All right, let’s say you realize there’s a problem with your drinking. You notice it getting in the way of your grades, your relationships, and your performance on the football team. Perhaps you see yourself slowing down compared to your peers.
When you decide to go into recovery, you’ll probably find that it’s a multi-faceted experience. It’s not just the end of drinking or drug use. It’s the beginning of a whole new life. Hopefully, it’s getting honest, admitting that there is a problem, recognizing powerlessness to alcohol, being willing to change your character, identifying your shortcomings, and perhaps, making amends with those in the past that might have been hurt.
You can see that healing from teen alcohol abuse isn’t just about leaving the drinking behind. It’s changing your life. However, even though you might feel it’s going to be hard, it’s tempting to force yourself through it. When you’re facing the challenges of staying clean, you might want to use the strength of your will power to stop the addiction. It’s like being on a frightening roller coaster ride, with your white knuckles on the bars in front of you, and doing your best to make it through until the ride comes to an end. Forcing your way to sober living is a sort of white-knuckle freedom. It can feel like you’re pushing to stay away from the drinking.
Yet, just forcing yourself to stop drinking may not be enough for long-term sobriety. Instead of forcing sobriety; to stay sober longer, face recovery. You see, in a way, an addiction is just the tip of the iceberg. Beneath the drinking, underlying the addiction, are the issues that caused the drinking or drug use in the first place. There is often a lot more going on underneath, which frequently include a complex whirlwind of intense emotions and thoughts that likely contributed to the addiction. In fact, these complex feelings and thoughts can be unconscious, or unknown, or repressed.
For this reason, it’s common for teens that are in recovery to work with a mental health professional, especially if they are attending a treatment facility. Perhaps there is an unresolved trauma, such as physical abuse, or domestic violence or the continued family message that anger could not be expressed. The unseen facets to drinking or drug use can include experiences like feelings of inadequacy, a belief in unworthiness, loneliness, intense fear, anger, anxiety, and shame. Part of treating an addiction is not just letting go of the substance; it needs to address the underlying psychological issues that contribute to the illness. This is recovery.
In fact, it’s common for relapse to happen if these underlying issues are not addressed. This is especially true if teen alcohol abuse was the tool to manage intense emotions. Those who chronically relapse might not have found alternative coping mechanisms. Instead, when a whirlwind of emotions storms the internal landscape, it’s easy to reach for a drink. Learning new coping mechanisms, healing unresolved issues that lead to those challenging emotions, and creating strong support networks can help keep relapse at bay and provide a recovery experience that is long-lasting.
Perhaps this is why the 12-step method has been so successful. It includes steps to address not just the drinking but it asks that you dig deeper beneath healing the addiction alone; it asks that you heal yourself, your life. In fact, any program that includes developing a relationship with others, whether that is the AA program or not, can facilitate healing. The support of others, such as participating in a support group or attending a treatment facility, can promote a feeling of connection, being a part of a group, and feeling welcome among those who are experiencing the same challenges.
Forcing your sobriety without facing the fullness of recovery from teen alcohol abuse can be difficult. And if you’re attempting to do it alone, you might begin to see those white-knuckles again. For full healing, recovery can include finding a support group, seeking the support of a therapist, making amends with family members and friends where it’s possible, and giving back. More importantly, addressing the whole iceberg of addiction and not just the tip will keep you sober longer, perhaps for a lifetime.