The Role of Therapy in Recovery from Alcohol Addiction

Admitting we have an alcohol problem

The problem with any addiction and in particular with alcohol is that no one wants to admit that they have alcohol addiction.  When challenged by family or friends that their drinking is becoming excessive and that their behaviour is becoming erratic with rapid mood swings, they will find every excuse under the sun to justify it. Group therapy helps us understand the importance of help and support from others.

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The impact of age on alcoholism

One of the biggest issues that can be faced by those who love someone with an alcohol problem is their age. 20 years ago, the average age of anyone seeking help for alcoholism, by being admitted to a residential alcohol rehab or detox clinic, was between 50 and 60 years old.  Now the average age is more likely to be someone in their 20s to 30s. The way people drink has changed. Due to the increased cost of alcohol, more people are choosing to drink at home or before they go out.  Any measure poured out at home is likely to be at least a double so the quantity in each drink has increased from when we were buying drinks in the pub. 

Covid also had an impact on the increase in daily alcohol consumption as it removed for everyone that drinking restraint of going to a place of work. No one could see if we decided to have an alcoholic drink during the day. Various sequences of events have therefore shortened the time that people take to develop an addiction: if they have a pre-disposition for a dependency they will often now need to seek help sooner in order to make changes to their addictive thinking and behaviour.

Alcoholics are secretive

A common trait with an alcohol problem or alcoholism is the secretive side of our behaviour. We also will lie in our attempts to cover up the amount that we are consuming on a daily basis and become secretive with hiding bottles. Everyone’s downward progression has a different time line but the phases that we go through will be similar.

Alcoholism is a medically recognised illness

Alcohol addiction is a medical condition and this is confirmed by the fact that should you ever have to be admitted to hospital due to your alcoholism then you will be given an ICD-10 coding and for alcoholism it is F10.2. This is a recognised  medical classification by the World Health Organisation.  Alcohol addiction is one of the very few serious medical conditions that you can get well from and most importantly – apart from medication used for the initial 7 – 10 day medicated detox from alcohol – there is no ongoing medication that needs to be prescribed for our continued wellbeing.

A medical detox is not enough to get you well. Addiction therapy is needed

However, it is not enough to just be admitted to an alcohol rehab or addiction clinic for a medicated detox. If we just have an alcohol detox, it is almost inevitable that we will relapse within a matter of days or weeks. In order to get fully well we need to gain an understanding of how to change our thinking and behaviour and to start on the road of Recovery. 

At The Haynes Clinic, the least amount of time that we will admit anyone is for 14 days. People may choose this option due to financial constraints or because the individual needs to get time off work but we will not admit anyone for just a short alcohol detox as they will be wasting their money. During the 2 week admission period, the individual will also get counselling and begin to learn about the 12 Step Programme and what they will need to do in order to secure their recovery.

The key to treatment is not an alcohol detox but addiction counselling and a structured daily therapy programme.  Interestingly, the majority of therapists in any addiction clinic or alcohol  rehab in the UK are themselves in Recovery from addiction so there is no point saying “you don’t understand where I have been,” when they do, as they have probably been to a similar place with their addiction and they have also sat in group themselves.

Alcohol Rehab will help us begin to engage with others again

The progression of alcohol addiction will lead us to hiding the amount we are drinking as our body becomes more tolerant to alcohol and we need to drink more.  This also leads to us secretly drinking, isolating and communicating less with others as we become more withdrawn.  So to actually go in to residential alcohol treatment and start to communicate with others that do understand us is like a weight being lifted off our shoulders.  To have therapy with someone who has been in a similar life situation as ourselves offers instant hope that it is possible to get well and it is that realisation that can make all the difference.

We need to change our attitudes and behaviour

Anyone coming into residential alcohol rehab treatment will need to change their addictive thinking and behaviour in order to maintain a new way of thinking or they will relapse back into their addictive thinking and start drinking alcohol again.  Unless they are willing to change and have an open mind, they will find it very hard to accept direction, from therapists, on how to make changes.  The type of therapy used with alcohol addiction is known as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy which helps teach people to find connections between their thoughts, feelings and actions and increases awareness of how these things impact Recovery.  Very simply, for example, if we leave treatment and revert to doing the same things we used to do then we will get the same old results. It is about change and actually there is  a part of us which will grieve the loss of something that we find hard to give up, namely alcohol, whatever level it has taken us to.

The importance of group therapy and taking direction

Group therapy helps us understand the importance of help and support from others, not just on a 1/1 basis but to be able to openly share and build our trust with people who are also trying to get well with the support of those with an alcohol addiction.  For example an analogy for group therapy would be, if we have to move a very heavy table then we might ask someone else to help us but to move it easily then it is far more likely that we will usually ask several people for  help. 

It is the support and help that will keep us on the right path and it is the sharing, within a therapeutic group setting, in treatment, that has enabled us to start the process of asking for and taking direction from others.