April is Alcohol Awareness Month, which was originally started by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence in the 1980s. This month we, as a nation, reflect on the causes and consequences of alcohol misuse, abuse and dependence. And as healthcare professionals, we determine how to best support individuals in the alcohol use disorder recovery process.
Alcohol is among the most used drugs and plays a large role in our society and public health:
Studies show that the majority of people with alcohol use disorder can reduce their drinking and alcohol-related problems over time. Healthcare professionals can support recovery in a number of ways:
- Help patients identify their support people. Who in their lives will stand in solidarity with them as they go through the recovery process? Different people will offer different types of support, and the variety of help will make an enormous impact on the process.
- Help patients identify realistic goals, emphasizing future-oriented values. Encouraging abstinence from alcohol is the recommended route, but there are negotiated treatment steps that make sense for some patients.
- Help patients recognize that recovery is a process — a marathon, not a sprint. Continuing care during the recovery process is key, as there is no “quick fix.”
- Help patients understand that there will be challenges. Giving patients the tools to handle setbacks and offering optimistic and positive feedback will help keep the momentum of progress, not perfection.
- Encourage activities that do not involve alcohol. Help your patients identify hobbies and activities they once enjoyed or would like to try that do not take place in social settings involving drinking. Who will they lean on for support during those activities?
- Identify possible mutual support groups. Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, women only meetings, groups structured with or without religion involved — there are many types of support groups that can help with the recovery process.
Change is possible, even in the face of challenges — and even if prior attempts have not been fully successful. The path will be different for every individual, but we can all take steps to help support those on the road to recovery.