Are you or a family member are struggling with an alcohol addiction? If so, know that there is help. Many cities large and small – both in Florida and nationwide – have alcohol rehab treatment facilities that can treat the disease of alcoholism. The key is to find the right one for you or your loved one. It’s helpful to know how to navigate through the resources that are available so that you or your loved one arrives at the desired outcome of sobriety, with the skills and social network to support it for a lifetime. This alcohol rehab treatment guide aims to get you from where you are now to a much better place for you and your loved one.
Alcoholism is a Disease
It’s important to understand that someone in the throes of an alcohol addiction cannot simply stop on their own. In fact, with the serious physical withdrawal symptoms that can occur, it’s not even advisable to do so.
Alcoholism is a disease. Prolonged, heavy drinking affects the brain in such a way that it drives the person to drink in order to feel good – or even functional. When the person isn’t drinking, they feel physically sick and miserable.
The typical definition of a disease is “a disorder of structure of function that produces specific signs or symptoms…not simply a direct result of physical injury.” (Oxford) Unfortunately, significant structural changes to the brain can causes long-term alcoholics to not be able to function normally any longer. Not only can they not get through daily life without alcohol, they need more and more of it to function as they build up a tolerance.
How Do You Treat Alcoholism?
The decision to get sober often comes in one singular moment. Getting treatment for alcohol addiction, however, happens in stages.
Starting with active addiction, there are three “pre-stages” that those addicted to alcohol typically move through before they get into alcohol rehab treatment: active addiction, a defining (life-altering) moment, and the investigation stage.
Active Alcohol Addiction
It’s very hard to help an alcoholic in active addiction. First of all, friends and family members may not even be aware that the person is drinking. Why? Because the affected individual goes to great lengths to hide his or her drinking from others. In fact, without some self-realization and determination on the part of the addict, it’s nearly impossible to get them committed to getting help. You may force the issue, but they may not stick with the treatment you have so carefully chosen.
In active addition, alcohol is the lifeblood that keeps alcoholics going. It is the answer to everything. They are obsessed with ensuring there is an adequate supply available to them at all times and plan their lives around it. They can put tremendous effect into keeping up the appearance that they don’t have a problem. Alcoholics may even describe this as a “mask” they wear, even with those closest to them. Since they are trying to deceive everyone, including themselves, they often end up feeling isolated and alone.
In the throes of active addiction, alcoholics can share some similar characteristics and experiences. They may:
- Center their life around drinking; finding it difficult to get through the day without a drink
- Be obsessed with drinking when not doing it
- Experience issues in all aspects of life, from trouble on the job to money woes (as the money is going to alcohol), and more
- Find themselves deceiving others – lying, and sneaking around to cover up their drinking – even stealing to feed an ever-growing addiction, as tolerance to alcohol develops and more is needed to get the same feeling
- Exert an inordinate amount of time and effort to conceal their drinking from others (e.g., pretending to not be hungover or under the influence, hiding their stash and making excuses so that they can go take a drink)
- Justify their drinking by telling themselves it is “normal” and “not a problem” and that their behavior isn’t really stealing or lying
- Experience periodic loss of memory during intoxication
- Be aware of lost memory episodes, along with corresponding anxiety and fear over what they may have done during that time
- Feel shame and regret after binge drinking episodes, driving the urge to drink as the vicious circle begins again
- Experience overwhelming fear of their addiction being discovered
- When coming off a binge, feel dehydrated, headache, dizziness
- Withdraw socially and isolate themselves
- Have feelings of self-loathing over the addiction
- Become defensive or angry when confronted with the truth
- Want to stop drinking, but feel compelled to continue
The Critical Defining Moment & Alcohol Rehab Treatment
The decision to get alcohol rehab treatment is typically precipitated by a life-altering event. It could be a car accident caused by intoxication, or a DUI (driving under the influence) ticket. Perhaps it’s be a physical injury, such as collapsing in the shower and shattering the glass. Or it could be a serious mistake on the job that causes a termination. In any case, the defining moment is an event that causes the addicted to make the decision to get help.
When this happens, the addict:
- Experiences clarity, realizing that the current path will lead to serious negative consequences, up to and including death
- Forms a strong sense of determination to change
- Reaches out to family members, friends, and others for help
Alcohol Rehab Treatment Investigation Stage
Once a problem is identified, the search for appropriate treatment begins. This is the point where the issue of money tends to surface. The answer all depends upon your unique situation.
- If you have health insurance, you can find out from the insurance company – or from a treatment center directly – what benefits are available to you. Just like doctor’s office, addiction treatment centers will ask for the insurance information in advance so that they can verify coverage. You should be aware that many health plans now have deductibles that must be met before insurance companies will cover medical expenses. Again, a treatment center representative can help you discover if you have a deductible and how much it will be.
- If your insurance is through Medicaid or Medicare, you’ll need to find a facility that accepts these insurances. An admissions professional can also help you figure this out.
- If there is no insurance coverage available, you can ask about private pay options. They may be financial arrangements, such as making payments over time or taking advantage of partial scholarships, that can make alcohol rehab treatment more affordable.
The point is that you shouldn’t be afraid to let an alcohol rehab treatment center representative know your personal financial situation. Their goal is the help you and your loved one get needed treatment. In many cases, the admissions staff is more than willing to help you do just that, even if it means referring you to another treatment center.
At this stage of the journey to addiction recovery:
- The search begins for means of outside, professional help
- Friends or family members reach out to treatment facilities to ask questions
- Rapport is built with alcohol rehab treatment center outreach or admissions staff
- Means of financing the treatment process are investigated (insurance, private pay and/or partial scholarships)
- A pre-admittance screening is completed
- The date for entering treatment is set
Up until now in the journey to addiction recovery, there is no set time frame for things to occur. It can take years for addicts to experience a defining moment that puts them on the road to recovery, for example. Once the addicted individual starts receiving treatment, however, the duration of each stage becomes clearer.
Alcohol Detox – Five to Seven Days
The first stage of alcohol rehab treatment is detox. If you have been drinking steadily for any period of time, you’ll first need to psychically withdraw from it.
Unfortunately, alcohol can be one of the most dangerous drugs from which to detox. Acute withdrawal symptoms (the most severe) typically last four or five days – but can go on longer, depending on how long and how much you’ve been drinking – and most detox stays are between five and seven days.
Alcohol acts as a depressant on your central nervous system. Over time, you will build up a tolerance to it – finding yourself needing more and more alcohol to get the same effect. This is because alcohol causes the brain to decrease its number of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) receptors over time as you drink. When you suddenly stop the flow of alcohol (and its depressant effects) in your body, the body can go into an overexcited, or “hyper-aroused” state, resulting in withdrawal signs and symptoms such as:
- Increased Blood Pressure
Because the possibility of these serious symptoms exists when you stop drinking, it is highly recommended that you detox under the medical care and supervision of a qualified facility which is designed to handle the process.
Some detox facilities will gradually taper you off the alcohol – or use a medication that acts on the body in a similar way, from which you can then taper off in order to minimize withdrawal symptoms. Research has shown, for instance, that the benzodiazepine chlordiazepoxide is more effective than other drugs in preventing seizures and DT. This is something you want to ask about before you make the decision on which facility to enter.
Going straight back into your old life after detoxing from alcohol can be a recipe for disaster. It’s much like leaving the hospital after a heart attack to resume eating junk food and living a high-stress lifestyle. Without real change, the risk of relapse remains high. Therefore, once you are through the detox stage, it’s time to focus on establishing a new life in recovery with treatment that addresses all aspects of your life. This gives you your best chance of maintaining sobriety.
Inpatient or Partial Hospitalization Alcohol Rehab Treatment – 30 to 60 Days
Inpatient or partial hospitalization alcohol addiction treatment provides the needed next step after detox. But what’s the difference between inpatient and partial hospitalization?
- Inpatient addiction treatment involves living in the facility that is providing treatment.
- Partial hospitalization involves living elsewhere (for example, in a sober living home) while being treated. Transportation may be provided to and from the treatment center.
Which level of care should you pursue? It depends on your individual situation.
Some prefer partial hospitalization as they do not want to be institutionalized during this stage. There are those, however, who feel the need to check themselves into an inpatient facility for the first 30 days following detox. Someone who needs that extra time and support may then choose to transition to partial hospitalization after inpatient treatment if they are not ready to go directly to the next step of intensive outpatient treatment.
During inpatient and partial hospitalization treatment, you will receive individual and group counseling. The focus is on increasing self-awareness, cultivating coping skills, and treating any co-occurring disorder such as depression or anxiety. Treatment is aimed at getting you to a point where you are able to meet the challenges of daily life and pursue goals, without alcohol.
Other holistic treatments and life skills assistance may be offered at this point as well. Just because the detox stage is over doesn’t mean you magically regain your strength. You may receive nutritional counseling, have access to a gym and/or participate in sports or yoga classes. Other physical issues such as the inability to sleep are addressed in consultation with a medical professional. You may also receive a range of treatments that can aid in your recovery, from massage to chiropractic care and from pet therapy to brain mapping.
At both the inpatient and partial hospitalization levels of care, treatment is administered on a full-time basis (up to 40 hours a week or more).
Intensive Outpatient Treatment – 30 Days
After inpatient and partial hospitalization comes intensive outpatient treatment. The number of hours you are receiving treatment typically drops in half, to about 20 hours per week, or four hours five times a week. You will continue with group and individual therapy. With the rest of your time, you are encouraged to attend 12-step meetings and to find and work a job. You can reside either in a sober living home, surrounded by those who are also building a new life in sobriety. The number of treatment hours can decrease as you improve, for example, you may go from five days of intensive outpatient treatment a week to two or three.
Outpatient Treatment – Up to Six Months or More
Here, you’ll be receiving one to three hours of counseling a week (or even every other week). You are fully living on your own or with friends and family (although some may choose to continue residing in a sober home for up to a year or more). This stage overlaps with the next, Recovery Maintenance.
Recovery Maintenance – Lifelong
Whether you continue receiving outpatient treatment or not, working on your recovery should never stop. Through a treatment center alumni program, you can attend weekly meetings, enjoy sober-friendly social events, have access to a 24-hour helpline and more. Additionally, you can attend 12-step program meetings on your own time, when it’s convenient for you.
When the rest of your life is at stake, taking a few months to establish a firm foundation in sobriety is a worthwhile investment of your time. Research has shown that addiction treatment is effective, but it’s up to you to continue your journey on your own two feet once you are able.