A Cure for Alcoholism? Professionals are Divided
Is there a cure for alcoholism or any other addiction? This question has divided members of the treatment community in recent years. There are those who believe people can be cured of their addictions. This is in dramatic contrast to what is mainstream thought: that addiction can only go into remission.
Sustainable Abstinence is the Key
The most successful outcome of alcohol treatment is sustainable abstinence. Sustainable abstinence involves a great many factors. Among these are:
- Successful withdrawal and detox
- Resolution of mental health symptoms and disorders that were previously self-medicated
- Maintaining a healthful daily routine with adequate rest, nutrition and exercise and compliance with health care needs
- Maintaining a safe place to live, and adequate income for independent living
- Coping in healthy ways with life stressors, and triggers to use alcohol
- Using healthy emotions management strategies in daily life
- Meeting life crises with strategies other than drinking
- Participating in meaningful and purposeful activity daily
- Participating in spiritual and/or religious practices that are valued
- Repairing and rebuilding damaged relationships
- Participating in healthy family and social activities regularly
- Having regular leisure and relaxation activities
- Setting and achieving personal goals
Is Recovery Too Tall an Order?
Active addiction dismantles a life on the inside and out. Reviewing the list just above can seem a daunting and unreachable state to reach when you are struggling with active alcoholism. So, indeed from the perspective of one’s despair, recovery can indeed seem like too tall an order. Consider the status quo when deep into compulsive drinking: sustaining relationships are strained or broken; work or school performance declines or stops altogether; the ability to support one’s self is compromised; physical and mental health decline… Of course, alcoholism doesn’t stop there. Eventually, it erodes the quality of life in all realms if active long enough. For example, untreated alcoholism can lead to homelessness, poverty, child maltreatment and displacement, life-threatening illnesses and even death.
All addictions have dire consequences at some point when left untreated. In the case of alcoholism, alcohol consumption is related to at least 50 causes of death according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Some of these are organ damage, hypertension, stroke, alcohol poisoning (overdose), cancers, and accidents. Consequently, it makes sense that individuals and their families can be desperate for recovery from alcoholism. The costs in human suffering alone are immense.
Given the adverse results of alcoholism, recovery efforts are well worth the time and investment, and millions have become sober, maintaining their sobriety for years. So, recovery from alcoholism is not too tall an order, but as if often said in recovery circles, it isn’t always easy. In fact, it appears especially overwhelming from the vantage point of utter despair and compulsive drinking. Nothing seems to carry much hope in those circumstances. People in active alcoholism can’t see or feel hope. Naturally, there is hope for alcoholics, no matter how severe their conditions, but feeling hopeless is a symptom of the illness, and it can be profound.
However, action can be taken despite feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. And, this is how a great many people find their ways to recovery; they act in blind faith despite how they feel, relying on the suggestions of people who know how it’s done. A saving grace for alcoholics is often that they ‘hit bottom’ having nothing to lose by going to treatment.
It’s fair to say that among the millions who are in recovery from alcoholism, most felt hopeless, too, and found the goal of recovery an insurmountable task when first considering it. It is overwhelming when thought of as one massive project. However, one day at a time is a wise and time-proven motto. focusing on what can be done today breaks an overwhelming task down into very manageable parts. As AA member are fond of saying, recovery happens one day at a time.
Is One Person’s Cure Another’s Remission?
The addiction treatment professionals and programs that say alcoholism and other addictions can be cured dramatically diverge from those who believe the illnesses are chronic and incurable, but manageable in remission. This leads some to wonder if the divergent camps of professionals are really talking about the same thing, but using different terms. After all, from all observable points, a cured alcoholic may seem to be just like an alcoholic in remission.
Chiefly holistic philosophies of alcohol treatment have taken a notably different view of addition’s causes and remedies. They look at any addiction as a whole person with a whole life malady. Consequently, treatment alcoholism with a holistic approach can remedy imbalances in the many realms of an individual life. Achieving balance physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually is thought to leave no room for compulsive substance use. In fact, some holistic practitioners say that if life balance is achieved, people will have no desire to use substances.
Is this a cure? Many think so, but others see it as managing an incurable disease as best it can be managed. If abstinence and an improved life with improved health across the board is the goal of addiction treatment, then both philosophies offer hope and benefit.
Choosing the Right Alcohol Addiction Program Philosophy for You
Holistic approaches to alcohol treatment can vary among the many options available today. The same is true of any other type of alcohol treatment approach. Not every program, holistic or not, feels right for everyone who seeks alcohol treatment. However, there is always the right fit for anyone in need somewhere. Some of the things that help you feel you are in the right program for you are:
- Professionals that are welcoming, skilled, engaging, challenging and supportive. Finding these qualities in a treatment staff can be in large part dependent upon your subjective experiences. Personality issues, values, and beliefs make a difference. In short, professionals that make me feel comfortable, motivated and confident, may not be your cup of tea.
- A treatment philosophy that makes sense to you is another significant element in finding the right alcohol treatment program for you. None of us feel comfortable when we first encounter something foreign. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, or a reason to reject an unfamiliar situation or philosophy. Sometimes a radically new experience is precisely what we need. Particularly people who have repeatedly tried certain methods and did not meet their goals may need a very different approach than what they’ve tried before. Sometimes a very different approach is precisely what the doctor ordered. On the other hand, no one does well in a treatment setting that goes totally against their grain. They are apt to struggle to accept what is offered. This can be a waste of valuable time and valuable resources. Instead of getting down to the business of getting well, resistance can settle in, siphoning off energy that could be better used tackling the illness rather than fighting a philosophy you can’t buy into.
- Another important issue in finding an appropriate alcohol treatment program for you is how realistically sustainable the methods you learn in rehab are in your everyday life. People can withdraw and detox successfully but then return home unable to sustain their gains made in a program. The right treatment for you will send you home equipped with workable solutions you can readily incorporate into your life. This means that you also leave treatment having identified resources for significant stressors and situations that may disrupt your ability to remain sober. Those issues can’t all be resolved in rehab, but it is vital to address them and to outline a plan of action for them.
Healing from Alcoholism
Healing from alcoholism is a process and occurs on many levels. It does not necessarily mean that a condition is cured, and healing from alcoholism can take place in stages. For example, simply addressing psychological issues–identifying them, exploring them, and gaining insight into them–can be healing. Such a process relieves confusion, allows stress relief, and can clear the mind for more work toward resolution of them. This type of work done in individual, group, or family therapy can be but the start of much more to come, but when it is accomplished, dramatic relief and improvement can be felt. As is often said: healing is like peeling an onion.
In order to heal from the pain of alcoholism, you need the opportunity to do several important things and all of them are within reach with the right help. You need to:
- Withdraw and detox from alcohol use safely
- Learn about the illness you have
- Identify how alcoholism has manifested in your life
- Build skills that help you sustain abstinence
- Process the emotions of having had an illness
- Grieve the losses incurred while drinking
- Become empowered to continue your wellness efforts
- Repair the damage to your life alcohol has caused to the best of your ability
- Establish a sustainable lifestyle that adequately meets your needs and the needs of others that depend upon you
If You or a Loved One Need Help to Overcome Alcoholism
If you or a loved one are struggling with alcoholism, we can help you find an effective treatment that is appropriate for your clinical needs and your situation. Treatment is a significant investment in yourself and your loved ones, and we want to help you make a good choice as you consider entering a program. We will consult with you to identify your needs, help you clarify what your insurance will cover, and help you decide which treatment programs may be a good fit. It’s important to find treatment professionals and programs that you have confidence in. Give us a call today and we will help you do that free of charge.