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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Why Do People with Alcoholism Relapse?


Why Do People with Alcoholism Relapse?

Between 80% and 90% of people treated for alcoholism relapseeven after years of abstinence. Patients and their caregivers should understand that relapses of alcoholism are analogous to recurrent flare-ups of chronic physical diseases. One study found that three factors placed a person at high risk for relapse: frustration and anger, social pressure, and internal temptation. Treatment of relapses, however, does not always require starting from scratch with detoxification or hospitalization; often, abstinence can begin the next day. Self-forgiveness and persistence are behaviors essential for permanent recovery.

Mental and Emotional Stress.

Alcohol blocks out emotional pain and is often perceived as a loyal friend when human relationships fail. It is also associated with freedom and a loss of inhibition that offsets the tedium of daily routines. When the alcoholic tries to quit drinking, the brain seeks to restore what it perceives to be its equilibrium. The brain's best weapons against abstinence are depression and anxiety (the emotional equivalents of physical pain) that continue to tempt alcoholics to return to drinking long after physical withdrawal symptoms have abated. Even intelligence is no ally in this process, for the brain will use all its powers of rationalization to persuade the patient to return to drinking. It is important to realize that any life change may cause temporary grief and anxiety, even changes for the better. With time and the substitution of healthier pleasures, this emotional turmoil weakens and can be overcome.

Codependency.

One of the most difficult problems facing a person with alcoholism is being around people who are able to drink socially without danger of addiction. A sense of isolation, a loss of enjoyment, and the ex-drinker's belief that pitynot respectis guiding a friend's attitude can lead to loneliness, low self-esteem, and a strong desire to drink. Close friends and even intimate partners may have difficulty in changing their responses to this newly sober person and, even worse, may encourage a return to drinking. To preserve marriages to alcoholics, spouses often build their own self-images on surviving or handling their mates' difficult behavior and then discover that they are threatened by abstinence. Friends may not easily accept the sober, perhaps more subdued, comrade. In such cases, separation from these "enablers" may be necessary for survival. It is no wonder that, when faced with such losses, even if they are temporary, a person returns to drinking. The best course in these cases is to encourage close friends and family members to seek help as well. Fortunately, groups such as Al-Anon exist for this purpose.

Social and Cultural Pressures.

The media portrays the pleasures of drinking in advertising and programming. The medical benefits of light to moderate drinking are frequently publicized, giving ex-drinkers the spurious excuse of returning to alcohol for their health. These messages must be categorically ignored and acknowledged for what they arean industry's attempt to profit from potential great harm to individuals.

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