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What Are the Stages of Alcoholism?

Alcoholism isn’t something that develops in a day; it is a progressive and complex disease that stems from excessive drinking. Causing people to drink more frequently, many find it challenging to quit despite harmful consequences to their day-to-day life, physical or mental health, and social relationships.

Alcohol use disorder is an alteration of the brain that control’s one’s motivation and ability to make healthy choices. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) describes alcohol use disorder as a drinking problem that becomes severe. Moderate drinking is not a cause for concern in most cases.

Causes of Alcohol Addiction

It is important to remember that no two individuals who experience alcohol abuse are the same. As alcohol use disorders have no single cause, many different psychological, genetic, and behavioral factors contribute to alcohol addiction.

The development of an alcohol use disorder is dependent on how much, how often, and how quickly a person consumes alcohol. However, some factors repeatedly come up when determining who might have an issue with alcohol addiction. These include:

  • Drinking at an early age – Research has found that people who begin drinking before the age of 15 are five times more likely to develop an alcohol use disorder than those who start drinking at age 21 or older.
  • Genetics and family history – A person’s genes and environment often influence alcohol use disorder. A parent’s drinking behavior may also influence a child’s likelihood of developing an alcohol addiction later in life.
  • Mental illnessMany psychiatric disorders, including depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), are associated with alcohol use disorder. However, it is unclear if these mental disorders are a result of alcohol abuse or contribute to the development of alcohol addiction.

The Four Stages of Alcohol Abuse

E. Morton Jellinek was among the first researchers to take a scientific approach to understanding alcohol use disorders. Jellinek viewed alcohol use disorders as a chronic relapsing condition requiring professional treatment. Following his research, he suggested that alcohol abuse follows a common trajectory through various stages of decline.

After many studies and publications, Jellinek created the Jellinek Curve, a model of addiction that attempts to identify the progressive stages of alcoholism. His contributions to this field of research helped the medical world understand alcohol addiction today. The four main stages are:

  • Pre-alcoholism
  • Early-stage alcoholism
  • Middle alcoholism
  • End-stage alcoholism

The four stages of alcoholism can be a helpful guide to determine whether someone has a problem with alcohol. Not every person will go through these stages, but they are useful in identifying warning signs associated with alcohol misuse. Any signs of alcohol abuse should be taken seriously.

Pre-Alcoholism Stage

In the early stages of alcoholism, alcohol abuse is extremely difficult to notice. This is because alcohol is yet to create any problems, and there is no compulsive pattern. It generally starts with experimentation with different forms of alcohol. For example, a person will begin drinking in social settings for many reasons.

Drinking alcohol and binge drinking are typically seen as ways of socializing among younger people. While they may not drink regularly, they consume a large amount of alcohol in a short period. Binge drinking for men includes consuming five or more beverages within two hours. For women, binge drinking is classed as drinking four or more drinks within two hours.

Binge drinking and negative drinking habits are widespread, especially among young adults. Binge drinking does not necessarily mean an alcohol use disorder will develop, but it does increase the risk.

Early symptoms in the pre-alcoholism stage are hard to spot, and not all early symptoms will result in an addiction. During this stage, alcohol tolerance is developing, and problem drinking can lead to mental health issues.

Early-Stage Alcoholism

Early-stage alcoholism is often considered the transitional stage, where people begin binge drinking regularly and slowly start to abuse alcohol. Alcohol consumption becomes more frequent, and people may find themselves drinking every weekend.

Individuals start to use social settings and gatherings as an excuse to drink, often stating they cannot have a good time without alcohol. A person in this early stage often drinks to feel confident in themselves and their social settings.

In addition to binge drinking socially, people use alcohol as a form of stress relief. A person may frequently drink to cope with sadness, loneliness, or other negative emotions, rather than dealing with the issue itself.

People in this stage often drink to the point of blacking out, and they do not see it as a problem and will continue this repeatedly. It becomes an unhealthy cycle of passing out and swearing never to drink alcohol again.

Early-stage alcoholism is easier to notice than the pre-alcoholism stage, and it is also easier for a person to stop drinking at this stage. A critical difference between the first two early stages is that those in the early stage often have issues limiting alcohol consumption compared to those in the pre-alcoholism stage.

Middle Alcoholism Phase

In the middle stages of alcoholism, alcohol use becomes a part of everyday life. A person’s drinking problems are likely to become more apparent, and they begin to drink more frequently, often in the morning and throughout the day.

Alcohol use in this stage is high, and the effects of obsessive drinking and addiction are evident in daily life. People around those with a drinking problem are also more likely to become aware of what is going on, especially as alcohol use starts to affect the person in different ways.

Frequent drinking can lead to alcohol dependence, which causes people to regularly think of alcohol. When somebody becomes dependent, they will also experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms, which can have severe consequences on their physical and mental health.

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can range from:

  • Alcohol cravings
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Mental illness

One may even experience physical dependence symptoms such as:

  • Weight gain
  • Weight loss
  • Stomach bloating
  • Facial redness
  • Sweats

Alcohol abuse treatment and alcohol rehab are most effective for those in this middle stage, as they can prevent more severe withdrawal symptoms from arising. This is because those at this stage can still change their lives to avoid any alcohol-related medical problems.

End-Stage Alcoholism

In this final stage, the effects of long-term alcohol abuse are evident. At this stage, a person no longer drinks for pleasure and feels a loss of control over their alcohol use. Typically, people with severe alcohol addictions are consumed with acquiring alcohol and, as their priorities change to facilitate drinking, relationships are often lost with loved ones.

Without treatment, severe alcoholism can cause life-threatening health problems and extreme medical conditions such as:

  • Liver disease
  • Brain damage
  • Heart failure
  • Cirrhosis

People in end-stage alcoholism are known to feel as though there is no way out. They may think that they are beyond help and recovery is too much of a painful process to pursue. However, addiction treatment has been proven to be effective.

People in this end-stage will experience life-threatening and severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms if they continue to consume alcohol. For this reason, it is recommended that they seek treatment in a safe and structured environment where there is either a doctor or treatment specialist to support their recovery.

Treatment Options

There are various treatment providers and treatment options available for addiction treatment. However, it is essential to remember that someone with an addiction cannot be forced to stop drinking; they must be willing to seek alcohol disorder treatment.

The severity of alcohol use deters which treatment is most effective. However, a combination of behavioral therapy, medication, and attending support groups has proven effective for alcohol or substance abuse problems.

Inpatient treatment provides constant care in a safe environment where those in recovery have access to a medical and mental health professional. They also have the opportunity to complete behavioral therapy, focusing on the psychological aspects of addiction.

In contrast, outpatient treatment is a little more relaxed. Those who choose to attend outpatient rehab will continue to live at home, and treatment is fitted around their schedule. Attending support groups can be the first step towards recovery or part of an aftercare plan for some. They are open to anyone with a substance use disorder and are peer-led.

When an addiction arises, it is best for anyone suffering to speak to a doctor. In doing so, support and guidance can be provided surrounding local programs and treatment options. Help is available for those at all stages of alcoholism, so those suffering should not be afraid to seek help.

4 Pitfalls in Recovery Self-care

Recovery is a journey. It is often a lengthy process, and there will be a number of hidden difficulties along the way, many of which you may not be expecting or think that you can handle.

In order to take care of yourself during this time, there may be certain things you think you should do or people to see that will help. However, not everything is safe, and some people or places can be triggering and may put you at risk of relapse.

Spending Time with Certain People

It can be tempting to hang around with the same people you did when you had an active addiction, due to wanting a social life, fun, and connection. As difficult as it may be to avoid these people, it is important to try to spend time away from them when you are in recovery. They could act as a social trigger, an interaction with a person or group of people which prompts cravings for drugs or alcohol.

Making new friends who still drink or use drugs regularly as a way to socialize is dangerous too as this could lead to relapse.

You may be worried that you will feel isolated without these people in your life for now. However, there are other, safer, and healthier ways to form a friendship group and gain support. 12-step meetings and sober support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) can help you to feel protected and empowered as well as provide a sense of connection. You could also consider joining a sports team or a hobby you enjoy, such as a pottery class or photography club, as a healthy way to meet new people and not feel isolated.

Overthinking Your Recovery

It is natural to want to have the best recovery possible. However, if you overthink and worry about your journey and something doesn’t go to plan (which may happen), it will lead to self-doubt, negative self-talk, and lower self-esteem. All of these things can make you feel like you may as well give up or that you have failed in some way.

It is important to understand how tough recovery can be and be kind to yourself and proud of yourself for being on this journey, no matter the difficulties you may face or if something trips you up. The key thing is to keep trying and not give up, and letting go of perfection will help to make this process easier.

Starting a Romantic Relationship

Beginning a romantic relationship in early recovery might seem like a great idea: a chance to have a support system, emotional connection, and comfort. However, unfortunately, this is generally advised against.

This is because:

  • It can distract from your recovery journey. Romance in the first year of being sober often replaces your recovery goals and stops you from being disciplined and motivated, which can put you in a vulnerable position. You may miss 12-step meetings, therapy appointments, and spend less time repairing important friendships and relationships with family members to spend more time with your partner.
  • It can lead to identity problems. A life without drugs or alcohol may make you feel as if you have lost a sense of who you are, and feel confused about your identity. It is vital to spend this new year working on yourself, creating healthy habits, and rediscovering things that make you feel happy. Entering into a romantic relationship too soon can fill this gap of identity with another person, which will make you extra vulnerable if you break up or encounter problems.
  • Love is a drug. As a recovering addict, you may become obsessed with the intoxicating feelings of love, and forget to work on yourself and heal from within. Love can have the same effect on your brain as drugs and swapping drugs and alcohol with love is dangerous as it can make it tough to figure out who you are on your own.

Over-Indulging in Exercise

The benefits of exercise in recovery, and in general, are huge: it boosts your happiness, health, and makes you feel good about yourself. However, you should bear in mind that becoming obsessed with exercise has similarities to drug addiction.

Compulsive exercising can lead to someone feeling like they need to work out but not gaining any pleasure from it and can lead to injuries and exhaustion. It can also lead to neglect in other areas of recovery, such as rebuilding relationships and attending appointments.

Conclusion

Being aware of some of the common pitfalls during recovery self-care will help you to feel prepared for, and perhaps even avoid, some of the challenges which may arise. The important thing is to be kind to yourself and not to worry if you make mistakes or feel like you are struggling. Recovery is a difficult process, but with the right support and guidance, you will get through it. Continuing this journey will be one of the best decisions you will ever make.

Understanding More About Complementary Therapies

Complementary therapies are non-mainstream treatment approaches that addiction treatment providers offer alongside more traditional treatments. They effectively support addiction recovery and long-term abstinence by focusing on full-body healing and reviving connections between the body, mind, and soul.

What Are Some Complementary Therapies?

Complementary therapies usually fall into two general categories – natural products and mind-body practices.

Natural products are vitamins, minerals, and other natural consumables that you eat or drink. They might include:

  • Herbs
  • Botanicals
  • Vitamin D
  • Citicoline
  • Theanine
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Mind-body practices are exercises or activities that help you maintain or improve specific functions, like stress relief or distress tolerance. They can target the underlying causes of addiction as well as relieve symptoms. Some mind-body practices include:

  • Meditation
  • Mindfulness
  • Massage therapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Relaxation techniques, like guided imagery, deep breathing, and progressive muscle relaxation (PMR)
  • Thai massage
  • Yoga
  • Creative arts
  • Music therapy

You can benefit from complementary therapies at any point during your recovery journey. They may help you to maintain a balanced mood or reduce cravings. Likewise, these therapies can give you the strength you need to overcome challenges and times of distress.

What Is the Difference Between Complementary Therapies and Alternative Therapies?

Some groups, including the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), use the terms complementary therapies and alternative therapies differently. 

Complementary therapies are non-mainstream treatments that you benefit from alongside traditional therapies like behavioral therapy and support groups. Alternative therapies are treatments that you participate in instead of these therapies.

Other institutions and groups, however, use the terms interchangeably. The term ‘‘complementary and alternative medicines (CAM)” may refer to either of the above concepts or both.

How Does Scientific Research Support Complementary Therapies?

There is a growing body of scientific research supporting the use of complementary therapies in addiction treatment. Studies show that therapies like yoga, meditation, and relaxation techniques can complement and strengthen an individual’s recovery journey.

Recovery With Yoga

Yoga is a practice where you move between a series of physical postures. It can help you to manage stress and pain. It also supports greater mental wellness.

Current scientific findings suggest that yoga is an effective complementary treatment for addiction recovery. As many people turn to drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism for negative thoughts, emotions, or underlying mental health issues, yoga can provide healthy ways to cope with these feelings.

Yoga affects our central nervous system and influences gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) levels in the brain. GABA is a chemical that our bodies release to slow down our nervous systems and make us feel calmer and more relaxed. Studies show that yoga can increase GABA levels, helping to relieve stress and decrease anxiety.

Mindfulness Practices

Mindfulness is the practice of focusing on the present moment and letting go of past and future concerns. Its roots lie in Buddhist philosophy that has been practiced for thousands of years.

You can use several exercises and techniques to help cultivate mindfulness, including deep breathing, body scans, and sensory awareness. These techniques help bring you into the present moment, relieving fear and anxiety.

Research suggests that mindfulness can support the recovery process. It may help you overcome addiction and maintain abstinence by:

  • Helping you to cope with negative feelings and thoughts in healthy ways
  • Increasing overall well-being and reducing feelings of shame
  • Reducing sensitivity to environmental triggers

Relaxation Techniques

Relaxation techniques are activities and exercises that can help calm you down. They include deep breathing, guided imagery, and progressive muscle relaxation (PMR).

A systematic review by BMC Psychiatry found that relaxation techniques may help reduce anxiety, one of the primary triggers of drug abuse. They may also help improve overall mood and decrease emotional distress, targeting some of the underlying causes of addiction.

A Field of Potential

Some complementary therapies are relatively new to the field of addiction recovery science. As a result, there has not yet been sufficient research to confirm their effectiveness through clinical studies. 

However, many addiction specialists and clients experience hugely positive effects from these treatments. As research into addiction and treatments continues, we hope to confirm the benefits of many more complementary therapies.

Who Is Outpatient Treatment Best Suited For?

Are you or a loved one battling addiction? You’re not alone. Millions of people worldwide suffer from a drug addiction, but that doesn’t mean recovery isn’t possible. 

Even if you think you don’t have the time to commit or are juggling a job and/or childcare, there’s a treatment program for everyone.

What Is Outpatient Treatment?

There are many different types of treatment options available, but two of the most common are inpatient and outpatient rehab. While both set an individual up with a treatment plan, there’s a big difference between the two. 

Inpatient treatment, for example, involves attending a clinic and remaining there throughout the duration of your treatment. Essentially, those who secure inpatient treatment live in the clinic and receive around-the-clock care and support.

On the other hand, outpatient rehab sees an individual attend a clinic for treatment sessions before returning home afterward.

From alcohol use disorder to substance abuse, both treatment plans can be used to treat a wide range of addictions. However, it should be noted that some outpatient programs focus on an individual’s mental health in addition to their addiction.

So, who is outpatient treatment best suited for?

1. Those Who Want To Save Money

Inpatient treatment can get a little costly, so outpatient rehab might be better suited to you if you’re looking to save money.

2. Those Who Are Juggling Childcare And/or Work Responsibilities

If you’ve got your plate full with family and/or childcare responsibilities, you might not be able to commit to an inpatient program. Try to run it by a few family members first and see if anyone can help. If you’re in it alone, however, outpatient rehab offers a lot more flexibility. 

For example, you still get to go home and surround yourself with your friends and family. Appointments can also be made on weekends, making it easier for you to juggle different responsibilities. 

3. Those Who Are in Aftercare 

If you or a loved one have recently recovered but need a little extra support, outpatient is perfect for delivering aftercare. Since you’re already equipped with a base foundation of tools and healthy habits, you’ll be better able to manage cravings and your addiction recovery at home. This means you only ever have to come back in for appointments if you’re feeling overwhelmed. 

4. Those in the Early Stages of Addiction

If you’re still in the early stages of addiction, outpatient treatment might be enough to nip it in the bud altogether. Just because it’s not delivered in a twenty-four-hour supervised setting doesn’t mean you won’t get adequate support. 

As well as detox and treatment plans, there will be many therapy and counseling sessions available, so you can learn from others on a similar journey to your own and build a support network.

5. Those Who Suffer From Co-Occurring Disorders

If you believe the root cause of your addiction stems from poor mental health, outpatient rehab might be perfect for you. Many outpatient rehabs emphasize treating co-occurring disorders, so they’ll arm you with a treatment plan that focuses on both your addiction and mental health. 

Outpatient rehabs will help you navigate stress management techniques and healthy habits so that you can put your best foot forward. Regular therapy and counseling sessions are also a part of outpatient rehab, giving you a chance to learn more about your mental health and how to take steps to improve it.

When Is Inpatient Treatment More Suitable?

In cases where an individual has a long history of addiction or has attended rehab before, inpatient treatment is usually more suitable. The longer you’ve been battling addiction, the more intensive your treatment needs to be. 

To Conclude

Choosing whether to secure inpatient or outpatient treatment will depend on your circumstances. If you or your loved one have been battling addiction for a sustained period, inpatient treatment is best. If you’ve got a lot of family and/or work responsibilities, the flexibility of outpatient treatment will suit you.

Don’t suffer in silence. You might think you don’t have time to commit or that you’re too busy, but there’s a wide range of treatment options out there – so, take the first steps to recovery today.

How Creativity Helps With Recovery

Have you ever heard the myth that substances stimulate creativity? Well, scientists have finally debunked that one once and for all. Addiction dulls your emotional, physical, and spiritual spark. It messes with our ability to experience joy and makes it harder for us to produce artistically. 

That doesn’t mean that once you’ve struggled with addiction your creativity is done for. In fact, the opposite is true: recovery is a brilliant time to explore or reconnect with your inner creative spark. Through recovery you’re learning and unlearning a plethora of different skills and abilities; you’re crafting a whole new life and mindset for yourself. It can be an enormously creative time, and creative practices can help with recovery in turn.

How Can Creativity Help With My Recovery?

Being creative has many benefits throughout recovery. This can be a challenging time, and having an outlet for your emotions and frustrations is an excellent way to cope and process your feelings in a healthy way.

Helping You to Process Trauma and Loss

Many people who struggle with addiction have gone through a traumatic experience or experienced some kind of loss in their lives. Substance abuse can then begin as a way to cope with those difficult feelings. Working through that trauma and loss is often an important part of early recovery for many of us.

Creative practices are an excellent way to support this process. While talking therapies are useful, sometimes it’s not possible to express such difficult matters in words. Making art can help you to express long-suppressed emotions and get them out into the world. 

Emotion Regulation

Engaging in substance abuse or gambling is also a maladaptive method of emotion control. Recovery is also about learning healthier ways of regulating your emotions. This is something you can work on through therapy such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), but it’s also something that creative endeavors can support.

Creating art, such as painting, drawing, dancing, or writing doesn’t just help you get your emotions out there – it also helps you to regulate them. By being creative you are sitting with and engaging with your emotions, rather than trying to shut them down or run away from them. This can in turn help you to make peace with them and gain some control over your feelings. It doesn’t have to be advanced or complicated – even the act of listening to music can reduce stress and help you to process your emotions.

Finding Joy

Addiction blunts our ability to experience intense joy outside of substances or problematic behaviors. During recovery, you build on your ability to experience that joy again. 

Creative practices are a joyful act as old as the human species. Creating simply to create is a deeply human trait and can release all kinds of happy chemicals in the brain. Finding an artistic practice that brings you joy, however slight, can be a helpful step on the road towards finding joy again after addiction.

How Can I Explore My Creativity in Recovery?

There are many ways to explore your creativity in recovery. For example, you can:

  • Try journaling. Journaling is a great way to explore creativity if you like to write but you aren’t sure what form to put it into. You can slip between genres, such as prose, poetry, or simply lists of what you’ve done. Try adding a few cartoon drawings or sketches of the world around you to stretch yourself. 
  • Take a class. If you’re ready to get creative with other people, look around for art classes in your local community. There are usually plenty that are targeted towards non-professionals, and looking might get you excited. You never know, pottery might be your next great passion!
  • Get into cooking. We all need to eat to survive, so why don’t you try turning feeding yourself into a creative practice? Pick out a recipe book at your local library and get started!

Conclusion

You don’t have to be the next Mozart to reap the benefits of creative practice – and in recovery, a little creativity can go a long way. Whether you write, draw, sing, dance, or anything in between, engaging with your creativity can bring some joy back into your life and help you to process your emotions.

3 Tips To Make Your Detox As Easy as Possible

When embarking on the recovery journey, one of the first and most important steps is detox. If you’re ready to banish your substance use disorder (SUD) for good, you might think that quitting cold turkey is the fastest solution. 

While it might seem like a good idea, detoxing alone comes with several risks. As well as facing withdrawal systems alone, you’ll also have to deal with emotions and cravings head-on. Without appropriate support, doing so leads to relapse, which can be fatal.

The best course of action is checking yourself into a detox center. This way, you’ll be able to undergo medical detox in a safe and supportive environment.

What Is Medical Detox?

Simply put, medical detox is a process that aims to remove all traces of drugs or alcohol from your system under clinical supervision. While withdrawal is inevitable, medical professionals will do everything they can to minimize your discomfort. They will also prescribe medication to alleviate side effects. 

What Happens to Your Body During a Detox?

Due to the withdrawal symptoms commonly encountered, detoxing is often somewhat uncomfortable. Once you’ve developed a dependency on drugs or alcohol, your body will start to crave the highs that they provide. 

In the absence of substances, your body will go into fight-or-flight mode, producing a range of withdrawal symptoms. This is made worse if you quit cold turkey, which is why medical detox is a gradual process that slowly weans you off substances.

Common withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Increased anxiety
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Insomnia
  • High blood pressure
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea and vomiting

In serious cases, some individuals experience delirium tremens (DTS). Here, hallucinations, shivering, and anxiety are all common. 

As you can see, detoxing isn’t a straightforward process. There’ll be a few challenges you’ll have to face, including mental roadblocks and cravings, but with the right help, detoxing and recovering from a SUD is achievable. 

Below are three tips you can use to make detox as easy as possible.

1. Healthy Diet and Exercise

A healthy and nutritious diet can go a long way in improving your mood, mental health, and physical shape. During the height of your SUD, you’ll likely have lost a lot of essential nutrients and minerals, so now is the best time to replenish them. 

Load up on healthy fats, vegetables, and fruits and steer clear of processed foods that contain sugar. You may also want to consider taking supplements to aid in your recovery. Withdrawal will put your body slightly off balance, so eating well will not only keep you sane, but it will help fight off cravings.

Complement your healthy diet with regular exercise to supercharge your recovery. It’s a natural endorphin booster that will help keep your mind off any cravings or urges. Exercise is also proven to reduce stress, so dedicate at least twenty minutes a day to it. 

It doesn’t have to be particularly strenuous – a long walk is just as good as a cardio workout. In fact, there’s a lot of evidence to suggest that regular exercise can help you in your recovery journey. A 2020 study indicated that physical exercise has a positive effect on improving mental health, cravings, and overall quality of life.

2. Join Support Groups

Withdrawal can be a pretty grueling time. You might feel like you’re in it alone, but you’re not. Hear from others on a similar journey to your own by joining a substance abuse support group. Use it as a safe space to open up, learn from others, and build a strong support network to which you can go back when you need it. 

Joining support groups can also help you take charge of your life and become more accepting of yourself. You might be introduced to concepts like the twelve-step program – a method that will push you to own up to mistakes and effect life-long positive change.

3. Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a great way to slow down your racing mind and alleviate stress. It’s essentially a relaxation technique but can also be used to keep you focused on the present. You might be battling many different emotions and different feelings during detox – focusing on your breathing is a good way of keeping yourself in check.

To Conclude 

Checking yourself into drug and alcohol rehab is the first step to recovery. It’s not always easy to do, so give yourself credit for taking this crucial step. Detoxing might seem scary, but armed with the right strategy, you’ll be able to take it on with confidence. And remember – 75% of people who suffer from a SUD go on to recover, so sobriety is definitely within your reach.

 

Should You Start a Romantic Relationship in Early Recovery?

As tempting as it may feel to begin a romantic relationship whilst in early recovery, it is not advised. Relationships can cause a lot of intense feelings and thus put your sobriety in jeopardy. 

As unappealing as it may sound, now is the time to be hitting pause on romance and instead putting your energy into focusing on yourself. Working hard in early recovery will mean that your future can be filled with healthy, sustainable relationships that will benefit both you and your significant other.

Relationships in Early Recovery

Romantic relationships can be wonderful, but they can cause major issues in early recovery:

Identity Problems

It is important to use the first year of recovery to focus on yourself. Using drugs and alcohol can become a part of your identity, and so a life without them may make you feel like you have lost your sense of self. Rebuilding an identity for yourself and discovering your passions, hobbies and what you enjoy in life is vital to feel confident and capable of being with someone romantically later down the line. 

Dating may confuse this new identity you are starting to create, as you may begin to use your partner to provide your new sense of self and become over-reliant on them, which is not healthy or sustainable. 

Love Is a Drug 

It can be incredibly tempting to replace the void left by substance abuse with the intoxicating feelings of love and dating. Swapping your addiction to drugs or alcohol with a relationship is dangerous as you can become addicted to this feeling and never learn about who you are and how to be on your own.

Seeking comfort through a relationship may feel like the right thing to do as it will feel as if there is a gap left from quitting drugs and alcohol that needs to be filled. However, this will ultimately hurt you in the long term as you will become over-reliant on your partner, and in order to be truly happy, you need to fix your internal emotional void yourself rather than using external sources to plug it. 

Intimacy and romance can have a similar effect on the brain as drugs and alcohol. Therefore, substituting substances for dating is risky because, if things go wrong, there is a very high chance for relapse. 

Romance Is a Distraction From Recovery

Recovery is an active effort and it is important to be disciplined in attending appointments and meetings, maintaining a healthy routine, and rebuilding trust and relationships with those you may have hurt. 

Romantic relationships can distract you from your goals and become the primary focus, rather than the recovery journey. This can then put you in a vulnerable position and may make you more likely to slip back into old habits. With time and practice, sobriety won’t feel like such a challenge, and then starting a romantic relationship will be much more sustainable and healthier for both you and your partner. 

Is Dating a Hard No for Everyone?

Although starting a romantic relationship is generally not advised, this is not a strict requirement for everyone. It may be difficult for some people who meet a person they are immediately attracted to, and human connection and closeness is a key component in a healthy and happy life. 

Creating balance and moderation is key. For some, such as those who have a history of toxic relationships or who feel they have used a relationship to fill a void, withholding from romance altogether is the most sensible suggestion in early recovery in order to stay focused on healing. 

If you do decide to enter into a romantic relationship, make sure that it is not being prioritized over your recovery and that your partner is clear about the fact that you are in early recovery. Some questions you could ask yourself include:

  • How does this relationship affect my recovery just now and also in the future?
  • How much free time am I dedicating to this person compared to spending time on my recovery journey? 
  • Do I feel empowered from my relationship, or am I filling an emotional void?

Make sure that you are being honest with yourself about how emotionally prepared you are for a new relationship when you are in the vulnerable stage of early recovery. It is a serious consideration, and you need to bear in mind that there will be two of you involved and you must consider how fair it is on the other person as well. 

Conclusion

Romantic relationships in early recovery, although largely advised against, are all down to the individual. Make sure to take things slowly, in moderation, and not let them overtake your recovery. Be honest and open with support groups or counselors so that you have the right support and advice to help you navigate it without hurting yourself or the other person. 

The Impact Addiction Can Have on Families

When an individual finds themself struggling with addiction, it often affects their family and life at home. Our homes are supposed to be our safe-havens. However, the impact addiction has can significantly alter the dynamics. Eventually, the addiction becomes an unwanted house guest that holds everyone hostage.

Though addiction has a significant impact on the whole family, it affects each member differently. Here are a few examples.

The Impact on Spouses

When your partner becomes addicted to substances, it can throw a loop in your relationship. Though addictions have a notable impact on the person suffering, the physical, psychological, and behavioral side effects such as mood swings, erratic behavior, poor hygiene, and lying will likely impact both of you. In addition, negative consequences to the user’s work and social life, financial difficulties, and even trouble with the law may be experienced.

Discovering that your partner has an alcohol or drug addiction will take an emotional toll. It could leave you feeling worried, upset, betrayed, or even angry. Your mental health might suffer, and you may find yourself wondering how you can both heal from the effects of addiction together.

Essentially, your partner will need professional medical help to recover from their addiction. This will include medical detox and therapy. However, it is vital to remember that you also need support on this journey. Across the country, there are support groups for partners of those with addiction. You may also find couples therapy beneficial.

The Impact on Parents

Finding out your child has an addiction is devastating, especially as all you want is the best for them. It may also come as a shock, particularly as you may not have noticed the signs of addiction. However, don’t blame yourself – people with substance abuse disorders can be very good at hiding their struggles.

As you come to terms with your child’s addiction, you might worry about what the right thing to say to your child is. You may even fear making things worse as your child’s addiction may have caused them to become irritable. It is also normal for you to feel angry and question why they can just snap out of it. 

Caring for someone suffering from addiction can be overwhelming. It can cause cracks in personal relationships to appear. Though you might want to point the finger, you must realize that neither you nor your partner is to blame.

Helping your child can seem challenging, and you may feel helpless. As addictions require medical treatment, you cannot cure your child of their addiction. However, you can aid their recovery. 

Remember that although help and support are available for those suffering from addiction, there are many support groups for parents of people with addiction. Attending a support group aimed at parents and family members will enable you to seek advice and guidance from others who know what you are going through.

The Impact on Children

Children of one or two parents with addiction can find life unpredictable and confusing. They might feel guilt, shame, or blame. In addition, the addiction will affect their home life, no matter how well it is hidden from them. Unfortunately, this may disrupt routines, roles, communication, and finances. 

Studies have found that children of parents who abuse often suffer adverse outcomes in their development. These include emotional and behavioral problems, social problems, and reduced academic functioning.  

It should also be noted that children of addicted parents are at risk of role reversal. This is where they take on the role of caregiver for their parents and any younger siblings. This can include paying bills, buying groceries, and offering emotional support.

The effects of having an addicted parent can be long-lasting. Children of substance abusing parents have an increased risk of developing a substance abuse disorder.

You Are Not Alone

It can be hard to accept that this is happening to your family. But know that addiction affects all types of families. Addiction is a disease and no one’s fault. What’s important is how you move forward.

With appropriate support, you can get through this together. The first step is securing appropriate treatment for your addicted family member. From here, families affected by drug abuse can turn to support groups, family therapy, and counseling.

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