Alcohol is sneaky. It enters people’s lives with a smile, a social beer after work, a glass of wine at dinner, a lark of a weekend evening. It becomes a regular part of life, maybe a little bit at a time – a drink before dinner, a beer after work, a nightcap to help sleep. It offers relief from stress, promises a good time, provides a time out from weighty responsibilities.
Slowly, so very slowly, the negatives appear – maybe some inappropriate behavior, a DWI, an accident, hangovers. The price increases with missed days at work, or conflict with loved ones. There is far greater pain yet to come: job loss, relationships ending, and adverse impact on health itself. Alcohol reaches its tentacles into every part of life: family, friends, work and even people’s sense of self-worth.
For most people the day comes when the question: “Can you stop drinking if you choose to?” occurs. The answer to this question is the first step to regaining control of life. For those who answer “no” there are many options for starting on a new path, but none are easy. All require commitment and a fierce determination.
By the time people identify drinking as a problem, alcohol has made itself a partner in their lives. Without it, there is a physical withdrawal that can be life threatening. Symptoms may occur from two hours to four days after stopping alcohol. They may include headaches, nausea, tremors, anxiety, hallucinations, and seizures. Medical supervision is vital for a safe withdrawal.
Removing the physical dependence is the critical first step, but preventing relapse requires changes in behavior. Alcohol abuse is a complex problem and no single treatment has been found to be universally effective. However, a combination of cognitive behavior therapy and mutual support programs offer a high degree of success. Cognitive behavior therapy is based on the simple notion that behaviors are caused and controlled by interior thoughts. Helping people to understand the situations which trigger drinking and to develop strategies to avoid or cope with them without the use of alcohol. It views alcohol abuse as a learned behavior which can be “unlearned” and replaced with more functional behaviors. Research shows that peer support from programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous, increase the chances of success.