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Alcohol Awareness Month: The Myths of Alcohol Abuse

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This month, TFI Talks will feature a number of posts about alcohol in commemoration of Alcohol Awareness Month.

Every year, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) sponsors Alcohol Awareness month in an effort to increase public understanding of alcohol, to reduce the stigma of alcoholism, and to draw attention to the impact that alcoholism can have on kids, families, couples and communities.

At TFI Talks, we’ll be posting information, insights and tips from one of our expert staff clinicians, Leah Brennan, LMFT, CADC.

With a subject as complicated as alcohol and alcohol/substance abuse, there are bound to be myths and misunderstandings. We ask Leah Brennan to weigh in on her thoughts about these issues:

“I think one of the main myths that is being appropriately challenged these days is the idea that alcoholism or substance misuse/addiction is a moral failing or lack of willpower on the part of the drinker or user. It is clear that addiction is a disease; chronic and treatable. Drug abuse changes the way the brain works, resulting in compulsive behavior focused on drug seeking and use, despite sometimes devastating consequences—the essence of addiction. From there, we are starting to look at addiction treatment the way we would look at treatment for other chronic diseases such as heart disease or cancer. When folks get diagnosed with these diseases, we do not shame them or withhold treatment until they “prove” they are ready the way we have done with individuals who seek treatment for substance use disorders.

Substance misuse/abuse/dependence can be looked as a kind of coping mechanism; an unsustainable, maladaptive coping mechanism, but not something that people engage in because they are weak, ignorant or selfish. I don’t know a single client who sought help in changing their relationship with substances who wasn’t trying to manage pain, shame or low self-esteem with their substance use.

Another myth I think we could dispel further is the concept of an addict needing to hit ‘rock bottom’ before they are receptive to any form of treatment. When we decide someone isn’t ready for treatment because they have yet hit their rock bottom, we assume we know what their rock bottom looks like. This myth also puts us as concerned parties into a passive role in thinking that we just need to wait until that rock bottom event happens before we step in to help. I think there are ways to intervene much earlier in the progression of addiction where a better outcome is possible than if we watch and wait for the ‘rock bottom.’”


To learn more about Ms. Brennan or to make an appointment, visit her page on our website.

The Family Institute offers affordable family, couples and individual counseling at our Evanston, downtown Chicago, Lagrange Park and Northbrook locations. Visit our website to learn more.

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