Every individual who goes through recovery from alcohol abuse experiences things in a different way. Because everyone is unique, their journey in alcohol abuse is unique, and their journey out of it is different as well. Hence, every part of recovery means something different for each individual. That said, there are similarities as well, particularly in terms of how they progress. This is why most professionals now see recovery as a staged process.

A Definition of Alcohol Recovery

It is difficult to truly define what recovery from alcoholism actually is. Some, for instance, see it as a singular event when they actually stop using it. Others go through a lengthy process, which often started long before people admitted they needed help and stopped using alcohol. Others see recovery almost like a punishment or sentence. They have to be deprived of the thing they love most, and they count the days to that time when they can return to their normal lives. Others still see alcohol recovery as having freedom, and an opportunity to live again.

Because of this, it is impossible to create a single definition of recovery that is right for everybody. But what is known is that alcohol recovery is more than simply not drinking anymore. If recovery meant not drinking, then it would mean that alcoholics wake up on the morning recovered, but then relapses when they have their first drink. Rather, recovery means making changes and growing as an individual. It means that people learn how to live differently, giving them happiness and inner peace.

Stages of Recovery

Seeing recovery as a process is a good place to start. This is why people usually go through a number of phases:

1. Admitting to themselves that there is a problem. This means going past the phase of denial.
2. Wanting to make a change, when people realize they don’t want to be controlled by their addiction anymore
3. Looking into the treatment options that are available to them
4. Taking action to end the addiction, either through rehab or on their own.
5. Detox, which is the process during which the body rids itself of the remaining toxins
6. Early recovery, where people start to learn what it is like to live without turning to alcohol. This means they learn new coping skills and see life in a different way. This is exciting and overwhelming at the same time.
7. Maintenance, which is a stage that someone needs to remain in for life. Relapse is possible, which is why people need to maintain their recovery at all stages.

Phases of Rehab

People who go through alcohol rehab go through four specific stages while they are there. These are:

1. Entering treatment, when they arrive for the first time. This is a frightening time for many, with patients still to some degree under the influence of alcohol. Additionally, entering treatment is sometimes done against the person’s will.
2. Early abstinence, which is when the real work starts. The patient is now committed and this can be a very difficult time, not in the least because of the withdrawal symptoms. It may be the first time that someone has been free from alcohol for years, which can be very frightening.
3. Abstinence maintenance, which is another treacherous period, because this is when they move out of rehab and back into society. They must be equipped with the right skills to avoid triggers that could send them back into using.
4. Advanced recovery, which happens once people have been free from alcohol for five years. At this point, they should be comfortable living free from addiction. That said, there is always a risk of relapse. That said, they should have faced and overcome many challenges over the past five years, which means they should have good coping mechanisms in place.

Elements of Alcohol Recovery

Alcohol recovery follows a certain model, which is based on psychiatric treatment. This helps the patients and professionals alike to truly understand the process. According to this model, a number of elements are required for recovery to be successful. These are:

1. Having a secure base in which the individual is comfortable and safe, and can have basic needs, such as food, heat, and water, met.
2. Finding a meaning to recovery, so that people know why they are doing it
3. Hope, which is absolutely vital because people need something to recover for
4. Rediscovering the self, in which people know who they are besides being someone with an addiction
5. Developing new coping strategies so that they know how to react differently to the triggers that they would usually respond to by turning to alcohol
6. Having supportive relationships, some new and some by rebuilding bridges with loved ones
7. Empowerment, at which point the patients feel that they can deal with life again

The Dry Drunk Syndrome and the Pink Cloud

When people go through alcohol recovery, they have to meet many difficult challenges. Two of those challenges, which are found almost exclusively with alcohol addiction, are the pink cloud and the dry drunk syndrome. The pink cloud is actually a positive experience. It happens when people suddenly start to feel emotions again. They see life through rose tinted glasses, where everything is suddenly great, and people feel an immense relief because they are free. People are entitled to these emotions, but they can sometimes go too far. When people become too high on life, they can become complacent and forget that their recovery will require more work. Additionally, at some point their emotions will become stable again and they may then feel disappointed. While it is important that people enjoy the pleasure of recovering, they have to be realistic and know that they will also experience lows.

The dry drunk syndrome is also quite unique. Essentially, those affected no longer abuse alcohol, but they do not make any other changes in their life. If someone has been an alcoholic for so long, they don’t know any better. They may get to a point in their recovery process and simply move no further. Unfortunately, those experiencing the dry drunk syndrome are also most likely to relapse, sometimes even after many years.