Some of you may know I am starting a work project in Luxembourg on neurofeedback and its potential to support patients suffering from addictive disorders (such as alcohol abuse) or other psychological conditions (such as ADHD). And this week I am participating in the 17th International Addictology Congress ALBATROS in Paris. It is very topical to therefore share with you today a controversial topic that is dear to my heart: common misconceptions surrounding alcohol addiction and recovery. I believe it is essential to present a more balanced, fact-based view to dispel these myths and promote a compassionate and holistic approach. Let’s explore them together.

Myth 1: You can easily spot people with a drinking problem based on their physical appearance.

Fact: Physical appearance alone is not a reliable indicator of a drinking problem. Alcohol abuse affects people from all walks of life, and many individuals with alcohol abuse issues may not show obvious physical signs.

Myth 2: Having a drinking problem means you are an alcoholic.

Fact: The understanding of addiction has evolved towards “alcohol use disorder,” recognizing a continuum of problematic alcohol use. It is crucial to assess specific patterns and consequences rather than labelling individuals, fostering a personalized and nuanced approach to recovery.

Myth 3: Having a “real” drinking problem means heavily drinking every day, from morning to evening, consuming hard liquor.

Fact: Problematic drinking can take various forms and does not necessarily involve daily or constant heavy drinking. Alcohol abuse can include different beverages, and the quantity and frequency of drinking can vary among individuals with a drinking problem.

Myth 4: To get rid of a drinking problem, you “just” need to not drink and stay sober (forever).

Fact: While sobriety is crucial for recovery, it does not automatically address underlying issues. A holistic approach that encompasses physical, psychological, and social aspects is necessary, including support systems, therapy, and lifestyle changes.

Myth 5: If you have a drinking problem, there is something abnormal or broken in you, and you cannot handle your drink like most people do.

Fact: Alcohol abuse is a complex issue influenced by multiple factors, and it does not reflect personal character or moral failing. Empathy and understanding are key in approaching alcohol abuse and providing support for recovery.

Myth 6: Having a drinking problem means you are not trying hard enough to control or stop your drinking, and you lack self-control, discipline, motivation, or self-respect…

Fact: Alcohol abuse is a complex condition, and it is not solely a matter of willpower. Recovery often requires comprehensive support, therapy, and professional guidance to overcome challenges in controlling alcohol intake.

Myth 7: If you have a drinking problem, you should: go to AA, see a therapist, take medication, etc.

Fact: Different individuals require different treatment modalities. While AA, therapy, and medication can be helpful for some, it is essential for individuals to explore various options and find the approach that suits their unique needs and preferences.

Myth 8: If you have a drinking problem, you are forever sick and out of control around alcohol.

Fact: Recovery is possible, and many individuals have successfully overcome their issues with alcohol. With the right support and strategies, individuals can regain control and develop healthier relationships with alcohol.

Myth 9: Controlled drinking doesn’t work when you “really” have a drinking problem.

Fact: Controlled drinking can be a viable approach for individuals with milder alcohol problems, depending on their circumstances and goals. However, individualized assessments and professional guidance are crucial to determine its suitability.

Myth 10: If you have a drinking problem, you go to rehab for a few weeks, and then you “just” have to stay sober using your willpower.

Fact: While rehabilitation programs provide valuable support, maintaining long-term sobriety often requires ongoing aftercare, therapy, support networks, and addressing underlying psychological factors. Psychotherapy and holistic approaches, such as CBT, motivational interviewing, and mindfulness-based techniques, have shown effectiveness in supporting recovery from Alcohol Use Disorder, enhancing coping skills, and preventing relapse.

In conclusion, it is crucial for the nature of the debate surrounding alcohol use and abuse to shift considering the most recent research and evidence from the field.

Far too many individuals suffer in silence, burdened by stigmatization when they have the courage to seek help. We must recognize that addiction is a complex and multifaceted issue that requires a holistic and compassionate approach. I see the role of coaching as extremely valuable in the holistic therapeutic journey now increasingly seen as most promising for addiction recovery. Coaching can offer a safe and supportive space for individuals to explore and overcome obstacles, develop healthy coping strategies, and cultivate a positive mindset. By integrating coaching techniques and the principles of positive psychology, we empower individuals on their path to recovery and well-being.

Get in touch if you want to know more or would like to refer someone you know who is suffering. Sincerely yours, Dr Sophie