Why Those in Recovery Shouldn’t Date For a Year
Recovery from alcohol addiction can be extremely difficult, as alcohol recovery is a battle constantly being fought between our brain and our willpower. But this battle is not always fought on the front lines. Most of the times it is a sneaky, guerrilla kind of warfare, where even the slightest lowering of the guard will give the enemy an opportunity to strike.
The way our brain behaves, when it is suffering from the consequences of alcohol addiction, is very much derived from psychological and neurological mechanisms developed when we were cavemen. In those early days, we did not have the kind of understanding and knowledge of the world around us as we do today. Our brain helped us make sense of the world. Every time we did something that the brain found beneficial for us, it tried to remember it and encourage that act. This happened when the brain strengthened the memory circuits related to those acts, made us feel pleasure on doing those acts, associated good memories and pleasant emotions with them and remembered environmental cues related to them.
The same circuits when taken over by alcohol and other addictive substances, go into overload. Now the person has strong and pleasant memories of having alcohol. It makes them feel good, even euphoric. It makes them plan and seek it actively. It even remembers all the environmental cues like sights and smells. Even when the person has given up on alcohol and trying to stay away from it, any lapse in concentration will make them end up drinking. Thus, there is a constantly raging war going on in the brain where the walls of willpower are being bombarded by the assault of memories, emotions and environmental cues that want to make them look for and drink alcohol.
The Arsenal of the Recovering Alcoholic
The walls of willpower can, however, gain the support of activities like alcohol recovery, therapy, and rehabilitation. Alcoholics are taken away from any possible hints and influences of alcohol. They are kept in a facility that is away from their homes and any amount of alcohol. The rehabilitation could be divided into three stages. The first stage involves the intervention and countering the immediate effects of giving up alcohol. The second stage involves more intensive therapy, support and learning skills necessary to sustain life post alcohol recovery. The third stage may involve supported independent housing and mentoring. In all, a typical rehabilitation program can run anywhere from 6 to 30 weeks for complete alcohol recovery.
There are mainly 6 different ways that different rehab programs approach alcohol recovery. There is the famous 12 step program that treats addiction like a disease. After a treatment of up to 3 months through all the different stages, the rehabilitated people regularly attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. This model is constantly being modified and improved and allows flexibility and planning.
The therapeutic community approach is another program that tends to be on the longer side, being 6 to 12 months long. In this, the residents and the staff form a society with a hierarchical structure. They perform different activities at each level of the hierarchy and progress upwards. These activities are related to learning and developing key practical skills and education along with therapeutic work in groups and one to one. They also involve a growing amount of freedom and responsibility as they progress upwards.
Faith based rehabilitation has a heavy bent on religion. They involve studying and discussing the teachings of religious texts along with prayer.
Integrated methods use a variety of methods as the situation demands and don’t hold themselves to any particular philosophy.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
CBT or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy-based alcohol therapy relies on social learning and changing the way alcoholics think and behave by making them think about the reasons behind their actions.
Another approach focuses less on psychological treatment and more on practical training of skills to lead a normal life in the society. It deals with education and training and working in groups and possibly even acquiring work experience.
A Losing Battle?
But despite all these various methods of alcohol recovery, as many of 40-60 percent of all rehabilitated people end up relapsing. There are many reasons behind this phenomena. Many factors play into it. Many times, people are not serious about rehabilitation. They attend alcohol recovery programs merely to appease the people concerned with their recovery. Sometimes they do not want to quit drinking entirely and want to get back to drinking after taking a short break. Sometimes they are not ready for or willing to toil for their recovery. Many times, they have other mental and psychological issues that need to be taken care of first in order to completely deal with alcoholism. For such cases, really not much can be done. The desire for alcohol recovery is a choice that the alcoholic must make for themselves. No one else can help them in this regard.
People need to actively fight the battle in their head. They need to stay away from anything that reminds them of their alcoholic past. This is the main focus of the Alcoholics Anonymous meetings – recovering alcoholics get support from other recovering alcoholics and stay away from social interactions involving alcohol, without abstaining from social interaction. This works especially for those who tend to drink socially. Female alcoholics tend to drink to combat their loneliness and depression. For them minding their HALT – hunger, anger, loneliness and tiredness – works better as these are the situations when they tend to seek solace in the bottle. These emotions make them extremely vulnerable to relapsing.
Alcohol use often starts as a coping mechanism and becomes a habit and then an addiction. When people go for alcohol recovery they have rested their addiction, but they don’t have a coping mechanism anymore. The alcoholic enters the rehab facility as a sick, hopeless person and leaves as an ecstatic, healthy individual. However, the charm wears off soon. The people around them treat them weirdly. They don’t know how to battle the constant drudgery of life. They can’t meet their old drinking buddies or hang out in the same spots. They can’t forget their drinking days. The get bored, then impatient, then depressed then give up. They may also become cocky and challenge themselves by putting themselves in risky situations. They may become dishonest with themselves and justify their failings.
Love in the Time of Alcohol Recovery
In times like this, the support of loved ones is of utmost importance. People need a support crew that they can rest all their doubts on. Someone who understands their situation and who they can trust to keep them away from alcohol. In such trying times, a romantic interest seems to be the answer. However, experts seem to be against the idea. They advise staying away from a new relationship. People in already existing supportive relationships need not fear.
A rehabilitated person after alcohol recovery may see a new relationship as another drug. A love addiction. The euphoria of the honeymoon phase of a new relationship can be as intoxicating as any drug. The first year of sobriety is the time when the alcoholic should address the issues that are fundamental to their addiction. A new relationship will distract them from it. For a faith based rehab patient, this can be even more dangerous. If the alcohol recovery patient starts seeing their new love interest as their ideal, then all hell can break loose. People are flawed. Relationships can break. A relationship formed at such a vulnerable stage is bound to be short-lived. A breakup or even a quarrel can trigger a fall down an extremely slippery slope. The way relationships act out in the modern society also complicates things. Where to go a date? What to order for dinner? Traps lay everywhere for the alcohol recovery patient.
Get a support network
Instead of forming a romantic relationship, alcohol recovery patients should try to form a strong support crew of their own, one that is composed of sober, understanding people. They should never isolate themselves from society and try to deal with things on their own. It does take an effort to find your support crew but people are willing to help if they are willing to ask. Alcohol recovery patients should also try to keep themselves engaged in activities and keep themselves distracted. The secret to reaching the goal of sobriety is to follow other goals.
Keeping a support group is only beneficial if the alcohol recovery patient is willing to communicate and share their issues and thoughts with it. Complete honesty is the best policy here. And even if the recovering alcoholic does relapse, nothing is lost. Share this failure with the support group. Make efforts to correct the mistake. Nothing else is going to make this right, but if you can dust yourself off and get right back into recovery, you can continue on creating a good life for yourself.
A brief lull from normal life is an obvious consequence of an event as serious as alcohol recovery. Things may never be normal again. Battling alcohol addiction is a constant affair. But it is better than letting your body become a victim to a corruption. And with the help of supportive and understanding loved ones any battle can be fought and won.
If you’re prone to jumping from one relationship to another, take a time out. Take time to work on you and put off dating. It may be challenging, but it will be worth it in the long run. You’ll be a much more “put together” person for your next partner, which can help the relationship flourish.