Two Myths About Addiction that Only Make it Worse

We have done almost nothing to change the way we deal with addicts and addiction for more than 40 years.

A change is needed, and proven solutions are out there. But our leaders seem to be focused on bathrooms, raising money, and bashing each other publicly.

So it is up to us. You and me.

If your loved one is an addict, here are a couple myths you need to know about.

“You have to want it.”

That’s what they say…

Want what, exactly? To be sober?

Look, I won’t pretend to be completely naive to this idea. I understand why it is so common. And of all the myths about addicts, this is one of the truer statements. Still, it shows a level of ignorance that is hard to ignore.

Often this statement is said by someone with very little experience in the realm of addiction. Because the truth is, most addicts do want it. Ask any addict — any addict who realizes they are in fact an addict — and they will all tell you how badly they wish they could stop. But addiction is like a vise that can crush even the most determined person.

The “want” to quit is simply not enough.

In fact, the want to be sober can often increase the addiction’s hold. In this way addiction is more like a Chinese finger-trap than a vise. And a statement like this can make an addict’s life even more confusing and difficult to deal with.

Think about it… As an addict you hear this said all the time. Then, when you actually get to the point where you do want to be sober, you assume it will just happen — because you want it. Of course it doesn’t happen, and the addict feels like even more of a failure.

“You have to want it.” This is not only an outdated idea, but it is also a dangerous one. It causes harm to the addict who truly does want to be sober, and it belittles any work the addict has done so far.

That said, it is true that a person must want to be sober before they can enter recovery. However, if you are trying to help an addict, you need to know that want alone is not enough.

“Rock bottom”

The idea that an addict must hit rock bottom for change to happen is not only wrong but dangerous.

Plenty of addicts have realized they have a problem long before hitting bottom. And even more addicts have found themselves in a state of desperation much worse than they could have ever imagined.

One of the problems with the rock bottom myth is that it assumes every person, no matter who they are, has a predefined low point that they are unwilling to reach.

No one sits around thinking…

“If I ever become hopelessly addicted to drugs, I think ‘X’ will be my rock bottom.”

That is just ridiculous…

Life in the fast lane

Think of addiction like a highway. And rock bottom is an exit ramp that helps to lead you off that highway. Like any other highway, you jump on thinking you will only go so far. But once you are on this highway, it’s easier to stay on than get off.

There are exits (rock bottoms) all along the highway.

As you travel, you see the first exit. That first exit might be something like poor performance at work.

Exit #1: Poor Performance at Work

You see the exit marked clearly. You can get off now and save yourself lots of trouble. But you are curious about what might be ahead. Besides, what’s one more exit gonna hurt? The next exit is just ahead, you can turn around there. So you drive on.

Exit #2: Getting Fired

By the time you reach that second exit, you’ve forgotten that you need to turn around. So you pass right by it. This time you lose your job. Losing a job is something more people would definitely consider a “rock bottom”. But not an addict. Besides, there’s plenty of other jobs. You drive on. Only this time, you notice the exits are spread further and further apart.


By the time you pass Exit #2, you are starting to notice some things you don’t like about yourself. But nobody wants to feel that way, right? So you start using more often to numb yourself. Suddenly you realize you are on this highway, moving faster and faster each time you use. Everything is a blur now, including the signs for all the exits. So you are speeding, passing all the exit ramps because you can’t see them.

Meanwhile, everyone around you is telling you of all the signs you seem to keep missing. They wonder when you will stop, when you will hit rock bottom. What they don’t seem to understand is that you did hit rock bottom. It happened in a blur, and you didn’t notice it until after it was too late. Until you had already passed that exit.

Now your life is a series of passing exits, reaching new lows. There is nothing else for you to do but steer the car.

The Only Real Rock Bottom…

…is death. You can’t wait for your loved one to hit rock bottom because to an addict there is no such thing. Every day is a rock bottom. Every morning a new low. An opportunity to get high, or to die. Like it or not, these are the only two things an addict thinks about.

An object in motion stays in motion, right? Well, if your loved one is an addict that is what you are dealing with — an object in motion. Like a car speeding down the highway.

That doesn’t mean addicts are helpless. It means you cannot wait to act.