Addiction in the Elderly

When you picture an alcoholic or drug addict, you probably don’t picture your grandmother. Yes, the sweet old lady who bakes cookies and makes you feel like a kid again. Sure, she likes a glass of wine or two, and sure, she takes a lot of prescription pills, but who doesn’t? Most people think similarly. However, that needs to change. While people shouldn’t be quick to judge, they should become aware of the increase of substance abuse and addiction in the elderly.

A Different Kind of Addiction in the Elderly

Alcohol and drug abuse among older people is on the rise globally. There has been a staggering increase in substance abuse and addiction in the elderly in the UK. There has been an increase in hospital admissions due to drug abuse in the elderly in the past decade, and more older people are seeking addiction treatment. Unfortunately, that number is expected to rise further.

Addiction in the elderly comes in all forms, but generally, it is of a different nature than younger people. For example, older people have less issues with illegal drugs such as heroin. Illicit drug use does occur, but only about 5% of older adults use them, compared to higher figures for younger demographics. Instead, addiction for elderly people in the UK tends to be to alcohol and prescription drugs.

Substance Abuse in the Elderly Presents Unique Issues

There are many complications that arise everywhere from diagnosis to treatment. Not only is addiction in the elderly hard to notice, but it also has a greater impact than one would think. In addition, treatment can present a challenge of its own.

If you compare signs of ageing and signs of addiction, you might notice quite a few similarities. Symptoms like forgetfulness, mood instability, tiredness or clumsiness can all be attributed to old age. In fact, even many medical professionals make the same mistake. This is why substance abuse often goes unnoticed.

As people enter retirement, they might also find themselves more isolated or worried about the future. They may find it more difficult to ask for help, find proper medical treatment, or pay for necessary support.

Cognitive decline might also make older people less aware of a substance problem, especially if they become addicted to something that a doctor legitimately prescribed. If they have been on the medication for a long time, they may have become functional users. This means they will not only fool themselves, but those around them.

Old age not only slows the brain but body functions as well. Therefore, the metabolism of drugs and alcohol goes down over time. This means that the effect that two drinks had before can now be achieved with one.  Or the standard prescribed dose of a medication might linger in the body for twice as long. As a result, an overdose can happen unintentionally.

Of all the drugs, older people often use or are prescribed the three most addictive and dangerous ones in the world ““ alcohol, benzodiazepines, and opiates.

Alcohol is the most common substance that people are addicted to. It is widely available and socially acceptable. The person drinking in their old age is probably not new to it. However, alcohol will affect an older person much more than a younger person. In addition, alcohol can also interact with many prescription drugs and can cause unintended side-effects.

Benzodiazepines are often prescribed for anxiety and insomnia, two common issues in older people. Although beneficial in the right circumstances, they are one of the most dangerous and addictive drugs, even for young, healthy individuals.

Opiates can be given after surgery, or prescribed if a person suffers from chronic pain. Also highly addictive, prescription painkillers can cause many issues if abused.

It can ve very difficult to spot signs of prescription drug abuse, on top of the issues of elderly abuse. For more insight on prescription drug abuse, and how to help, read this.

Why Does Addiction Happen to the Elderly?

There are many reasons why an older person might become dependent on alcohol or drugs. Ageing does not come without complications, such as retirement and other life-changing events.

Retirement often comes as a shock, even if one anticipates it. One moment you’re busy with work and family, and the next”¦ you’re not. Although many people look forward to having time off, they underestimate how much time that actually is. The result? Boredom. Lack of activity, entertainment, and socialising can drive one into a depression. Thus, one might turn to alcohol or drugs as a substitute.

As one gets older, there might be other shocks. This may be the death of a loved one or an unfortunate diagnosis. For some, it may mean moving away from the place they’ve always called home, and possibly relocating into a retirement community.

Loneliness can arise from all that, especially as one’s children get older and more independent.

Other problems that come with old age are physical and mental health issues. Not only are they a major source of distress, but they are often the reasons why addictive drugs are prescribed in the first place.

Signs of Substance Abuse and Addiction in Older Adults

The symptoms of alcohol and drug abuse are not often obvious. Most people in old age do not get addicted to drugs because they want to get high, but rather to self-medicate. Furthermore, they may be functional (and thus less-noticeable) users if they have been on the medication for a long time.

Although each of these signs can have alternative explanations, they are the ones to look for if one suspects substance abuse. Here are some common symptoms:

  • Memory loss
  • Change in sleeping or eating habits
  • Injuries or accidents
  • Unstable moods
  • Unexplained chronic pain or medical complaints
  • Poor decision making
  • Isolation
  • Neglect of self-care
  • Loss of interest in hobbies
  • Loss of mobility or dexterity

If you notice multiple symptoms, especially if you find that they have come suddenly, it might be a warning sign. It’s better to be safe than sorry, and address the issue when it starts. Read here for more information about spotting signs of addiction in the elderly.

How to Address Alcoholism, Drug Abuse and Addiction in the Elderly

When a substance abuse or addiction is suspected and diagnosed, it is necessary for the person to receive proper treatment. However, older people with alcoholism or a drug addiction may need more specialised care, which may be challenging.

If the problem is serious, an inpatient treatment facility is likely to be recommended. This is for a number of reasons. First, most residential rehabs have on-site medical support, which is important, especially if the person has other medical issues. And second, for alcohol, benzodiazepines or opiates, a medically supervised detox will be necessary. This is true for a person of any age, as the withdrawal process can be life-threatening.

Choosing a residential rehab may be a challenge as well. It is important that the facility takes a full-body approach, meaning that they will treat accompanying psychological issues and medical issues, as well as addiction. Though not always necessary, it may be wise to look for a centre that specialises in senior care, or at least provides a personalised treatment plan, as the elderly have different needs. In some cases, gender-specific programmes can also be beneficial.

If you have doubts about an older person’s “œsigns of ageing”, you should take the the highly sceptical approach and make thorough enquiries. Addiction is an illness that should not be ignored and the older a person gets, the less able their bodies will be to cope with it.

Castle Craig Hospital has over 30 years of experience treating all types of addictions in all age groups. If you have questions about your options, don’t hesitate to give us a call. Without any obligation, our staff can give you advice about your situation. Feel free to reach out to us at 0808 231 1960 from the UK, or +44 1721 788152 from overseas.

Living with an Alcoholic

Many people recognise that being an alcoholic or having another addiction is a huge challenge. However, others suffer as well. Living with or being around an alcoholic or addict can be just as difficult. Whether you’re a friend, family member or a partner of an alcoholic, life is likely not easy for you. It gets even more difficult if its your spouse or cohabiting partner who is addicted. Arguments, lies, financial and social hardships – does this sound familiar? You may even be enabling your partner in their addiction. So whether you have just realised there is a problem, or whether you have reached the end of your patience, what can you do to help your loved one?

“If you think it’s hard being an alcoholic, try living with one!”

Addiction clinics and treatment centres have started offering counselling and support for families and friends of alcoholics for a reason. It has long been known that addiction takes a toll on everyone around the person in question. That is why it is called “the family disease”.

According to studies, the wives of alcoholics face many of the same problems. A similar effect on the husbands of alcoholics must also be true. They include:

  • Anxiety
  • Anger/Frustration
  • Taking our their anger on or ignoring their children
  • Feeling mentally unstable
  • Poor self-care
  • Insomnia
  • Decreased social life
  • Shame and embarrassment
  • Financial problems
  • Physical abuse
  • Threats
  • Suicidal thoughts

There are a number of issues that arise from living with an alcoholic, including emotional, psychological and physical ones. It is important to understand how they are impacting you and what could happen as a result. Not only will it help you make the best decisions going forward, but it will also make it easier to help your partner.

Emotional Impact

Even if there are no visible consequences of cohabitation with an alcoholic, it does take an emotional toll on you. Addiction has the power to change people, so it may be that the person living with you now is not the same person you fell in love with.

They may directly blame you for their problem, or act out by pouring themselves a drink if you begin to nag. They can also make hurtful comments, which you may not take to heart at first, but which plant a seed of self-defeatism in your mind.

This can cause you to “walk on eggshells” around them, afraid to trigger their alter drinking ego. That, unfortunately, does no good for anyone. Surely, you’re not perfect, but no one is. You should never fear speaking up about something that bothers you in a healthy relationship.

The emotional impact is quite strong, because even if you don’t realise, you will naturally react to being hurt. The consequences of your reaction can be just as damaging as your partner’s drinking, and can make the problem worse.

Physical Pain

Emotional stress can hurt your physical well-being over time. Being constantly reminded that you’re not worth it can cause you to take poor care of yourself. You may even pick up a bad habit such as drinking, smoking or drugs as well.

Even if you don’t harm yourself, you may end up in a violent or abusive relationship. This is often the case for women, who tend to feel the need to take care of their partner no matter how bad their behaviour is, and thus become codependent.

Secrets and Lies

Because we are a social species, many of us are concerned about what others think. So, it is normal to take extra steps to make your life seem better. Oftentimes, we do so simply to boost our own self-esteem.

So, what happens when things do downhill, and your once-perfect partner is now a mess? You may try to ignore the problem and cover up their mishaps, thus enabling them to keep drinking.

Alternatively, you may accept and forgive their behaviour, because you believe that’s what a good partner does. You may even end up lying to yourself about the severity of the situation.

Being honest about the issue is normally the best course because we can then open up to a friend or receive professional help. There may be a danger in speaking to a person not knowledgeable about addiction or alcoholism, as they may not understand your situation. Worse, they may even blame you for making a problem worse. But provided that you are careful whom you choose to talk to, it will have a beneficial effect.

Social Suffering

Hiding your partner’s addiction can hurt your social life as well. Whether you feel judged or are simply uncomfortable about your living situation, you might be inclined to drop out on meet-ups with your friends.

Even if you don’t feel awkward, taking care of an alcoholic can force you to forgo social outings because you fear losing control of the situation. However, if you’re too busy taking care of your partner’s problems to socialise, this will affect your own well-being adversely.

Social considerations extend to other aspects of life such as work. Also, by limiting your social life, you may end up inadvertently hurting those around you. This includes your children, if you have any. For example, because you’re angry with your partner or too busy cleaning up their mess, you may ignore your children’s social needs, or even take out your frustration on them.

Living with an Alcoholic: Robert’s Story

As Robert puts it, “Living with an alcoholic is like having another child.” His wife, who is an alcoholic, created numerous problems for their family. She also caused a lot of emotional damage for her husband. He sums it up as, “Her problem was constantly my problem.”

Because of her drinking, she lost her driving licence, resulting in her having to rely on cabs to get anywhere, creating a financial burden. Robert had no time to be his wife’s personal chauffeur. Because they also have children, Robert was forced to take care of the kids on his own, in addition to holding down a career. To make matters worse, his wife’s drinking and lack of transportation made it hard to get or keep a job herself.

Unfortunately, his wife did not agree to treatment, and was eventually arrested for an undisclosed reason. Despite their many years of happiness and time spent together, the later half of their relationship left him broken. He confessed, “I was secretly happy when she finally got incarcerated.” Because of everything that’s happened, he does not even “miss” his partner.

Just because the problematic person has been removed does not mean that everything has suddenly become fine for Robert. He and his children have been severely damaged by the experience and need to recognise the fact. In such cases, counselling to deal with the emotional pain, such as anger, guilt, and sadness that they must feel, is essential. The continuing support of self help groups for all family members, such as provided by Al- Anon or Alateen, would also be highly recommended.

Claire’s Story of Living with an Alcoholic

“I think I fell in love with my boyfriend because of his drinking. Because I like to drink myself, it was nice to finally find a ‘partner in crime’ that I could go to a bar with. My girlfriends always limited themselves to a couple of glasses of wine or mimosas, but I was more of a tomboy in that aspect. Well, things were perfect, until they were not.

I never questioned his drinking habits because we were young and everyone in their 20s drinks like there’s no tomorrow. It was only after we moved in together that I realised he was using it as self-medication.

I complained about his habits for a year, and let me tell you that was not a pleasant year. Whenever he got drunk, he would randomly sputter out hurtful comments. It’s like he was a whole different person. I seriously thought about leaving him, but couldn’t go through with it. At some point I think I started drinking out of stress instead of enjoyment, and that was when I realised I definitely needed to leave. It wasn’t easy, in my situation, so it took time to figure out where to move to and how to live on my own.

But, then a miracle happened. ‘Miracle’ being that he lost his job exactly when I told him I was done. I saw him transform again in that moment. He changed into the same person I met, and promised me to get treatment and get himself together. Honestly, I was hesitant to stay at that point, but since he finally admitted to having a problem, I thought I would be a horrible person not to help out. It was the right decision. He went to AA and got therapy, and now he’s sober.”

Where Do You Go From Here?

If you haven’t already, at some point you will start to evaluate your next steps. What do you do now? Do you help them or do you leave? These are big questions affecting the rest of your and your family’s life, and you should take as much help and advice as you can get before deciding. Consider consulting family, friends or professionals, and perhaps try a fellowship such as Al-Anon. Remember that you may be emotionally damaged yourself and not in a condition to decide such things alone.

If your partner’s drinking has been going on for a long time, you may be tempted to get up and leave. This is certainly the best option if you feel you are in danger.

Although you may be fuelled with negative emotions, it is almost always best to at least try to help the person. It may not be easy, but it is best to try. They may not have anyone else looking out for them.

How to Help Your Partner

Living with an alcoholic can have its ups and downs. In many cases, things are not always horrible 24/7, which may make you forget the problem at hand, or hope that things will get better.

However, alcoholism is a progressive illness and it tends to get worse. Hence, it is important to address the problem and seek treatment sooner rather than later.

First, try to talk to your partner about their drinking. Choose a time when they’re sober and not hungover, so they can properly listen. Then, encourage them to talk to an addiction specialist, their GP or even attend an AA meeting. None of these options obligate them to receive treatment should they choose not to.

Alternatively, stage an intervention, and don’t hesitate to invite someone you trust or they trust to support you. Your partner may not be aware of how serious their drinking impacts you. This may help them come to terms with the truth.

Should you Leave?

If you are living in a toxic or threatening environment, and the situation appears to be getting worse, it is best to leave. If your partner becomes violent, or makes you fear for your life, you should seek help for yourself right away.

You may hesitate if you have children, or other tying obligations with your partner. However, if you are truly living in danger, you need to realise that any benefits of staying outweigh the benefits of leaving.

This is especially true if you have children. Even if they are not aware of your partner’s alcoholism, they are still affected by it. In addition, living with an alcoholic parent will cause more harm than the hurt they will feel from your separation.

If instead, it is about your partner’s refusal to seek treatment, it may still be best to leave as well. It can work in both your and your partner’s benefit. There are many cases when such an action acts as a “rock bottom” for the alcoholic. In this case, they may finally take responsibility for their behaviour.

Next Steps for Someone Living with an Alcoholic

Whatever your situation may be, you should seek professional support at least for yourself. This can be done via an addiction clinic, counsellor, or a group like Al-Anon. They can give you advice as well on how to deal with your situation, and help you cope with the circumstances.

You can also contact Castle Craig Hospital for advice. Our counsellors and admissions staff can provide you with information about treatment options and help you decide what steps to take next. We can be reached at:

Freephone (UK only): 0808 231 8169

International: +44 1721 788 259

General enquiries: +44 1721 788 289

Email: info@castlecraig.co.uk

 

5 Tips for Self-forgiveness in Recovery

Whether or not you celebrate Easter or another Spring holiday, spring is a time for renewal and change. It is a time for healing, moving on, and fresh starts. We often associate “Spring cleaning” with tidying up our homes, but this is also a perfect time to focus on self-care and spruce up our well-being. And one of the most important aspects of recovery that often gets overlooked, or is simply difficult to achieve, is that of self-forgiveness.

While our New Year’s resolutions plant the seed of a new life into our minds, Spring is the logical time for that seed to sprout. For someone in recovery, the spirit that Spring brings can be extremely powerful ““ or discouraging.

While this season can inspire people to make changes, it can also highlight the difficulties of making those changes. In particular, we speak of self-forgiveness.

Why is Self-Forgiveness in Recovery So Important?

Self-forgiveness is a crucial key to recovery. For someone that holds a lot of guilt and shame, it may seem impossible to achieve. There is no doubt that if you’ve committed many wrongs in your life, forgiveness can be hard to find. Self-forgiveness in recovery can be even harder. But if you cannot find peace with yourself, your chances of relapse will increase greatly.

Considered one of the most powerful weapons in recovery, self-forgiveness not only gives a person the strength and confidence they need to stand above their addiction, but it also improves self-esteem.

Poor self-esteem may be one of the reasons why you were overcome by addiction in the first place.

No matter how difficult the journey may be, self-forgiveness is very important when recovering from addiction. There is a reason why the highly successful 12-step programmes focus on admitting to your wrongdoings and amending your mistakes. You have to face the reality of the past before you can deal with it. Without this, recovery will likely be a rougher journey.

Regret Leads to Relapse

Poor self-esteem and lack of self-forgiveness can fuel many negative emotions, such as sadness, loneliness, fear, guilt, grief, shame, and regret. These emotions not only sabotage recovery but can lead directly to relapse.

Someone who blames themselves for their mistakes sets themselves up for self-destructive and self-sabotaging behaviour. It doesn’t help that there is also a social stigma for being an alcoholic, or addicted, which can make you feel judged. It can make you feel that you deserve any shame and blame that you carry with you.

If you feel angry at yourself because of the things you’ve done, you may end up taking it out on someone else. This will fuel your self-hatred even further and lead you to lash out again and again. Where is the progress here?

Alternatively, you may end up stuck in a spiral of shame, where your guilt lowers your self-confidence, leading you to make actions which lower your self-confidence further, growing your guilt, until you finally give up and relapse altogether. The attitude of “I’m no good, why should I bother to change” is familiar to many struggling addicts.

5 Tips for Self-Forgiveness in Recovery

Self-forgiveness is about addressing the wrongs made as a result of your addiction. Not your addiction yourself. Remember, addiction is a mental illness and not your or anyone else’s fault. There is no need to apologise for being sick.

However, your mistakes are a different story and it is important that you take responsibility for them and not blame someone or something else. Mistakes can be amended or moved past. Here are some tips on how to do so:

  1. Acceptance

Acceptance is a vital part of recovery. Coming to terms with ourselves and our lives is the essence of acceptance and without it we will struggle to find true serenity.

It means admitting that you have made a mistake and accepting that what has been done is done. It also means acknowledging your emotions of guilt and shame, which can be hard if you’re used to living in an invalidating environment.

Dwelling on your mistakes is pointless unless you learn from them and resolve to do better in future. By accepting that you’ve made a mistake, it will help you move forward.

The concept of acceptance is beautifully stated in the serenity prayer, heard at the end of every 12-step fellowship meeting:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference”

  1. Examination

Take the time to identify, examine, and learn from the situations that trouble you. It’s not only about what you did, it’s about why you did it. While your addiction may have influenced you to act badly, it is probably some underlying attitude or belief, rather than the addiction itself, that prompted the behaviour.

Drugs and alcohol do not change who you are. Rather, they unleash a hidden part of you that would never come out without the lowered inhibitions. For example, think about when you’ve drunk-texted someone. You would never do that when you’re sober. However, under the influence of alcohol, you may not be able to control any anger you feel towards that person, prompting you to lash out.

Analysing your feelings at the time will help you put the situation into a logical perspective and make it easier to forgive yourself.

  1. Sharing

Speaking to others is one of the best things you can do. This is why support groups can be so helpful in recovery. By sharing your thoughts, you may not only find the much-needed encouragement, but you may also get another person’s feedback. You may be surprised that others have been in the same situation. In this case, they can offer advice.

Getting feedback from others may also help you realise that you have been too hard on yourself. It’s normal to exaggerate a bad situation in your head and make it worse than it actually is.

Sharing your troubles can also give an immediate release to the stress you’ve been holding inside. That alone can help you forgive yourself.

  1. Make Up For Your Mistakes

Often, an apology is not enough and may even be rejected. This can be very damaging to self-esteem. For this reason, people in early recovery are advised to think very carefully before attempting to make amends by way of apology. Actions speak louder than words.

One thing that can help yourself is volunteering or doing something good for the community. Even if a person doesn’t immediately accept your apology, your efforts will shine more than words ever will, and you will feel better about yourself.

  1. Try Something Spiritual

It may seem silly at first, but it can help to try a trick that many complementary therapies use. Sometimes, visualising or acting out an action of self-forgiveness can help you forgive yourself down the road.

For example, try writing a letter to a person you’ve wronged, but don’t send it. Or try writing down every mistake you’ve made as a result of your addiction and burning the paper. It might give you a sense of closure.

Even if you’re not religious, try saying a prayer ““ the serenity prayer, for example, using the word God to mean any kind of higher power that you can imagine. After all, addiction is a very powerful affliction and we need the help of something even more powerful if we are to overcome it.

Putting Yourself Down Is Self-Defeating

The act of forgiveness, to others or to yourself, is always beneficial however hard it may be. The opposite feelings of anger, resentment and self-hatred are invariably toxic.

It is crucial to tell yourself that you are fundamentally a good person. Addiction may have led you to do bad things, but behaviours can be changed and attitudes can be altered. The only thing that can’t be undone is the past.

For many, believing that they are fundamentally good people takes time but it can be achieved, a step at a time. Self esteem comes from the feeling that we are doing our best in everything that we try to do. Doing our best means following our conscience and being true to ourselves and our values. After the chaos of addiction, many people need time to sort all this out. So give yourself time and watch your self esteem build “˜A day at a time’.

Whatever you addiction is, it was a way to numb your emotions, and an excuse to act like someone you’re not. You are not that person anymore. Others may not recognise this right away, but you have already been witness to the progress you’ve made. If you want to earn someone else’s forgiveness, you have to forgive yourself first. If you cannot forgive yourself, how can you expect someone else to?

How Do I Find the Right Support Group in Recovery?

If you have been in recovery for any length of time, you will know – addiction is a lifelong disease. Aftercare is a crucial aspect in recovery, and support groups play a key role in it. However, finding the best one for you can be a challenge. Every person has different needs and comforts. Every person has their own approach towards addiction. It may take time to find the right support group, but it is time well-spent. Fortunately, there are many types of support groups available throughout the UK that cater to many different addictions and various demographics. Now, you have to decide which one is right for you.

What are the Benefits of Support Groups in Recovery?

Addiction support groups offer many benefits. First, they are a major source of peer support and can mean the difference between success and failure in recovery. Second, they are often free to attend, so you can care for your well-being no matter how small your budget is. Third, unlike one-to-one counselling, peer support groups allow you to hear other people’s experiences and learn from them. Fourthly, the example of other people doing their best in their recovery can be powerful and inspirational. Likewise, sharing your story helps them.

Lastly, a support group keeps you accountable for your actions. That is why many people fresh from rehab choose to complete ’90 meetings in 90 days’.

What Should I Look for in a Recovery Support Group?

When looking for a support group, you should first ask yourself several questions. This will help you identify what you’re looking for in a support group as well as where you will feel most at home.

Support groups rely on communication and honesty, and are meant to provide a comfortable space for every individual. If you’re not comfortable, you won’t attend the meetings. If you do not trust the group enough to be open with them, the support group ceases to be”¦ well, supportive.

Before you decide which support group is right for you, answer the following questions:

  • What do you expect from your support group?
  • Do you prefer a religious or secular (non-religious) group?
  • Do you favour a more scientific approach instead of the classic 12-step programme?
  • Will you feel more comfortable in a mixed or single-sex gathering?
  • Will you feel more comfortable in a demographic-specific group, such as one catering to the LGBT community or young adults?
  • Are you ok with attending multiple groups or do you prefer to stick to just one?

Most fellowships or support groups have different types of meetings. An open meeting means that anyone can attend, even friends or family of a person with an addiction. A closed meeting is strictly reserved for people with an addiction only. There are also specialty closed meetings, which restrict attendance to people within specific demographic. Some examples of this are women only, Muslim only, or LGBT members only.

Now that you’ve established what you’re looking for in a support group, it’s time to find which one is most suitable for you.

Finding Different Types of Recovery Support Groups

There are many different types of support groups. Some are religious, some are not. Some cater to men or women only, while others are mixed. The group may take a philosophical approach, a holistic approach, or a scientific approach.

Twelve-Step Fellowships

The 12-step fellowships are the most well-known support groups. Almost everyone has heard of Alcoholics Anonymous. Since AA’s inception, other fellowships dedicated to different addictions have been created, for example Narcotics Anonymous or Gamblers Anonymous.

All 12-step programmes are based on several guiding principles and take an abstinence-focused approach to addiction. The steps require you to accept being powerless over your addiction. They teach that a higher power can give you the necessary strength to overcome your addiction.

Some people shy away from the 12-steps because they believe them to be religious. This is not necessarily true. The concept of a “higher power” doesn’t have to be a God. It can be any person, group or concept that gives you a source of strength. For example, the AA community itself can be a higher power.

Having said that, there are religious people in these fellowships. Many people in recovery find comfort in the concept of spirituality. However, religious members don’t typically push their religion onto agnostic ones.

SMART Recovery

If you find the 12-step principles too spiritual or philosophical, you may feel better in a support group with a more scientific approach. One example of such a group is SMART. Their programme is based on CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and does not have a spirituality factor.

You will be taught that you have power over your choices, and that you need to find the motivation to change. SMART also teaches various recovery skills, such as how to cope with cravings, identify triggers and change your thoughts and behaviours. Ultimately, the goal is to learn to live a balanced life, by aligning your personal values with your lifestyle.

Aside from SMART, there are other similar alternatives, including SOS (Secular Organization for Sobriety) and LifeRing Secular Recovery.

Specialty Support Groups

If you find that the standard support groups are not right for you, you may want to look for one that is more specific.

Religious Support Groups

If religion is important to you, there are support groups that cater to a specific faith. For example, Life Recovery Group holds several meetings for those of the Christian faith around Bristol. Most of these groups are not part of a large network like AA, but can be found locally. It can be helpful to ask a local church of your faith if they hold meetings or can refer you to one nearby.

Women’s Support Groups

While most groups welcome both men and women, there are some support groups aimed at women in recovery. This can be helpful because women often face different problems than men in recovery. Some women also find the regular meetings too male-heavy, so they do not feel comfortable sharing personal details.

These women-only groups are becoming increasingly popular, and address issues that are specific to women, alongside addiction. Women for Sobriety was started for this very reason, and has spread internationally.

Women-only support groups can be independent or found within fellowships.

LGBT Support Groups

There are also numerous groups for the LGBT community, to address the specific problems they face in their addiction recovery process. Many fellowships hold LGBT or other specialty group sessions, but there are independent services as well. For example, in London, there are several LGBT-focused groups for different situations.

Other Support Groups

Likewise, it is possible to find support groups that cater to any demographic, occupation or age group.

If you have a dual diagnosis, you may find it helpful to attend a group that is focused on mental health as well. Mind has an extensive network throughout the UK.

When It’s Right, but Also Wrong

Just because the support group reads right on paper, doesn’t mean it’s right for you. For example, just because you’re a woman, doesn’t mean you should attend a women-only group. It all comes down to where you feel the most comfortable.

You may have a period of group-hopping, where you sample a meeting here, a meeting there. This is quite common to do. Because attending one meeting doesn’t obligate you to attend the rest, you are not required to come back to the same group if you do not feel comfortable.

Finding your ideal recovery support group can take some time but it is worth the effort. Having the right supportive environment will greatly benefit your recovery. While you’re searching for the right space, you should keep a couple of things in mind:

You Are Not Limited to Your Addiction

While most support groups are addiction specific, there are support groups that welcome people with any addiction. Some are also open to family members or friends attending as well.

In addition, certain addiction-specific fellowships are not restricted to that addiction. That means if you have a cocaine addiction, you can still attend an AA meeting, provided that it is an “open meeting”.

If you are in an area that does not have a support group specific to your addiction, it is perfectly fine to attend another peer-support session.

You Can Attend Multiple Meetings

Attending multiple support groups is quite common. For example, many women who are part of Women for Sobriety continue to attend AA meetings as well.

Being a member of multiple groups can also be helpful if you have more than one addiction.

If you have just finished a rehab stay, it is standard, as part of aftercare, to be given a list of local therapists or support groups. If this was not your case or you are looking for something different, there are many resources available that will help you.

A visit to a local addiction clinic can be extremely helpful. Not only do they often hold their own peer-support sessions, but they can also refer you to other local options. Castle Craig Hospital for example, hosts weekly meetings of AA, NA and GA to which outsiders are welcome. Addiction services can be found via the NHS directory or on Talk to Frank. Talk to Frank also lists various support groups as part of their service search.

Other places to ask include your GP’s or counsellor’s office, or your local church. It can also be useful to attend any support group near you, even one irrelevant to your addiction, and ask them for references.

Is There a Quick Treatment for Addiction?

You’re on a boat in the middle of the ocean, and have only begun your journey across the world. Then, you find a crack in the hull, through which water is slowly seeping. In a jiffy, you reach for some duct tape and tape over it. Problem solved? Sure, in the moment, it seems like a feasible solution. Maybe the water stopped leaking for now, but you know very well that this “quick fix” won’t last. If this seems like wishful thinking – so is quick treatment for addiction.

Addiction is far too complex a problem to have a simple solution, and there is no “fix”, if by fix you mean a cure. Addiction is a chronic illness, so recovery is a lifelong process. Treating addiction takes time and commitment. It’s often not easy. Anyone who tries to sell you a “quick fix” is unrealistic. Anyone who claims to have been magically cured may not have had an addiction in the first place.

Why Are you Looking for a Quick Addiction Treatment?

We live in a fast-paced world, where everyone wants instant gratification and strives to make everything in life quick and easy. It’s normal. Before you get into a deep search on how to recover as fast as possible, you may want to first examine why you’re asking this question in the first place.

Addiction treatment is not an easy process. There is a good reason for that. The process of treatment is more than just detox. The majority of it is about therapy. Even after therapy, there is continuing care. If any of these parts are missing, you may be likely to relapse.

If you’re currently in treatment but losing your patience, you have to stay strong. With time and determination, you will look back at this moment and be proud of yourself for getting through it. Remembering this struggle will help you maintain your recovery.

A quick fix won’t help

If you’re looking for instant gratification, make a note that this is one of the characteristics of people with addictions. Isn’t that why we reach for drugs or alcohol in the first place?

Thinking a quick fix will help you may mean you haven’t realised the seriousness of your addiction. You didn’t just wake up one day with alcoholism, a drug addiction or other problem. There are complex reasons why you start using in the first place.

This is why therapy is so important in addiction treatment, but therapy takes time. You need to understand what pushed to you alcohol or drugs and what kept you coming back for more. In addition, addiction is often tied to an underlying condition, which will need to be treated as well for recovery to last.

Dangers of Quick Addiction Treatments

You may find treatment centres, addiction “gurus”, or supplement suppliers that promise a fast and easy way out of addiction. Certainly, they may work for some people, but are by no means a recommended way to recovery. Just because something is quick, doesn’t mean it is effective. And of course, it may also not be safe.

Rapid Detox

Rapid detox is probably what most people imagine when they think of quick cures for addiction. Invented in the 1980s, this is a process that was aimed at those with an opiate addiction. Rapid detox programmes today cater to other addictions as well. The process involves placing a patient under anaesthesia, usually in a hospital setting, while the person is being dosed with Naltrexone, which cleans off the body’s opiate receptors.

The procedure is usually advertised as a quick one, promising a clean slate in 24 hours, although some extend this over 2-3 days. It is also advertised as painless, which is often not true. While the rapid detox may remove the drug from the body, the body itself still has to go through the withdrawal process. In the case of opiates, this can be very unpleasant. There are many more problems with rapid detox programmes than that, however.

Detox is not the end, it is the beginning

First, detox by itself doesn’t work. As mentioned before, there is much more to addiction treatment than therapy. Even though detox looks like a quick addiction treatment, it is actually just the beginning of the recovery process.

Second, many rapid detoxes are not held in a proper hospital setting. An outpatient clinic is not enough for a serious procedure such as this.

Third, they may not include an aftercare aspect. A person who has completed a detox is still having cravings. If they are not entering a secondary stage of treatment, such as therapy, they are likely to relapse. However, relapse is far more dangerous in this situation. Because they have now reset their tolerance, the mistake of using again can lead to overdose.

Drugs and Supplements

There are many “all natural” supplements sold that claim to help with addiction, cravings or withdrawal symptoms. While they are helpful in certain situations, they are by no means a substitute for addiction treatment. Furthermore, many supplements are unregulated and can be harmful to consume, especially if a person is still also using illicit drugs.

Ironically, drugs themselves are being advertised or researched as potential cures. Psilocybin, or magic mushrooms, has been considered for treatment of addiction, especially nicotine and alcohol. Meanwhile, on some forums, people claim other psychedelics have cured them of their depression, which helped them overcome their drug abuse problem.

Obviously, fixing a drug problem with another drug is not solving the problem. If anything, it puts a person at risk of cross-addiction.

Substitution Therapy

Certain addiction treatment centres offer substitute drugs. For example, buprenorphine or methadone are often prescribed to those with an opiate dependence. Some people are misled that this is a quick fix and permanent substitute for their drug addiction. This is not the case. It is meant to be a temporary aid in the recovery process to help with withdrawal.

It is also not uncommon to see a person switch from a heroin addiction to a methadone addiction. For this reason, certain rehab centres try to avoid using substitution drugs where possible.

The Real “Quick Fix” for Addiction Treatment

You may not be able to “fix” yourself completely or do it quickly. But ultimately – it is only through hard work that you will be able to achieve an addiction free life. It will be speedier to get into recovery the right way – because if you do it the wrong way, you will fail and need to start again. Having said that, there are ways of making sure that your recovery goes smoothly, and as quickly as you can:

  1.   Start today

If you realise you have a problem and are ready to get help, don’t put it off. There’s a chance your moment of inspiration might disappear later. Not to mention, the sooner you start your road to recovery, the sooner you will get better. It is possible to be admitted to a rehab the same day.

  1.   Choose a more intensive programme

Although a residential rehab treatment programme may take at least 4-6 weeks, other forms of treatments, such as outpatient, may take even longer. A residential rehab will include detox, therapy and aftercare preparation. Sure, it may be tough for a month or so, but it will get easier after that.

  1.   Seek complementary therapies

Complementary and specialist therapies and activities, such as art, equine-assisted therapy, acupuncture, and EMDR, are well-known to assist in recovery. Being open-minded can help you deal with your addiction. Many residential rehab centres, such as Castle Craig, include complementary therapies as part of their treatment programme and patients consistently find them helpful.

  1. Find your motivation

There is no better aid in recovery than intrinsic motivation. If you genuinely want to get better for yourself, not for someone else or from fear of potential consequences, it will greatly help you recover. With the right motivation, you will also have a better chance at avoiding relapse, which will speed up your recovery.

A Lesson to Learn

People with addiction are usually conditioned to want a quick result. Their addictive lifestyle demands this. Recovery however, is all about doing things differently. Having the maturity to accept unpalatable realities, such as that true recovery takes time and effort, may be one of the first lessons they need to learn. Recovery after all, is for life.

Is Starting a Relationship in Early Recovery a Bad Idea?

Relationships, no matter how compatible two people are, require a lot of work in order to succeed. Many professionals recommend that anyone who is in early recovery should not form a new relationship for at least a year after treatment. And for a good reason. People starting a sober lifestyle are literally starting a new life. Recovery is the best thing you can do for yourself – but it can also be time-consuming, and you will need to dedicate effort to adjusting to this change. Since the risk of relapse is highest in the first few months of recovery, you should focus on your new life. Any time spent on a relationship is time not spent on recovery.

While studies show that supportive relationships can be helpful in recovery, most of the time, this is not the case. This is particularly for those based on romance. Recovery has to be the priority for the newly clean and sober.

The Trouble with Relationships in Early Recovery

Relationship troubles, and especially dysfunctional relationships, are one of the major causes for relapse. This is why there is so much emphasis placed on having a stable support network, especially in early recovery.

There are many reasons why relationships should be avoided in the first year of sobriety. They can spell trouble for both the newly-sober partner(s) and the non-sober one as well.

  1. Distraction

People starting sobriety are building a new life. They need time to find themselves again, focus on recovery, create new goals and return to a normal life. This can be tough if someone is also focused on a relationship, which demands a lot of attention if they want it to succeed. For example, someone involved in a relationship may forgo a support meeting in order to not miss a date.

On the other hand, if someone is truly focused on their recovery, they may not give the proper attention to their partner. This could cause a rift, which in turn, might make you more stressed and anxious.

  1. Added Stress

All relationships come with stressful situations, be it minor disagreements, major fights or break-ups. They’re unavoidable. A newly sober person is very sensitive, especially in the early part of their recovery. This stress can easily trigger relapse.

  1. Fear of Stigma

Someone fresh out of rehab may be hesitant to tell a new partner about their addiction. This can cause a lot of problems, because the other partner may feel they were dishonest. Supporting a newly sober person is not easy for anyone. Someone who is in the early stages of dating may not be ready for that responsibility.

Likewise, they will likely feel uncomfortable in the relationship if they do not open up in the beginning. Not opening up can also lead to their partner unknowingly enabling them.

  1. Two Birds with One Stone

Just as a relationship between a sober and non-sober person can fall apart, a relationship between two recently sober people can fall apart too. And if one person relapses, the other is highly likely to as well. It is wise to try and avoid this potential threat to recovery.

  1. Codependency

Codependency is a serious issue for both partners. Someone in recovery who is rebuilding their identity and self-esteem can easily become dependent on someone else to provide it. The opposite is true as well. A person who has to take care of someone in early recovery can become too focused on their partner’s well-being. They may begin to neglect their own. If this continues, this could lead to the relationship becoming unhealthy, or a break-up.

  1. Cross-Addiction

Especially in early recovery, a relationship, or sex itself, can easily become a substitute addiction. People who are newly sober are seeking a new hobby to occupy themselves. They are eager to latch on to anything that fills the void that their previous addiction left. Moreover, neither party may notice this problem until the relationship starts to collapse. If that happens, the relationship can turn into a dysfunctional one, and the person in recovery is likely to relapse.

  1. False Sense of Success

When one is in recovery and restarting one’s life, there are a lot of changes and a lot of checkpoints that give the addicted person the sense of making good progress. Starting a new relationship feels like one of them, but it may be an illusion.

They will feel like they’re getting better and getting on with their life – but maybe too well. This may lead them to believe they are recovering faster than they thought would be possible. Overconfidence is one of the factors that can lead to relapse.

  1. Doomed from the Start

Most relationships that start too early in recovery don’t last. It may be better for the newly sober person to wait until they are in a more stable situation before starting one. They can avoid stress this way, at a time when stress is most risky to them.

Benefits of Relationships in Early Recovery

Of course, there are exceptions to the rule. Two people can meet when one, or both, is in recovery and form a lasting, loving relationship. If built on a healthy foundation, recovery-based relationships, can help both parties in the long-run. If both partners are focused on staying sober, this can truly create a strong bond that supports you through recovery.

In addition, you will have the same experience of battling addiction. This can take a lot of stress out of the “getting to know you” part of the relationship. There will be no, or fewer, feelings of embarrasment and shame, since you have both gone through the same thing. You can serve as each other’s support systems, helping one another avoid relapse. Your partner can also be someone you will aspire not to disappoint, which can be motivational.

It is still best to avoid relationships in early recovery. But once a person is ready, they can make it work for the better.

Tips for Starting a New Relationship In Early Recovery

No matter what stage you are at in recovery, you should always be prepared for the problems a new relationship can pose to your sobriety. It can be hard to build a healthy relationship in recovery, but the outcomes are often worth it. Perhaps your first year in recovery has passed – or perhaps you feel really ready for a new relationship before that time has come. Whether you are starting a relationship with another person in recovery, or not in recovery, it is wise to keep a few things in mind.

  1. Understand the Consequences

Before jumping straight in, make sure you understand what you’re getting into. A relationship requires attention and time. Are you able to commit that time, or will it get in the way of your recovery? If the person isn’t sober as well, are you ready to tell them that you are? Are you okay with the fact that they may drink around you?

  1. Prepare for Disclosure

While you are not obligated to tell anyone about your past or your recovery, it may be a good idea to do so. People who have not told their partner in the beginning said they felt really uncomfortable afterwards. This can get in the way of your recovery. In addition, it is best to know in the beginning if the person is comfortable with the situation. If you are sober from alcohol, they may feel awkward drinking in front of you. Or if they don’t know that you are, it can be awkward if they invite you to parties where people are drinking alcohol.

  1. Don’t Neglect Continuing Care

No matter what, your recovery should always come first. Make sure you stick to your recovery plan, even if you’ve been sober for a while. Don’t miss a fellowship meeting just because your significant other has planned a date.

  1. Take It Slow

Always remember to take things slow and don’t rush the relationship. It may be tempting, especially if you’ve been single for a while, but it helps avoid problems in the long-run.

  1. Watch Out for Signs of a Toxic Relationship

It helps to examine your old relationships before initiating a new one. This is especially important in recovery, where a toxic relationship can spiral you into relapse. If you find the person is not being supportive, or worse, enabling you, the best decision may be to leave.

How to Support Your Newly Sober Partner

Whether you’re in a new relationship or picking up from where you left off before treatment, you have to realise that things are going to be different after treatment for your partner, and it is important for you to be their support.

Be Compassionate

Take some time to educate yourself about addiction and understand that they have a chronic psychological illness that will require a lifelong commitment to recovery. Being understanding and compassionate is very important if you plan to be their support system. Don’t guilt or shame them for their past, and especially so if they begin to relapse.

Take Care of Yourself

While it is important to be supportive, it is also necessary to take care of your own well-being. This means avoiding being codependent, and avoid putting your partner’s priorities ahead of your own.

Encourage Healthy Habits

You can be a great role model for your partner, so why not be one? Encourage them to eat well, exercise and engage in healthy hobbies that do not involve alcohol or drugs. Ultimately, try to remain positive. They will greatly appreciate it.

Communicate and Listen

Communication is key in any relationship. Make sure you pay attention to your partner if they say something is bothering them. You may be inadvertently enabling them, or there may be something that is stressing them out that could cause relapse.

It’s Best to Wait

Whether in early recovery or not, it is wise to exercise caution before initiating a new relationship after addiction treatment. Loneliness and isolation are a big problem for people with an active addition as well as those in recovery. Having a strong support network and plenty of friends can help combat those negative feelings, without the need for a relationship. People who took the time to focus on their recovery for at least a year do not regret it, and say it genuinely helped them get better.

The Reality of Being an Alcoholic Woman

When imagining what an ‘alcoholic’ looks like, public perception is often far from reality. Just how many people would conjure up an image of a woman being an alcoholic? The reality is that the rate of women with alcoholism has been rising for decades now. The reality is that women are more prone to physical, psychological and social damage from drinking. And finally, the reality is that women experience more difficulty in treatment, and a greater risk of relapse.

Being an alcoholic is not easy for anyone, man or woman. But women can face extra, or different, difficulties that men do not when seeking treatment or recovery. As the problem of alcoholism becomes more prominent among women, greater attention should be given to the issue. Despite the fact that women in the UK now drink as much as men, some people still don’t recognise that this is a growing problem. Being an alcoholic woman has many dark aspects that people are not aware of. Therefore, it is time to focus on the harsh reality of being a woman with alcoholism.

Why is Alcohol More Dangerous for a Woman?

Both drugs and alcohol tend to have stronger effects on women than men for a number of reasons. In the case of alcohol, the difference between its effects on men and women is perhaps most significant.

It’s Simply Science

Aside from generally being smaller in size and having more body fat, women also have a weaker metabolism. The enzyme responsible for metabolising alcohol is not produced in women at the same levels as in a man. This means that more alcohol is absorbed into the blood, causing greater damage to the body.

Even the slimmest woman naturally has a higher percentage of body fat than a man. Unfortunately, body fat tends to retain alcohol well, increasing its damaging effects.

Fat contributes to estrogen production, a hormone that females already have at higher levels. Interestingly enough, so does alcohol. Estrogen increases the reward effect of drinking, which partly explains why addiction progresses faster in women.

Long-Term Consequences Come Quicker

Because alcohol does significantly more damage to women in a shorter period of time, it increases the chances of long-term health risks developing. These include brain damage, liver disease, heart disease, and breast cancer. The elevated risk of breast cancer is partially tied to alcohol’s effects on estrogen.

In fact, a recent study showed that drinking increases the risk of an alcohol-related cancer in women by 50% more than it does for men.

Psychological Problems

Women who drink are also more likely to develop psychological problems, such as depression. There is a strong correlation between female alcoholics and comorbid issues such as a mental illness, eating disorders and secondary addiction.

These problems can stem from the brain damage that alcohol causes. Chronic drinkers are known to experience personality changes over time, leading them to be more emotionally unstable. This can cause a rift in relationships and other aspects of life.

What’s worse is that depression and mental distress are often reasons why women drink in the first place. So, we see another spiral that women alcoholics are likely to be stuck in.

Alcoholic Women Are More Likely to be Victimised

Alcoholic women are more likely to end up in bad situations, and be victims of domestic abuse, assault, or rape.

This is not only because alcohol leads one to make poor decisions, but also because women are likely to end up in an abusive and codependent relationship. They are also more likely to choose a partner who drinks to avoid added criticism about their behaviour.

Sadly, we see yet another downward spiral. Anyone who is a victim of abuse is likely to develop other mental disorders, including PTSD, fuelling the drinking cycle further.

Special Problems for Alcoholic Women in Treatment

The problem of alcoholism in women is even more far-reaching when we consider the issues associated with treatment. These range from women being less likely to seek help, to the fact that they are more likely to relapse.

“I don’t have a problem!”

Because being a drinker is so normalised these days, women don’t always notice when they cross the line from recreational to dysfunctional. They have a different picture of an alcoholic, and it does not include that fun, social girl at the bar.

In addition, just as woman are often ignorant to the signs of alcoholism, they are also more reluctant to get treatment. Among other reasons, the main one is social stigma. Despite the fact that women are drinking now more than ever, people still look down on women with alcoholism more than men.

Because of a woman’s public image, social stigma brings other possible consequences. For example, women are afraid they will lose their children, or be seen as the black sheep of the family. Some are afraid to lose their career or social standing.

“That woman? An alcoholic? No way!”

A sad truth is that not only are people less knowledgeable about how alcohol affects women, the problem is sometimes simply ignored.

Various women claim that when they tried to address their concerns with a doctor or therapist, they were dismissed. “My therapist thought I was being a hypochondriac and only worried about my drinking because of weight gain,” says Lisa.

It becomes even harder as women get older. The symptoms of heavy drinking, such as memory loss or a fall, are passed off as a normal sign of ageing.

Treatment Itself Can Be Tough

Women have particular issues that are not always given sufficient attention in certain rehabs, as they have less impact on their male patients. Of course men face these issues too, but often to a less-intense degree. The problems that are more prominent in female alcoholics and need extra attention include:

  • Codependent relationships
  • Poor boundaries
  • Domestic abuse
  • Social anxiety
  • Low self-esteem
  • Comorbid psychological conditions
  • Heightened emotional sensitivity

In addition, the shame sometimes felt by women in sharing these issues among men, can cause them to be reluctant about receiving treatment. It also contributes to their higher risk of relapse.

Risk of Relapse

In addition to the difficulties posed in treatment, the risk of relapse is greater for women.

If comorbid issues, such as dual diagnosis, are not treated, the patient is less likely to stay sober. The fact that women experience a greater reward in the brain from drinking makes it harder to quit. It can also make it easier to succumb to cravings.

In addition, women returning from rehab can find it hard to give full priority to their recovery at home. This is especially when family and young children are involved. Since women tend to be primary caregivers, they can find it difficult to make time for themselves.

What Does This Mean For Treatment?

The special needs of women seeking treatment must be recognised from the start and properly addressed. At Castle Craig Hospital, we provide specialist care for women after a thorough assessment of needs.

Special accommodation for wpmen, women’s therapy groups, and the provision of female therapists and medical staff, as required, are fundamental to any woman’s successful stay in treatment.

Because alcohol’s negative consequences hit women faster than men, they should seek and be able to access treatment before the problem escalates too far. Because of the correlation between mental problems and alcoholism, the best option for women is a rehab that also treats dual diagnosis. And because of the elevated risk of physical damage due to alcohol, a residential facility with medical staff is a better option than outpatient treatment.

Not all facilities provide the same standard of service, so it is wise to take the time to do proper research and make sure you are getting the best care. Choosing the wrong programme will hurt the chances of a sustainable recovery.

Alcoholic Women Are Not (Yet) Equal to Men

Although similar problems are seen with addiction in women, they are more evident when it comes to alcoholism. Alcohol abuse in women is, regrettably, still not given enough attention. And with the rising rate of alcoholic women, this needs to change.

This means that women themselves need to be aware of the signs of alcoholism and not be afraid to seek treatment advice if they are worried for their well-being. The stigma of addiction needs to be reduced ““ though this will take time. And healthcare professionals must continue to improve their response to the special needs of women alcoholics.

The good news is that awareness about this issue is increasing, and changes are being made. In many rehabs today, a woman entering treatment can expect to be listened to and have her needs addressed.

Building Healthy Relationships in Recovery

We humans are a social species. It is in our nature to bond with others. Our desire to form lasting relationships not only gave us an advantage in evolution, but has also helped society progress to where we are today. In times of need, it is natural to want to reach out for friendship or love, and no one feels that need more than someone in recovery. But some of the common symptoms of addiction – such as lying, manipulating, stealing – make it difficult to have or sustain meaningful relationships with people. Rebuilding, or beginning new, healthy relationships is a key part of recovery.

Relationships can be highly beneficial to our well-being, if they’re healthy. However, they can also cause harm if they’re toxic. Unfortunately, in recovery, a person is likely to be in a vulnerable state, and may find it hard to distinguish a good relationship from a bad one.

Building relationships is important, but one needs to be careful how to go about doing so. A toxic relationship can sabotage recovery and even lead to relapse. This is why learning how to create healthy relationships is very important, especially in early recovery.

Why are Unhealthy Relationships Common for People in Recovery?

People in addiction treatment are likely to have been in an unhealthy relationship before. The chaos of addiction leads to poor judgment and impulsive behaviour, both of which contribute to the forming of connections which are unsuitable. Such relationships may be what led to their addiction in the first place. If a person is used to having unhealthy relationships, they may not know what a healthy one is like.

Someone coming into recovery is also feeling more vulnerable than ever. If they lack proper support, they may, sooner or later, feel desperate to have some human connection, and cling to anything. Because of this, a person needs to rebuild their self-esteem and identity before jumping into a new relationship. This can take some time.

Think of addiction treatment as a crash course in living sober. You learn a lot in rehab, but you can’t learn everything. For this reason, continuing care after treatment is emphasised, as more life skills still need to be learnt. Furthermore, it takes time for new skills and behaviours to become habits which is why the first few weeks after rehab are crucial.

Why are Relationships Linked to Relapse?

There are a number of reasons that it can be difficult to maintain old friendships, which may lead to relapse. It is likely that some, or even many, of your old relationships are founded on the source of your addiction. Perhaps you have a number of drinking buddies, and you can’t hang out with them without being triggered. Or maybe your old friends have seen you go through the rehab-recovery cycle before, and don’t believe that this one will stick. Perhaps you have pushed away all the people who really wanted to help you, so the relationships you have left are unhealthy in some way. Negativity and doubt will bring you down, and threaten your chance of a successful recovery.

Most addiction professionals recommend avoiding romantic relationships for one year after treatment. There are many reasons for this, and they can apply to normal relationships as well. Forming a healthy relationship in recovery requires work. It takes time and effort to build a bond and create trust. Unfortunately, that means taking time away from self-care. In early recovery, it is crucial to focus on getting better. For example, you may be tempted to miss a support group meeting in favour of socialising with your friends.

“Recovery is about finding your own strength”

In addition, relationships often come with added stress. There is no relationship without arguments or conflict of some kind. Stress can be a trigger and lead to relapse. This is even more true if the relationship is dysfunctional.

If a person is hiding their addiction, or other secrets from their past, it can add extra strain to a relationship. It is not unusual for someone afraid of stigma to do so, especially when making new friends.

Lastly, codependency, which is easy to fall into during recovery, can lead to an unhealthy relationship and, ultimately, to relapse. For example, a person whose recovery is fragile may be attracted to a strong-seeming person because, perhaps subconsciously, they see their partner’s strength as something that they can lean on. But recovery is about finding your own strength and taking responsibility for yourself, not relying on someone else.

6 Tips to Build Healthy Relationships in Recovery

A healthy relationship can be highly beneficial in recovery. It can be a source of support, motivation, and accountability. Before starting any relationship, romantic or not, one should learn how to create a healthy one and how to recognise a toxic one. Here are some suggestions that can help prepare you for newfound friendships, or rekindle old relationships of the right kind:

  1. Build a Relationship With Yourself

Before you learn to love someone else, learn to love yourself first. As someone in recovery, you need to prioritise your well-being. This means establishing an identity, improving your self-esteem, and gaining control of your life. If you do not respect yourself, you cannot expect to have a relationship where the other party will respect you.

People in active addiction sometimes befriend someone much worse in some way than themselves, simply because it makes them feel superior. That has to be reversed. A healthy relationship is when two people enjoy each other as equals, rather than looking to one another to change how they feel.

  1. Set Your Boundaries

Knowing that you come first, create some rules, both for yourself and those around you. This should be done before you dive into a relationship. For example, you can make a promise to yourself never to miss a meeting for a social gathering. Or, you will not attend any event with alcohol or drugs. Or, you will walk away if a person is showing toxic signs. Write these down to remind yourself, and stick to them no matter what.

  1. Picture Your Perfect Relationship

You have to figure out what you’re looking for before you go out and search for it. It is a good idea to sit down and identity what you want and what you don’t want in a friendship. For example, you may want someone that doesn’t break promises, is loyal to their friends and family, is not controlling, and doesn’t use drugs. Understanding your personal values will help you find the right social circle.

  1. Look Out for Key Traits

In addition to your personal values, there are signs you can look for that signal a healthy relationship. These include:

  • Clear Communication
  • Mutual Trust
  • Safety
  • Respect

For any relationship to function, there needs to be an open line of communication between the parties. This involves both trust and respect. You have to be able to talk to one another as equals. For example, if something they are doing is triggering you, you should be able to tell them that. In return, they should respect you and respond accordingly. No “friend” is a friend if they put you in harms way.

  1. Open Up

A healthy relationship is built on trust, so it is recommended that you open up about your recovery in the beginning. You don’t have to give all the details, but things will run smoother if people know you shouldn’t be around alcohol or drugs. Although there is always the risk of stigma, most people will respect you for your honesty. After all, you’re in recovery now ““ that’s something to be proud of!

  1. Rebuild Trust

If you’re looking to rebuild old relationships with friends or family, you may encounter some bitterness, especially if you harmed them in any way while you were using. In this case, it is important to proceed carefully and only try to make amends where it is possible, without causing more offence. If you cannot fix your mistakes, you should show your willingness to be a better person via indirect means. While rebuilding trust is not always possible, the process of doing so will be good for your self-esteem and recovery.

How to Avoid Unhealthy Relationships in Recovery

Learning to avoid unhealthy relationships is important, and will help you build more healthy ones over time. In addition to setting your boundaries, it is important to learn additional signs of a toxic relationship, so you know when to walk away.

Look Into the Past

You should take time to analyse the rights and wrongs of your past relationships (especially if they did you harm), so that you avoid making the same mistakes again. Note what was good about them and what was bad. In addition, try to figure out at which point things went wrong. You can ask someone you trust or a counsellor to help you out.

For example: Perhaps you were in a physically abusive relationship, which started out well, but then your partner became controlling. Or before they cheated on you, they started with small lies.

Understanding what happened in the past will help you pinpoint these signs in future relationships. If you don’t take that time, you are likely to repeat the same mistakes again.

Watch Out for Signs of Toxicity

There are many common red flags that toxic people exhibit. While nobody is perfect, any of these behaviours should ring alarm bells, and if repeated, it may be better to walk away. A toxic person may show these signs:

  • Lying and/or cheating
  • Acting controlling
  • Being manipulative
  • Neglecting your well-being and putting you in harm’s way
  • Enabling your addiction
  • Triggering you into bad decisions
  • Making you feel bad about yourself (e.g. “jokes” that actually hurt you)
  • Refusing to communicate
  • Not respecting your boundaries and/or having poor boundaries themselves

Unlike general faults, there is no excuse for exhibiting any of the above. Anyone you meet that acts this way before you cannot have your best interest at heart. Do not compromise with your own boundaries.

Learn to Let Go

Before you start or restart any relationship, you have to be prepared to walk away at the first sign of an unhealthy relationship. Especially if you’re in early recovery, or if the person is showing serious signs of toxicity. Letting go in the beginning will be much easier, so do not make excuses for their behaviour.

Likewise, it may be tempting to get back with old friends when you get out of treatment. However, take the time to examine if they were truly your friends. If they were the same people you used to drink or do drugs with, it may be best to let go. Even if they do not push you back into old habits, just hanging around the same environment can trigger nostalgia that will cause relapse.

You Deserve Respect

While relationships can be beneficial in recovery, they can also do more harm than good. Despite our desire to form friendships, recovery needs to take priority.

Building relationships, especially in recovery, can be difficult and take time. However, that time is not wasted and your new sober self will thank you later. After all, in active addiction, your number one relationship was with your drug of choice, which may have been a long love affair. When you sober up, it can feel like a bereavement so give yourself time to get over it.

No matter what, remember to take care of yourself first and always respect your boundaries. You’ve come a long way in your new sober life ““ don’t let anyone ruin it.

Can Substance Abuse Lead to Mental Illness?

There is a well-known relationship between substance abuse and mental illness. At Castle Craig Hospital, we find that about half of people with alcohol or drug problems also have a co-occurring illness. Several factors influence this connection. In many cases, an underlying condition instigates substance abuse. However, substance abuse can also trigger mental illness itself.

Of course, substance abuse is not the only reason that mental disorders occur. Other underlying causes, such as genetics and environment are also instrumental. Substance abuse, however, can play a key role in a person’s life that influences these, or it can exacerbate the mental illness that may already exist.

How Substance Abuse Can Cause Mental Illness

It is well known that alcohol and certain drugs can cause mental illnes, or trigger a pre-existing psychological condition. For example, someone may not have depression or schizophrenia before they engage in substance abuse. But certain drugs can trigger these conditions, and there is no certain way to tell who is at risk. It may very well be that if they never started using, they would have never developed a problem.

Substance abuse can cause short and long-term changes in the brain, affecting neurotransmitters and hormones. If these hormones become unbalanced, it can set the stage for developing a psychological disorder. Young adults are especially vulnerable, as their brains are still developing. Substance abuse at a young age can cause lasting damage.

There is evidence that depression and schizophrenia are strongly influenced by drug and alcohol use. Certain drugs and alcohol are known to either cause or “activate” psychological disorders. It is unclear, however, exactly why this happens.

One theory is that alcohol and drug use, especially over an extended period, can affect gene expression, which can trigger certain psychological disorders if a person is predisposed to them. In addition, these changes to the body can be passed down to future generations.

Alcohol, Opioids, and Depression

About a third to half of people who abuse alcohol develop depressive symptoms. Studies have shown that chronic alcohol abuse causes changes in brain chemistry and may lead to folate deficiency, both of which are causes of depressive disorder. In addition, heavy alcohol consumption within a short period can mimic symptoms of depression. This can worsen psychological problems if mild symptoms are already present.

Chronic abuse of opioids, such as heroin, has also been associated with the development of moderate or severe depression.

Meth, Cannabis and Schizophrenia

Long-term cannabis use correlates with an increased risk of psychosis, especially if a person is a carrier of specific genes. In addition, cannabis use, especially in adolesence, is linked to a higher risk of developing schizophrenic disorders.

Other studies have shown that meth abuse may contribute to the development of schizophrenia as well.

Other Drugs

Chronic abuse of other drugs, has also been known to worsen or cause mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, and mood disorders.

For example, if a person was only experiencing mild depressive-like symptoms before, substance use can grow that into a severe depression.

Certain types of drugs tend to produce particular effects:

  • Hallucinogens and psychedelics, such as LSD, magic mushrooms, are known to trigger or worsen symptoms of personality disorders and schizophrenia
  • Sedatives, such as benzodiazepines, can make anxiety difficult to treat
  • Stimulants, such as cocaine, meth, or amphetamines, can also worsen anxiety and PTSD. If a person has been abusing stimulants for a long time, a period of abstinence may result in anhedonia, which is a serious symptom of depression
  • Long-term use of dissociatives, such as ketamine or PCP, is associated with the development of depression and anxiety

Furthermore, long-term substance abuse can cause changes in lifestyle that result in poor decision-making, which can lead a person into bad situations. Thus, people with substance-abuse issues may find themselves in violent or terrifying situations, which can later lead to PTSD, depression and anxiety.

Substance Abuse and Addiction

Substance abuse is not the same as addiction. However, it is important not to forget that addiction is a mental illness as well, and abusing alcohol or drugs can lead to addiction.

Substance Abuse Can Mimic Mental Illness

The effects on the brain and body caused by substance use or the withdrawal process can often mimic the symptoms of mental illness. Professionals refer to these situations as substance-induced mental disorder.

People who come in for substance abuse treatment often exhibit symptoms of a mood or personality disorder. However, these symptoms tend to disappear early on in treatment, after a period of abstinence. In such situations, a person would be diagnosed with a substance-induced problem, instead of a co-occuring mental disorder.

Side-effects of substance use and withdrawal can include depression, paranoia, psychosis and hallucinations. At times, these symptoms can persist for long periods, after a person is sober. In such cases, even professionals say it is hard to distinguish what is a co-occurring mental illness and what is caused by the drugs or alcohol.

Another example of this is hallucinogen persisting perception disorder, characterised by flashbacks and hallucinations, long after a person has used any drug. This can be mistaken for schizophrenia or other mental disorder.

Dissociatives, especially PCP, are known to trigger psychotic symptoms, which closely resemble schizophrenia.

Meth users can be misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder. From an outsider point of view, it appears that they have a period of mania, followed by a period of depression. This is explained by a common behaviour of meth users which involves a binge period, followed by a come-down period. During this come-down, many users self-medicate with alcohol.

Mental Illness May Influence Substance Abuse

In many cases, mental illness that appears due to substance abuse, was already present in the person. They may not have been aware of it or never diagnosed.

In the case of depression, some of the first symptoms are feeling lethargic and unmotivated. A person may attribute this to an off week or poor sleep. To alleviate the symptoms, the person may start to self-medicate with stimulants.

While self-medication seems like a good idea and appears to improve the situation, in the end it also worsens it. It may very well be that mild mental illness causes a person to turn to substances. This, in turn, creates a more severe disorder.

Understanding the Connection Between Substance Abuse and Mental Illness

There are many connections between drug and alcohol abuse and mental disorders. Some mental illnesses may have already been present in the person suffering from substance use, while others are influenced by the said substances.

This is why proper treatment for addiction or substance abuse, such as at Castle Craig Hospital, needs to include a dual-diagnosis approach. A person seeking treatment will be evaluated and treated for any psychological disorders, whether they are co-occuring or substance-induced. In the case of addiction, if a mental illness is not treated along with the substance abuse issue, it can lead to lasting negative consequences.

Six Common Fears in Recovery

For someone who is addicted, there is a lot of fear about recovery. Even for people who have been in recovery for a long time, they can sometimes feel overwhelmed. Being afraid is quite common in recovery, and most people share the same fears. We’re here to tell you something:

It’s okay to be afraid.

But don’t let your fears stop you.

Recovery is not easy, as it brings forth a number of challenges, and fear can make it even more difficult. The many fears of sobriety are often the reasons why some people don’t want to seek help in the first place. And then in recovery, it is not unusual for these fears to grow and new ones to come.

As your mind clears and you sober up, the fears that may have been hidden in the back of your thoughts will likely become more prominent. This is normal, and a challenge that nearly everyone faces in recovery. Fortunately, this is not a bad thing, as facing your fears can strengthen your newfound sobriety.

However, fears can also impede or sabotage your recovery. This is why it is important to understand them and learn to deal with them. Therapy is a critical component in rehab for this very reason. It is there to help you deal with the challenges you will face.

The Fear of Sobriety

It is normal to fear the unknown, and sobriety can seem like greatest unknown of all. This is especially true if you’ve been using alcohol and drugs for a long time, because substances have become your new norm.

Now that you’re sober, you don’t know what the future will bring, and that is a scary thought for anyone.

The good news is that you are not alone. If you speak up, you will find that almost everyone else in recovery with you has the same fears as you. Of these five common fears, which ones are you thinking of now?

Fear of the Future

Now that you are sober, things will change. How? Nobody knows. Some people see the benefits right away, while others will struggle with a few challenges before they see the light.

If your days revolved around substances before, you may be asking yourself what you’re going to do with your free time now? People with addictions often are too preoccupied with their bad habits to make plans or think about future goals.

You might also think that life will be boring from now on. No more parties, no more going out with friends, no more crazy adventures. If you don’t want this to be true, it doesn’t have to be. Many people in recovery learn to enjoy social engagements without alcohol or drugs. You can too.

Sobriety is far from boring. In fact, it opens up many opportunities. The money you spend on drinks and drugs can now be put into a new hobby. The days you were in bed hungover will be much more productive. There are some people that have neglected school or work because of their addictions. Being free from them will allow you to focus on getting ahead in life.

This is your chance. Remember when, as a kid, you were asked what you wanted to be when you grow up? Try that again.

Recovery will undoubtedly change your life. Even though it doesn’t seem that way right now, it will change it for the better. Being sober gives you a whole new control over your life that you may not have ever had before.

Fear of Abandonment

The fear of losing close friends or even family is a major issue for those in recovery. In fact, many women, for this very reason, are hesitant to seek treatment in the first place. This can be partially true, as rehabilitation will teach you to remove toxic people from your life.

If your social circle is toxic, breaking it is actually important if you’re seeking long-term recovery. Sure, you may have a long history with your buddies and you think you’ll never find fun friends like that again. However, if they have been pushing you to drink or do drugs despite the negative consequences, do you really need friends like that?

Most people in recovery find that for each person they lose, they gain a replacement. Certainly, your current social circle may shatter slightly, but you’ll find that it won’t be tough to make new friends.

Have doubts? For some people, drugs or alcohol have become central to their identity. If that is taken away, who will they be? Perhaps before you were the life of the party and now you think you’ll be boring ““ and boring people don’t make friends.

If this is your fear, you have admitted to using substances to change who you are. You do not need that stress for the rest of your life.

Sobriety will uncover the real you, and that version is far better because it is authentic. It may take time, but eventually you will meet people who love you for who you are. The best part is that these new friends will be for life.

Fear of Facing Challenges

Life isn’t always easy, and as you sober up, you may face the mistakes you’ve made over time. You may also face new challenges. For many people, alcohol or drugs have served as a coping mechanism. So now, you may be wondering how you will cope now.

Furthermore, as you sober up, your emotions may get stronger. Before, you were hiding behind a foggy alcoholic or drug-infected brain. Now you have to face reality.

Fortunately, this is another place where therapy comes into play. In preparation for after care, you will learn how to cope with depression or anxiety without the need for substances. This is also why in Alcoholics Anonymous, one of the steps involves making amends for your past mistakes. The sooner you address them, the sooner they will stop haunting you.

Of course, this is not always possible. Some mistakes can be apologised for but not undone. But, now you’re a new person, and you have the opportunity to leave the past behind you and start fresh. The world is your oyster.

Fear of Success

Although this seems like a paradox, the fear of success is actually a common fear. Many people in recovery suffer from low self-esteem. This means that somewhere in the back of their mind, they don’t think they deserve a better life.

Negative thoughts like these can come from many places. Perhaps you were raised in an invalidating environment or perhaps your depression is a product of drug and alcohol use. Unfortunately, this thought pattern often leads to self-sabotage. People use it as an excuse to relapse.

No matter what you’ve done in the past, you have to remember that you are now free and a new person. Over time, sobriety will help you see things more clearly. You deserve happiness just like anyone else.

Fear of Failure

Relapse is probably the number one fear for those in recovery. Especially if you’ve had a history of trying and failing at sobriety, you likely worry that you’ll fail again. This fear of failure tends to grow as recovery progresses. As you praise yourself for coming this far, you’re also scared that you’ll undo every effort.

Many people think that relapse is failure. It is not. In fact, it can be a benefit in recovery. It is an opportunity to learn from your mistakes and make appropriate amends. Many people relapse during recovery, and those people still achieve abstinence.

Overcoming Your Fears in Recovery

It is important to address these fears as they can make your recovery more challenging. Not only do they cause undue stress, they can be unmotivating and prevent you from taking action to change your life. They can even be an excuse to give up and relapse.

However, facing and overcoming your fears is a large part of recovery and will only strengthen it. If you find your mind occupied with ferrying thoughts, try the following:

  1. Acknowledge Your Fear

Remember how the first step in addressing addiction is admitting that you have one? This is no different than that. By acknowledging your fear, you admit that you have a problem and now you can do something about it. You can’t address your fears if you ignore them.

  1. Focus on the Benefits

A lot of the fears people have in recovery are tied into fears about the future. You don’t know what to expect, who you’ll become, who will be by your side, how you’ll face old or new challenges, and you don’t know if you’ll even recover at all. It may seem cliche, but it is always important to look at the glass as half-full instead of half-empty.

Keeping a positive outlook can come a long way, but now is more important than ever to focus on the benefits instead of the negatives. You don’t know what the future will bring, but it may be a pleasant surprise. You don’t know who you’ll become, but you will likely discover a whole new (and better) you. Maybe you don’t know how you’ll face the challenges that are to come, but even in the worst case scenario, you’ll come out a stronger person. And of course, you don’t know if you’ll relapse, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try again.

  1. Open Up

Whether it is happiness or misery, sharing is never a bad thing. Opening up about your fears can help a lot and is also emphasised in therapy.

Sharing your worries helps unload the tension you hold. If you talk to a trusted friend or therapist, they may even offer some advice that can help.

Speaking out about your anxieties can also help you analyse the situation. Expressing your thoughts out loud and having a conversation may help you become aware that your fears are far more exaggerated in your mind.

Sharing in group therapy can also help you realise that, most likely, everyone in that same room has had, or still has, those very same thoughts. This can ease your anxiety because you will no longer feel alone. Not to mention, people who have overcome these fears can tell you their story and give you motivation that you can do it as well.

  1. Imagine Your Perfect Life

They say that it is not the vacation itself that people enjoy, but the anticipation of one. Planning ahead unleashes your imagination. You don’t know where you’ll go, where you’ll stay, or what you’ll do when you get there. Apply the same principle by imagining your perfect life in recovery.

Who do you want to be when you’re sober? Don’t overwhelm yourself, but do set some goals, both short-term and long-term. Do you want to pursue a new career, do you want to bond with your family, do you want to hike through the Himalayas?

Having goals is highly motivating in recovery, so take some time to think about how your life can change (in a positive way) once you are free from alcohol and drugs.

Fear Not, For Anything is Possible

Whether you are is thinking about sobriety, in recovery, or has been abstinent for a long time, these common fears can come to haunt you. In this moment, it is important to be courageous and not a coward. Face your fears instead of running away from them.

The future may be unknown but it doesn’t mean that it won’t end well. People who have achieved and maintained their sobriety say that it has been their greatest achievement. The ultimate high in their life.

There is nothing more motivating than that.

How Can Alcoholic Parents Affect a Child?

Dealing with alcoholism isn’t easy for anyone. It can be especially tough when the alcoholic is a loved one, and more so when that loved one is a parent. While growing up isn’t easy for anybody, growing up with an alcoholic parent can take a long-lasting toll on one’s well-being.

Decades of studies have shown that children who grow up with alcoholics are more prone to having psychological, emotional, and behavioural problems. Not only that, but these problems start at a young age and often last into adulthood.

In the UK, the prevalence of alcoholic parents seems to be worse than other countries. According to a 2004 survey, about 30% of children reported living with at least one binge-drinking parent.

It is not alcohol alone that is responsible for this childhood trauma. There are other elements, such as household environment, that come into play as well. Of course, excessive drinking causes many problems in the short-term. However, it is not alcohol itself, but the indirect actions of alcohol abuse – such as violence, deception and neglect – that result in long-term trauma.

The Effects of Alcoholic Parents

Dealing with alcoholic parents affects some kids more than others. However, ultimately, these children share many common psychological, emotional and behavioural symptoms. Often, these traits intertwine. They become noticeable at a young age, and can greatly affect the rest of a person’s life.

  1.   What is Normal?

Children who grow up in alcoholic households will often exhibit a number of unhealthy behaviours. This is largely due to them not having a good example to follow. This doesn’t just refer to having responsible drinking habits. It can also refer to simply being able to maintain a functional lifestyle, healthy routine, and normal social life.

Drinking, of course, is a large part of this. A child who sees their mom down a bottle of vodka a day may come to think that this is normal behaviour. That can result in many awkward situations when they encounter families that do not drink, or drink responsibly.

However, the opposite can be true as well. For example, you may grow up in an alcohol-free household, or where your parents hide their drinking. In these cases, you have never seen someone drink responsibly. If you are suddenly exposed to irresponsible drinking, perhaps at a party or once leaving home for college, they won’t know how to behave properly.

Adult Children of Alcoholics is a support group for those who suffered from emotional damage due to alcoholic or dysfunctional parents. At Castle Craig Hospital and Smarmore Castle Private Clinic, we recommend that people with this background attend special therapy sessions. This may be individual counselling and/or attendance at a local ACOA meeting.

  1.   Secrets and Lies

People with alcoholism, or any type of addiction, tend to be secretive about their actions. They will often lie about if (or how much) they are drinking. This is bad in two ways. First, when the child becomes aware of their parent’s lying, they will likely develop trust issues. This can impact their ability to form relationships in the future.

Second, perpetual deception can teach a child that lying is okay. However, that can start with innocent intentions. For example, a child may think that their situation at home is embarrassing. To cover in front of friends and other adults, they make up stories to avoid questions.

  1.   Avoiding Conflict

It is not uncommon for anyone with a substance abuse problem to lose control of their emotions, and turn angry or violent. Even if a parent is not physically abusive, their unpredictable behaviour can still affect their child. Their child may develop a phobia of conflict or seek to avoid irritable people. Some may fear or distrust authority figures in general.

  1.   Losing Self-Esteem

In some cases, the child may feel responsible for their parent’s excessive drinking. As they grow up, and their alcoholic parent doesn’t stop drinking, this guilt might control them. It can make them feel like a failure.

If the child grows up with the guilt, they may end up with self-esteem issues. Because they feel guilty, they may also fail to stand up for themselves in toxic situations.

This can also cause a person to develop a fear of criticism, and hence, engage in approval-seeking behaviour to avoid it. Some people will grow up to be their own biggest critics, leading to a perfectionist-like mindset.

  1.   Rocky Relationships

Trust issues and parental neglect often lead to relationship issues. This can affect basic social skills, forming friendships or maintaining romantic relationships.

Relationship issues come in many different forms. Some children will try to isolate themselves, while others will engage in codependent relationships. The reasons for this also go back to the idea that the child does not know what normal is. They simply do not know what a healthy relationship should look like.

It is common for children with a history of trauma to confuse someone’s attention or pity for love. Some people may also develop abandonment issues. Alternatively, they may seek a relationship with people who need “rescuing” because of a lingering sense of responsibility for their parent’s alcoholism. In doing so, they often end up neglecting their own needs, leading to a codependent relationship.

  1.   Mental Illness

Children of alcoholic parents have a higher risk of alcoholism and substance abuse themselves. In addition, they are more likely to develop depression, anxiety, or a personality disorder.

The psychological problems that children of alcoholic parents have may have a part to play in this. Isolation, trust issues, and phobias can all influence mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety.

  1.   Emotional Instability

Children who grow up with alcoholics can develop a number of emotional issues for various reasons. Let’s say that a child confronts their father about his drinking, and their father denies it. The child may come to the conclusion that their father is lying, breaking their trust. Or the constant denial could lead the child to believe that they are wrong and imagining things.

If the child lives in an abusive household, they may feel afraid to show their emotions properly. For example, they may be afraid to act sad or angry, because it may upset their drunk parents. Or they may avoid having too much fun, for fear that their laugh or excessive noise will upset their hungover mother.

Being unable to express their emotions properly can lead to a number of problems. Some people will tend to overreact to situations that are out of their control. Others will feel afraid to express proper emotions in the first place.

  1.   Bad Habits

As mentioned, children of alcoholics are more likely to develop a  drinking or substance abuse issue themselves. Studies estimate that a child in an alcoholic household is twice as likely to have a drinking problem.

Children with alcoholic parents are also more likely to have a substance abuse issue, engage in self-harm or get involved in other risky activities.

Bad habits can also come from a lack of good habits. If a child grows up without a stable routine, they won’t know how to establish either. Stability can be as basic as having regular meals, attending school, or honouring holidays such as Christmas. Often, this is missing from a child’s life who has alcoholic parents.

  1.  Growing Up Too Fast

On the other hand, children may choose to go the other route. Instead of engaging in irresponsible behaviour, they may become super-responsible ““ perfectionists, even. Unfortunately, that is not necessarily a good thing. An overachiever philosophy can create a workaholic, or lead to other issues due to having a stress-filled lifestyle.

Whether it’s nursing their parents after a hangover or having to make dinner for your siblings, having to deal with alcoholic parents is likely to mean that a child is going to have to grow up too fast.

It is common for people who missed out on a normal childhood to have difficulty having fun.

It’s Not All About the Alcohol

It is not alcohol itself, but the effects of alcohol abuse that lead to childhood trauma. However, this is not always the case. About a third of children who had at least one alcoholic parent also said that it affected them “dramatically” or that they carried their problems into their adult life.

Various circumstances and personal factors can explain why two people may not react similarly to the same situation.

Environment is a big influence. Children who grew up in functional environments, where they did not feel neglected or had to take on the role of an adult, did not report lasting trauma.

This can make you think that functional alcoholism does not apply in this situation. However, this is not true. While a functioning alcoholic can maintain a stable lifestyle for some time, they often don’t remain “functional” in the long-run. In addition, children of functioning alcoholics are often exposed to emotional abuse more than physical abuse or neglect. Unfortunately, emotional abuse can be subtle and go unnoticed, even if it leaves a psychological scar.

Co-morbid disorders can also play a role in how alcoholic behaviour affects a person. Many people with addictions also suffer from a mental disorder, which can impact how alcohol or substance use affects them.

The situation also looks better when the child has only one alcoholic parent to deal with. They can rely on the other parent for support and stability. However, it is well-known that many alcoholics tend to get into relationships with other alcoholics.

William’s Story of an Alcoholic Parent

“My step dad had a serious drinking problem. I remember when my mom first married him, everything seemed okay at first, except for a few instances. When we had our first Christmas with the family, that was the first time I saw him drink too much and get obnoxiously angry with me for no reason. I was 7 at the time”¦ I think.

The whole situation was stupid. I was playing with some toy and apparently my cousin wanted to play with it too, but I was too involved and not paying attention, so I had no idea what was going on. Next thing I know is my step dad comes barging in, yelling like the world was ending, and I swear to God I thought he was going to hit me. When I tell people this, they think I’m exaggerating or that I don’t remember anything because I was only 7. But the entire family was there and everyone was shocked.

“I was always on my toes”

I don’t remember him going crazy like that again, but he never got rid of his anger issues completely. If anything, over time his anger became more subtle. Like he’d find ways of making me feel bad for no reason. Now that I’m thinking about it, I think his anger was worse when he wasn’t drinking. So I was always relieved when I saw him reach for a glass of wine after work.

A year after he came into my life, I was always on my toes. I was afraid to do something wrong, afraid to make anyone angry, afraid to get in trouble. When I was bullied, I refused to stand up for myself, and that made the bullying worse.

“We never dealt with any problems”

It was similar with my first girlfriend. Whenever we had any disagreements, I would always walk away before we addressed the issue. So we never actually dealt with any problems. As a result, our relationship shattered.

While my dad wasn’t neglectful really, he wasn’t very caring or attentive either. Because of that I learned to be independent and take care of myself quite early. Honestly, I think that’s the one good thing I got from this. Since I’ve moved out, I feel much better and less scared of everything.”

Where to Get Help

If you are concerned about how your drinking is affecting you or your children, it may be a good idea to take a step back and reassess your relationship with alcohol. A visit to a local Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, your GP, or an addiction counsellor can help people when they realise they have a problem.

If you’re worried about your parent’s or caregiver’s alcohol use, there are a number of groups and organisations that can assist in this situation. These Al-Anon and their youth-aimed Alateen. Additional resources can be found at NACOA (The National Association for Children of Alcoholics).

At Castle Craig Hospital, we place high importance on family issues. Addiction treatment in rehab involves making changes in attitudes and behaviours. This requires addressing any major issues that may be contributing to the patient’s emotional and mental well-being, including family matters. Family therapy is encouraged, and often beneficial in helping families repair broken relationships. It can also be instrumental in helping your loved one on the path to recovery.

How Do I Help an Alcoholic Friend?

So you got in touch with an old college friend, the one with whom you used to play “Never Have I Ever” over tequila shots. Except it’s five years later and now that you’re an adult, you drink more responsibly than before. Your friend, on the other hand, clearly hasn’t changed. In fact, the more time that you spend with them, the more you think they might have a problem with drink. You start to wonder how you can help your alcoholic friend.

Does any of this sound familiar? You have a great time so you decide to make your meetups a regular thing. Sounds fun, until you notice that with every Friday night, your college buddy seems to be drinking more and more. After a while, things get boring. Your friend is begging you to split another bottle when you’ve reached your limit and want to go home. Or your friend starts to repeat the same “hot new gossip” because they blacked out from drinking the last time they told you.

The truth is that addiction is very common. Alcohol is readily available, socially acceptable and – fun. So how do you tell someone that you’re close to, or maybe not close to, that you think they need help?

What is Alcoholism?

Also referred to as alcohol use disorder or alcohol addiction, alcoholism is a serious psychological illness, defined by the inability to quit drinking despite potential or actual, negative consequences.

There are many reasons why people drink. Some may drink to make their lives more exciting, while others will use it to self-medicate. Alcoholism may present itself as mild or severe. Some drinkers are classified as “functioning alcoholics“, which means they may not show the same symptoms as a normal alcoholic, and may not appear to have a problem.

You can help your alcoholic friend by learning about the symptoms of addiction before approaching them. Common symptoms of alcohol abuse include:

  • Drinking over the recommended guidelines
  • Regular binge-drinking
  • Failing to drink in moderation
  • Drinking alone
  • Memory blackouts
  • Regular hangover episodes
  • Lying about or hiding their drinking
  • Neglecting daily duties, such as self-care or work/school
  • Continuing to drink despite obvious consequences
  • Exhibiting withdrawal symptoms when not drinking
  • Cravings and/or finding excuses to drink

If you think that your friend has a problem with alcohol, you may consider reaching out and helping them. Before you do, you should create a plan of approach, and be prepared for the potential response.

Things to Remember When Approaching an Alcoholic Friend

Approaching an alcoholic is not an easy task. Alcohol is both physically and psychologically addictive, and is one of the toughest addictions to kick. There are a few things to keep in mind before you consider any intervention.

Firstly, it is best that you check your own fitness for the job. Consider the support that you are able to offer, in terms of time and emotional strength. Are you in a position to recommend complete abstinence or merely controlling intake.

Approach them at the right time

If you want to make a serious point, then know that the first time you mention your concerns is likely to have the greatest impact. Therefore, it is advisable, when possible, to get some advice rather than doing this alone.

If you don’t feel able to commit too fully to an intervention, it may be best to simply voice your concern to your friend in a few words. This may have the desired effect. If not, a full and better-planned intervention may be the next step.

Be Prepared for a Negative Reaction

Whatever your approach, you should be prepared for lies, denial and excuses regarding their drinking. This is not just due to embarrassment. Some people actually may not be aware of how unhealthy their alcohol use is. For others, it is the only way they can subconsciously excuse their own unacceptable behaviour.

You should also be prepared for anger. No one likes to be confronted about their flaws. Make sure not to take any “lashing out” personally.

If your intervention, or even repeated intervention, doesn’t work, you have to know when to take a step back. Taking care of an alcoholic is not an easy task and you need to make a decision ahead of time about how far you’re willing to go to help them.

Ultimately, you can try to reach out and help your friend, but it is up to them to accept the help. It is not usually a good idea to force someone into treatment, because the person has to want to quit on their own in order to get better.

How to Help an Alcoholic Friend

  1.   Educate Yourself

Educating yourself about addiction, alcoholism, treatment and withdrawal doesn’t just help you prepare a successful intervention. It can also help you place yourself in your friends shoes and understand what they’re going through.

In addition, if you come prepared and knowledgeable, your friend will see that you put in the effort and time into this, and will be more inclined to listen to you. Again, your attitude towards your friend needs to be that they are not a “bad person” but rather, a good person with a serious illness.

  1.   Be Supportive and Compassionate

There could be many reasons why a person developed a drinking problem, and you have to recognise that you don’t know the full story. Someone who is dealing with an addiction needs compassion and support. With the right encouragement, they will be more inclined to seek help. Make sure to listen to them instead of lecturing them. Nagging will not motivate them to hear your advice.

  1.   Seek Support

There are plenty of support groups that can help guide you in this situation. Dealing with an alcoholic can also take a toll on your well-being, so having support for yourself during this process may be helpful.

A local addiction clinic or groups such as Al-Anon can offer useful resources for friends and loved ones.

  1.   Plan Your Intervention

It is a good idea to read about how to host a successful intervention. This includes choosing an appropriate time ““ when the alcoholic in question is sober. If they are not sober, there may be little point in trying. And remember – if you want to help your alcoholic friend, there may be others who do too. Approach other friends and family to help in your intervention, especially if a solo intervention feels uncomfortable.

Well-intentioned interventions can have a negative effect if not properly thought through. Ask yourself if you are the best person to do it and whether you should be doing this alone. Or would your friend be more likely to listen to someone else, such as a family doctor?

  1.   Appeal to Their Emotional and Logical Side

Someone with an addition may be stressed and overwhelmed, and they may not realise how much harm they are causing themselves or others with their drinking. When you speak to them, try to appeal to their logical side by explaining the potential consequences of their actions. You can also explain how their drinking affects you or their loved ones.

For example, you can mention that if they keep missing work due to their constant hangovers, they may lose their job. Or that it hurts you to witness their self-destructive behaviour. They may not hear you the first time, but at least it will plan a seed in their head that they’re doing something wrong.

  1.   Prepare Potential Treatment Options

It isn’t always obvious, especially for someone who is dealing with alcoholism, where they can go for help. Many people think that residential rehab is the only option. Even if they have thought about getting treatment, they may feel overwhelmed with the various options out there.

Showing them the various treatment options and the pros and cons of each can help get them thinking. For example, inpatient vs. outpatient, peer-support groups or private therapy, detox-only programmes or residential rehab centres.

It can help for you to look up local Alcoholics Anonymous Meetings, and offer to go with them or at least drive with them (if they desire privacy). You can also call up a few rehab centres nearby and ask them about the admissions process and costs.

  1.   Be Ready for Refusal

It is often the case that an alcoholic will not want to seek professional help right away. Some people think that they can try to quit on their own. This can be fine in some cases, unless the person has been drinking heavily for a long period, in which case they may need a medically-supervised detox.

Some people may also be in denial initially. However, even if they refuse treatment, by talking to them you have brought the issue to their attention.

What if Your Alcoholic Friend Doesn’t Want Help?

Remember, your friend needs to make their own decision to get treatment. However, it does not hurt to host an intervention if you feel their situation is getting out of hand.

If they want to try to quit on their own, consider if you can be their support buddy. This can mean helping them cut down their drinking or trying to be abstinent. It also helps to encourage them to engage in non-alcoholic activities, such as sports. Do not, however, offer support that you cannot sustain as this can end up making the situation worse.

If you agree to help them quit on their own, remember not to enable them. Do not cover up for their mistakes and let them deal with the problems they’ll face because of their excessive drinking. For some people, it is necessary to hit rock bottom before they agree to seek treatment.

In addition, you can motivate them to go to meetings, even if they haven’t stopped drinking yet. Attending a meeting, seeing a counsellor or calling a rehab centre creates no obligation for them.

At Castle Craig and Smarmore Castle we are always ready to listen and to give advice. Feel free to reach out to us on our helpline numbers +44 8082 788161 and +353 41 986 5080.

 

Family Issues in Addiction and Recovery

Including family in addiction treatment is almost always considered a positive thing. At Castle Craig Hospital, it is highly recommended. Support is a key part of the recovery process. Having your family and friends on the same page will help avoid relapse in the future. It is also crucial to rebuilding damaged relationships, a common problem for addicted people. However, some people have extremely troubled relationships with their family. Perhaps their partner is addicted as well, and refuses to stop. Or perhaps they have an abusive parent, which has contributed to their ongoing problems with addiction. So what family issues in addiction and recovery should we be aware of and try to avoid?

The primary goal of treatment is recovery. In rare cases, patients and their treatment team might agree that family contact would have a negative effect on recovery. In such situations, it may be wiser to decline family involvement, or postpone it until a later stage.

The Role of Family in Addiction and Recovery

Many addiction treatment centres and rehabs now offer family programmes. There are two main reasons for this. First, therapy educates family on addiction, so they can provide the right support for their loved one in recovery. Second, addiction takes a toll of everyone who has to deal with an addicted person. Ultimately, when the treatment process involves family, the rates of dropping out of treatment and relapse decrease for the patient.

Family therapy is useful in a number of ways. It helps the family to bond, which can be particularly important if their loved one has lied to and betrayed them before. It also teaches valuable skills that can help in recovery – for instance, when to recognise signs of relapse. Family members discover ways they can help to be the best support system they can be.

Many people assume that once a person goes through treatment, it’s all over and done with. This is not true. Addiction is a lifelong disease that needs to be properly attended to at all stages.

Because addiction is tough on everyone, one of the goals of family therapy is to mend any damaged relationships. Family therapy gives people the opportunity to function together as a unit again. For example, they will learn how to avoid codependency or enabling their loved one. The family and their loved one will also learn how to more effectively communicate with each other. This helps promote a healthy and lasting recovery.

Family Issues in Addiction and Recovery

However, not everyone will have family that is supportive. In fact, some people

It may be a good idea to go through treatment without your family or friends involved if their presence will do more harm than good. Some examples of when to not include family are:

  • Family members are also users
  • There is a history of emotional, physical or sexual abuse
  • The patient has PTSD associated with family
  • Family is manipulating, discouraging or invalidating
  • Family is in general a trigger

At the beginning of treatment, a patient is highly vulnerable. During this time, it is important to avoid adding extra stress which includes triggers. For some people, family can be a trigger for a number of reasons.

One example is feeling lack of support, or even straight-up discouragement from family members. If family members come to therapy only to blame and guilt-trip the patient, they are not doing any good. Insults and invalidation are a form of emotional abuse, and can push the patient to give up treatment.

Another trigger is associating family with past trauma. This can mean past sexual abuse or domestic violence. If a patient has PTSD linked to their family, having to deal with traumatic memories can hinder treatment. In this case, it is necessary to treat the PTSD first before adding family therapy to their programme.

Benefits of Family Therapy in Addiction Treatment

Including family in treatment usually benefits the patient greatly. This is especially important if, after treatment, the patient plans to reside with their family or partner. Addiction is not an illness one should go through alone, and it’s best to have everyone on the same page.

The fact is, addiction affects the whole family. The stress can build up a lot of negative emotions towards the addicted person. If not addressed, this can trigger relapse after the patient leaves treatment.

Often, family members say that they are glad they attended family therapy.  It helped them understand addiction better and discover a newfound compassion for the situation. It is quite common for family to hold a grudge against their loved one for being an alcoholic. Family therapy helps them understand that alcoholism is a disease where no one party is to blame.

Once a patient is sober and focusing on recovery, they can also see the situation with clear eyes. They may not even have noticed how much of a toll their addiction took on their loved ones. Going through treatment can help them bond and thus strengthen the recovery process.

Lonely woman looks off camera; Castle Craig alcohol and drug rehab

The Role of Family Issues in Women’s Addiction and Recovery

Addiction, recovery and relapse is often not the same for women and men. Accordingly, rehab or therapy aimed at women, like that we offer at Castle Craig, usually tailor the treatment programme with this in mind.

According to a study by Caron, the top contributing factors of addiction for women are:

  • stress from family obligations (such as motherhood)
  • poor romantic or family relationships
  • pressure from family or friends
  • traumatic experiences
  • general boredom

Many women start using after introduction to substances by a partner or family member. A significant number of women in addiction treatment were, or are, victims of domestic abuse. Finally, women are more likely to have codependency issues. Although men face these issues as well, women are more likely to have been the focus of abuse, violence and manipulation.

Because of this, the timing of any family involvement and whether it is appropriate needs careful consideration.

For female patients, therapy often needs to focus more on building self-esteem, addressing issues of stigma, and developing support. Forming a stable support system during recovery has shown to greatly improve chances of success for women.

However, rehabs such as Castle Craig will always try to include families in the process when possible. Women respond better to recovery programmes where social connection is a focus. In addition, about a third of women are reluctant to seek treatment due to the fear of abandoning their children or family during their residential stay. Thus, keeping in touch with family can help a female patient worry less about the situation at home. This allows them to build their support network and focus on their recovery.

To Involve or Not to Involve Family?

Ultimately, the patient and their therapist should decide how to approach their addiction treatment. The primary focus is getting better. While including loved ones in treatment is highly recommended, it is not a requirement. No one can tell you what to do. And if you think that your family issues will impact on your addiction and recovery, it is up to you whether to include them.

As an alternative, patients may consider asking their family to attend a family support program on their own. Or, invite them into treatment at a later stage, when the patient feels comfortable addressing personal issues with their loved ones. It is also perfectly fine to include only certain members of family in treatment.

At Castle Craig, family involvement often takes the form of a special family therapy session (or sessions) attended by the patient, their family and a therapist. In addition, families are encouraged to attend the Residential Family Programme that takes place at various times throughout the year.

Concerns Over Medical Cannabis in the Addiction Sector

On 5 March, the UN-backed International Narcotics Control Board released their annual report. The UN has finally published their long-awaited opinion on medical cannabis legalisation and programmes. They warn that poor implementation and quick expansion of programmes poses a risk to public health, particularly for recreational use. As we know at Castle Craig, long-term use of cannabis can come with many negative physical and mental effects, including addiction.

This comes after numerous countries have legalised cannabis, both for recreational and medical use – including the UK on 1 November 2018. Just over a year after the bill was first introduced in parliament, this widely-consumed compound may now be prescribed by medical practitioners. The move will affect the delivery of healthcare, and wider society, as the awareness of the medical properties of cannabis become more well known. So how will medical cannabis legalisation impact the addiction sector and the wider medical community? Will the risks of addiction to cannabis be recognised and how will they be reduced?

Why Was Medical Cannabis Legalised?

There are currently about 1 million medical cannabis users in the UK. In recent years, there has been an evolving public attitude to cannabis, and scientific research on its benefits in medicine. The decision to legalise medical cannabis comes in the wake of this. Research has shown medical cannabis to be low-risk in the treatment of Alzheimers, cancer, chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, and Crohn’s disease. In particular, support for its use was strengthened when stories emerged about its effective treatment of epileptic children. Their seizures, resistant to more conventional treatments, were controlled or reduced with cannabis-derived medicine.

What Makes the Cannabis Plant Unique?

Cannabis has been used for thousands of years to treat a wide range of ailments””both physical and psychological. The cannabis plant itself contains at least 60 different cannabinoids, which, as isolated compounds, have varying effects. THC is usually found in highest concentration, and is responsible for the psychoactive effects. CBD is also found in all strains and has been shown to possess strong anti-inflammatory, anxiolytic, and anti-epileptic properties (among others).

Medical cannabis must be understood in the light of the botanical complexity of the cannabis plant. Some components of the plant can be harnessed to mitigate the harmful effects of other components. For example, there is evidence that CBD offsets the psychosis-generating properties of THC. Medical cannabis will have wildly different concentrations of these compounds from those used in recreational use. To compare them can be misleading.

Will Medical Cannabis Help?

So far, evidence suggests that cannabis can potentially be effective to treat disorders from anxiety, chronic pain, and epilepsy, to nicotine addiction, among others. As medical expert Professor Jonathan Chick explains “some of the conditions, such as some severe forms of childhood epilepsy, are so disabling that the benefit to risk ratio is strong enough for doctors and families to take the risk that there may be some unknown hazards from using the product.”

This change in legislation is the start of a journey to determine how to effectively regulate medical cannabis. There are many questions that need to be considered. For instance, how do we create the most effective medicine? Who can safely prescribe these medicines?

Prescribing Cannabis

Patients and healthcare providers will now have to grapple with the potentially thorny implications of prescribing medical cannabis. In addition to the social issues that arise, healthcare providers may be wary of prescribing cannabis for another reason. And that is the current lack of quality research into cannabis.

Cannabis in the UK is currently labelled as a ‘Class B’ substance. This has made it challenging for scientists to acquire the drug for research purposes. Doctors may be understandably cautious in prescribing the drug, when they aren’t certain of its risks and benefits. And unlike most prescription drugs, cannabis-based medicines are not a standardised compound. It will take time to learn how much, and what, should be prescribed for different health problems.

In Professor Chick’s view, “Few of the preparations have been subjected to safety testing in large numbers of patients. This is necessary to provide a Licence that allows the doctor some legal protection if safety concerns emerge. There is a risk of unwanted effects when prescribing any drug i.e. new symptoms developing due to the cannabis. When medical cannabis is used for less disabling conditions, this risk might begin to outweigh the likelihood of benefits to the original symptoms. Thus, doctors will be more cautious.”

There is a lot of research that still needs to be done to determine the optimal conditions for medicinal cannabis use. Crucial questions to answer are who might benefit, and what exactly their cannabis-based medicine should contain. The UN have warned that lax implementation in North America may have already contributed to a rise in non-medical cannabis use among young people. Without proper regulation, research, and prescribing practices, the same may become true of the UK. In fact, due to the above concerns, doctors are wary of prescribing cannabis even months after it has been legalised.

The Risk of Cannabis Addiction

There is no evidence to suggest that people can become physically addicted to cannabis. However, psychological cannabis addiction can and does occur. With cannabis legally available now, prescription should be made with vigilance. Doctors should make decisions on an individual basis, with regard to personal and family medical history.

As Professor Chick explains in detail, “Starting to use cannabis as a medicine can lead to addiction. Some regular users will find it extremely difficult to reduce or stop their cannabis consumption despite being aware of increasing problems. This is partly due to withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety and sleep disturbance when they try to cut down the cannabis intake. In addition, emotional difficulties may have been masked, or created, which they are used to ‘treating’ with cannabis. They simply don’t wish to stop.”

In their report, the UN has declared that dependence is a ‘probable‘ outcome of daily medical cannabis use. The risk for dependence is as high as 1 in 3 for daily users, and dependence comes with a range of negative side effects. This includes possible physical effects such as chronic bronchitis, as well as mental – like poor memory, cognitive impairment, and risk of psychosis in young adults.

Medical Cannabis and Addiction Treatment

Another question that arises is whether there is a place for cannabis in the addiction treatment sector. Cross addiction – where a person becomes addicted to a different drug or more than one substance – is very common. This makes it difficult to treat drug abuse with drugs. Preliminary results point towards the promise of CBD to prevent opioid relapse. However, at Castle Craig, we recommend that abstinence from all mood-altering substances is essential to long-term recovery.

A Last Word

The UN has cautioned against an increasing permissive attitude to medical cannabis by governments worldwide. Particularly among young people, who are more vulnerable to the negative effects of cannabis, this may encourage increased usage and dependence. They also question how this will affect the international drug control system. Legalisation of cannabis for non-medical use contravenes international drug control treaties. Currently, only Canada, Uruguay and states in the US have legalised cannabis for non-medical use. What this means for the future is undecided now.

What we do know is that we should tread carefully. The UK legalisation will, without a doubt, open new avenues for medical cannabis in healthcare. Alongside other countries who have legalised medical cannabis, this will influence other governments deliberating on managing patient access. The decision affirms the change in public perception, supported by scientific research, that cannabis could prove to be a powerful medicine if used in the right circumstances.

However, in the context of addiction, healthcare providers should seek to avoid causing further potential harm to patients. Doctors should always be aware of what and to who, they are prescribing. In addiction treatment, cross-addiction is a very real possibility that should be reduced. Castle Craig Hospital has proved helpful in treating cannabis users in a safe total abstinence-based environment, which can support them in their journey to long-term recovery from all substances.

 

For more help and information regarding cannabis addiction, you can contact us or request a call-back from a therapist.

How Do I Prevent My Child Becoming an Alcoholic?

If there was a surefire way of preventing your son or daughter from alcoholism or drug abuse, then addiction would be less of a problem. We still don’t know all the causes for alcoholism, and addiction. However, what we do understand about addiction is that genetics, environment, stress and other factors can all contribute to alcoholism later in life. Knowing this, you will be better prepared for helping prevent your child becoming an alcoholic.

Just because you have an increased risk for addiction doesn’t mean that you are necesssarily destined to become an alcoholic. There are certain aspects of addiction, such as genetics, that are impossible to change. However, there are other aspects, such as environment, that can be controlled.

What Causes Alcoholism?

Alcoholism is also referred to as alcohol use disorder, alcohol dependency and alcohol addiction. Addiction is a complex, chronic mental illness. One that does not have a specific cause nor a set recipe for prevention.

Genetics account for about 50% of the risk factors for alcoholism. However, this does not mean that 50% of the people with a genetic predisposition will become alcoholics. Statistics only show a slight difference between expectation and reality.

In fact, if you are aware of this statistic, it can actually help. If you know that you have a family history of substance abuse, you will be more likely to monitor your drinking. Therefore, warning your child about this risk can influence them to make better choices. It may even help prevent your child from becoming an alcoholic.

Creating an Environment for Alcoholism

Environment accounts also accounts for alcoholism risk factors. And unlike genetics, it can be controlled. For example, children who grow up in a household with alcoholics are more likely to become alcoholics themselves. However, it is not simply the presence of alcohol itself that is responsible for this outcome. It is also the neglectful or abusive environment that alcoholics tend to create for the child. If you are an alcoholic, you should know that one of the biggest ways you can prevent your child from becoming an alcoholic is to get help for your own addiction.

You should also remember that environment is more than just the household. It includes school, friends, social media exposure and many other things. Part of parenting is teaching your son or daughter to not only survive but thrive in this environment. You should teach them about addiction in the hope that your children will learn to make their own appropriate decisions.

Being a Role Model: Abstinence vs. Responsible Drinking

It was mentioned before that children who grow up around alcoholics are more likely to drink themselves. However, in a similar situation, some children grow up and never drink. There is a constant debate whether exposing your children to alcohol at a young age is a good thing or not. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer for this, and both parenting styles can work successfully.

Some people believe that letting their children sample alcohol at home is a safe way to expose them to it. Not necessarily. Some studies suggest that children who are allowed to drink at home are more likely to drink heavily elsewhere. Other studies have looked at parents that allow their children moderate amounts of alcohol at specific events such as holidays that creates a model of responsible drinking.

Tips to Help Prevent Your Child from Becoming an Alcoholic

Instead of focusing on preventing alcoholism, it is better to emphasise the consequences of drinking and/or teaching your child to be aware of alcohol from a young age. Addiction and alcoholism are not diseases for which there is a vaccine. The best you can do is lessen the risk factors involved.

A person that engages in a culture of underage drinking is more likely to have a drinking problem in adulthood. Therefore, one way of preventing alcoholism is to restrict your child’s exposure to alcohol while they’re growing up. Here are some suggestions on how to prevent underage drinking and substance abuse:

  1.   Set Rules but Don’t Focus on Scare Tactics

Scare tactics and punishments don’t necessarily work for two reasons. One, your child may not want to listen to you, or they’ll find it taboo and therefore exciting. Instead of scaring them with all the dangers of drinking, you should explain the potential consequences of underage drinking.

For example, they may wish to go to university. You should warn them that drinking before you are an adult can create memory and learning problems. Abusing alcohol can contrbute to lower grades, and ruin their chance of getting into a good school. Again, you should not use this as a way to frighten them, but as a learning experience.

Secondly, if you do use scare tactics, your children may not see you as someone they can trust. When they do run into problems, they may not to come forward to tell you. If your son or daughter is afraid of getting in trouble, they will hesitate to call you in certain situations even if they are in a dangerous situation.

Having said that, it is a good idea to establish a set of rules and appropriate discipline procedure. For this, it is best to adopt an authoritative parenting style, which implements a healthy balance of discipline and support. Believe it or not, even teenagers are likely to follow parental guidelines about 80% of the time.

  1.   Be a Good Role Model

You can choose to model a sober lifestyle for you children if you live an alcohol-free life. And of course, if you have a history of alcoholism yourself, then it is best not to drink. In doing so, you can show them that it is possible to be happy and satisfied without alcohol in your life. However, realise that setting this example will not mean that they will follow it. Regardless of how you handle it, for most children, responsible use of alcohol by parents will be their most powerful influence.

If you regularly consume alcohol, it is best to choose to educate your kids about responsible drinking. Hiding your drinking habits while lecturing your children about abstinence will not yield good results. Ultimately, your son or daughter will feel like they are being lied to. This might cause them to think that lying is acceptable or develop trust issues. If you really want to help prevent your child from becoming an alcoholic, you will need to be a good role model even when it’s embarrassing or uncomfortable.

  1.   Teach Them to Fight Off Peer Pressure

Peer pressure and exposure to drugs and alcohol from social media are a major influencing factor in whether a person chooses to engage in substance use. By building their self-esteem and teaching them to fend off peer pressure, you can help your child to be less influenced by external forces.

It is quite possible that your child will have a friend that participates in unhealthy habits. In that case, you may think it is a good idea to tell your child who they can and can’t be friends with. However, if you try to stop them from being friends, it will likely not work. It will just mean that they continue to hang out, outside of your supervision. Instead, continue to provide good parenting and trust that your child will make the right choices.

  1.   Grow Your Children’s Self-Esteem

The better that the self-esteem of your child is, the more likely you will be able to prevent them from becoming an alcoholic. Self-esteem has been shown to be an important factor in a child’s development. Here are some simple things you can do to prosper their self-esteem:

  • Listen to and respect them
  • Show love, support, and compassion, even when you’re unhappy with their behaviour. Remember, you were once a kid that did stupid things too!
  • Allow them to make mistakes so they can learn from them
  • Praise them when they make a strong effort or work hard, even if their final product is not successful or perfect

Remember that children with low self esteem or social anxiety tend to mix with others with similar problems because it makes them feel better about themselves. This can lead to unhealthy group activities such as underage drinking or smoking.

  1.   Be Present and Involved

Poor environment and neglect create a setting for future substance abuse. This is why it is important to be involved in your son or daughter’s life. For example, know who their friends are or what they do after school. Focus on creating a relationship where your children will open up to you instead of you prying into their lives.

In addition to setting rules, it is good to establish a routine and maintain a stable life at home. Children of parents who drink in excess but live in a stable household are not as likely to develop alcohol problem. This means that the family has regular meals, spends quality time involving the kids, and does not neglect important dates like holidays.

  1.   Educate Your Children

Alcohol are drugs are a topic that will eventually have to be discussed as your child grows older. Although they may be taught about substance abuse in school, it helps to hear it from someone they trust.

What if my son or daughter is already drinking?

Just because someone drinks or engages in substance use does not make them an alcoholic or addicted. Not to mention, everyone can make a mistake. While discipline and consequences are important, do not make your son or daughter regret coming to you in the first place.

If they do develop an addiction, understand that it is not your fault. Neither alcoholism nor addiction is your son’s or daughter’s fault either.

Any type of addiction is best addressed at the beginning. If you suspect that your child is becoming an alcoholic, it is best to get treatment for them right away. A residential rehab provides the perfect setting and is more intensive, with professional therapists, medical supervision, and a stabilising daily routine.

Sometimes, kind words of advice to a struggling teenager from a respected family member or friend can make a huge difference. Patients in treatment at Castle Craig Hospital sometimes say, “I wish that somebody had taken the trouble to explain to me how dangerous alcohol can be”.

Where to Get Extra Help

If you’re looking to find more resources for your son or daughter, or are looking into treatment options for them, you can pay a visit to a local alcohol addiction clinic that specialises in treating young adults.

Some useful links are:

 

Can Alcoholics Ever Go Back to Casual Drinking?

Many people decide that they want to quit drinking, for one reason or another. For some people, it is health or financial reasons, and some just don’t like how alcohol makes them feel. For others, however, quitting becomes a necessity. If you are an alcoholic, you can’t control how much alcohol you drink, and it starts to affect everyone and everything in your life. However, if you have managed to get your problem drinking under control, you may start to question why you need to be sober all the time. A question that pops up all the time, is can alcoholics ever casually drink again? This especially sounds like the ideal, dream scenario for now-sober alcoholics if they still hold positive associations with their drinking days.

While there are people that can go back to casual drinking after a period of sobriety, most people that have succeeded in doing so were not alcoholics in the first place. To get back to casual drinking, one needs to be able to exhibit control over their drinking. This is something that alcoholics and addicts cannot do. So, the answer, if you are truly an alcoholic, is that abstinence is the only way.

Alcoholism vs. Alcohol Abuse

Alcoholism is an addiction. It is a chronic disease, which by definition is an illness that does not go away. In order for someone to be able to drink in moderation, they cannot have an addiction.

Not everyone who drinks in excess or abuses alcohol has alcoholism. Not everyone who seeks treatment for their drinking is an alcoholic.

Someone who abuses alcohol simply drinks too much, but ultimately they are able to stop or cut down their drinking if they wanted to. These are the people who quit drinking, sometimes for a long time, and then go back to social drinking without a problem. However, these people do not have an addiction to alcohol.

An alcoholic is someone who has become dependent on alcohol, and continues to drink despite negative consequences. They engage in compulsive drinking and are unable to control it, even if they hurt themselves or others. They cannot stop drinking, even if they wanted to.

Abstinence vs. Moderation

Abstinence refers to complete restraint from alcoholic beverages. Drinking in moderation means moderating, or controlling, your drinking. Someone who has an addiction, cannot exhibit said control.

Even before seeking treatment, many people with a drinking problem may try to deal with their alcohol use on their own. They either try to be sober or to cut back the amount they drink first.

Unfortunately, many people, alcoholic or not, fail at doing so, often multiple times. This is proof that drinking in moderation isn’t possible for everyone. Alcohol, even for those without addiction, is a tough drug to control.

Many people who decide to quit drinking voluntarily choose to abstain from alcohol altogether after becoming sober, even if they are not alcoholics.

Alcoholic Mind-Games

It is tempting, especially after a period of sobriety, to think that you are suddenly cured. The mind likes to play games on itself, with illusions of power and selective memory.

After not drinking for even a short period, it is easy to forget the negative consequences of alcohol use. Your hangovers, the embarrassing situations, and the financial cost don’t seem like a big deal. Alcoholics especially are eager to forget the past.

When you are sober, you often feel a sudden surge of confidence. You congratulate yourself on not drinking for X number of days. You feel on top of the world and think, “Wow! I was actually able to stay away from alcohol. Maybe that means I’m not addicted and can control my drinking after all!” This type of thinking is false, and is a typical sign of the “devil on your shoulder” that alcoholics need to be wary of. Actually, it is a symptom of relapse. If you are an alcoholic, you will not be able to go back to casual drinking. Once you start having these thoughts, you should seek help right away.

It is easy to get into the mindset that you are better, but you will be surprised how easy it is to fall back into bad habits. You may not even notice it.

One Drink is All it Takes

The problem with alcohol is that it changes your brain chemistry. Perhaps, in that sober moment you are somewhat more powerful than your addiction. You have the willpower to say no, and you therefore think you have the willpower to stop after one drink.

But what happens after that one drink? Alcohol, as we know, lowers your inhibitions and clouds your judgement. Suddenly, the person with the willpower no longer exists. The mind has been drugged. That one drink can decrease or remove your willpower altogether.

That is when you reach for drink number two.

One Step Forward, Return to the Start

The first step in a 12-step program is admitting that you have an addiction and that you are powerless over it. Powerless means you have no control over the situation. You may feel, in certain moments, that this is not true. But it is a fact that cannot be forgotten or ignored.

By thinking that you are in control of your addiction, you have subsequently entered a period of denial of your addiction. Sound familiar? That is because denial is a core symptom of addiction. Remember when you didn’t think you had a drinking problem? You’re there again. There is no such thing as an alcoholic who can casually drink.

Why Going Back is a Bad Idea

For real alcoholics, trying to moderate their drinking hardly ever works. There are many stories where people have tried, failed and lived to regret it. A few have succeeded in moderating their drinking three, four times in a row. But they are only fooling themselves if they believe that they suddenly have power over their addiction. Even those who successfully kept their drinking casual several times in a row eventually relapsed.

Furthermore, addiction and alcoholism are progressive diseases. This means that things tend to get worse over time. Those who relapse due to their own faulty thinking have said that it was much tougher to deal with their addiction the second time.

Is this a risk you’re willing to take? Especially if you’ve been in successful recovery for a long time?

Is There An Alternative for Alcoholics to Casual Drinking?

Even if you have sworn not to touch alcohol again, it can be tempting to look at the non-alcoholic beer and wine equivalents. Perhaps you think these will be an acceptable substitute, that still allow you to ‘drink’ at social occasions, or just when you feel like it.

But it is not a good idea to dabble in de-alcoholised substitutes for wine or beer. First of all, not all “non-alcoholic” drinks are actually non-alcoholic. By UK standards, there are four categories of de-alcoholised drinks:

  • Low Alcoholic: 0.5 – 1.2% ABV
  • De-Alcoholised: < 0.5% ABV
  • Alcohol Free: <0.05% ABV
  • Non-Alcoholic: 0.00% ABV

NOTE: Even though “non-alcoholic” drinks are not supposed to have any alcohol, some brands misuse the term. It is better to check the label carefully.

As you can see, many drinks that you may think don’t have alcohol actually have some. Even though it doesn’t seem like much, medical professionals advise staying away from them as well. Although it is a small amount of alcohol, it is enough to trigger cravings or relapse.

Mocktails are a much better option. You can be sure they are 100% alcohol-free. Most people find mocktails a great alternative for their alcoholic predecessors. However, others warn that they too can provide an illusion which can trigger cravings. For some alcoholics, even this casual ‘drinking’ can be harmful.

One of the things to watch out for is smell, which is one of those factors that can be a trigger. In addition, some people who have consumed de-alcoholised beverages reported having a placebo drunk-like sensation, which triggered a relapse.

Things are Simpler Sober

While alcoholics will always be subject to cravings, many come to the conclusion that life has improved dramatically since they have been abstinent. They don’t want to consider going back to drinking, even in moderation. There are also many non-alcoholics who attempt casual drinking after a period of sobriety and decide that life is actually better without booze.

A good response for any recovering alcoholic who finds themselves entertaining thoughts of returning to controlled drinking, is to “count their blessings”. This is sometimes called an “attitude of gratitude” and can be a powerful antidote to false thinking.

If you find yourself having thoughts about going back to drinking, you should seek help. This could be going to an AA meeting, seeing a counsellor or contacting an addiction clinic right away. These thoughts are a major symptom of relapse. If you have a friend that you trust or a sponsor, let them know that you are thinking about drinking again.

Is Alcoholism Hereditary?

It is now understood that many health problems have a genetic component. So naturally it has been asked whether alcoholism is hereditary. That isn’t to say that bad genes be an excuse for bad drinking behaviour. However, studies have suggested that genetics do play a factor in the risk of developing an alcohol addiction.

Genetics have been studied for a long time, and over the years, scientists have linked a number of genes, in both humans and animals, to addiction. Today, there are an estimated 930 genes associated with alcoholism, and more are being discovered every day.

Rather than blaming one’s alcohol use disorder on their parents, people should use this evidence of a genetic connection to make better choices and prevent problems in the future.

Is Alcoholism Hereditary? Nature vs Nurture

While genetics do play a key role in determining who we are and who we become, they are never the sole factor. Just because someone is genetically programmed to have a disease doesn’t mean they will develop said disease. Just because someone isn’t, doesn’t mean they can’t. With alcoholism, both nature and nurture together can influence the likelihood of whether one develops an addiction.

Genetic predisposition or not,if you are raised in a family where excessive drinking is commonplace, you are more likely to become an alcoholic. However, biological children of alcoholics are four times more likely to develop alcohol use disorder. Conversely, if you have an alcoholic family history, you have a higher risk of developing an addiction than someone who doesn’t have any genetic factors. This is true even if you are raised in an alcohol-free home,

Genetics account for roughly 40-60% of the risk factors that increase the chances of becoming an alcoholic. The other half comes from environmental factors. This includes your childhood/family situation, current environment, peer pressure, gender, and mental health state.

For example, the case with antisocial personality disorder is quite similar. Studies suggest that the predisposition for having ASPD is also about 50%, and this genetic half determines one’s brain chemistry. ASPD is stigmatised because of its association with violent behaviour, crime, and serial killers. However, not everyone who is born with the ASPD brain chemistry turns to a life of crime. Psychologists have noticed that those with an ASPD predisposition who were raised in a poor environment were more likely to turn to crime. Those who were raised in a caring environment were less likely to exhibit negative behaviours.

Alcoholic Genes

Other factors aside, there is proof that there are various genes linked to alcohol abuse. Each of them affects different aspects of the body, contributing to the raised risk of developing alcoholism – but hereditary or not, there is no one ‘alcoholic gene’. There are genes that are tied to alcohol misuse indirectly. Here are a few examples:

Alcohol Intolerance Gene

A number of genes linked to alcoholism influence one’s metabolism of alcohol. Two well-known ones are ALDH2 and ADH1B. Nearly omnipresent in the East Asian population, these genes determine how well the body metabolises alcohol.

Normally, alcohol is first converted into acetaldehyde. However, it is a rather toxic compound which causes facial flushing, nausea, tachycardia and other unpleasant symptoms. If you have the aforementioned genes, you won’t be able to metabolise alcohol properly. This will cause a buildup in your body, resulting in a bad reaction to any alcohol you consume.

These genes are linked to alcoholism because their presence is a natural deterrent for drinking. Thus, someone that has a copy of such a gene will be less likely to consume alcohol, and therefore less likely to develop a drinking problem.

Self-Medication Gene

Certain genes, such as GARBB1, affect one’s natural production of GABA, a neurotransmitter that is responsible for inducing relaxation and reducing anxiety. Someone with this gene will have naturally lower levels of GABA, and since GABA production is increased by alcohol, the person will be more likely to consume alcohol as a way of self-medication.

Alcohol Reward Gene

There are also other genes, that determine how the brain’s reward system responds to alcohol. The stronger the reward effect, the more likely the person is to drink and drink heavily.

Controlled Consumption Gene

The beta-Klotho gene has been linked to having a sweet tooth and responsible drinking. People who have this gene are more likely to be able to control their alcohol consumption. For example, they can stop after one or two drinks more easily than others.

Alcohol Tolerance Gene

Other genes influence one’s tolerance to alcohol. If someone has a naturally high tolerance for alcohol, they are more likely to drink more, and therefore develop an addiction.

Alcoholism and other Hereditary Factors

You must also consider that there are other genetic factors that can influence the likelihood of developing alcohol use disorder.

For example, if you have a mental health issue. There are many psychological disorders that also have ties to genetic predisposition, including depression and schizophrenia. And if you have a mental health issue, you are at a higher risk for alcoholism.

Or, if you are a woman, you will react differently to alcohol. You will suffer from more physical symptoms, as well as relapse more frequently. This is due to metabolism, hormones and body mass. On the other hand, if you are a man, you are more likely to drink heavily. This, of course, leads to higher levels of addiction among men.

Genetics and Addiction Treatment

Scientists and medical professionals are continuously studying both addiction and genetics. Hopefully in time, they will be able to find a way to prevent and treat addiction. Currently, the focus is on using genetic data to predict one’s likelihood of becoming an alcoholic. In addition, there are scientists interested in researching how alcohol treatment programmes affect people with certain genetic predispositions. For example, naltrexone, which is being studied as a medication to reduce drinking, works very well on some patients. On others, it is nearly ineffective.

Even if Alcoholism is Hereditary, It Isn’t Fate

If you have a family history of alcoholism, you are unfortunately at a higher risk of becoming an alcohol addict yourself. Your genes are a part of this story. However, they are not the only part – your environment, mental health, and stressors are all also risk factors.

Just because you have a gene with an alcoholism risk does not make you an alcoholic. Instead, you should think of it as a potential future event, but not fate. In fact, you should remember that forewarned is forearmed. If you know you are at risk of becoming an alcoholic, it could serve as motivation to prevent future problems. You can avoid problem drinking, and be vigilant about spotting any signs of alcoholism.

At the same time, if you do have an active alcohol addiction, you should not place all the blame on your parents. Environmental factors and free will contribute a large part to addiction. Additionally, a major symptom of addiction is refusing to admit that you have a problem or take responsibility for your actions. You need to believe that you can make the change, and not blame external factors, if you are going to be successful in recovery.

Can Alcohol and Drug Addiction Be Cured?

John used cocaine every day for three years straight and then one day, was able to quit and never look back. Meanwhile, Andy has been trying to quit drinking his entire life. And even after he finally achieved a sober period for 20 years, he relapsed. Did John discover a cure for addiction? Why was Andy’s addiction not ‘cured’? Or is the situation not that simple?

Addiction can be a tough disease to deal with, prompting many people who suffer from it to ask if there is a cure for it. In short, cured? No. Treated? Absolutely! And just like addiction itself, the explanation is complex.

Addiction: Cured vs. Treated

Before asking if addiction can be cured, ask yourself if you are using the right word. A disease can be “cured” or a disease can be “treated”. Some people use the two words interchangeably, but cure and treatment do not mean the same thing.

To cure means to “eliminate a disease or condition with medical treatment”. A cure refers to a permanent change. To treat means to “give medical care or attention to” or “try to heal or cure”.

In the case of addiction, the illness is a lifelong one. While it is possible to be successfully treated for addiction and live normally, ultimately there is no cure. Treatment does not produce permanent results. You are in recovery when the symptoms of addiction are low. When you are using, or relapsing, your symptoms are high. There is no third option, when the symptoms are nonexistent. Even if you remain in recovery for the rest of your life, you will always be prone to relapse.

It is common for some in recovery to use the term “cured” after they’ve been sober for a while. However, if they are referring to their addiction, they are using it wrongly. Like other chronic illnesses, such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease, addiction cannot be cured. But it can be treated.

What is addiction?

In order to examine if addiction can be “treated” or “cured”, you need to understand addiction first. Addiction is a complex, chronic illness characterised by engaging in a compulsive and rewarding behaviour despite negative consequences. Certain addictions are psychological, others are physical, and some are both. An addiction can come in many forms, including drug, alcohol or behavioural.

Addiction is an illness that has many connected aspects that make it difficult to treat. Your likelihood of developing an addiction is affected by factors, including psychological, physical, biological, behavioural and environmental. In order to treat addiction, you should address them all.

Now We Know Addiction Isn’t Cured: What About Treatment?

Because addiction is a complex illness, the treatment for it is complex too. Treatment, however, is not a cure. Instead, treatment allows a person to enter recovery. Recovery is a life-long process during which you abstain from alcohol, drugs, or addiction and resume a healthy lifestyle.

Psychological

It is human nature to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Addictive substances and behaviours produce pleasurable feelings in our brains or bodies, making them so attractive. If the substance or behaviour is removed, there can be psychological withdrawal symptoms such as depression, mood swings or anxiety. This can be dangerous for someone that has low self-esteem or depressed, as they are likely to be living in a down state. Finding something that cheers them up can be potentially addictive. Even someone living a normal, satisfied life can easily get hooked on a “higher” or happier lifestyle.

To treat psychological aspects, a person needs therapy. It is a large part of addiction treatment and continuing care. There are numerous types, including:

Physical

Some substances – such as alcohol and heroin – are physically addictive, which means that the body has become dependent on them. If you try to quit, you will experience withdrawal symptoms as the substance is removed from your body. Physical withdrawal symptoms can be uncomfortable, painful, and even fatal in some cases. Withdrawal symptoms are one of the major reasons why some substances are so hard to quit. If you have a physical addiction, it is likely you will go to great lengths to avoid these withdrawal symptoms. This could be either getting more of your fix, or self-medicating with another substance.

Treatment for physical addiction involves detoxification, and sometimes medication. Contrary to some beliefs, detoxification alone is not treatment. It is only a small step in the road to recovery.

Biological

Biological aspects of addiction refer to the internal functions of our brain and body. Addictive behaviour, especially drugs, alter our brain chemistry. Whenever you engage in a pleasurable activity, the brain releases dopamine, which makes us happy. When you regularly indulge in the pleasurable activity, the brain is constantly pumping out dopamine. You will get used to this as your new norm. But over time, your brain will create less and less of it as you continue to use. So you use more to compensate – and a vicious cycle is born.

In addition, addiction causes actual changes to the brain. This is especially true in the case of long-term use. Most of the time, these changes are reversible, although some are permanent.

One example of this is the frontal cortex ““ the part of our brain that helps us make responsible decisions. Long-term drug use decreases activity there, which makes you more prone to irrational decision-making and addiction.

Additionally, over the past few decades scientists have discovered a number of genes that increase risk to developing addiction.

But your brain has remarkable recovery potential. With long-term sobriety, damage from chronic drug use can be reversed. Medication, such as antidepressants, can help during this process as well.

Behavioural

There are also behavioural factors to addiction that make substances and processes tough to quit. One example of this is the ritualistic aspect of alcohol and drug use.

For instance, every time Jade decides to use heroin, she takes out a box from under the bed, unwraps the powder, takes out her spoon, mixes the powder into a solution, heats it up, and fills a syringe. She does this every time she uses.

Our brains naturally become attracted to this repetitive behaviour. You will need to address this with therapy.

Environmental

How you are raised, where you live, your stresses, can influence how likely someone is to develop an addiction. For example, someone who lives with alcoholics has a higher chance of developing an addiction as well.

Again, therapy can help with addressing environmental factors. You should develop an aftercare plan prior to leaving your treatment programme. This could include making changes to your environment when you go back to your normal life. Perhaps you need to change jobs, or move to a sober living house if you can’t return to your own home.

Addiction: No Cure, Just Recovery

You can think of addiction as a scale from 0 to infinity, where zero is currently using or fully relapsed, and infinity is cured. Depending on how well an addict handles their treatment, the quality of the treatment, and other personal factors, their recovery will be some number in between. That number can be huge but ultimately, it won’t reach infinity.

While addiction cannot be cured, it can most definitely be treated. Many people enter permanent recovery and live long and happy lives. About 70% of alcoholics who enter treatment and stay sober for at least a year remain sober for the rest of their lives. But if you have an addiction, you need to remember that it is always possible to relapse. This is why continuing care is so important and using the term “cured” is misleading. If a person in treatment has the will and determination, recovery can be a step away from infinity.

Proactive Parenting by Mandy Saligari: A Review

Reviewed by Chris Burn, addiction therapist for Castle Craig

Parenting receives a pretty bad press these days, and rightly so, in many cases. Busy parents don’t have time to fulfil this vital role, or they push responsibility onto schools. When parenting is inconsistent, casual, uninformed, or even abusive, the one who suffers most is the child. And at a time when children are subjected to different stress and pressures than the parents ever had themselves, something clearly needs to be done. Does Saligari’s new book on proactive parenting have any lessons to teach us? And does it have anything useful to say on how parenting might contribute to addiction later in life?

“They f**k you up, your mum and dad.

They may not mean to, but they do.

They fill you with the faults they had

And add some extra, just for you”¦”

Philip Larkin’s immortal “This Be The Verse” sounds no less biting these days than when it was written nearly fifty years ago. Mum and Dad are still f**king you up, but now they’re blaming everyone else.

This book aims to reverse things by putting the responsibility back with the parents, where it belongs, but in a helpful, insightful and practical manner. Prisons, rehabs and mental hospitals have swollen populations and levels of addiction and other unhappiness are rising. So this book is timely and highly relevant.

“Help your child conquer self-destructive behaviours and build self-esteem”

It is a book that all parents should read. As one who thinks that parenting is the most important job in the world, yet remains tormented by his own failure to do it properly, I found this book very gripping indeed. I found chapters 1 and 7-12 riveting, and informative on proactive parenting, a subject I didn’t know well. The middle wodge of chapters 2-6 I was more familiar with, as an addictions therapist. It contained very useful information on the nature of addiction, and aspects of addiction. For anyone seeking to learn more about how addiction might be affected by, or affect, parenting, this is a good place to start.

Despite the numerous positives, I did find myself wondering if a book whose sub-title is ‘Help your child conquer self-destructive behaviours and build self-esteem’ needs to address the matter of addiction quite as early as chapter 2. This might lead some to imagine that addiction is the most likely outcome of a child’s self-destructive behaviours and low self-esteem. The author does acknowledge that there are many other possible outcomes. Nevertheless, it would be a pity if parents of six and seven year olds ended up, to use her words: “seeing the potential for addiction in everything”.

Having made this comment, I am struck by a sudden thought. My own dire journey into the heart of alcoholism may well have started with childhood trauma and resultant self-esteem problems, before the age of seven. Perhaps Saligari has a point after all.

“You teach best what you need to learn”

Mandy Saligari is an acknowledged leader in her field and does a lot of influential work talking to parents and schools as well as in her role as a therapist. Her book is full of wisdom and advice that will help anyone struggling with family dynamics, whether or not addiction enters the picture.

Throughout, I found mind-opening phrases such as:

“the internet ““ the alternative parent”

“rescue creates a victim”

“you teach best what you need to learn”

“the most important preventative measure against addiction”¦.self-esteem”.

These alone make it a worthwhile read, but there is a lot more.

“Guilt, Shame and Anger”, “Boundaries and Rules” and “Self-esteem” are a few of the chapters that combine what I imagine will be new insights for many. There is really practical advice in there, on how best to apply proactive parenting. For example: “delivering a rule with boundaries is likely to have a more successful outcome than a rule without”. I read each chapter several times.

The chapter on “Modelled Behaviour” was another ‘can’t put down’ moment for me. Being the sort of parent that your child wants and deserves, is so much harder than first appears. How can you warn a child about toxic resentments when you have them yourself? What effect does it have on a child to see you lose your temper?

Proactive parenting: a healthy family is one that talks openly about their feelings

All books to do with therapy talk about feelings, the two are inseparable. As Saligari puts it, “Feelings are what we have the most of but know the least about”. Yet feelings, thoughts and behaviour are interconnected and we store up a lot of potential harm for ourselves when feelings are repressed.  A healthy family is one that talks openly about their feelings. Part of good parenting is making sure that this happens.

Proactive parenting means taking responsibility for doing one’s best as a parent and role model. In particular, it means focusing on early prevention of negative consequences, addiction among them. As another commentator put it: “it’s easier to grow a strong child than fix a broken adult”. But every bit of help and support along the way should be recognised and used. In this respect, the author could perhaps have said more about the powerful support provided by self-help groups such as Families Anonymous and Alanon. These groups recognise the genetic characteristics of addiction and often have members who are starting young families.

This book will most certainly help Mum and Dad to grow a strong child but it’s still going to be a long haul. It’s one thing to ‘talk the talk’ but quite another to ‘walk the walk’. The book aims to help families take action as well as to understand.  If it does nothing else but help parents take responsibility for the task, it will be a great achievement. But I believe it will do more than that.

I can’t think of a better present for Mothers’ or Fathers’ Day.

Proactive Parenting by Mandy Saligari

Published 2019 by Orion Spring

What Motivates an Addicted Person to Recover?

The first step in recovery is admitting that you have a problem; the second step is having the willingness to accept or get help. For many people, recognising that they are engaging in bad habits is not difficult, but finding the motivation to address their addiction can be tough. This is especially true for functioning addicts, who, even if they think they have a problem, don’t find it serious enough to seek treatment. So what exactly motivates an addicted person to recover?

How do People get Motivated to Recover?

Addiction is a lifelong illness, so in recovery, there are two parts to motivation ““ one to enter recovery, and one to remain in recovery. Having the right motivation is a key aspect in overcoming addiction.

In order for motivation to be real, you must find the benefits of recovery to outweigh the costs. On top of that, you need to genuinely believe in it.

Intrinsic Motivation

One of the most powerful vehicles for the road to recovery is intrinsic motivation. This means that you are motivated to do something for yourself and yourself alone. For example, you want to quit alcohol because your liver is showing signs of damage from drinking, and you want to improve your health for your own sake.

Studies show that people with intrinsic motivation are most likely to overcome their addiction because it is stronger and more lasting. People who are threatened or forced into treatment are probably destined to a less successful recovery.

Personal Values

For some people, having an external factor is necessary for motivation. This can be anything that matters to you, such as a significant other, career, or even self-image.

If you find a role model, or someone you don’t want to disappoint, this can be a great motivational factor. For example, if you are a dad, you may want to be a better person for your kids.

Losing Things That Matter

Some people don’t take their addiction seriously until they are confronted. A spouse may ask for a divorce, or a boss may hint at being fired. While threats and ultimatums can lead to a less successful recovery, for some people it is a wake up call.

If you are a family or friend of an addict and considering issuing an ultimatum, try to avoid threats, especially as they may backfire. Feelings of shame and blame rarely motivate an addicted person to recover. Instead, try to convince them that they should seek treatment on their own terms. Instead of “I’m filing for a divorce unless you stop drinking”, explain the potential consequences. Try, “Your drinking is impacting my well-being and our children’s development. Will you consider getting help?”

Support

Many people with addiction have low self-esteem or are not happy with some aspect of their lives. If you feel dissatisfied with your life, an unexpected show of support may be just what you needed to seek treatment. You may be surprised that your family or friend want you to get better for your own sake, but you should be open to accepting the help when it’s offered. A supportive environment can be one of the strongest foundations for lasting recovery.

The Promise of a New Future

In certain situations, you might be motivated to get clean by an unexpected life event. A sudden change that can potentially transform your life for the better can be inspiring. For example, you may have a child on the way, or you may have been accepted into your dream university.

Scary Situations

The opposite is true as well. You may be confronted with a wake up call due to your addiction. For example, you may have suffered an overdose, had a run-in with the law, or lost a lot of money at a casino.

A Tragic Event

Wake up calls can also happen on a larger scale. Perhaps one of your parents just passed away, which makes you rethink your life. Or you were diagnosed with lung cancer after smoking for decades. Maybe your actions impacted on someone around you. You may decide to change after one event that brings you clarity on your addiction.

Rock Bottom

Small or medium-scale tragedies can help people realise that they are in trouble, or the guilt from it can motivate them to change. However, this is not always the case. In some situations, the stress or guilt is only temporary, and before they know it, are back to their old habits.

Rock bottom refers to a situation where you realise that you cannot go any lower, and there is no doubt that something needs to change. The definition of rock bottom is different for each person – for example, you may overdose once and want to change. For others, even if they overdose, after a few days to recover, they can just start using again. Ultimately, rock bottom is when you realise that you are at a dead end, and have no choice except to get clean.

Why do people get demotivated?

Just as there are many reasons that motivate an addicted person to recover, you must also consider the other side. In order to maintain recovery, it is important to recognise the pitfalls that might wait for you.

High Expectations

Having unrealistically high expectations about treatment can lead to a near-immediate loss of motivation in recovery. You may think that you just need to detox and then you are done, but it is just the first step. Or you might find that treatment is more challenging than you thought, and taking longer than expected. If this is the case, you may be tempted to give up.

Anger and Emotions

Going through therapy can cause past problems to resurface and force you to deal with your underlying issues, which isn’t easy for anyone. This may cause you to get angry with yourself or with others around you. Powerful emotions can trigger you to give up and return to your addiction.

Poor Preparation

If you are not adequately prepared for living a sober life after treatment, you can easily fall back into bad habits. This is why continuing care is so important, and most good rehabs will provide this as part of the cost of treatment. Before you complete treatment and return back to your normal life, you must be prepared for stressful situations.

For example, what if you go to a party where everyone is drinking? What if you get into a confrontation with your family? You must have the adequate coping skills before you leave a treatment programme.

Relapse

Many people associate relapse with failure: this is not true. Emotional or mental relapse is quite common, and commonly happens when you romanticise your past use, and forget all the negatives that came with it. A physical slip can happen as well, making you question why you ever tried to get better in the first place.

Relapse is a fact of addiction – all the good reasons that motivate an addicted person to recover may not be enough. But don’t fear – relapse is a part of getting better, and can actually strengthen your longterm recovery. It can even be motivating for some, inspiring them to try harder next time.

Tips to Motivate an Addicted Person to Recover

It can be challenging to find and keep motivation during recovery, but it is crucial in the long run. Here are some tips to helping yourself or someone you love find motivation to seek treatment:

  1.   List the Pros and Cons

Remember, a key motivating factor is that the costs must outweigh the benefits. Therefore, take the time to make a list of all the pros and cons of maintaining the addiction.

  1.   Meet Other People

Go to a meeting, read stories about addiction and recovery, or look up inspiring quotes. These can serve as a warning for those who have not hit rock bottom, and as a reminder for those in recovery to never go back.

  1.   Ask for Support

Support can be a major motivating factor for people. If you need help, your friends and family will likely help you find the strength you need to get better. Having the right support will also help you believe in yourself.

  1.   Imagine a Better Future

Create goals, and think of what your life will be like once you quit. Perhaps you’ll stop spending money on drugs and use it to travel the world instead. Create both short and long-term goals so you don’t get overwhelmed.

Finding Motivation After Treatment

Motivation is just as important for those who have completed treatment and are currently in recovery. To maintain a positive outlook, remember to celebrate the small achievements and don’t forget why you’re here in the first place.

Recovery is a long-term journey and will take time and effort. That is why little successes need to be celebrated. Acknowledge each day you’ve been sober, and make sure you are reminded of it every day. Over time, you’ll see how far you’ve come and that will motivate you to keep going.

Always remind yourself what motivated you to get into treatment in the first place. Remember your dreams, your failures, your fears, and keep inspiring items out as a reminder. If you have a role model or person you don’t want to disappoint, keep a photo of them close by. If your motivation is to see the world, sign up for a travel newsletters, or start planning a vacation once you reach your sobriety goal.

Most importantly, no matter what got you into treatment in the first place, find a reason to do it for your own well-being. At the end of the day, no one impacts your life more than yourself.

What is is Like Being a Functional Alcoholic?

We all know that one person who’s always up for happy hour and ready to drink for any occasion. Something to celebrate? Champagne! Something bad happened? Let’s drown our sorrows at the pub. Bored? Maybe a beer will spur inspiration. These are usually fun, social people, and in addition to their impressive drinking skills, they tend to stand out as people who have it all together ““ career, family and an enviable lifestyle. Unfortunately, this picture-perfect facade often prevents others and themselves from asking if they are harbouring a dark secret. This person may, in fact, be a functioning alcoholic.

When most people think of alcoholics or drug addicts, they don’t picture a middle-class mother of two, a straight-A university student, or the CEO of a financial firm. The image that comes to mind tends to be a rather negative one. Because of this, many functioning alcoholics and drug users fly under the radar among other addicts. Not only that, a functioning alcoholic will often not exhibit outward symptoms of addiction, and may not believe they have a problem themselves.

Despite maintaining a pleasant public image, functioning alcoholics may not enjoy their seemingly put-together lives, if you look behind the curtain. Moreover, even if they do admit to having a problem, others may not believe them.

What is a Functioning Alcoholic?

Also known as a functional alcoholic, or high-functioning alcoholic, a functioning alcoholic is still an addict, not unlike someone addicted to meth or heroin. A functioning alcoholic will abuse alcohol while maintaining a stable public image and/or lifestyle. Some people will show the usual signs of addiction or alcohol use while others won’t. They are also likely to be in denial about their problem, and may even joke about their alcohol intake. Others may not drink in public at all, and keep their habit a secret.

Overall, functioning alcoholics do not believe they have a problem with their drinking, and have a talent for making others believe so as well. Even if they show signs of alcohol abuse, they can spin the story in their favour by saying things like, “I have a high tolerance”, or “I always have a glass of wine with dinner” or joke about them being an alcoholic because it’s Friday night.

It can be difficult to spot a functioning alcoholic

A functioning alcoholic will not have a set drinking pattern. Some may drink every day; others will binge-drink on the weekends. Some are always out drinking socially, while others prefer to enjoy their alcohol alone.

Some functioning alcoholics will even give the illusion that they have control over their drinking by creating rules, such as “I only drink top-shelf liquor,” or, “I can start to enjoy my wine at lunch,” or, “I don’t drink when I’m working, only when I’m out with friends.” It becomes less about the amount that one drinks, and more about how they drink. Having said that, many functioning alcoholics do drink in excess, even if not every day.

It is estimated that around 20% of all alcoholics are classified as “functional alcoholics”. The typical functioning alcoholic is middle-aged, well-educated, has a stable job, and stable family life. Many have a family history of alcoholism and suffer from depression. About half are also smokers.

Signs of Functional Alcoholism:

While some functional alcoholics may exhibit typical signs of alcohol abuse, other may not show any at all. However, functional alcoholics also have other behaviours to watch out for.

Physical signs to watch out for in a functioning alcoholic:

  • Consuming excessive amounts of alcohol at a time
  • Changes in appearance
  • Not having hangovers
  • Blackouts or memory loss
  • Health problems, especially liver issues
  • Red eyes, tiredness, or a red face

Behavioural signs that someone may be a functioning alcoholic:

  • Risk-taking behaviour
  • Pre-drinking before social events
  • Secrecy
  • Drinking alone, and frequently
  • Breaking personal commitments

A functioning alcohol may exhibit these emotional signs:

  • Fluctuating moods/personality (especially with the intake or lack of alcohol)
  • Joking about their drinking or alcohol
  • Denial and anger when confronted
  • Justifying their drinking (“I deserve this” or “I only drink expensive wine”)

What’s Wrong with Being an Alcoholic if You’re Functional?

Although you seem to have it all on the outside, you are likely suffering on the inside. Alcoholism, functional or not, is still an addiction that needs to be treated. If it is not, you will likely stop being “functional” in the long-run.

One of the main problems with being a functioning alcoholic is that you don’t draw any attention from your drinking. From the outside, people see someone who is living a stable life with no problems at all. You will ignore the fact that you are drinking to excess since everything else is going so well. This denial from both the people close to you, and yourself, is likely to cause additional problems in the long-run. Alcohol abuse will transform into an addiction, until you are no longer “functional”.

The problems build up

Even if you have some control over your drinking, this may not last. If you start drinking at work, you may make a mistake. Even if you don’t, the chronic drinking outside of business hours will take a toll on your productivity when you are sober.

If you are a functioning alcoholic, you typically won’t run into legal issues – but it only takes one mistake. Left untreated, you will eventually slip up, and drink when you shouldn’t, such as driving. In addition, you are more likely totake part in risky situations since alcohol lowers inhibitions.

Functional or not, any person who abuses alcohol is not immune to the associated health problems. Functioning alcoholics are just as likely to get liver damage, digestion problems, brain damage and other issues. And by the time health problems appear, they will be more difficult to treat. So it is important to get treatment, at a rehab or other addiction treatment facility, before it becomes a bigger issue.

Alcoholism affects everyone around you

You may think that your drinking isn’t harming anyone but yourself – but you need to recognise that you indirectly pose a risk to everyone around you. Driving drunk is one example; but you may also need to look after children, take care of responsibilities at home or work, and you may cause distress to your family and friends.

A large percent of functioning alcoholics also suffer from depression or other mental issues, which can also wreak havoc on your wellbeing if untreated.

Functioning alcoholics often don’t realise they have a problem until something shakes up their seemingly stable life. So the jump from fully functional to “rock bottom” is quite short. One minute everything is going well; the next, it all falls apart. For example, their partner may file for divorce, or they get caught drinking at work and lose their job. Before getting to this stage, a rehab or addiction treatment will be able to help you quit your addiction.

What’s it Like Being a Functioning Alcoholic?

Natassia, 26, appears to everyone as a young woman with an impressive career. For a long time, she didn’t think she had a problem, and even when confronted, she didn’t see a problem with her drinking.

“I’m French, so a glass of wine with dinner and aperitifs have always been part of our life at home, however, alcohol didn’t really interest me until I landed my first serious job as a business consultant after college. At first, I didn’t even drink much, only when we had meetings with clients, or with my colleagues after a busy week at work. I don’t really remember when things changed but before I knew it, I was drinking at least a bottle a day or more. I couldn’t even get any work done until I had a pick-me-up.

In my field of work, drinking is expected, as is socialising. Having always been shy, I quickly realised that alcohol made me more extroverted, so I became better at my job. I made a lot of friends because I was the “life of the party”.

“I had a job people would kill for and I was doing very well”

Most people didn’t notice my bad habits because I appeared to have everything and was overall organised and successful. At some point, people that I met started to comment about how much I drank, but I didn’t care ““ I had a job people would kill for and I was doing very well. My lifestyle is none of their business. Plus, unlike them, I never missed work, kept a strict exercise routine, ate well, and was never hungover when I drank. After a while, my then-boyfriend also started noticing that maybe I was overdoing it with the booze, which annoyed me a lot, so when we broke up it was a real relief. I thought ““ finally, I can drink in peace!

I’ve never been secretive about my drinking, but I often get uncomfortable when I make too may trips to the liquor store or my favourite bars and the staff start to recognise me. If I felt like I was being judged, I’d start shopping somewhere else for a while.

“There was no one instance that made me finally confront my problem”

Likewise with friends. I stopped hanging out with people who commented about my drinking and created a new social circle, where everyone loved to drink as much as I.

There was no one instance that made me finally confront my problem. Rather, it was a series of events. Like, I remember I was celebrating new years with my ex-boyfriend and I somehow ended up drinking so much that I just blacked out. I don’t remember anything from that night, except waking up in the restaurant bathroom passed out and not knowing how I got there or what happened the last five hours. I missed the countdown, the party, the kiss, everything. But I thought, okay, maybe I just had mixed too many drinks or something.

Then there were a few times when I accidentally had too much before a work meetings, which lead to me losing the clients, and that was rare for me. Even then, I brushed it off because, hey, we all have bad days, right?

“I finally realised I was seriously risking my life”

It was only after a series of unfortunate events that all hit in one moment when I realised I had a problem. I was likely going to lose my job because I couldn’t think straight for five minutes. And I would cause my friends to lose theirs because we were always up all night drinking, which led to us making tons of bad decisions. Not to mention I was getting into constant fights about nothing with my new boyfriend, and I could tell he was two arguments away from leaving me.

And then, one day, after a binge-drinking session, my friends and I decided to buy some drugs. This was stupid because the guy we thought was dealing was a fake, and he tried to attack and rob us. Luckily, we ran away, but after that I finally realised that I was seriously risking my life and could lose everything that I worked so hard for. That was when I decided I needed to stop drinking and get help.”

How Can I Help a Functioning Alcoholic?

Stories like Natassia’s are not uncommon. It can be very hard for functioning alcoholics to realise they have a problem, with or without others’ input. If you are drinking more alcoholic units than recommended, you may have a problem. If you reach for alcohol on a regular basis, you may have a problem. Or perhaps you find yourself dependent on alcohol to get through the day – you likely have a problem.

The best thing to do is to watch out for signs of functioning alcoholism in yourself and your loved ones, so you can address the issue before it escalates.

If your loved one shows signs of functional alcoholism, don’t make excuses for their behaviour and confront them. Make sure to have a clear stance on the situation, but also remain compassionate. Don’t attack them; starting a fight can yield the opposite effect.

As a first step, attending a therapist session or a support group can be helpful in understanding your behaviour to assess if your drinking is problematic. Many people will find it hard to accept that they are an alcoholic, and need help to overcome addiction. Going to a rehab can be beneficial, because the treatment is intense. The residential stay can be helpful as you take a break from the environments, or workplace, that encourage you to drink. Give yourself the best chance at recovery by going to a rehab, or addiction treatment, today. The earlier you get treatment, the better.

Why Does Joining a Support Group Work?

Mutual support groups are often a first line of recommended treatment for addiction and work very well during continuing care. Joining a support group offers plenty of benefits and have shown to increase your chances of recovery. Many rehabs and other addiction treatment providers encourage people to attend support groups after they leave treatment.

Whether your addiction is mild or severe, joining a support group can make you feel less isolated and more encouraged on your road to recovery. In fact, studies have shown that group settings are incredibly beneficial, especially in addiction treatment.

About Support Groups

There are many different types of support groups, including ones for addiction, mental health issues, medical problems (e.g. cancer) and many more. Some are peer-run, solely by individuals who are battling the same problem. Others are professionally operated by a clinic or community organisations with trained therapists.

Although most operate by face-to-face meetings, there are online or video-conference support groups as well.

Unlike more intensive treatment programmes, support groups are much less time consuming. Most groups meet for an hour or two, once a week or more. It is, however, perfectly acceptable to attend several different support group sessions if you feel that once a week is not enough.

Many groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, are based on the 12-step approach. However, this is not the case for them all.

Benefits of Support Groups

Many people in recovery from addiction say that group therapy has been extremely helpful in the course of their treatment. Mutual support groups receive a lot of praise from both attendees and professionals because they offer numerous benefits:

  1. You are not alone!

Staying social is a large part of human interaction, and is known to improve one’s mental health. Not only will you feel less isolated after joining a support group, it may also improve your social skills after prolonged addiction/ mental health problems. Isolation can have a negative impact on your mental health and lower self-esteem. In turn, this may impact on your treatment.

  1. There’s a mutual connection

Because everyone in the group is going through the same problem, attendees are more likely to open up and be honest. A common complaint about addiction professionals is that they have never had to deal with the disease themselves. The professionals can still provide the necessary care, but those in treatment might claim difficulty in commincating with their doctor/ therapist. If you have someone you can relate to during treatment, it may make the process smoother.

  1. A confidential, judgment-free environment

Support groups offer a judgement-free environment which helps people to feel comfortable and open up. Because these meetings are strict on confidentiality, you will probably be more likely to be honest about their problems. This can help you get a clearer view of your situation and gain valuable insight about yourself.

  1. You’re helping others!

Sharing your story in a support group helps others too, and this will make you feel better in return. This can increase your self-esteem by providing you with a natural sense of accomplishment.

  1. Education

People learn a lot of helpful tips and general advice on how to deal with addiction from support groups. In addition, you can learn about further treatment options, the benefits and drawbacks, and hear others’ experiences with different treatments. Educating yourself about addiction can empower and motivate you, and gives you a sense of control over your situation.

  1. They’re free

Almost all peer-support groups, especially community-run ones, are free to attend. Most are self-supporting and ask for a small contribution to cover basic costs, but this is not essential. If you don’t have the funds for other types of addiction treatment, support groups may be your only option, and they are available in most towns and all cities across the UK.

  1. Continuing care

One of the ways that a support group can be most helpful is after a stay at a residential rehab. Many people will find that they need a more intensive form of treatment to kickstart recovery – but recovery is a lifelong commitment. Your treatment does not end once you leave rehab, and the important work you do at rehab will need to be reinforced afterwards. With a good continuing care/ aftercare plan, and a support group to help, you will give yourself the best chance at recovery post-treatment.

The Drawbacks of Support Groups

Despite their advantages, there are numerous criticisms of mutual support groups, such as the setting and philosophy. One of the major complaints is that they do not offer all the necessary tools for recovery. Their success rate cannot compare with more intensive addiction treatments such as rehab, which may be necessary for some.

Many people shy away from 12-step fellowships because they think they are religious. In most cases, this is not true. Fellowships such as AA or NA do not operate on religious grounds, and welcome people from all backgrounds and beliefs.

It can be difficult to find the right fit

There are also many poorly run support groups, where the lack of a supervising professional can lead to the spread of wrong advice. Privacy may be a concern for some, especially in small communities.

For others, it can be difficult to find the right group where they fit in – eg because of age, race, job and more. 12 step therapy encourages people to share with others they don’t believe are like them though. Ultimately everyone is united in the same fight – against addiction.

Think about rehab

Of course, support groups can only provide group support or therapy and do not include detoxification, private counselling, complementary therapies or intensive treatment. Many people with serious addictions will need all of the above to achieve abstinence or enter recovery.

This is especially true for people who suffer from an addiction that causes withdrawal symptoms, which should be supervised by an expert medical team to ensure safety. Withdrawing from alcohol by yourself can be dangerous, and even fatal. You may wish to come to rehab for your own health, which a support group can’t offer.

Choosing the Right Support Group

You can find out about local support groups via the Internet, or by searching directories of community addiction organisations. Talk to Frank has an extensive list of support centres in the UK, as well as general information on substance misuse. You can also look up community services on the NHS directory. In addition, your GP, therapist or other doctor can direct you to appropriate resources, and guide you in choosing the right one.

While mutual support groups can work as the sole addiction treatment for some people, they are best combined with one-to-one therapy and/or an individual treatment programme. Continued attendance of group and individual therapy simultaneously has shown to correlate with increased abstinence rates.

Open vs closed group

Whether you choose to attend an open or closed group can make a difference as well. An open group is, quite literally, open to everyone, and people may come and go as they please. Closed groups are generally reserved for addicts only. The same group of people attend the same session for a period of several weeks in a row. Twelve-step closed groups are for addicts only but any addict is free to attend at any time.

The benefit of open groups is flexibility, and the chance to start treatment right away. With closed groups, you may have to wait for the next session to attend. The benefit of some closed groups is that you have the same group of people, which provides a chance to bond with other members. This can make meetings more productive.

Finding the right support group can take some trial and error. After looking up appropriate support groups in your area, you should consider which one suits you the best. If you do not feel comfortable after a meeting, it is a good idea to attend a few sessions before deciding that the group is not for you.

A personal story

Chris B, an addict in long term recovery, recalls his introduction to Alcoholics Anonymous:

“After years of active addiction, there were not many who had a kind or welcoming word to say to me, but these people did. Whatever I had done, they had done; and whatever I had felt, they had felt too. I was no longer alone and I was with people who were winning the addiction battle. It was both a huge relief and a huge inspiration. I left that first meeting smiling and the next week I went back for more. Thirty years later, I am still going back, for why would I stop? They changed my life!”

At Castle Craig Hospital, patients are introduced to support groups and are particularly encouraged to attend 12-step meetings. This includes both during their stay and as part of their continuing recovery.

If you think that you might be suffering from addiction, it is important to go to treatment at the right place to get your best chance at a successful recovery. If you have tried your local support groups, and need more help, give us a call. Castle Craig Hospital has over 30 years experience treating people with addiction. Its 12-step therapy based, fully medically managed treatment programme has helped many people find their way to recovery.

Do I Have to Quit Drinking if my Partner is an Alcoholic?

Recovery from an alcohol addiction can be tough, not just for the person in recovery, but also for those around them. Finding out that your partner has a drinking problem raises a lot of difficult topics that need to be dealt with. Thinking ahead, people may ask themselves, “What now? How will life be different from this point?” In many cases, there is only one person in a relationship that turns to a life of sobriety, leaving the other to ask how can they help their significant other in their recovery. One of the key questions, and hardest to answer is – do I have to quit drinking if my partner is an alcoholic?

What can I do to help?

The answer is not simple, and depends on several factors. Is your partner an alcoholic that has not received treatment? Or are they in recovery from their addiction? Have they asked you to stay sober with them? Or are you considering this choice all on your own?

All in all, people in relationships tend to have a greater risk for relapse, especially when one person is committed to being sober while the other isn’t. Therefore, it may be a good idea to quit or cut down your own drinking for at least a temporary period, in the initial stages of your loved one’s recovery.

Should I quit drinking to help my alcoholic partner?

If your partner is refusing to get help, or isn’t planning on quitting, your quitting will likely not inspire them to change. Of course, this can be motivational in some cases, but in others, the alcoholic may find your actions as nagging or pressuring, thus triggering an opposite reaction.

If a person is trying to quit, or is in recovery, they need your support now more than ever. In therapy and aftercare, addicts are encouraged to create a sober support system, which is usually done by joining a fellowship, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, and having a sponsor or sober buddy. Meanwhile, families and friends are taught how to be one.

Consider quitting for a short time

Does this mean you have to quit drinking as well? No, but it is extremely helpful in preventing relapse if your partner lives in an alcohol-free environment, and is not exposed to triggering situations, such as seeing others drink. It is especially important in the beginning of their sobriety, when the risk of relapse is the highest. If you are happy to stop, doing so at this stage would be very helpful to your partner.

In addition, different people have different attitudes. Some addicts in recovery find it triggering to see alcohol or other people drinking, and thus avoid such situations. Others, however, don’t mind being around people who drink.

Communication is key

In the end, being supportive is always the best choice, but it also comes down to communication and compromise. Being able to discuss these things with your partner can be significantly helpful in itself. Early recovery can sometimes seem a lonely business and a show of support and understanding can make all the difference.

Finding Motivation to Change

If alcohol is part of your life, quitting or cutting down may seem challenging at first. However, most people do end up changing their habits, if only temporarily, in order to support their loved one. What’s more is that many people feel good about doing so. In a study published in The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Series, it was learned that couples who share similar drinking habits are happier. Getting sober or meeting your partner half way can strengthen your relationship.

Recovery can be mentally and emotionally challenging for the addict, and they may feel depressed and stressed out. Seeing other people drinking can make them feel isolated, thus putting a strain on your relationship. If your partner has asked you to quit drinking because of this, you should consider the effect it might have on your relationship if you say no.

The best chance of recovery

In addition, women tend to have a harder time with recovery, and are more susceptible to relapse. Thus, is it even more important for them to have the right support.

If your partner attended a residential rehab, and has therefore been in a sober environment for a while, coming back to a home filled with alcohol can be a recipe for trouble.

Consider that quitting drinking for a short period is never a bad idea for your well-being as well. Having a sober partner around will make it easier than you think. Also, keep in mind that if you don’t think you can stop, you should ask yourself if you might have a problem too.

What if I don’t want to quit drinking for my partner?

So your partner has admitted to being an alcoholic, and quit drinking – why should that affect you? If you don’t have a problem with alcohol, and enjoy drinking, it can feel unreasonable if they ask you to quit as well. And if you don’t have a problem, you may start to feel resentful that they want you to stop. Don’t worry, that feeling is normal.

However, you should remember that addiction isn’t a choice – it is a brain disease, with a high chance of relapse. Your partner may need you to stop drinking around them for their sustained sobriety – so consider a compromise. This might mean that you don’t keep alcohol in the house, or avoid alcoholic drinks when dining out together. It may mean that you only drink alcohol when you’re out with friends, or on a certain evening.

Agree to certain terms and conditions if you decide to drink inside the house (or when you start to reintroduce alcohol into your home). Perhaps avoid drinking in certain rooms, or avoid keeping alcohol out in the open. Some couples find it helpful if the non-sober partner drinks out of an opaque cup.

Things to Watch Out For:

Don’t lie about your drinking. Lying to your significant other, especially in a sensitive period such as early sobriety can be detrimental to their recovery and your relationship. Not to mention, being forced to lie or be secretive can create resentment towards your partner. If you don’t want to quit drinking for your partner, you should just be honest with them.

Avoid becoming codependent. Your partner can ask you to stop drinking, but they cannot force you, just like a vegetarian person cannot make their partner stop eating meat. A lot of people become codependent on their addicted partners, because they feel responsible for their wellbeing. Remember, you can and should be supportive, but ultimately, it is up to them to maintain their recovery. If you do choose to become sober, make sure you are also doing it for yourself.

Be careful about secrecy. Even if your partner knows you are still drinking, being secretive about your behaviour, such as drinking alone in a separate room, not saying that you’re out drinking with friends or pretending that you’re drinking another beverage, can instigate a problem in yourself.

Tips for Helping a Partner in Recovery:

  1.   Remove all alcohol from the house

  2. It’s true what they say ““ out of sight; out of mind. Seeing alcohol every day when you’re trying to deal with cravings can trigger relapse. It is one of the easiest things you can do without changing your lifestyle.
  3.   Try to avoid drinking in front of them

  4. Without lying or being too secretive, limit your partner’s exposure to alcohol if you agree to continue drinking during their recovery. Don’t leave an open bottle of wine out, or use opaque, nonalcoholic glassware when you do.  Avoid coming home drunk or hungoverIn situations where you compromise on your drinking habits, it is recommended that you do so responsibly. Your partner seeing you drunk can be very triggering. If you overdid it, consider staying with a friend until you sober up.
  5.   Avoid risky environments

  6. One piece of advice that is given to loved ones of addicts is to help them avoid risky environments. For example, a holiday party where everyone is drinking can be tough to handle for someone just starting sobriety. When you encounter such situations, do your best to be understanding. If you did not quit drinking during their recovery, this would be a great time to show your support.
  7.   Make sure they have a sober support system

  8. A lot of the time, friends, families or partners cannot be a sober support system for their loved one in recovery. Hence, it is important to make sure they have one, especially if you are not planning to be sober yourself. Make sure they are attending Alcoholics Anonymous or another sobriety-focused fellowship, and make sure they have a sober buddy or sponsor that they can always contact if you cannot be there for them.
  9.   Give them a heads up

This is especially important when you start to reintroduce alcohol into your home. If you’re planning on drinking with your dinner that day, let them know ahead of time so they know to prepare for it. Also, ask if it’s okay. They might be having a bad day with strong cravings.

Help Your Partner Today

While quitting drinking to support a partner in recovery is not a must-do, it is highly recommended. Addiction is very much a treatable disease, but understanding and encouragement is crucial. One of the major triggers for relapse is that people do not get the right support during their recovery.

Remember, recovery can be challenging for families and friends as well. Hence, it is important to know where to go for support. Attending Al-Anon, a fellowship dedicated to loved ones of alcoholics, has helped many people. Other helpful resources include SFAD (Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs), and Drinkaware. If your partner hasn’t quit yet, or is struggling with sobriety after treatment, give us a call to find out how we can help.

Can I Quit Addiction On My Own?

So you admitted you have a problem. Maybe you’ve proclaimed yourself as an alcoholic or drug addict, or maybe you simply think that you have developed a bad habit of drinking a few too many on the weekend. Now what? Many people, even those with a serious addiction, don’t instantly jump to the conclusion of “I need to check into a rehab tomorrow” when they realise what’s going on. In fact, most people try to quit addiction on their own, in the beginning.

Even when you ask your GP or contact a community addiction centre for advice, they will give you various self-help resources to try first. Before you can get a referral to a residential rehab, you will be recommended here first. However, one needs to realise that there is a difference between having a bad habit and having an addiction. While quitting using self-help resources can be useful for some, it is not possible for everyone. In fact, promising that you can quit by yourself may be just another part of the denial process. If you think that you may be lying to yourself, or to those concerned for you, about being able to quit your addiction on your own read on for more information.

Substance Abuse vs. Addiction

When asking if it’s possible to quit an addiction on your own, it is important first to understand what addiction is. You may have heard the terms “substance abuse” or “dependency” used interchangeably with the word “addiction”, but this isn’t completely correct. They are all related, but they are not the same thing. If you have an addiction, this can have consequences for how hard it will be to quit on your own, and what treatment you need.

Substance abuse is using alcohol or drugs in an unintended or excessive way. Perhaps someone was prescribed painkillers after their knee surgery, and continues taking them longer than necessary. Or some people turn to alcohol in times of stress, such as bereavement. Just because someone misuses a substance doesn’t mean they have an addiction. For this, they also need to be dependent on the substance. The person’s mind or body feels like they “need” their substance to go about their day.

Addiction refers to a chronic mental illness characterised by the inability to control one’s habits due to cravings or withdrawal symptoms. This is a complex condition that, according to the DSM-V, needs to fulfil certain criteria of behaviour that combine substance abuse and dependency.

Someone who appears to like to drink a lot, or uses drugs recreationally, isn’t necessarily addicted to the substance. Therefore for them, it may be easy to quit, because they haven’t developed a physical or psychological dependency on their behaviour. It is important to recognise the difference, and establish whether you have an addiction. If you do, it will likely be more difficult to quit on your own.

Factors that Affect Recovery

Regardless of whether a person has an addiction or not, there are also a number of factors that can affect how easy or hard it will be for them to quit and recover. These can include:

  1. Substance Type:

Certain substances can be easier to quit than others. Some drugs, such as benzodiazepines, heroin, or even alcohol, can have prolonged and severe withdrawal symptoms that can make quitting tough. In some cases, a medically assisted detox programme is necessary.

  1. Length of Use:

The longer you use a substance, the tougher it will be to quit. This is because you will usually develop a tolerance to the substance. Your body or mind may become increasingly dependent on it and exhibit withdrawal symptoms when you quit.

  1. Underlying Problems:

A large part of recovery is understanding why you started using in the first place. Quite often, there is an underlying psychological issue, such as depression, anxiety, PTSD or a personality disorder accompanying the addiction. Without addressing it, recovery will likely be very challenging.

  1. Genetics and Other Factors:

It is well-known that some groups can be more prone to addiction or have a harder time recovering. This includes women, the elderly, young adults, and veterans. Some people are also genetically predisposed to developing an addiction.

Approaches to Recovery

When trying to address substance misuse, there are several different approaches one can take. Certain methods may be more effective for some than others. In addition, quite often, people will go about their recovery in stages: first, they try natural recovery or self-help methods, then they will try outpatient treatment, and finally, they will attend a residential rehab.

  1. Natural Recovery

No treatment, not even AA meetings ““ you just decide to quit one day, and begin a new healthy lifestyle.

  1. Self-Help

This is when a person tries to quit on their own. They may enlist their family or friends to support them or attend mutual-support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, but do not receive formal treatment such as therapy.

  1. Outpatient Treatment

There are many types of outpatient treatment, and they are all less intense than a residential rehabilitation programme. This can involve counselling or a day-treatment programme, but ultimately, the person goes back to home or work, and retains their day-to-day lifestyle. This can be considered a self-help recovery approach, but with added therapy.

  1. Residential Rehab

This is the most intense treatment option, usually consisting of a four-to-six week residential programme where one lives at the treatment centre, and attends a complete treatment schedule throughout the day. When people cannot quit on their own, a residential rehab may be the best solution.

Can self-guided recovery be successful?

According to a study by the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC), self-guided recovery is possible.

This can be explained by the concept of “intrinsic motivation”, when a person is not influenced by a positive or negative reinforcement factor to change their behaviour. In psychology, intrinsic motivation is considered more powerful than punishment. However, it can be extremely difficult for people with an addiction to harness this. The very nature of addiction as a brain disease means that the pleasure-reward pathway has been disrupted. There are also other factors of addiction, such as withdrawal and cravings, that be tricky to overcome.

Lastly, there are a number of situations where quitting an addiction on one’s own is not recommended.

Dangers of Quitting on One’s Own

In some cases, addressing addiction via self-help resources is not advised. Recovery involves many aspects, including detox, therapy and aftercare. In certain situations, going about it solo can lead to failure or other dangerous consequences.

With certain drugs or even prolonged alcohol use, detoxing at home is considered dangerous. Someone who has been drinking heavily for a long period of time can’t easily quit “cold turkey” and this is not recommended ““ in some cases it can be life-threatening.. With drugs such as opiates or benzodiazepines, withdrawal is often lengthy and unpleasant. In these cases, they may require medical supervision or a substitute prescription.

One of the things to watch out for is developing a cross-addiction in the process of recovering from the first addiction. That means a person will trade one addiction for another. For example, somebody who tries to quit cocaine may turn to alcohol instead.

Those with a dual-diagnosis will likely find it harder to quit on their own. In professional treatment programmes, psychological problems should be treated along with the addiction. If you’re going about it solo, you may not be able to address both issues at the same time.

Although relapse is quite common regardless of the treatment approach, trying to quit on one’s own can result in higher failure rates. The person may use justification, such as, “I’ll have just one more drink” or “I can minimise my use” and end up falling off the bandwagon instead.

Getting professional treatment

If you’re reading this article, you may be looking for self-help addiction treatment because you want to avoid professional treatment. However, you have to ask yourself why you’re doing this.

Shame and stigma often come to mind when people think about drug or alcohol addiction. You may not want to publicise that you are going into an addiction treatment programme because it’ll make you look bad. You have to realise that the potential damage caused by not getting sober will likely outweigh the short period of embarrassment.

In addition, you may not want to go to inpatient facilities because of a fear you will lose their job or forgo time spent with family. Inpatient treatment may force you to take some time off to get better, but because the programmes are more intense, you will ultimately spend less time in treatment than in an outpatient or day-treatment programme.

Many people also avoid residential treatment facilities or even professional treatment programmes because of cost, thinking that these options are expensive. This is not necessarily true. There are a number of community programmes offering counselling and therapy that are free to access. Even residential rehabs don’t have to cost much, or they can be covered by either the NHS or private insurance.

Self-Help Guide on How to Quit Addiction

It is possible to quit substance use or an addiction on your own, but it is not always a plausible choice for everyone. While you’re in a self-guided recovery, it is wise to look into alternative options, and maybe contact a rehab centre or two about their treatment programmes. That way, when you’re ready for serious treatment, you will know what to do and where to go.

In the meantime, if you are determined to try to quit on your own, try following these recommendations:

  1. Find friends and support:

There is nothing more important than having support during recovery. You will need someone (or somewhere) to go to when you have a craving, and you’ll need someone you can depend on to steer you away from temptation. Fellowship meetings and sponsors are very helpful in this aspect.

  1. Strive for a goal:

Have a large goal to strive for. For example, once you get sober, you can finish your degree and one day get your dream job! Or maybe, once you stop using, you can spend more time with your family.

  1. Find your “higher power”:

It’s helpful to have a role model or something that gives you powerful inspiration. Someone you want to impress or don’t want to let down. For example, if you have children, you can always remind yourself that they’ll be disappointed if you continue to use.

  1. Build a self-care routine:

Most people who quit on their own first started eating healthier and exercising. Taking care of yourself is a great motivating factor because it feels almost like immediate gratification. With an organised routine, you will start to feel better quickly, and distract yourself from cravings or withdrawal. Plus, exercise acts as a natural antidepressant.

Replacing bad habits with good ones is always a positive step.

  1. Learn and educate yourself:

Learning more about excessive drinking or the substance(s) that you’re using can motivate you to quit because you’ll be aware of the potential risks involved. Also, reading or listening to other people’s stories about recovery can not only get you in the right mindset but also show you that you’re not alone in your journey to recovery.

  1. Create your backup plan:

Plan how long you will allow yourself to try to quit on your own, and decide what you will do if it doesn’t work out. Perhaps you’ll decide that if you relapse more than three times, you will immediately seek professional help. Or if your cravings are unbearable after one month, you will join an outpatient programme. Make a promise to yourself, and ideally to someone else, and stick to it.

If you do think that you need help to quit your addiction, and can’t do it on your own, give us a call and we can talk about your options. We have 30 years of experience helping people overcome addiction and get into successful recovery. With our team of medical experts and professional therapists, we can help make your recovery a reality.

How Alcohol Affects Depression

It is widely known that consumption of alcohol and depression are linked, but the discussion of said link often turns into a “chicken or egg” debate. Does alcohol cause depression or are depressed people more prone to drinking alcohol? The reality is that both statements are true. You are drinking because you are depressed, and you get depressed because you are drinking. In fact, alcohol tends to worsen symptoms in people who suffer from depression. Understanding this perpetual cycle can help people suffering from depression by not turning to alcohol upon signs of depressive symptoms.

What is Depression?

Depression, also referred to as major depressive disorder, is considered a medical condition. It is characterised by constant feelings of sadness and a lack of motivation over a prolonged period of time. After a while, depression interferes with a person’s ability to function normally in day-to-day life.

Depression is quite common. It is estimated that 1 in 15 adults suffer from depression at any given time, and 1 in 6 people will deal with depression at some point in their life. It is also treatable.

Common symptoms of depression are:

  • Sleeping problems (hypersomnia or insomnia)
  • Changes in appetite
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Decreased interest and/or pleasure from previously enjoyed activities
  • Decreased ability to focus and concentrate
  • Feelings of low self-esteem, hopelessness, guilt
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Pessimism and morbid, non-suicidal thoughts
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of motivation
  • Anger and irritability

There are a number of reasons for depression including difficult life circumstances, environmental factors, genetics, changes in brain biochemistry, side-effects of medicines, and medical conditions.

Depression and alcohol

People suffering from addiction, or general drug or alcohol misuse, have some of the highest rates of depression. About 30-50% of people who abuse alcohol have depression or depressive symptoms. Likewise, about a third of people with severe depression also have an alcohol abuse problem.

Young adults and women with depression are twice as likely to drink (and drink excessively) than those without depression. Alcohol clearly has an important role to play here- so just what is it about alcohol that triggers depression and vice versa?

Why do People Drink?

It is important to understand why people drink. For some, it’s a way of celebrating and for some a daily drink with dinner is just part of their routine. For others, it’s a method of self-medication. Some people drink to decrease anxiety and increase sociability, some drink because they’re bored, some to release stress or calm down, and some to alleviate their negative emotions.

For most people, alcohol makes them feel good. In reasonable amounts, alcohol appears to elevate their mood and helps them relax. However, in larger amounts, or if used over a prolonged period, alcohol has quite the opposite effect.

Alcohol’s Effects on the Body

You may have heard that alcohol is a depressant. This confuses many people because they do not associate alcohol with depression. “No way! Champagne makes me feel happy!” In truth, the term “depressant” has nothing to do with depression, and is simply a scientific term referring to the effect a drug has on the body. Anything that slows down body functions, such as brain activity, metabolism or breathing, is classified as a depressant. It is the opposite of a stimulant, which increases brain and body functions, and makes one feel more alert and awake.

Actually, alcohol produces both stimulating and depressant effects on the human body. You may notice that when you start drinking, and drink small amounts, that you feel more energetic and in a better mood. However, after a few drinks, you start to feel tired, and have trouble concentrating.

Alcohol and Depression

Drinking, excessively or not, is proven to make depression worse. People who drink have more frequent and more severe depressive periods. Hence, people who are diagnosed with depression are often told to steer away from alcohol. This is explained by a number of reasons:

  1. Alcohol and Biochemistry

    Alcohol raises feel-good neurotransmitters, such as GABA, serotonin and norepinephrine. If a person is constantly drinking, they are experiencing an artificial boost of happy hormones, and with time, begin to think that this is the new norm. When they stop drinking, they will feel worse than ever before.
    This is why depression is a withdrawal symptom for both alcohol and drugs, and why people in early periods of sobriety tend to get depressed. Unfortunately, with prolonged use, a person can experience depression as part of post-acute withdrawal symptoms, and these can last for months or years after becoming abstinent from alcohol or drugs.
    Folate deficiency is also known to influence depression, and alcohol abuse, or alcohol-induced liver disease, tend to lower a person’s folate levels.

  2. Alcohol and Physiological Responses

    We’ve all heard about different drunk personality types, such as the “happy drunk” or the “angry drunk”. Everyone reacts differently to alcohol, and it can be explained by biofeedback.
    For example, if you see something that scares you, your heart rate elevates, your stress hormones activate for “fight-or-flight” mode, and that tells your brain that you’re in danger, so you can react appropriately. Similarly, if your heart rate is elevated for any reason, your brain will automatically think that you’re in danger, even if there are no stimuli to support it.
    This explains why some people turn into “angry drunks” after downing a few. Alcohol tends to elevate heart rate, which people associate with being in danger, and hence they may react in a hostile manner even in mild situations.
    Likewise, alcohol in more-than-moderate amounts tends to mimic symptoms of depression ““ lethargy, inability to focus/concentrate, poor sleep”¦ etc. If we feel these “symptoms”, we may associate it with a depressive episode.

  3. Alcohol and Wellbeing

    Hangovers do little for our wellbeing, except remind us not to overdo it next time. Constantly drinking can also make people feel lethargic and less motivated to take care of themselves ““ for example, eat well and exercise. Chronic alcohol use can also lead to a number of health issues, both mental and physical. Being in poor health, be it for short-term or long-term, can fuel depressive symptoms.

  4. Alcohol and Lifestyle

    Because alcohol, not to mention hangovers, tends to make us feel lethargic and a little too relaxed, it can interfere with our productivity. Feeling accomplished is one way to boost one’s spirits, while constantly falling behind on to-dos can lessen our self-esteem, worsen our lifestyle, and lead to depression. Alcohol may also cause us to behave badly at times, which can affect our self-esteem negatively.

  5. Alcohol and Finances

    While money does not equal happiness, financial trouble does contribute to depression. Excessive alcohol consumption isn’t easily affordable for most people. This can take a toll on one’s lifestyle and self-care, as they may end up reducing spending on other categories of their budget, such as healthy eating, to balance their going-out costs.
    Similarly, if a person’s drinking takes away from their work productivity, they may end up earning less money, or worse, losing their job, which can lead to financial hardship, and trigger depression.

  6. Alcohol and Relationships

    Drug and alcohol abuse, or addiction, tends to tear relationships apart, be they family or friends. Maybe you tend to lash out or behave badly when you drink, or maybe your drinking indirectly affects your loved ones.
    When it comes to depression, having a strong support system is one of the key factors that can help overcome it. This, of course, cannot happen if one loses friends, gets a divorce, or ruins family relationships.

  7. Alcohol and Antidepressants

    There are numerous reasons why alcohol should not be mixed with medication, and this is especially true with antidepressants. The combination of the two is known to produce dangerous side-effects.
    Aside from this, however, is the fact that alcohol tends to make most antidepressants less effective. People who drink along with their antidepressant medication are likely to experience an increase in depressive symptoms.

Addiction and Dual-Diagnosis

Based on these direct and indirect ties between alcohol and depression, it is easier to understand why when people are treated for alcohol or drug addiction, they should also be treated for any comorbid psychological issues (also known as dual-diagnosis), such as depression, PTSD or anxiety.

When it comes to addiction or substance/alcohol abuse treatment for people with a dual-diagnosis, many professionals recommend a residential rehab centre that specialises in co-occurring psychological problems, such as Castle Craig, because of the complex situation. Because a residential rehab is more intense, the person can be treated for both their addiction to alcohol and depression at the same time.

Many people suffering from depression say they felt much better after just a few weeks of alcohol abstinence. They report having a much better mood, and also mention that their newfound sobriety improved their relationships, which served as positive reinforcement.

Addressing any addiction without treating the underlying cause, is only a short-term solution. Treating excessive drinking just by addressing the alcohol abuse and ignoring depression is unlikely to produce long-term sobriety. By focusing on treating both, you give yourself the best chance of a successful recovery.