Tag: hope

If you are asking this question, you are probably not alone. In fact, 18 million Americans struggle with misusing alcohol or with the symptoms of Alcohol Use Disorders (AUD). If you feel as though your relationship with alcohol is a problem or could become a problem, it is important to know that you are not alone. There are resources that can provide help and guide you through a recovery journey. Arming yourself with information is a good first step.

What is Alcohol Use Disorder (alcohol addiction)?

There are hereditary and environmental factors to addiction, but many times the cause is not known. The following are some of the symptoms that characterize AUD.

The individual:

  • drinks more or longer than they initially intended to
  • has tried to moderate or stop drinking in the past, but has been unable to
  • spends a lot of time drinking or recovering from the effects of drinking
  • experiences cravings, or strong desires to drink
  • drinks even though it interferes with home, family, work, or school responsibilities
  • drinks even though it causes trouble in their personal life
  • gives up activities or obligations that were once important, in order to drink
  • gets into situations while drinking that may be risky or cause harm
  • continues to drink even if it causes depression, anxiety, or other health problems
  • has to drink more to produce the desired effects
  • has withdrawal symptoms when not drinking

NOTE: According to the DSM-5 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, showing two-three of these symptoms in the last year may indicate a mild alcohol use disorder, while showing four-five symptoms indicates a moderate AUD. Displaying six or more symptoms signifies a severe alcohol use disorder.

Who is at risk for alcohol use disorders?

Drinking alcohol in moderation can be okay for some people. This means that while they may feel the effects of alcohol consumption, they do not feel compelled to keep drinking. Moderate drinking is classified as no more than one or two drinks per day for men and women.

Using alcohol when bored, stressed, lonely, depressed, or if there is a genetic predisposition to addiction (family members with AUD), can lead to further serious problems. If you or someone you care about is drinking to get through the day, it may be time to reach out for help.

How does alcohol affect physical health?

Like any substance consumed in excess, there will likely be side effects. Alcohol may also interact negatively with prescription medications and make it difficult to diagnose other health concerns.

When drinking to excess there can be problems with:

  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Reduced inhibitions or risky behaviors
  • Inability to focus, impaired memory
  • Affected vision, reflexes, and coordination

Long-term effects of active addiction:

  • Impaired learning and/or brain development
  • Increased depression and anxiety
  • Major organ damage; increased risk for heart disease
  • Cirrhosis (chronic liver disease)
  • Cancer

How does alcohol affect mental health?

Alcohol is a depressant. Therefore, it slows down your brain and alters its chemistry. There are many effects including changes to mood, energy levels, memory, concentration, and sleep patterns.

Alcohol may also impact decision making. While drinking, a person may “do things without thinking” or say or do things they would not do or say while sober such as pushing away or hurting the people who care most about them. It can give a person courage to engage in risky situations like unsafe sexual encounters, trouble with law enforcement or getting into fights. Alcohol can contribute to life falling apart, causing withdrawal from important relationships and social situations, and even self-harm. A combination of factors along with intoxication has led to many dying by suicide.

Where do I go for help with AUD?

Talk with your primary care practitioner. There are multiple treatment options ranging from hospitalization for detox if needed, to outpatient therapy with a counselor or group, to rehabilitation or participation in an intensive outpatient program (IOP). There is also residential treatment. There are even medications that can provide support for building a sober life.

Lastly, there are many recovery communities like AA, Smart Recovery, and Women for Sobriety that provide support and assistance in learning how to live a healthy, sober life.

sources: healthline.com, headspace.org, recoverycentersofamerica.com, cdc.org, apibhs.com

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This article originally appeared in Macaroni Kid on May 21, 2020, by Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS; Health Affiliates Maine

Question:  Phew. I am having a hard enough time getting through remote schooling with my kids these past months and now I am hearing concerns that kids may not be back in school this fall or, if they are, they will be wearing masks, distancing, and maybe even going only a few days a week. My kids want to be back to school in the fall. They are hearing the rumors too. They are asking questions. How do I address these with them–not knowing what the new school year will bring? I don’t want to say they will be back when they may not be. I also don’t want to have them fearing the worst all summer. What’s the best way to approach this uncertainty?

Answer: Although our children think we do, we do not have any control over what will happen in the future. We cannot make it all better or promise that life will return to normal. Uncertainty is hard for all of us. Take heart.  Although this is a very difficult experience, there are real-life lessons here for all of our kids, which will serve them well throughout adulthood. Remember the saying, “It is not the number of times you get knocked down that is important, it the number of times you get back up.”  Life is full of uncertainty and change. Helping your kids learn to accept this with grace (as much as that is possible in children) is so important.  

Here is what might help: 

Offer HOPE: Let your kids know that it is the job of the schools, communities and our government to figure out how to get the students back to school safely. Many people are working on it. It may look different, but a plan will be made. They will soon know what it will look like, and together you will all work on making it work.

Offer VALIDATION: We know that being with friends is a really important part of school. Acknowledge for them that you understand it is hard not to know, and that it is also hard for you. Encourage them to talk about their fears and worries. Talk about this together. This is a way to validate what they are feeling and that you are hearing them, you understand and are feeling it, too. This amazingly lightens the mood.

REFRAME: If you can, reframe the way they, and you, are thinking about this. They are experiencing something extraordinary right now. We are all learning more about science, technology, our interconnectedness and our own ability to be resilient. Because of this pandemic, they are going to be part of a generation that takes big leaps forward in their ability to problem-solve and adapt. As horrible as this virus has been, we have learned so much about ourselves. Encourage them to think about what they are missing and why is it important to them. It can offer a new appreciation.

REDIRECT: Encourage them to take another path in action and thinking. When the worries start to take over, have them focus just on today—what can make today a good day, like building a fairy house or making things from found objects, for example. Check out websites for these kinds of activities together. Foster their compassion. Focusing on the needs of others and getting out of our own heads is the best way to feel better (packing boxes at a food bank, walking the neighbor’s dog, saving the Earth by picking up litter or planting a tree, or reaching out to Facetime with a grandparent).

Try this “formula” I have given you (hope, validation, reframe, and redirect). Hopefully, you will soon have clearer answers to give. Try this on yourself, too. 

Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS is a professional counselor and the Outpatient Therapy Director at Health Affiliates Maine.

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