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The Lessons to Learn in Your Recovery From Alcoholism

Lisa Taylor
Lisa TaylorAddiction Counsellor

We are very fortunate to have the opportunity to be instrumental in helping people with drinking problems overcome them. Our primary mission is to be a contact point between those with drinking problems and the various service providers offering treatment. But from time to time we also hear back from those whom we have had the privilege of helping. They have taught us a lot about recovery from alcoholism and what it means to truly get well.

If you are a person in recovery yourself, we are confident you are learning important life lessons every day. The thing about alcohol recovery is that it brings the alcoholic face-to-face with the realities of life. They may enter a treatment programme asking whether or not they can truly overcome alcoholism; they come out the other end with an understanding that they have had the power to control their lives all along.

Can alcoholics recover? Absolutely. That includes you. Along the way, you will learn some very important things you never knew about yourself. You might also learn some important things about the condition we call alcoholism. Here are ten examples of important lessons you might learn during your recovery from alcoholism.

1. Recovery Is a Personal Decision

Alcoholism is a physical and psychological condition that almost always requires professional treatment to overcome. What makes it different from something like a broken leg, for example, is that recovery from alcoholism is not something that can be forced on a person. You can forcibly set a broken leg and immobilise it until it completely heals. You cannot force an alcoholic to overcome a drinking problem.

It has been said that the only true cure for alcoholism is abstinence. We do not disagree. And because abstinence is the only cure, recovery is a personal decision inasmuch as only the recovering alcoholic can decide to stop drinking – and then follow through that decision.

2. You Have Control over Your Future

During the counselling portion of alcohol recovery, clients are challenged to take ownership of their past behaviours. Once they learn to do that, they are further challenged to take ownership of the future. As someone in recovery from alcoholism, your future is entirely in your hands. What you decide to do with the second chance you have been granted is entirely up to you. We sincerely hope that you will choose an alcohol-free life; not only for yourself but also for your family and everyone else you interact with.

3. Relapse Is but One Drink Away

Recovering alcoholics who complete a residential treatment programme are usually referred to aftercare services in order to prevent relapse. Statistics show that relapse often occurs within one year of a treatment programme, so helping those in recovery get past the one-year mark is of vital importance. At the core of aftercare is a simple fact we urge you to never forget: relapse is but one drink away. It only takes one slip to start you on that slope that will carry you back into alcohol dependence. Stay away from alcohol at all costs.

4. Alcoholism Creates Long-Lasting Damage

The most painful lesson of alcohol recovery is often coming to realise how much long-lasting damage alcoholism can cause. For example, you may have lost your spouse and children as a result of your drinking. You may never regain those relationships. And if you do, you are likely to face a long and arduous road to restore and repair them.

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Alcoholism also creates long-lasting physical and psychological damage. You may be suffering liver disease after so many years of excessive drinking. You might also be dealing with depression too. Treatments are available to address the damage, but completely undoing it is probably not possible.

5. There Is Life Apart from Alcohol

Private rehab clinics have a tendency to engage residents in group activities that take place away from treatment facilities. The point here is to expose clients to life apart from alcohol. When successful, the group activities help recovering alcoholics learn that they do not need to drink to be happy. They expose recovering alcoholics to a whole new life they never knew they could enjoy. We hope you have learned this lesson as part of your recovery from alcoholism. It is an important lesson for preventing relapse.

6. Prescription Drugs Are Not the Answer

There are a number of prescription medications that can be used during both the detox and rehabilitation processes. But prescription drugs are not the answer to alcoholism in and of themselves. Their only purpose is to take the edge off withdrawal symptoms and/or reduce cravings while the recovering alcoholic is getting well.

The most important lesson here and one you have hopefully learned already is that long-term prescription drug use is nothing more than substituting one addiction for another. For true recovery to take place, the former alcoholic must eventually stop taking prescription medications as well. This takes longer for some than it does for others, but all must eventually get there for complete recovery.

7. Becoming an Alcoholic Is Far Too Easy

It is interesting to observe the discussions that take place during alcohol support group meetings. A common thread of these discussions is often the topic of how easy it is to become an alcoholic. Unfortunately, cultural attitudes and easy access to alcohol makes it far too easy for people to drink more than they should. Those who will eventually become alcoholics begin their journeys as casual drinkers who do not realise the potential of careless drinking. Their easy access to alcohol only drives them along the road to alcoholism.

8. Family Members and Friends Really Do Care

Perhaps the most important lesson a person can learn while in recovery from alcoholism is that family members and friends really do care. It's not easy to grasp how much they care when one is fully engulfed in alcoholism, but that does not change the reality. Family members and friends genuinely want to see their loved one break free from alcohol and go on to live a productive and happy life without drinking.

It is often the care and concern of these people that provides the motivation to recover. Perhaps you have experienced it yourself. If not, it may just be a matter of not yet recognising that others care about you. Rest assured they do. Even if they do not know how to show it, your family members and friends are deeply concerned about your welfare.

9. Alcoholism Does Not Have to Be Forever

Despite the fact that alcoholism is considered a medical and psychological condition, it is not one you must live with forever. You can permanently overcome alcoholism to the point that you never, ever drink again. That is permanent recovery. It is a recovery that is entirely possible with the right kinds of treatment and support.

10. You Can Help Others

Lastly, it is very common for recovering alcoholics to stay involved with support groups and charitable opportunities long after their recovery is complete. They do so with the understanding that they have valuable experience they can put to use to help others. You can do the same. Even if your recovery from alcoholism is complete, you can provide vital support and help to others who are now going through the same things you went through.

These ten lessons learned through the process of alcohol recovery are relatively common. You may have learned some or all of them yourself. We hope you have. As you continue your journey, we wish you much success in your endeavour to remain alcohol-free. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you find yourself in trouble and once again in need of help.

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