Working in the field of addiction treatment, people often ask “what does an alcoholic actually look like?” In many cases, people expect the answer to validate the picture they already have in their minds of the steriotypical addict. Their preconceived picture however, is often quite innaccurate.
The Innacuracy of the Stereotype
Maybe it’s the depiction of addiction in television or movies. Maybe its our tendancy to generalize and magnify our differences. Whatever the reason, the commonly accepted picture of an alcoholic is often woefully innacurate.
There are several common myths about the face of addiction. Before we understand what addiction really looks like, we have to address these myths.
Myth #1: The Glorified Alcoholic
Society tends to underrate the severity of alcoholic problems in extremely gifted individuals, especially for the creative individual. Artists have long claimed alcohol and other drugs as muses for their creativity. As studies prove this correlation, more people have accepted the mindset that creative individuals are rightly entitled to abuse alcohol and other substances.
Alcohol, however, isn’t a necessity for creativity.
Maybe it’s because we connect so strongly with their work. Maybe it’s because we idolize them. Whatever the reason, we place these highly creative individuals in a different caliber of addiction. They’re not just another drunk, they’re a creative alcoholic.
But as Gene Duffy said, “A glorified alcoholic is still an alcoholic!” It doesn’t matter the level of your abilities, why you started drinking, or how you compare with others. An alcoholic is an alcoholic. Popularity or acheivement doesn’t cancel out the damage inflicted by addiction.
Steven King, America’s greatest horror-story writer and recovered alcoholic, talks about this in his autobiographic book On Writing:
Myth #2: The Unqualified Alcoholic
The second myth is that people who have their act together aren’t “real” alcoholics. Either they aren’t desperate enough, haven’t lost enough, or haven’t fallen far enough to qualify as an alcoholic.
Andrea, a recovering addict and blogger, addresses this long-standing myth in her blog post Confessions of a High Bottom Alcoholic:
The picture of the homeless alcoholic is so deeply ingrained into our culture that we begin to forget who most alcoholics really are: normal people who slowly lost everything. This myth becomes an obstacle to the high functioning alcoholic’s chance of attaining lasting sobriety.
The Truth: Alcohol is an Equal Opportunity Destroyer
It doesn’t matter if you’re an international bestseller or on Rolling Stone’s Top 100. It doesn’t matter if you take home 6 figures, if you’ve never been in the hospital, never gotten a DUI, or if you haven’t reached “rock bottom.” Alcoholics are alcoholics, regardless of what their life looks like.
And all alcoholics need help.
If drinking or using is affecting your life or the life of a loved one in a negative way, consider seeking more information about the disease of addiction. Break the myths and find hope and help today.