For a person struggling with alcohol use disorder (AUD), the idea of confronting their disease can feel like an overwhelming thing to even consider. When someone is deep in the throes of addiction, they no longer have control over that part of their being. It’s a scary, vulnerable position, and it takes a great deal of strength to break out of the addiction cycle and decide that enough is finally enough.

Although it’s an isolating disease, sufferers of alcoholism are far from alone in their plight. In the United States alone, over 15 million people struggle with their alcohol use to the point of disorder. Alcohol has become the third most prevalent cause of avoidable death in the country.

AUD can be literally life shattering, but help is available for people who are ready to overcome their addiction.

Treatment centers are located all over the country. Deciding which one is best for you or your loved one depends greatly on a variety of personal factors, but educating yourself about the options is the best way to ensure the right decision for your unique situation.

Taking the first steps toward treatment

Making the choice to seek treatment for alcohol abuse is a decision that takes time and commitment. Like all journeys, the path to overcome addiction starts by taking the first steps.

  • Identifying a problem in yourself

    Not sure whether your alcohol consumption habits qualify you as a potential problem drinker? Check these guidelines set by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

    Moderate drinking: Up to two drinks per day for men, one drink per day for women

    Binge drinking: Drinking that raises blood alcohol content to .08% or over (usually about five drinks for men, and four drinks for women)

    Heavy drinking: Binge drinking on more than five occasions in a month.

    If you’re not sure where your drinking habits fall, try journaling your alcohol intake for a week or two. Logging each drink can help you to get a realistic view of how much you’re actually drinking on a regular basis.

  • Identifying a problem in others

    If you suspect that a loved one is suffering from AUD, it can be more difficult to assess. However, there are several red flags you should watch out for. They include:

    Frequent bouts of binge drinking

    Letting personal responsibilities go by the wayside

    Disintegration of personal relationships

    Poor work or school performance

    Changes in mood and stability

    Decreased interest in former hobbies

    Legal and financial troubles

    If this sounds like someone you’re worried about, it may be time to have a conversation with him or her. Depending on the severity and the situation, planning an intervention with other loved ones might be helpful.

  • How to support a person considering treatment

    When you’re helping to support someone who is considering treatment but has yet to take the leap, it’s important to be completely honest and transparent about your feelings surrounding their drinking. Let them know how the consequences of their drinking makes you feel, and give specific examples whenever possible. Keep the conversation simple, truthful, and loving.

    If you’re used to being in a position where you find yourself making excuses for your loved one’s behavior, it’s time to stop. Don’t shield them from the consequences of their actions. Sometimes this can be the reality check someone with AUD needs to get help for his or her addiction.

    For some, the process of actually contacting a treatment center can be overwhelming. In these cases, it might be helpful to have a loved one assist with the logistics of finding treatment. Gather phone numbers and websites, support them through making the calls, and help out with some of the legwork. Recovery is an incredibly personal process, but lending a hand to a struggling loved one might make the start of their journey a little less difficult.

    Keep in mind that no one can be forced into sobriety before they’re ready (barring incarceration or something similar). You can provide support, and you can let your loved one know that you encourage them to seek treatment. Ultimately, the decision to make the lifestyle change needed for sober living has to be theirs if they’re going to succeed.

What is the treatment for AUD?

Though the specifics can vary depending on your personal needs, AUD treatment generally involves physical and mental support with the primary goal of helping you give up alcohol and maintain a healthy lifestyle. You’ll work with a qualified healthcare professional to set realistic goals for yourself, and get started on the road to recovery.

Depending on your method of treatment, you might be given additional support during the difficult detoxification period that you might not otherwise have. You may also have access to medications that can help lessen withdrawal symptoms and reduce the urge to drink.

Often, the recovery process will involve a deep self-analysis with the help of a mental health professional. It can be incredibly valuable to take a look at past traumas, lifestyle issues, and other factors that could be contributing to the problem. Taking a closer look at what brought you to the point of your AUD might be just the perspective you need.

Influential personal factors

There are a number of personal factors that can influence which treatment options will be the most effective for you.

If you have an ongoing struggle with alcohol, a more structured program might be more beneficial at the start than outpatient counseling. Similarly, if you have a huge support network and a real desire to get sober, a more hands-off approach to therapy might be more appropriate for you.

Your financial situation can also play a large role in deciding which treatment options will work for you. If you’re not sure what your health insurance will cover or if you don’t have insurance, talk to the intake department of the facility you’re considering. The admissions departments of most treatment centers know the ins and outs of insurance policies, and they’ll guide you in the right direction. Every state offers some level of government funding for addiction treatment, so income limitations don’t have to be a factor in choosing sobriety.

Types of treatment

Though the details of available options will vary based on the facility, there are a few different types of treatment that you may be able to choose from.

  • Detoxification support

    There’s no sugarcoating it--the first days without alcohol are difficult to endure. Detox specialists can provide the physical and emotional support you may need to get through the most difficult stage of the recovery process. If you’re a heavy drinker, attempting to detox on your own can put you seriously at risk for medical complications and even death.

    During detox treatment, your healthcare team will monitor you closely and treat your symptoms when possible. Medication might be given to ease intense alcohol cravings, and depending on whether you attend an inpatient or outpatient center, you may receive 24/7 support.

  • Inpatient rehab

    Habits are hard to break, and drinking is an especially tough one to quit. For heavier drinkers, inpatient rehab is the key to getting their lives back on the right track. Treatment generally takes place over 30, 60, or 90 days, the entirety of which is spent on site. Rehab offers round the clock support, and the structured environment promotes the building of healthy new habits.

    In an inpatient rehab facility, you’ll spend your time learning how to be sober through self-analysis and learning. One of the main goals of rehab is to teach you how to stay sober when you leave. You’ll likely learn tools to overcome cravings, what to do in case of a relapse, and identify which people, places, and things in your life need to change. You’ll also set up a plan for ongoing maintenance treatment after you leave the facility, which may include counseling and support group meetings like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)

  • Outpatient counseling

    Once you’re out of detox and living your life, regular meetings with an alcohol counselor can help keep you on the right track. They can help you get through any new triggers that may arise, and provide ongoing support.

    Addiction is a tough beast to kill, and relapse rates consistently hover between 40 and 60 percent. If you slip up, your alcohol counselor will be there to help you pick up the pieces. Regular recovery therapy is an important tool in sobriety maintenance that is too often overlooked.

Stages of treatment

When you’re going into treatment, you can generally expect to go through three distinct stages in your journey. The details will depend on your treatment center and your needs, but most programs will build a thorough recovery plan around these steps.

Detoxification

Detox is the most grueling part of your recovery, and it’s the first hurdle you’ll have to clear once you’ve made the decision to enter treatment.

Depending on the severity of your AUD, you may experience withdrawals that can range from uncomfortable to life threatening. You should only attempt detoxification under the watch of treatment specialists. Withdrawal symptoms may include tremors, restlessness, headaches, nausea, seizures, and possibly even hallucinations. Your medical team can give you medicine to help control your symptoms.

The worst of your detox is likely to be over within 24 to 48 hours of your last drink, though symptoms may last as long as three or four days.

Rehabilitation

After the alcohol is out of your body, you’ll move on to the rehabilitation stage of treatment. Here, you’ll learn to identify triggers, use coping tools, and plan a sober future. Your primary therapist will help you to create a strategy that focuses on maintaining your healthy new lifestyle once you’re out of treatment.

This part of recovery can take place on an inpatient or outpatient basis, depending on the severity of your addiction. Talk to a treatment specialist to figure out what method will work for you.

Maintenance

Once you’ve learned the necessary skills for sobriety, it’s time to start using them. It may take some time to get acclimated to life after treatment, but when it comes to sobriety, practice makes perfect.

In this stage, you may choose to continue seeing an addiction counselor for ongoing one-on-one support. Support groups are also available to help you stay on the right path. Many people swear that attending regular AA meetings is an instrumental part of maintaining their sobriety.

Consider which treatment options are best for you

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to AUD treatment, and there’s no shame in freeing yourself from addiction. Your best chance at recovery relies on being truthful with yourself, and choosing a solution that fits your needs.

Are you ready to start living your best sober life? Contact us for information and support.

Sources:

  • https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-facts-and-statistics

  • https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/treatment-recovery

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