Alcohol Addiction: Why Is Addressing the Root/Core Causes So Critical for Long-Term Recovery?
The highly influential American author and philosophical thinker Dr. Wayne Dyer once wrote, “What we think determines what happens to us, so if we want to change our lives, we need to stretch our minds.” When it comes to alcohol addiction and addressing the core/root causes of our behaviors, understanding our autonomy of thought and emotion is crucial. If we can change our thoughts and emotions, then we can positively change our entire outlook on life, and this outlook changes everything.
The Continued Prevalence of Alcohol Addiction in Today’s Society
Alcohol addiction is still the number one addiction in both the United States and internationally. According to the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), “28.6 million adults ages 18 and older (11.3% in this age group) had [alcohol use disorder] AUD in the past year.”
Many people diminish or minimize the dangers of alcohol use and alcohol abuse. This is understandable, though unfortunate. Alcohol permeates nearly all popular culture and social norms today. It is promoted in the public sphere as though it can have no consequences. This is simply not true.
Now, we should note that this is not meant to demonize alcohol. Many people enjoy alcohol in moderation and will never experience any negative issues from it besides perhaps a bad hangover once in a while. However, as the previous statistics show, many people have had their lives shattered by alcohol and alcohol addiction. These are the individuals who need to address the root/core causes of their addiction and behavior issues.
A Quick Overview of Alcohol Addiction
While it may seem pretty straightforward, alcohol addiction can be rather complex. For example, there are many potential factors for why someone may be predisposed to alcohol addiction. These are biological, familial, social, and genetic factors. Yet, none of these factors have been unequivocally proven. So, there is still some mystery as to why some people become addicted to alcohol.
Also, some people have had issues with alcohol addiction and have managed to recover on their own. Now, some may argue that recovering in this way leaves out the opportunity to heal at the cellular level, but when it comes to recovery, there is no room for judgment. After all, Bill Wilson, the founder of the most well-known recovery community of the last 100 years, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), even said, “No one holds a monopoly over recovery.” So, whatever works for the individual is what recovery is to them.
Now, while there are some complexities to alcohol addiction, there are also some universal warning signs and symptoms that can be found in most individuals who are struggling with the disease, and, yes, it is a disease, not a choice.
Some Warning Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction
The warning signs and symptoms of alcohol addiction are difficult to list due to the sheer volume of negative issues that it can cause. Also, many consequences of alcohol addiction are not quantifiable and are specific to the individual.
But, there are some common warning signs and symptoms that can better help us determine if a loved one (or ourselves) is struggling with alcohol addiction. The following are just a few of those signs and symptoms:
- Not being able to stop after starting to drink alcohol
- Never being able to limit the amount of alcohol that one drinks
- Having a “mental obsession” or intense cravings for alcohol when not drinking
- Spending an excessive amount of time drinking, thinking about drinking, and recovering from drinking
- Having trouble at school, work, and/or home due to excessive alcohol use
- Not being able to stop drinking, even when serious consequences start to arise, such as legal troubles
- Having to drink more and more alcohol to get that “buzzed” feeling
- Experiencing withdrawals when not drinking alcohol
- Feelin depressed and/or anxious when not drinking alcohol
- Exhibiting risky behaviors due to alcohol use
There are also physical signs that alcohol addiction may be present. These signs include
- Not being able to eat comfortably or not wanting to eat at all
- Gaining or losing excessive amounts of weight
- Having a yellowed complexion and yellowed eyes
- Trouble with sleep patterns, including sleeping too much and not sleeping enough
- Losing hair and having dry skin and brittle nails
- An excessively strong order of alcohol
- No longer caring about one’s appearance or daily hygiene
The Stages of Alcohol Addiction
Now, many of the warning signs and symptoms describe people in the later stages of alcohol addiction, but people generally don’t automatically get to these more severe states of alcohol addiction. They go through stages.
While there are certainly some variations in how some people break down the stages of alcohol addiction (some with fewer stages and some with more), there is a rather large consensus in the recovery community on the “four-stage model.” These four stages are pre-alcohol addiction, early alcohol addiction, middle-stage alcohol addiction, and late-stage alcohol addiction.
The pre-alcohol addiction stage includes people who only drink minimally and rarely experience any consequences from their drinking. People at this stage also develop little or no tolerance for alcohol. Many people, at this stage, primarily drink to “fit in.”
The early stage of alcohol addiction is where people start to experience some consequences, although they are still relatively minor. This stage does constitute a rather big shift from the previous stage as drinking starts to happen on a more regular basis, and more alcohol misuse and abuse happen than mere use.
Now, middle-stage alcohol addiction is represented by the regular or near-constant use of alcohol. This is generally when drinking starts to interfere with relationships, and a tolerance for alcohol has begun in earnest. Also, this is where the negative mental, emotional, and physical symptoms start to become more and more apparent.
The last stage, or late-stage alcohol addiction, is represented by a complete loss of control over one’s drinking. This is where drinking becomes a “requirement” merely to function throughout the day. Also, this is where dangerous physical and emotional withdrawals begin to take place. It is also the last stage before something more prominent, such as irreversible brain damage or even death, can occur. Yes, it is grim, but it is the reality of a very serious disease.
The Importance of a Safe and Secure Detox for Alcohol Addiction
As previously mentioned, the late stage of alcohol addiction includes withdrawal if a person goes too long without ingesting alcohol. These withdrawals can be very dangerous, even deadly if not managed correctly.
According to the clinical journal Alcohol Health and Research World, “Disease processes or events that accompany acute alcohol withdrawal (AW) can cause significant illness and death. Some patients experience seizures, which may increase in severity with subsequent AW episodes. Another potential AW complication is delirium tremens, characterized by hallucinations, mental confusion, and disorientation.” These are just a few of the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.
Now, these symptoms are the reason that a safe and comfortable detox must take place for someone struggling with severe alcohol addiction. Also, it is only when a successful detox takes place that the root/core causes of one’s alcohol addiction can be addressed, and it can be addressed in several ways. One of which is the previously mentioned 12-Step program, AA. But that is not the only program available.
The Non-12-Step Approach: Addressing the Root/Core Causes of Alcohol Addiction
Many people assume that only one recovery community is available to people in recovery from alcohol addiction; AA. However, there are other non-12-Step approaches that can help get to the root/core causes of alcohol addiction. Two of these programs are Recovery Dharma and SMART Recovery.
Recovery Dharma is a program that focuses on the principles of Buddhism for recovery. While it does draw some inspiration from 12-Step programs, it does not incorporate the Twelve Steps into its program. Also, people members don’t have to be Buddhists to participate; they just need a willingness to be open-minded and a curiosity about their inner selves.
Another non-12-Step option is SMART Recovery. This stands for Self-Management and Recovery Training, and it is aimed at using a secular science-based approach. It still works on the principles of service and community, but it avoids a focus on spirituality.
Now, just like 12-Step recovery, these options also work exceptionally well alongside therapy. This includes psychotherapies like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).
The Benefits of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Treating Alcohol Addiction
CBT is a type of psychotherapy that can be essential to getting to the root/core causes of one’s alcohol addiction. According to the academic write-up, Cognitive Behavior Therapy, by Doctors Chand, Kuckel, and Huecker, “Cognitive behavior therapy is a structured, didactic, and goal-oriented form of therapy. The approach is hands-on and practical wherein the therapist and patient work in a collaborative manner with the goal of modifying patterns of thinking and behavior to bring about a beneficial change in the patient’s mood and way of living his/her life.”
CBT involves getting the underlying issues of alcohol addiction and bringing them up to the surface for further “dissection” and investigation. Once individuals start to understand where their thoughts (cognitions) are manifesting from, then they can begin to better understand why they may be trying to address them by self-medicating with alcohol.
Also, CBT is an essential therapy for showing individuals that the thoughts that they are having are most likely not grounded in “reality,” and they are responsible for the negative way in which we view ourselves and the world around us.
Lastly, CBT can help individuals with alcohol addiction recognize their negative emotions as they begin to arise so they can mitigate, modify, or even avoid the negative behaviors that are correlated to them. Essentially, getting to the internal root/core causes of addiction with CBT can help someone deal with the external conflicts or issues people face every day.
The Importance of Physical Activity for Treating Alcohol Addiction
Another way of addressing the root/core causes of alcohol addiction may surprise many people. That is because it is such an external thing. We are talking about physical activity.
Engaging in physical activity not only helps one feel better about the way they look and carry themselves, but it also releases critical chemicals that can boost mood and create a much-needed sense of joy.
One of these chemicals is endorphins, which have been shown to reduce stress, increase stamina, lessen pain, and create a greater sense of well-being. On Hawaii’s Big Island, there may be no better place to release these endorphins than on top of a wave in the Pacific Ocean.
The Benefits of Surf Therapy
Just a mere 15-minute walk from our 30-acre luxury resort on the Hamakua Coast sits one of the best surf breaks on Hawaii’s Big Island. The locals call this spot Honoli’i, and it has some of the best waves around for serenity and surf therapy.
Surf therapy can be highly beneficial for addressing the symptoms of alcohol addiction. According to the journal Frontiers in Psychology, “Surf therapy is defined by the International Surf Therapy Organization (International Surf Therapy Organization, 2019) as an intervention that combines surf instruction, surfing, and structured individual and/or group activities to promote physical, psychosocial, and psychological well-being. In addition to physical exercise, surf therapy interventions typically include individual mentoring, social skills development, psychoeducation, and group discussions focused on increasing resilience and personal growth.”
Surf therapy has also been shown to reduce stress, increase self-esteem and self-worth, and enhance mental clarity. Also, surf therapy offers an opportunity for meditation and mindfulness while waiting between waves. This is also something that can be attained via the practice of yoga.
The Benefits of Yoga
Just as there is no place like the Hamakua coast to engage in surf therapy, there may be no better beaches than to practice yoga. Yoga can be a key component to going into oneself and connecting with the root/core issues that need to be addressed in recovery.
According to the International Journal of Yoga, “Yoga encourages one to relax, slow the breath and focus on the present, shifting the balance from the sympathetic nervous system and the flight-or-fight response to the parasympathetic system and the relaxation response. The latter is calming and restorative; it lowers breathing and heart rate, decreases blood pressure, lowers cortisol levels, and increases blood flow to the intestines and vital organs.” These are all essential elements of recovery.
A comprehensive recovery plan that includes community recovery like SMART Recovery and Recovery Dharma, therapies like CBT, and physical exercises like surf therapy and yoga can help someone heal at the cellular level. This is also what a recovery plan that addresses root/core issues should look like (though all plans should be unique to the individual).
Healing at the Cellular Level on Hawaii’s Hamkua Coast with Exclusive Hawaii Rehab
Dr. Wayne Dyer also once said, “Strong emotions such as passion and bliss are indications that you’re connected to Spirit, or ‘inspired,’ if you will. When you’re inspired, you activate dormant forces, and the abundance you seek in any form comes streaming into your life.” This is the Spirit we feel every day on the Hamakua Coast of Hawaii’s Big Island. Also, this is the Spirit we hope to impart to each and every person who comes to stay at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab.
We all have issues down at the root/core of ourselves that we must deal with. For some of us, it is alcohol addiction, which can feel disheartening. But we must always remember that with hard work and determination in recovery, we can heal that core.
Many people may not know that “Hamakua” translates to “the breath of God.” We feel this peaceful breath of breeze onto the shore every day, and with it, we are refreshed, renewed, and healed slowly but surely. Let us share this with all who wish to have it.
Alcohol addiction is still the number one type of addiction in the United States. This means that there remains a serious need for recovery centers and treatment facilities that address alcohol addiction in a complete and comprehensive way. This is why we here at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab only create recovery plans on an individualized and comprehensive basis. This includes traditional treatments, physical activity, nutrition therapy, the responsibility square, and the non-12-Step approach (just to name a few). If you feel like you or a loved one may be struggling with alcohol addiction, we can help. For more information on alcohol addiction and how to heal at the cellular level, please reach out to Exclusive Hawaii Rehab today at (808) 775-0200.