Even today, alcoholism remains a widely misunderstood disease. The proliferation of common myths about the causes, nature and treatment of alcoholism only makes it harder for people suffering from addiction to alcohol to get the help they need. If you or someone you love is struggling with alcoholism, you need to know the truth behind these common alcoholism myths.
Alcoholics Lack the Willpower to Quit Drinking
For decades, alcoholics have been blamed for their own inability to quit drinking. “If only you had the willpower,” they’re told, “you could give up drinking for good!”
It’s not a lack of willpower that keeps alcoholics from giving up alcohol. Many alcoholics have monumental amounts of willpower — consider the high-functioning alcoholic who powers through day after day at work in spite of his frequent hangovers, or the alcoholic mother who fights valiantly to hide her drinking and its effects from the kids. The successes these people manage to attain — in spite of alcoholism — speak volumes as to their immense strength of will.
Alcoholics need help to quit drinking. It’s not just a matter of putting down the bottle and walking away. They need to unlearn the bad habits and negative thought patterns that led to the substance abuse problem, and develop healthy coping skills and the means to resist the temptation to drink.
Alcoholics Are Addicted From the Very First Drink
While it’s true that some alcoholics claim they became addicted to alcohol from the very first drink, this is far from the norm. Many alcoholics become addicted to alcohol only after drinking heavily on a regular basis for a long period of time. While genetics may be a strong factor in many cases of alcoholism, in many other cases, it is not.
The truth is doctors don’t yet understand what causes alcoholism or why one drinker becomes addicted while another drinker does not. They do understand that a number of factors — including age, genetics, gender, psychological profile, and peer pressure — contribute to the development of alcohol addiction.
Alcoholics Can’t Hold Down Jobs or Be Successful
In fact, many alcoholics do just that. About one-fifth of alcoholics are what’s called “high-functioning,” meaning that they hold down good jobs and are often well-educated and successful in their fields; they have families and active social lives, and they stay out of trouble with the law.
Alcoholics Drink Every Day
Not every alcoholic drinks every day. It’s not what, when, where or how much you drink that makes you an alcoholic. It’s how your drinking affects your life and how you think about your drinking that makes you an alcoholic.
If your drinking causes problems in your life, and you find yourself making excuses to drink, looking forward to the next time you can drink, hiding your drinking or telling yourself that you don’t have a problem, you might be an alcoholic — even if you only drink on weekends.
Alcoholics Anonymous Is the Only Effective Treatment for Alcoholism
While many people have found recovery success in the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step program, the truth is that there are many different paths to sobriety. Alternative alcoholism support groups include SMART Recovery and Recovery International.
Addiction treatment counselors often use a number of treatment techniques, including group therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, family therapy, emotional regulation therapy, and more. Exercise, meditation, yoga and even acupuncture might benefit some recovering alcoholics. Alcoholics who suffer from other mental illnesses, like depression or anxiety, will need treatment for both problems.
Myths about alcoholism do more harm than good because they can make it difficult for alcoholics to recognize their problem, get help and obtain support from those closest to them. Learn the truth about alcoholism so you can repair the damage this disease may have done to your life.