Recovery Month: finding treatment for alcoholism

Published: Sep. 20, 2022 at 4:50 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - About six percent of American adults had Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) in 2019, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

That does not include people who binge drink or abuse alcohol.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported nine out of ten people are able to drink alcohol without becoming dependent. That one out of ten may become dependent.

Still, recovery is always possible.

Impacts of AUD or alcoholism can be devastating.

“It can cause marital problems, it can cause job problems. It can contribute to health problems,” said Martha Sheridan, Licensed Professional Counselor and Certified Substance Abuse Counselor with Augusta Health.

Sheridan said, much like drug use, alcoholism often starts from a very innocent place: having one drink at a party, having a drink at the end of a long day.

That is also what makes abstaining so hard. Alcohol is legal, and many people do drink without issue.

“In our culture and in many cultures, alcohol is readily available, and it can be part of social occasions and celebrations and can be used in a way that doesn’t cause serious problems,” said Sheridan.

However, when a person does choose to get clean, Sheridan said the effects are often visible quickly.

“Just like there’s signs and symptoms of chemical dependence, of alcohol addiction, there’s also signs and symptoms of recovery. You can see people begin to feel more confident and to feel better and to be engaging in activities they used to enjoy,” said Sheridan.

However, that may not be the case if someone simply chooses to abstain. They may be moody, since they are missing one part of their day-to-day life. The confidence comes from getting help, whether that’s in Alcoholics Anonymous or counseling.

“It can be a kind of spiritual process, recovery, because people really truly can get better, even though it can be a difficult path. There’s a lot of support along the way. It’s important to stay around people who are supportive and who understand that it’s a disease,” said Sheridan.

If you’re not sure if you should seek treatment for AUD, talk to your primary care provider. If you don’t have one, you can call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration’s hotline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Even though recovery can be challenging, there is hope.

One out of three people who struggle with alcoholism have no symptoms one year later, NIAAA reports. Others significantly reduce their drinking and report fewer related issues.