Intervening Before Rock Bottom

By The Fix staff 11/19/18
Addressing problematic substance use from the comfort of your own home can help you stay healthy.
Sad man holding alcoholic drink, rock bottom

Maybe you’ve noticed that you’ve started drinking on weeknights or imbibing alone after a long day at work. Perhaps you don’t drink often, but when you do you always end up blacking out. Or you’ve just become uncomfortable with how often you reach for the bottle.

“Alcohol addiction can creep up on a person,” said Katie Lain, director of community engagement for Ria Health, which uses medication-assisted treatment and telemedicine to provide treatment for alcohol addiction at home. “Maybe in hindsight you can see where you developed a problem, or you’re questioning whether or not you have a problem.”

When we picture alcoholism we think of the person who is drinking morning, noon and night. While that’s alarming, there is a much larger segment of the population that has slowly slipped into drinking more than they would like. Most still meet their daily obligations, but might feel that they have lost control over their relationship with alcohol. These are the people that Ria Health aims to help.

“When they can catch it before it gets to the point where it changes everything, people can be empowered around their relationship with alcohol,” Lain said.

Lain uses the analogy of gaining weight — it’s easier to make a correction and reclaim your health when you’ve gained 5 pounds than if you’ve gained 25.

“It’s easier to lose it if you catch it before it gets bad,” she said.

Ria Health connects people with medical professionals and coaches via the phone and internet, giving them support to help change their drinking habits without having to commit to abstinence or attend formal treatment. This is a needed middle-ground in a culture that too often lets people hit rock bottom before offering them help, Lain said.

“We’re helping people realize that you don’t have to allow it to progress,” she said. “If you’re drinking more and more, our program allows you to address it while you’re still in control, in a way that is confidential.”

It’s a mission that is personal for Lain. A year and a half ago she had a habit of drinking a bottle of wine a night. While she was keeping things together, she knew that this was not the relationship she wanted with alcohol.

“I was aware that alcohol was causing problems in my life and would continue to do so,” she said.

Lain felt that her habit wasn’t bad enough for rehab and she had tried AA before and felt it wasn’t a fit. Plus, she wasn’t entirely sure she wanted to give up alcohol — just that she wanted to be in control of her drinking. Eventually, she connected with a doctor who offered video consultations and medication-assisted treatment.

“The ease of meeting with doctor via video gave me the courage to get help when meeting in person was too daunting,” she said. “It let me seek help in a way that wasn’t too intimidating.”

The medication immediately helped her start making healthier choices around booze.

“The first thing I noticed is it gave me that off signal,” she said. “Before, I could easily drink to blackout. With the medication I could drink one or two glasses of wine and I didn’t want for more. Before, one or two glasses was just getting me started.”

Then, she began noticing that she was no longer counting down till the end of the day when she could have a drink.

“I didn’t realize how much I was craving until the cravings were removed,” she said. “It was always on my mind, and as they were removed this monkey was off my back a little bit.”

More than a year later those cravings have become so rare that Lain doesn’t drink at all.

“It wasn’t my intention to be abstinent, but now that my addiction is out of my system I’ve totally lost interest,” she said.

Working with Ria Health, she sees many women with similar stories.

“Our biggest audience is women,” she said. “Women who are at the point where they have established careers, perhaps they’re parents. They’re successful people who have everything going in life but have the tendency to have a nightly wine habit or a drinking problem. Ria Health is for anyone who feels they have lost control in their relationship with alcohol.”

By empowering those people to take control early on, they are able to more easily change their drinking habits.

“Why do we believe we have to wait until people hit rock bottom to make changes? Why can’t we address it before that point?” Lain said. “Ria Health is giving people permission to do that, allowing someone to come back into control with their relationship to alcohol without cravings, compulsion or binge drinking.”

Ria Health provides medication-assisted treatment via telemedicine to help people drink less. Connect on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or YouTube to learn more, or take their alcohol use survey to assess your drinking habits.

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