Often people use the term alcoholic when referring to someone who is struggling with compulsive alcohol use that is having negative consequences on their lives and relationships. Having an alcohol use disorder, whether it’s at the stage of problem drinking or full-blown alcoholism does not condemn one to a lifetime of dependence. Alcohol use disorder is a treatable chronic medical condition that can be managed quite well with lifestyle and behavioural changes.
Alcohol use disorder occurs along a continuum of severity with symptoms manifesting differently in different people. With problem drinking we see people at the early stages of an alcohol use disorder when it’s much easier to treat them. Usage causes long-term changes in the brain that make it difficult to control consumption, and the longer someone engages in behaviours, the more difficult it is to change.
Know the Signs
High-functioning alcoholism, or problem drinking can be hard to identify. Most people with an alcohol dependence report that their use began in their teenage years and there are certain behaviours that may indicate that someone has a problem with alcohol use. Certainly the most obvious once would be questioning your usage.
Behaviours associated with high-functioning alcoholism or problem drinking:
- Drinking large amounts of alcohol and not appearing intoxicated.
- Denial of a drinking problem because of a lack of serious consequences.
- Denial of problem because it’s not as bad as someone else’s.
- Denial of problem because you can control your usage for periods of time.
- Continuing to drink despite physical or mental health problems.
- Drinking more than you planned on.
- Attempting to control usage by switching types of alcohol or days of the week for consumption.
- Drinking as a reward for doing a good job, or to cope with stressful situations.
- Drinking despite people close to you expressing concern.
- Experiencing a strong urge or need to drink in specific situations.
- Feeling guilty about your consumption.
- Handling responsibilities well at home, school, and work in spite of your alcohol consumption.
If you or someone you love is exhibiting behaviours of problem drinking or high-functioning alcoholism, consider educating yourself about the chronic and progressive nature of alcohol dependence. If the thought of life without alcohol is disturbing it’s worth exploring your options.
Early Intervention: Why it Matters
Intervening early to identify the problem and receive treatment for an alcohol use disorder can save years of gradual diminishment. It can also stop the development of further alcohol-related consequences, like loss of relationships, work limitations, and physical or mental health challenges.
Substance use treatment for a mild alcohol use disorder can often be provided by an intensive outpatient program. This is preferential as waiting until the alcohol dependence has become severe requires a much higher level of care to treat. Much like hypertension, diabetes, coronary issues, or any other chronic condition, the longer one ignores the symptoms, the more damaging and difficult they are to address.
Alcohol dependence is treatable. Currently described as a neurobiological brain disorder, one of the primary characteristics of the illness is the continued use of alcohol despite negative consequences. The medical, psychological and social harm experienced by the dependent individual is extended to their family, friends and often impacts their work life. Treatment interventions for alcohol use disorder include behavioural therapy, education, peer support and occasionally medications.
How to Help a High-Functioning Alcoholic
It can be difficult to watch someone you care about struggle with alcohol dependence, especially when they deny it’s a problem. The denial of an issue is supported by their ability to function well in their daily lives and when the negative consequences typically associated with alcohol addiction aren’t present. But as a family member you’re aware of the subtle and pervasive nature of the dependency.
If you are living with a high-functioning alcoholic, you know that love and support do not cure alcoholism. Take a moment to review how long you’ve been providing love and support to the person and notice how your efforts have not resulted in improvement. Likely your efforts have caused you to suffer as well. Because alcohol dependence is a chronic condition, it will consistently get worse, sometimes slower, sometimes faster depending on the individual.
As a family member, it’s essential to understand the dynamics of the family system and the ways that some of your natural responses impede the problem drinker from seeing their situation with clarity. Sometimes subtly and sometimes profoundly, the entire family system is impacted by alcohol use disorder and requires support, education and healing to move forward together. With knowledge families become active participants in the change process and learn what they can do to encourage health and wellness for the entire family system.
“Families First” is a strategic approach to alcoholism recovery, one that has been researched and proven to significantly impact positive outcomes. Incremental adjustments and adaptations within the alcoholic family system lead to psychological and emotional dysfunction. The family organizes around the dependence, rather than their mutual values. These coping strategies play a part in keeping the cycle of alcoholism going. When the family integrates recovery principles into the system changes occur. It may feel counterproductive to implement your own behavioural changes, but anyone who lives with alcoholism knows how powerless they are to control another person’s behaviour. By attending Alanon meetings or a therapeutic family education program profound changes can be made.
Inpatient Rehab for Alcoholism
Alcohol addiction treatment is available in a variety of settings each unique to the individual and their needs. Inpatient, also known as residential alcohol rehab, is provided in a therapeutic setting where the individual resides in a facility for a period of time before transitioning to continuing care. Throughout the residential treatment the patient is invited to participate in activities designed specifically to treat alcoholism. From one-on-one counselling to group therapy, mindfulness, psycho-educational sessions, exercise and peer support groups, all best practices are used. Inpatient rehab is one of the most common ways to treat alcohol use disorder.
Aurora Recovery Centre is a full service addiction recovery centre that focuses on biological, physical, spiritual and psychological well-being, using evidence based modalities. We pride ourselves on creating sustainable recovery by using a recovery management system and tailoring treatment to each individual. All therapeutic groups, individual counselling sessions, and psycho-educational components are presented from a strengths based perspective that builds on the individuals existing assets.
Our evidence-based, continuum of care consists of three phases:
- 24/7 supervised medical detox
- Medical, addiction and mental health assessments
- Physical stabilization
- Counsellors become the single point of contact for you and your family and are the link to the interdisciplinary team. Our counsellors, family program director, nurse practitioners, doctors, psychiatrists, and support staff are committed to providing the best treatment available.
- You’ll experience a structured, therapeutic environment that facilitates accountability and connection so you can build a solid foundation on which to achieve sustained recovery.
- You’ll receive a personalized post-treatment recovery management plan, access to our Continuing Care program for life, and are encouraged to be part of our thriving recovery community.
- Recovery management may include onsite or offsite extended care, access to staff, referrals to sober living and transitional housing, resources for family, recovery coaching and more.
Peer Support Groups
Millions of people have achieved sustained recovery and enhanced their quality of life by attending peer support groups. Addiction recovery resources are comprehensive and varied. Explore and find the one that fits you. Evidence demonstrates that attendance at 90 consecutive meetings, over a period of 90 days, creates new neural pathways and a solid foundation for recovery.
One of the most important aspects of alcohol dependence recovery is support. Living with alcohol use disorder means being numb, and recovery is about connecting with your authentic self and other people. If you’ve spent years disconnected, your quality of life and recovery will be enhanced by receiving support. Whether you’re exploring AA meetings or looking at other avenues of recovery, these addiction podcasts offer a range of experiences, advice, and community to help guide you on your recovery journey.
The Bubble Hour invites listeners to share their stories of recovery from alcohol addiction. Each week, host Jean McCarthy holds space for a guest to tell their story, and together they explore topics relative to recovery.
Busy Living Sober a podcast with the mission of “giving people an opportunity to listen, learn and live a sober lifestyle without shame while having fun.”
The Addicted Mind is about understanding addiction, its impact and the latest treatment options available. This podcast aims to create an environment of compassion for individuals caught in the destructive grip of the addictive process. It works to deliver real hope to people who are suffering from addiction’s painful impact.
That Sober Guy Host Shane Ramer is in recovery from alcohol. He interviews a mix of celebrity guests and everyday people who have experienced addiction or felt the impact of drug or alcohol use. He focuses on living a positive, healthy and sober lifestyle, and uses his podcast as a platform for sharing inspiration with others who want to live the same way.
Let’s Talk Addiction and Recovery Hear what leading addiction and recovery experts are talking about—addiction trends, topics and challenges as well as research, practices and advances that point the most promising way forward. Provoking interview series, brought to you by Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation.
The Deadliest Drug of All
Unfortunately, alcohol kills more people than all the other drugs combined. But with expert help the cycle of addiction can be broken and there’s no need to wait until the situation becomes dire.
While the opioid epidemic has been front and center, people are quietly dying from the deadliest drug of all. Since alcohol is woven into the fabric of our society, is legal, and does not cause alcoholism, it’s not considered dangerous. Alcohol differs from illicit drugs in that it can slowly kill people through deterioration of the body and it’s the direct cause of 7 forms of cancer.
The truth is alcohol is the deadliest drug and the research and statistics prove it, in fact members of Narcotics Anonymous refer to alcohol as a drug. Alcohol is more socially acceptable than other drugs so it’s easier to gloss over problem usage. As in all things, health-related moderation is the key to wellness, however, once alcohol has become a problem, it can no longer be safely used. For this reason, all successful alcohol use disorder treatment is based on abstinence of alcohol and all mood-altering drugs.
Aurora Recovery Centre: Addictions Recovery offers a variety of treatment services to help treat alcohol use disorders. Providing a full range of care from detox to personalized addiction recovery plans to outpatient treatment to residential inpatient treatment and comprehensive continuing care recovery management. We can help you overcome your unhealthy relationship with alcohol as well as any co-occurring disorders such as depression and anxiety. With expert help, the cycle of addiction can be broken.