False Narratives in Recovery

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False Narratives in Recovery

08 January, 2021Articles, News

A central goal of self-disclosure within recovery circles is to challenge myths and misconceptions about addiction through the elements of our personal stories. Advocates of recovery must avoid contributing to false narratives by having selective parts of our stories appropriated while ignoring the central message of recovery.

Social stigmas relating to addiction, treatment and recovery, rest on old and new misconceptions regarding the sources and solutions to alcoholism and other problems with addiction. Such false narratives about the nature of addiction; treatment for addiction; recovery from addiction- add fuel to stigmas surrounding addiction and addicts.

Some of the stigmas which addicts encounter include :

Addiction is a product of moral turpitude (badness) that is best prevented and discouraged by public shaming and other forms of punishment. The moral turpitude fallacy continues to feed social shunning, serves as grounds for divorce, and provides a rationale for political disenfranchisement and discrimination in housing, employment, education, and medical benefits. Overemphasizing or exaggerating the bad people we were in the addiction portion of our stories inadvertently feeds this view.

Addicts pass on their degeneracy (bad seed) to their children. This narrative has resulted in the inclusion of addicts in mandatory sterilization laws as well as the loss of parental custody and related legal rights. It also feeds false narratives which tar the children of addicted parents with the same brush.

Addiction is untreatable (Once a junkie, always a junkie) This false narrative feeds personal, public, and professional pessimism about addiction and provides the rationale for prolonged institutionalization or incarceration. Many people who engage in substance use do not develop a problem with addiction. Many people who do engage in recreational use to a problematic extent, (for example young people during their high school or college years), tend to reduce their use once they take on more adult responsibilities. This is not to say that people with a substance use problem do not have a severe, chronic disorder. For them, addiction is a progressive disease that requires intensive treatment, continuing aftercare and family or peer support to manage their recovery. Addiction is a treatable condition, but recovery outcomes often depend upon numerous personal, clinical, and environmental factors.

Recovery is not possible until an addict hits rock bottom. Actually, most people recover from addiction long before hitting bottom (losing everything). Addiction-related loss and pain in the absence of hope is an invitation for continued self-destruction. The “hit rock bottom” premise suggests that recovery rests solely with the individual and therefore there is little family or community can do until this point of individual awakening occurs. This constitutes an invitation for family and community to abandon those suffering from addiction. This premise is untrue and is not applied to other medical conditions, and should be forever discarded within the arena of addiction. We must not let our stories be twisted to support this supposition even if we were one of those who did hit bottom and lost everything.

Recovery from addiction is the exception to the rule. This is yet again, one of many false narratives related to addiction and recovery. Recovery is the norm; individuals who do not achieve sustainable recovery are the exceptions. Those who struggle with recovery often have co-occurring problems that make achieving recovery more difficult. They also frequently have less support from within the community. Even people with the most severe addiction problems can and do recover when community and family resources are intensified. We must repel any effort to cast our recovery as the heroic exception to the rule and convey the consistent message that no one need die of addiction. Recovery is far more than possible; it is the probable long-term outcome for those who experience alcohol and other drug-related problems.

Media channels frequently tell the story of recovering from addiction as a personal story, focusing on the individual, rather than a larger story of the role of the family and community in addiction and recovery. The prevalence and severity of addiction are profoundly influenced by social, economic, and political contexts. The recovery tipping point has as much to do with family and community resources and the capacity to mobilise resources, as it does with what is going on within the addict. We serve best when we present our journey from addiction to recovery within these larger contexts and extoll the role of family and community in the recovery process.

The road to recovery from addiction is not always an easy one but getting yourself or your loved one the best care from the team at Crossroads Recovery Centre provides you with a map to sober, healthy living. No matter how bad things seem, there is hope and it’s just a phone call away. If you or anyone close to you needs help with an addiction to sex, gambling, substances, alcohol or food, please contact us for a free assessment.


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Banning, A., & Karl, P. (1910). A preliminary study of extreme alcoholism in adults. Eugenics Laboratory Memoirs, XIV. London: Dulau and Co. Ltd.



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