Alcohol Use Disorders and How to Quit Alcohol
Alcohol takes the lives of countless people because it slowly takes over their time, consumes their energy, destroys their relationships, and empties them of any other important purpose. Because of the addiction’s grip on the central nervous system, recovery from alcohol is a lifelong process that demands change and commitment. Every aspect of life is touched by addiction, and, in recovery, every element becomes transformed.
For someone who cannot cease drinking on their own, the rewards of recovery cannot be calculated when compared to the experience of isolation, pain, and emptiness that alcohol abuse controls, maintains, and worsens. While suffering drinkers may not see the motivation to change or the path to freedom from addiction, treatment facilities like Indiana Center for Recovery are designed to empower through compassionate, evidence-based approaches.
Learn how Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD), binge drinking, and alcoholism can be identified in your life (or the life of someone you love) and discover how it can be healed through intentional stages starting with acceptance, moving through transformation, and ending with a lifestyle of authentic satisfaction.
Alcohol Use Disorder and Binge Drinking—Defined
Problematic drinking goes by many names, including alcoholism, alcohol addiction, alcohol abuse, and alcohol dependency. Capturing them, Alcohol Use Disorder names the medical condition of being unable to stop or control drinking despite life consequences in relationships, work, and health. The diagnosis describes a preoccupation with alcohol that often leads to harsh consequences and health risks as those with AUD increasingly drink to feel their desired relief and to avoid severe withdrawal symptoms.
Whether mild, moderate, or acute, medical authorities consider AUD a serious brain disorder that leads to lasting changes in mental functioning when left untreated. People who drink heavily and are diagnosed with AUD are particularly susceptible to relapse without evidence-based treatment.
Identifying Alcohol Abuse, Binge Drinking, Alcoholism, and More
Doctors and addiction treatment specialists use special criteria to decide on the presence and severity of AUD. In their evaluation of patients, they identify signs and symptoms common to the experience of struggling with alcohol abuse, binge drinking, and alcoholism. They measure dysfunctional drinking by identifying the risks and consequences of heavy drinking as well as the existence of alcohol-related problems in the patient’s life.
If you have a pattern of drinking (or have noticed one in a loved one) that includes repeated distress, functional impairment, and negative consequences, you may be looking at Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). It’s important to recognize its signs and symptoms, even at a mild stage, since those with AUD struggle to quit drinking on their own and continually seek more alcohol to have the effect fewer drinks used to satisfy.
Signs and Symptoms
Mild, moderate, and severe—Alcohol Use Disorder exists on a spectrum based on the number and degree of drinking-related problems in the patient’s life when they are:
- Unable to limit their own alcohol consumption despite consequences
- Desire to cut or quit drinking through many strategies without success
- Spend excessive time drinking, getting alcohol, and recovering
- Feel strong cravings and irresistible urges to drink alcohol
- Start to fail at personal responsibilities and obligations at work and home
- Continue drinking through physical, mental, and interpersonal issues
- Resign themselves to live without social, work, or recreational activities
- Risk their lives (and others) by drinking and driving, working, etc.
- Develop tolerance to alcohol that requires increasing consumption
- Feel withdrawal symptoms after a short time without alcohol
When medical professionals observe these symptoms in a mild, moderate, or severe form, they also define two primary experiences of the person with AUD: intoxication and withdrawal. While alcohol intoxication simply describes the impaired functioning of the individual with high blood alcohol levels (slurring speech, chronic blackouts, poor coordination, etc.), alcohol withdrawal is seen when drinking stops (nausea, tremors, anxiety, hallucination, etc.). While initial withdrawal requires supervised detox, there are many other strategies for mitigating AUD and quitting drinking.
Approaches to Quit Drinking and Become Sober
A symptom of AUD and alcohol abuse is the inability to successfully quit drinking over even a short period of time, but several evidence-based treatments are life-saving for people struggling with common alcoholism. After detox and abstinence, people with AUD find the most relief and reward from a combination of approaches if their condition resists one form or another. These alcohol addiction treatments can be provided through outpatient settings and inpatient stays where medications, therapy, support groups, and more are used to heal the individual.
Quit Drinking with Medication
Several medications (disulfiram, acamprosate, and naltrexone) have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to assist those struggling with excessive, challenging drinking to reduce their alcohol consumption, stop entirely, and maintain sobriety by avoiding relapse. Among them are naltrexone, disulfiram, and acamprosate, and they are often used in a detox setting before combination with behavioral treatments like individual therapy and support groups.
Quit Drinking with Behavioral Health
Individual counseling and alcohol “talk” therapy from licensed therapists aim to change drinking behavior by looking for causes of the addiction while teaching coping skills and behavior modification strategies. Behavioral treatment for alcohol abuse can include short, intensive interventions as well as long-term reinforcement of new behaviors that give people with AUD motivation to quit as well the ability to keep their sobriety by preventing statistically relevant relapse.
Quit Drinking with Peer Support
Social settings where people with AUD can seek mutual understanding and encouragement are provided at many residential and outpatient treatment programs for alcohol abuse. Combined with medication and behavioral therapy, groups can add a meaningful layer to the recovery process that helps individuals struggling with alcohol addiction to feel connected and released from the painful isolation of cravings and lasting consequences.
What to Expect from Quitting Alcohol
To successfully and permanently recovery from an alcohol use disorder, incredible effort, energy, time, and resources can be required. If you (or someone you love) decides to quit drinking by entering an alcohol and drug treatment facility, they begin an individual journey, and their healing from alcohol addiction, binge drinking, and abuse comes in stages.
The individual goes through their own unique process as they endure withdrawal symptoms, start courses of medication, learn new coping skills, and negotiate a new, sober identity. Alcohol addiction embeds itself deeply in the lives of the struggling drinker, and the road to recovery from alcohol can be a long, difficult process even with the support of family, friends, and addiction specialists.
Deciding to Quit and Initiating Treatment
The beginning of a life without alcohol begins, of course, with treatment initiation. For most, this means reaching out to a professional alcohol and drug rehabilitation facility and entering a detox, residential, or outpatient program.
In those initial hours and days of initiating treatment and deciding to quit alcohol, those with AUD and problematic drinking experience many different emotions and ambivalent feelings about what life without alcohol could really look like. At that time, they may wonder whether it is actually true they need to quit drinking, whether they have a substance abuse problem, or if it is serious enough that they need to quit drinking at all. These questions, doubts, and denials can be dangerous for continued, progressive recovery.
To help our clients through this stage, Indiana Center for Recovery supports the individual decision to actively participate in their alcohol recovery treatment program, accepting that abstinence from alcohol is necessary to regain control of their body and mind, work and relationships, life, and wellbeing. To do this, clients look at the damages of drinking and explore the feelings within that can motivate them to recover. At the same time, a complete history of their alcohol use is taken by an addiction professional who introduces a specific, client-centered program of treatment. With this individual plan, abstinence begins.
Participating in Treatment and Accepting Abstinence
With the conviction and commitment to quit alcohol, the person with AUD can enter the abstinence stage of treating their substance abuse problem. This period, also called “early abstinence,” begins positive treatment outcomes but also introduces needs for supervised detox and evidence-based care under the guidance of trained, experienced professionals including physicians, counselors, nurses, and more.
The person with AUD faces sometimes life-threatening withdrawal symptoms and physical cravings for alcohol. They also encounter their psychological dependence on the drinking pattern and see the triggers that tempt them to return to a life of drinking and abandon hope for a better life without the control of addiction. At this stage, there can be significant challenges with the social pressure to drink (if the patient has chosen only an outpatient course of treatment) as well as many situations that present a high risk for relapse and resignation to alcoholism.
While providing a safe, supported inpatient environment with medication, interventions, and education—Indiana Center for Recovery trains its counselors to understand this delicately important period for the recovering drinker by teaching coping skills, mindfulness techniques, and behavior change strategies. Once they progress through their stay, the person with AUD can carry these empowering tools throughout their recovery and into a lifetime of sober experience.
Continuing Abstinence and Maintaining Sobriety
With days, weeks, and months of passing sobriety and complete abstinence from alcohol, the recovering drinker moves into an intermediate and critical area of their recovery. Often on an outpatient basis, they participate in professional treatment with follow-up counseling, medication management, and more. The focus is to avoid relapse and maintain abstinence while they re-integrate themselves with life outside the treatment facility including relationships with friends, family, and work.
Feeling empowerment, the former drinker learns to apply the tools and insights they learned in previous stages of their recovery to areas of their lives in new, exciting, and significant ways. In this sense, the sober lifestyle begins to take shape as they discover a quality of life previously unknown simply by living without the daily drink.
Along the way, the former drinker or person with AUD learns to avoid substituting their addictions with other substances or activities. They seek to mend old relationships and forge new ones on solid, healthy ground while developing a routine and habits that support a satisfying, drug-free lifestyle. As they do, employment, engagements, and responsibilities return to match their growing skillset at managing their emotions, controlling their behavior, and finding fulfillment in self-care, exercise, and nutrition.
Aspiring to Advanced Recovery and Sobriety
Many experts consider five years a standard milestone in recovery from addiction. In this stage, the person is using the tools and skills imparted through their acceptance, treatment, and maintenance to create a life worth living. Instead of relying on the absence of alcohol as a source of fulfillment and accomplishment, they start to use strategies to transform their lives with terrific purpose.
In this motivating and satisfying stage of recovery, they continuously create long-term, attainable goals and strive to keep them consistent with their daily schedules, routines, and commitments. They also form friendships and relationships based on shared experiences and those that do not revolve around drinking or alcohol. Participating in activities that don’t require drugs or alcohol, they find ways to extend the meaning and enjoyment of life toward authentic fulfillment. For some, this means social engagement, community contributions, religious experiences, and spiritual attitudes.
This stage shows that the road to recovery is continuous but, ultimately, deeply satisfying for the person who feels more connected, competent, and complete without the need to rely on substances or alcohol to fill in the missing pieces of their lives. They become truly healthy, more loving family members, better husbands and wives, as well as contributing citizens that make a meaningful impact on others for the better.
Heal from Alcohol Abuse at Indiana Center for Recovery
If you wish to be free from alcohol addiction and AUD, Indiana Center for Recovery is a secure, supportive detox and rehabilitation facility that instills resilience through its proven recovery methods. Striving to give each client the best possible chance at a satisfying and drug-free lifestyle, our staff of physicians and specialists create a custom treatment plan for you or your loved one so they can overcome addiction once and for all.
Decide you want to quit alcohol and contact us. Learn to live again.
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