Road to Recovery

Alcohol Addiction Treatment and Self-Help - How to Stop Drinking and Start Recovery.

Overcoming an addiction to alcohol can be a long and bumpy road. At times, it may even feel impossible. But it’s not. If you’re ready to stop drinking and willing to get the support you need, you can recover from alcoholism and alcohol abuse—no matter how bad the addiction or how powerless you feel. You don’t have to wait until you hit rock bottom; you can make a change at any time. Read to get started on the road to recovery today.


Alcohol treatment and recovery step 1: Commit to stop drinking

Most people with alcohol problems do not decide to make a big change out of the blue or transform their drinking habits overnight. Recovery is usually a more gradual process. In the early stages of change, denial is a huge obstacle. Even after admitting you have a drinking problem, you may make excuses and drag your feet. It’s important to acknowledge your ambivalence about stopping drinking. If you’re not sure if you’re ready to change or you’re struggling with the decision, it can help to think about the costs and benefits of each choice.

Evaluating the costs and benefits of drinking

Make a table like the one below, weighing the costs and benefits of drinking to the costs and benefits of quitting.
Is Drinking Worth the Cost?
Benefits of Drinking:

Benefits of Not Drinking:

It helps me forget about my problems.
I have fun when I drink.
It’s my way of relaxing and unwinding after a stressful day. 


My Relationships would probably improve.
I’d feel better mentally and physically.
I’d have more time and energy for the people and activities I care about.
Costs of Drinking:
Costs of Not Drinking:

It has caused problems in my relationships.
I feel depressed, anxious, and ashamed of myself.
It gets in the way of my job performance and family responsibilities.


I’d have to find another way to deal with problems.
I’d lose my drinking buddies.
I would have to face the responsibilities I’ve been ignoring.


Alcohol treatment and recovery step 2: Set goals and prepare for change

Once you’ve made the decision to change, the next step is establishing clear drinking goals. The more specific, realistic, and clear your goals, the better.
Do you want to stop drinking altogether or just cut back?
If your goal is to reduce your drinking, decide which days you will drink alcohol and how many drinks you will allow yourself per day. Try to commit to at least two days each week when you won’t drink at all.

When do you want to stop drinking or start drinking less?
Tomorrow? In a week? Next month? Within six months? If you’re trying to stop drinking, set a specific quit date

Example #1; My drinking goal

- I will stop drinking alcohol.
- My quit date is___________.

Example #2; My drinking goal

- I will stop drinking on weekdays, starting as of __________.
- I will limit my Saturday and Sunday drinking to no more than 3 drinks per day or 5 drinks per weekend.
- After 3 months, I will cut back my weekend drinking even more to a maximum of 2 drinks per day and 3 drinks per weekend.

After you’ve set your goals to either stop or cut back your drinking, write down some ideas on how you can help yourself accomplish these goals. For example:

Can I cut back on my drinking or do I need to stop drinking completely?

Whether or not you can successfully cut back on your drinking depends on the severity of your drinking problem.
If you’re an alcoholic—which, by definition, means you aren’t able to control your drinking—it’s best to try to stop drinking entirely. But if you’re not ready to take that step, or if you don’t have an alcohol abuse problem but want to cut back for personal or health reasons, the following tips adapted from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism can help:

Alcohol treatment and recovery step 3: Get sober safely

Some people can stop drinking on their own, while others need medical supervision in order to withdraw from alcohol safely and comfortably. Which option is best for you depends on how much you’ve been drinking, how long you’ve had a problem, and other health issues you may have.

Withdrawing from alcohol

When you drink heavily and frequently, your body becomes physically dependent on alcohol and goes through withdrawal if you suddenly stop drinking. The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal range from mild to severe, and include:

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms usually start within hours after you stop drinking, peak in a day or two, and improve within five days. But in some alcoholics, withdrawal is not just unpleasant—it can be life threatening.

Call 911 or go to the emergency room if you experience any of the following withdrawal symptoms:

The symptoms listed above may be a sign of a severe form of alcohol withdrawal called delirium tremens, or DTs. This rare, emergency condition causes dangerous changes in the way your brain regulates your circulation and breathing, so it’s important to get to the hospital right away.
Do I need to go to detox?

If you’re a long-term, heavy drinker, you may need medically supervised detoxification. Detox can be done on an outpatient basis or in a hospital or alcohol treatment facility, where you may be prescribed medication to prevent medical complications and relieve withdrawal symptoms. Talk to your doctor or an addiction specialist to learn more.

Alcohol treatment and recovery step 4: Find new meaning in life

While getting sober is an important first step, it is only the beginning of alcohol recovery. Rehab or professional treatment can get you started on the road to recovery, but to stay alcohol-free for the long term, you’ll need to build a new, meaningful life where drinking no longer has a place.

5 steps to a sober lifestyle

Alcohol treatment and recovery step 5: Plan for triggers and cravings

Cravings for alcohol can be intense, particularly in the first six months after you quit drinking. Good alcohol treatment prepares you for these challenges, helping you develop new coping skills to deal with stressful situations, alcohol cravings, and social pressure to drink.

Avoiding drinking triggers

Managing alcohol cravings

When you’re struggling with alcohol cravings, try these strategies:

The 3 basic steps of urge surfing:

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

Alcohol treatment and recovery step 6: Get support

Whether you choose to go to rehab, rely on self-help programs, get therapy, or take a self-directed treatment approach, support is essential. Don’t try to go it alone. Recovering from alcohol addiction is much easier when you have people you can lean on for encouragement, comfort, and guidance. Support can come from family members, friends, counselors, other recovering alcoholics, your healthcare providers, and people from your faith community.

Alcohol treatment and recovery step 7: Getting started on treatment

As well as joining a recovery support group, you may also decide to see a mental health professional and take advantage of the latest addiction therapies and programs. As you consider the different options available, keep the following in mind:

Expect setbacks

Alcohol recovery is a process—one that often involves setbacks. Don’t give up if you relapse or slip. A drinking relapse doesn’t mean you’re a failure or that you’ll never be able to reach your goal. Each drinking relapse is an opportunity to learn and recommit to sobriety, so you’ll be less likely to relapse in the future.

What to do if you slip:

The Road to Recovery for Eating Disorders*

Think about the road to recovery as a dirt road that hasn't had any traffic in quite some time. Unlike a paved highway, it is not smooth or straight. There can be many turns and unexpected obstacles in the way. It is important -- not only for the client, but also for their families -- to understand that eating disorder recovery will not be over in a few weeks. It can be a difficult road and is one that can take a long time. Knowing this can help everyone involved have realistic expectations of the situation.

What does "recovery" really mean?

Unfortunately, there is no universally accepted definition of full recovery in eating disorders. Most professionals agree that simply no longer meeting full criteria for an eating disorder is not enough to be considered full recovery. For example, a person who has been struggling with anorexia nervosa may reach a normal weight but still be struggling with an intense fear of weight gain or still be having body-image distortions. While this person may no longer qualify for a diagnosis of anorexia nervosa, they are continuing to struggle with symptoms of an eating disorder.

Complicating this even more is the idea within society that it is normal to be concerned about weight, food, and appearance. Is full recovery not being concerned about these things at all? Unlike substance abuse recovery, where abstinence may be the goal, we all have to eat. Perhaps one way of thinking about recovery is not meeting criteria for an eating disorder, and struggling with these ubiquitous food and body image issues in a way that is within the norm of the general population.

Is full recovery possible?

Although there are professionals who may believe that full recovery from an eating disorder is not possible, research supports the idea that people can fully recover from an eating disorder. These differences are typically linked to a professional's theoretical orientation, his/her own experiences, and training.

Many people who use the 12-step model to treat eating disorders think of eating disorders through the model of addiction. Similar to concepts used for alcoholism or drug addictions, people struggling with eating disorders may be considered recovering or in recovery but never recovered. This may be a limitation in extending the addiction model of recovery to eating disorders.

One research study performed at the University of Missouri and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2010 was able to show that full recovery is possible. They defined full recovery as no longer meeting criteria for an eating disorder, in addition to an absence of binge eating, compensatory behaviors (such as purging), and restrictive eating. They also defined full recovery as no longer struggling with aspects of eating disorders, such as a fear of weight gain or body image issues.

What does the course of recovery look like?

In the beginning stages of recovery, a person may deny that they have a problem, and even if they acknowledge the problem they may deny that the eating disorder is serious. Once a person begins to acknowledge that they have a problem, they may then begin to be able to distinguish what thoughts and behaviors are related to the eating disorder and what thought processes reflect their healthy self. A person can then begin fully engaging in recovery -- beginning to decrease eating disorder behaviors while building coping skills and ultimately building a healthier self. As recovery progresses, a person may have many of the symptoms under control but may still struggle with eating disordered thoughts or a desire to return to eating disorder behaviors. Full recovery occurs after this point when both symptoms and thought patterns associated with the eating disorder are gone.

How long does recovery take?

Full recovery can take many years to achieve, but the amount of time a person is in treatment varies widely based on the severity of their eating disorder, how long they have had an eating disorder, and their level of commitment to treatment. Early identification can help shorten the amount of time it takes to achieve a full recovery.

Does everyone recover?

Unfortunately, not all people struggling with eating disorders will recover fully. Some people will ultimately die from their eating disorder. Others will reach a partial recovery, and still others will struggle with their eating disorder and associated relapses for many years.
By Susan Cowden, MS, Guide