Alcohol Addiction or alcohol-use-disorder as it is now officially referred to by doctors can sneak up on you slowly, or it can develop progressively in response to difficult life events.
What causes Alcohol Addiction?
Alcohol affects the central nervous system and acts as a depressant like many sedative medications. It releases Endorphins in the brain with an opiate like effect, triggering a pain response and a euphoric buzz. It also relieves anxiety, and it can disinhibit behaviour, thereby helping with social interaction and performance.
It’s possible to be an alcoholic without being physically dependent
Drinking alcohol daily over time creates a physical dependency, and this is a serious problem. However, it is possible to be an alcoholic without being physically dependent. Bingeing is a highly destructive pattern of drinking, affecting one’s health and endangering self and others.
Alcoholism is now recognised to be a brain dysfunction
Alcoholism and addiction are now recognised to be a brain dysfunction caused by the changes that occur in parts of the brain as a result of either prolonged alcohol use and/or pre-existing brain chemistry imbalance, particularly with the neural transmitter dopamine. This leads to distorted thinking or unhealthy choices in order to self-medicate your difficulties.
Addiction in the family increases your risk of becoming addicted by 50%
The Alcoholism Gene: One factor attracting scientific researched is the genetic influence, could alcohol addiction be hereditary? It often seems to run in the family, and one study found that statistically about half the risk of becoming an alcoholic is if members of your family are also alcoholic. This is to say that in families where addiction is present you are at 50 percent more risk of becoming addicted yourself.
Causes for alcoholism can be a complicated combination of factors
What causes alcohol addiction can be a complicated combination of factors listed below and we ask you to explore these when undergoing alcoholism and alcohol addiction treatment.
- Genetic factors or your family genealogy
Psychological history and development
Environmental factors like work and relationships
Social factors including a drinking culture
Emotional health and stress
Mental health symptoms, anxiety and depression
Overcoming denial: Recognise the signs that there is a problem
Denial is one of the main barriers to confronting a drinking problem; this can involve impaired memory however it is possible to penetrate your denial and help others to do the same in treatment. Humans tend to minimise the harm they do and rationalise why by justifying and blaming. This is instinctive in order to reduce anxiety levels and function. Some denial is rooted in the unconscious, and some obvious denial is in your awareness, like lying and hiding. It is useful to recognise signs that there is a problem and can include some of the issues below:
- Feeling guilty or ashamed about your drinking
Friends or family concerned about your drinking
Need a drink to cope or relax
Blackouts or memory lapses
Drink more than intended
Life is out of control
Do I have a drinking problem?
DSM or the doctors manual of diseases have criteria to ascertain whether you have a problem, this comes on three levels by identifying the traits listed below so as the diagnosis scale can show the level of your progression:
2 or 3 mild – 4 or 5 moderate – 6 or more severe
Read through the criteria for your own assessment of alcoholism or alcohol addiction below:
Using alcohol in larger quantities and for longer than intended
Trying to cut down or stop without success
Time lost getting using and recovering from drinking
Triggers and cravings to drink
Continuing to drink in spite of negative psychological and physical harm
Avoid social, occupational or recreational events due to drinking
Drinking even though it is damaging relationships
Drinking repeatedly even when it puts you in danger
Homework or school life affected due to alcohol
Having withdrawal symptoms that are relieved by drinking
Note:Substance misuse can induce permanent mental disorders that then become co-occurring conditions such as, anxiety, mood, sexual, dementia and sleep disorders. There are also independent co-occurring mental health illnesses that produce self-medicating tendencies such as clinical depression, bipolar and many others.
Alcohol helps medicate the symptoms of social phobia
Social Phobia: Excessive fear of social situations is a very common reason people drink, and performance anxiety and public speaking are the number one fear in the world. The symptoms these situations trigger are embarrassing in themselves, so there is a compounding effect. The use of the alcohol helps medicate the symptoms and reduce tension caused by a biological stress response.
How we help: CBT, exposure therapy & relaxation techniques
As well as CBT to help change the self-defeating or negative thinking underlying the social anxiety, we use exposure therapy rather than enabling clients to avoid social situations thereby having a restricted life. Also, relaxation techniques are helpful and learning new social skills if necessary.
Using alcohol to cope can be regarded as self-medicating or a temporary escape
Alcohol consumption is also motivated by high levels of stress. The word stress describes the pressure or tension either at work, from parenting, in relationships or economic. All these stresses trigger an emotional and biological response that feels uncomfortable and exhausting. And although it is exhausting due to worry and fear it can be very difficult to sleep, this is compounding your problems even further. So using alcohol to cope can be regarded as self-medicating or a temporary escape from the following vicious cycle, – the issue – lack of sleep – drinking – more issues.
Much of the addict’s behaviour is automatic – treatment will raise your awareness
Alcoholism and the “compulsion-to-drink-process” can be plotted step by step, by ticking certain boxes; however, you may not recognise the process before completing a course of treatment. This is because much of the behaviour is automatic so in treatment we break down the different stages listed below to raise your awareness:
- Obsession and preoccupation when triggered either by thoughts, stress or time of day
Alcohol-seeking behaviour is the drinking ritual to satisfy the urge no matter what
Gratification whether instant or delayed there is a relief
Return to normal or just a break in the obsessive thinking and emotional pain
Justification convincing yourself it’s normal and it helps
Blame to rationalise why my works fault or the relationship problems
Shame, regret and remorse kick in when the high has subsided and reality is restored
Despair when feeling trapped in a destructive cycle
Promises to self or others to stop either the consequences or the drinking itself
Tip for success: Put all worries about the future aside for now
One tip to ensure alcoholism and alcohol addiction treatment is successful is to put all worries about the future aside, especially about whether or not you can drink ever again, as it gets in the way of treatment. Major decisions like these can be dealt with later. Of course, the ideal situation is that you commit to abstinence for the time being until you understand your problem thoroughly.
Be open-minded: Changing thinking and behaviour takes time
Accepting help is a common difficulty for alcoholics and addicts even when admitting themselves for treatment. This resistance develops over time as defences become entrenched or a pattern of protecting supply becomes automatic. We ask you to be open-minded and follow our suggestions even when it gets difficult: remember changing thinking and behaviour takes time.
The difference between a treatment and rehabilitation program
Taking responsibility for your own problems
One of the main focuses of treatment is to take personal responsibility for your own problems. This is because only then can you make the changes necessary to improve your life, otherwise, the power is in the hands of those you blame. We do not expect this to happen overnight. Instead, we have a system for achieving this by using CBT skills and recovery assignments.
Robust solution: Get sober & start recovery therapy
You will start by getting sober and following doctor’s advice regarding alcohol detoxification and screening. Then the recovery therapy begins, and you will document your drinking behaviour and consequences. There are many good reasons for this, however, one reason is to confirm without any doubt the need for a robust solution.
The difference between a treatment and rehabilitation program
Medication can help with alcoholism and has positive short-term results. However, it is limited. Naltrexone and acamprosate treat symptoms and reduce triggers and cravings. Antabuse is a blocker and antidepressants help with post-acute withdrawal or underlying issues. While these meds can help at the beginning, they also form a dependency and tend to prevent clients from making important changes in their lives. This is the difference between a treatment and rehabilitation program: we say the medication is just like using a sticking plaster, it’s superficial. We suggest using medication as part of a holistic approach not exclusively.
Why stopping to drink is much easier today than it was in the past
Historical note: There was a time when there were no rehabs – at least nothing like we have today. Historically alcoholics ended up in a mental institution, religious institutions, prisons, hospitals, or in the gutter and then dead. Since the advent of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), and other new therapeutic methods such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), specialist addiction rehabs have developed – not all of these treatment centers use the same methods but most have saved many lives and nurtured a recovery community.
So, “how to stop drinking” is much easier today than it was in the past. It’s almost as if humans have adapted to the idea they can get help from rehabs, so they usually require rehab help to stop drinking nowadays.
WARNING: Always seek medical advice before detoxing – it is possible to detox at home and stop drinking without admitting yourself for treatment but not very safe. Alcohol dependence is very serious and stopping drinking suddenly can trigger life-threatening seizures.
Short term advice on how to stop drinking (do not drive)
…for those who are sick or in crisis
Stop drinking alcohol…no brainer
Drink water…flushes you out
Drink coffee…for caffeine
Cold shower…to refresh
Sleep it off…safest way
Eat…to soak up the alcohol
Most people are motivated to stop drinking when the pain of using outweighs the pain of being sober
These are temporary solutions to what could be a longer-term problem: we say quick fix solutions are just like the drinking itself, a quick fix for something else. However, most people are motivated to stop drinking when the pain of using outweighs the pain of being sober – i.e. the costs of continued alcohol abuse are too high to justify the instant rewards and the person is no longer in denial about it. Of course, there are those unfortunate souls who never admit the problem until it’s too late and their body gives up. Some serious health effects are alcohol related liver disease, heart disease, cancer, and pancreatitis.
Long-term suggestions on how to stop drinking
…for those who are sick and tired of being sick and tired
Committing in your heart and to someone else to stop drinking
Set your target and goals and make a plan
Write a cost benefit analysis
Prayer and affirmations or mission statements
Get help and support
Investigate treatment options
Identify your thinking about drinking and using
Help and support
Relapse prevention plan
Most counsellors use CBT to help alcoholics, addicts, depression, and anxiety problems, below are examples of self-talk and beliefs that justify negative and unhealthy behaviours – all these can be challenged and changed.
Common thinking and self-talk about drinking
Just one more
I will stop tomorrow
I drink to be social
When I get this job
When I get the right relationship
I am in control
Common beliefs about drinking
I forget about problems
I feel better when I drink
I have fun when I drink
I can’t relax without a drink
It helps relieve stress
I can’t find any other ways to manage my problems
I would have to give up my friends
I find responsibilities too much to cope with
Cost–Benefit Analysis of Drinking or Using
Common costs of drinking
The loss of things and people we care about
Work performance suffers
Loss of finances
Drink related accidents
Over controlling to compensate
Common benefits from not drinking
Relationships often heal after someone stops drinking
Significant mental and physical health improvement
Lots more time to do healthy things
Energy levels go up
Can see people and do activities you love
Drinking and using causes negative issues in relationships
Feelings of depression and anxiety after acting out
Basic functioning improves
What do I dislike about my drinking or addiction?
What will improve if I stop?
What scares me about the change?
Treatment steps you could take to achieve sobriety:
If you are considering asking for help, below are the treatment steps you could take to achieve sobriety:
Detoxification or Detox – this is sometimes necessary due to dependency and length of time alcohol is abused. A tranquillizer may be used for about one week to help ease the withdrawal process.
Rehabilitation or Rehab – starts with the primary stage usually one month, or in some cases, two, then secondary which is more in-depth therapy and finally a stay in a sober house.
Maintenance of sobriety – aftercare and AA meetings are the most successful evidenced-based forms of maintenance, however, many people are using mindfulness and meditation these days.
Making the decision to stop drinking
Illogical Reasons for Not Going to Rehab: Many of us who would benefit from a stay in rehab will at least initially feel resistant to the idea. We may feel there are justifiable reasons for not taking this step, but these excuses will often be just part of our denial and fear of change. Here are just a few of the common illogical reasons for not going to rehab
I Am Too Busy to Enter an Inpatient Treatment Program
We do lead very busy lives, but would you be still too busy if there were a need for some type of emergency surgery? Addiction treatment can save your life – not to mention your career, family, and friendships.
My Problems Are Not Serious Enough to Require Rehab
The reality is that once we are caught up in addiction, our ability to decide what is good for us diminishes – part of the process of denial is we grossly underestimate the seriousness of our problem. Rehab can give you the best chance of recovery from addiction, so it makes sense that you should choose this step if you are serious about quitting
I Can’t Afford to Go to Rehab
Rehab is an investment in your future – it may be the most beneficial investment you ever make. Maybe the real question you should be asking is if you can afford not to go
I Want to Wait Until I Feel Ready for Rehab
The best time for you to go to rehab is as soon as possible. If you continue to wait until the ‘right time’, you may cross a line after which a full recovery is no longer possible (e.g. liver failure, alcoholic dementia, or death).