If you recognize the physical signs of alcoholism in a loved one or yourself and you’re feeling anxious about getting help, you’re not alone. It’s a major decision that requires commitment, but the good news is, there are various treatment options available with plenty of support to help you get better.
Alcohol Recovery: What Are the Options and What Do They Involve?
According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), an estimated 14.5 million people in the U.S. aged 12 and older had an AUD (alcohol use disorder), out of which 414,000 were adolescents aged 12 to 17.
Addiction Center lists alcohol addiction as the second most common substance dependency in the US, with an estimated 18 million cases. Being a legally sold substance, there is a high potential for abuse of alcohol, which leads not just to addiction, but potentially severe withdrawal symptoms if and when the individual stops drinking.
The New York Times estimates that about 95 percent of individuals with alcohol dependency will suffer mild to moderate withdrawal symptoms, with 5 percent experiencing delirium tremens (DTs)—a severe and potentially fatal alcohol withdrawal syndrome.
Given the wide range of alcohol withdrawal symptoms and varying levels of severity such as insomnia, nausea, sweating, anxiety, seizures, hallucinations, and as mentioned above, the DTs, it’s best to get professional help instead of attempting to quit cold turkey.
The first thing one should realize about alcohol recovery is that it’s a process. It’s not something that can be achieved in a day or a week. It takes time for the body to get over its dependency on alcohol and to learn to function the way it did before the addiction took over.
Even when one has succeeded in curbing the urge to drink, the addiction is never truly gone. To quit and stay sober, one needs to remain vigilant and mindful because it’s never “just one drink”.
Alcohol treatment statistics show that less than 50 percent of individuals relapse after maintaining one year of sobriety, and less than 15 percent relapse after five years of sobriety. The chances of long-term sobriety are greatly enhanced by enrolling in an inpatient or outpatient program with regular participation in local support groups and counseling.
It can be a long road to recovery but help is available every step of the way, and the process will allow you to regain control of your life besides getting your mental and physical health back on track.
Different individuals will have different needs for their alcohol recovery, but there are generally three main stages of treatment for any kind of substance abuse (not just alcohol).
If you are considering treatment for a loved one or yourself, it’s important to understand the different stages of the process and what it involves so you can be mentally prepared and go into it with the right expectations. For the greatest chance of lasting sobriety, it’s important to approach alcohol recovery in the following steps:
The first step is probably the most difficult: eliminating alcohol from one’s system entirely. Anyone who’s developed a dependency on any kind of addictive substance (tobacco, painkillers, cocaine, heroin) will go through a similar process of withdrawal at the start.
The most severe withdrawal symptoms can be expected within the first two days after the individual’s last drink. It’s best to go through alcohol detox under professional medical care, as treatment professionals can prescribe medication to alleviate the pain and soothe the damage caused to the body. It can be excruciating, but the discomfort will be temporary.
Once you’ve completed the detox stage, you can start rehabilitation, which involves a combination of treatments. The objective of rehab is to help you identify your drinking triggers and learn coping skills to resist your drinking urges after leaving the rehab facility’s controlled environment. Depending on the severity of your alcoholism, your rehabilitation can be done as an inpatient or outpatient program.
● Inpatient Rehabilitation
Ideally suited for treating the most severe cases of alcohol addiction, inpatient rehab offers the most structured treatment environment for those in alcohol recovery. Once admitted, individuals are required to remain on-site for the entire duration of their rehab program, whether it’s 30, 60, or 90 days.
Round-the-clock care is provided by treatment professionals to help the individual overcome drinking triggers, develop healthy patterns and techniques to stay sober, and prepare them for life after rehab.
A combination of individual and group therapy and counseling is utilized to help these individuals develop a healthier perspective of themselves and the world around them.
● Outpatient Rehabilitation
Similar to inpatient rehab, outpatient rehab programs help individuals learn to recognize and prevent drinking triggers, but the latter is much less intense and allows the individual to undergo treatment without disrupting their regular work or school schedule.
Ideally suited for milder cases of AUD, outpatient programs usually involve daily meetings for the first few weeks or months, followed by less frequent meetings depending on the individual’s recovery progress.
Outpatient rehab is, however, not recommended for those struggling with long-term alcoholism as that requires a more intensive approach via inpatient programs.
3. Maintenance & Support
Once the individual has successfully completed rehabilitation, they will need support to help them ease back into daily life while maintaining their sobriety. It’s crucial at this stage for the individual to attend support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Al-Anon/Alateen to engage with others in recovery and get moral support and encouragement from sponsors to continue their battle against addiction.
While AA is mainly for those suffering from alcoholism, Al-Anon is for family members of alcoholics and Alateen for the younger relatives and friends of teenage alcoholics. AA is also more grounded in religion than Al-Anon, practicing different steps in their recovery program. Despite that, both prioritize group-based meetings over one-on-one therapy, with meetings based on discussion topics or prompts.
Ready to Start Your Recovery? We’re Here to Help.
It might seem like an overwhelming process, but you’re not alone in this. We’re here to help you get through it. It’s never too late to give up drinking. One year from today, you’ll feel like a brand new person and wish you had taken the plunge sooner.
Our counselors will walk you through the different alcohol treatment programs and centers available and provide detailed and relevant facts so you can make the best choice for you or your loved one.