Addiction isn’t a disease that simply takes a hold of one person – it takes down everyone in its path; when one person suffers, the loved ones and family members suffer, too. Beyond the physical and emotional pain, labels don’t just follow the individual, but the entire family. Labels and lies can easily deter individuals and families from seeking the help they need. Below are seven of the most common lies we hear that minimize addiction – and ultimately delay addiction treatment.
- “Mind your own business; My drinking and drug use doesn’t hurt anyone else.” Drugs and alcohol affect abilities, moods, actions and reactions, predictability and stability. When a person drinks or uses to the point of being high or intoxicated, it can becomes anyone and everyone’s business: they’re not productive at work, they’re not a reliable parent, they’re a hazard to others if they’re behind the wheel; they keep their loved ones awake for nights on end when they don’t come home. Drinking and drugs affect more people than just the individual using.
- “He’s only drinking a lot right now because he’s stressed.” How long has the blame game been circulating in your home? “If my boss wasn’t such a jerk, I wouldn’t be drinking,” or “If my wife didn’t nag me so much,” or “If I wasn’t so worried about bills, kids, fill in the blank.” Excuses and explanations are a quick cover up as to why someone may be drinking or using to cope. The reality is, these explanations only minimize the true problem, while pointing towards others.
- “The doctor prescribed me all of these pills – so it’s fine.” Unfortunately, not all doctors prescribe medication with care. In many states, the most commonly used drugs are prescription medications including opiates such as Oxycontin – as well as anti-anxiety benzos, including Xanax, and even sleeping pills. In addition, keep in mind – not all patients are honest with their doctors. While there are many steps some doctors take to avoid overprescribing, there are many patients who go to multiple doctors and even multiple pharmacies to have their prescriptions filled.
- “She takes her kids to school everyday and never misses work; there’s no way she could have a problem.” Have you ever heard the term “functioning alcoholic?” We wrote an entire blog dedicated to the 4 stages of alcoholism of the functional alcoholic. Those who have avoided consequences of their drinking or drug use tend to be labeled as “high functioning” – meaning they have maintained an outward appearance of being without problems. Just because a person has a great job, gets their kids to school on time, and has never gotten a DUI doesn’t mean they don’t have a substance problem.
- “He only drinks on the weekend.” A person suffering from alcoholism or any other type of addiction doesn’t necessarily have to drink or use every single day. In fact, for example – binge drinking is a common form of alcoholism. Unfortunately, it can be an even more dangerous and even deadly form of the disease because it tends to be accompanied by even more denial and excuses than from those who drink daily. When a person drinks, what time they start or what days of the week they do it are really secondary to how much they drink or use, how much it affects his or her behavior and life — and how hard it may be for them to stay sober.
- “I can quit any time I want.” This minimization of addiction is all about keeping control – and often accompanied with a second statement: “I just don’t want to quit right now, but if I wanted to – I would.” Do you consider this a true statement? Because the truth is, he or she really can go to treatment right now – and he or she can get better right now – all your loved one needs is the want to.
- “She doesn’t drink any more than anyone else; she’s not that bad.” Pointing towards other people’s use of substance is another quick and easy way to distract from the problem at hand. Comparing your drinking or using – or your loved one’s drinking or using – to another person’s can be a trap. Different people are affected differently by alcohol and drugs, and how other people use it shouldn’t be your concern; your concern, instead, should be how that substance is impacting your life or the life of your loved one.
Despite addiction being a life-threatening illness, those who suffer from addiction, often downplay what is really going on. Many times, the family becomes entangled in the mess of lies and minimization, as well. When a person struggling with addiction fails to get help, his or her problems tend to escalate, and their risks become much more dangerous. Remember that while it may be frustrating to talk to a loved one or family about getting help, addiction is absolutely a treatable illness. The person or family members thinking about getting help need support. Don’t allow them to minimize the situation, but instead, encourage them to seek help.