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Understanding Recovery from Alcohol Use Disorder

Many people suffer a range of consequences from heavy drinking and want to either:

  • Cut back to moderate drinking  

  • Quit drinking altogether

Alcohol misuse might be related to binge drinking. Binge drinking is drinking that raises blood alcohol concentration to .08 g/dL. This usually happens after 4 drinks for women and 5 for men in about 2 hours. Heavy alcohol use is defined as exceeding the recommended daily or weekly limits.

Moderate drinking means staying within recommended limits:

  • For women. 1 drink per day and no more than 7 drinks per week

  • For men. 2 drinks per day and no more than 14 drinks per week

  • For adults older than age 64. 1 drink per day and no more than 7 drinks per week

These guidelines refer to a drink equal to a 12 oz. beer (5%), a 5 oz. glass of wine (12%) or 1 ½ oz. shot of spirits (80 proof).

You can examine your own drinking with help from the NIAAA’s interactive website: The website will lead you through a series of questions to help you understand where you stand on the range. This can mean drinking that may be a cause for concern to drinking that suggests a more urgent need for change. Recovery from alcohol use disorders can be much more successful with treatment. 

Treatment options

There are a variety of treatment options to help people struggling with alcohol use. They range from outpatient programs including 12-step programs to inpatient rehab programs. They include behavioral counseling, medicines, and mutual-support groups. There is even telephone-based coaching designed to help people limit alcohol available in many places. VA hospitals have alcohol treatment programs designed specifically for Veterans. In addition, the NIAAA has a tool called the NIAAA Alcohol Treatment Navigator that can help you find a qualified treatment provider near you: You may find it helpful to discuss treatment options with your primary healthcare provider. Together, you can develop a plan.

Persistence pays off

Alcohol use disorder can be a chronic, relapsing disease. So, it is important to persist with your recovery.  Many people who are trying to recover from alcohol problems will have lapses or relapses along the way, especially during times of stress. Realize that a brief lapse doesn’t need to turn into a full relapse, if you get help and learn from it. Trained professionals can help you develop skills and prepare for triggers to stay away from or overcome the stressors that might lead to drinking. Medicine and ongoing group support can also increase your chances of successful, long-term recovery. 

Coping with depression and anxiety

It is common for people with alcohol use problems to suffer from major depression or anxiety. These are highly treatable problems. It is usually important to get help with them to successfully overcome alcohol use disorders.

A healthy lifestyle

Often when people are drinking at unhealthy levels, they get away from some of the basics of good health. It can be helpful all around to find your way back to a healthy lifestyle.

  • Exercise and be active. This may give you something to do instead of thinking about drinking, and it also can help reduce stress. People who are fit usually have less anxiety, depression, and stress than people who aren't active. Get active. 

  • Get enough sleep. Feeling well-rested is important. Get help with insomnia.

  • Eat a balanced diet. This helps your body deal with tension and stress. Whole grains, dairy products, fruits, vegetables, and protein are part of a balanced diet. Learn how to eat wisely.

  • Practice stress management and relaxation. There are many ways of doing this, from pleasant activities to meditation to yoga or tai chi. Choose what works for you. Learn to manage stress.

Author: StayWell Custom Communications
Last Annual Review Date: 9/1/2019
Copyright © The StayWell Company, LLC. except where otherwise noted.
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