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Published on: 18-Oct-2023

Alcohol abuse is a severe issue because it starts stealthily for most people. You start with a drink or two to celebrate or relax. Before you know it, you become a habitual drinker and eventually end up with a full-blown addiction. Athletes are at a high risk because they celebrate frequently and need to relax often. Sports-related stress and injuries are other risk factors. 

According to the World Health Organization, alcohol consumption causes 3 million deaths each year globally. It also contributes to the poor health and disabilities of millions of people. Overall, alcohol abuse counts for 5.1% of the burden of disease worldwide. You will surely find these numbers disconcerting whether you are an athlete or a common person.

If you are into sports, addiction recovery should be a priority because alcohol abuse can hamper your performance and reputation. The journey can be long and challenging, but the effort is worthwhile. The comeback stories of sportsmen like Brett Farve, Lawrence Taylor, Joe Namath, and Darren Waller are inspiring for athletes looking to win the sobriety game.

Your grit and a strategic approach can help you conquer the challenge. Here are a few actionable strategies to beat the odds and emerge as a winner:

Accept the Problem

Lack of acceptance is perhaps the biggest challenge hindering addiction recovery. Many individuals get into denial mode, which is one reason they never take the first step. If you are famous, you tend to be even more prone to denial. 

Denial includes defense mechanisms like rationalization, minimization, and projection. Beware of such behaviors because they can delay treatment and progress. 

As an athlete, you are a role model representing fitness and resilience, so be ready to accept and acknowledge your mistakes. The sooner you accept the problem and start working on a sobriety plan, the better your chances of reclaiming your life and performance. Remember that you have the strength within.

Seek Professional Help

Professional help is an integral element of alcohol rehab because achieving sobriety alone is challenging. You may encounter roadblocks such as alcohol withdrawal symptoms that push you back toward drinking. Athletes face bigger challenges regarding their performance and confidence levels during recovery.

According to the Canadian Centre of Addictions, professional therapy and counseling are vital for athletes struggling with alcohol addiction. You can consult a sports counselor because they understand the unique challenges faced by people in professional sports. 

Privacy should not be a concern because rehab facilities follow ethics and maintain patient confidentiality all the time.

Build Your Support Team

Multiple studies highlight the value of social support networks in addiction recovery. People with strong support tend to stay in treatment longer and achieve better recovery outcomes.  Rehab can be a lonely experience if you isolate yourself due to negative thoughts like shame and fear. Rather than worrying about social stigma, athletes should open up and seek support.

Build a team you can trust to be at your back in the toughest times. Start with your coaches, counselors, and teammates because a supportive environment at the workplace is crucial. Lean on your family and friends for emotional support. Joining athlete-specific support groups is a great idea as it connects you with people going through similar struggles. 

Avoid Triggers

Relapse is perhaps the worst thing you may face during your addiction treatment journey. Unfortunately, it is more common than you imagine, with surveys showing that nearly 75% of alcohol abusers relapse within a year of treatment. Avoiding triggers is your best defense against relapse, so you should identify them and strategize prevention.

Here are the potential culprits that may slow down athletes during their recovery process:

  • Social situations where you have access to alcohol 
  • People who remind you of drinking or encourage you to do it
  • Stressful patterns and routines 
  • An urge to celebrate after a great performance
  • Negative emotions like anxiety, depression and low self-esteem

Develop a Realistic Comeback Plan

A realistic plan with actionable milestones is the best way to cope with alcohol addiction. As an athlete, you will surely know the value of creating realistic goals and plans. They are less stressful and more achievable. 

Start small with milestones such as setting daily drink limits, consuming 10% fewer drinks each week, and staying clean for a few days. Small steps set you up for success by motivating you to push harder. It can take you closer to your “total abstinence” goal sooner than you imagine. 

Affirm your commitment each day and celebrate small victories. You can even start journaling because writing things reinforces the commitment to achieving your milestones and goals. 

Focus on Your Fitness Routine

Athletes are in a good place when it comes to fitness during addiction recovery. According to a recent study, exercise can be a game changer for people seeking relief from substance abuse. Besides helping with a reduction or cessation, improved markers of physical health link with decreased depressive symptoms.

Focus on your fitness routine to get better outcomes with rehab. Be open with your trainer and make them a part of your treatment plan. They can tailor your fitness plan and recommend workouts that strengthen your body and mind. Remember that pushing too hard can stress you out. You should opt for a plan that keeps you fit without going over the top. 

While you rework your fitness plan, remember to optimize nutrition to handle the rigors of treatment recovery and performance management.

Practice Self-Compassion 

Getting rid of alcohol addiction is hard, no matter how committed you are. People who start at the highest levels of motivation and commitment lose their way and give up in the middle of the journey. Practicing self-compassion is the key because you are human, and you may fail or fall during the recovery process.

Being an athlete adds up the pressure of working harder and trying more. But you should not let unrealistic expectations burden you. Be ready to embrace failure with kindness and compassion because you deserve it as much as anyone else.

Wrapping Up

Alcohol abuse can kill your performance and career if you are into professional sports. Even worse, it can tarnish your reputation for good. Accepting your problem and beginning the recovery journey should be your priorities. These actionable strategies can help you stay in control and win the battle against alcohol addiction.