There are a number of stereotypes about addicts, which are perpetuated by pop culture. Even people who are struggling with addiction often buy into these misconceptions, comparing themselves to the stereotype to prove they are doing fine.
However, these misconceptions are unhelpful at best. Much of the time, they are a destructive force, preventing people from getting help or helping others.
Here are some of the most common misconceptions people have about addicts (and why they are not true).
Misconception 1: Once an addict, always an addict
The idea of “once an addict, always an addict” has actually been perpetuated by some addiction experts and programs. Their intent with this statement is that recovering addicts should continue working on themselves for the rest of their lives. Included in this, for some, is the idea that an addict will never be able to drink alcohol in moderation.
There are a number of problems with this precept, even when used as intended. But when people who haven’t struggled with addiction hear this, their response can be very harmful. They assume that the person will never be trustworthy again and that they have to keep their guard up no matter how much time passes.
The reality is that people recover from addiction. It is an illness like any other, and recovery helps you to not only stop using substances but to grow as a person.
Misconception 2: Addicts can’t have normal relationships
When addicted to substances, a person’s relationships tend to become toxic. They may become codependent with some friends and family members. They may lie to others. By the time they start recovery, their relationships hang in the balance.
This leads outsiders to view addicts as incapable of normal relationships going forward. They assume the person is unlikely to change and will only let friends and significant others down.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. In recovery, addicts develop an increased sense of self-awareness and learn relationship skills which anyone could benefit from.
Misconception 3: There are good addicts and bad addicts
Some people assume that all addicts look the same. Others, however, have met addicts and know that they can look very different. This can lead them to start categorising some as “good” addicts and others as “bad addicts.”
For example, they may see an alcoholic going to work every day and keeping financially stable. This they would consider a good addict. On the other hand, someone who is living on the street and begging or stealing for money to buy drugs would be considered a bad addict.
The truth is that addiction is an illness. Every addict deserves compassion. They may present very differently, but that is usually due to resources and circumstances. Wealthier people are often better able to hide or compartmentalize their addiction. This does not diminish the severity of their addiction, nor does it make them better than any other addicts.
Every addict can get help. The ravages of addiction may look particularly bad for some, but it is the addiction we fight, not the person.