Alcoholism can completely upend a person’s life, as well as negatively impacting the people closest to them. The disease takes on a mind of its own after chemical dependency develops, wiping out any semblance of free will. No matter how desperately someone may desire sobriety, the deeply embedded addiction triggers and behaviors are usually impossible to overcome without professional help.
It is never too late to get needed help for an alcohol use disorder. Even later stage alcoholics can still reverse damage and change their lives, adding years of productivity and enjoyment to their life. However, one of the most strident deterrents to getting treatment for an advanced alcohol use disorder is the fear of going through detox and withdrawal.
True, alcohol detox can be especially daunting, with potentially life-threatening withdrawal symptoms, such as the delirium tremens (DTs) suddenly appearing halfway through the detox process. But in a medical detox there is specialized help with DTs from drinking excessively over a long period of time. These trained detox professionals are fully equipped to manage such serious symptoms, and to guide the individual through safely.
Overcoming Fear of the DTs
What exactly is the delirium tremens, or the DTs, anyway? Some mistakenly confuse the term “DTs” with the hand tremors or body shakes that can occur in alcohol withdrawal. The DTs is actually considered a very serious health emergency that can emerge during alcohol detox rather unexpectantly. The DTs are most common among those who have been heavy drinkers for a long time, impacting about 5% of individuals going through detox. Of those who experience the DTs, 5-15% will die from the condition.
The DTs may come on at or around the third day of detox. However, in some cases, detox may be winding down when, on day seven the sudden symptoms of the DTs begin. Symptoms of the DTs include:
- Uncontrollable tremors
- Severe mental confusion
- Extreme anxiety
- A sense that insects are crawling under the skin
- Heart failure
Sometimes the DTs will emerge when an unexpected hospital stay is required of a chronic alcoholic. In the hospital there will be no access to alcohol, meaning the emergence of withdrawal symptoms and possibly the DTs.
Getting Help With DTs From Drinking
While the DTs are a frightening possibility to consider, keeping perspective is key. Not only does it affect only a small percentage of alcoholics going through detox, when an individual undergoes detox in a medically supervised setting, their vital signs will be closely watched for the duration of the detox, and medical interventions are provided to reduce the possibility of seizures. Additionally, the medical detox providers can quickly identify the onset of symptoms and get immediate emergency medical help for the individual.
Getting help with DTs from drinking excessively for an extended period may mean a hospital stay to stabilize the individual and improve the outcome. Treatment will involve benzodiazepines and/or barbiturates or phenobarbital, often using IV infusion for quick relief and stabilization until symptoms subside. Dosing is congruent with the specific withdrawal signs observed, such as delirium, and will incrementally be reduced over a period of several days once the severe symptoms have stabilized.
Transitioning From Detox to Treatment
It is essential to complete detox before beginning to participate in an addiction recovery program. Once stabilized, the individual will embark on an intensive treatment program at a residential rehab center where they will stay for the duration commensurate with the severity of their alcohol addiction. Programs may be one month to one year in length.
Alcoholism is treated using an array of interventions that work together to usher in a new sober lifestyle. To arrive at that goal, one must first overhaul the learned addiction behaviors and develop new health thought and behavior patterns. This is a process that takes time and patience for the new habits to take root. These are taught through such evidence-based approaches as cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, motivation enhancement therapy, and contingency management. Therapy is provided in both individual sessions and in group formats, and may include family members and spouses.
How to Stay Sober in Recovery
Remaining sober will be a lifelong endeavor, requiring sobriety to be one’s number one priority. Without sobriety everything else will fall apart. Achieving a sustained recovery is the result of adopting new coping skills to access in times of distress. These recovery skills may include anger management techniques, stress reduction exercises, conflict resolution skills, and relaxation techniques.
Another helpful source of support are recovery groups, such as A.A. or non-12 step groups like SMART Recovery. These recovery communities offer much needed social support where challenges can be discussed among others with the same types of challenges who also value sobriety. These groups are a good source for making new sober friends and promote accountability to someone other than oneself.
Sober living housing is an excellent way to transition from rehab toward one’s home community, allowing a period of time to reside in a substance-free environment. Sober living offers peer support, accountability to the other roommates and the house rules, and provides a deterrent to relapse by requiring regular drug and alcohol testing.
Embracing a new healthy lifestyle is another predictor of recovery success. Individuals who adopt healthy routines, such as getting regular exercise and eating a nutritious diet, find they begin to care more about their overall wellness, which deters relapse. As health is restored, individuals become more confident and content with their new lives in recovery.
Ken Seeley Communities Offers Comprehensive Treatment for Alcoholism in Palm Springs
Ken Seeley Communities provides a full spectrum of addiction services, including intervention services, medical detox that includes help from DTs from drinking, addiction treatment and rehabilitation, outpatient therapy, and sober living housing. Specializing in creating fully individualized treatment plans for each and every client, Ken Seeley Communities blends a variety of interventions to align with the client’s unique recovery goals. For more information about our continuum of addiction services, please connect with Ken Seeley Communities today at (877) 744-0502.