Alcohol is a very popular drug over much of the world. However, dependency and regular abuse of the drug, also known as alcoholism, is exceptionally dangerous. And due to the prevalence and often, cultural significance of the drug, relapse is an all to common occurrence.
Often, alcoholics crave alcohol, and if their cravings are strong enough, an alcoholics may go to extreme measures to obtain more alcohol, even participating in fraudulent, criminal, or violent activity in order to obtain more alcohol. Combined with the acute symptoms of alcohol intoxication, it should come to little surprise to anyone that the behavior of an alcoholic may be out of character for what one would expect from the individual before they made their descent into alcoholism.
Due to the cultural saturation of the drug, peer and advertised pressure, and the positive chemical feedback processes its use presents, alcoholics are often unable to control their drinking. Even if they intend to cease drinking altogether or simply “cut back”, they may be unable to reach their sobriety goals on their own, often unable to stop at the planned number of drinks, instead drinking much more than they had originally set out to consume.
Both alcoholics and those who abuse alcohol generally develop a tolerance to alcohol. This means that more alcohol is required to achieve the same ‘buzz’ that the individual could previously achieve with less. The body becomes accustomed to alcohol so more and more is required to affect it.
All alcoholics inevitable develop a physical dependency on alcohol over time as their body becomes accustomed to and tolerant of the presence of alcohol in their system, effectively establishing a new baseline. At this point, the body has literally become accustomed to alcohol and a higher level of consumption is required to achieve the same level of intoxication. In these instances, when the body is void of alcohol, the deficiency can shock the system and result in withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms include sweating, shakiness, nausea, and fluctuations in temperature. Detoxing can be uncomfortable, painful, and without proper medical supervision, withdrawal symptoms can in fact, be life threatening. So it is no surprise, that alcoholics often return to alcohol and relapse in an effort to alleviate the discomfort of withdrawal.
The effects of alcohol abuse and alcoholism can be far-reaching and often impact many different parts of an addict’s social life, having a direct detrimental impact on career opportunities, wealth, family, romantic and other social relationships. As an alcoholic loses control, it can be difficult for them to maintain order in any area of their life. The effects of long term alcoholism or alcohol abuse can be devastating on an individual’s health, causing brain damage, heart disease, liver cirrhosis, and even birth defects in their children. It is also important to note that as acute alcohol intoxication is associated with a decrease in decision making abilities, reflexes and coordination, those who regularly abuse alcohol are more likely to be involved in traumatic accidents, auto related or simply by falling, are at a higher risk of committing suicide, generally speaking, far more likely to cause bodily injury to themselves or others than they might have while sober.
When it comes to recovery from severe alcohol abuse or addiction, treatment at an experienced alcohol rehab facility is often a necessity. As mentioned above, detoxification from chronic alcohol abuse can be dangerous if not completed under proper medical supervision. When proper support is available 24/7, such as at a dedicated rehabilitation facility, alcoholics are far more likely to successfully complete the detox process. Medications may be administered to help alleviate withdrawal symptoms during the detox process.
A post-detox addiction treatment program is where most alcoholics find that true recovery takes hold. During which, under the guidance of therapists, an addict can freely examine causes behind their drinking, addressing the issue at the root, helping them avoid succumbing to alcohol when times inevitably get tough again. Most programs include both an individual and group counseling component, so that they may work on specific issues with their therapist, as well as learn from the experiences of others.
Some programs also offer family therapy services, where family members are invited to join their addicted loved one, offer support, examine any familial issues that may have been a factor, as well as address any issues family members may have experienced as a result of the addict’s behavior.
Like all addictions, there is no one cure for alcoholism. Even in sobriety, an addict remains an addict, and true recovery requires a lifelong commitment. Aftercare plays a crucial role in the recovery process and many alcohol addiction treatment facilities provide aftercare planning and touch-up sessions, scheduled for after an addict have completed a program in their facility. Recovering alcoholics may also benefit by reaching out to local support groups, like Alcoholics Anonymous, that can help serve as a source of strength when relapse or temptation to relapse occurs.
If you are a recovering addict, please realize that there is no shame in relapsing. Addiction is a lifelong struggle and while all of us wish it were not the case, many addicts do suffer at least one relapse in their lifetime. If this happens, remember, recovery starts with you and your commitment to sobriety. As long as you are trying to recover, there are resources available to help, including rehab. Even if you fail the first time, you can detox, enter a treatment program and try again, as many times as you need to.