Alcohol abuse and alcohol use disorder can cause severe psychological and physical health complications that can impact your quality of life. And recovery is an ongoing process that requires strong determination, time, and patience. Even though an alcohol treatment program is strongly recommended to recover from alcoholism, it’s only one of many steps towards sobriety. To maintain sobriety, one should keep investing sufficient time and effort even after leaving rehab.
Your decision to address and seek treatment for alcohol use disorder is commendable, as this condition not only affects you but also those around you. While recovery from alcohol dependence isn’t an easy journey, it’s certainly a worthwhile one.
How Do I Stop Drinking Alcohol?
The first stage of recovery entails the detoxification process. Depending on the severity of your addiction and living condition, your doctor may advise you to attend an addiction treatment program that best suits your needs.
Detox should never be carried out on your own. Even if your dependence is mild to moderate, you’re still advised to detox at home under the supervision of a loved one, as symptoms of alcohol withdrawals are highly unpredictable in nature and can worsen at any given moment.
To avoid triggers and temptations at home during or after your detox process, make sure to clean out your living space of all alcoholic drinks. If you live in an environment that encourages alcohol consumption, this may no longer be a healthy option for you. Sharing your living space may mean that your home may have drinks around. For someone who is just beginning their road to recovery, this is a difficult environment to be in.
In addition to getting rid of alcohol from your surroundings, you can also replace it with some other beverage to fill in the void left by alcohol. Lemonades, hot chocolate, or even sparkling water with chopped fruits and herbs can be a great replacement drink. It’s also advisable to change your routine if you are used to heavy drinking or binge drinking alone or with friends at a particular time or day of the week. Taking part in sober activities during your usual drinking hours can help reduce your cravings for alcohol.
How to Avoid an Alcohol Relapse
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) defines alcohol use disorder as a chronic relapsing brain disease. And as a result, the chances of experiencing a relapse remain very high. By the simplest definition, a relapse is when a person returns to using alcohol after a period of abstinence. Many people in recovery face a consistent risk of a relapse. Hence it’s a common and accepted part of a recovery journey.
Staying sober is easier said than done. In fact, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) states that around 90 percent of heavy drinkers face at least one episode of relapse within four years of leaving rehabilitation. However, it’s important to remember that relapse isn’t a sign of weakness or failure. It’s merely a learning curve in your recovery journey.
At Futures Recovery Healthcare, we understand the complexity of addiction and relapse. We understand that a relapse is simply a part of recovery. And as such, we provide treatment programs that adapt to the ever-changing needs of each and every individual in our care.
Stages of Relapse
Relapses don’t happen without warning. They generally take place in the gradual progression of emotional, mental, and physical stages. Being vigilant of these stages and signs can help keep relapse at bay.
The first two stages represent a progression towards a complete relapse. The third stage is the final act of an alcohol relapse.
Signs of an emotional relapse can include:
- Not expressing emotions
- Isolating from people
- Not attending 12-step or other support groups
- Attending support groups, but not getting involved or sharing
- Not taking care of physical needs, such as eating and sleeping properly
- Focusing on other people’s needs and issues rather than your own
Signs of a mental relapse can include:
- Experiencing alcohol cravings
- Dwelling on the people, places, and things associated with drinking
- Idealizing past use
- Minimizing the consequences they’ve experienced from their use
- Bargaining and lying
- Seeking ways to relapse, such as finding activities surrounding drinking
- Making plans to relapse
The physical and final stage of relapse is the actual return to using alcohol. If you wish to prevent a relapse, it’s best to address emotional and mental relapse signs before it progresses further.
Relapses can make your alcohol recovery journey a long and frustrating one. So staying vigilant and taking precautions can significantly reduce your risk of a relapse.
Understand and Manage Triggers
Relapse triggers are defined as circumstances, conditions, or even people that tempt or encourage you back to your previous drinking habits. These triggers can be very subtle or personal that generally get ignored. However, understanding and managing them during the early stage can be beneficial to your mental health and physical health.
During an alcohol addiction treatment at an alcohol treatment facility, patients are helped with identifying their triggers and the reasons for their heavy drinking habits. They also provide you with tools and skills to help manage those triggers to avoid a relapse. These relapse prevention skills come into great use once you leave the safety of rehab care. However, as life and circumstances keep shifting, we are more likely to experience new triggers and temptations. So it’s important that we use the lessons we learned and seek help when necessary.
There is a common misconception that relapse prevention skills should only be used when someone has a desire to use alcohol. But in reality, it’s a skill that must be implemented in the day-to-day life of all recovering patients.
Some of the most common drinking triggers include:
- Stressful situations
- Emotional highs and lows
- Financial difficulties
- Relationship issues
- Certain sights and smells
- Certain people or places
- Falling into old habits
- Peer pressure
Some people with alcohol addiction may suffer from post alcohol withdrawal symptoms months or even years after they stop drinking. These symptoms of withdrawal can be a trigger for relapse if they are not managed properly. Talk to your healthcare providers for support and guidance if you find yourself unable to manage these triggers.
As a person trying to overcome alcohol use disorder, it’s important to make a few changes in your life and surroundings to help you stay focused on your sobriety goals. Some of such changes include getting rid of toxic friends, rearranging your surroundings to encourage healthy living, and learning more healthy life skills to improve your quality of life.
Making simple changes in your life such as the food you consume, taking time for self-care, and exercising can not only create positive health benefits but can also prevent the risk of a relapse. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), making changes in your home, health, purpose, and community can help you maintain long-term sobriety.
Here are some of the changes you can make in your life to help promote sobriety.
- Taking care of your physical health, mental health, and emotional wellbeing.
- Having a safe and stable place to live.
- Taking part in meaningful daily activities and having the independence, income, and resources to participate in society.
- Having relationships and support systems in place that provide support, friendship, love, and hope.
An idle mind is the devil’s workshop – this couldn’t be more true for people in recovery as the more you stay idle, the more likely you’re to consider having a drink to pass the time. So it’s vital that you keep your mind and body occupied in a productive manner to ward off any thoughts and cravings for alcohol.
But there is a fine line between keeping busy and creating stress by participating in endless activities. Overburdening yourself with projects or activities can create stressful triggers, which can increase the risk of a relapse. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), increased stress leads to an increased risk of substance abuse.
So give yourself time to breathe, relax, and enjoy what you’re doing.
Make Time for Self-Care
Overcoming an alcohol use disorder can be stressful. Excessive drinking over a long period of time causes serious physical and psychological distress. It’s a time of serious neglect of one’s health and wellbeing. Since your body is used to functioning with the effects of alcohol before, getting rid of it for good can surely take a toll on your mind and body temporarily. This is why good self-care practices are necessary to ensure your physical and mental health are finally taken care of.
While making the decision to stop drinking alcohol can greatly benefit your physical and psychological health. Practicing self-care promotes self-awareness and wellbeing that can help you on your journey to recovery.
Simple self-care practices that can help your body and mind get back into shape includes:
- Staying hydrated
- Maintaining a healthy diet
- Working out regularly
- Getting a quality sleep
Many people tend to engage in heavy drinking or binge drinking to cope with boredom or loneliness. If this is the case with you, try to figure out or rediscover a hobby to keep your mind occupied and distracted from alcohol cravings. You can also try out something new like painting models, volunteering, or even participating in DIY home projects. This will not just distract you from drinking but will also keep your mind and body engaged and refreshed.
Keeping a journal is also another wonderful way to keep boredom away, as well as to pen down your thoughts, feelings, and anxiety while you work through alcohol recovery. It can also help you explore the situations that tempt you into drinking so that you are better prepared to deal with them in the future.
Stay Involved in Therapy and Support Groups
No matter how hard you try, overcoming an alcohol use disorder on your own can be difficult. Addiction is a lifelong battle that requires constant care and support. Going at it alone can significantly increase your risk of a relapse by reviving your unhealthy relationship with alcohol.
Surrounding yourself with friends and family who support your recovery journey can be helpful. It can motivate you to remain sober and give you the love and support you need to overcome alcohol dependence and lead a more productive and healthy lifestyle. Battling addiction can sometimes make you feel alone and misunderstood. Even when you’re surrounded by well-meaning support of friends and family so attending support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and SMART Recovery can help a recovering addict meet like-minded individuals who know what you’re going through. These kinds of support groups can provide you a sense of community and companionship that may be lacking in your other relationships. According to the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), participating in mutual self-help groups can significantly increase the effectiveness of addiction treatment programs.
While addiction to alcohol must initially be addressed through inpatient or outpatient care, aftercare programs are just as important to maintain recovery. Aftercare is an integral component of alcohol treatment programs that comes after outpatient treatment. It’s the collective strategy to support an individual during their early stage of recovery and help decrease the chances of a relapse. These programs provide family therapy, individual and group counseling, and access to many support groups.
The Kindling Effects of Alcohol Withdrawal
The kindling effect occurs after multiple failed efforts have been made to detox from sedative-hypnotic drugs, such as alcohol. When it comes to alcoholism, kindling effects are the main cause of relapses, as repeated withdrawals are significantly severe.
The kindling effect can be difficult to manage without professional medical help. This is one of the reasons why alcohol detoxification cannot be attempted alone. Alcohol detoxification is ideally carried out under the supervision of healthcare providers to mitigate the risks involved by this process. People who achieved sobriety and relapsed multiple times are the most at risk of the kindling effect.
Due to the dangers and risks associated with the kindling effect, receiving comprehensive aftercare services for maintaining sobriety from alcohol is crucial for the patient’s safety, health, and wellbeing. However, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), from the 15.1 million people in the U.S who suffer from AUD, only around 6.7 percent underwent alcohol addiction treatment in 2014.
Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome
Alcohol withdrawal syndrome (AWS) is caused by the chemical imbalance produced during detoxification. The physical and psychological distress experienced during this period is the main cause of most relapses. Acute alcohol withdrawal symptoms can occur within 12 to 24 hours after the last drink, and those physical symptoms and psychological symptoms may include:
- Intense cravings
- Poor sleep
- Excessive perspiration
- Muscle aches
During the kindling effect, the brain and body become highly sensitive to alcohol and the withdrawal symptoms it creates during detoxification. Every relapse and subsequent detox from alcohol becomes more intense and painful. The kindling effect causes a patient to experience more severe withdrawal symptoms after each relapse. Subsequently increasing the risk of seizures and a potentially dangerous condition called delirium tremens.
The kindling effect can be difficult to assess and treat by anyone who isn’t well versed or experienced. It can only be managed by careful and around-the-clock supervision by addiction specialists.
What Causes the Kindling Effects?
Kindling is simply the oversensitivity to withdrawal, which is caused by neurological hyperactivity in the brain. Withdrawing from alcohol is one of the major challenges faced by patients. And according to recent studies, the severity of withdrawals is based more upon kindling effects rather than the severity of alcohol use disorder.
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), repeated exposure to the withdrawal process causes neurobehavioral excitability and neurological synapses in the brain that react more dramatically to the stimulus of going into withdrawal repeatedly. This excessively intense response is believed to be a result of brain damage caused during withdrawals.
Kindling is closely associated with cases of withdrawal that induce seizures. Seizures are more common in cases of withdrawal where there have been several prior attempts at detox. According to the U.S National Library of Medicine, the biological basis of the kindling effect remains unknown, but alterations in neurotransmission figures remain prominent in most hypotheses.
What other substances Cause Kindling Effect?
Sudden and rapid changes in neurochemistry can cause the development of kindling effects. Sedatives such as benzodiazepines are most likely to produce this phenomenon. Certain mental health disorders can also show signs of the kindling effect. Mental health disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder can generate episodes that can be severe and longer than the previous episodes.
Treatment for Kindling Effects
There is no known cure for the kindling effect, just as there is no cure for addiction or mental health disorders. But what is possible is the effective management of withdrawal symptoms through a medically assisted detox program and a comprehensive treatment program to help minimize the risk of a relapse.
Even if withdrawal symptoms seem mild, it is better to handle alcohol withdrawal with the help of more robust recovery mechanisms to prevent the kindling effect. Inpatient treatment is best suited for patients who have a history of relapses due to this reason. If you wish to overcome alcohol use disorder, seek assistance from your healthcare practitioner or contact an addiction specialist.
At Futures Recovery Healthcare, we provide a comprehensive treatment program that involves medically assisted detox care in conjunction with evidence-based treatment programs and aftercare services to ensure our patients experience a full and prolonged recovery.
The main goal of treatment for the kindling effect is focused on keeping the patient safe. Certain measures can be taken to make patients as comfortable as possible during the process. Therapies can be used to help patients manage symptoms such as anxiety and distress that come with painful alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Medications can also be used to treat anxiety, depression and prevent seizures. For many people suffering from kindling withdrawal symptoms, treatment can take several weeks.
Continued therapy is crucial during the kindling effect. Patients who suffer from this phenomenon have more severe and prominent symptoms throughout withdrawal. Thus, they require special treatments to shield them from the detrimental effects of kindling. Other services for people struggling with the kindling effect during withdrawal include:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Support groups
- Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
Cognitive-behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy are particularly effective in AUD treatment. Aftercare programs that involve support groups are often a vital part of a recovery program. These programs help patients maintain their sobriety by avoiding relapses. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), prescription anticonvulsant drugs, such as carbamazepine, can be utilized to suppress seizures in alcohol withdrawal treatment.
The Best Way to Stop Drinking Alcohol
The best way to avoid the kindling effects of alcohol is through relapse prevention. Addiction treatment facilities provide patients with tools and skills to avoid relapses, but that alone will not be enough. Patients who leave the care of an inpatient or outpatient treatment facility must receive aftercare services to help them through their recovery journey. These services are vital in maintaining sobriety.
A journey to recovery isn’t an easy one. There will be many obstacles to overcome and many battles to face. But it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. At Future Recovery Healthcare, we’re committed to helping you through this journey. So start your journey with us today.