This month is Alcohol Awareness Month, when 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.

One of the most important roles of behavioral healthcare professionals during Alcohol Awareness Month is to provide education and raise awareness about the risks associated with alcohol misuse. By offering information about the signs and symptoms of AUD, the impact of alcohol on physical and mental health, and available treatment options, we can increase awareness and empower individuals to make informed decisions about their alcohol consumption and seek help when needed.

Addiction is truly a family disease. Why do we say that? When someone abuses drugs and/or alcohol, everyone close to them feels the effects. This includes family, friends, coworkers and loved ones. As behavioral health professionals, we can help support those in recovery and equip their loved ones in a number of ways:

  1. 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.
    For support people, encourage calm, well-thought-out conversations that come from a place of love and support, rather than judgment and accusations.
  2. 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.
  3. Help patients and loved ones 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.”
  4. Help patients understand that there will be challenges.
    Giving patients and families the tools to handle setbacks and offering optimistic and positive feedback will help keep the momentum of progress, not perfection. And don’t forget to celebrate small victories. Recovery is a journey, and acknowledging progress can be a powerful motivator.
  5. 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?
  6. 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. By better understanding the disease, loved ones can help better support the recovery process.
Remember, being in recovery and supporting someone in recovery can be challenging in their own ways, but recovery is possible! Together, we can all make a positive impact and create a future free from the harms of alcohol misuse.

Supporting Recovery During Alcohol Awareness Month