As a trained professional in the field of substance-use recovery, a practicing recovery coach, and more importantly, a person in successful recovery from addiction for over 26 years, I have some knowledge to share and lots of hope for anyone who’s ready for change.
This is the first in a series of articles that you may find helpful and informative if you or someone you care about is struggling with alcohol-use, or more accurately – alcohol abuse. As this series progresses, I will present real answers to many of the questions I have been asked about alcoholism over the years. If you find yourself losing interest in some of the content, I encourage you to keep this in mind; alcoholism and addiction are illnesses that I have studied from every possible angle for many-many years and I know what it takes for anyone to attain and sustain sobriety.
Don’t Skip The Details
My own personal experience with the illness, as well as my counseling and coaching work with hundreds of clients has convinced me that even though people’s tendency is to want to get straight to the solution, at some point they have to know the whole story to fully understand that solution. That’s why I’m going to start this series with foundational information, so be patient and take it all in.
I was actually surprised a few years ago when I learned this disturbing fact; alcohol abuse is the fourth leading cause of preventable death throughout the world. And there’s more; data from a 2019 study showed that 9.8 million men and 5.3 million women in America have an alcohol-use disorder. That data set explains why so many people read my blogs, doesn’t it.
Alcohol use triggers the release of certain chemicals in the brain which produce pleasure sensations. Just like eating your favorite dessert, the desire for this sensation leads to prolonged use and the consumption of greater quantities of alcohol. Eating a delicious ooey-gooey slice of chocolate cake certainly implants a pleasurable memory in our brain that may come back as a craving another day, but even having cake 3 times a week does not usually “rewire” the brain and begin to create a dependency that leads to withdrawal symptoms when we don’t get another slice for a few days. Alcohol does however.
Check For These
In the internet information age people who aren’t feeling well will often grab their phone and google something like ‘what are the symptoms of diabetes’, or ‘what are the signs of high blood pressure’. We benefit from identifying evidence of a problem, but interestingly, my experience has been that people with any substance-use disorders already know things are out of whack long before they are actually willing to face it. Here are some common signs of alcohol-use disorder. Put a mental checkmark by the ones that you have to think about for more than about 5 seconds.
- Drinking excessively, or continuing to drink despite social, legal, or relational problems
- Continuing to drink even when it results in mental or physical damage to yourself or others
- Choosing to drink as a solution or coping mechanism for emotional or interpersonal problems
- Choosing to drink as a response to anger or distress
- Continuing to reach for a drink, or sneaking one, even after promising not to
- Flaring with anger when confronted about drinking
- Feeling guilty or ashamed about drinking
- Drinking earlier in the day, sometimes to “self-treat” a hangover
- Feeling ill, or more directly, experiencing withdrawal symptoms after stopping the drinking for a day or two.
This was one in an ongoing series of articles that I am writing not only to educate the reader, but to provide the foundation I mentioned earlier. As I stated, people with concerns about substance-use disorders are infamously known for seeking a “quick fix” which they believe is within their power to execute. For many years I’ve worked with these good people, answering their calls for help. I have presented here, a bite-sized portion of the foundation necessary to understand the illness of alcohol abuse.
If I believed, from my extensive experience, that skipping over the elements in this article and jumping directly into actionable solutions would result in success for any reader, I would have presented it here. My recovery coaching technique is much like any athletic coach’s approach to making a rookie into a pro. The answers and the ultimate solution to alcohol-use disorder requires “classroom theory” before field practice and game-day performances.
The solution to the problem that most likely landed you on this page is a simple one. However it is a journey, one marked by some difficult twists and turns on the trail of self-discovery, honesty, and open-mindedness. The journey requires an experienced navigator, one that knows the landscape and the footholds along the way. The destination is what I call the “summit of recovery”, a place only reachable by a willing explorer with the appropriate tools and provisions for the journey.
I will present more of what I know to be critical information for your consideration in the next installment.
Be safe and care for one another.
Coach Chris, CPRC – Creator of AddictionFreedomCourses.com
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Asking for Medical Help
If you or someone you know exhibits withdrawal symptoms, psychological problems, or any signs of self-harming behavior, contact your medical professional, call 911, or reach out to SAMHSA’s National Helpline – 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
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