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Sobriety Starts Here

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Pros and Cons of Sobriety. Living with Sobriety. Benefits of Quitting Alcohol 

Deciding You Need To Change Your Drinking

It’s one thing to recognize a need to get sober; it’s entirely another to know how to go about it. While recognizing that there’s a problem is half the battle, there’s still half the battle to follow if someone wants to manage their situation and achieve recovery from alcohol abuse. Deciding to seek treatment for alcohol addiction takes courage. It is a personal choice that can be difficult to make. Often, you’re sitting at rock bottom before the idea of getting treatment even crosses your mind.

It can be daunting to know what steps to take to get sober. Some individuals might hope for a quick fix without knowing everything involved in overcoming alcoholic addiction. Others may be halted in their tracks by not knowing what to do first. In either case, it can be easy to get lost along the way if the individual doesn’t know the complications that may surface and the factors and tools that can help meet those challenges. With a guide that includes the different steps required to fully support the path, the journey to alcohol addiction recovery can be much more precise, less terrifying, and more likely to result in a positive outcome.

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Fearing failure in sobriety is very normal. Sobriety starts here.

It is difficult to counsel a person to change a behavior when they may not agree there is a problem or when they are not ready to build an intention to change. The Transtheoretical Model (TTM) focuses on the decision-making of the individual and is a model of intentional change. The TTM operates on the assumption that people do not change behaviors quickly and decisively. Rather, change in behavior, especially habitual behavior, occurs continuously through a cyclical process. The TTM is not a theory but a model; different behavioral theories and constructs can be applied to various stages of the model where they may be most effective.

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Five Stages of Change

According to the transtheoretical model of change, people go through five stages when they decide to make a change like getting help for alcohol addiction.

1. Pre-contemplation

  • At this stage, a person with a drinking problem is not yet thinking about making changes. Loved ones may notice that the person engages in alcohol abuse, but the person does not yet recognize their alcoholism as being a problem that requires help.

2. Contemplation

  • A person who is thinking about getting help for alcohol addiction is probably at least in the contemplation stage of change. At this stage, they may start to acknowledge that alcohol abuse has created problems, and they may need help to stop.

3. Preparation

  • As the name might suggest, this stage involves making plans to begin changing. For example, someone who is dealing with an addiction may set a date to stop drinking or schedule an appointment with a treatment provider.

4. Action

  • Next, someone going through the stages of change enters the action stage, where their plans for change come to actualization. It is during this stage that an individual begins going to 12-Step meetings or attending appointments with an alcohol addiction counselor.
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Self-care in living with sobriety is essential to avoid the overwhelm,

5. Maintenance

  • The final stage of change happens when a person has been sober for six months or more and has created lasting change. This doesn’t mean that they stop going to treatment, but rather that the recovery process has created sustainable change. It is crucial to continue receiving support and services to remain in the maintenance stage.

When you decide to give up drinking and make a change, you can expect to have some anxiety and doubts in the beginning. For instance, in the contemplation stage, you may have some feelings of uncertainty. Think about how you can move forward to the preparation stage, where getting help for addiction becomes a reality. Knowing that people go through a change in stages can ease some of your fears about getting help for alcohol addiction

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Living with Sobriety

You don’t need an alcohol use disorder diagnosis to find your drinking problematic. Alcohol can cause weight gain, impair sleep, exacerbate anxiety, or subtly change your personality. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) [1], Americans are drinking 14 percent more often in response to pandemic-related stress, especially women, whose heavy drinking days increased by 41 percent in 2020.

Get curious

Make a list of how much you’re drinking, as well as the pros and cons of that consumption. Are you opening that bottle of wine because it pairs well with your takeout, or are you hoping the fifth glass will drown out your anxiety? Study your own habits — and be honest about them. 

To give you some perspective, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines of Americans suggest no more than two drinks per day for men or one for women. At this stage, you don’t have to have things figured out, aside from wanting to make quit alcohol. You’re doing it right now, by being curious.

Clear out the alcohol

If you’ve decided alcohol is having a negative effect on your life, try distancing yourself from it for a while. Clear alcohol bottles from your physical spaces and booze-related content from your virtual ones. Cleanse your computer and phone of anything that might entice you to drink. It’s not about having existence or avoiding anything that creates a desire to drink, it’s about dismantling the myth that drinking is what makes life fun. 

Then try not to drink alcohol for a month. Pick a date and stick with it. This is a good way to assess your alcohol use and it’s a jump start on reducing your alcohol consumption. Detoxification literally means removing the toxin. This can be done on your own unless you have moderate to severe alcohol use disorder, in which case you should seek professional assistance.

Replace alcohol with something else

Alcohol does have positive effects: It lowers inhibitions and suppresses tension. Remove it and you will miss it, at least initially. So, identify other activities you love and increase them. Whether it’s spending time with friends or exercising. We need another outlet to fill the void that alcohol leaves.

Find your support group

You’re more likely to successfully abstain from alcohol if you have support. Tell as many of your family members and friends who feel safe as you can about this. It also helps you to connect with others who share your goal. Free sobriety support communities with virtual meetings include AA, SMART Recovery, and Refuge Recovery. Many organizations have meetings specifically for people of color, certain age groups, or even professions. 

Understand what recovery means for you

If your month of sobriety was relatively easy to accomplish, then simply consider it a reset. But if you’re having trouble sticking to your plan, you might need more than group meetings. You may have alcohol use disorder, which is a disease, not a moral failing, and it needs professional treatment like any illness. The most effective form of recovery usually involves long-term community support and behavioral therapies as well as medication, if needed.

Be flexible

If you decide you want to maintain your sobriety long-term, understand that treatment plans may vary over time. The same practices that helped you quit drinking might not keep you sober later on. Maybe you’ve unlocked a trauma along the way, maybe you’re going through a divorce or maybe you’re living in the midst of a pandemic. You haven’t done anything wrong; you just need a fresh set of tools.

Continuing to keep a log of alcohol use will help, make note of any benefits you see, to keep your momentum going. When you backslide, make note of that — and how you feel about it.

Pros and Cons of Sobriety 

Once you give up drinking or drugs, your life will change for the better in a multitude of ways. Whether you’re struggling with alcohol use disorder or you are simply looking to improve your health, here are the reasons sobriety makes your life more fulfilling, healthier, and more fun.

Your diet improves.

When you’re under the influence of alcohol, it’s all too easy to give in to cravings for something sweet, greasy, or salty. It’s much easier to eat well when you’re sober. You’re not surrounded by temptations like bar food, and you have fewer cravings.

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Alcohol addiction recovery is possible with hard work and the right treatment

You sleep better.

We all know the importance of good sleep. When you’re sleep-deprived, you feel foggy, cranky, and unhealthy. Alcohol and drugs aren’t conducive to good sleep – they can keep you up late at night, make it hard to fall asleep when you want to, or make you sleepy during the daytime. When you’re sober, you’re able to stick to a healthy sleep schedule and wake up feeling refreshed every day.

You avoid alcohol- or drug-related health problems.

Nobody likes to think that they might end up with liver disease or other substance-related health problems. But people are diagnosed with these diseases every day, and if you abuse alcohol or drugs regularly, chances are high that you’ll eventually be one of them. When you’re sober, you don’t have to worry about developing life-threatening complications from your habits.

Your weight stabilizes.

It’s easy to down a lot of empty calories with just a few drinks. Combine the calories in alcohol with the aforementioned junk food cravings and you’ve got a recipe for weight gain. When you’re sober, you’ll probably find that you stop gaining weight without really trying.

You have more money.

Alcohol is expensive. It’s much easier to stay financially stable when you’re sober. Besides saving all that money in the first place, you’ll be in a better state of mind to make good financial decisions. And having that extra cash opens up a whole world of new opportunities – you could decide to take a vacation, save for a house, or go back to school.

Your relationships get stronger.

When you’re sober, you have more mental energy and time to spend on the people who matter most to you. You’ll be able to stay physically and emotionally present with others. You’ll probably find that the important relationships in your life mean more to you than alcohol ever did.

Your memory improves.

Have you ever woken up unable to remember what happened the night before? It’s a bit unsettling. Even if you don’t tend to blackout under the influence, alcohol can make your memory foggy and unreliable. When you’re sober, you’ll feel more alert, and you’ll remember things better.

You get sick less often.

Alcohol affects your immune system. When you don’t put anything unhealthy into your body, you won’t be so vulnerable to colds and stomach bugs.

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Benefits of Quitting Alcohol 

While alcohol is known to cause harm to physical and mental health, the good news is that quitting drinking may improve or reverse some of alcohol’s negative effects. Sobriety can also have major long-term benefits on your health, which may include:

  • Lower blood pressure.
  • Reduction in insulin resistance.
  • Improvement or reversal of most of the cognitive damage, including memory, planning, organization, behavior control, and reaction time.
  • Maintaining a healthier body weight.
  • Potential regeneration of damaged liver cells.
  • A lowered risk of cancer with each year of sobriety.

30 Days Sober 

When a person decides to get sober they may not actually believe they will ever see 30 days sober. For a person struggling with alcohol, even one day sober is a huge mountain to climb, much less thirty days. In fact, at the outset of entering treatment, many individuals with an alcohol use disorder aren’t all that convinced they really want to get sober. Staying away from alcohol is a tough one to endure. But endure you do, eventually marking the 30 days sober as a key benchmark in the recovery journey.

The first 30 days of sobriety might be the hardest, but also the most crucial. Depending on how you decide to stop using alcohol, you may be going through detox, attending addiction treatment, or participating in AA or NA meetings. The first 30 days will be a rollercoaster. Your body will first be getting rid of all of the substances inside, and you may feel sick, tired, and anxious this is caused by alcohol withdrawal. The first 30 days of sobriety are when you are at the highest risk of relapse. Making sure to do your best to safeguard your sobriety during this time is essential.

Tips for Surviving the First 30 Days of Sobriety

Build a support system

Support is a huge element of success in early recovery. You are most at risk of relapse when you are isolated and lonely, so developing a solid support system is crucial in staying sober.

Don’t dwell on the past

It can be easy to get caught in a loop of guilt and shame in early sobriety. Focusing on the past will only make you feel depressed and increase your risk of relapse. Try to focus on the present and future when in your first month of sobriety. 

Establish a routine

Adjusting to sobriety can feel confusing and overwhelming. By creating a consistent schedule, you are providing yourself with predictability and structure. Setting up a daily routine that includes activities integral to your sobriety.

Try meditating

Meditating can be frustrating and confusing at first, but it can also be a powerful tool for staying sober. If you are new to meditating and require some guidance. It is crucial to remember that sobriety is a lifelong journey and some days will be easier than others. Finding ways to cope with the more challenging days is essential in safeguarding your sobriety. 

90 Days Sober

When someone reaches 90 days of sobriety, they will likely feel a bit more relaxed. However, the person may begin feeling sad and confused about their relationship with drugs and alcohol. Feelings of guilt, shame, and depression are all normal, and these feelings can be worked through. 

Throughout the first three months of sobriety, the person begins to learn new, healthier coping mechanisms. Sobriety will start to become a routine part of daily life, and things like therapy and meetings can be incorporated nicely into their schedule.

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Living with sobriety is not the WHAT. It’s the HOW

6 Months Sober

The six-month mark is where someone may begin to feel comfortable with your sobriety. However, this feeling of comfort can also be dangerous. It’s possible to experience a phenomenon called the “pink cloud,” meaning you’re happy about everything and feel invincible because of the newfound sobriety. Although the pink cloud feels good, it can give a false sense of security.

1 Year Sober

When you get to one year of sobriety, they’ll breathe a sigh of relief. One year is a major feat, and you should be proud of yourself — you’ve gone 365 days without a drink or a drug! When I reached one year, I was happy and I felt accomplished. I knew that I could do something difficult and let go of substances that used to rule my life.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment for Alcohol Problems

Alcohol is the most abused addictive substance in America, as more than 17 million people in the United States are considered to suffer from addiction to alcohol. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA), publishes that over 1.5 million American adults were considered to be currently abusing a prescription drug.

To determine the most effective ways to treat individuals with moderate to severe alcohol use disorder, it’s crucial to first get an accurate assessment of all the symptoms. When the symptoms have been evaluated by a mental health professional, it may be determined that another form of mental condition is present and needs a particular type of treatment. Very often, some combination of psychotherapy, medication, and/or lifestyle changes are effective for coping with functional.

Medically-Assisted Detox

Medical detox is often considered the first stage of treatment. It will help you navigate the complicated process of alcohol withdrawal, but it doesn’t address patterns of thought and behavior that contribute to drug use. Various treatment approaches and settings can help provide the ongoing support necessary to maintain long-term sobriety after you complete detox.

Cravings are very common during detox and can be challenging to overcome. This often leads to relapse. Constant medical care provided during inpatient alcohol rehab helps prevent relapse. Clinicians can provide necessary medication and medical expertise to lessen cravings and the effects of withdrawals.

Psychotherapy 

Several different modalities of psychotherapy have been used in the treatment of mental health disorders along with addiction, including:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – is an effective treatment that involves making changes in both the patterns of negative thoughts and the behavioral routines which are affecting the daily life of the depressed person for various forms of depression.
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy – is a comprehensive mental health and substance abuse treatment program whose ultimate goal is to aid patients in their efforts to build a life worth living. The main goal of DBT is to help a person develop what is referred to as a “clear mind.” 
  • Person-Centered Therapy – is a strategy that allows and encourages clients to understand and resolve their concerns in a safe, supportive environment.
  • Solution Focused Therapy – is an approach interested in solutions that can be quickly implemented with a simple first step leading to further positive consequences.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Drug abuse and mental health disorders often co-occur. In many cases, traumatic experiences can result in a mental health disorder and substance abuse. Dual diagnosis rehabilitation treats both of these issues together. The best approach for the treatment of dual diagnosis is an integrated system. In this strategy, both the substance abuse problem and the mental disorder are treated simultaneously. Regardless of which diagnosis (mental health or substance abuse problem) came first, long-term recovery will depend largely on the treatment for both disorders done by the same team or provider.

Medication-Assisted Treatments

Medication-Assisted Treatments (MAT) for substance use disorders and mental health disorders are commonly used in conjunction with one another. This includes the use of medications and other medical procedures. During your rehab, the staff from your treatment facility will help you identify what caused your addiction and teach you skills that will help you change your behavior patterns and challenge the negative thoughts that led to your addiction. Sometimes, the pressures and problems in your life lead you to rely on substances to help you forget about them momentarily.

Alcohol poisoning is a medical emergency. It can lead to complications such as choking, brain damage, and even death. Prompt alcohol poisoning treatments can help prevent these complications from occurring. If an alcoholic decides to stop drinking, they may alcohol experience withdrawal effects such as anxiety, restlessness, insomnia, and tremors. The development of tolerance and withdrawal are indications of addiction. If you or a loved one are struggling with long-term drug abuse and a co-occurring mental health condition such as depression, contact one of our helpful treatment specialists today. Sobriety starts here at We Level Up and can provide information on dual diagnosis and detox programs that may fit your specific needs.

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Sources:

[1] NCBI – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7525354/
[2] What is Sobriety? – We Level Up NJ