Hopefully you learn more than 5 things when you get sober but, there are a few commonly held beliefs that addicts have prior to getting sober. One of the symptoms of active addiction is to be out of touch with reality so some of these might not make much sense to the average individual. However, having heard over 1000 stories up until this point, these 5 misconceptions stick out as the most humorous and nonsensical.
Everyone Smokes Weed
False. In high school, I remember debating with my friends on how, not if, my teachers chose to enjoy the ganja. "Ms. Kowalski definitely gets high on lunch break. She is always getting pissed off in the morning but, then she's way chill after she smokes in the afternoon". "No man. I think she tokes in the morning too because she just zones out and draws all over the projector". These were daily conversations we had about our teachers, police officers, Subway sandwich makers, and even our parents. Okay, we may have been right about the Subway sandwich makers but, it's just not true that everyone uses drugs. Many people go full days, weeks, or even years without touching anything illegal. However, the numbers are still pretty high. DrugAbuse.gov reports that 9.4% of people 12 and older have used an illicit substance in the last month. That's still pretty high but, most people are getting along fine without it.
I Can't Have Fun Sober
The sobering fact is that this can be partly true in the beginning. Our brains have become wired to expect pleasure from the dopamine release they get while on drugs. If there is prolonged use, our brains naturally stop producing dopamine in regular amounts so that we can only experience pleasure, motivation, and emotion while on drugs. This is coupled by the fact that we have trained our brains to get high before we get high. We remember the objects, situations, and stressors that came before the high and we are "triggered" before we even ingest the substance. These "triggers" are found all over and they are difficult to deal with in early sobriety. Fortunately, science and our experience shows us that brains can change. With consistent abstinence and emotional work, people can change and it has been many people's experience that life get's easier. In fact, many people including myself, have found a "second wind" with life and have decided to design their life around experiencing the most fun possible. The bottom line is, fun is most fun when you don't have to depend on anything or anyone else to have it.
Of course this has to be true. Who on earth would enjoy being in rehab? All they have you do is sit in a room and talk about feelings until you're so fed up with it that you don't even want to use anymore. The truth is that some rehabs might suck but, most treatment centers are filled with people who care and they are designed around getting the client to feel better about their self. Every treatment center is going to facilitate groups about feelings, family systems, healthy living, and drug use. They do this because it's important information and because it takes a ton of repetition to get an addicts mind to start thinking about recovery instead of substances. I've gone white water rafting, fishing, hiking, rock climbing, snow shoeing, mountain biking, canoeing, cliff jumping, snorkeling, and canyoneering.....while working for rehabs! As a former counselor, I can tell you that they quickest way to get a client to open up and trust you is to make them laugh. Most treatment centers are filled with recovering addicts who have the ability to relate with you like few can. It is customary to have a client share their experience on their last day of treatment. The stories are always different but, they end the same. "I'm glad I did it".
My Life Isn't That Crazy
Yeah, right? Most people go through a phase where they are sticking a needle in their arm to avoid getting dope sick. Everyone has had a few too many and fell asleep at the wheel and it's okay to lie a little bit here and there to keep your family from worrying. Hello? This is not normal behavior! If it was then going out driving would be suicide and absolutely nothing would get done. You're life IS crazy. It just doesn't seem like it is because everyone around you either has a crazy life too or they have tried to protect you and tell you it's not crazy. Measuring crazy doesn't just have to do with the amount of trouble you're in or the amount of drugs you use. Thinking about killing yourself, playing video games 10 hours a day, or getting moderate alcohol poisoning 1 night per week is crazy too. When I say crazy, what I really mean is unacceptable. It's unacceptable to hurt yourself. Everyone deserves better than that. I've heard 100's of stories in the rooms of AA and in treatment about how "normal" the addict behavior became. The reality is, the situations listed above are not normal and if you've been experiencing them, you probably need help.
It Will Be Different This Time
This is probably the toughest one to come to grips with. When addicts share their story, a common theme is many failed attempts at getting things back on track. We told our family it would be different now because of a new realization, our kids future, or our new job. The crazy part about this is that it's not even lie. We are full convinced of our newfound direction. It makes sense to us and those around us that things will change because of the aforementioned situations. Why wouldn't they? They don't change because substances hijack the thinking part of our brains and force us to use our mid brain which is designed for survival. Our brain can't tell the difference between the stress of being chased by a lion and intense emotional stress. It deals with this in the only way it knows how. It tells us to run and find a safe place and it remembers what made the stress go away last time. Drugs. That is why people are constantly caught in a state of utter disbelief when the relapse. They literally weren't even thinking. To mitigate this, it's important to understand that a massive overhaul of life has to occur in order to build a lasting foundation of recovery. People, places, and ideas usually need to be replaced and sometimes this is something only a treatment center can provide. It's possible to find recovery in other ways but the truth is, it wont' be different unless you change one thing. Everything.