There are plenty of myths about alcohol and alcoholism. Some of these myths might be obvious but some might surprise you. Find out what’s myth and what’s real.
Myth: Alcoholics are old men, who wear dirty trench coats, and drink under a bridge.
I am embarrassed to admit that I thought this was true for a long time. Now before you judge me, it’s been over 20 years since I held this notion. To set the record straight: alcoholics can be any age, any gender, any religion and any race. Alcoholism does not discriminate.
Myth: Drinking coffee, taking a shower or exercising can sober you up.
Drinking coffee or showering will make you feel clean and more awake, but it won’t make you less drunk or cure a hangover. Dancing or sweating doesn’t work either. It takes about 3 hours to eliminate the alcohol content of two drinks (depending on your weight). Don’t learn this fact the hard way.
I have known people who got arrested for drunk driving (on the way to work). Time is the only thing that will sober a person up.
Myth: Alcohol will warm you up when you are cold.
A shot of whisky or brandy can make you feel warmer for a bit, but alcohol actually lowers your body temperature. It’s not the perfect beverage for cold weather.
Myth: Drinking before bedtime helps you sleep.
Alcohol can make you feel sleepy, and help you fall asleep quickly, but you won’t feel fully rested in the morning. That’s because it stops your body from entering “deep sleep” leaving you tired the next morning.
Myth: There is nothing anyone can do to help a problem drinker.
Many people are reluctant to admit they have a problem with alcohol. But many people are able to turn their lives around and take control of their drinking.
Myth: Beer doesn’t have as much alcohol as hard liquor.
A 12-ounce bottle of beer has the same amount of alcohol as a standard shot of 80-proof liquor (either straight or in a mixed drink) or 5 ounces of wine.
Myth: Alcohol improves sexual performance.
Although you may think that drinking makes you better in bed, in reality alcohol reduces performance.
Myth: Alcohol use is not as dangerous as drug use.
Although there are more illicit drug users than there are alcoholics, every year there are many more alcohol related deaths than there is drug related deaths.
Myth: After being clean and sober for a while, most alcoholics are cured and can eventually return to social drinking.
Oh boy – don’t learn this the hard way. Addiction is never cured. Never ever! After a period of recovery, some folks can (for s short stint) control their use of alcohol. Inevitably, they fall back into alcoholic patterns — almost always for the worse.
Myth: If a person drinks long and hard enough they will become alcoholic.
There is actually no science to support this. Some people will begin to show alcoholic behavior the first time they drink. Others will drink for years without ever showing signs of alcoholic behavior. And still others, after drinking for some time, will begin to develop signs of alcoholism. It appears to depend on the individual. I am constantly baffled by this.
Myth: Alcoholics can just stop – they just don’t want to (or they are selfish).
Without some kind of support, few alcoholics can quit on their own. It is not simply a matter of will power. Recovery from drinking is a whole life change that takes time, treatment and support.
Myth: Alcoholism is a moral failing (the alcoholic is a bad or sinful person).
Addiction is a disease—it’s chronic and treatable. Long-term drinking changes the way the brain works, resulting in compulsive behavior. If you disagree with me, I’m OK with that. However, our healthcare system now treats alcoholism as equally as any other disease and insurance company’s are required to offer comparable care. So if you are abusing alcohol, go to a medical professional like you would if you suspected you had a heart condition or diabetes.
Myth: Addicts need to hit “rock bottom” before they are receptive to any form of treatment.
I really thought this was true, however evidence shows that people who are forced into treatment get sober and stay sober. Not always. but that’s true for people who have not been forced into treatment too.
17 thoughts on “Myths About Alcohol and Alcoholism”
“Alcohol use is not as dangerous as drug use.” So many lives are ruined by alcoholism. Drunk drivers kill many. Including our son.
I am amazed that people still believe these myths.
Addiction is a disease that can be treated. No, one is never cured. But with treatment and 12 step programs people can overcome their addiction. I have seen it, I am grateful.
Thank you for writing about it.
A car is a lethal weapon in the hands of a drunk. Thank you for sharing about your son. I feel so grateful to be sober right now because You reminded me that I will not get into my car today and harm someone’s child. God bless you and your family.
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No. You will not. Because you chose recovery.
And God has blessed us in so many ways! One of those ways is all my 12 Step friends. They have loved me well.
First of all, thank you for “liking” my last blog post. I hope you end up subscribing to my blog. And of course, please feel free to comment!
Secondly, I don’t know if this was your intent, but that video is (to me) a really good example of the kind of convoluted justifications that people who have drinking problems make for continuing to drink. These two people – and I apologize if you know these guys, because I don’t mean to offend – need to be in treatment, imo.
The red flags are: the “one last beer” thing this guy drank on his bday, before quitting; the time limits they both set on sobriety (always planning on returning to drinking, despite one guy’s coach hinting that he has an alcohol problem); and, their frequent references to temporarily quitting drinking as being on the same level, healthwise, as eating properly/meditation/exercise – “addiction”, “alcoholism” are not even mentioned. They both spend considerable energy defending their drinking, which is revealing.
Good article, good video, good educational stuff on myths. It astounds me that, in this day and age, people are still looking at alcoholism and addiction as “moral failings” – and, while I do not agree with the disease model (for many different reasons, not for any bias against people with substance abuse issues), I am glad to see that funds are more widely available so that people can get the treatment they need.
Now if we could just take the “profit vs patient care” dilemma out of the picture, therapists (like me, and some others I know) will be better able to help people – while still keeping our jobs. Profit is ok, just not at the expense of either the patient or the therapist.
I like your comments about the guys on the video (they are not friends). I actually included the clip mostly because they mentioned 40% of adults do not drink (I thought this figure sounded impressive compared to my thinking 98% of adults drink). They also seemed to have more experience than me, going to bars and parties and not drinking. Since I am an alcoholic, I don’t hang out at drinking establishments, unless I have a legitimate reason to be there. But your observations about them needing treatment makes me chuckle. Now that I think about it, the one guy says that having a drink in the morning after drinking hard the night before could add calories to your diet. Most normal drinkers probably don’t do that. My perception of normal drinking in really messed up, now that you bring this up.
In any case, Victoria I am glad you stopped by and I have started following your blog. I commend your therapy efforts too! For many years I have felt that therapist, doctors and psychiatrist are all under-paid. I don’t know how our society got brain-washed into believing that medical professionals are getting rich from treating patients. That has not been true for a long time.
Well done, great article! I write a lot about sobriety too, I am 5 months now without booze, and I feel so much better for it. http://www.anitaozo.com
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Can you give some advice on how to support an alcoholic trying to quit/manage? It seems to be quite hard to find information on the different ways to support someone close, who has alcohol issues.
You might visit a local Al-Anon group. Or attend Open AA meetings to learn more about alcoholism. Both helped me.
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As I did say I already go to Al-Anon, maybe I’m not phrasing my question correctly. Once an alcoholic starts trying to recover in what way can nonalcoholic people help and support them and help and support them when they are feeling like they will relapse.
Al-anon is a program that is available across the country. My husband found it very helpful. It is “self-supporting”. What that means is that they pass around a basket at the meeting. If you don’t have any money, then you don’t give any. If you can afford a dollar or two, then drop it in.
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I go to al-anon. It’s more the methods and ways to support an alcoholic with their recovery, my wife has drunk tonight and I’m ignoring it. But what are the ways to support her and help her from relapsing. Al-anon, I’ve found is more focused on how I feel rather than information to help me support her in her recovery
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Has she been to a treatment center? What is her recovery program or support system like?
I really liked the “I surrounded myself with other hard drinkers so I wouldn’t look as bad”. I can relate to that. Finding myself in a group I would never be with sober. A group that would sell their mother’s for a beer. And I fit right in for years. It was horrendous. A house of horrors. I wouldn’t go back to that time in my life for all the money in the world. Just remembering gives me a stomach ache. lol So glad to be 6 years sober. A great piece.
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I hated going to the liquor store, to hear “oh your back again”? Gosh, I wasn’t fooling anyone buy myself.
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Old men who drink under a bridge. lol I think they are called trolls. You should see the some of the responses I get when I have disclosed I’m an alcoholic. The shock and awe. The disbelief. When I was court ordered for alcohol counseling they did a complete check up. Physical and Cognitive. This was many years ago. The result? The head of the facility told me I had an enlarged liver and “the brain function of an 82 year old alcoholic man”. That was a little scary and strange. It just shows we come in all shapes and status.