Recovery from alcoholism is possible whatever your age, and the rewards are priceless. Many recovering people openly share their gratitude to be an alcoholic, as had they not lived with addiction or hit their rock bottom, they wouldn’t have found recovery and embarked on this new way of life. Getting clean and sober at a young age certainly brings with it many benefits, providing you with the life experience, knowledge and mentors to enrich your life in ways you may not otherwise experience. But it is by no means easy. Choosing abstinence and making the decision not to drink again, in a society which actively encourages the use of alcohol at every opportunity, is not for the faint hearted. You will stand out from the crowd, and your choice of lifestyle may be questioned, as you shine light on other people’s drinking habits. Of course, these same challenges apply to alcohol recovery whatever your age, but navigating sobriety in your 20s or your teens comes with its own particular obstacles. We will explore some of these in this article, so that you’re well equipped to deal with challenging situations as and when they arise.
First of all, we wish to emphasise that there is no minimum age requirement for alcohol recovery. Alcoholism doesn’t discriminate and anyone can be affected, regardless of age. Many people question whether they’re too young to give up drugs or alcohol, reasoning that things can’t be that bad as they simply haven’t been drinking or drugging for long enough. This isn’t true at all.
Alcoholism is a chronic and potentially fatal illness, and crossing the invisible line from problem drinking to full blown alcoholism can occur even at a young age. The condition is progressive, so even if you don’t think your current situation too bad or your life unmanageable, it’s certain that things will only get worse if you continue drinking. The consequences many alcoholics face over the years will be yours too at some future point, they just haven’t happened yet: the failed job or marriage, the kids who won’t see you, or the endless financial debt you can’t get out of. They are all waiting for you. The negative consequences of alcoholism are endless, but the worst can be avoided if you stop in time.
Alcohol recovery is for everyone, at any age
Recognising you have a problem with drinking and admitting you need help requires much bravery, maturity and honesty. But in doing so you are setting yourself free. Free from the demon inside your head. Free from the mental torture and prison of alcoholism which has held you captive far too long. Free from the lies and secrecy, the guilt and self-loathing, the denial and the terrible shame that goes hand in hand with this disease. Admitting you are powerless over alcohol and choosing sobriety means you get a second chance at life, and the power to choose what you want your future to look like.
Let’s explore some of the challenges you can expect when entering alcohol recovery at a young age.
2. Standing out from the crowd
Abstaining from alcohol, the most widely-acceptable drug available today, means you are going against the grain. Managing these feelings of being ‘other’ and different can be difficult at a young age. Sadly, it’s often the reason people don’t enter recovery until much later on in life. The stigma and shame that surrounds words like ‘alcoholism’ or ‘addiction’ make it even harder for those struggling to admit the extent of their problem. Much work remains to be done to break down preconceived ideas of this illness and what an alcoholic looks like.
The good news is things are changing. Recent studies suggest that more and more young people are opting not to drink at all, instead choosing a wholesome, more mindful and healthier way of life. A study published in the journal BMC Public Health found that 25% of young people class themselves as ‘non-drinkers’. Similarly, researchers at UCL found that the proportion of 16-25 year olds who don’t drink alcohol increased from 18% in 2005 to 29% in 2015. The focus is shifting among the millennial generation, as people grow increasingly aware of the importance of positive mental health, exercise and diet, and just how negatively alcohol can affect one’s general wellbeing. So you may not be as alone as you think in your decision to go sober.
Joanne Allen reviewed Providence Projects
3 March 2016
Well where do I start… An amazing place that has given me the foundations to start my new life… This place has saved my life! The therapists are wonderful and the program superb! I have met true and honest friends who are my friends for life. My perception of life has completely changed and I owe that to the Provi. If you are looking for a rehab where the people really show an understanding, empathy and compassion this is the place. If your want to be able to go about… your day with reality and honesty look no further. Just for today I will enjoy t... See more
3. Self-doubt: Am I too young?
Being young in drug or alcohol recovery means you will face all of the challenges of growing up and becoming an adult, just without the booze by your side. You are bound to doubt yourself along the way, and feel afraid at times, as everyone does. Your disease may try to trick you, choosing to remember drinking through rose-tinted glasses, and the good times in the early days, as opposed to the stark reality of how bad things became. The important thing is that you stand firm in your decision, knowing deep down that you are an alcoholic. You can’t sit on the fence between alcohol recovery and active addiction, with one foot in and one out: it’s one or the other. Make peace with your decision and understand that it will require sustained effort to maintain your sobriety, but rest assured that you will reap what you sow.
When the self-doubt creeps in, and that nagging alcoholic voice comes to bother you once more, choose recovery. Stay sober for the people you have yet to meet, the future versions of yourself: the sober parent you can become, the fully-present partner or the career you can have. Stay for all the life experiences that are waiting for you, the parties you will remember, and the Sunday mornings you get to experience hangover-free. Stick to your guns because deep down, you know this life is the better one.
Relationships play a big part in life, romantic ones in particular, and they are challenging for everyone. Starting a relationship at a young age without the crutch of drugs and alcohol can be a scary prospect for those in substance abuse or alcohol recovery. Dating without drinking will inevitably raise a few eyebrows, and bring up those familiar questions: ‘What do you mean you don’t drink? At all? You don’t drink ever?’ It’s best to have some answers prepared, and it’s up to you whether you tell them the whole truth or a white lie until the topic of conversation changes. At the end of the day, do what works for you. The people who really matter won’t mind that you don’t drink, and if they do mind, they don’t matter! Sure, people might have some questions or be a little curious at first, but ultimately the only ones you need in life are those who support and encourage you completely in doing what’s best for you.
So the answer is yes, being young and in recovery means meeting some obstacles along the way. And no, it isn’t going to be easy – no one said it would be. But it is so worth it. By surrendering to your battle with alcoholism you are actually winning the war. Seeking professional help to start your recovery, for example being part of an treatment programme, means that the possibilities of life open up to you again – a life that was once so small, limited only to when, where and how to get your next drink. You have an opportunity to change your future, to gain some stability, financial security and self-esteem, and to build meaningful relationships with family and friends, or rekindle those which were lost in the depths of alcoholism. What’s more, you will be equipped to handle any adversity life throws your way: because if you can get sober, you can do anything.
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Alcoholism is a terrible and life-threatening mental illness from which thousands of people die each year. But it is also treatable, and recovery is possible whatever your age. If you’re reading this and think that yourself or a loved one needs help, then please take a chance today and give us a call at our private alcohol rehab on 01202 393 030. Our team of skilled addiction counsellors are on hand to talk through your treatment options, and work with you to find the best solution possible. With the right support and professional alcohol program, life can get better and you can recover.