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Sunday, July 5, 2015

Keys to early sobriety success


A common error made by those who've never lived a day in their lives challenged by alcohol is that all someone who has a drinking problem needs to do is just stop drinking. There's some sort of finish line in their minds. Those of us who've quit or struggled to stay sober know with certainty there is no finish line.

It is a progressive, disease without a cure. The quit date is just a start.

If you quit as a New Year's resolution, by the Fourth of Dry July, biologically, your body has begun to repair some damage. Insomnia, headaches, dizziness, fogginess, trouble with balance, problems with hand/eye coordination and reflexes are in the rear-view mirror or at least a whole lot better for most recoverers in that six months. But a lot rides on four factors:
1) Diet and exercise
2) Stress management
3) Depression care
and of course 4) the severity of the drinking prior to the quit date.

Nothing can be done about that last one: Nobody has the luxury of rewriting history. But the first three require attention in those first six months and beyond. Diet and exercise are crucial: Neither got more attention while drinking. If you do nothing else, eat veggies and fruit and take a daily walk. Doing so will help with stress management and depression care.

On the stress side, alcoholics have a higher level of the stress hormone cortisol, as detailed in Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud. Non-alcoholics and alcoholics alike drink for the same reason, to alleviate stress. You have a hole in your routine now that you've taken alcohol out of it. Plug something into that hole, whether it is exercise, spirituality, self-help meetings like 12-step groups or Women for Sobriety, etc.

Depression is a chicken and egg thing for alcoholics: How much was there before the alcohol and how much was caused by the alcohol? Let a professional help. Talking is cathartic, especially in recovery. And so is a balanced brain chemistry. Hard-line 12-steppers say you cannot take an anti-depressant and call yourself sober. (Archaic thinking… based on more bullcrap than you'd find at a rodeo.) Trust me, those dinosaurs are hard to come by and none of them know the first thing about the neurochemicals dopamine and serotonin. Just find a different meeting and follow a doctor's orders, including anti-depressants as prescribed. Most of the older recipes are available as generics for $4 these days.

Post-acute withdrawal can last a while – six to sixty months – but not everyone goes through it, and it beats the alternative of going to your own funeral. Quit in Dry July and imagine where you'll be by Christmas.
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Visit alcohologist.com for a replay of CBS Sports' Power Up Your Health featuring Scott Stevens.  Host Ed Forteau led a discussion on risky myths of about "healthy" drinking.  Lucy Pireel's "All That's Written" included a feature on Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud called "When alcohol doesn't work for you anymore."  Details on the third literary award for Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud also can be found on www.alcohologist.com, plus the NEW book, Adding Fire to the Fuel, is now available. Download the FREE Alcohology app in the Google PlayStore today.