If you’re someone who has enjoyed alcohol frequently and are starting to wonder if you have a problem, an alcohol counselor can help. What was once fun could be hurting you, and the only way forward is to get your problem under control; a professional like a counselor can give you the tools needed to wrest yourself free from your addiction.
First, you’ve got to realize that you’re in real need of assistance. If you’re unsure whether you are addicted to alcohol, ask yourself these questions:
- Are you comfortable with just one drink? Many alcohol addicts, or alcoholics, are not.
- Has your drinking affected other parts of life? Are you missing work, losing money, being violent? People who cannot carry on normal, happy lives while drinking can be addicted.
- What happens to your body without drinking? At some point, if you’re an addict, you have a real, physical dependence on alcohol that makes you feel like you truly *need* a drink. In severe cases, shaking and hallucinations occur.
- Do you drink without others? Many alcoholics attempt to hide drinking and keep it to themselves lest anyone realize how much they’ve having.
- Do you “black out”? Excessive drinkers will have entire chunks of memory missing.
- Has anything “bad” happened because of drinking? If you can point to repeated instances where your drinking affected others or got you in trouble, it’s possible a problem exists.
Once you’ve asked and honestly answered these questions, you’ll have a better idea of your own struggle with alcohol. For a more thorough assessment, consult an alcohol counselor.
Drug and Alcohol Abuse Counselor
First, it’s vital to understand what an alcohol counselor does. They interact with individuals, couples, families and groups to discuss and counsel regarding alcohol and how it’s affected people. Their guidance, knowledge, experience and education help them to support and guide people through recovery.
In many cases, you will meet in private weekly sessions with your counselor. They will ask questions about your general state and determine how best to start treating you. During the days between sessions, you may have “homework” or specific things to do. If not, you’ll be encouraged to use and remember your sessions as you walk through life. You may also have sessions with your spouse or family.
If you go to an inpatient facility or rehab center, in addition to your own individual sessions, you’re likely to be required to attend group therapy. This environment is often helpful for realizing you’re not alone and that others are dealing with the same problems you are.
It’s also wise to know what alcohol counselors cannot do. They cannot “fix” you. You may become frustrated at times because you don’t understand why you’re not progressing enough and think something is wrong with the counselor. In truth, you have to work on your health; your counselor is your guide and your support, but you are the one with the work to do, not them.
Your counselor is also unlikely to tell you directly what choices to make. If you are having a problem, they will teach you the skills you need to make proper choices and encourage you to decide on your own. Depending on the type of counselor you have, they may not be available at all hours of the night; you may need to contact a sponsor or another supportive person if they are unreachable.
Alcohol Counseling for Couples
The job of the alcohol counselor will be slightly different when they see you and your spouse as a couple. Much will depend on whether you are the only drinker between you or not. If you’re both drinkers, the counselor may approach both your relationship and your alcohol use in much the same way. Both of you will need to be heard and treated in similar ways.
However, if your spouse is someone who doesn’t drink the way you do, their treatment may not be the same. They will be given techniques to manage themselves when you are drinking; like your counselor, your non-drinking spouse shouldn’t be “fixing” you. They must protect themselves from the effects of your alcoholism. Your counselor may suggest certain communication methods and certain ways of discussing things with your spouse. They may also recommend individual counseling for your spouse, as well as organizations like Al-Anon.
Alcohol Intervention Counselor
If your family, including your spouse, parents, adult children and siblings, all know about your alcoholism and have been seeking help themselves, they may want an intervention. An intervention is a meeting with all parties. During an intervention, everyone will have time to speak for themselves about how your drinking has had a real, substantive effect on them and how their lives have turned out. This will usually happen if you have been reluctant to receive help or are convinced that you’re fine and no one has any reason to think otherwise.
It’s easy for you, the drinker, to feel as if your family is all against you. You may feel ganged up on. However, that’s not the purpose of the meeting. Having an alcohol intervention counselor there is advisable, both to permit family members to speak and explain how you may benefit from this meeting. Your counselor and family have likely agreed that you need help with alcohol, and their only goal may be to get you to see your need through seeing the consequences of your actions. They may want you to go to therapy or enter rehab.
It’s important that you spend the meeting listening and focusing on those who care enough about you to stage an intervention. Even if you don’t think enough about yourself to want help, trust that people who know you best are really worried and think help would make you a healthier relative. Work with your counselor afterwards to discuss good ways to go forward with treatment.
Questions to Ask Your Alcohol Counselor
How long will our sessions be?
Your weekly sessions will probably only be about an hour long unless you need intensive, more frequent sessions. However, it’s definitely worth asking about whether your sessions will continue for six months, a year or beyond that. Sometimes that will depend on your health insurance, but there are times that it will also depend on the facility’s guidelines. This will give you some idea of how long you’ll be getting this kind of help.
How will I know when I’m better?
Once you do get into counseling, you may want more than anything to feel better about things and “cured” from alcohol dependence. Your counselor will likely express that as an alcoholic you’re never considered “cured” and will always be an alcoholic; that does not mean there aren’t clear signs of improvement.
In fact, your counselor may have a life goal plan or another action plan in place so you can work on objectives, taking action toward your goals and meeting them. They may re-assess the plan many times to see what’s working and what isn’t.
How much of my history do you want to know?
During your first sessions, your alcohol counselor will want to know about your past, how you started drinking and try to analyze why you developed a problem and what behaviors seem to trigger you. However, they may not be interested in your romantic relationships or job history. To help them be effective, you may want to flat out ask what specific details they need from you in order for treatment to work best.
What should I do between sessions?
As mentioned, it’s possible “homework” of some kind regarding your behavior is given out. You might be asked to start a journal or talk to some family members you haven’t seen in a while. If nothing specific is said, ask directly about what kinds of things you should be doing as you wait for the next session.
Can I bring other people to our sessions?
Even after an intervention, you might find that you experience friction with the relatives who want to help you. You may still have problems with friends and others. To help you, it may be possible to get your friends and relatives to go to a session or two with you. However, ensure that you’re clearing it with your alcohol counselor first. This will give them time to prepare and will let them know that you’re serious about getting better.
Is there anything I shouldn’t do?
You should also be asking whether there are forbidden activities and behaviors. You may be asked to refrain from drinking of course, but your counselor could also have advice regarding the people you hang out with and other issues. Be sure to let them know whether you’re still doing things you shouldn’t; they may be able to offer you coping skills or other resources to help you stop.