About Getting Sober
Various treatment approaches to alcoholism work differently for different people. Like any chronic disease,
however, there are varying degrees of success when it comes to treatment.
Before treatment can even take place, however, people not only need to admit that they have a drinking
problem, but they also need to want to quit drinking and learn how to get sober.
In other words, alcohol treatment without sobriety is, for the most part, meaningless.
Getting sober is obviously an important step in overcoming alcoholism and restoring an
individual's life. Everyone with a drinking problem, however, needs to keep in mind that getting sober is only half
The other half, or as Paul Harvey would say, "the rest of the story," unfortunately, is learning how to stay
Recovery from Alcoholism and Getting Sober
Similar to other diseases, alcohol addiction can be overcome with prevention, proper treatment, and increased
While alcoholics exhibit anything but sober living, people, however, can become sober and continue with their
sobriety by following through with their treatment, rehab, and with their recovery program. Getting sober, however,
is one thing.
Staying sober, on the other hand, is quite another issue. In short, sobriety and sober living are possible, but
they are something that needs to be worked on every day in order to prevent an alcohol relapse.
By providing more people with access to quality care, the costly drain on society and the emotional, physical,
and financial burdens it places on families can be significantly reduced.
In fact, research demonstrates irrefutably that successful prevention and treatment results in significant
reductions in strokes, unwanted pregnancy, HIV, child abuse, cancer, traffic fatalities, heart disease, and
Moreover, professional alcohol treatment improves quality of life, health, and job performance while at the same
time reduces involvement with the criminal justice system, family dysfunction, and drug use.
Interestingly, one of the main catalysts for certain individuals to get sober and to want to recover from
alcoholism starts with a basic alcohol test.
That is, due to random alcohol tests at work, field sobriety tests, and/or mandatory alcohol tests performed at
various sobriety checkpoints initiated by various police departments, the "trigger" that motivates some people to
quit drinking and seek professional treatment is an alcohol test that reveals unacceptable levels of alcohol in
their urine, saliva, breath, or blood.
Alcoholism Can be Effectively and Successfully Treated
As serious as alcoholism is, fortunately in most instances it can be treated. Stated differently, people can,
with help, learn how to stay sober and involve themselves in sober living.
And one way to attain sobriety is by seeking and successfully undergoing professional alcohol treatment.
While a number of different treatment approaches exist, perhaps the most effective and productive alcoholism
treatment programs employ doctor-prescribed medications, counseling, and education to help a person stop drinking,
remain sober, and get involved with the alcohol recovery process.
Although most alcoholics need help to recover from their disease, research has shown that with support,
treatment, and effective rehab, many people are able to stop drinking, learn how to get sober, remain safe and
sober, and restore their lives.
In short, abstaining from alcohol is the route to smart and sober living.
While on the subject, let us also point out that the "drinking games" (such as "Beer Bomb," "Death Ring," and
"Russian Beer Roulette" that are played at far too many parties) is a blueprint for disaster and can lead to
alcohol poisoning or alcohol overdose with lethal consequences.
Clearly, such "games" are poor excuses for "fun," are examples of binge drinking--a type of abusive drinking
that cannot be considered "responsible" drinking under any circumstances, and are the polar opposite of "sober
Traditional Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Treatment
There are a number of traditional alcoholism treatment approaches that are relatively well established.
Detoxification. Alcohol detoxification is the process of letting the body rid itself of alcohol
while managing the withdrawal symptoms in a safe environment. This form of treatment is usually done under the
supervision of a medical practitioner and is often the first step in an alcoholic treatment program.
Behavioral Treatments such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Motivation Enhancement Therapy, and
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. A study administered by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found
that each of these behavioral treatment therapies significantly reduced drinking in patients the year after
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Alcoholics Anonymous is a mutual support program for recovering alcoholics
that is based on the 12-steps of recovery that are needed in order to be sober and stay sober. Help and support are
provided by the meetings that meet on a regular basis.
While AA has proven to be an effective therapeutic approach, most practitioners outside of AA, as well as many
people within AA, find that Alcoholics Anonymous works best when combined with other forms of treatment, including
medical care and psychotherapy.
Motivation Enhancement Therapy (MET) is a systematic therapeutic approach that is almost diametrically
opposed to AA in that it uses motivational strategies to activate the client's own change resources. Some of the
key characteristics of MET are the following:
- Helping the client achieve self-efficacy or a sense of optimism
- Providing feedback regarding the personal risks or damage associated with the abuse
- Emphasis on taking personal responsibility for positive change
- Receiving clear advice to make healthy change
- Providing the client with a number of alternative change options
- Therapist empathy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). There are several forms of cognitive behavior therapy. Most of
them, however, have the following commonalties:
- CBT is structured and directive.
- CBT uses the Socratic Method that is based on the asking of questions for insight.
- CBT approaches are based on the cognitive model of emotional response. That is, if we change the way we
think, we can act and feel better, even if the situation doesn't change.
- Homework is a central feature of CBT.
- CBT usually has therapeutic sessions that are briefer and fewer in number than most other forms of
- In CBT, a solid therapeutic relationship is necessary but not the primary focal point for effective
- CBT is a mutually shared effort between the therapist and the client.
- CBT is based on an educational model that views most emotions and behavioral reactions as learned
responses. Thus, the therapeutic goal in to help the client unlearn undesirable reactions and emotions and
replace them with new and more positive ways of feeling and reacting.
- CBT theory and techniques rely on the Inductive Method. This method has clients look at their thoughts as
hypotheses (or suggested explanations) that can be tested and questioned. If clients discover that their
hypotheses are incorrect, they can then change their thoughts and feelings to be more in line with reality.
- CBT is based on stoic philosophy. CBT does not tell clients how they should feel. Rather, this form of
therapy focuses on helping clients learn how to think more logically and effectively.
Therapeutic Medications. This treatment approach centers on the client taking doctor-prescribed medications such
as naltrexone (ReViaT) or disulfiram (Antabuse) in an attempt to help prevent the person from returning to drinking
after he or she has alcohol consumption.
Antabuse is a drug given to alcoholics that elicits negative effects such as flushing, dizziness, vomiting, and
nausea if alcohol is ingested. Antabuse is effective mainly because it is a strong deterrent.
Naltrexone (ReViaT), on the other hand, targets the brain's reward circuits and is effective because it reduces
the craving the client has for alcohol.
Outpatient Counseling. There are various approaches to counseling that teach alcoholics how to
become aware of the emotional and situational hot buttons that trigger their drinking.
Armed with this information, clients can then learn about different ways in which they can cope with their
feelings and situations that do not include the use of alcohol. These types of therapies are typically offered on
an outpatient basis.
Counseling. Because the recovery process is so intimately tied to the support the client
receives from his or her family, numerous alcohol dependency programs include family counseling and marital
counseling as key components in the treatment process.
Such therapeutic programs, moreover, may also provide clients with essential community resources, such as
parenting classes, job training, legal assistance, financial management classes, and childcare courses.
Alternative Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Treatment
Although the research findings are not clear, there are some alternative treatment approaches for alcohol abuse
and alcoholism that are becoming more mainstream and widely used.
Examples include "Drumming out Drugs" (a form of therapy that employs the use of drumming by clients), the
holistic and naturalistic approaches employed by Traditional Chinese Medicine, and various vitamin and supplement
therapies have been proposed as "natural" ways to treat alcohol abuse.
As promising as these alternative approaches are, more research is needed to establish the effectiveness of such
therapeutic approaches to alcohol abuse and alcoholism.
We have included some alcoholism videos
so that you can see and hear directly from various people about their struggles with this disease.
If you, a family member, or one of your friends has a "drinking problem," seeing what others have gone through
and how they attained successful recovery is much more "real" than any information you can read about.
Furthermore, watching these videos may help you understand what others with a drinking problem are experiencing,
why many of them quit drinking and got treatment, and how they attained sobriety. So make sure you look at these
Conclusion: About Getting Sober
Diverse treatment approaches to alcoholism work differently for different individuals. Like any chronic disease
or illness, moreover, there are varying levels of success when it comes to treatment. For instance, after
treatment, some alcoholics abstain from drinking and remain sober.
For them, being sober has more to offer than drinking does and so they are "open" to information about getting
sober and staying sober.
Other alcoholics, moreover, experience relatively long periods of sobriety, and then suffer from a drinking
relapse in spite of their treatment.
And still other alcoholics cannot refrain from drinking for any sustainable period of time regardless of the
type of treatment they receive. With alcoholism treatment, however, one thing is clear: the longer a person
abstains from drinking alcohol, the more likely he or she will be able to get sober and remain sober.
Thankfully, there are a number of reasons why alcoholics seek treatment, quit drinking, and live a life of
Almost ironically, however, is the fact that more than a few "problem drinkers" had to get "caught' via random
alcohol tests at work, field sobriety tests, or by sobriety checkpoints established by the local police department
before they finally got motivated to stop drinking and get the alcoholism treatment that best fits their
In sum, although getting sober is something to be proud of, staying sober, it must be stressed,
takes a lot of perseverance and hard work.
The bottom line: sobriety and sober living are possible, but it is important to emphasize the fact that staying
sober is something that has to be worked on every day in order to prevent a relapse.