Tag Archives: Alcoholism Treatment

While You Wait: Preparing Yourself Mentally for Alcohol Rehab

This is the first of a six-post look at preparing for alcohol rehab. Today we talk about getting ready for rehab when you have to wait for treatment to begin.

Beginning treatment as soon as possible is always best. However you may face delays due to waitlists at your treatment program of choice. You may have to wrap up a few things at work or home before you can leave. Travel logistics may mean beginning treatment a few days or a week from now as you arrange flights or other transportation. As long as you remain mentally prepared, these delays don’t have to derail your recovery. Preparing yourself involves staying focused, relaxed and informed. It involves maintaining your commitment to starting a drug and alcohol-free life.

Contemplative manRecovery involves change. This is no secret. You want change at this point. Anything is better than the stagnation addiction provides. However there is also security and comfort in the routine thoughts and actions surrounding alcohol use. Don’t let stepping outside this comfort zone keep you from continuing with recovery. As you mentally prepare for rehab, you will begin to think about change and about life after recovery. You may worry about what the future holds. It is okay to be afraid and to worry. These are natural reactions to change. It is not okay to let this fear take over and reverse your decision to get well. Stay mentally prepared for rehab by remembering why you want rehab. Make lists of the pros and cons of continued drug use. Ask friends and family members to help you stay motivated.

Your fears about the future may be more than a reaction to change. They may stem from a co-occurring anxiety issue. Anxiety and alcohol addiction often overlap.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America[1] explains, “About 20 percent of people with social anxiety disorder also suffer from alcohol abuse or dependence…Although alcohol can temporarily reduce symptoms of social anxiety – which is the reason many turn to it – alcohol can also increase anxiety, irritability, or depression a few hours later or the next day. Even moderate amounts of alcohol can affect one’s mood and anxiety level.”

You may have begun drinking to self-medicate anxiety symptoms, or these symptoms may have arisen as a result of your drinking. No matter the cause, know that feeling more than just generally worried about rehab is perfectly normal. Acknowledge that it is okay to feel as you do, and don’t let these feelings keep you from recovery.

Woman in hoodie on beachMentally prepare yourself by practicing relaxation and stress relief techniques. Take deep breaths, go for walks, and distract yourself with favorite hobbies or entertainment. Reach out to professionals when feelings are too much to manage on your own. Your future rehab center will be more than happy to talk with you on the phone and help you mentally prepare yourself any time during your wait.

A wait before rehab provides the perfect opportunity to learn more about addiction and recovery. Take this time to read about your disease and about just what treatment involves. Learn about the science and statistics behind rehab. Read first-hand accounts from people now in active recovery. These actions will help you mentally prepare for rehab. They take fear of the unknown out of the equation, as you will learn just what to expect during your treatment.

Mentally prepare for rehab by spending time with friends and family while you wait. Loved ones can help distract you when you begin to worry about the future. They can help provide motivation if your commitment begins to falter.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration[2] shares, “Family members may have a stronger desire to move toward overall improved functioning in the family system, thus compelling and even providing leverage for the patient to seek and/or remain in treatment through periods of ambivalence about achieving a sober lifestyle.”

Let your friends and family support you as you mentally prepare for rehab. If you struggle to manage your worries or stay committed, lean on loved ones to get you through. By choosing treatment and beginning the path to recovery, you give yourself the opportunity to become a better parent, child, sibling and friend.

Make sure you check out our second installment in the “While You Wait” series: Talking to Your Boss Before Alcohol Rehab. Call Michael’s House to learn more about beginning your recovery as soon as possible. Prepare yourself for a better life by choosing our integrated, professional care.

[1] https://www.adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/social-anxiety-disorder/social-anxiety-and-alcohol-abuse. “Social Anxiety and Alcohol Abuse.” Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Web. 6 Apr 2017.

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64269/. Substance Abuse Treatment and Family Therapy. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 2004. Web. 6 Apr 2017.

Managing Your Emotions is the Key to Sobriety

Addiction is an emotional disease. You may have turned to drugs or alcohol as a way to run away from your emotions. You may have found your emotions too painful or difficult to handle. Substances promised an easy escape.

However that escape ended up causing more emotional problems than it solved. Drugs didn’t make your life any better. They didn’t erase any emotions, and even if they buried them at first, they stopped doing so a long time ago. Sobriety is as emotional as addiction, but sober emotions are productive. They help you express yourself, process your experiences, and move forward in life. Substance use only takes you backwards. Sobriety isn’t about erasing emotions, as that is something no one can do. Sobriety involves learning to manage your emotions and to grow and become stronger as a result.

How Emotions Lead to Drug Addiction

Emotions lead to substance use. You may struggle with depression, anxiety or another mental health concern. You may face dramatic life changes or serious physical health issues. You may simply not know how to deal with everyday feelings. This is okay. You don’t have to know how to manage your mental health issue. You don’t have to know how to cope with the challenges that arise in any and every life. You just have to know that drug use isn’t the right answer. You have to reach out so you can learn. As Scientific American[1] explains,

“Recovery programs teach these fundamental principles of emotional regulation because addicts do not know them intuitively.”

If you struggle with addiction, you most likely struggle with managing emotions. This is normal. Treatment teaches emotional regulation skills for just this reason. You can learn how to healthily process thoughts and feelings.

How to Manage Emotions in Recovery

Managing emotions begins with learning how to do so. As mentioned above, treatment exists for just this reason. Therapists help you recognize unhealthy responses to feelings or situations. They help you develop positive processing and coping methods. This doesn’t mean you get to avoid emotions in recovery. You’ve tried doing that already with drugs or alcohol, and it doesn’t work. Managing emotions means learning how to experience them, accept them, move forward, and feel better. Treatment typically first teaches you distraction techniques. Distraction is not a permanent solution for emotions, but it helps you pause before having to process them. This puts time and space between you and potentially triggering thoughts or situations.

The Association for Psychological Science[2] shares, “Disengagement at an early stage can successfully modulate low- and high-intensity emotional information before it gathers force.”

Delaying–not avoiding–emotions helps you take the power out of them. It helps you keep emotions at a manageable level and to avoid impulsive reactions such as reaching for a former drug of choice. Treatment helps you develop an array of distraction techniques that will work for you. This gives you time and space to avoid relapse and manage your emotions rather than react to them.

Man listening to headphonesSome techniques for immediately managing emotions include physical activity or listening to music or watching a show. You can call up a friend or therapist and talk about how you feel or instead talk about anything but that. Consider doing the opposite of what you feel: forgiving someone if you are angry, telling a joke if you feel sad. Distraction and delaying are good ways to manage emotions and maintain sobriety. Avoidance is not. Distraction works so that you can reexamine emotions when they are less powerful, when you are more in control of your thoughts and behaviors.

At this later time, you can acknowledge how you feel or felt. You can feel embarrassed, cheated, lonely or even happy.  Once you acknowledge your emotions, you can do many things to keep them from taking over your life. Notice the thoughts that go along with these emotions. If they are negative, challenge them with something more positive. Tell yourself that your feelings will come and go and that feelings are a normal part of life. The more aware you are of your emotions, the better you can experience them, let them go, and move forward. You can remove their influence and keep your sobriety.

[1] https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-nuts-and-bolts-of-emotional-sobriety/. “The Nuts and Bolts of Emotional Sobriety.” Scientific American. 1 Mar 2012. Web. 21 Mar 2017.

[2] http://people.socsci.tau.ac.il/mu/galsheppes/files/2016/10/Sheppes-G.-Scheibe-S.-Suri-G.-Gross-J.J.-2011.-Emotion-Regulation-Choice.pdf. “Emotion-Regulation Choice.” Association for Psychological Science. 29 Sep 2011. Web. 21 Mar 2017.