Best Treatment for Alcoholism

04 Mar Best Treatment for Alcoholism

There are many treatments out there for alcoholism.  For alcoholics and their loved ones, finding the best treatment option available for them is crucial to achieving the best chances of a successful recovery.  In this article, we’ll breakdown many of the different treatment paths and options available to you.  In doing so, we’ll look at what typical treatment for alcoholism entails, and give some insight into how you can prepare for it.  Many of the different treatment options for alcoholism are fundamentally similar in the broad sense, while differing in specific ways that make them unique.  In many cases, the best treatment plan for individuals is one that is crafted for them, and takes into account their unique beliefs, history, and experiences.  Keeping this in mind, let’s explore some of the different options available to you or your loved one.

Detox and Recovery

When most people think of treatment, they think of one continuous process.  Treatment encompasses both the detox and recovery phases of a rehabilitation program.  Although both detox and recovery are integral tools used in achieving sobriety, they are distinct in important ways.  First, understand that nearly every treatment program will require a patient to undergo detox prior to beginning the actual work of recovery.  This is not to say that detox isn’t important work.  It is a critical component of any successful recovery.  Rather, detox is the process through which the alcoholics body is purged of alcohol.  For those suffering from substance abuse, the detox process is anticipated with feelings of anxiety and apprehension, because it carries with it withdrawal.  For alcoholics, once the alcohol in their system has been broken down, they will begin to feel the effects of withdrawal.  

Withdrawal from alcohol can be severe, and in some cases can be life threatening.  Treatment programs mitigate the risk associated with alcohol withdrawal by placing qualified medical professionals close by the recovering addict.  They are able to provide constant medical oversight of the detox and withdrawal process, and in many cases reduce the felt symptoms of withdrawal through medication.  For some recovering alcoholics, this knowledge can bring relief. The importance of knowing you are secure and safe during the withdrawal process cannot be understated.  The withdrawal symptoms alone can lead to powerful feelings of anxiety and paranoia, which can combine with the physiological effects of withdrawal to be extremely debilitating.    

The detox and withdrawal processes also carry with them some profound benefits.  The alcoholic will begin to look, feel, and sleep better as their body begins the process of healing.  This process takes time but begins the moment the alcoholics body has been cleaned of the substance.  Withdrawal is the result of physical dependency, and while uncomfortable and unpleasant, is a necessary part of the recovery process for every alcoholic.  In a sense, withdrawal is the great equalizer.  Every alcoholic has to go through it if they want to get clean.  Thankfully, medically managed detox and withdrawal makes the process easier and more manageable for the recovery addict.

Once the recovering addict has finished their detox, they will begin the recovery part of treatment.  Unlike detox, which lasts a short and finite amount of time, the recovery process from alcoholism is a lifelong journey.  Recovery needs to not only be learned and practiced, but also maintained over the life of the recovering addict.  This makes the first days of recovery a crucial period during which the recovering addict will learn the tools they need to maintain sobriety.

Recovery Programs

Combating alcoholism is not easy done alone. There are a variety of different recovery programs out there to recovering alcoholics.  For most people, there are advantages and drawbacks to each different type of recovery program.  Some may not align with your secular beliefs, while the treatment courses and programs in another may not appeal to you.  The wide variety of treatment programs available to you or your loved one, while daunting, is actually beneficial for you.  By approaching the search for a treatment program with the goal of finding the treatment program that is the best fit for you or your loved one, you can be more discerning when it comes to sifting through the choices available to you.

By far the most common treatment program for alcoholism is some form of the 12-step program.  Many alcoholics are familiar with the program, at least in a tangential sense.  While they may understand the broad scope of what the program entails, they may not understand how the 12-steps function to help recovering addicts on their path to sobriety.  12-step programs are an important tool for many treatment facilities and may be the best all-around option for most recovering alcoholics.  

We’ll breakdown how the 12-step program functions, and then discuss the differences between a traditional 12-step program and alternative 12-step programs.  The 12-step program has a number of strengths that allow it to be successful.  It requires addicts to recognize their addiction for what it is.  Only once an addict has admitted that they have an addiction can they get the help they need and begin the recovery process.  The 12-step program forces the recovering alcoholic to make a real and honest accounting of the negative ways that their addiction has affected not only their own life, but the lives of those around them.  Further along in the process, recovering alcoholics are encouraged to make amends if possible with those they have hurt.  This can help the recovering addict and those closest to them begin to heal the damage caused by their alcoholism.  

Another strength of the 12-step program is the use of group work and a group dynamic.  This fulfills two functions.  First, it provides the recovering addict with a support network of others that are at different points in their recovery journey and can provide insights that may help the recovering alcoholic during difficult times.  Second, group work provides an added level of accountability for the recovering alcoholic to maintain sobriety.  This is particularly important during difficult times, when the urge to have a drink may be especially hard to cope with.   12-step programs promote accountability through the use of mentorships and sponsors as well.  

Many participants further along in the process will serve as mentors for those just beginning their recovery process.  This provides both accountability and support.  Through mentorship, recovering addicts can gain insights that allow them to successfully surmount difficult times in their recovery.  They also gain access to an additional person that can support them and guide them through difficult times.  For some recovering addicts, receiving guidance from an outside person, rather than a family member or loved one, can allow them to hear the advice more clearly, and see the path they need to follow more easily.

12-step recovery programs are a proven method for achieving and maintain sobriety, but they aren’t for everyone.  One important aspect of a 12-step recovery program is that it is faith based.  Meaning, a traditional 12-step recovery program requires the recovering alcoholic to recognize a higher power and call on that higher power to guide them in their recovery.  Although this approach works for many people and is particularly suited for those whose faith aligns with this belief system, for others the faith-based approach of a traditional 12-step program may not be ideal.  In these cases, the recovering alcoholic may find an alternative 12-step program appealing.  There are many alternative 12-step programs that embrace a secular approach to recovery.  These programs have the advantage of maintaining the strengths that are inherent to the 12-step program, making them an excellent choice for those whose religious beliefs don’t align with the traditional 12-step program.

In addition to 12-step programs, there are a number of other treatments that are helpful for recovering alcoholics.  Therapy and counseling are common in many treatment programs and are critical to maintaining sobriety outside of an inpatient facility.  Some treatment facilities specialize in dual-diagnosis treatment, wherein the recovering addict or alcoholic is also diagnosed during intake for any underlying mental health issues that may have been left untreated.  For many recovering addicts, they don’t even realize that they have an underlying mental disorder until they are diagnosed at a treatment facility.  

This is due to the fact that although alcoholism and other mental health issues such as anxiety and depression have a high rate of comorbidity, alcohol can mask the effects of the underlying issue.  Some alcoholics began drinking to help mask the symptoms of an underlying mental health issue, without ever having it properly treated.  Others may have developed conditions, such as PTSD, after they began using alcohol.  For those recovering addicts with underlying mental health issues, getting treatment for any underlying condition alongside their substance abuse is necessary in order to give them the best chances of a successful recovery.

Choosing the right recovery program is important, as it lays the foundation for maintaining lifelong sobriety.  Although there are many different treatment options available, some have been shown to have a greater efficacy than others as a treatment for alcoholism.  Regardless of the treatment facility that you or your love one chooses, it is important to ensure that the facility and its staff are both licensed and accredited.  Licensing and accreditation are often overlooked but are an important consideration when choosing a recovery facility.  

Licensing and accreditation give you the peace of mind in knowing that the treatment protocols used at the facility align with industry standard best-practices and will give you or your loved one the best chances of success.  In order to maintain licensing and accreditation, facilities must demonstrate a continued and consistent commitment to the health and recovery of their patients.  In order to attain licensing and accreditation, facilities must demonstrate to inspectors that their treatment philosophy is sound, their treatment programs are effective, and that their staff are highly trained and certified.  

Licensing and accreditation are but one important step you can take toward finding the best treatment option available to you or your loved one.  It is also important to meet with the staff at your prospective treatment facility.  Be sure that the medical professionals at the treatment facility you have chosen make you or your loved one feel comfortable, safe, and well-taken care of.  Each different treatment facility has an underlying philosophy that guides their treatment programs.  Getting the best treatment for you or your loved one requires finding the treatment facility whose philosophy aligns most closely with your own.  Put another way, the treatment philosophy should resonate with you or your loved one.  It should make sense, and also be something that you can maintain for an extended period of time.

One final consideration that is important when finding the best treatment for you or your loved one is the availability of continuing care.  A typical inpatient recovery program lasts anywhere from 30-90 days, which can seem like a long period of time prior to entering the facility.  In reality, this time goes by quickly.  After which, the recovering alcoholic must navigate their continuing sobriety back in their normal life.  This can be an extremely difficult period of transition for many recovering alcoholics, as they must maintain sobriety despite the pitfalls and temptation that exists in the world outside of a treatment facility.  During this period of transition, it is extremely important that a robust level of continuing care resources is available to the recovering alcohol.  A 12-step program offers an excellent level of continuing care for recovery addicts, as they can continue group work outside of a treatment facility, while also expanding their support network.  

The wide availability of 12-step programs also makes this an excellent choice for many, as 12-step programs can be found in nearly every city in the country.  Alongside this, high level treatment facilities will also make resources available to recovering addicts after their inpatient recovery program.  These most frequently include therapy work, mentorship programs, and local resources available to help recovering addicts maintain their sobriety.  The importance of a comprehensive continuum of care for recovering alcoholics cannot be understated, and must be a primary consideration when searching for the best treatment option available.

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