Many people may not realize or be willing to admit that they have a serious alcohol problem.
Signs that you or others around you may have a serious alcohol problem:
- Experiencing any of the problems listed in the blog piece: “Introduction to Managing Addictions: Alcoholism Part I” while habitually taking alcohol products.
- Hiding alcohol products from family members and friends in secret places.
- Preferring to drink alone, without the company of others.
- Frequent use of mouthwash to hide the alcohol on one’s breath.
- An inability to go for a whole week without a single drink of alcohol (alcohol craving).
- Becoming very anxious with tremors if you try to refrain from drinking alcohol.
- Episodes of acute intoxication (i.e. gait instability, stupor, memory loss, seizures).
- Inability to have fun or socialize without alcohol.
Treatment of alcoholism
There are several things you can do, singly or in combination, to successfully manage this devastating disease.
- Recognition of the problem: First and foremost, you need to recognize and admit to yourself that you have an alcohol problem. The brain develops a physiologic dependence on alcohol. Thus, this is a mental disorder like other life-long mental conditions and can be treated to maintain you in recovery. If you do not admit this to yourself, you are very unlikely to make meaningful progress with any of the following approaches. One close relative did not admit he had an alcohol problem until he was hospitalized with head trauma producing a blood clot on the brain and had also developed heart failure.
- Counseling and Recovery Coaching: There are several mental health professionals who can help you with counseling on how to overcome alcoholism and associated mental and social problems. Other approaches include motivational interviewing to get you started, and cognitive behavioral therapy which helps you learn how your thought processes control your behavior. There are also “recovery coaches” who are usually individuals who have themselves struggled with alcoholism in the past but successfully recovered. They clearly know the pains you are going through and can provide you with many practical tips. Both types of professionals can also offer moral encouragement if you start backsliding in your treatment efforts. Also, the engagement of supportive family members and friends can be very helpful.
- Peer coaching and support: There are several organizations and mutual help groups willing to help support you on your road to recovery and maintaining your recovery. Probably the most well-known is Alcoholics Anonymous (“AA”) which has chapters in most cities and communities. Their services are readily available and free. These groups include many people who have struggled with alcoholism and can provide you with needed support on an ongoing basis. Other resources are listed below.
- Residential treatment: This approach provides a physical, alcohol-free environment to help individuals get started. This is usually combined with counseling, coaching and group therapy sessions. Since alcohol products are all around us in our communities, and one may be surrounded by alcoholic family and friends, this physical separation may help lessen distractions to allow a more focused treatment.
- Medication treatment: There are certain medications (including: naltrexone = Vivitrol, or Acamprosate = Campral) which can help you physically withdraw from alcohol dependency. These are usually administered by a doctor or nurse practitioner specifically trained in addiction medicine, and they can help you identify the drug treatment regimen which is best for you. They will likely also perform blood tests to check for alcohol consumption and organ damage, to gauge your compliance with a treatment regimen. Also, your physical health condition may influence which drugs are safe for you to take.
Once you recognize alcoholism, there are multiple treatments you can pursue and many people who can help!
Do not forget that many individuals have been able to conquer this disorder, and you can too if you are patient and persistent. Alcoholism is a chronic condition which may take several months to years to conquer. Relapses may occur, but you can always decide to try again. Be persistent; be patient! We are here to help. See our online addiction recovery page. For more general information on alcoholism, please see the following resources:
- Alcoholics Anonymous: https://aa.org/
- SMART Recovery (Self-Management and Recovery Training) offers online free treatment advice plus group meetings: https://www.smartrecovery.org/