Whether it is a friend, a family member, or even you who is suffering from alcoholism, chances are there is something about getting sober help that has brought you to this article. It isn’t a simple answer or a quick fix to living a sober lifestyle, but learning more about addiction opens the door of the opportunity to overcome it.
In Ed Stevensons TEDX Talk about how to get sober and to see recovery in a new way, he isn’t just talking about the addiction itself. When it comes to talking about alcoholism and living a sober life, he recognized that those who suffer the most are the ones who are unable to get the emotional, mental, and physical help they need.
While society shrugs it off as a lack of willpower, it is far more complex than a simple answer of yes or no. We see heavy drinking lifestyles nearly everywhere we look. We see it in the shows we watch, in our communities at the local bar, in our families at gatherings, or parties with friends, but when alcohol becomes an issue in our own lives it starts taking away more than we expect.
Alcoholism is a common term many are familiar with, but it is also known as alcohol use disorder (AUD). With over 14.4 million Americans diagnosed with alcohol use disorder, it can be hard to spot initial triggers.
Recognizing Alcohol Use Disorder
AUD is defined as “chronic relapsing brain disease characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences.”
While some social norms view alcohol use disorder as a choice, addiction is far more complicated than that. Millions of Americans struggle with AUD ranging from mild to moderate, and severe use. According to the Addiction Center, nearly 21 million Americans have at least one addiction, but only 10% of those people recover and learn how to live a sober life.
Founding director of the Bowles Center For Alcohol Studies, Dr. John Ewing, was the first to develop what is now referred to as the CAGE Questions. The questions were designed to quickly assess whether someone is suffering from an alcohol-related addiction. The acronym letters represent cut-annoyed-guilty-eye opener. It has also been expanded to include drug use.
Recognizing that you may have AUD may come with a cloud of uncertainty, but here are a few ways to determine whether you may suffer from an alcohol-related addiction, and how it can help you get sober help.
- Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking?
- Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
- Have you ever felt bad or guilty about your drinking?
- Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or get over a hangover (eye-opener)?
If you answer yes to two or more of the questions, seeking professional medical help should be your next step. If you’re worried about a friend and believe they would answer yes to these questions, talk with them about it and look for treatment options that you can talk through together.
Whether it is you or someone else who is suffering from AUD, you are not alone. If you read these questions and need help, contact us here through our recovery app.
The Effects of Alcoholism
Long-term heavy drinking will start to severely affect different functions of the body. From your brain, to your liver, to your bones, it begins to affect every part of the body. The more that alcohol is in control of your life, the more it takes control over your body too.
The liver is responsible for nearly 500 functions and is recognized as the largest organ in the human body. It takes on several roles that include detoxification and producing chemicals that aid digestion and stimulate protein synthesis.
With prolonged alcohol abuse, the liver suffers severe damage, leading to liver disease or even liver cancer. Many heavy drinkers develop fatty liver, alcohol hepatitis, or alcohol-related cirrhosis where normal tissue is replaced with scar tissue.
It leaves the body in a state of disrepair with little to no options to return back to its original state. With early detection and treatment of alcohol abuse, further damage can be avoided.
The heart is literally the lifeblood to your entire system. When alcohol use disorder takes control, it can lead to issues such as high blood pressure, blood clots, stroke, cardiomyopathy, and heart attacks causing irreversible damage, and even death.
In turn, the issues starting in the heart can cause other functions within the body to start to deteriorate at a faster rate.
Your stomach is responsible for looking after the digestive system that aids the breakdown of food to nourish your body. AUD can affect this system in multiple ways, from alcohol impairing blood sugar levels to it fully disrupting the breakdown, storage, and passage of nutrition.
Over time it will take a serious toll on your body’s ability to replenish nutrients in the way it needs. Learning how to quit drinking can break the negative cycle in your body and replace it with habits that allow for proper nutrition to flow through your body.
The pancreas often is overlooked in bodily functions, but it is vital to aiding digestion and releasing hormones such as insulin and glucagon into the bloodstream. These hormones help control blood sugar levels. Excessive alcohol use severely disrupts this process and causes inflammation.
Healthy bones are the very structure to your body that hold it upright and keep it steady. Prolonged heavy drinking will begin to break the structure of your body down and affect vitamin D production. This disrupts calcium absorption that maintains bone strength. In turn, it causes brittle bones that lead to fractures, pain issues, osteoporosis, or even a disability.
The Nervous System
The nervous system is all the nerves in your body that control movement and response. Nerves process your senses and pass information to your body to move, or even give the sensation of pain. Alcohol can hinder this process by impairing response, leading to memory issues, confusion, lack of coordination, and trouble sleeping.
The Reproductive System
Alcohol can affect both the male and female reproductive systems. For men, it can cause impotence, infertility issues, and impacts the production of testosterone. For women, it can disrupt puberty, cause hormonal imbalances, and severely affect menstrual cycling.
It isn’t just the physical effects that take a toll, but also the impact on mental health. Alcohol abuse leads to brain function deficits, which means that cognitive problems persist long after a person has been actively in recovery or has made the decision to live a sober lifestyle.
Alcohol affects the wiring of the brain and many develop a thiamine deficiency or contract Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome (WKS) that includes continual symptoms of confusion and memory capacity, paralysis of the nerves in the eye, and lack of muscle coordination.
Social Pressure and Alcohol Culture
Drinking is in nearly every aspect of our culture, and it often starts at an early age. It seems to be everywhere you turn, but learning how to quit drinking and going against the norm can lead to a life of clarity and truth. In recent decades, there has been an increase in adolescent heavy drinking. At an age where the brain is still developing, it can affect a person long into their adulthood.
You might have been in a similar situation as someone who is young, at a party, and simply trying to fit in. Alcohol is often used as a way to ease the nerves about meeting new people and developing new relationships. Particularly at a young age when teenagers are trying to find themselves amongst the crowd, this is where the pressure to drink, and drink heavily, often begins.
While there are many factors as to why people begin and continue to drink, there are a few recurring reasons why people binge drink.
To Cope With Stress
Whether someone is trying to escape their family problems, struggles at work, or a bad relationship, binge drinking can start to take over as a way to cope with stress.
Those who struggle with AUD, it can feel like a blackout with little control over the consumption of alcohol. When they emerge from a binge, it is only then that they realize the caliber of drinking they did the day before.
Using alcohol as a way to cope with stress is one of the leading causes for individuals with alcoholism, but even researchers agree that there needs to be more studies about the complexities of alcoholism and the road to recovery on how to live a sober life.
People consuming alcohol is everywhere in our media. It is ingrained in the culture and in nearly every social activity, but it doesn’t have to be.
While it may feel like it is expected, you do have a choice to live a sober lifestyle beyond just experimenting with friends. For many, it can go too far, for too long, which develops into a habit that is diagnosed as alcohol use disorder.
Binge drinking often affects more than just the individual. It can nearly become unrecognizable to the person drinking 4-5 glasses a night because it becomes normal behavior. Whether it is from prolonged stress, the experience of loss, or the pressure of social norms, it can be a recurring activity that becomes hard to break over time.
Treatment and Living a Sober Lifestyle
Treatment and choosing to live a sober lifestyle is always an option. With the advancement in treatment options and more support availability, you don’t have to feel alone in finding an answer to living life alcohol-free.
Behavioral therapy is talking with a mental health professional that works with the individual to change their everyday behavior around drinking. With continual support, it is a treatment option that is beneficial for many people struggling with addiction.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the types of Behavioral Treatments include,
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- This type of therapy looks at “cues” or triggers that lead to heavy binge drinking and relapse due to stress coping mechanisms. The intention behind the therapy is to change the thought process behind the behavior to develop healthier responses to stress for a sober life.
- Motivational Enhancement Therapy
- This type of therapy looks at building confidence and developing a plan that makes sobriety feel achievable. Through identifying the pros and cons of drinking, an individual works alongside a mental health professional who can guide them through the process of developing skills to stay motivated towards how to get sober.
- Marital and Family Counseling
- This type of counseling involves the family, which offers support throughout the treatment process by repairing family relationships and improving behavior that supports life beyond alcohol consumption.
- Brief Interventions
- This type of approach is short and is often one-on-one to assess behavior around drinking and develop a plan moving forward to help make a change in an individual’s life.
In combination with counseling, many people also choose to seek medication options to overcome the urge to drink and curve their habits. Talk with your primary care doctor about potential medication treatments.
Developing a Plan and Sober Lifestyle
Developing a plan of action may seem like an easy step in creating achievable goals, but it can be hard to initially start a sober lifestyle. With support from people walking the same path, it helps to know that you are not alone in trying to find a healthier and sober life.
There is no quick cure for treating alcohol addiction, but it is treatable. Through advanced options in behavioral therapy and medication treatments, there are several steps you can take to developing a plan that works for you, or a family member or friend who is in need of support.
There are thousands of people across America suffering from alcoholism and it starts with you making a change for yourself that has the power to impact those around you.
At Loosid, we’re a recovery app that is here to shift the culture of drinking into a sober lifestyle. Drinking doesn’t have to be a part of your life, and it starts with finding people like you who are looking for safe environments for support during recovery.
Discover what life can look like when you’re able to set aside drinking and walk into a lifestyle that supports a healthier, sober you.
To find support, come join our growing community here, or reach out to a medical professional that can help support and guide your road to recovery.