The New Year is finally here, and you know what that means – time to write out a lengthy list of resolutions and follow through with all of them… for about a week. Maybe two. There are several classic New Year’s resolutions, including:
- Exercise more
- Spend more time with family
- Get a new job
- Eat healthier
- Drink less
Yes, it seems like everyone is generally on the same page when it comes to drinking less. For most, this is an attainable ideal. Cutting back on alcohol doesn’t pose any real issue – in other words, it isn’t hard to do. Maybe people will cut down to one glass of red wine with dinner or eliminate alcoholic beverages altogether. While this may not last long-term (for the entirety of the year), it isn’t difficult for most to cut back or quit.
For the alcoholic, however, making the resolution to cut back on drinking usually proves futile. In most cases, the intention to cut back is a regular occurrence. Once an alcoholic deals with a serious consequence, he or she might vow to cut back, or stop using completely. Say your friend gets a DUI, and promises that he’ll stop drinking during the legal process. Several days after his arrest, you see him at the bar. He justifies his actions, saying he wants to get as much drinking in as he can before his legal procedures begin. Someone who wasn’t struggling with alcohol dependency would have simply stopped drinking when he said he was going to, rather than justifying his continued drinking later on. Maybe your drinking has caused some rifts in your relationship – your girlfriend or boyfriend warns that if you spend another night out drinking, she or he will end things with you. You promise you’ll stop – after all, your relationship is more important to you than drinking is. Two days later, you wake up from a black-out and find that she or he is nowhere to be found.
What is Alcoholism?
If you are an alcoholic, no amount of resolution will help you to overcome your physical and mental dependency. You can be facing serious, seemingly life-ruining consequences, and still find yourself unable to stop drinking for more than a day. Because alcoholism is a disease of denial, you may try to justify your drinking. “I’ll just have a couple, I won’t go overboard tonight,” you might say. “I don’t have a problem if I can stop for a day at a time.” Some alcoholics are even able to stop for weeks at a time – in some cases, years. But as soon as they pick up the first drink, they begin to fall right back down a tumultuous, anxiety-ridden rabbit hole.
Alcoholism is an inability to control drinking habits, typically due to a physical and emotional dependency. While symptoms vary from person-to-person, they often include:
- Continued drinking despite personal consequences
- An inability to cut down or quit cold turkey
- Increased tolerance
- Daily use/frequent use
- Withdrawal symptoms when alcohol is not available
- Health problems related to excessive drinking
- Problems at work or at school
- Obvious changes in mood
According to the National Institute of Health, over 15 million American adults struggled with an alcohol abuse disorder in the year 2015. This was over 6 percent of the total population. Someone who struggles with alcohol addiction may know when they should stop drinking, but they have no idea how to quit. They may have tried many different methods – exercising more, going out less, going to church, formulating a plan of action, implementing a budget… nothing seems to work. So then, what does work?
Treatment for Alcoholism
Those who are suffering from a serious alcohol dependency issue will need to undergo a multi-step treatment process, including medical detox, inpatient treatment, sober living, and aftercare. Most alcoholics believe (or have convinced themselves) that they can stop drinking on their own. They may believe that they simply need a change of scenery, or a little more fresh air and exercise, or a different friend group (maybe if I surround myself with yoga-people I’ll be inspired to quit). When in the throes of alcohol dependency, trying to stop drinking on willpower alone is kind of like trying to cure cancer with the power of positive thought. Alcoholism is a disease – a relapsing brain disease. It cannot be controlled with mental fortitude or increased optimism. Please note – the point of this blog is not to encourage people to self-diagnose. It is simply to explain that those who are seriously struggling with substance dependency won’t be able to adhere to a New Year’s resolution, no matter how strong their resolve. While it is easy to diagnose yourself when you’re being honest with yourself, it is always a good idea to get the opinion of a medical professional or addiction specialist. Not only because they undeniably have more experience in the field, but because they can help you to take the necessary first steps towards recovery.
Your doctor (or another specialist, such as any one of the staff members at Chapel Hill), will help you determine which treatment options will best suit your personal needs and goals. The effects of alcoholism are different for everybody, and some people have been struggling for far longer than others. For example, a teenager who has been drinking excessively from age 17 to age 19 may require less intensive treatment than an alcoholic who has been drinking heavily and daily for 45 years. However, the basic formula is generally always the same.
Even if you aren’t a daily drinker, it’s highly suggested that you enter a medically monitored detox facility. This environment will allow you to withdraw safely – even if you don’t experience severe withdrawal symptoms, the chances of relapse are greatest within the first few days of sobriety. Being in a secure facility will prevent relapse from happening. Next, it will be suggested that you attend an inpatient treatment center for at least three months. Those with more severe alcohol dependency disorders will likely be asked to stay for up to six months. Once inpatient rehab is complete, you will move to a sober living facility.
This year, rather than jotting down “drink less” or “stop drinking” on your list of resolutions, resolve to get the help you need to overcome alcoholism once and for all. No need to wait until the first of the year – please feel free to call us today.