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15 Drug and Alcohol Recovery Myths Debunked

Heard Any of These Before?

You’ll lose your job. Everyone will find out you’re an addict. You’re too old.

It’s normal to be a little hesitant about entering a substance abuse treatment program. But don’t let fear or misinformation stop you from getting help.

Get the facts on some of the common myths about rehab.


Myths About Job/Cost of Treatment

Myth #1: I’ll lose my job if I go to rehab

If you are struggling with substance abuse, chances are your boss already has an idea that something’s wrong. Drug abuse can have a very negative effect on productivity and performance, and if abuse continues you could lose your job.

Employee Assistance Programs

Odds are your boss will be supportive of your efforts to heal. Many employers even offer employee assistance programs (EAPs) for employees struggling with substance abuse.

If you elect to use your company’s EAP, your supervisor does not have to know that you are seeking help.

But if there are problems at work due to substance abuse, your supervisor will refer you to an EAP and be more involved in monitoring your recovery.

Family and Medical Leave Act

Another option is to check your coverage under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The act allows 12 workweeks of job-protected, unpaid leave in a 12-month period for “a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job.”

Many employers consider substance abuse problems to be a serious health condition. Qualifications for FMLA coverage are ultimately determined by your employer, and may include stipulations similar to the following:

  • Worked for the employer for at least 12 months.
  • At least 1,250 hours of work over the past 12 months.
  • Work at a location where the company employs 50 or more employees within 75 miles.

Vacation Time

If discretion is a top priority for you (or your employer does not offer recovery benefits such as EAPs or FMLA), you may choose to use vacation time for your recovery process. This can also help with covering the costs of treatment if you receive paid vacation time.

Myth#2: I can’t afford substance abuse treatment

Treatment can be expensive, but there are always low-cost recovery options. The cost will depend on the program, and each program will have several options for paying.

If you have insurance, call our helpline at to see what kind of addiction treatment your company will cover. Make sure the facility that you’re considering accepts your insurance plan.

Luckily, Medicaid, Medicare and other health insurances now cover screening for substance abuse. But this does not always include treatment. Call your representative to find out what your plan covers.

If you do not have insurance, contact Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to learn about payment policies. Even if you do not have insurance, you have several recovery options:

  • Stabilization programs – Low-cost 2 to 6 weeks of stay in an inpatient recovery facility following detoxification.
  • Self-help 12-Step programs – Free, follows a 12-step spiritual approach to recovery, focusing on surrender and making amends.
  • Health Insurance Marketplace – State government low-cost insurance, coverage varies by state.

Myths About How Recovery Works

Myth #3: Substance abuse treatment is a quick fix for addiction

Recovery from drug or alcohol abuse is not easy, and it doesn’t stop when you leave a treatment program. Getting clean takes work, and the effort you put in after you leave a program matters just as much as the program itself.

The length of rehab programs varies depending on your needs and progress during the program. Everyone needs different amounts of time to recover, so there is no single stay time that works for everyone.

Some people may require multiple rehab admissions over the course of their lives to help them perfect their recovery skills.

Recovery is an ongoing process, so make sure you have some sort of aftercare in place before you leave the program. Aftercare can take many forms:

  • Group therapy – Working with peers through recovery struggles.
  • Emotion regulation – Learning to control negative emotional responses and control compulsive tendencies.
  • 12-Step programs – Following a predetermined 12-Step approach to recovery with a religious emphasis.
  • Sober houses – Living in a sober household of recovering peers.
  • Therapeutic communities – Living in a sober community.

Myth #4: I’ll have religion forced on me

While religion can be an important part of recovery for some people, many programs do not use a religious approach to treatment. The 12-Step model is the main recovery program that focuses on surrender to a higher power, but there are many other approaches to treatment that do not involve religion at all.

If you are concerned about the treatment approach (religious vs. non-religious), do some research on the programs that you are considering before committing. Belief and trust in the program’s approach will have a big effect on the program’s effectiveness for you, so choose one that matches your principles, whether or not you are religious.

Non-religious Treatment Approaches

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): examines thoughts and beliefs surrounding drug use and develops coping and refusal skills.
  • Matrix Model: intensive outpatient treatment that involves relapse prevention, education and social support groups as well as counseling and drug testing to ensure sobriety.
  • Evidence-based treatment: implements well-researched treatments that have been shown to be effective.
  • Self Management and Recovery Training (SMART): focuses on self-empowerment and self-reliance and teaches techniques for self-directed change.

Myth #5: Detox will be a nightmare

Detoxification, commonly called “detox,” involves allowing your body to clear itself of any remaining toxins before beginning addiction treatment.

While detoxification can be an uncomfortable experience, it is a very important step on the path toward recovery. Treatment facilities will do their best to help you through detox in the safest and easiest way possible.

Many facilities now provide medication-assisted detox, which can make the process more comfortable. Medication-assisted detox, in some cases, involves taking a longer-acting or safer pharmaceutical alternative to the drug of abuse to help ease the withdrawal process and/or minimize cravings.

Detoxification from certain drugs is potentially life-threatening without medical supervision. Some drugs that frequently require medically monitored detox include:

Undergoing a medical evaluation prior to starting a recovery program can ensure that you are following a safe detox process, as well as ensure the most comfortable, positive experience possible.

Myth #6: Rehab is like boot camp

While some programs still use a confrontational approach, research has shown that this approach does not work.2,5 Many recovery centers use empathy-focused reflective listening rather than confrontation to help you recover. Nowadays, most programs are very concerned with your comfort and well-being.They have a structure for your day that includes attending individual and group counseling sessions, while leaving you time for recreational activities. Some programs even organize special events on the weekends like movie nights and outdoor games.

Myth #7: It’s boring

Rehab is what you make of it. You can choose to see it as boring, or as the beginning of a new, revitalized life!

While in treatment, use the care and expertise of the staff and people around you to make changes that will profoundly affect your life.

You will meet other people who are struggling with similar issues as you, and you may find that this recovery connection turns into a close friendship. You will learn a lot about addiction and how it works, including why you turned to drug use in the first place.

Rehab can actually be incredibly insightful and helpful!

Myth #8: All drug and alcohol recovery programs are the same

Recovery programs follow different treatment approaches you have lots of options!

One of the first considerations you have to make is whether you want inpatient treatment or outpatient treatment. Inpatient treatment involves an extended stay at a treatment facility, whereas outpatient treatment involves visiting a facility for treatment.

Each program will have its own treatment philosophy. Some common ones include:

  • 12-Step
  • Holistic rehab
  • SMART Recovery
  • Religion-based
  • Harm reduction

Different programs will also offer different amenities. Some are luxurious and focused entirely on comfort–these are known as luxury or executive programs. Others may focus on a particular demographic or addiction, specializing in particular types of treatment such as opioid recovery.

The locations of each facility will also differ, providing different environments depending on where you choose to enroll. Each program is unique, and it is important that you find one that works for you.

Myths About Going to Rehab

Myth #9: I need to hit rock bottom before going to rehab

Hitting “rock bottom” means different things to different people. But no matter what that means for you, it is always better to get help before you get to that point. Don’t wait – you or a person you love could die.

Consequences of untreated addiction build up on each other, growing worse and worse with passing time. It is always better to get treatment sooner rather than later and avoid accumulating consequences.

Myth #10: I’ll be the most/least screwed up person there

It is common for people struggling with drug or alcohol abuse to suffer from low self-esteem. Maybe you feel bad about your appearance or regret the things you’ve done while on drugs. Or maybe you have deeper issues surrounding your use. Chances are, everybody else is worried about the same things.
Rehab is a place where you can learn how to improve your self-esteem while taking action to recover. You may find that having recovering peers around will inspire you, and you may chose to motivate others in their process. Rehab is about getting clean and sober, not who has the best or worst situation.

Myth #11: Rehab is a waste of time

Rehab is an incredibly important part of recovery for many people. In treatment programs you learn how to identify what may have led you to substance abuse in the first place, how to cope with the desire to continue using and how to say no to future temptations.

The California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs released historical information that showed that alcohol and drug use declined by 40% following treatment. They also report that hospitalizations were reduced by one-third following treatment, with corresponding improvements in health.

If the increased odds of recovery aren’t enough to convince you to seek help, consider the alternative: If you don’t get treatment, your addiction is likely to get worse.

Myth #12: Everyone will find out I’m an addict

All treatment centers respect their clients’ confidentiality and have their own particular guidelines for privacy. If the program that you are considering does not, or they can’t give you any information about them, do not go there.

Your privacy in seeking treatment is protected under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and this protection is enforced by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office for Civil Rights. HIPAA privacy regulations require that health care providers and organizations follow strict policies of confidentiality of patients’ protected health information in any form.

HIPAA ensures that the only people who will know about your substance abuse are you and your providers.

Myth #13: No one will understand me

Many people struggling with substance abuse feel like they don’t fit in anywhere-maybe this feeling factored in to why they started using in the first place. This is actually a very common issue: Low self-esteem has been widely associated with later drug abuse.4

What most users don’t think about is how drug use can lower self-esteem even more and actually make you feel worse about yourself.

This fear is no reason to avoid treatment. In fact, you’ll likely find common ground with the other people in the program (maybe even the staff), as the struggle toward recovery can be a uniting experience.

Myth #14: I’m too old

You are never too old to improve your health and quality of life!

People come from all age groups to get help with recovery. Here are some program age admission stats from SAMHSA’s Treatment Episode Data Set, or TEDS, for U.S. treatment admissions in 2014:

  • 12-30 year olds = 43.5% of people admitted to programs.
  • 31-50 year olds = 55.8% of people admitted to programs.
  • 51-66+ year olds = 13.6% of people admitted to programs.

These totals are based on the average percentage across all U.S. territories that participated in the survey. As you can see, people from all age ranges seek addiction help. If you are still worried about your age, you can search for a program that specializes in your particular demographic.

Remember: Recovery is a lifelong process and repeat attempts, even later in life, are not futile.

Myth #15: I’ll have to put my entire life on hold

Putting your life on hold for treatment may be possible for some people, but certainly not for everyone. Whether or not you need to fully immerse yourself in treatment will depend on what level of treatment you need.

  • Inpatient treatment: involves temporarily leaving your home environment to stay in a treatment facility for around-the-clock sobriety and care.
  • Outpatient treatment: is not as much of a commitment, as you will continue to live at home throughout the treatment process.
  • Executive treatment: allows you to continue working throughout the process.

For more serious care, inpatient treatment is highly recommended, as you will need to fully commit to getting clean. However, there are intensive outpatient programs if taking time away from home is absolutely not possible for you.

If you are going to do inpatient, make sure you take care of any responsibilities beforehand. Make a list of all the things that you or your home may need help with, and get in touch with neighbors, friends and family members to make sure everything is taken care of.

For help finding the right recovery program for you, call one of our treatment specialists at .