January 26, 2024
By: Emily DeWalt, Prevention Specialist
Habits are tough to break. Habits involving a chemical dependency can add an extra challenge, which makes substance use recovery hard to achieve. Despite the difficulty, a large number of people diagnosed with alcohol use disorder want to overcome their addiction in order to live a healthier and more fulfilling life. Recovery may not be easy, but luckily there are many treatment options and support systems available to meet each person’s unique needs. The road to recovery will look different for everyone- some will find sobriety sooner than others, and that’s ok. For those in it for the long haul, it’s important to remember that a momentary slip, lapse or even full relapse does not mean the journey is over. There’s no such thing as a “last chance” when recovering from an alcohol use disorder.
Before creating a recovery plan, it’s important to speak with a primary care provider about your options and their recommended level of care. There are 4 main types of levels of care: inpatient treatment, partial hospitalization programs (PHP), intensive outpatient (IOP) and outpatient treatment. Your provider will make a recommendation based on a number of factors, including overall health status, pattern of drinking, and medication needed to detox.
In an inpatient treatment setting, a patient will have 24-hour access to medical staff that can adjust medications and observe withdrawal symptoms. This is typically recommended for individuals with a severe alcohol use disorder. PHP treatment provides a similar experience, with the only difference being that the patient will return to a sober living home or the community to sleep. These patients will typically have 5-6 hours of highly structured programming 5 days a week.
IOP treatment is the next step in recovery and typically runs 3 hours a day for 3 days a week. Recovery topics will now put greater emphasis on life in the community, such as with managing medication and maintaining healthy relationships. IOP treatment usually runs for 12-16 weeks. Lastly, outpatient treatment is a good option for those farther along in their path to recovery. Patients often begin outpatient therapy services once they have gone through all of the other more acute forms of treatment.
Moving on to an outpatient treatment is a great achievement. Recovering from an addiction to alcohol takes a lot of strength and courage in order to push through the pain and discomfort of withdrawal. In an ideal situation, the person going through recovery will have a strong social circle to encourage and support them on their journey. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. This creates an extra challenge for those in recovery that don’t have anyone to check in or help keep them accountable.
An individual working towards sobriety can sometimes experience a slip. A slip is a single instance of drinking after a period of abstinence, a one-time situation. If drinking continues, this is considered a lapse, where drinking has occurred in several instances but not to the extent that issues associated with their alcohol use disorder come back up. If drinking continues from here and causes previous life problems to return, this is called a relapse.
A relapse can occur even with solid support from friends and family. But as previously stated, this is not a reason to give up on sobriety. Research suggests that more than 30% of people that try to stop drinking relapse in their first year of sobriety. Further studies indicate that 21.4% relapse in their second year, 9.6% in years three through five, and only 7.2% by five years of recovery. These statistics suggest that most people working towards sobriety relapse at some point along the way. In other words, it is incredibly common to go through this during recovery. Luckily, because it is so common, there are many resources available to help those that are trying to stay sober.
It is important to note that a very small percentage of people that have reached five years of sobriety will relapse. There are many community programs that can help keep people in recovery from drinking and potentially relapsing. One of the most widespread organizations that help people maintain sobriety is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Meetings at AA encourage attendees to introduce themselves and why they have decided to be there. AA is also known for a recovery program called The Twelve Steps, which involves the person with the addiction surrendering to a higher power while following the twelve steps. This is the mostly widely used treatment tool to help people reach sobriety.
The farther along you are in recovery, the more resilient you become to the pressures of addiction. The journey gets easier the farther along you are, but taking that first step is not easy. If your life seems out of control because of drinking alcohol, it might be time to reach out for help. If you’re not sure where to start, help is available at the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357.
Thanks for reading! We hope you visit again so you can check out next week’s blog. 😊
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