stay sober. In reality, this may be incidental. Other factors like social support and treating co-occurring conditions are far more important. There are also mutual aid groups like SMART Recovery, Refuge Recovery, and LifeRing, as well as special atheist and agnostic 12-step groups that are effective while being completely secular.
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction or mental illness, we can help. Recovery Ways is a premier drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility located in Salt Lake City, Utah. We have the resources to effectively treat a dual diagnosis. Our mission is to provide the most cost-effective, accessible substance abuse treatment to as many people as possible. Request information online or call us today at 1-888-986-7848