Many people feel the negative after-effects of drinking alcohol but are unaware that they have a drinking problem. In time, what starts out as an innocent social activity becomes a habit and then gradually crosses over into a physiological and psychological addiction causing havoc in your life.
Since alcoholism and addiction are not the problems but are just symptoms of the problems, a psychotherapist can help you discover, manage and resolve the underlying psychological issues that have led to your dependence.
Overcoming an addiction to alcohol can be a long and bumpy road. At times, it may even feel impossible. But the fact is that is very possible to overcome any kind of addiction, including alcohol. It is not easy, but the reward by the end of the tunnel is freedom and happiness. You don’t have to wait until you hit rock bottom; you can make a change now.
Building a healthy and successful life in recovery requires high level of commitment and effort. Ending the substance abuse and the addiction is the most critical step, but it is only the first step. This is why it is important to understand that the recovery is a process and not a single event. In order to keep their recovery on the right track individuals will need to overcome many challenges (physical, emotional and psychological). Once individuals have established themselves decisively in sobriety, they will become more capable and skillful in dealing with obstacles and temptations that takes place naturally in their daily lives. They will never reach a point where there are no more challenges to face or free of temptations, but they may develop the capacity to manage their emotions and deal with their challenge in a much easier way.
Sobriety is not easy, but it is possible with right treatment, commitment, effort and patience. spiral2grow, located in New York City, has addiction experts and professional staff that meets the clients where they are emotionally and at their stage of the healing process to lead them to transformation, freedom and inner peace.
In our work together, we will focus on your goals whether it is cutting back, or completely quitting the use of substances. Tailored to your situation, we will explore:
- The process of addiction and overcoming it
- Your level of use and what changes may improve your addiction and well-being
- Ways to manage cravings, triggers (relapse prevention) and lifestyle changes
- Creating an environment that is conducive to your health, including the expansion of your support network
- Lifestyle changes
Introduction to Alcohol Problems
Alcoholism is a general term for problems with alcohol, and is generally used to mean compulsive and uncontrolled consumption of alcohol, usually to the detriment of the drinker’s health, personal relationships, and social standing. It is medically considered a disease, specifically an addictive illness. In psychiatry several other terms have been used, specifically “alcohol abuse”, “alcohol dependence”, and “alcohol use disorder”. The effect of alcohol on the body and brain is significant. Alcohol abuse and addiction are serious, potentially lethal conditions.
Alcohol problems include alcohol abuse and/or dependence. Alcohol abuse is the repeated use of alcohol that results in daily living problems. Examples include:
- Failing to fulfill work, academic or home duties
- Getting arrested for drunken driving, disorderly conduct, etc.
- Having relationship problems such as arguments or physical fights
Alcohol dependence, also known as alcoholism, is a disease. It’s not a weakness or a lack of willpower. Like many other diseases, it has a course that can be predicted, has known symptoms, and is influenced by your genes and your life situation. It includes four symptoms:
- Cravings: A strong need or compulsion to drink
- Loss of control: The inability to limit drinking on any given occasion
- Physical dependence: Withdrawal symptoms when alcohol use is stopped after a period of heavy drinking
- Tolerance: The need to drink greater amounts of alcohol in order to “get high”
A tendency to become alcoholic is increased if family members are alcoholic. Men and women are about four times more likely to become alcoholic if one of their parents was and ten times more likely if both parents were. Environmental factors also play a role. For example, the more a person drinks, the greater the risk. Also, being able to consume a lot of alcohol (having a high tolerance) is a risk factor, not a safeguard, for alcoholism.
Alcoholism affects the alcoholic’s physical health, emotional well-being and behavior. Alcohol abuse and/or dependence can develop in several ways:
- Drinking in excess on an almost daily basis
- Drinking a lot at certain times, such as partying every weekend
- Binge drinking after long periods of not drinking
- Drinking infrequently, but with loss of control over drinking and/or behavior problems while drinking
- Drinking which in some way has a negative impact on the person who drinks and other people
Physical Effects of Alcohol
Alcoholism is the state of being physically and mentally addicted to alcohol. Chronic alcohol abuse can be linked to serious neurological and physical conditions as well as having implications for the social wellbeing of the problem drinker.
- Can impair mental/physical reflexes
- Can increase the risk of diseases, such as cancer of the brain, tongue, mouth, esophagus, larynx, liver and bladder, cirrhosis of the liver and hepatitis, ulcers, gastritis and brain damage when used heavily. It can also cause heart and blood pressure problems.
- Can lead to malnutrition
- Is known to cause birth defects
Emotional and Behavioral Effects of Alcohol
- May cause someone to do things they might not do otherwise, such as driving at dangerous speeds or other daredevil acts.
- May result in anger, violent behavior or depression which can intensify as more alcohol is consumed. Can result in suicide or physical and sexual assaults.
- May result in memory loss, the ability to concentrate and problems in other intellectual functions.
- Can make family life chaotic. The divorce rate is seven times higher among alcoholics. Also, children of alcoholics often have emotional problems lasting into adulthood.
- Often results in decreased work or class attendance and performance, as well as, problems in dealing with co-workers or other students
Family and Personal Life Challenges
A third or more of American families are directly beset by an alcohol problem at one time or another. And the costs are enormous in terms of medical expenses, work difficulties, finances, and particularly, family relationships. When there is someone with an AUD in the home, and that person is drinking, everybody may want to lay low – to get out of the way. Or, maybe some feel like crying, while others are burned up with frustration. And that’s no way for a family to have to feel. Drinking problems take their toll not only on the drinker, but also on everyone else around. If you, or someone you care about, are showing the signs of alcohol abuse or dependence, it is important to get treatment as soon as possible, or at least to call. If you don’t, the situation will probably get worse.
Alcohol Disorders come in two general forms, or levels: Alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence. Alcohol abuse refers to a problem pattern where the drinking negatively interferes with and impacts work, school, relationship, or home life, as well as where the drinking is dangerous, such as in driving a car or operating equipment. The problem may generate troubles with the law, with the spouse or family, or in the social domain.
Alcohol dependence may include some of the of the above ingredients, but it is even more serious. In this case, the alcohol took over the person, and the person is unable to stop or control the drinking. The dependency may require increasing the alcohol consumption to reach similar effect. In this case alcohol “tolerance” negatively change and the use need to increase the amount of consumption. The other aspect is the “withdrawal” aspects, which is having physical symptoms when drinking is stopped or decreased.
Drinking problems have a serious toll not only on the user, but also on the people around the user. It particularly impacts spouse and close family members. Depending on the severity of the alcohol problem, the person may have to be detoxified – cleaned. In some cases, hospitalization or medical treatment may be required.
Couples or Family Therapy can help the users and their loved ones deal with the stresses of withdrawal, relapse, figuring out available treatments, and deciding on the best options. Holistic and systematic approach to alcohol and addiction is very helpful in alcohol treatment. In this regard, the psychotherapist needs to help people understand how the drinking affects the family and vice versa, and at the same time be able to identify the root cause of the drinking problem.
Treatment for Alcohol Problems
A number of approaches have been demonstrated to be effective with people with AUDs. Some of them are more oriented to seeing individuals, some to meeting in groups, some to involving the family. The majority of programs combine these methods. There are two points that need to be emphasized here, however. First, research has clearly shown that family members and friends are very important in aiding a problem drinker in getting help. Second, the family can be extremely important in helping the treatment to succeed. Part of the reason for this is that, in almost every case, families are important to the person with the drinking problem, just as that person is important to the family. Therefore, the caring, creativity, and wisdom of the family can be put to use in helping to turn the situation around.
We teach clients to recognize their triggers – emotions, interpersonal conflicts, or hgh-risk situations. We provide the coping skills that encourage personal acceptance-rather than shame, guilt, or self-blame-promote relaxation, and strengthen the ability to manage stress.
Family or couples therapy is an option for those who are dealing with alcohol use disorders. Therapy can help the users and their loved ones deal with the stresses of withdrawal, relapse, figuring out available treatments, and deciding on the best options. Other main roles of the therapist are to help people understand how the drinking affects the family and vice versa, and to help identify what led to the onset or relapse in drinking. A therapist can also collaborate with other professionals who are working with the family or couple around the problem.
Treating alcoholism is a difficult task that needs to address many complicated issues. Alcoholics are typically under a great amount of stress by the time they seek treatment at a drug rehab.
Treatment for alcohol abuse and dependence usually includes group therapy, one or more types of counseling, and alcohol education. You also may need medicine. A 12-step program often is part of treatment and continues after treatment ends.
Treatment doesn’t just deal with alcohol. It will help you manage problems in your daily life so you don’t have to depend on alcohol. You’ll learn good reasons to quit drinking.
Treatment helps you overcome dependence, but it doesn’t happen all at once. Recovery from alcohol abuse or dependence-staying sober-is a lifelong process that takes commitment and effort. You may be in group therapy or counseling for a year or more.
Recovery helps you stay sober and adjust to life without alcohol. It helps you avoid a relapse, which happens when you slip up and drink again. Most people relapse, so it’s best to accept it and move on.
Your family and friends are affected by your treatment. They can benefit from education, family therapy, and Al-Anon or other self-help support groups.
How to Help Someone With Drinking Problem
Individuals who are experiencing alcohol and other drug problems, not only hurt themselves, but they also hurt their families, friends, coworkers, employers, and others.
If we understand that we all have stake in helping “someone close” to find the way to overcome alcohol problems, we can be proactive and influential.
Yet, the person who sets out to help someone with an alcohol problem will definitely face many challenges. He or she may at first feel quite alone, possibly embarrassed, not knowing where to turn for help or what to do.
The following are few tips on how to help someone with drinking problem:
- Be direct, yet polite, tactful and respectful when bringing up the topic to your friend. Ask your friend if feels he/she has drinking problem and encourage frankness, while expressing your concern.
- Avoid blaming, lecturing and use any attack to express your concern. Express yourself without being judgmental. Use “I” statement, and “feeling” statement. Don’t use any statement that is not factual or leave the options for arguments.
- Keep an open mind about understanding your friend’s situation and the way they think about the situation.
- When dealing with defensiveness (which can be common among addicts), do take it personally and communicate that you are concern about the behavior because you care about the person.
- Denial is tricky stuff. It has many faces and disguises. When dealing with denial, you can help the addicts realizing the consequences of his or her drinking or drug use or their behavior. It is also important to understand that denial can be on both an intellectual and spiritual level and this is why it is very difficult to break though the denial mechanism.
- If your friend agrees that they have a problem of drinking, you may ask:
* What is about your drinking that causes you problems?
* What do you think you can do about it?
* How will you try to change your behavior?
* What kind of support do you need from me or others to stop or limit your drinking?
* Can you create an environment that is conducive to your well being?
- Adult Children of Alcoholics
- A Twelve Step program of women and men who grew up in alcoholic or otherwise dysfunctional homes who meet to find freedom from the past and ways to improve today.
- Whether the alcoholic is still drinking or not, Al-Anon offers hope and recovery to all people affected by the alcoholism of a loved one or friend.
- Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
- An international fellowship of men and women who have had a drinking problem; it is a nonprofessional, self-supporting, nondenominational, multiracial, apolitical, self-help group open to anyone who wants to do something about their drinking problem.
- Substance abuse prevention and education agency that develops programs and materials based on the most current scientific research on drug use and its impact on society.
- American Society of Addiction Medicine
- The nation’s medical specialty society dedicated to educating physicians and improving the treatment of individuals suffering from alcoholism and other addictions.
- Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP)
- CSAP provides national leadership in the development of policies, programs and services to prevent the onset of illegal drug use, to prevent underage alcohol and tobacco use and to reduce the negative consequences of using substances.
- Center for Substance Abuse Research (CESAR)
- A University of Maryland research center which collects, analyzes and disseminates information on the nature and extent of substance abuse and related problems.
- Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT)
- CSAT is Congressionally mandated to expand the availability of effective treatment and recovery services for alcohol and drug problems.
- Alcoholics Anonymous (3rd edition). Alcoholics Anonymous World Services (1976).
- Facing Shame: Families in Recovery. By Merle E. Fossum & Marilyn J. Mason. W. W. Norton (1986).
- Intervention: How to Help Someone Who Doesn’t Want Help. By Vernon E. Johnson. Johnson Institute Books (1986).
- Moderate Drinking: The Moderation Management Guide for People Who Want to Reduce Their Drinking. By Audrey Kishline. .
- Breaking the Cycle of Addiction: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Healthy Kids. By Patricia O’Gorman & Philip Oliver-Diaz. Health Communications, Inc. (1987).
- Another Chance: Hope and Health for the Alcoholic Family (2nd edition). By Sharon Wegscheider-Cruse. (1989).
- The Resilient Self: How Survivors of Troubled Families Rise Above Adversity. By Steven J. Wolin & Sybil Wolin. Villard (1993).