Since Alcohol Is Legal, Why Is It Addictive?

Since Alcohol Is Legal, Why Is It Addictive?

It’s an interesting conundrum to be honest. With alcohol being the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States and about 88,000 dying from alcohol-related deaths every year, what gives? 

Why alcohol is legal is perhaps a story for another day but it’s largely because it’s been around for millennia and easy to produce so its usage has been incredibly normalized over time. It’s even part of some religious ceremonies and traditions around the world. Add to that the fact it’s a 200+ billion dollar industry in the US (and of course even larger globally) and you can understand its staying power in our culture.

Nonetheless, despite its origins and money-making power, alcohol remains one of the most commonly used addictive substances with about 86% of people 18 or older reporting they drank it at some point in life.

Why Is Alcohol Addictive?

Alcohol doesn’t necessarily carry the same stigma of other addictive agents but it is very much an addictive substance with over 14 million adults struggling with an alcohol use disorder.

Why is alcohol addictive though? What gives it that hold over us?

First of all, alcohol makes people feel good and that feeling is itself addictive. Drinking alcohol releases dopamine and endorphins, otherwise known as feel-good chemicals. Repeated use is motivated by the brain craving more of those chemicals. The more you drink, the higher your tolerance becomes which in turn means you need to drink more to get that same hit of dopamine and endorphins. Ultimately that can slip you right into addiction.

The Difference Between Casual Drinking and an Addiction

The addictive nature and legality aside, this is a big distinction. The one between casual and alcoholism. While no set in stone number of drinks make someone an addict, there are significant differentiators in consumption habits.

The casual or social drinker isn’t relying on alcohol. It’s not their reason for going to an event or the reason they’re doing anything at all. It’s a compliment. If a casual drinker were invited to a dry barbeque or told a party wouldn’t have an open bar, it wouldn’t be a dealbreaker because their motivation isn’t the alcohol.

Put another way, casual drinkers have control.

As per the CDC, moderate drinking is defined as 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 for men. But again, it’s less about the numbers and more about the ability to control and moderate intake.

On the flip side, there is addiction. Alcoholism. Whatever you want to call it, when drinking becomes severe it’s given the medical diagnosis of an alcohol use disorder, which is defined as, “a chronic relapsing brain disorder characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences.”

As you’ll note in the definition, it boils down to control.

For the person struggling with alcohol use disorder, the tables are turned. Where they at one point controlled their consumption, now their consumption is in the driver’s seat. You can see how this would change their relationship with alcohol and how something like being told an event is dry would drive them to skip it entirely.

Alcohol becomes the reason to do something. People that are addicted will prioritize drinking and find excuses to do it. They’ll have difficulty stopping once they start. You’ll find them drinking alone. Missing obligations at work, school or in their home life. They develop a high tolerance and experience withdrawal symptoms when they don’t drink.

They’re dependent on the drink and it controls them. That’s the difference.

Star Recovery Center Is Here to Help

If you or someone you know has that relationship with alcohol and can’t pull away from it despite the best efforts, get in touch with us at Star Recovery Center where a stay at our men’s only southern California treatment center can be just what you need to break the habit.

A Guide to Meditation and Mindfulness in Sobriety

mindfulness and addiction recovery
The stress of substance abuse on the mind is a real challenge to cope with. It’s why treatment only starts when detox ends because the physical addiction is only a piece of the puzzle when working towards lasting sobriety. More importantly, it’s the reason they say recovery is a journey and not a destination. Chemical dependency changes the very wiring of our brains and healing the mind is an ongoing process. Meditation and mindfulness are tools that help us develop awareness and clarity towards that end and they serve to assist in repairing the mental damage done by substance abuse. Sobriety is about taking one step at a time and mediation and mindfulness break it down further to focusing on one breath.

What Is Meditation and Mindfulness?

Sitting still and chanting ommmm. That’s stereotypically the first thing that might come to mind at the mention of mediation. But for real, what is mediation? The easiest thing is to consult the dictionary which tells us that it means to “think deeply or focus one’s mind for a period of time, in silence or with the aid of chanting, for religious or spiritual purposes or as a method of relaxation”. Mindfulness expounds on the idea of meditation and takes it further, Mayo Clinic defines it as, “a type of meditation in which you focus on being intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling in the moment, without interpretation or judgment. Practicing mindfulness involves breathing methods, guided imagery, and other practices to relax the body and mind and help reduce stress”. The draw to both in the context of maintaining lasting sobriety is clear: if you can train yourself to be aware and in the moment the benefits can be revelatory.

How Does Meditation and Mindfulness Help in Sobriety?

While both are considered alternative therapies to the traditional course of action for treating substance abuse, getting into the habit of practicing meditation and mindfulness can feel like a godsend in terms of the positives it shines on your life. Both during treatment and for the long run after. The benefits to sobriety and your general health and wellbeing include: Better Self Awareness – The more you meditate the more you’ll come to understand your thoughts and emotions better and eventually you’ll simply have a better grasp of yourself as a whole. The more in tune with yourself that you are, the more easily you can recognize when something is amiss and catch issues before they become too big to handle. Through that, you’ll ultimately be able to make better decisions for you. Improve Self Esteem – As you come to know yourself better and develop a way to work through and manage negative thoughts meaningfully, your positivity increases. Additionally, when you know you’re in control of your thoughts and the meaning you ascribe to them, it’s easier to find the positives. Reduce Stress – Logically, taking time to relax and focus on your breathing will reduce stress. Being squarely in the moment is a means to overcome and control anxiety. As you continue to practice meditation it can make dealing with stressors in the future feel manageable. Additionally, lower stress levels can help your immune system function better. Manage Anxiety/Depression – Depression and anxiety can be sparked by a lot of things, but stress is a big one. With mindfulness and meditation, you’re able to calmly get yourself through those bouts without dipping into anxiety or depression. Better Focus – As you hone your skill in meditation a natural byproduct is that your focus will greatly improve.

Practice Meditation and Mindfulness at Star Recovery Center

At Star Recovery Center in Anaheim, CA we believe strongly in the living in the moment ourselves. We’ve seen the transformative power for ourselves in the clients that go through treatment with us. If it’s something that’s piqued your interest, reach out to us and we’ll happily walk you through what meditation and mindfulness look like at Star Recovery Center.  

How to Prepare for Drug Rehab

preparing for rehab

Making the decision to go to rehab is one of the most important things you will do in your entire life. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows that more than 20 million Americans suffer from addiction every year, yet only 10 percent ever go on to receive treatment for it. Your decision to enter rehab is your declaration that you are not going to let yourself be another statistic, and you are ready to seize back control of your life. 

Now, as you’ve probably heard, rehab can be challenging, especially when it comes to inpatient treatment programs. Inpatient treatment is highly effective because it allows you to remove yourself from the drug abuse triggers and enables people in your everyday life. However, it will come with its own set of challenges that you will need to push through. The path to recovery isn’t necessarily easy, but it is a rewarding one.

Star Recovery Center knows it’s important to prepare yourself ahead of time in order to help yourself through the challenges of addiction treatment and get the most out of it as possible. 

Make Necessary Arrangements

The whole point of an inpatient addiction treatment program is to remove you from the influences and potential toxic spaces of daily life. If you’re like many people suffering from drug abuse though, you likely have important personal and professional commitments that aren’t just going to go away in your absence.

When preparing for drug rehab, it’s a good idea here to make a list of things that will need to be taken care of. If you have children or pets, for example, find a trusted relative or friend to care for them both while you are gone and upon your return while you are adjusting back into everyday life. Work is a little trickier, since you may be reluctant to tell people that you are going to rehab. The decision to do so will depend on your situation and work climate, but you will at least need to take a leave of absence (many people simply coworkers that they need to get treatment for a health issue). In most cases, your employer cannot fire you for seeking addiction treatment as per the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Know What You Can (And Can’t) Bring With You

Rehab centers have strict rules when it comes to what you are allowed to bring with you. In many cases, even cell phones must be turned in at check-in. It’s a good idea to reach out to your addiction treatment program ahead of time for a list of things you are encouraged to bring and those that are prohibited.

In most cases, you will not be permitted to bring along anything that may distract from your treatment or that of others. Even toiletries with alcohol or strong scents are often prohibited, as these can trigger addiction cravings in some cases. If you take any necessary medication, you will need to disclose it upfront. 

Generally speaking, here’s an example list of items you’ll want to bring with you to rehab:

  • At least one week’s worth of casual, comfortable clothing (no flashy jewelry, and if you bring a swimsuit, it must be modest). You may also want to bring along a nicer outfit for special occasions / when you check out of inpatient treatment feeling refreshed.
  • Basic, necessary toiletries (toothbrush, deodorant, hairbrush/comb, hair bands, basic makeup, etc.)
  • A journal / notebook. Writing about your experience and thoughts will help you get more in touch with yourself as well as enable you to better keep track of your progress. 
  • Some cash, as you may have opportunities to make small purchases during outings or at vending machines.

Don’t Keep Comparing Your Progress to Others

The connections you form while in rehab are important ones that can serve as a strong support network. However, you will not do yourself any favors if you keep worrying that you’re not making the same kind of progress as others. The grass will often appear greener on others’ paths to recovery, but yours is the one you need to focus on. Completing addiction treatment and moving forward is a journey, not a race. 

How to Prepare for Drug Rehab – Go With an Open Mind

Going to rehab can be scary, and at first you might not understand the treatment methods or why there are so many rules for inpatient care. However, it’s important to go with an open mind. Be receptive to this new opportunity for a fresh start, and don’t be afraid to participate in new activities or explore new hobbies. And remember that you are not alone. The other patients are there to turn over a new leaf as well and learn how to overcome their own struggles with drug abuse. Making new connections with your fellow program participants is, in many ways, just as important as being receptive to the addiction treatment itself. 

Know That Addiction Treatment Is Just the Beginning

Many people leave rehab better than they’ve felt in a long time. At the very least, you should check out of your inpatient treatment program relaxed, completely sober and feeling confident in your skills to avoid drug abuse. This is the beginning of a new chapter in your life, after all. At times you will be tempted to fall back into old habits. Many people do relapse at least once following rehab. However, you will now have the ability to pick yourself up afterwards and get back on the right track. Addiction recovery is hard, but you’ll be well equipped for it with the right treatment program under your belt. 

We’re Here for You

Do you have questions about rehab, or are you still looking for the right addiction treatment program? We can help. We offer addiction and substance abuse treatment in Orange County, so you can relax and finally overcome drug abuse. Get in touch today; there’s no better time than the present to say “enough is enough.”

The Power of Music in Addiction Recovery

As Elton John once said, “Music has healing power. It has the ability to take people out of themselves for a few hours.” 

This quote is even more fitting, seeing as the musician himself struggled with addiction for a number of years. But for the past 30 years, Elton John has been successfully living life in sobriety. In this time, he has also written some of his biggest hits and won a number of the music industry’s most prestigious awards. 

His story helps show how music can assist in healing the mind and the soul. Most of us aren’t Elton John, but the singer/songwriter’s struggle is one that millions of Americans know all too well. At Star Recovery Center in Southern California, we work with people struggling with addiction from all walks in life. We have seen first-hand how music can help those working to overcome substance abuse. The power of music may often be underestimated, but it is something that can help you manage stress, improve your mood and even distract you long enough to let substance abuse urges subside.  

Music as a Coping Strategy

Just about everyone who has achieved long-term addiction recovery will tell you; the desire to abuse substances doesn’t just magically go away following detox and treatment. Instead, real long-term success is achieved by actively making healthy decisions every day. This road is a difficult one, and most people leave rehab with a number of new coping methods under their belt for a reason. Music can serve as an effective strategy for many people, especially when one is needed quickly. 

Of course, it’s not as simple as just switching on any song. When you’re starting your new life in sobriety, it’s a good idea to create different playlists for the various moods or triggering feelings that make you want to use drugs or alcohol. Feeling really stressed one day? Through on your relax list. Feeling discouraged or unsure of yourself? Time to listen to some power music! Feeling too unmotivated to go out and get things done? A high-tempo energy playlist could be just the thing to get you moving! The exact kinds of song genres you listen to will depend on your taste preferences of course, but you get the picture. 

Embracing the Effects of Music on the Body

If you’ve ever felt chills run down your spine while listening to certain songs or found yourself involuntarily tapping or twitching along, you may already be aware of the physical effects music has on the human body. But it goes deeper than that.

When you listen to music you enjoy, your brain releases the chemical dopamine, which elevates your mood, lowers blood pressure and even helps improve muscle tone and function. Listening to music frequently has also been shown to improve cognitive thinking and brain function, among other positive body effects. In fact, a study by the University of Washington shows that repeated listening to music can even help speed up brain development in young babies

As for those struggling with addiction or staying sober, the physical effects of music may help in a variety of ways. For example, heightened dopamine levels can instantly help bring your mood back to a place where you can confidently opt for healthy options and feel good about your new life in sobriety. Likewise, improved brain function may help repair some areas that have been weakened by past drug or alcohol abuse. 

Music Therapy and Behavioral Changes

In addition to improving mood and bodily function, music has also been shown to have powerful effects when it comes to behavioral changes. Naturally, this is of great importance to those of us who want to curb dangerous and unhealthy behavior patterns (such as those associated with addiction). 

The thinking behind music therapy stems from the science of addiction itself. Because substances often give the body feelings of joy, the goal is to find ways to replicate these feelings through natural, healthier circumstances. Music elevates mood and releases dopamine, so frequent listening is an appropriate alternative for many people. Music therapy focuses on making alternatives like these your automatic go-to instead of substances, hence the behavioral shift.

In addition to helping you become reintroduced to this “natural high” feeling, your music therapy experience may also involve activities like meditating, singing or working out to music. All of these will in turn help you associate music with positive feelings and behavior. 

Heal Through Music With Us

Interested in learning more about how music can help you heal and live a happy, healthy life of sobriety? We invite you to reach out to our team at Star Recovery Center in Costa Mesa, CA. In addition to offering music therapy as one of our addiction recovery options, we have a wide range of other treatments and coping methods that can help you finally achieve the life in sobriety you’ve been dreaming of.