Actions to Take Toward Overcoming Alcohol Addiction

The definitive first step toward addiction recovery is often debated by experts, practitioners, and those living in recovery.  The truth is that no one step exists because every case and every person seeking recovery is unique. Decades of research, observations, surveys, statistics, and interviews have led to general statements and some theories.  The important aspect about the recovery process is not the steps people take, but that people begin to take steps at all.

The Stages of Change Model

This model indicates that addicts begin to consider making changes long before that first visible step is taken.  Steps one of the six-step model outlining the stages of alcohol recovery consist of contemplation.  The drinker begins to experience the physical and behavioural consequences of the addiction but is not interested in changing any habits.  Nausea, shakiness, and insomnia are some of the physical signs while using alcohol to combat stress and legal problems are some of the behavioural signs.  At this stage, drinkers are defensive and not open to any suggestions or information regarding alcoholism.

The second step, contemplation, has the drinker weighing the advantages and disadvantages of giving up drinking.  Small efforts are made to change behaviour, but no commitment is made one way or another. This step is helpful if family and friends recognize it because it is at this time the person is open to information.  This can linger for six months or more.

Preparation, step three, is pivotal because the drinker begins to research the recovery process.  This is of great benefit because it informs the person about the withdrawal period which can be uncomfortable.  Knowing facts ahead of time increases the likelihood of success. The alcoholic is typically ready to make a commitment to recovery.  The remaining three steps include action, maintenance, and transcendence.

Treatment Options Available

Once a drinker goes through the detoxification process to allow alcohol to leave the body, an assessment is conducted by a professional counsellor to determine which program and treatment plan will best suit the individual.  The most common initial program people enter is inpatient treatments which last for 28-days of intensive counselling in individual and group sessions.  Removing the individual from familiar surroundings, stresses, and possible triggers offer the opportunity to completely focus on recovery.  Most facilities have semi-private rooms, security fences, and several options for session topics. The schedule is regimented to keep participants busy with activities all day into the evening.  

Group sessions offer a variety of topics to give each person the information or guidance needed to understand the addiction and learn to live sober.  Educational sessions, for example, may include disease theory, physiological damage of addition, relapse avoidance, twelve-steps, and trigger identification.  

Process-oriented sessions can provide techniques for stress and anger management, family dynamics, healthy alternatives for dealing with feelings, and how to have fun sober.  

Outpatient Treatment Programs

These programs are usually recommended for those who have graduated from an inpatient program.  Meetings, individual counselling sessions as needed, and weekly aftercare groups are encouraged for at least one year after the intensive program.  Meetings are suggested on an ongoing basis to support long-lasting sobriety. Outpatient treatment can be developed for an alcoholic who cannot attend or afford an inpatient program but needs intense help.  

Be Aware of Benefits

Knowing some of the benefits of recovery can help drinkers alter their mindset to be motivated for success in a program.  Research indicates that some of the benefits of recovery can make sober people look as great as they feel.  There is evidence that slow healing of some of the damage caused to the brain, liver, and heart begins after prolonged sobriety.  Those successful at recovery begin to look younger because insomnia decreases, and the body gets the proper amount of rest to regenerate cells.  

One effect of alcoholism is dehydration which increases the appearance of lines, wrinkles, dull skin, and bags under the eyes.  This is why drinkers look older than their chronological ages suggest. Once the skin becomes hydrated, and the body gets to sleep and better nutrition, people start to look years younger than they did while drinking.  

Regardless of what those first few steps toward treatment look like for each person, encourage any positive changes in behaviour, thinking, or approaches to dealing with life.  Loved ones will want to seek the advice of professionals regarding ways to support and approach drinkers they care about and want to help.