Life in Alcohol Addiction Recovery

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Getting sober is a choice, staying sober is a process. Drug and alcohol rehab programs give people the tools and the outlook needed to stay sober, one day at a time. Choosing to use these tools can mean the difference between long-term abstinence and relapsing. Ultimately, alcohol addiction recovery means creating a new lifestyle where alcohol has no place or purpose.

Maintaining Sobriety

Alcohol addiction counseling provides those in recovery with the support and guidance needed to develop healthy mindsets and ultimately settle into a sober lifestyle. As each person enters recovery with his or her own sets of circumstances, counseling works to uncover the underlying issues that drive addictive behaviors while providing much needed coping strategies for dealing with everyday life.

Tension, stress and the ups and downs of life have a way of making a person want to escape in one way or another. Alcohol addiction recovery teaches addicts how to escape or unwind in healthy productive ways. The challenge in maintaining sobriety has to do with the choices a person makes when it comes to dealing with life and all its nuances.

The ability to make the right choice every time that craving for alcohol surfaces depends on the places and people that make up your life. While not everything from the past needs to be left in the past, a successful addiction recovery requires a fundamental shift in lifestyle for sobriety to take root.

Necessary Changes

People first entering alcohol addiction treatment remain vulnerable to many of the same addiction-based thinking patterns that drove their substance use, including:

  • Experiencing strong alcohol cravings when under stress
  • Reacting to environmental cues that triggered substance abuse in the past
  • Wanting to spend time with old drinking buddies

Alcohol addiction treatment targets this mindset, helping addicts change old patterns and perspectives, and develop healthy coping strategies for better managing stress.

Intent and planning are the cornerstones of a successful lifestyle change. Alcohol addiction recovery means holding onto the desire to stay sober and making the types of plans that will make sobriety possible. One of the first things a person learns in alcohol addiction recovery is how the addiction cycle works. The desire to drink starts with certain thinking patterns that lead to certain behavior patterns.

All of these patterns contain the people, places, and things that go with the drinking lifestyle. While avoiding these high-risk situations isn’t always possible, being aware of how they affect you can go a long way towards stopping certain thinking and behavior patterns in their tracks.

The Importance of Honesty

Of all the behavior patterns that most typify alcohol addiction, lying plays a pivotal role in supporting the alcoholic’s lifestyle.

  • Lying to yourself about why it’s ok to take “this one drink.”
  • Hiding alcohol
  • Denying that you’ve had a drink
  • Denying that you have an addiction

Lying becomes a way of life for the alcoholic. Alcohol addiction recovery leaves no room for dishonesty, which chips away at a person’s self-image and self-esteem. Maintaining honesty in all areas of your life is what makes alcohol addiction recovery possible.

Initial Assessment

Upon entering alcohol and drug counseling treatment, a person undergoes an initial assessment to determine his or her treatment needs. Many drug and alcohol rehab programs use the Addiction Severity Index to assess new patients, which measures seven addiction-related components:

  • Family and/or social problems
  • Alcohol use practices
  • Drug use practices
  • Mental health problems
  • Health problems
  • Legal problems
  • Employment problems

Information gathered during this initial assessment will form the basis for individual addiction recovery plans. It is crucial to be honest in these interviews, to allow professionals to accurately determine your unique treatment needs.

Ongoing Abstinence

As maintaining ongoing abstinence remains a primary treatment goal, alcohol and drug counseling break this task down into steps or stages. Not surprisingly, the very first step in this process entails helping alcoholics acknowledge and recognize the substance abuse problem as well as the faulty thinking patterns that go with it.

Working through Underlying Issues

For many people struggling with addiction, underlying emotional conflicts drive them to alcohol as a means for escaping the emotional discomfort surrounding unresolved issues. Many people in recovery also struggle with feelings of shame and guilt over their behaviors towards others when drinking. These feelings can work against a person’s desire to maintain abstinence and may lead to relapse during difficult times.

Alcohol addiction treatment brings these issues out into the open, which can go a long way towards defusing addiction’s hold over motivations and belief systems. From there, counselors can help patients work through and past these issues, resolving old traumas, and learning new ways of interpreting and coping with past experiences.

Counseling can also help with any co-occurring mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression, which often go hand in hand with alcohol use disorder. Someone struggling with both addiction and mental health issues faces an even more difficult challenge in recovery as co-occurring or dual-diagnosis conditions tend to aggravate one another.

In cases of dual diagnosis, treatment providers should use an integrated approach that treats both conditions together, as opposed to treating them as separate disorders.

Types of Counseling

Alcohol addiction counseling can be administered individually as well as in a group setting. Individual counseling addresses the personal issues that drive addiction, while group counseling helps a person learn from the experiences of like-minded individuals facing similar challenges, and from giving and receiving support from peers.

In effect, alcohol and drug counseling groups become support systems in and of themselves, with members offering insight and guidance to one another.

Behavioral Therapy

Combined biological, psychological, spiritual, and social influences create the backdrop of the person and who they were before and after becoming addicted to alcohol. While still drinking, alcoholics typically find themselves unable to choose the positive over the negative or make the best decisions, even when their health, relationships, and happiness are at stake.

The negative patterns that develop during an active addiction will linger even in sobriety without the right treatment.  Behavioral therapies are crucial components of drug and alcohol rehab programs because they help people strengthen their capacity for making informed, positive, and healthy lifestyle choices, and maintain self-control over drug-seeking behaviors.

Behavioral therapies are guided by skilled and knowledgeable practitioners who know a lot about the traits of addiction and what is needed to enact change, to maintain significant and long-term abstinence, and to prevent relapse.  The scope of these therapies may involve:

  • addressing a patient’s motivation to change
  • introducing motivation to quit drug use
  • developing the ability to resist drug use and ignore triggers
  • strengthening skill-building tactics
  • promoting healthy relationships
  • finding new hobbies and activities to do instead of drug use

Different Behavioral Approaches

Every person has a unique set of circumstances and conditions that require personalized attention.  In combination with counseling and other services to meet individual needs, behavioral therapies can produce the most positive outcomes in both addiction and mental health treatment programs.  Effectively, they provide the education, practice, and skill sets the addict will need to change their lives and maintain motivation throughout recovery.

Behavioral therapy is often done on an individual basis but can be incorporated into group and family therapy sessions as well.

Types of Behavioral Therapies

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one of the most frequently used types of behavioral therapy.  CBT is designed to help the person identify and change negative thoughts, behaviors, and emotions that can interact in ways that make one vulnerable to substance abuse.  It is considered a rapid form of therapy that covers a broad range of issues in a few short weeks, but, ultimately, provides long-term recovery benefits.

Other forms of behavioral therapy that work well in addiction treatment programs are motivational enhancement therapies and contingency management.  Providing rewards or incentives for progressive recovery efforts such as a negative drug test or accomplishment of an assigned task has proven helpful in retaining patients in treatment and promoting a higher degree of engagement.

Dealing with Addiction’s Components

The alcohol addiction recovery process meets two essential treatment requirements: eliminating the physical dependency component and treating the psychological dependency component. Detoxification treatment helps a person stop drinking, thereby eliminating the body’s physical dependency on alcohol. As withdrawal effects can persist long after a person stops drinking, some people may require ongoing medication therapy to help reduce drug cravings and keep withdrawal symptoms at bay.

Throughout the withdrawal process and beyond, alcohol addiction recovery programs address addiction’s psychological component through psychotherapy, group therapy, and support group work. These options enable recovering alcoholics to work through past traumas, develop new ways of coping with everyday life, and confront whatever issues may be driving their addictive behaviors.


Someone suffering from alcohol addiction has entered into a destructive lifestyle where his or her priorities, thoughts and behaviors now center around getting and drinking alcohol. Even once sobriety is achieved, and that destructive lifestyle has changed to a healthier approach to living thanks to addiction treatment, ongoing aftercare treatment provides the needed supports for maintaining that new, healthy, alcohol-free lifestyle.

At a bare minimum, aftercare treatment should consist of ongoing participation in some kind of peer support group. Most, if not all, alcohol addiction recovery programs include 12-Step support groups as part of their treatment approach, which makes it easy for participants to transition into community-based groups. In addition to regular attendance at a support group, ongoing psychotherapy treatment or behavioral counseling is of enormous benefit in recovery. Before leaving a drug and alcohol rehab program, speak to your treatment providers to determine what kind of counseling options may be available to you in the future.


While the physical challenges involved with overcoming addiction can be daunting, the psychological aftereffects of addiction can quickly drive a person back to drinking when needed aftercare supports are lacking. Alcohol addiction counseling provides the type of guidance and support needed to maintain abstinence for the long-term. When the program providing that guidance and support is over, people in recovery need to find ways to stay in touch with those lessons and to maintain a sense of community and support so that they can continue making healthy life choices.

Creating a New Way of Living

Someone who’s made the most of life after alcohol addiction recovery has a considerable advantage over most other people, whether they’re alcoholics or not. The principles and tools acquired through alcohol addiction recovery enable a person to live a life of inner peace and satisfaction with who they are. Few people –addicts and non-addicts alike – ever reach this point in their lives.

While change, in and of itself, is difficult, the opportunity to create a new way of life can be equally rewarding. Alcohol addiction recovery is as much about healing the person as it is about healing the disease of addiction.