One Year into Recovery from Alcoholism
Recovery from alcoholism takes time. Because of the manner in which alcohol acts on the brain, there is a definite progression to wellness. Understanding the phases of recovery in the first year can help an alcoholic and his/her family prepare for what to expect.
Initially, physical detoxification from alcohol takes between two days to a week. However, the effects of alcohol withdrawal can last up to 45 days. Most people believe stopping drinking will restore full functionality.
However, true detoxification can take years given the chemical changes that take place in the brain with excessive drinking. The restoration of cortical white matter has been shown to regenerate with prolonged sobriety.
To find a detox program near you, call our helpline at 800-481-6965 (Who Answers?) .
The First 90 Days
After detoxification, committing to ninety consecutive days of sobriety is one of the first milestones recognized in recovery. This milestone is critical because many behavioral patterns have changed after 90 days of continuous sobriety. Specific habits regarding lifestyle have usually changed. Alcoholics have also gained some experience in coping with mental and emotional challenges. Some effects, both negative and positive, that many recovering alcoholics notice are:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Return of appetite
- Interest in new things
- Moments of enjoying life
One Day at a Time
In 12-step meetings, seasoned members often recommend taking sobriety one day at a time. Staying in the present moment is often difficult for people suffering from alcohol use disorder. Worrying about the future or perseverating negatively about past mistakes can drive an alcoholic to relief in a bottle. Focusing only on the day and figuring out how to manage the problems of each day is helpful in not becoming overwhelmed. This suggestion is still very helpful many years into recovery.
The Racing Mind
Alcoholics are often intelligent, quick-witted individuals. With a penchant for figuring out solutions, coupled with an obsession to control, mental obsession is common. This mental obsession not only manifests in constant thinking about alcohol, but about every facet of life. Finding ways to calm and quiet the mind is essential for successful recovery. Sometimes, even after a year or more, people struggling with alcohol use disorder require cognitive therapy or find help by practicing meditation.
Help! I Can’t Sleep
Alcoholics are known to suffer from sleep abnormalities even well into recovery. Research speculates that difficulty sleeping may attribute to relapse. Further, testing shows that alcoholics generally have significant chemical abnormalities that cause insomnia. The following are areas of difficulty for alcoholics:
- Lower melatonin levels
- Serotonin deficits
- Norepinephrine activation
- Enhanced GABA activity
- Neuronal cell loss
Craving Out of the Blue
Dr. Silkworth, one of the instrumental influences in the development of Alcoholics Anonymous referred to the drive to drink alcohol as having the “phenomenon of craving”. The U.S. National Institute of Health warns of various triggers that can bring on craving drink. Some of these triggers are external, like going to a party where alcohol is served. Other cravings are internal, like coping with the death of a loved one. Learning to cope with these triggers and having a network of support is helpful. These cravings may come periodically even after a year or more in recovery.
The New Reality
Alcoholism is a deadly illness. Prolonged periods of excessive drinking require prolonged periods of sobriety to restore brain chemistry, repair neurological damage and reset maladaptive behaviors. The journey to wellness is not quick and easy. Continuing to find ways to cope effectively and maintain healthy outcomes is important for ongoing sobriety after the first year and beyond. Seeking ongoing help and support even after a period of not drinking is beneficial for those struggling to maintain quality sobriety.
If you need help finding an alcohol treatment program for yourself or a loved one, call 800-481-6965 (Who Answers?) now to speak with a specialist.
Alcoholics Anonymous (2016). Welcome to Alcoholics Anonymous. Retrieved on January 4, 2017 from: http://www.aa.org/
Brower, K. (N.D.) Alcohol’s effects on sleep in alcoholics. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Retrieved on January 4, 2017 from: https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh25-2/110-125.htm
L., B. (2001). The phenomenon of craving. Retrieved on January 4, 2017 from: http://www.barefootsworld.net/aaphenomcraving.html
NIH (2016). Rethinking drinking. National Institute of Health. Retrieved on January 4, 2017 from: https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/RethinkingDrinking/Rethinking_Drinking.pdf
Sullivan, E., Harris, A. & Pfefferbaum, A. (2010). Alcohol’s effects on brain and behavior. Alcohol Research and Health. 33 (1-2): 127-143. Retrieved on January 4, 2017 from: https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh40/127-143.pdf