Alcoholism Involves More Than Just Alcohol
One of the most common misconceptions about recovery from alcoholism is that putting down the bottle is enough. Many alcoholics have tried this method, sometimes for days at a time and sometimes for years at a time. They say they can swear off forever, but there is a difference between quitting drinking and living in recovery. In recovery language, this is called a “dry drunk.” In more humorous terminology, when you take alcohol away from the alcoholic, all you have is “ic.” In other words, recovery from alcoholism is just as much, if not more, about the “ism” than it is about alcohol itself. For an alcoholic, giving up alcohol is like losing a best friend. It involves grieving and dealing with underlying factors.
After a period of detox, the initial period of restoring physical balance to the body, the rigorous process of discovering underlying issues remains. These issues include feelings of inadequacy, which often are covered up by grandiosity, guilt, shame, fear, and anger. Underlying issues also may involve sexual abuse, emotional and verbal abuse, abandonment and neglect. These serious circumstances often involve co-occurring disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. In order to cope with the underlying issues, alcoholics develop coping behaviors that continue even when alcohol no longer is involved. Professional treatment helps guide the way through the “ism.”
Family members long for the day when the alcoholic they love will quit drinking. When it happens, they mistakenly may believe the problem has gone away forever. The alcoholic and the family may experience a time of living on a pink cloud in the initial period when the chaos caused by addiction seems to disappear. The “pink cloud” is a welcome period of relief from stress and hope for a bright tomorrow, but it often creates a sense of overconfidence.
When the underlying issues begin to surface, families suddenly face the reality of dealing with the “ism.” Without awareness and preparation, they may feel discouraged and fearful of relapse. They may resort to their own patterns of enabling the behavior. Family treatment enlightens spouses and children about the recovery process and provides tools to increase communication skills. The entire family has a part in recovery. If you’re in need of help with substance abuse, contact us for a confidential assessment around the clock.