Addiction is a controversial topic.
There are many misconceptions about addiction, some of which I would like to set straight today.
1. Addiction is only about drugs and alcohol
When we hear the word “addict”, it’s likely that the immediate image that comes to mind is that of an alcoholic or a drug addict. However, addiction can occur in a much wider spectrum of areas and activities.
Recovery.co.uk include the following as possible addictions:
- alcohol addiction
- drug addiction
- prescription drug addiction
- gambling addiction
- eating disorders
- gaming addiction
- pornography/sex addiction
Other sources, such as Addiction Helper, include alongside these:
- mobile phone/internet addiction
- shopping addiction
It may be tempting to place each addiction-type on a spectrum of severity, but I believe it would be a mistake to do so. It may seem like “common sense” that shopping addiction is less severe or less destructive than prescription drug addiction. However, each type of addiction is destructive in its own way. While prescription drug addiction may cause direct physical damage to the addict’s body, shopping addiction may result in a person incurring such significant debt that they lose their accommodation, making them homeless, hence putting them at risk of physical harm or even death (in 2018, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) found an estimated 726 homeless people died in England and Wales – a 22% increase from 2017).
This is not to say that shopping addiction is more destructive than prescription drug addiction, or that any one type of addiction is more destructive than another. Addiction is destructive; whether it’s physically, psychologically, emotionally, spiritually, financially, professionally, or relationally – and to label one type of addiction as inherently more destructive than another is to ignore individual variables.
2. You can only access recovery services through religious organisations
Many recovery programs have a religious foundation, such as Celebrate Recovery (Christian-based) or Alcoholic Anonymous (the 12-step A.A. program includes belief in a Higher Power of your choice). However, there are also secular options. The one that I have experience with is UK Smart Recovery. This is a completely non-religious organisation where you can access meetings and resources both in person or online. The majority of people who access this service do so for alcohol or drug addiction recovery, but their services are open to people with any type of addiction. For more secular options, click here to see VeryWellMind‘s complete list.
Nevertheless, there are many people who will attest that they achieved full recovery by taking part in a spiritual program, but my point is that both options are available. Perpetuating the myth that all (or the best) recovery programs require religious submission can potentially deter someone from seeking help.
3. Addiction only affects poor people
If you asked a room full of people to take a pencil and a piece of paper and draw “an addict”, it’s likely that the vast majority of the drawings would look very similar, and chances are they would describe the addict as “poor”. This is not necessarily the case with every addict. Addiction can affect anyone across the socioeconomic spectrum.
4. Once you’re addicted, you’re addicted for life
Now there may be some truth to this, but it depends on who you ask. Some people claim that they have been able to completely recover from their addiction. However, others claim that you don’t actually “recover” from addiction, rather that you learn to manage it successfully – for example, the A.A.’s motto is “One Day At A Time”, meaning that you focus on each day as it comes, and make the decision not to drink on that day. Nevertheless, as I mentioned previously, many people will testify that they were able to break the chains of addiction completely, and found that having done so, the urge to engage in the addictive behaviour simply disappeared, never to return. It completely depends on your personal situation, but I would warn against sweepingly believing that addiction is a lifelong affliction.
5. Addicts are just bad people
It’s easy to write people off when they are struggling with addiction; to suggest that they “chose” this path and are therefore just a bad person. But this is just fundamentally wrong. Addiction isn’t a path that anyone chooses – it creeps up on you and swallows you whole, and it can happen to even the kindest, most intelligent, most brilliant people. We are human. We make mistakes. We make bad choices that lead us down the wrong path. That doesn’t make us bad people.
It’s true that when in the depths of addiction, the addict may behave in ways that hurt those around them. But at the root of this poor behaviour is the addiction, not the person. Addiction is powerful. It’s overwhelming. It’s all-encompassing. It takes over your life and turns you into someone that you don’t even recognise. It makes you do things you would never normally even consider.
Addicts aren’t bad people. They’re people in a bad place.
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, here are some resources you can access:
- UK Smart Recovery
- Alcoholics Anonymous
- Narcotics Anonymous
- NHS Drug Addiction Help
- Talk to Frank
- Action on Addiction
- Adfam National
- Al-Anon Family Groups UK and Eire
- No Panic
- Families Anonymous
- Start2Stop (Shopping Addiction)
- Sex and Porn Addiction Help
- Gam-Anon (Gambling Addiction)
- GamCare (Gambling Addiction)
- Beat (Eating Disorders)
- Overeaters Anonymous
You can also speak to your GP about your addiction concerns, and they may refer you for specialist treatment or to another support organisation.
Do you have experience with addiction? What myths would you like to dispel? Can you offer any advice to those just starting on their recovery journey? Let me know in the comments.