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How to recover from Alcoholism

Medically Reviewed by: Charley Allen

Table of Contents

Alcoholism is a disease that can hit anyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, young or old, male or female—alcoholism cuts across all boundaries. If left untreated, alcoholism can destroy your personal and professional life, as well as your health. There are many ways in which alcohol affects people. Some people get addicted to alcohol very easily, while others take longer to develop a problem with it. The main thing is that once you start drinking excessively and relying on alcohol for relaxation and stress relief, you’ve crossed the line and have the first signs of alcoholism. How does this happen? What causes someone to become an alcoholic? And how do you recover from this terrible disease? Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about alcoholism.

What Is Alcoholism?

Alcoholism, or alcohol dependence, is an excessive and regular intake of alcohol accompanied by a physical dependence on it. Alcoholism is a very common condition that can affect anyone, no matter what their gender, ethnicity, or socio-economic background. Alcoholism is a disease that can be treated and managed, but not cured. It’s important to know that alcoholism is not a choice; people don’t choose to become alcoholics. The risk of alcoholism is increased by genetics, psychological issues, and the amount of alcohol consumed. Alcoholism can lead to serious health problems, such as liver damage, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. It can also increase the risk of certain types of cancers, such as breast cancer in women and cancer of the mouth, esophagus, liver, and colon. The long-term consequences of alcoholism can be fatal. Alcoholism can also negatively impact relationships with family, friends, and co-workers, and lead to financial and legal problems.

Signs and Symptoms of an Alcohol Use Disorder

People with an alcohol use disorder, or AUD, drink in a way that harms their health, relationships, and ability to work. AUD signs and symptoms may include:

  • Feeling the need to drink regularly or regularly being sick as a result of drinking
  • Having cravings or urges to drink
  • Drinking more than you intended to
  • Experiencing difficulties at work or school, or a decline in your performance
  • Having problems with relationships because of your drinking
  • Continuing to drink even when it’s causing problems in your life
If you’re experiencing any of these signs, it’s important to get quality alcohol addiction treatment. Although it’s often possible to reverse the health effects of heavy alcohol use, the best way to reduce your risk is to not drink.

Long-Term Consequences of Untreated Alcohol Addiction

If you’re an alcohol addict, you might experience a wide range of negative emotions and physical changes as a result of your addiction. You may feel depressed, anxious, or nervous. You may also experience severe withdrawal symptoms, such as shakiness, nausea, sweating, or insomnia when you stop drinking. Given the negative psychological and physical effects of alcohol-related use disorders, it’s important to seek help as soon as possible. If you ignore your alcohol use disorder, it can become worse. Over time, alcohol can cause serious damage to your body, including liver disease and heart disease. Heavy alcohol use can also increase your risk of certain types of cancer. Alcohol can also harm your brain, impacting your memory and ability to learn. However, even if you have had alcohol problems for many decades, it is possible to quit drinking and begin the journey of alcohol recovery at any time.

How Does Alcohol Addiction Develop?

The exact mechanism of alcohol addiction is not clearly understood. It’s true that alcohol can make you feel relaxed, but it’s not a necessity for relaxation. When you drink alcohol, it’s absorbed into your bloodstream, and a certain amount of it ends up in your brain. Alcohol interferes with the normal transmission of chemicals in the brain, including serotonin and dopamine—two chemicals that affect your mood and feelings of enjoyment. When alcohol interferes with normal brain chemistry, it can produce feelings of relaxation and pleasure. When you drink, your body begins to process the alcohol and break it down into byproducts. As the alcohol is broken down, you begin to feel its effects less and less. This is why you have to keep drinking in order to keep the same level of intoxication. However, if you keep drinking, you’ll reach a level of alcohol in your blood that’s toxic to your body.

Types of Alcohol Abuse: Alcohol Dependence and Addiction

With alcohol dependence, you’re dependent on alcohol to function normally. You might feel uncomfortable or ill if you don’t drink. You might have withdrawal symptoms—physical or mental symptoms such as shaking, sweating, nausea, and mood swings. A person might be dependent on alcohol even before they have a problem with it. A person with alcohol dependence has a high risk of later developing an alcohol use disorder, but not everyone with an alcohol use disorder has been dependent on alcohol. An alcohol use disorder is a condition in which your daily life is negatively impacted by your drinking. You may feel uncomfortable with your alcohol consumption or find that you need more and more alcohol to get the same effects. Or, you might want to cut down or stop drinking but find you can’t.

How is Alcohol Use Disorder Treated?

Alcoholism treatment works to address the root causes of your addiction, including any psychological issues or factors that may have contributed to your alcohol use. Long-term therapies, such as counseling or therapy, help you to understand and deal with the factors that may be contributing to your alcohol use. Medications can be used to help ease withdrawal symptoms and cravings and can reduce the risk of relapse. For some people, a combination of therapies is recommended, such as medication and counseling. It’s important to remember that alcoholism treatment takes time. Don’t be disheartened if you don’t notice an improvement right away. Alcohol abuse is a chronic condition, and it takes time to change longstanding habits and address underlying issues.

Dealing with alcohol withdrawal symptoms

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be intense, and they can be a significant barrier to quitting drinking. If you’re not prepared for these symptoms and you’re not committed to getting sober, they can be enough to make you give up and go back to drinking. One way to prepare for alcohol withdrawal is to work with a doctor to set a withdrawal timeline. You can also get a prescription for medications that can reduce or eliminate withdrawal symptoms. Most quality outpatient programs help with alcohol detox by utilizing medication-assisted treatment (MAT), so that clients can reduce withdrawal symptoms slowly and eventually achieve abstinence.

Can Alcohol Addiction Be Cured?

Alcoholism is a disease that requires long-term treatment and support. While it’s possible to eventually stop drinking, it’s important to remember that quitting cold turkey isn’t recommended. Alcoholism is a serious condition that can be fatal if left untreated. It’s much safer and healthier to withdraw from alcohol gradually with the help of a doctor or therapist. It’s also important to note that relapse is common among people who are recovering from alcohol addiction. This doesn’t mean you failed or aren’t trying hard enough; it just shows that alcoholism is a chronic condition that requires ongoing care and treatment.

Abstinence or Moderation?

When people are first trying to quit drinking, it’s a good idea to abstain from alcohol completely. It’s too easy for a newly sober person to take a drink and then turn to alcohol again. Some people find that they are able to drink in moderation—that is, they can drink without letting it take over their lives. Learning to do so is difficult, and most people who successfully moderate do so after getting professional treatment and emotional support. If you can do this, that’s great. However, if you’ve ever had a problem with alcohol or any other substance abuse problem, you’re probably better off not drinking at all.

What types are therapy are used for alcoholism?

There are many types of therapy that are used to treat alcohol addiction. Alcohol use disorder is a legitimate mental health condition on its own, but it is also often linked to other mental health issues like depression and anxiety. Therapy for alcoholism recovery helps you get your drinking habits under control while simultaneously tackling underlying mental illness. The main types of therapy used to treat alcoholism are:

  • Individual therapy: In individual therapy, you meet with a therapist on a regular basis to talk about your emotions and feelings, your relationships with others, and your negative thought patterns. Individual therapy can help you deal with life events such as divorce or death, increase self-esteem and self-awareness, and support you in achieving your goals. It can also help you deal with harmful thought patterns and emotions such as guilt, shame, and anger.
  • Couples therapy: Couples therapy is designed for couples who are having relationship issues. This can include partners who are abusive or have a substance abuse problem. Couples therapy is often done in combination with individual therapy for each partner. This allows partners to support each other in their efforts to change.
  • Family therapy: Family therapy can help if you or someone you know has a substance abuse problem. Family members can benefit from therapy to learn how to deal with the alcohol or substance abuse problem and have a better understanding of how to respond to it. Family therapy can also be helpful if you have a child with a substance abuse problem or have been affected by the substance abuse of a family member or friend.

Recognize your triggers for substance abuse

A trigger is something that causes you to act in a certain way that you might not otherwise act. Triggers can be physical, mental, or emotional. Triggers can lead to relapse for people who have recovered from alcoholism. For people who want to recover from their alcohol problems, recognizing the sources of alcohol cravings is absolutely essential.

Some common triggers for alcohol relapse include:
  • Emotional triggers: Emotional triggers are feelings of anxiety, anger, or sadness that lead you to want to drink. You can work on ways to manage these feelings and reduce the desire to drink.
  • Environmental triggers: Environmental triggers are places and situations that lead you to want to drink. Some common environmental triggers are being at a bar, seeing someone you used to drink with, or being in a stressful situation.

Outpatient Treatment vs Inpatient Treatment for Alcohol Treatment

Both inpatient and outpatient alcohol rehabilitation programs exist and can be helpful in treating alcoholism. The main difference between the two is the level of supervision they offer and the level of commitment expected from patients. Inpatient programs are offered at hospitals or other health care facilities and patients live at the facility while receiving treatment. This level of commitment is necessary for some people with severe alcohol addiction who need medical supervision to ensure their safety and to help them detoxify from alcohol. Outpatient programs do not require patients to live at the facility and are a good choice for those who need supervision but have jobs and other commitments that make it difficult to live at the facility. Outpatient programs are often recommended for those who are newly abstaining from alcohol or who have a lower risk of relapse.

12-step programs and support groups

If you are a recovering alcoholic, it is important to meet sober friends, develop healthy relationships, and have continuing sources of ongoing support. 12-step programs and support groups are popular options for people who want to recover from alcohol addiction. Alcoholics Anonymous is one such support group and it has meetings in most cities and towns. Support groups can be helpful in a variety of situations, including in recovery from alcohol addiction. Support groups are an important part of the recovery process because they can give you a place to vent, get encouragement and advice from people who understand what you’re going through, and learn from other people’s experiences.

Building a social support system

Having social support—people who care about you and are there to support you—is important for your health and well-being. A support system can help you deal with stressful situations, process emotions, and help you cope when you’re feeling down. Friends and family may be able to help you stay on track with your recovery from alcohol addiction. Support groups can be helpful, but they aren’t a substitute for face-to-face relationships. You can also try to build relationships with non-drinking friends and family members. After all, your treatment plan should include a plan for living a satisfying everyday life as you continue to move forward on your recovery journey, long after entering treatment.

Developing coping skills in sobriety

Alcohol abuse and addiction are coping mechanisms—ways of dealing with stress and bad feelings that people don’t know how to deal with in a healthy way. It’s crucial to learn new ways of dealing with these feelings that don’t involve drinking. One way to develop new coping skills is to participate in a support group for people who are working on their drinking issues. These groups teach you how to recognize and deal with negative feelings without turning to alcohol. Many people also find that taking up a new hobby or getting involved in a passion project is a great way to deal with negative emotions and make positive changes in your life.

How can family members help their loved one stay sober?

Family members can play an important role in helping their loved one recover from alcoholism. Studies have shown that having family members involved in treatment can increase the odds of success significantly. The best thing family members can do is to find ways to support their loved one in recovery and encourage them to stay sober. Family members can attend support groups to learn how to best support their loved one in recovery. They can also help their loved one create a sober support network that can help them stay on track in sobriety. If your loved one is still in the early stages of recovery, you can help them by ensuring that they have access to needed treatment services. You can also help them maintain their sobriety by avoiding situations that could trigger them to drink. Finally, you can help your loved one learn how to handle negative emotions and feelings in a healthy way.

How to stay sober after rehab

Many people who enter treatment for alcohol abuse or addiction relapse at some stage in the future. This doesn’t mean that you weren’t sincere about wanting to quit drinking, it just means that you need to find ways of staying sober that work for you—otherwise you might as well not even try. Getting sober and staying that way is all about learning how to deal with life’s challenges in new ways. The things that triggered your desire to turn to alcohol in the first place are still there, but instead of turning to booze you need to learn how to handle them in a healthy way. You can’t change the fact that you have a genetic predisposition toward alcoholism, but you can change how you deal with life without alcohol. A quality outpatient treatment center will stay in touch long after a client has graduated, ensuring that they maintain their healthy habits and never return to their drinking problem again.

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Edited by: David Beasley

David Beasley - Design for Recovery

RADT
David Beasley is a certified RADT (Registered Alcohol/Drug Technician). David, moved to California from North Carolina after many failed attempts to get sober.

Medically Reviewed by: Charley Allen
IMG-1545

LMFT
Charley earned his Masters of Clinical Psychology from Antioch University, Los Angeles, and is a California Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT).He teaches mindfulness to both adults and children in group setting such as schools, corporate workplaces, and medical treatment facilities.

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