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Getting sober and staying sober is the goal of everyone entering treatment for chemical addiction disorders. Everyone who’s been through detox knows that getting sober can be a rough ride. And as countless people who have relapsed or almost relapsed can attest, staying sober isn’t easy either.
However, we can make it a little less difficult by ridding our thinking of certain misconceptions that tempt to procrastination, discouragement, self-deprecation and unhealthy blame.
MISCONCEPTION #1: GETTING SOBER STARTS WITH HITTING ROCK BOTTOM
The truth: Perhaps because it makes good drama, people who wreck their lives before they quit using drugs get more than their share of the publicity. It would be humorous if it didn’t provide one more excuse for still-functional addicts (and those who might influence them to get help) to keep insisting, “I don’t need to quit, things aren’t that bad.”
You can get treatment at any stage of an addiction: when the first symptoms of physical dependence appear, when you first miss work due to a hangover, when you first catch yourself panicking at the thought of going one day without a drink. Like any illness, addiction is easier to treat in its early stages. And you’ll be able to return, sober, to a normal life without having to rebuild it from scratch.
MISCONCEPTION #2: ALL DETOX CENTERS ARE THE SAME
The truth: Some detox centers are large, some are small. Some focus on inpatient care, some on outpatient. Some include 12-Step programs, some don’t. Some use medication-assisted treatment, some don’t. Some cater primarily to clients of a specific age range, gender, economic group, religion or even personality type. The primary things all good detox facilities have in common are access to licensed medical care and empathy for clients as individuals.
Whatever your preferences, there’s a detox center to suit you. Don’t be scared off just because someone else’s description of their treatment sounds like the last thing you’d want.
MISCONCEPTION #3: ONCE YOU’RE DETOXED, YOU’RE CURED
The truth: Once you’re finished with detox, you’ll remain free of the worst physical cravings (those that manifest themselves in physical illness) unless you take more of the drug. The emotional cravings, however, are another story. Especially once you leave the detox facility and return to your former job/residence/marriage with all its stresses, you’ll likely be troubled by periodic “I need a drink” thoughts for several months. Your best defenses against yielding to these cravings are:
- Intensive sobriety therapy after detox
- A relapse-prevention plan worked out in advance
- Regular participation in a support group
- A trusted friend to call in case of emergency
After a while, temptations to relapse will become less frequent. Someday, you’ll realize it’s been a year since you even thought about taking a drink. This doesn’t mean you can afford to get complacent about being “cured,” though: addiction disorder is a chronic illness, meaning that even years later, you could get into trouble with “just one” dose.
MISCONCEPTION #4: GETTING SOBER WILL SOLVE ALL YOUR PROBLEMS
The truth: Although addiction is the primary cause of many problems, it doesn’t start in a vacuum. Any reputable detox facility, besides providing medical treatment to help you get clean from physical dependence, will offer post-detox therapy to help you decide what to do about the issues behind your addiction.
Beware also of going back to the “real world” with any ideas that life will now be an easy ride, or that the world as a whole owes you special consideration for getting sober. Bitterness because “I went through all that and no one appreciates it” leads many people to relapse. Even those you’re closest to, while they should provide extra support avoiding stress and temptation, aren’t obligated to protect you from every frustration. And remember, the main key to sobriety is accepting responsibility: you owe amends to those your addiction made trouble for.
MISCONCEPTION #5: PEOPLE WHO CAN’T STAY SOBER ARE WEAK AND/OR MORALLY DEFECTIVE
The truth: Relapse can happen to strong people with the best intentions and purest motives. Sometimes, “strong” people are more vulnerable because they find it harder on their pride to ask for help resisting temptation. If you plan well and are committed and a little lucky, you may well be able to avoid ever relapsing: but there’s no absolute guarantee of immunity.
What’s equally important is knowing that even if you do relapse, you can pick yourself up and return to sobriety. You haven’t proven yourself a hopeless case. You aren’t too weak to ever quit again. Believe in yourself, and don’t listen to ignorance-fueled criticism.
MISCONCEPTION #6: A SOBER LIFE IS A DULL LIFE
The truth: Tragically, some people hesitate to go to detox because they suspect there’d be nothing for them without their drug. There’s plenty of excitement and happiness to be found in the sober life:
- Freedom to develop your potential and dreams to the fullest
- New friends who understand and support you
- Creative hobbies and volunteer opportunities
- Vastly improved physical health
- Money for more important things than drugs
- A renewed sense of self-confidence
Don’t let any misconception keep you from getting and staying sober. Your real life is waiting!