Many people use alcohol as a way to relax and to deal with stress.
It can be a form of self-medication, but consistent, chronic alcohol use can take a dangerous toll on someone’s physical and mental health. In most cases, alcohol will only worsen the person’s condition and may lead to the development of addiction.
It is not always easy to identify when casual alcohol consumption becomes habitual and a problem. Alcohol is legal in the United States and is commonly consumed at many recreational events. For this reason, alcoholism can gradually develop over time and individuals may not be aware of a problem until it consumes them. When alcohol is used as a method of dealing with difficulties and escaping negative emotions, it becomes a dangerous behavior.
Alcohol can cause a number of short-term and long-term side effects. In the short-term, alcohol can cause drowsiness, slurred speech, vomiting, headaches, upset stomach, impaired judgment, blurred vision, blackouts, and unconsciousness. When binge drinking or consuming alcohol over a long period of time, it can cause liver disease, nerve damage, brain damage, malnutrition, cancer, and increased risk of car accidents and unintentional injuries.
Alternatives to Alcohol
Many people use alcohol as a means to unwind and relax. Alcohol is frequently used as a way to escape stressors, which can lead to the development of addictive behaviors. When alcohol is used in this manner, environmental triggers and emotionally stressful situations become connected to alcohol use, which can lead to the development of addictive behaviors. Over time, the use of alcohol itself becomes a stressor, which creates a cycle of abuse. It is common for individuals to use alcohol as a means of self-medication, but this often worsens the problem and the person’s condition.
Stress is always a factor in everyone’s life, and developing healthy ways of coping with it can drastically improve one’s quality of life. Rather than using substances to escape or avoid situations, managing stress in a healthy way can help an individual cope with stressors without adding additional strain physically, emotionally, or financially. Instead of using alcohol, there are a number of supplements that can provide some of the same relaxing effects without the potential for addiction and the damage alcohol can cause.
- Kava: Kava goes by many names including kava root, kava pepper, kawa kawa, intoxicating pepper, and kew. The plant is native to the South Pacific and is primarily used for medicine. Kava is used to calm anxiety, stress, restlessness, and treat sleep problems, such as insomnia. It is also commonly used in the treatment of headaches, depression, muscle pain, and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is also used as a painkiller and to promote wound healing. Kava affects the brain and other parts of the Central Nervous System (CNS), and is a popular social drink similar to alcohol. Kava is a safer way to achieve the “social” effects of alcohol without the negative effects of a depressant or the addictive elements. While Kava is a popular alternative to alcohol, there is concern about its effects on the liver with long-term consumption.
- L-theanine: L-theanine is derived from tea leaves, but can also be found in edible mushrooms (Boletus badius). This chemical is known to help relieve stress by inducing a relaxing effect without causing drowsiness. It is also shown to possibly have positive effects on the cardiovascular system and may play a role in the prevention of cancer. L-theanine is most commonly found in tea, but it can also be in many foods, especially in Japan. While l-theanine has caused side effects such as headaches and dizziness, the chemical seems to be mostly beneficial for users. Its ability to calm the nerves and alleviate stress provides the same relaxing effect users seek from alcohol, but without the negative side effects and consequences.
- Valerian: Valerian is an herb that goes by a variety of names including all-heal, baldrian, garden heliotrope, and amantilla. Valerian is most commonly used to treat sleep disorders, such as insomnia. It is often combined with other herbs, lemon balm, or hops in order to induce drowsiness. The herb is also used to treat conditions related to anxiety such as stress, headaches, migraines, upset stomach, and nervous asthma. Some people have even used it to treat depression, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), mild tremors, joint pain, and epilepsy. The herb can even be added to bath water to help with restlessness. Valerian acts as a sedative on the brain and nervous system. Many use alcohol as a means of sedating themselves or as a method of falling asleep, which makes valerian a great, healthy alternative.
Healthier Alternatives to Alcohol Consumption
While alcohol is often used to come with stressors, it is also used as a means of relating to others or as a way to pass time. Rather than using alcohol for recreational activities or as a way to build relationships, there are a variety of other activities that can help an individual connect with others, pass the time, or become healthier physically and mentally. Many alternative activities can serve multiple purposes in an individual’s life. They can help an individual deal with stress, build confidence, become physically or mentally healthier, and can lead to the development of healthy relationships built on common ground without the influence of mind-altering substances. While alcohol may provide temporary relief, it is harmful to your health and can potentially lead to addiction, leaving an individual unable to deal with daily stressors without the assistance of alcohol. The following are natural, healthier ways to relax without the assistance of alcohol.
- Meditation: Meditation has been practiced for centuries as a method of relieving stress, anxiety, and depression. It is proven to help reduce blood pressure, alleviate pain, and induce a state of relaxation. Meditation is often used in treatment programs for addiction because it encourages an individual to focus their attention inward, helping them to feel calm and develop a sense of clear self-awareness. While meditating, you may choose to focus on a mantra, an image, a sound, or nothing at all, and it only requires 15 to 20 minutes of special breathing and silence.
- Exercise: Exercise is an excellent outlet for those looking for ways to deal with stressors in a productive way. Whether you decide to take up running, dancing, swimming, or weight lifting, the possibilities are endless. Exercise encourages you to get out of the house, encourages the release of endorphins, and improves your physical health. As you reap the benefits of exercise, your confidence will grow and you will develop a more positive body image that can improve your outlook on life.
- Spend time with family and friends: While this may seem to be an obvious suggestion, it is often one of the most overlooked practices. Spending time with those you love and those who are close to you can easily improve your mood. The possibilities are endless, and blowing off steam with someone you are close with can help you relax. Talking and laughing with loved ones is one of the healthiest ways to deal with stressors.
- New hobbies and activities: Replace time spent consuming alcohol with new hobbies and activities. Whether you read a good book, see a movie, paint, or make music, engaging in productive and fun activities can help you de-stress and focus your energy on something else. Explore a variety of activities and find some that appeal to you; most importantly, do not be afraid to try something new! This can help you develop new relationships with others and can provide healthy outlets for stress.
Treating Alcohol Addiction
While there are a number of activities and behaviors you can incorporate into your daily life to deal with stressors in a healthy way, when alcohol use becomes addiction, it is important to seek the help of a professional in order to abstain from use and achieve sobriety. Chronic alcohol use can be incredibly damaging both physically and mentally, and initial withdrawal may be dangerous without the assistance of medical professionals. Alcohol withdrawal is known to cause a rapid heart rate, sweating, nausea, vomiting, tremors, headaches, fever, convulsions, and hallucinations. With the assistance of a medically supervised detox, individuals can withdraw from alcohol safely and comfortably.
Professional help can also help an individual to identify the influences that contributed to the development of addiction and can work with him/her to create healthy methods of dealing with stressors and triggers. A professional treatment program can connect individuals with support groups that further assist them in the recovery process. Often times, participation in support groups can strengthen the recovery process by helping individuals interact with others who share similar experiences. Groups can help participants stay on track through sobriety, develop motivation, and inspire others.
If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol abuse or addiction we can help. Give us a call at 877.628.1157.