CASE STUDY: Bryn in Glamorgan
“‘I’m Bryn, a recovering alcoholic. Nice to meet you’ is not the sort of thing I say whenever I’m out and about; in social situations where there is alcohol available, I mean. It tends to put a dampener on things just a tad!”
Bryn – a 52-year-old Job Centre Plus relationship coordinator based in one of Wales’ most historic counties – is not alone in his reluctance to talk about the past: his addiction to alcohol; how he took control of his drinking through going to rehab; and how he is now striving to live an alcohol-free life. Thousands of people across Britain rarely talk about their recovery from alcoholism.
If you quit drinking, expect to grieve
For many people, giving up drinking can be a hugely traumatic experience, both mentally and physically; a period of grieving can even occur. For years, they have been self-medicating using alcohol. To suddenly be without their ‘medication’ can be a massive change – sadly, too vast a change for some to cope with (and so they hit the bottle again).
After a period of treatment at a private rehab clinic in England, Bryn has managed to resist the temptation to drink again:
“I went to a private clinic in Wiltshire for my rehab treatment, actually. There, the clinicians and counsellors were very patient with me and the other alcohol addicts having treatment on a residential basis. The professional staff explained to us that giving up drinking is a very gradual process, not something that happens overnight.
The modules that made up my own particular treatment programme included: detox, medication, nutritional support, psychotherapy, and even CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy). I benefited immensely from all of that.”
Note: At the Wiltshire clinic, there were optional activities and alternative therapies available to complement Bryn’s treatment programme during his stay. Key elements included:
- Group therapy – including men’s/women’s group
- Education through lectures
- Educational videos
- One-to-one relapse prevention counselling
- Reading assignments
- Creative writing
- Art therapy
- Drumming workshops
- Drama therapy, and even
- Theatre workshops
“The great thing about the clinic was that the support didn’t end once I left there,” Bryn explains. “I was able to access help through the clinic’s Aftercare programme that is designed to help you feel strong once you return home. It means there is nothing abrupt or sudden about being out in the big wide world again.“
Recovery requires strategy, awareness, proven techniques…
So, a recovering alcoholic is basically an individual whose mind is fighting something that their body craves: alcohol. Prior to seeking help for their addiction, they have drunk excessively and regularly. And as their drinking has spiralled, their body’s tolerance for alcohol has increased simultaneously.
It’s not surprising then that, for a recovering alcoholic, giving up alcohol can come as a shock to their system. They are in recovery from what is a life-threatening disease. At a private rehab clinic, they will have been taught techniques and strategies to help them best cope with giving up drinking. And then, after completing a course of treatment at rehab, they will be being supported by the clinic’s Aftercare team. Guidance given to them at treatment’s end (when they return home again), will include advice, such as:
- Do utilise your rehab clinic’s post-treatment support when you need to, but at the same time it is essential that you take full responsibility for your recovery
- Expect a period of grieving. Don’t fight it. Let it take its course. You have been dependent on alcohol in your daily life for a long time. For it to suddenly not be there will take some adjustment, both physically and mentally
- When you feel up to it, start to build a new social network (of non-drinkers), and get out and about, participating in activities where alcohol is not on offer
- At rehab you will have talked at length with experienced professionals about your craving triggers. You’ll have learnt to recognise these. So, now that you are back in the ‘real world’, take pains to avoid them
- Look for support and encouragement from people around you that you trust
- Set milestones – if you manage to abstain from drinking for a whole week, treat yourself to something nice. If you remain sober for an entire month, treat yourself to something REALLY nice
“What did I treat myself to? Intermediate level acting classes, actually,” Bryn says with a smile. “While at the Wiltshire clinic theatre workshop, which I enjoyed enormously, I discovered my inner thespian! I found performing in front of others gave me such a thrill – a much greater buzz than I ever experienced through drinking.”
Note: All names have been changed