Recovery versus Abstinence | Alcoholism Clinic

September 7th, 2010

Alcoholism Clinic Treatment – Abstinence From Alcohol and Recovery

Recovery from alcoholism involves a lot more than abstinence. An alcoholic who wishes to remain abstinent from alcohol can make important changes in their lives that will help them to remain sober more easily, and also have a better quality of life. Simply stopping drinking is attainable, but without significant changes to the alcoholic person’s mindset and actions a painful and miserable existence follows.

Eventually despite all the immense willpower and strength of character a person can muster, the pain of sobriety becomes untenable and drinking starts again. You see, the problem with an alcoholic is eventually not the alcohol; this is just symptom of the problem. The true issues lie within the alcoholic, and it is these issues that need challenging and healing through continuous ‘work’ by the alcoholic, first in an alcoholism clinic and afterwards through a programme of recovery. Alcoholism is a disease. It is a progressive, incurable and ultimately fatal illness which ruins the lives of the sufferers and their families and friends, unless arrested. And unless a significant shift happens in the alcoholic’s way of life, thinking and means of engaging with the world it’s only a matter of time until they pick up the alcohol and start drinking again!

Alcoholics are sick people. They are trapped in a cycle of self abuse which is very hard to stop.
The most successful treatments involve abstinence from alcohol as well as healing through counselling at an alcoholism centre and a daily programme of recovery such as the 12 Steps. Abstinence plus change Abstinence (not drinking) alone is a pretty lonely existence. Important changes need to be made in the life and attitude of an alcoholic to help them not only refrain from drinking but to truly enjoy life. Often the alcohol detoxification is the easiest part of the treatment process. Once through the Detox the real work on discovering what’s gone wrong and what the alcoholic can do to take responsibility for their recovery is the most important and difficult part.

Through a daily programme such as the programme worked by members of Alcoholics Anonymous, sufferers can live a life that allows them to reach their full potential. A dry-drunk is an alcoholic that is merely abstinent from drinking. They still display the unfavourable personality traits and characteristics, simply without being under the influence of alcohol.

Denial – why abstinence is not enough

Alcohol addiction, and any addiction for that matter, carries many misconceptions. These misconceptions can keep an alcoholic buried in their life of self-abuse indefinitely. Clients entering an alcoholism clinic will often find themselves challenged on these delusions about themselves and beliefs about the world, also known as denial.

Denial is something that keeps alcoholics in an ill state of mind and is likely to lead them down the road of drinking again. Some examples of misconceptions and outright lies people tell themselves and others include:

  • I’m not an alcoholic, yes I have drunk a little too much from time to time but I can stop whenever I want to.
  • Once I leave an alcoholism centre, I’ll be dried out, so I’ll be fine, I don’t need a recovery programme to follow.
  • It’s just when I drink scotch that my drinking is a problem. If I drink beer, I don’t get out of hand at all. I just need to stay away from scotch.
  • I’m here for a break. I’m not like the rest of the people here, they are real alcoholics. My drinking just got a bit much so I’m not really an alcoholic, I am just in this clinic to get over a bout of depression and I’ll be fine to drink in moderation.
  • There is no magic cure for alcoholism. If there was, the first thing most alcoholics would do would be to go and get drunk, as they would be able to pick themselves up the next day and carry on with normal life without drinking.
  • Unfortunately, the disease of alcoholism is always present, and can effectively be treated with a 12 Step Programme.

A 12 Step programme of recovery

Healing inner problems and discomfort takes time and effort. Learning to cope with the everyday aches and pains of life takes practice. A support structure and programme to assist a sober alcoholic with remaining sober is vital to their recovery and continued abstinence. When an alcoholic works the 12 Step programme, it can arrest and manage their disease indefinitely.

Previously traumatic situations that are a high risk for relapse are far easier for an alcoholic to deal with when they have a support structure offered by 12 Step fellowships and coping mechanisms offered through working the 12 Step programme. A common saying in Alcoholics Anonymous is “abstinence plus change,” as this attitude towards recovery is what the AA programme is all about. An alcoholism centre can offer an alcoholic the secure foundation they need to remain abstinent and make changes to their life. An alcoholism centre offers an excellent support structure and also introduces alcoholics to the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous; another support structure which can become their lifeline once they reach the end of their treatment and go home.

The support and the programme of recovery that is learnt in an alcoholism centre and used by AA are one good example or what differentiates abstinence and continued low mood and poor behaviour from abstinence plus change.

Contact We Do Recover for independent, expert advice on alcoholism centres in South Africa, the UK and Thailand, some of which offer a 12 Step programme to allow alcoholics to live a life of continued sobriety and recovery from their alcoholism.

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