If you’re struggling with alcohol addiction, you may be feeling a lot of things, but the last thing you should be feeling is alone. Excessive drinking is the single-most common type of substance use disorder (SUD) in the United States. Between direct and indirect causes, alcohol kills approximately 88,000 Americans per year according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If you’ve fallen into alcoholism, it’s common to either deny to yourself and your others that you actually have a problem or to resign yourself to the fact that there’s nothing you can do except give your life over to your drinking: you don’t have to do either. While it might be difficult, overcoming alcohol addiction and pursuing a better future is possible. Here’s how to beat alcoholism.
The truth dies in darkness. Maybe it’s easier in the short term to just do nothing and get by day to day and minute to minute by staying buzzed rather than admitting the truth to yourself, your loved ones, and your colleagues; however, the truth will eventually come out and often in the most dangerous or least dignified ways. Whether you end up injured in a drunk-driving accident, like nearly 300,000 others were in 2016; lose your job because you couldn’t stop drinking; become estranged from your family; or wind up incarcerated or humiliated because of where alcohol has taken you, you can’t hide your alcohol addiction forever. The sooner you recognize your problem, the sooner you can begin doing something about it.
While you have to admit you have a problem, you don’t have to admit powerlessness. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a tried and true route to recovery; however, it doesn’t work for everyone. There are multiple effective alternatives that rely more on science and personal empowerment than spirituality while showing participants how to beat alcoholism. The most important thing is to get help now. Enlist the help of a trusted and concerned loved one to find the program that’s right for you. If you’re worried about paying for treatment, as so many people are, you may be able to have it covered through Medicaid or your private insurance provider.
If you find yourself uncertain that you or your loved one is suffering from alcoholism, the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offer comprehensive screening tools to help you assess your level of risk.
Once you’ve chosen a treatment program, the first step in the process is comprehensive and medically supervised detoxification (detox) and withdrawal management. Prolonged and untreated alcohol abuse leads to serious physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms that often make it very difficult to achieve lasting abstinence. Professional medical detox offers expert relief of these symptoms and allows you to go through this admittedly difficult process in a safe, discreet, supportive environment. Medical detox offers trained doctors and nurses who can step in if there’s a medical emergency. The detox process usually lasts between three and five days, depending upon patients’ progress.
After detox, it’s imperative that those struggling with alcohol use disorder (AUD) receive in-depth and targeted behavioral rehab that addresses the root causes of their drinking as well as any co-occurring mental health issues that may have contributed to or resulted from their drinking. It’s common for AUD survivors to struggle with simultaneous depression, anxiety, or other types of mental illness. Rehab should also address the lifestyle fallout that has occurred from drinking, including job loss, family estrangement, legal issues, and more.
Patients should leave their rehab program with a comprehensive aftercare plan that acts as blueprint for putting their lives back together. These plans should include contact information for local addiction-trained mental health professionals, support groups, and behavioral coping techniques to avoid relapse in high-pressure situations.
There is no one-size-fits-all manual on how to beat alcoholism; however, there are some universal steps that you can and must take to get on the road to recovery. Alcoholism is a disease and requires comprehensive multilateral clinical treatment and management. As you move further along in your recovery, try enriching your life with the things you love (art, music, food, family, fitness, etc.). These everyday pleasures may quickly supplant the urge to start drinking and dampen the emotional factors that trigger relapse. The road to alcohol addiction recovery is going to be tough and it’s going to be long—but it’s also going to be rewarding.
cdc.gov – Fact Sheets – Alcohol Use and Your Health
madd.org – Fight back against misinformation. Get the facts
aa.org – Alcoholics Anonymous
asam.org – Screening & Assessment Tools
integration.samhsa.gov – Screening Tools
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