Overcoming Alcoholism

Last Updated: Sep 20th 2019

Reviewed by Brittany Polansky

They say it takes 21 days to break a habit, but unfortunately, with habits like alcoholism, this is not typically the case. Overcoming alcoholism is a lifelong process with a full modification of behaviors and a continuous focus on mental health. There is no definite amount of time that it will take to recover however, everyone is different. You have to live one day at a time until the desire to consume alcohol eventually fades away, and it will! Some factors that affect how long recovery will take include length of use, amount of alcohol use, other drugs consumed, and mental health issues. 

Physical Recovery

Depending on the severity of your drinking habit, physical recovery can be difficult. During the first few weeks of recovery, heavy users will experience mild to severe withdrawals. Withdrawals can begin as soon as six hours after the user’s last drink. If withdrawals are too severe, you may require emergency medical attention. 

Alcohol Withdrawal symptoms include: 
• Headache 
• Shaky Hands 
• Nausea and vomiting 
• Insomnia 
• Clammy skin, heavy sweating 
• Hallucinations 
• High blood pressure 

Withdrawal symptoms typically dissipate in one to two weeks. A treatment plan will be necessary immediately following withdrawals. Once the person feels well enough, he or she should attend regular Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings, and an outpatient treatment facility, to ensure he or she is successful in getting and staying sober. Places like our facility for drug and alcohol rehab in Ft. Lauderdale, can be a great place to start helping you or your loved one on the way to overcoming alcoholism and/or substance abuse.

Overcoming Alcoholism

Relaxation, exercise, and balanced nutrition can improve the physical and assist with the emotional health of people recovering from alcoholism and/or drug addiction. A complete refocus of ones’ everyday actions and routines are vital to have a lasting solution to what has become UNMANAGEABLE.  

The reality is If you got to the point in your addiction that you are actively seeking professional outpatient or inpatient treatment, for your alcohol and/or drug problem, you probably were not practicing good physical and/or nutritional health. In order to achieve a healthier lifestyle, you must find new and healthier things to put your valued energy into – first you remain sober and then, you change your life. This is how WE start:

Recreation and Relaxation 

To overcome alcoholism and/or substance abuse, you have to “Get Moving and Get Involved!” It’s time we show up to our own lives and give ourselves something that can positively impact our lives rather than bring us down!

Involvement in a recreational and/or physical activity can benefit your recovery by reducing the stress that can be a trigger for relapse and give help us learn healthy coping skills that teach us that life is about endurance, unfortunately not the commonly told and believed, fairy tail bliss. It also will help assist you in overcoming your alcoholism and/or addiction by fighting boredom; which for most is what our industry likes to refer to as a trigger. 

The below list of healthy recreation and relaxation examples will benefit you emotionally and help to restore a sense of balance to your unbalanced life.

  • Work out; gym, walk, jog, swim, yoga, join a local sports team, etc.
  • Take up a hobby; diving, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, etc.
  • Join groups that tie in your new lifestyle trying to include your new hobbies 
  • Take care of YOU; massage, change your hairstyle/color, buy yourself something, etc.
  • Pray/Meditate; READ, attend religious meetings, talk to YOU and praise creation, listen to a self-help book, etc.

Of course, becoming more active will help you in your journey to overcoming alcoholism and/or addiction and help you to not only feel better physically; but to improve your overall physical and mental health. This will help your recovery by lessening the severity of any post-acute withdrawal symptoms that will reoccur.

Be Kind To Yourself 

If you have not been physically active at all or for a long period of time, you should discuss it with your doctor to make sure you don’t do more harm than good! Overcoming alcoholism and/or addiction is hard enough. Setting unrealistic goals or making drastic changes to your routines could wind up hurting you NOT helping you.

This part of the process will also help you “visualize” your new life and will help motivate you in your change. You can do this and for once, let people guide you to a new way of life and a much deserved new positive look and feel on life.

Be nice to you. People will be watching you for years to come because we’ve gotten to this point; so YOU will need to be your best friend – at least for a while! Start saying only positive things about yourself and mostly to other people.

Pay attention to your silent inner dialogue “negative self-talk”, because often we don’t even realize WE are the ones doing it to ourselves! Acceptance is key, right? Well, accept this – how you speak to yourself or about yourself creates the most damaging types of abuse: SELF Destructive Behavior.

That’s right, the problems begin with us. By being kind to yourself while you are overcoming alcoholism and/or addiction, will help offset what is already a difficult, painful and lengthy recovery and likely we face a lot of concerns and unfortunately judgment by our loved ones or those we’ve hurt during our addiction. That’s why WE have to focus on ourselves because we need all the love we can get!

The overall goal is to become more active at a level and pace that you are comfortable with. Doing this is the smartest way to overcoming alcoholism and/or addiction and make real and lasting progress in improving your overall health. 

Poor Eating Habits 

You can only get so far with physical activity alone. We must also develop a healthier lifestyle through good nutrition. As alcoholics and/or addicts, we spent way too much time with our drug of choice which is always the priority. When that happens, we begin to neglect ourselves and those around us. WE no longer matter. Only the sickness and how we can keep feeling ok – or so we told ourselves that. 

Often research shows that many alcoholics and/or addicts suffer from some level of malnutrition. Most harmful and addictive drugs suppress appetite. This has a physical effect on the body and we can do that with nutritional care.

Alcohol, Malnutrition, and Medical Complications 

Poor eating habits in alcoholics and/or addicts have been found to increase the risk of experiencing the following medical conditions:

Liver Disease: Alcoholic liver damage is caused primarily by alcohol itself, but poor nutrition may increase the risk of alcohol-related liver damage.

Pancreatitis: There is some research that suggests that alcohol’s damaging effect on the pancreas may be exacerbated by a protein-deficient diet.

Neurological Problems/Brain Damage: Nutritional deficiencies caused by alcoholism and/or addiction can have severe and permanent effects on neurological and brain function. Specifically, thiamine deficiencies, often seen in alcoholics and/or addicts, can cause severe neurological problems or brain damage. All addictive substances act within our brains to produce happy, surreal and euphoric effects. However, they also can cause damage to the brain due to seizures, stroke, and direct toxic effects on our brain cells.

Substance abuse often leads to addiction, a brain disorder that occurs when repeated drug use leads to changes in the function of multiple brain circuits that control pleasure/reward, stress, decision-making, impulse control, learning and memory, and many other vital functions. These changes make it harder for those with an addiction to experience what most consider to be shared common happiness in life; food, sex, or healthy relationships and common activities.

Overcoming alcoholism and/or substance abuse puts you on the right path towards finding healthy and happy rewards without the use of harmful and/or deadly substances. Some people will experience a decrease in their brain function. 

Alcoholics and/or addicts may find themselves making little mistakes like leaving lights on or cabinet doors open, forgetting things, just not functioning quite as well as before the abuse took hold; but fear not, this will go away with time. As brain cells repair themselves, the cognitive ability will be restored. Memory will increase along with hand and eye coordination. Everything just needs time to heal, so be kind to yourself and give yourself the time you need. You deserve it.

Pregnancy Complications: Alcohol and/or substance abuse alone is toxic to a fetus, but accompanying nutritional deficiency can affect healthy fetal development often causing defects or even leading to death  Not only can nutritional deficiencies of an alcoholic and/or addict mother negatively affect the nutrition of a fetus, but drinking alcohol and/or substance abuse will restrict nutrition flow to the fetus; preventing a developmentally healthy baby.

Good Nutrition Helps 

Like physical activity, good nutrition helps with overcoming alcoholism and/or addiction by lessening some post-acute withdrawal symptoms that you will likely experience. Eating healthy will help rebuild your body’s strength which has been worn down by alcohol and/or drug abuse.

If you are in an outpatient program, you will be asked about your usual eating habits and how much you know about good nutrition. Your current diet choices will be discussed so that the proper steps on how to eat healthier and feel better in your recovery can be suggested.

Choosing a Balanced Diet 

The key is to eat a balanced diet, following the dietary guidelines and choosing food from the different food groups — meat, poultry, and fish; dairy products; fruits and vegetables; and bread and healthy grains. The recommended servings are five fruits and vegetables per day.

Long-Term Effects of Untreated Alcoholism and/or Substance Abuse 

Unfortunately, untreated alcoholism and/or addiction can have lasting and sometimes permanent unwanted negative effects on your mind and body. Some of the harmful effects of alcohol and/or addiction will not surface until many years later; yet another reason to work on a lasting recovery program that will help you overcome your alcoholism and/or addiction. 

Getting Help 

If you or a loved one is suffering from alcoholism and/or addiction and need help, contact us today at (866) 319-6126. A staff member can assist with any questions that you may have about our inpatient and outpatient programs. You may also visit our facility and speak with an addictions counselor.

References:

https://www.verywellmind.com/exercise-and-nutrition-for-alcohol-or-drugs-abstinence-69443

https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/health-consequences-drug-misuse/neurological-effects

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Brittany Polansky

Brittany PolanskyBrittany has been working in behavioral health since 2012 and is a Primary Clinician at our facility. She is an LCSW and holds a master’s degree in social work. She has great experience with chemical dependency and co-occurring mental health diagnoses as well as various therapeutic techniques. Brittany is passionate about treating all clients with dignity and respect, and providing a safe environment where clients can begin their healing journey in recovery.