Before and After Alcohol Rehab - Faces & Stories

Written by ridinghood | Edited By Editorial Team

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Before & After Alcohol Rehab: The Faces & Stories of Recovery

People the world over have been getting drunk, hammered, plastered, tanked or sloshed on alcohol since time immemorial. It, therefore, follows that there have been those addicted to alcohol for just as long.

Nowadays, we now refer to this addiction – alcoholism – as alcohol use disorder (AUD), but it’s exactly the same thing – a physical and psychological dependence on alcohol. In fact, along with tobacco and opioids (the prescription kind), alcohol in the modern era is one of the most deadliest (yet decidedly legal) substances on the planet.

Now, consider this

The (Unofficial) U.S. Alcohol Epidemic

We currently live in an era of global pandemics and national epidemics. For a disease or medical condition to qualify as an “epidemic,” however, it only needs to demonstrate that it is “affecting or tending to affect a disproportionately large number of individuals within a population, community, or region at the same time,” according to your standard dictionary.

In reality, that’s a minimum rate of 15 in 100,000 people being directly affected (for a period of a fortnight or more) for the said condition to officially qualify. That’s a mere 0.015%. It’s not much of a threshold to reach, but it’s an incredibly large number of sufferers –  just as opioids have done throughout this century – hence, the “U.S. Opioid Epidemic.”

The thing is this. Alcohol has been easily and resolutely hitting that particular target for many, many centuries. According to data collated from the 2019 National Survey of Drug Use & Health (NSDUH), AUD, or, more commonly, alcoholism, affects approximately 7.6% of all adult men and 4.1% of all adult women, right here in the U.S.

For men, that equates to a massive 500 times higher than the typical epidemic threshold.

Clearly because of its tax-generating legal status, we’ve never experienced an official “U.S. Alcohol Epidemic.” Regardless, we’re definitely in one – however unofficial. Can you see how easily those AUD figures hit the mark for the epidemic criteria? Hitting them right out of the park, to be honest.

Note: Funnily enough, it is currently unknown if the world is fully aware that it is actually right in the middle of a global alcohol pandemic… Best leave them to work that one out themselves.

The Simple Truth: AUD Kills

Alcoholism, AUD, or the wholly inadequately named “drink problem” – whatever you want to call it, there’s no escaping that alcohol addiction kills. An estimated 95,0005 people (split between approximately 68,000 men and 27,000 women) die from alcohol-related causes every year in the U.S., making alcohol the third-leading preventable cause of death across the nation.

Note: For your information, the first is tobacco (another legal substance), and the second is lifestyle, ie. a poor diet and physical inactivity.

It’s Preventable Because It’s Treatable

So, alcohol – the third-leading preventable cause of death across the nation, and freely available from your local store (on the shelf behind the cashier’s counter, and just along from the cigarettes). It’s preventable because it’s treatable. Just like diabetes, hypertension and other chronic diseases, when it comes to AUD, there is no cure, no simple over-the-counter medication that’ll “fix” you. However, as we said, AUD is treatable.

The problem arises, and keeps us all firmly well within “alcohol epidemic” territory, simply because sufferers either cannot access treatment or do not want to access treatment, primarily because of the shame and stigma still attached to alcohol addiction, other substance addictions, and other mental health disorders, too.

Now, let’s return to those gender-based U.S. AUD statistics – 7.6% of men, and 4.1% of women.

Of this huge segment of the population, in 2018, only 7.9% of adults (aged 18 and over) received professional treatment for AUD from an alcohol treatment and rehabilitation facility –

8% of men and 7.7% of women, to be precise.

For those who do manage to access the addiction treatment they need, the effects of long-term recovery are obvious:

Source: Used with the kind permission of Terin DeVoto

However, AUD is no way restricted to those aged 18 and over, as we all well know. Among children (aged 12 to 17), an estimated 401,000 (around 1.6%) have AUD, and the majority, unlike adults, are female. Sadly, only around 5% of those received actual treatment.


Source: Used with the kind permission of Terin DeVoto

However, AUD is no way restricted to those aged 18 and over, as we all well know. Among children (aged 12 to 17), an estimated 401,000 (around 1.6%) have AUD, and the majority, unlike adults, are female. Sadly, only around 5% of those received actual treatment.

Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) / Alcoholism: The Definition

AUD is medically defined in the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM: Fifth Ed.), as a psychiatric disorder, and other substance use disorders (SUDs) are defined in the same way. Many AUD sufferers also abuse other drugs, and vice-versa. Additionally, when another psychiatric disorder (not another SUD) co-occurs with AUD, this is clinically referred to as co-morbidity (and can also be known as dual diagnosis and co-occurring disorder).

According to the DSM: Fifth Ed., AUD 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.”

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How Does Alcohol Addiction Affect Your Physical & Mental Health

Despite adversehealth consequences,” and regardless that long-term alcohol abuse will inevitably reduce a person’s life span expectancy, the damage will continue to be done, as surely as the alcoholic will continue to lose out socially, economically and spiritually. That is, of course, unless the addict seeks and finds professional addiction treatment.

In fact, alcohol is such a potent substance that it doesn’t matter if you’re a hardened social drinker or an AUD sufferer – the continued use of alcohol will negatively affect, in both the short-term and the long-term, your physical and mental health, with the only difference being the severity of the damage caused.

Short-Term Physical & Mental Effects of Alcohol Use

The liver, on average, will metabolize a single standard drink of alcohol every. However, this is affected by factors such as age, weight, liver function, and gender. Consuming more than a single beverage every hour can lead to intoxication, continually raising an individual’s blood alcohol content (BAC).

Short-term effects of alcohol, which can range from mild, such as flushing of the skin, to more severe symptoms, eg. passing out or vomiting, include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Loss of coordination
  • Reduced core body temperature
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased blood alcohol content (BAC)
  • Vomiting
  • Passing out
  • Possibility of alcohol poisoning; the symptoms of alcohol poisoning can include:
    • Confusion
    • Nausea / vomiting
    • Slowed or irregular breathing
    • Cyanosis (blue-tinted skin) or pale skin
    • Hypothermia (low body temperature)
    • Unconsciousness
    • Seizures

On a psychological level, short-term effects include:

  • Lowered inhibitions
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Loss of coordination
  • Loss of critical judgement
  • Reduced perception, especially vision
  • Mood swings

Long-Term Physical & Psychological Effects of Alcohol Use

The effects of long-term alcohol use, including AUD, can result in chronic physical health issues, such as causing or contributing to liver damage, cardiovascular disease, and several types of cancer. Here is a more comprehensive list of those chronic physical health issues:

  • Physical brain damage, ie. diminished gray matter and white matter
  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty learning
  • Severe thiamine deficiency, which can lead to Wernicke encephalopathy, a form of dementia, and Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, a form of brain damage – symptoms of this syndrome include:
    • Confusion
    • Impaired coordination
    • Learning problems
    • Memory difficulties

Fig. 1: Icterus (jaundice) of 41-year-old woman with AUD (source: Zachary Q. Mortensen, MD) Fig. 2: Liver Cirrhosis [illustration] (source: Health Direct)
Fig. 3: Alcoholic Gum Disease (source: Dentistry Journals Open Source Archive)

Physical Effects of Alcohol Use Disorder

  • Poor dental health, ie. tooth decay and gum disease
  • Icterus (more commonly known as jaundice, the yellowing of skin and the sclera, the whites of the eyes)
  • Pancreatitis
  • Alcoholic hepatitis (severe inflammation of the liver)
  • Liver fibrosis (severe scarring of tissue in the liver)
  • Steatosis (fatty liver)
  • Cirrhosis of the liver (late stage liver fibrosis)
  • Increased risk of cancer, including throat, mouth, larynx, breast, liver, colorectal, or esophageal cancer
  • Reproductive problems, including erectile dysfunction and irregular menstruation
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat)
  • Cardiomyopathy (a form of heart disease that can lead to heart failure)
  • Stroke
  • Temporary alcohol-induced psychiatric syndromes, such as:
    • Alcohol-induced depressive disorder
    • Alcohol-induced bipolar disorder
    • Alcohol-induced sleep disorder
    • Alcohol-induced psychotic disorder
  • Several mental illness, such as
    • Major depression
    • Anxiety disorders
    • Schizophrenia
    • Bipolar disorder

No More Alcohol: The Physical & Mental Health Improvements

From the perspective of health, there are several clear benefits in abstaining from alcohol, and, undoubtedly, many more if it’s part of a long-term recovery from AUD (and the same goes for long-term recovery from drug addiction). However, certain damage caused by a dependence on alcohol is permanent, ie. cirrhosis of the liver, or can be permanent, ie. Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (in around 25% of cases, sufferers from this syndrome are unresponsive to treatment).

Common Physical Health Improvements of Alcohol Cessation

The most common physical health improvements of alcohol cessation (obviously including the recovery from AUD) include:

    • Better skin: Completely stopping your alcohol consumption can result in better looking skin, including
      • The loss, or the significant reduction, of the following symptoms:
        • Broken capillaries on your face, particularly the nose
        • Dehydration
        • Inflammation
        • Jaundice
      • Increased collagen levels, which results in far less loose, saggy skin
      • Restoration of elasticity to the skin
      • Both the redness and yellowing of the skin and around the eyes will slowly disappear
    • Improved sleep, including increased sleep duration and a better quality of sleep
    • Healthier weight: Alcohol makes it much harder for the body to absorb nutrients and it also derails the metabolism; for example, if you binge drink, you can consume around 600 calories or more in one drinking session. By completely stopping your alcohol consumption, you will naturally return to a healthier weight. Furthermore, sobriety brings lifestyle changes, including proper nutrition and exercise
  • Improved immunity: Alcohol interferes negatively with your immune system, preventing the production of white blood cells to fight off germs and bacteria.
  • Enhanced nutrition: Alcohol depletes your body of vital nutrients, and it also interferes with the nutrition process, affecting digestion, storage, utilization, and excretion of nutrients. Alcohol cessation will enable your body to better absorb these nutrients
  • Improved brain cognition: Abstaining from alcohol can help reverse common negative effects related to brain cognition, including problem­-solving, memory, and attention
  • Additional benefits: These include:
    • Reduced risk of cancer
    • Reduced cardiovascular risk

Common Mental Health Improvements of Alcohol Cessation

The most common mental health improvements of alcohol cessation include:

  • Increased self-confidence and self-worth
  • Decreased anxiety and depression
  • Long-term abstinence from alcohol (over several months to a year) can allow structural brain changes to partially correct
  • The reversal of common negative effects related to brain cognition, including:
    • Problem­-solving
    • Memory
    • Attention

Important: Diagnosed mental health disorders, such as major depression, bipolar disorder, and including those that are deemed alcohol-induced, may still require the appropriate clinical treatment, including the use of medication.


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Real-Life AUD Recovery: Terin’s Story

Terin DeVoto was a mere 11 years old when he first started to experiment with the various substances he could lay his young hands on. He had no thoughts of addiction, no thoughts of becoming a “drunk,” like some of the homeless he’d seen on the streets –  just the relatively innocent thought of getting high or drunk or both. However, his continued experimentation led to its ultimate conclusion – substance addiction, primarily AUD.

Terin before and after alcohol rehab

Source: Used with the kind permission of Terin DeVoto

From huffing paint to prescription pills to liquor – everything except a needle. My main addictions were alcohol, and cocaine and ecstasy to give me the ability to drink longer.”

– Terin DeVoto (above photos dated 2008-10)

As Terin, now 30 years old, a father, an executive at Purpose House Sober Living in Fort Collins, CO., and having just celebrated his 10-year anniversary of sobriety, vividly explains, “I used and abused just about everything possible, from huffing paint to prescription pills to liquor – everything except a needle. In the end, my main addictions were alcohol, and cocaine and ecstasy to give me the ability to drink longer.”

As Terin’s childhood turned slowly into adulthood, he could no longer hide the physical effects of his long-term addiction to both alcohol and illegal drugs, just as he couldn’t kid himself any longer when he started to lose all that mattered to him on a material level – his job, his car, his money, and, ultimately, his home.

However, as any active alcoholic or drug addict knows, when you’re drinking or you’re using, material things can quickly lose their shine and their sense of importance. As long as the alcoholic or the drug addict remains active, such losses are usually considered inconsequential, if they’re considered at all.

Thankfully, it wasn’t simply the loss of material things that finally prompted Terin to take action against his alcohol addiction – it was something far, far deeper that finally made him accept the help that was being offered, and set him on course to change his life. As Terin explains, “It came down to being completely broken spiritually and emotionally. I was willing to do whatever it took to never go back to that lifestyle.”

In June, 2010, Terin was arrested for a probation violation, a common occurrence for the active addict. However, fortunately for him, he was bailed out of the ominous jail cell by a close friend. It came with only one condition – that he attended an AA meeting right now.

Thankfully, Terin has been sober ever since. He recently celebrated his 10-year sobriety anniversary.

Source: Used with the kind permission of Terin DeVoto

Like a good friend of mine says… this is the hill I’ll die on.”

– Terin DeVoto

Like many substance addicts who are extremely grateful for their long-term recovery, Terin has now focused his life on his much-loved daughter, and he’s focused his career on giving back to the recovery community that helped him. Now the Executive Director of the Purpose House Sober Living facility in Fort Collins, CO., which provides a safe, sober living home for men who are in early recovery by offering a communal, high accountability living environment, Terin recently became a certified Recovery Coach.

As he proudly says, “Watching a success story unfold before your very eyes… there’s just not many feelings that compare to that. I feel so extremely blessed to be in the position I’m in. Like a good friend of mine says… this is the hill I’ll die on.”

It is not just his own journey to addiction recovery that now takes his time – it’s his work and his primary goal to help others find the recovery he has. Everything he does is done solely to inspire others to take the same path he eventually took: “My hope is to show those people that addiction is not a death sentence.”

Contact Modern Recovery today to find out how we can help you recover from substance addiction. Our flexible outpatient treatment program allows you to maintain your daily work and family commitments while receiving treatment at our facility.

Author: ridinghood
NOVEMBER 11, 2020

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