For millions of people in the U.S., alcohol abuse is one of the most challenging habits to overcome. Alcohol purchase and use is both legal and mostly accepted as part of the culture. And yet, there remains a considerable stigma associated with alcohol addiction—one that often intimidates those who need professional treatment from seeking it.
Accepting that alcoholism is a problem and devising a plan to do something about it is the first critical step toward breaking free from the vicious cycle of addiction and cultivating a new life for oneself.
Rules for Recovery
Recovery from alcoholism is most effectively achieved using a straightforward, principled approach. Recovery consists of much more than just a single decision to break free from the habit—its a lifelong commitment that may require continuous course correction to circumvent relapse.
The Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine has established the following five rules to promote a successful, lasting recovery:
1. Change Your Lifestyle
Defeating an alcohol abuse habit involves considerably more than just quitting drinking. One of the most challenging barriers to an alcoholic trying to recover is a deep-rooted, unsettling feeling that there is no compelling reason to stop drinking. The fact that a person has become an alcoholic indicates that their beliefs, values, and motivation have gradually promoted the same substance abuse that caused them to become an addict in the first place.
This fact can be a difficult pill to swallow. Nevertheless, a person must recognize that alcoholism has become a way of life, not just an unfortunate vice one has on the side. To decisively abstain from drinking once and for all, a person must change their lives wholly and substitute every activity emotionally connected with drinking with new activities that offer purpose and meaning.
2. Be Completely Honest With Oneself and Others
Being an alcohol addict often means being forced to juggle two conflicting lifestyles. In the short-term, alcoholics are frequently deceptive and tell half-truths to hide the severity of their habits from those close to them. Tragically, this behavior pattern tends to cause the drinker to embrace a virulent, inward-directed shame, which serves to motivate them to avoid or dull their unwanted feelings through alcohol abuse.
During recovery and throughout life, honesty is almost always the best policy, whether a person is sharing at a peer support group, discussing with loved ones, or, most critically, with oneself.
3. Don’t Fear Asking for Help
Having a severe drinking habit can be a cause for guilt and embarrassment. When an individual is asked to admit to another person or oneself openly that quitting may not be possible using sheer will alone, their egos, understandably, may recoil at this thought.
Still, research has consistently shown that lasting recovery outcomes are substantially increased when people reach out for help. Peer support groups, psychotherapy, medical detox, and substance abuse treatment programs are proven approaches for maintaining long-term sobriety.
4. Practice Self-Care
Recovery is not about merely satisfying your loved ones or promoting society’s best interests—it’s about the person suffering from the addiction. Self-care is not selfish. Selfishness is concerned with sacrificing the needs and wants of others to satisfy one’s own. Self-care is about providing yourself with whatever you need, but not at the expense of others.
Self-care also requires that loved ones are no longer obligated to sacrifice their needs to ensure that one’s own individual needs are met. It is easier to avoid relapse when a person allows themselves to experience wellness and sobriety they genuinely deserve.
5. Don’t Bend the Rules
The final rule is to protect oneself from the possibility of corruption. A person may get to a point in their recovery when strictly adhering to the first four rules begin to seem excessive or not as necessary. However, it is in these moments that a person must strengthen their resolve instead of letting go. These are not just rules for addiction recovery, but principles that must always be observed to experience a happy and healthy life overall.
The Recovery Process
Professional substance abuse treatment is a process that can last from several weeks to several months. There is no immediate and straightforward cure or “magic bullet” for addiction. Moreover, it requires the patient to unlearn specific unhealthy or dysfunctional behaviors and substitute them with new, more positive coping methods.
When professional help is available, the recovery process often begins with a medical detox program, progresses into an inpatient or a partial-hospitalization program, and, eventually, outpatient treatment. Following formal treatment, strict adherence to an aftercare plan is needed to ensure that the individual continues to receive the medical and mental health support needed to maintain long-term sobriety.
Following detox, many patients opt for inpatient treatment or partial-hospitalization program. During inpatient treatment, the individual resides at the center 24/7 for several weeks or months while continuously receiving therapeutic services. They will also be asked to participate in peer group meetings and physically and mentally healthy activities.
A partial-hospitalization program offers intensive treatment comparable to an inpatient program but is a bit more flexible. It takes place in a comfortable clinical environment during the day, and individuals can return a residence in the evenings if necessary to attend to home obligation.
Other Long-term Recovery Approaches
Recovery doesn’t end after professional treatment. It’s a lifelong process that unfolds in stages and may have ups and downs—periods of stability interwove with times of stress. The following tips can help to sustain long-term sobriety and well-being.
1. Eliminate temptations and temptation in the home environment. These include alcohol itself or drinking paraphernalia, such as empty wine bottles or any references to abused substances.
2. Actively express oneself and lean on loved ones for support. One can expect that those who genuinely care about them and their sobriety will join in the battle and support all healthy recovery efforts.
3. Avoid environments or situations that are conducive to relapse as much as possible. During the early stages of recovery, many individuals find it challenging to be around alcohol and others who drink or use substances. One of the main instigators for relapse occurs when a person underestimates their relapse capacity and fails to err on the side of caution.
4. Write in a journal. It may help to log thoughts and feelings during the recovery journey and reflect on them later to gain additional insight into the motivations spurring addictive behaviors.
5. Exercise and eat healthy. Maintaining a well-balanced life is one of the keys to promoting long-term sobriety. For example, people new to recovery often start a new exercise regime. It’s okay to challenge oneself and just get started on a new routine, such as taking long walks, jogging, biking, etc. It’s also best to avoid simple sugars and processed foods. In their place, persons should opt for whole grains and foods high in protein.
Getting Professional Treatment
Research has shown that the best way to kickstart the recovery process is to participate in a long-term comprehensive addiction treatment program. Just Believe Recovery is a specialized, fully licensed treatment center that offers evidence-based programs and services beneficial for the recovery process, including cognitive behavioral therapy, group support, individual and family counseling, experiential activities, health and wellness education, aftercare support, and much more.