Alcoholism and Holidays

Alcoholism and holidaysI could have titled this recovery and holidays rather that alcoholism and holidays, but I believe we all need to come to terms with the word “alcoholism”and “alcoholic”. Alcoholism is perceived as a harsh word that some prefer to soften with terms like Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). Regardless what we call it, the reality’s the same. I’m okay really with using a different term as long as it doesn’t change the way people perceive the seriousness of the disease. Yes, alcoholism, or AUD, is a serious, debilitating. progressive and deadly brain disease. Recovering alcoholics have to make adjustments, and one adjustment in early recovery is how to deal with holidays and all the attendant festivities.

It seems like a downer when a newly recovering alcoholic comes up on a holiday like Christmas and invitations to parties arrive. What to do? Go and drink a soda that looks like a mixed drink? Tell the host that you aren’t drinking? Don’t go? Make a pledge to yourself or your spouse, partner or friend who might be going with you to leave if you get uncomfortable? Each individual has to make their own choices, of course, but it’s much better to get advice from someone in long term recovery who’s dealt with alcoholism and holidays a few times, or many times.

If the recovering alcoholic is going to AA, they suggest that newcomers get a sponsor, someone who’s been in recovery for awhile and knows the pitfalls. No one has to recover alone. There are many people who can and will support you in recovery — the recovering alcoholic has to seek them out and ask for advice and support. It’s difficult for most people to admit they have such a serious problem they have to ask for help, but there’s no shame in asking for help. If you don’t know anything about real estate, you find someone who does. If you want to learn a new language, you seek out people and methods to teach that language.

Alcoholism and holidays are tricky. There’s unnecessary stress during the holiday season — it doesn’t have to be that way. If a person in early recovery chooses to avoid parties with heavy drinking, then that’s probably a good choice. There will be other holidays, and when that person is strong in recovery and the desire to drink has gone away, a recovered alcoholic can do anything others can do, except drink alcohol without consequences.

Neuroplasticity and Addiction Treatment – Part Three

Neuroplasticity and addictionThis is the last in the Neuroplasticity and Addiction Treatment series. Recovery from addiction is a long term process. Recovery calls for intent, focus and repetition. The recovering person claims their intent — to stay sober and clean. In order to do this, the person has to accept that alcohol or the drug of choice will cause the same problems over and over if the person continues to drink or use. The recovering brain only half-believes this in the beginning. The old neural pathways told the brain alcohol/other drug is good and necessary, and these neural pathways are strong. These messages to the brain don’t disappear just because the drug has been removed.

The neural pathways of addiction weaken over time as the recovering person focuses on recovery, telling the brain that recovery is good and necessary, creating new neural pathways. One of the great benefits of attending AA or NA is that the recovering person receives positive recovery feedback over and over. The rewards in recovery aren’t as immediate, strong and reliable as the original rewards of alcohol/ other drugs once were, but they’re real and become increasingly more substantial. The drugs only worked for awhile, then they became more and more unreliable and less potent.

The recovering person is continuously working on a new life, a new way of thinking. Recovery is about positive change and growth. Although there are ups and downs in recovery, they’re nothing compared to the violent ups and downs of addiction.

In early recovery, the recovering person tries to stay away from alcohol/ other drugs, but as recovery progresses there’s a generative effect in which the person’s pulled forward to something good and fulfilling. Rather than expending negative energy to stay away from the drug, recovery creates more energy to move forward. If a person is just white-knuckling it in sobriety, they’ll wear down and likely give in to the desire to return to their drug of choice, but when the person is actively participating in recovery with the goal to improve and grow as a human being, then the energy spent in recovery is regenerated over and over, creating ever more energy and desire to recover. The addictive mind slowly changes — the addicted person now becomes a new person with a new life full of possibilities.

Alcoholism, Stress and Relapse

Alcoholism, stress and relapse

Stress and Relapse

Alcoholism, stress and relapse constitute a large part of what we deal with in treatment. Stress plays a prominent and complex role in alcoholism from beginning to end. Many drinkers who became alcoholics realized when they first started drinking that alcohol eases stress, although that was only one of the early benefits of drinking alcohol and not the cause. As the alcoholism progressed, there were many times the alcoholic was under stress and relieved the stress by drinking, thus reinforcing the idea that alcohol cures stress. The consequences of alcoholism also cause stress, so the stress/drinking cycle increases and the alcoholic is cued to drink when there is stress — the alcoholic’s entire life becomes stressful because of the consequences of alcoholism — plus alcoholism begins to stop working like it did in the beginning, and the alcoholic is either numb from drinking or stressed out.

The world is stressful and we can’t avoid stress. Some stress is good — it challenges us and causes us to act and find solutions that can create good results that lead to progress. In treatment, the alcoholic must learn to deal with stress, to learn the difference between good stress and bad stress. There are many things a person can do to prevent unnecessary stress. There are also ways to turn stress into something positive. The problem is that the alcoholic’s brain has been wired to automatically drink alcohol when there is stress, so in recovery stress becomes a relapse trigger that seems automatic to the person in recovery.

The recovering alcoholic has to learn to stop when stressed out and do something different, something other than drinking. This is from Recovery.org:

One of the ways in which many drug and alcohol treatment programs accomplish this [stress relief] is by encouraging patients to develop constructive hobbies and activities that do not involve substance abuse. Many patients struggle when they first leave an addiction rehab and recovery center because they are thrust back into situations and social circles that they associate with substance abuse. By cultivating activities that do not involve substance abuse, you will have an improved chance at avoiding such temptations.

For this to be successful, patients must be able to identify high-risk situations that could lead to stress and/or relapse prior to leaving recovery. An experienced team at a drug and alcohol recovery center will be able to assist you in identifying such situations so you will be more prepared to avoid them or cope with them in the future.

Exercise is often an important way to relieve stress as well as cope with challenging situations. In many addiction treatment facilities, exercise and nutrition are promoted to help patients learn how to handle negative emotions while also improving their overall health and well-being.

Group and individual counseling or therapy can also prove to be advantageous for individuals who find they have difficulty handling stressful situations. By speaking with other people who are battling the same issues, you may be able to identify new coping techniques as well as experience less stress by simply talking over your problems.

Recovery alcoholics can lead a normal life, but first they must learn how to live with alcohol.