If you have been dependent on alcohol for a long time, you may be wondering how long alcohol addiction is going to continue having a negative impact on your life. Maybe you have tried to get help before but were unsuccessful, or perhaps you have been struggling alone in the hope that your illness will get better by itself? It will not. Alcohol addiction is an illness that gets worse without treatment. The good news is that treatment is available and even if you were unsuccessful in the past, there is no reason you cannot overcome your illness this time around.
There is no way of knowing for sure how long alcohol addiction will hold you in its grip, but one thing is certain – unless you get help, you will have almost no chance of getting your life back on track or obtaining permanent sobriety.
How Did You End Up an Alcoholic?
There is no doubt that there was a time when alcohol did not play such a significant role in your life. However, how long alcohol addiction has been negatively affecting you and those around you is something you need to think about.
If you are only coming to the realisation now that you need help, you will have to take a good look at your drinking habits over the past while trying to determine when they changed. Most people’s alcohol addictions begin with experimentation.
Perhaps you started drinking out of curiosity because you wanted to see what all the fuss was about. It may have been the case that alcohol became a part of your social life, just as it is for most adults in the UK. But there is a significant difference between social drinking and problem drinking. So, when and how did this happen?
Despite alcohol being commonly used in modern society, it is still a drug and one that can cause a lot of harm. What must be remembered is that abuse of alcohol can often lead to addiction. The problem is that most individuals do not even understand what is classed as alcohol abuse.
The UK government has guidelines in place for the safe consumption of alcohol. These guidelines state that adults should consume no more than fourteen units of alcohol per week with a number of days kept alcohol-free. The guidelines also recommend that the fourteen units be spread over the week and not all consumed on the one day.
Those who drink outside these guidelines are considered to be abusing alcohol. Nevertheless, it is important to bear in mind that not everyone who abuses alcohol will end up with a problem. There are many people who occasionally drink more than they should but who can still exert a measure of control over their consumption.
For others, things are a little bit different. Countless individuals begin habitually using alcohol and, without even realising, they will be increasing the amount they drink on a regular basis. For example, some might automatically reach for a bottle of wine when they are cooking dinner. Whereas they used to have a glass that they would drink while cooking and eating the dinner, they have now progressed to drinking a whole bottle during this process. And what’s more, they have not even noticed the change.
When you develop a tolerance for alcohol, your body adapts to it. The brain releases fewer of the dopamine chemicals that are responsible for pleasure and, as such, the effects you get from the alcohol are reduced. When this happens, you might be tempted to increase the amount of alcohol that you consume to achieve the pleasurable feelings you desire.
If this pattern continues, you may find that an addiction has developed without you ever realising. Your body now craves alcohol whenever the effects wear off, and this cycle will continue until you do something about it.
Why Treatment for Alcohol Addiction is Necessary
You could continue as you are and hope for the best, but the reality is that alcohol addiction is an illness that will not pass on its own. To turn things around, you will need to seek professional help.
Think about how your life has been in recent times. There is no doubting that your alcohol use has been having a negative impact. That is the definition of addiction; a pattern of behaviour that has a negative impact on the life of the affected individual. If your alcohol consumption is interfering with daily life, then it is time to do something about it.
Your health is probably one area where you might have noticed the most significant harm. Abuse of alcohol is linked to hundreds of health problems. These range from treatable illnesses to long-term problems that may become permanent. Below are a few examples:
- High blood pressure
- Type II diabetes
- Liver disease
- Heart disease
- Liver cancer
- Breast cancer
- Head and neck cancer
- Throat cancer
- Mouth cancer
- Bowel cancer
You may also find that your abuse of alcohol has started to have a negative impact on your relationships with family members and friends. Without even realising, alcohol may have become the most important thing in your life. Unfortunately, when this happens, everything else takes a backseat and this includes those you love. Inevitably, this is going to put a strain on even the healthiest of relationships.
Family members often struggle to understand addiction in a loved one. The stigma that surrounds addiction often leads people to assume that addicts have a choice. The opinion that addiction is a lifestyle choice rather than an illness is one that is common across the UK, and you may have already had people telling you to ‘just stop drinking’.
You will know that this is no easy feat; if it was, there would not be any alcoholics in the world. Even if you want to stop, you have probably found yourself unable to do this. This is because alcohol abuse has affected your brain. Parts of it may even have been damaged, which is affecting your ability to think clearly or make good decisions. It is this that causes you to continue to abuse alcohol even when you know that doing so is going to have a negative impact on your life or the lives of those you love.
It is difficult to maintain relationships with loved ones once alcohol addiction has manifested. Your behaviour will have undoubtedly changed and the individuals in your life may find this difficult to deal with. Some will do all they can to try to help or ‘fix’ you, while others might be hurt or angry with you and blame you for the way the family unit has imploded. Some will blame themselves, which can lead them to experience feelings of guilt and shame.
It is necessary to seek treatment to address the above issues. With the right programme of care and support, many of the problems caused by addiction can be reversed.
What is Treatment for Alcohol Addiction Like?
How long alcohol addiction has been a factor in your life will affect the type of treatment you require. If you have been abusing alcohol for a long time, it is very likely that you are physically addicted and if this is so, you will almost certainly require a detox to break the cycle of abuse.
Detox begins when you quit alcohol, but you should be aware that to do this suddenly can be dangerous. It is advisable to detox in a supervised facility as there is a risk that you will experience severe withdrawals, particularly if you have been drinking heavily for many years or if you have any underlying physical or mental health issues.
Detox programme usually last for between seven and ten days. You are likely to experience a number of withdrawal symptoms, but in the comfort and safety of a dedicated detox facility, the worst of these can often be prevented with medication and supplements if appropriate for you and your situation.
When your detox is finished, your mind and body will be clear enough for you to begin the next stage of the process – rehab. Rehab programmes aim to take up where detox left off. They work on the emotional or psychological issues of the illness.
During rehab, you will learn the cause of your illness and will be taught how to avoid a return to it in the future. This is done through various counselling and therapy sessions in a one-to-one or group setting. The goal of rehab is the same regardless of where you get treatment, but you will have the choice of recovering in a residential or day care clinic.
The choice of treatment provider is yours but will usually depend on your requirements and personal situation. If your addiction is severe, you might want to consider a residential programme provided by a private clinic where you can access treatment immediately and where you will be able to recover without worrying about distractions from the outside world.
On the flip side, you might be more comfortable with an outpatient programme, particularly if you do not want to be away from your family for any length of time or if you are genuinely worried about losing your job if you are away for too long.
To find the right treatment programme, you can call us here at Middlegate. We work closely with various providers of detox and rehab throughout the UK. We will assess your situation to determine what type of programme would suit you best and if you are ready to move on to treatment, we can provide a free referral. Please call us today to speak to a friendly advisor about what to do next to get started on your journey to sobriety.