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Proven Strategies To Cope With Chronic Alcoholism

Lisa Taylor
Lisa TaylorAddiction Counsellor

What do you think of when you hear or read the term 'chronic alcoholism'? If you are like most people, you imagine a person who has been suffering from alcoholism for a long time, perhaps as long as five or 10 years. That line of thinking is correct to a degree. However, alcoholism is chronic by its very definition. It is a medical and psychological condition that is directly related to dependence on alcohol; it is a condition that will continue in perpetuity unless proper treatment is received.

What specifically causes alcoholism is still unknown. What we do know is that the brains of alcoholics respond to alcohol in a very different way. That brain response only serves to further solidify the tolerance and dependence that creates the alcoholic condition. In order to stop it, the alcoholic must be treated with physical detox and psychotherapeutic rehabilitation.

How you respond to a diagnosis of alcoholism depends on your position. If you are the alcoholic, you must make a decision about whether or not you are going to undergo treatment. A positive decision can mean an end to alcoholism and a future life free from addiction. A negative decision will only create a much larger problem that will get worse over time.

If you are the family member or friend of an alcoholic, the best you can do is learn and implement some strategies that will help you cope with your loved one's chronic alcoholism. The reality is that you cannot save your loved one. You cannot do anything to bring an end to what he or she is going through. Only the individual alcoholic can choose to get treatment; only the alcoholic can choose to abstain from future drinking.

Proven Strategies for the Alcoholic

A person suffering from chronic alcoholism does not need to cope. Rather, he or she needs to get well. Doing so starts with admitting that a drinking problem exists. Only when the individual is willing to come face-to-face with alcoholism will treatment be effective.

Admitting one has a problem is the first and most difficult step to getting well. But once that step is taken, there are very specific strategies that can be pursued toward the goal of permanent recovery. Those strategies are:

  • Detox – It is impossible to beat alcoholism without first going through detox. Detox is a necessary part of helping both the body and mind recover by no longer allowing additional alcohol to enter the system. It is not easy, but with medical supervision and the help of certain prescription drugs, the alcoholic can successfully complete detox within 7 to 10 days.
  • Counselling – The alcoholic who has successfully completed detox should then move on to counselling. It can be provided one-on-one, in a group setting, or through a combination of both. The purpose of counselling is to help the recovering alcoholic understand the causes of addictive behaviour along with strategies to avoid such behaviours in the future.
  • Diet and Exercise – Alcoholism takes a physical toll on the body. Therefore, another effective strategy for overcoming the condition is one of undertaking a diet and exercise programme. A programme based on nutritional science and targeted exercise teaches the recovering alcoholic how to live a healthy lifestyle.
  • Group Support – Finding mutual assistance in a group support setting is very helpful to overcoming alcoholism. Group support is generally offered after detox is completed. It can be continued long after formal rehab ends by joining a local support group.
  • Life Skills – Alcoholics typically lack the life skills necessary to control drinking behaviours. Therefore, overcoming the condition requires an individual learn those skills. They can be learned as part of a residential rehab programme or separately with the assistance of a trained counsellor.

Proven Strategies for Loved Ones

Chronic alcoholism often affects family members as seriously as it affects the individual drinker. As the family member or friend of an alcoholic, the first thing we want you to know is that you do not have to allow alcoholism to destroy your life. Nor should you. You deserve the opportunity to pursue a life of happiness as much as your circumstances allow; you cannot do that if you allow the behaviour of your alcoholic loved one to dictate the course of your life.

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Once you make the decision to not allow alcoholism to harm you, there are some proven strategies you can adopt:

  • Set Boundaries – Alcoholics need boundaries if they are to live their lives without harming you. As just one example, you may decide you will no longer spend time with your loved one while he or she is under the influence. Set that boundary and be firm about it. It will protect you while also providing some motivation for your loved one to start working things out.
  • Get Counselling – Living with an alcoholic is not an easy thing to do. You may benefit from one-on-one counselling or group counselling for you and other family members. Counsellors can help you see a bigger picture; they can help you create and implement certain life circumstances that will protect you from any additional harm.
  • Don't Enable – Family members who enable the alcoholic only make a bad situation worse. They harm their loved one by encouraging him or her to continue drinking; they harm themselves by creating circumstances that will only overwhelm them with guilt and sorrow. One of the best things you can do while living with an alcoholic is to identify enabling behaviour and stop doing it.

Our last proven strategy for the family members and friends of alcoholics involves contacting us. We invite you to do so in order to allow us to walk you through all of the treatment options available in your area. You cannot force your loved one to get help, but having treatment information at hand is important nonetheless.

There may come a point at which your loved one decides he or she has had enough. Your loved one may decide it is time to get treatment once and for all. This is a good thing. The problem is, alcoholics are notorious for being fickle. Your loved one could agree to get treatment tonight only to have changed his or her mind come morning. You may have only a small window of opportunity to get the ball rolling.

By contacting us and talking about treatment options, you can decide what is most appropriate for your loved one. You can then investigate the rehab centre or treatment programme you have chosen for the purposes of making preliminary arrangements. You will then be ready at a moment’s notice should your loved one decide to seek treatment. If that decision were to be made tomorrow night, it would only take one phone call to get the person into treatment.

Chronic alcoholism is not something we would wish on anyone. And while we do not necessarily know what causes it, we do know how alcoholism can be successfully treated. Our primary task as an independent referral organisation is to help alcoholics and their families identify drinking problems and match them with appropriate treatment programmes. We work with private rehab clinics, counsellors, charities, and other organisations throughout the UK.

If you or a loved one is suffering from chronic alcoholism, now is the time to make a decision to do something about it. We are standing by to help you as best we can. Please note that all of our services are free and confidential.

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