Some people must face the fact that years of alcohol misuse has compromised their health. Even when they decide to take care of themselves and focus on addiction recovery, they might still have to manage other chronic conditions that developed as a result of substance abuse. While it’s easy to feel defeated—or not choose to get treatment at all—it’s still worth the effort to create a better way of living.
Alcohol-Related Health Complications
Many chronic diseases are potentially inherited. However, experts at Houston Methodist state that “for most diseases that ‘run in the family’, it takes more than inheriting just one change in a gene. Diseases and disorders with complex inheritance patterns include following:”
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Multiple sclerosis
- Parkinson’s disease
- Spina bifida
- Thyroid disorders
“These diseases are influenced by both genes and a number of other factors, such as your environment, lifestyle and diet,” the experts add. Alcohol use disorder (AUD) and substance use disorder (SUD) are also heritable diseases— by about as much as 50–70 percent, according to the American Psychological Association.
So if a person with genetic risk factors for addiction develops AUD or SUD, regaining their mental and physical health requires a lot of changes to behavioral, environmental, and social factors, as well as lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise.
If someone with an addiction also develops any of the diseases listed above, they’ll likely have more struggles than the average person. The Centers for Disease Control indicates that alcohol abuse specifically contributes to additional complications with:
- Digestive problems
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Kidney and liver disease and failure
- Mental health problems
- Various types of cancer
Similar to maintaining recovery, many of these diseases involve a commitment to daily wellness management. Some might even demand vital and consistent medical intervention.
Without a doubt, shifting into a mindset of constant health management can be a challenge. Here are some tips that might help.
Focus on Acceptance
It’s important to accept not only the reality of your health situation but also what it will take to make progress. Acceptance means acknowledging the situation fully without focusing on how or why it shouldn’t be that way. When we accept our situation as it is, we realize that we don’t have to judge ourselves or blame others for it.
Individuals in recovery are often able to acknowledge, reconcile, and make amends for certain behaviors during addiction. But coming to terms with the physical and perhaps mental and emotional damage as a result of it is something totally different. It might be helpful to work with a qualified psychologist who understands chronic health issues. Through methods such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy, individuals learn to recognize strong feelings, be in the moment when they arise, and then use particular skills to move through it healthfully.
Learn What You Can Control
Disease management has multiple layers. For example, someone with heart disease might have to take particular types of medications to avoid further complications and monitor blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol numbers daily. They often have to quit smoking, follow a whole-foods diet, exercise regularly, and get quality sleep, too.
People in recovery often make similar lifestyle changes, but having to “double-down” because of the threat of relapse as well can be even more taxing. Reframe your thinking to what’s in your control, and evaluate why daily self-care routines and rituals matter to you. Remember, you deserve quality of life in every aspect.
There will always be external forces that interrupt a well-established routine. But because you’ve taken such care each day to prioritize your health, you won’t have to start from scratch each time.
Do Your Best to Minimize Stress
Stress takes a beastly cost on health in numerous ways, causing everything from intense inflammation, digestive issues, and chest pain to insomnia, panic attacks, and depression. We all have different stressors and triggers, so learning how to not only cope with stress but also prevent it from escalating is an important measure for disease management as well. Finding relatable support groups for your particular condition might also be helpful.
Give Yourself Some Grace
Choosing to focus on wellness, advance through recovery, and manage chronic health conditions effectively are all positive choices. It’s important to remind yourself how far you’ve come and what you’ve achieved. Whenever you feel the shadow of doubt, guilt, shame, and other negative emotions start to crowd in because of your compromised health, acknowledge and feel them for a moment. Then readjust and refocus by:
- Expressing gratitude. When you’re not feeling the best, showing gratitude can be difficult, but at some point you probably made a list for just such a circumstance.
- Eliminating negative self-talk. What we say to someone else matters, but it’s even more important to address ourselves with that same kindness and compassion.
- Finding peace. Whether you’re a spiritual person or prefer more secular calming pursuits, taking time to center yourself is vital to your overall well-being.
Get More Support From Willingway
You can’t turn back time, but you’re fully able to decide how you want the rest of your life to be. Learn more about managing alcohol abuse and recovery health at Willingway’s continuing care community groups throughout Georgia and the Southeast.