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We’ve all been in this situation. Having to explain to someone else that you’re sober and working a program of recovery. Typically, it becomes easier to do the longer we are in the program, as naturally with time we not only become stronger in our sobriety, and more grounded in our recovery, but the stigma of our old behaviors begin to drift away, opening up space to show others our fresh, refined selves. Continue reading How To Tell Others You’re In Recovery
As I walked onstage in my flowing black gown, I took a moment to look out into the cheering crowd and find my family – my beaming parents, clapping with unadulterated fulfillment as their only daughter waved her hard-earned diploma in the air, tears of self-satisfaction streaming down her accomplished, collegiate face. Actually, it didn’t happen quite like that. I don’t really remember very much of the actual ceremony… I had chugged 2 bottles of cheap champagne in my apartment as I straightened my hair and waited for my boyfriend to come back with the airplane bottles of Smirnoff I had obnoxiously requested so last minute. By the time I stumbled onstage I was in the midst of one of my celebratory brownouts, probably concentrating more on not doing the drunk-girl-baby-deer-walk than on appreciating this like, culmination of everything I had ever been working towards. But looking back, it kind of makes sense that my actual graduation was a wasted commemoration, seeing as I was (metaphorically) picking up a BA in fooling everyone as to how much of a booze hound I actually was; picking up my scrolled-up Basic Alcoholic paperwork as I burped up vodka fumes and tried not to puke on my robe.
My Favorite Brand of Vodka was “Plastic Bottle” Vodka
My parents knew I was taking the whole college party thing a little too far when I came home for Thanksgiving break freshman year and peed on my floor at 3 a.m. thinking I was in my dorm bathroom. Even as I drunkenly scrubbed it out of my rug the next morning, I laughed to myself, almost proud for having at least made it out of the bed. After all, everyone I knew peed in places they were not supposed to pee. My then-boyfriend peed on our new ottoman the first night we met (I knew it was love), my buddy Jacob peed in my roommate’s bed when she was out of town (she wasn’t stoked), and I had probably peed in every parking garage in Westwood at least 13 times. Unfortunately, things sort of went downhill from there. Frat parties stopped being fun after I successfully gained an unfavorable reputation (and a slightly derogatory nickname), my grades started dropping below the contented B as I stayed out later and started drinking earlier (thermos filled with Bailey’s in 8 am French class turned to water bottle filled with vodka turned to ‘I can probably skip class today and tomorrow and every day forever’), and living situations grew strained when my roommates consistently awoke to mysteriously devoured Chinese leftovers.
“I Knocked Over Your Leftovers, I Will Buy You More”, Read the Note. I Ate Them, and I Never Bought More.
The delight I once took in being able to drink my male friends under the table quickly turned to the fearful realization that this was less of a skill than it was a serious problem. I was walking around blacked-out nearly half the time and no one really seemed to notice. To some degree I suppose that was when my functioning alcoholism began to take effect. Yet my peers continued to go out on weekends, and I was careful to surround myself with like-livered individuals who wouldn’t scorn my excess. There are many factors that contribute to college students actively participating in binge drinking and other detrimental alcohol-driven behaviors, one of the most obvious and prevalent being that everyone is doing it. My mom used to say, “Just hang out with people who don’t drink!” as if this was even an option. I never met a human college student who didn’t AT LEAST shotgun Natty Lite on Thursdays. The commonality of alcoholic drinking and the widespread tolerance for overconsumption makes the collegiate environment especially dangerous – a breeding ground for dormant genes stirred to life by gratuitous beer pong tourneys and themed frat parties that might as well all be themed “wear as little clothing as possible please show us your boobs”. College can be pretty dangerous for the coming-of-age lush, and for those who fear they are drinking a little more heavily than their sorority sisters or who find they need a screwball in order to wake up and cram, it would be wise to examine whether such behavior is a mere product of environment or the beginning stages of a devastating and life-threatening disease.
My glory days of handle pulls and King’s Cup lead to an extended stay in an inpatient rehab in Southern Florida, and while I somehow managed to walk away from 4 years of partying and promiscuity with a degree, seeking help as soon as I recognized I needed it would have saved me and my loved ones from the unimaginable heartache and distress I caused and lived with during and after my college experience.
Alcohol poisoning kills an average of over 6 Americans on a daily basis – a total of 2200 per year. Shockingly, the vast majority of those who die at the hands of alcohol poisoning are not identified as having any past history of alcohol abuse or alcoholism. 70% of those who pass away at the hands of alcohol poisoning are not identified as alcoholics, and 3 out of every 4 victims are adults aged 35-65 years old. Binge drinking has become a disturbing trend amongst middle aged white males, and has resulted in mass amounts of deaths over the course of the past several years. What is alcohol poisoning, and why has this trend been escalating at such an unsettling rate in recent years?
Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning
Alcohol is a toxin, and the liver must filter it out of the body upon consumption. Whatever alcohol cannot be filtered out of the body backs up into the bloodstream. When the alcohol concentration within the bloodstream becomes too high, it will likely cause severe damage to the physical and mental wellbeing of an individual. Breathing tends to slow significantly, as does the gag reflex as well as the heartbeat. If one passes out as a result of decreased pulse and vomits with limited gag reflex, he or she is likely to choke. Alcohol poisoning may also cause one to slip into a coma, or cause their heartbeat to become extremely erratic. Other signs that one may be suffering from alcohol poisoning include slurred speech, total lack of coordination, or profuse vomiting. Poisoning caused by overdose can be fatal (and frequently is), so it is important that medical help is sought immediately.
Why The Increase In Binge Drinking?
Interestingly enough, it isn’t the stereotypical college student who is binge drinking beyond the point of simple hangover – middle-aged men and women tend to be the ones suffering the most at the hands at alcohol poisoning and alcohol-related deaths. There is no clear-cut reason as to why this is happening, it is only apparent that awareness needs to be raised in order to prevent this lethal trend from progressing. If you or someone you love has been engaging in binge drinking and needs help to stop, contact one of our trained representatives in order to find out what steps you can take in seeking help.
After struggling for quite some time, Mary managed to accumulate 6 solid years of continuous sobriety. She had worked hard to stay sober and to humble herself – she spent tireless shifts waiting tables, saving nearly every dollar she earned until she was able to purchase a home. She went back to culinary school, having discovered a newfound enthusiasm for the passion she had deserted long ago. Soon she had her own business in the works, a catering service she ran by herself out of a neatly decorated van. She had business cards made and a chef’s jacket embroidered with her name. Life was good, and complacency began to settle in slowly. Mary went to fewer meetings and spent less time helping those newer in the program than she – business was booming and there seemed no real reason to dedicate valuable time to something she clearly had under control.
Relapsing on Mouthwash is Disturbingly Common
One morning, Mary was getting ready to meet with a potential new client. She was finishing up her morning ritual – brush, rinse, shower – when some of the Listerine she kept on her sink and swished with daily accidentally made its way down her throat. At first she choked, not sure what had happened and taken aback by the overwhelming taste. Suddenly a warm, familiar sensation crept over her. She hesitated for a moment before taking another swig straight from the bottle. The familiarity was too comforting to deny. Before she knew quite what had happened, she had finished nearly half the bottle. She got into her van and drove to the meeting, feeling calm, confident, and slightly confused.
Mary continued drinking mouthwash, up to five bottles a day, for the next year. She picked up her 7-year medallion, convincing herself that it wasn’t really alcohol; it wasn’t really a relapse. It wasn’t really an issue. Deep down, buried beneath the delusions and the lies, she felt ashamed and estranged. She didn’t realize that relapsing on mouthwash was a disturbingly prevalent issue until she checked herself back into inpatient rehab for six months.
Listerine is More Potent Than Many Alcoholic Beverages
Listerine, the most frequently sold brand of mouthwash, contains 26.9% alcohol – making it more potent than beer, wine, and even some liquors. Manufacturers use alcohol in their products because it helps penetrate and dissolve oral plaque, and dilutes other key ingredients helping to form a consistent mixture. The inclusion of several dangerous (if ingested) chemicals such as hydrogen peroxide and methanol make consuming mouthwash in large quantities potentially lethal. 10-15% of alcoholics who are currently in detoxification for alcohol abuse will admit to having used non-beverage alcohol such as mouthwash in moments of desperation. Seeing as alcohol is such a prevalent beverage throughout the country, it may seem odd that anyone would choose a bottle of Listerine over a fifth of Jack Daniels mixed with coke. There are several reasons as to why an alcoholic may use mouthwash or any other non-beverage type of alcohol over a popularly consumed booze product.
- Mouthwash is easy to conceal.
For one who has openly struggled with alcohol abuse previously, friends and family members may be less likely to notice if their loved one has been drinking mouthwash than liquor. If someone you know has been struggling with alcoholism suddenly has super fresh breath every day all the time, this may be a red flag.
- Restrictions do not apply.
In most stores, an individual who looks under the age of 21 will not be carded when purchasing dental hygiene supplies. Additionally, mouthwash can be purchased at any hour of the day, while alcoholic beverages can only be purchased before a certain time in the majority of states.
For alcoholics like Mary, convincing yourself that drinking mouthwash is easier than dealing with the overwhelming and instantaneous feelings of guilt and shame that would come with relapsing at a local bar. It is important to remember that addiction is a tricky disease, and a disease of the mind – and logic hardly comes into play.
Relapsing on mouthwash is far more prevalent than one may think. And consuming large amounts of mouthwash may be more immediately harmful than picking up a bottle of liquor based on the combination of chemicals used in production. If someone you know has been acting suspiciously and you believe they may have been using a non-beverage form of alcohol, feel free to contact one of our trained addiction specialists to find out what steps to take to get them the help they need.
Alcohol is by far the most frequently abused chemical substance throughout the country – and has reigned supreme since its introduction into society. While many tend to partake in alcohol consumption because it is “safe” and socially acceptable, the long-term effects of prolonged alcohol abuse are extremely detrimental, and often lethal. However, long-term effects of alcohol consumption can have cardioprotective health benefits. Though be weary of using this as an excuse if you tend to imbibe more than you should. One glass of wine on a Saturday night is exceedingly different than a fifth of vodka first thing in the morning. If you are overindulging, the consequences may be fatal.
Long-Term Consequences of Alcoholism
Long-term effects of alcohol abuse include malnutrition, alcoholic liver disease, chronic pancreatitis, and cancer. Psychological damage is also likely to be done with extended periods of daily and excessive alcohol consumption. Many chronic alcoholics will begin hallucinating or becoming delusional after years of daily use. Typically, there are twelve major risks involved with chronic alcoholism. Each is severe, and many can co-occur depending on the severity of the alcoholism.
Heavy drinking has been known to inflame the pancreas, interfering with the digestive process. Up to 60% of pancreatitis cases are caused solely by heavy drinking.
Gout is caused by the formation of uric acid crystals within the joints. Heavy alcohol consumption can cause gout, as well as aggravate existing cases.
- Cardiovascular Disease
When one is drinking heavily on a regular basis, their platelets are more likely to clump together and for blood clots. In many instances, increase in blood clots will eventually lead to heart attack or stroke.
Alcohol is extremely toxic to liver cells. After prolonged periods of heavy drinking, the liver may be so scarred it cannot function properly. Liver function is essential to overall health, and cirrhosis can be lethal.
- High Blood Pressure
Over-consumption of alcohol can disrupt the sympathetic nervous system, which controls the constriction and dilation of blood vessels.
- Nerve Damage
Alcoholism is known to cause what is called alcoholic neuropathy – a painful condition that arises because alcohol is highly toxic to nerve cells.
Alcoholism causes the number of oxygen-carrying red blood cells to diminish, resulting in anemia. Anemia may cause shortness of breath, fatigue, and dizziness.
When large amounts of alcohol are consumed, the body converts it into acetaldehyde – a potent carcinogen. Cancer is more common amongst drinkers that additionally use tobacco regularly.
Alcoholism speeds up brain atrophy – the shrinkage of the brain. Memory loss is an extremely common side effect amongst binge and daily drinkers.
Not only does heavy drinking cause epilepsy, and sometimes cause seizures in those who do not have epilepsy – alcohol consumption also interferes with medications used to treat convulsions.
Recent studies show that depression actually results from extensive heavy drinking, rather than the other way around. Additionally, symptoms of depression are proven to decrease once an alcoholic maintains sobriety for a prolonged period of time.
12. Infectious Diseases
Not only does alcohol consumption majorly suppress the immune system, but those who drink excessively are more likely to engage in risky sex – therefore contracting sexually transmitted diseases.
Recovery is a process that continues long after an individual graduates from an inpatient treatment program – recovery is a process, in fact, that lasts a lifetime. Early sobriety revolves around an individual learning to re acclimatize to society without the use of drugs or alcohol, a process that often takes somewhere near a year depending on how severe their past substance abuse was. After completing detox and graduating from a treatment program at a drug rehab, it is highly suggested that a patient transfer directly to a sober living facility in order to maintain sobriety while growing more accustomed to a higher level of freedom.
The most important factor in maintaining sobriety after completing a treatment program is the type of living situation one will be entering immediately after the program has been completed. Of course, moving into a sober environment with a strict drug and alcohol-free policy is more conducive to prolonged sobriety – especially because many addicts and alcoholics come from dysfunctional, chaotic households in which substance abuse is common and condoned. Most sober living houses emphasize a daily routine that reteaches the newly sober individual how to live efficiently and successfully, while working a job and maintaining other staples of everyday life. By moving into a sober residence after completing treatment, an individual intensifies their chances of prolonged recovery immensely.
The majority of houses greatly emphasize a social model of recovery, strongly recommending and often requiring integration into a 12-step organization (either Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, or another variation). Clients are usually required to find a sponsor within the first couple of weeks, and communicate with their sponsor on a daily basis. This is important because it forces accountability, and also helps clients form a relationship with another human being in sobriety – something that will undoubtedly be unfamiliar and require some practice. 12-step meetings also instantaneously provide an extensive support system for newly sober individuals, and sober supports are one of the most crucial elements of maintaining early sobriety.
Additionally, sober living houses require clients to participate in daily activities that they may have neglected while using, such as household chores, cooking, and holding down a regular job. Clients will also be drug tested regularly to ensure the house remains safe for all of the residents. The transition out of drug rehab can be filled with obstacles and setbacks. It is essential that the newly sober addict of alcoholic have immediate support available. The house manager often acts as this support, usually on the premises close to 24 hours. The house manager will also be sure clients are home by curfew – again, instilling accountability and also making sure no relapse-prone behaviors are taking place late at night. For these reasons amongst many others, sober living is extremely crucial to maintained sobriety, and acts as a pertinent step of the overall journey into recovery.