Recognising the problem: Alcohol
People who suffer from alcohol addiction come from all sorts of backgrounds and walks of life. While we may all have the stereotypical image in our minds of someone who sits in a park at night with a cider or drinks cans of beer on public transport, people with alcohol addiction come from a broad social spectrum.
No matter whether you are on a low income or have a high flying career, alcohol addiction issues can be identified not from your background but from your behaviours. Visiting alcohol rehab centres for a stay is something that all sorts of people have been known to do, and there’s no shame in doing it.
Here are some major signs that you may be experiencing an alcohol addiction issue:
- You have feelings like guilt or shame around the amount you are drinking, and you regularly hide receipts, empty bottles or other evidence
- You claim to others that you drink much less than you actually do
- You feel like you would not be able to give up alcohol if you had to, and you believe that you can’t enjoy yourself without drinking
- You regularly experience negative consequences from drinking, such as sickness, tiredness or “blacking out”
- You find yourself drinking alcohol when there is a risk that being drunk could cause serious harm to you or others around you, such as when you are driving or operating equipment which requires serious focus and concentration
- You are rearranging your commitments to your family, friends or employer in order to accommodate your drinking, or you are finding that your drinking behaviours are interfering with your ability to carry out your daily tasks
- Your tolerance is gradually becoming stronger, and you are finding that you can drink more and more without becoming drunk
There are, of course, many more possible signs of alcohol addiction, and the above list is not exhaustive. By the same token, you may exhibit some of the above signs and not have an alcohol problem – although if you do have a number of these characteristics, it is advisable to speak to a doctor or the admissions team at one of your local alcohol rehab centres.
Recognising the problem: Drugs
Drug and alcohol addictions share a number of characteristics – and alcohol is, after all, itself a drug. But they are subtly different in a lot of ways, and this is due to everything from the legal status of supply and possession to the destructive effects stronger drugs can have.
If you are experiencing a drug addiction and need to visit drug rehab, you may be exhibiting certain signs which will help you identify your problem. And while these signs are not always the same for every person, they often act as hallmarks of an underlying set of issues.
- You suffer from significant financial problems due to frequently buying expensive drugs, and are unable to cover your important costs such as housing or bills as a result of spending money on drugs
- You have recently built a new friendship group, either in whole or in part, containing people who also take a lot of drugs
- You experience strong cravings for drugs when you are not taking them, and this gets in the way of your normal thought processes
- When high on drugs, you find yourself deciding to commit risky behaviours such as unsafe sex, high spending or committing crimes
- You find that you have taken so much of the drug that your tolerance is very high, and that over time you increasingly need to take the drug in larger and larger quantities in order to feel effects which were once felt from much less
- You find that when you are no longer taking drugs your behaviour, outlook and/or moods are different, and that you find it difficult to do things – such as working or creative tasks – which seem easy when you are taking drugs
If some of these symptoms apply to you, it’s possible that you have a drug addiction problem which needs to be addressed by a professional at a drug rehab facility.
5 important ways to support a loved one with addiction issues
If you yourself are not experiencing addiction issues, it doesn’t mean you won’t be touched by these problems during your lifetime. The other main way in which you could find yourself being affected by addiction problems is if a loved one develops issues and you find yourself looking out for them.
If you’re a parent, for example, you may find that one of your children – or later your grandchildren – develops a dependency. Your partner may find themselves struggling to control their addiction issues, or you may even find yourself needing to look after a sibling or a friend.
There is no magic formula which sets out how to behave if you find yourself looking after someone who suffers from alcohol problems. But there are some general tips you can follow which can both help you move towards a solution and also make your life easier.
1. Accepting it’s not your fault
If you’re in a position where you’re looking after someone with addiction problems, it’s easy to think that you’re not doing enough and causing the person to get worse. Some people may even start to blame themselves for the problems beginning in the first place.
It’s vital for both yourself and your loved one that you accept that you did not create the problem, and that you cannot make it go away. Once you have come to terms with this, you’ll be able to put aside any misplaced feelings of guilt and focus all of your energies on getting the help you and the person need, perhaps from one of your nearby alcohol rehab centres.
2. Get professional help with detoxing
As a caregiver it may be tempting to set in stone some house rules which prevent your loved one from accessing their drug. But with some addictions, going cold turkey is not always the most effective way to cause the change you’re looking for.
In fact, in some cases going cold turkey can make the person worse and expose them to health risks. Instead, you should focus your energies on getting the person some professional help, perhaps at a drug rehab facility. That way medics can take the decision about how best to wean the person off the substance using a range of facts, such as what the substance in question is and how severe the addiction is.
3. Come up with a plan of action
If defeating addiction was as simple as taking someone to the doctor, then the problem wouldn’t exist any more. But there are, sadly, all sorts of potential stumbling blocks in place between working out that addiction is present to being fully cured.
Potential pitfalls you will need to manage include the risk that the person you’re looking after will try to resist offers of help, or that you won’t be able to cover the cost of attending one of your town or city’s rehab centres. By working out a plan of action in advance, you’ll be able to prevent these issues before they arise. This could include an intervention, for example, or it may mean freeing up cash from somewhere else to pay for medical treatment.
4. Don’t give up
Professional help is not a silver bullet, and even once you’ve got a professional or two on side to help you it’s still not guaranteed that the issues will be overcome. It’s likely that there’ll be several stages ahead, including checking into rehab centres and integrating back into society afterwards.
Even when things are going well, you also need to prepare yourself for the possibility of one of the most saddening and frustrating milestones of all – a temporary relapse. The best way to do this is to celebrate small achievements with your loved one – such as a certain number of days sober – while also remembering that the ultimate goal is long-term.
5. Look after yourself
As a caregiver for a person with addiction issues, it’s likely that you’ll be experiencing a lot of stress and even pain. Whether it’s physical problems like lack of sleep due to worry or the issues you’re facing are more psychological in nature, it’s to be expected.
That’s why it’s important to make sure that you too are looked after. Make sure, for example, that you have someone who is removed from the situation to talk to, whether it’s a friend, family member or partner. You should also make sure you schedule in time to yourself so that you don’t become overwhelmed by the caring work you’re doing, and to allow yourself to focus on something else for a while.
The role of rehab centres
Alcohol rehab centres and drug rehab centres are often associated in the public mindset with American public figures or showbiz stars.
But did you know that there are lots of rehab clinics here in Britain? In fact, there’s probably one or more in your town or city – and they play a vital role in helping people who are suffering from addiction issues get back on their feet.
Each rehab facility varies in what it can offer you, but there are some common threads which bring them all together. When people check into rehab centres, it’s normal for them to undergo a medical assessment by a trained professional such as an in house GP.
This is normally so that they can have their precise alcohol intake worked out and a bespoke treatment plan drawn up which suits their needs. In some cases, this is also an opportunity for the new resident to be prescribed medication which will help them be weaned off the substance they are addicted to in a medically controlled manner.
Life inside alcohol rehab centres or similar drug facilities is not as bleak as it may seem to an outsider. As well as therapy sessions designed to help people understand their problems, the places are meant to be peaceful and offer an oasis of calm for those who are going through tumultuous stages in their lives. Plus, there are often amazing exercise, outdoor and relaxation activities planned, such as massages or walks.
Many modern facilities are also keen to make sure that the surroundings are comfortable, too. That means you can expect decently furnished places with all the modern conveniences, including on site laundry facilities.
In terms of entertainment, there’s lots going on at rehab facilities. One particularly nice aspect of alcohol rehab centres or drug rehab centres is that they are often specifically designed to bring people together. Some addictions can cause the patient to experience problems such as isolation, so being able to come together and have a laugh and a chat with other people is excellent for your outlook and wellbeing – especially if it’s been a long time since you last managed it.
What happens during a detox: your questions answered
Going through a detox is something that won’t be easy. When your body has become so used to receiving the substance on a regular basis, it will start to expect to get it – and when the substance is then not forthcoming, your body can react in difficult ways due to the sudden scarcity.
For those going through an addiction problem, detoxing is something that should be done only in a medically controlled environment where trained staff can monitor what’s happening and pick up on any problems as and when they occur. That way, you won’t find yourself inadvertently making the problem worse.
Here are some of the key questions people ask about detoxing if they or their loved one is about to embark on a detox journey.
What changes will happen to the body during a detox phase?
There are several distinctive bodily events that can happen during a detox period. While it’s not guaranteed that you or your loved one will experience a particular one, it’s likely that you’ll experience some of them.
It’s possible, first of all, that you’ll experience some significant psychological or mental health issues even when giving up in a managed way. It’s possible, for example, that you will feel depressed or anxious due to changes in your brain as it readjusts to not processing the substance you previously took.
A common physical side effect of detoxing is a headache. You may also start to experience problems related to your stomach such as being sick or feeling nauseous.
In order to manage these symptoms and ensure they do not become dangerous, detoxing should occur in a medically managed context.
Is giving up entirely, straight off, the right way to do it?
You might have heard the phrase “cold turkey” in association with addiction problems. Usually, going cold turkey means moving from a position where you take large quantities of the substance in question to suddenly stopping all intake of the substance whatsoever. In some circumstances, this can be a good thing to do – but in others, it can cause your body to make things even worse.
The risks of going cold turkey are simply another reason to speak to medical professionals before taking the plunge and giving up your substance use. In many cases, a managed reduction in your consumption is necessary for a healthy and sustainable addiction-free future.
What medications are prescribed to those detoxing?
Whether or not you or your loved one will be prescribed medication to assist with the detox process depends on a wide range of factors. A medical professional will make the decision, and it will be the right one for your personal circumstances.
For those who do get prescribed something, there are certain medications which are often used.
These include disulfiram, naltrexone and acamprosate, while certain anti-depressant medications are sometimes used too.
The most common form of treatment, however, is not medication at all. At alcohol rehab centres, you will usually experience lots of therapy to help you tackle the underlying causes of your addiction. In the long term, this may well prove to be the most effective tool in your arsenal for tackling the issue and making sure it remains defeated as you go back into your normal daily life.
The importance of good aftercare
One you or your loved one has gone through an alcohol or drug detox programme, it’s important to remember that they are going to need to keep up the good work for longer than just the few weeks for which they are a resident.
Alcohol rehab centres or drug rehab centres are very different environments to the outside world. While it is not sealed off from all aspects of a resident’s previous life, it is in the main free from the temptations that living back in the real world can have, such as access to dealers or proximity to pubs and supermarkets.
Rehab is also in some ways removed from the stressors that sometimes cause and fuel people’s addictions, such as work or relationship problems.
To reduce the risk that problems will come back to affect you or your loved one following a stay in alcohol rehab centres, it’s important to enrol in and commit to an aftercare system which keeps the treatment going for the long term.
Here are some facts and nuggets of information about aftercare programmes and how they can help those who are leaving rehab centres.
No two aftercare programmes are identical in every way, but there are lots of similarities between them. The ultimate aim of the aftercare programme is to prevent a relapse, and that means commitment is needed.
Aftercare programmes also keep the former resident connected to the centre and allows staff there to monitor their progress. In some cases you may still be able to see the medical professionals you previously worked with while you were a resident at alcohol rehab centres, although you should confirm this with your centre as it is not always the case.
In the event that a relapse happens while the aftercare programme is ongoing, it also means that the connection between the centre and the former resident is still in place and it’s much easier for the person to re-enter the facility full time.
Aftercare programmes can last for different lengths of time. In some cases, they can last up to one year and are accessible once you’ve completed a residential stay of a particular duration.
Committing to the aftercare programme for its entirety is essential. It’s not necessarily the case that the programme will be “frontloaded” (having all the relevant information at the start): in fact, it’s often the case that the long-lasting and positive effects of aftercare programmes fully kick in later once a few sessions have been experienced.
Some aftercare programmes contain a family workshop element, too. This is designed for the former resident and their family to come together to fully understand how best to prevent relapses in the future, and also to help families deal with any negative memories they may have of their family member’s addiction problem.
The philosophy of these kinds of workshops is that addiction – and other problems – are best tackled head on with an effective communication system in place. If that’s not there, it can sometimes prove very difficult for a suitable recovery environment to be created.
It’s not easy for families and loved ones to face up to traumas, and sometimes – understandably – all you want to do is bury your head in the sand. But by facing up to the truth and dealing with everyone’s feelings, it’s often possible for families to overcome even the worst of addiction traumas and come out stronger for it.
Not all aftercare programmes revolve around you living as an independent adult who checks in periodically for therapy or workshops. There are also lots of other formats available: you might, for example, be offered the opportunity to live in a halfway house where you can experience some care while also re-building your skills for living as an independent, addiction-free adult.
Some aftercare programmes may also offer, or require, drug or alcohol testing as a way of measuring relapses and ensuring they do not go untreated. If this is something you would like to explore, you should speak to your provider and ask if it is the right option for you.