How Long Does It Take to Recover From Alcoholism?
Alcohol abuse affects the brain, the body and the mind, causing changes that impact behavior as well as the physical and emotional well-being of its victims. It also creates tremendous personal, social and work-related upheaval in the lives of alcoholics who continue to drink and can’t find a way out of the chemical prison they’re trapped in. For these reasons, recovering from alcoholism is an immense challenge for anyone.
But it is important to clarify just what we mean by the phrase “recovering from alcoholism.” When a person recovers from alcoholism, does that mean all of these problems eventually vanish? Or does recovering from alcoholism mean something else? And is a full recovery from alcoholism even possible?
These are questions that require answers before we can accurately define recovery and put a realistic timetable on its achievement.
Physical Recovery From Alcoholism
Alcohol dependency is at least partially defined by its physical aspects. These include changes in brain chemistry that lead to cravings when alcohol consumption ceases.
However, if an alcoholic remains sober, the cravings they experience will gradually decrease in intensity, until they are no longer much of a factor. At least some of the neurological changes associated with alcoholism can be repaired, which helps to explain this phenomenon, although permanent damage can and does occur from long-term alcohol abuse.
But it would be a mistake to conclude that alcoholism can ever be physically cured in the conventional sense. If an alcoholic relapses and begins drinking once more, their dependency will quickly redevelop and if they try to quit again, the physical cravings of withdrawal will return with a vengeance.
When an alcoholic stops drinking and maintains their sobriety over the long haul, their physical dependency becomes dormant rather than extinct. The virus of alcoholism goes into hibernation, in other words, fully capable of awakening from its slumber if the recovering alcoholic decides to abandon their sobriety. From a biological or neurological standpoint, recovery from alcoholism is only partially possible and can never be taken for granted.
Psychological Addiction, Alcoholism and Recovery
Physical cravings can cause a relapse in the early stages of recovery, before they begin to decline in their severity. But psychological cravings for alcohol are an entirely different kettle of fish. These powerful urges are triggered by circumstances and events that never completely lose their ability to provoke a response, and no matter how hard the alcoholic labors to retrain their emotional reflexes, the association between these triggers and compulsive drinking may not fade much over time.
Recovering from alcoholism is aided by the alcoholic’s experiences in rehab and aftercare therapy, which show them how to identify triggers that might put their recovery at risk. But since those urges to drink must be continually resisted, it would be inaccurate to label recovery from alcoholism as synonymous with full psychological healing.
Behavioral Recovery and a Better Future for All
Alcoholism can cause a number of disturbing, destructive and devastating life effects, including:
- Ruined friendships
- Broken marriages
- Family turmoil
- Financial setbacks
- Job loss
- DUI arrests
- Serious accidents
There is much collateral damage connected with alcoholism. But it is often these sad and tragic outcomes that finally lead alcoholics into rehab, making full redemption truly possible. While the physical and psychological aspects of addiction never completely disappear, when an alcoholic is deeply committed to recovery, they can rescue their futures and restore the hope, happiness and productivity they lost track of so long ago.
This, then, is one area where recovery can be complete and total. It can begin on the very first day of sobriety, and its completion achieved as soon as the recovering alcoholic has made amends to everyone they hurt or offended in the past.
Recovering From Alcoholism Means Recovering Your Life
In a physical or psychological sense, recovering from alcoholism is more of a lifelong process than a final, definitive result. But as long as the process continues, life can be made worth living once again — and it is hard to imagine a more rewarding brand of recovery than that.