Recovering from alcohol abuse
You may have heard the terms "alcohol abuse," "alcohol addiction" and "alcoholism" used interchangeably, but they do not mean the same thing. While there are many similarities, there are some subtle differences.
An alcohol abuser is a person who drinks too much and too often, but is not dependent on alcohol. You are an alcohol abuser if you are unable to meet work, school or family demands, have had accidents or been cited for motor vehicle violations while intoxicated. Alcohol abusers can suffer health problems because of their drinking. An alcohol abuser can give up alcohol and his life and health will improve as a result. However, in some cases alcohol abuse can lead to alcoholism.
Alcohol addiction is the physical need to drink in order to function. In addition, an alcohol addict's tolerance for increased amounts requires more alcohol to achieve the desired effect of consumption. The addict's increased tolerance has a deleterious effect on the body. Unlike the alcohol abuser, however, the alcohol addict suffers withdrawal symptoms when the alcohol is removed.
Alcoholism is a chronic disease that currently has no known cure. The symptoms of alcoholism can be any or all of the following: craving alcohol, being unable to control the amount of alcohol one drinks, becoming physically dependent and suffering withdrawal symptoms when abstaining from alcohol and an increased tolerance for alcohol. For alcoholics, the safest course of action is to abstain from drinking, but this is difficult without help. For some, it can be dangerous if dependence is so severe as to cause withdrawal symptoms. These include shakes, sweats, nausea, headache, rapid heartbeat, increased blood pressure, hallucinations, delirium tremens (DTs) and seizures. Alcohol rehabilitation centers offer help with detoxifying, withdrawing from alcohol dependence and assistance with recovery.
Alcohol rehab centers provide individual and group counseling, medical care and education sessions to inform an alcoholic about their disease, and they also offer a list of local support groups in the community for aftercare. They may be residential, lasting from anywhere to a few days to a few months, or they can be outpatient facilities. Some accept insurance plans, so it's wise to ask in advance whether they take insurance or if they have a payment plan.
Many rehab centers use the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous to help their patients achieve and maintain sobriety. The 12 Steps of AA focus on helping the alcoholic assimilate back into society. They help the recovering alcoholic form a network of supporters, to resist the urge to drink one day at a time by relying on "a power greater than themselves." The advantage to this is that follow-up support, Alcoholics Anonymous, is available almost anywhere in the world at no cost. Other rehab centers rely on a combination of science and medicine to treat an alcoholic. Some rehabs help residents develop living skills by requiring them to participate in house chores and light yardwork to promote a sense of personal responsibility and social accountability.
For more information about alcohol rehabilitation centers and addiction treatment, or to find a facility near you, contact the National Drug and Alcohol Treatment Referral Routing Service. Their toll-free telephone number is 1-800-662-HELP (4357). Another resource is The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which has a Substance Abuse Treatment Facility locater. This locater helps people find drug addiction and alcohol addiction treatment programs in their area and can be found on the Web at http://dasis3.samhsa.gov.
By L.R. Oldman