It probably goes without saying that drinking heavily over many years is going to have some medical consequences. The body will begin to deteriorate in a variety of ways. The alcohol consumption over many years not only affects the health of the body; it also affects the stability of the mind as well. In fact, you might have heard that having an addiction is a destructive process. This is true with regard to almost every aspect of life. An addiction can destroy relationships, a career, a marriage, and the home environment. It can also destroy the body. Long-term alcohol consumption can wreak havoc on the body.
Alcohol alone impedes nutrient breakdown and impairs the ability to assimilate those nutrients. Also, when someone is in the height of their drinking, 50 percent of their calorie intake is derived from the drinking. The damage to the body, not only because of the addiction but also because of the destructive food choices has led many rehabilitative treatment centers to include nutritional counseling in their treatment plan.
Nutritional eating can in fact aide the healing process during recovery. Returning to a diet that is rich in nutrients can help replenish the body, giving it energy, repairing organ tissue, and strengthening the immune system. Recovering addicts can actually use certain food to facilitate their healing, such as those that increase the production of serotonin that help enhance mood. Feeling better physically and mentally no doubt can facilitate one’s overall experience of life, providing a better outlook on the recovery road ahead.
Yet, before an addict makes the choice to get healthy, prior to getting sober help, there are many health risks and long-term medical illnesses that can result from chronic heavy drinking. For instance, long-term alcohol consumption can affect nearly every organ in the body. Drinking alcohol across the long term can affect coordination, thiamine deficiency, and other forms of poor nutrition, as mentioned above. Alcoholism can lead to illnesses having to do with the heart, such as hypertension and an irregular heartbeat. It can also cause impotence, irregular menstrual cycles, pancreatitis, stroke, confusion, and amnesia. Other illness associated with chronic heavy drinking includes:
- High blood Pressure
- Nerve Damage
The long-term effects of alcoholism can be devastating and life threatening. This includes the psychological effects of an addiction as well. Approximately, 10%-15% of those with alcoholism will attempt to take their life. Those who were able to complete a suicide tend to have positive alcohol levels in their blood stream. One population that is at a high risk of both suicide and alcoholism is men who have lost their wives within the last year.
If an individual is still in a state of denial regarding his or her drinking, then the addiction will likely continue. However, when you’re aware of having an addiction, when you’re aware of the destructive patterns of the addiction, you still may not be able to bring it to an end. Perhaps with the above list of long-term health consequences, there might be more motivation to finally get sober help.
In fact, it’s common to continue to drink despite knowing the many ill effects of the behavior. It’s the very reason why drug counselors facilitate a process called “motivational interviewing” (MI) — which seeks to evoke your intrinsic desire to change. It does this by exploring your ambivalence to changing behavior, given the pros and cons of using drugs. Exploring and resolving this ambivalence is the goal of this type of therapy. It is a gentle, empathic, yet goal-oriented that requires a skillful therapist to have productive conversations that are sensitive to emotions, inner struggles, and symptoms of any co-occurring mental illnesses. It does not use any coercive methods to change behavior or pressure that might induce feelings of guilt or shame. It simply and safely explores all the pros (such as healthier living and better relationships) and the cons (won’t have a coping mechanism to manage stress and missing the highs that come with getting drunk) to getting sober.
As you move through the process of sorting out your ambivalence, you might in the end either continue to choose to drink or you might decide to seek sober help. The choice is yours. However, only you will live with the medical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual consequences.
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