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How To Help Your Teen With Alcohol Recovery

December 26, 2023
15 min read
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Written by
Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
December 26, 2023
15 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
December 26, 2023
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
December 26, 2023
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Reframe Content Team
December 26, 2023
15 min read

It might feel odd to think about your teen drinking, but according to the 2022 Monitoring The Future study, teens usually find access to alcohol at home. Being new to drinking, they may lack the impulse control or sensibility to moderate their consumption. Since alcohol is illegal for teens, they will typically hide their drinking habits. Both of these habits can lead to overdrinking and alcohol abuse.

Teen drinking can cause lasting cognitive effects, including problems with attention, memory, and executive functioning. There’s also a higher chance of developing mental health issues like depression and anxiety, since alcohol use can disrupt how they manage emotions.

While the journey to alcohol recovery can be daunting, the right support from loved ones can offer teens the encouragement to succeed.

The Right Nutrition for Alcohol Recovery

For teenagers, whose brains and bodies are still developing, a balanced diet plays a crucial role in the recovery process from alcohol use. Drinking alcohol can deplete the body of essential nutrients, so it’s important to restore these nutrients for their physical and mental health during recovery.

1. Regular, Balanced Meals

Space your teen’s meals consistently throughout the day in order to maintain stable blood sugar levels. Ensuring this stability is key in reducing mood swings and cravings, which are common issues during recovery. A balanced diet should include the following:

  • Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber to support overall health and digestion.
  • Whole grains like brown rice, oats, and whole wheat bread can provide sustained energy, which is essential for stable blood sugar.
  • Healthy fats from avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil are good for the brain and can help the body absorb more vitamins. 

2. Hydration

Alcohol can dehydrate your teen, so making sure that they drink enough water is important to help their body eliminate toxins and ensure nutrients are easily absorbed. Proper hydration can help them think more clearly about schoolwork and other responsibilities. To help them stay accountable, find a trendy water bottle that they would enjoy carrying around and remind them to drink water throughout the day.

3. Whole Foods

Processed foods and high-sugar meals can disrupt your teen's energy levels and mood. Recovery can become more challenging when they consume foods that cause mood fluctuations because of rapid spikes and crashes in blood sugar

  • Choose whole foods and opt for fresh or minimally processed items for your teen.
  • Start reading nutrition labels to become aware of hidden sugars and additives in packaged foods.
  • Select snacks like fruits, nuts, or yogurt instead of sugary options.

4. Vitamins

Your teen might need extra vitamins to help them through alcohol recovery. Be sure to talk to a doctor before taking any vitamins or supplements; they can give you advice on what vitamins are safe and right for your teen. Some vitamins to consider are:

  • B vitamins can help with brain health and nerve function because drinking alcohol can deplete thiamine in the body.
  • Vitamin C is important for immune function, skin health, and as an antioxidant because it helps in repairing and regenerating tissues. 
  • Vitamin A is also important for immune function and vision since excessive drinking can affect the liver’s ability to store vitamin A and can lead to deficiencies.

Exercise in Alcohol Recovery

Exercise can play a significant role in the recovery process from alcohol use, especially for teenagers. Here’s a more detailed look at why this is beneficial and how you can effectively incorporate this into your teen’s recovery journey:

Improves Physical Health

Exercise can help rebuild muscles that prolonged alcohol use has weakened. Strength training builds stronger muscles and helps contribute to better overall physical health. 

Heart-related issues can be a concern with past alcohol use. In order to increase endurance and reduce the risk of cardiac disease, your teen can also try aerobic exercises like running, swimming, or cycling, because regular cardiovascular exercises can strengthen the heart and lungs. 

Alcohol can affect the body’s blood supply. Exercise can stimulate proper blood circulation, which helps transport nutrients and oxygen to different parts of the body efficiently and aids the removal of waste products and toxins caused by alcohol.

Enhances Mental Well-Being

Exercise stimulates the release of endorphins in the body, which are chemicals that can naturally make your teen feel happier and more relaxed. Being active reduces stress hormones in the body, which makes it easier for teens to handle the worries and anxiety that can come with recovery. There’s more than just feeling less stressed. Regular exercise helps the brain produce new cells and reduces swelling, which can lead to a calm and happier state of mind for your teen.

When your teen begins to get stronger and reach their fitness goals, they will feel prouder and more confident because exercise boosts self-esteem. Your teen can also join sports teams or fitness groups to make more friends and gain a sense of belonging. Achieving confidence, improving body image, and making friends can help them through alcohol recovery.

Tips for Incorporating Exercise

When helping your teen get into exercise, allow them to try different routines to see what they like. Begin with simple activities like walking or light jogging to build up their strength and endurance slowly. Don’t forget to remind them that it’s okay to rest if they’re tired and to do a bit more each week gradually.

Help them set realistic goals, like a short daily walk, and then slowly extend the time or distance. Keeping track of their progress can be encouraging, and always celebrate their achievements, no matter how small.

Try to make exercise a regular part of their routine. It’s okay if they miss a day — the key is to get back into it without feeling bad.

Always check with a doctor before they start, especially after alcohol use. Make sure they have the right gear, like proper shoes, and that they’re exercising in a safe place.

Importance of Adequate Sleep in Alcohol Recovery

Adequate sleep is extremely important for teenagers in alcohol recovery. Sleep gives their brain a chance to rest and repair, especially since alcohol might have affected their brain’s development. Getting adequate sleep also ensures that the muscles grow back stronger and aids in tissue repair.

When your teen gets enough sleep, it’s easier for them to concentrate and remember things, which is important for school or any extracurricular activities that they’re doing. Good sleep also keeps them in a steady good mood and helps as they work through alcohol recovery.

A good night’s sleep helps keep stress and alcohol cravings in check. A well-rested teen can think more clearly and make better decisions, which is important when they are trying to stay away from alcohol.

To help your teen sleep better, you can incorporate healthy sleep hygiene habits.

  • Regular sleep times. Get them to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. This helps their body get into a rhythm and improves the quality of their sleep.
  • A nice place to sleep. Make sure their bedroom is a good place to sleep. It should be cool, quiet, and dark. A comfy bed without distractions like phones or laptops can make a difference.
  • Turn off screens before bed. Screens from phones and computers can make it harder for them to fall asleep. Try to get them to switch off these devices an hour before bedtime. Instead, they can try reading a book or listening to a podcast (no true crime though!).
  • Relaxation before bed. Simple things like deep breathing, meditation, or some light stretching can help them relax and get ready for sleep.

How Can You Support Your Teen During Alcohol Recovery?

Join your teen in Dry January! When you participate in Dry January, you are showing your teen how to make healthy choices, especially since they are trying to stay away from alcohol themselves. 

Doing a Dry January challenge together shows your teen they're not alone; it’s a way to show support and makes sticking to their goals easier.

By not drinking yourself, you will see firsthand what your teen is going through, which can help you understand them better and support them in the right way.

Celebrate Small Wins

Celebrating moments, no matter how small, are a powerful part of helping your teen through recovery because they encourage and give them hope about the future.

If you want to cut back on your alcohol consumption but don’t know where to start, consider trying Reframe. We’re a neuroscience-backed app that has helped millions of people reduce their alcohol consumption and develop healthier lifestyle habits. 

Summary FAQs

1. How does alcohol affect a teen's brain and overall health?

Alcohol can have lasting effects on a teen's brain, leading to problems with attention, memory, and decision-making. It can also increase the risk of mental health issues like depression and anxiety, as it disrupts emotional regulation.

2. Why is a balanced diet important in my teen’s recovery from alcohol?

A balanced diet is crucial in recovery because alcohol depletes essential nutrients needed for physical and mental health. Regular, balanced meals help maintain stable blood sugar levels, reduce mood swings and cravings, and provide vital nutrients for brain and body health.

3. Should my teen take vitamins during alcohol recovery?

Your teen might benefit from additional vitamins during recovery, but it's important to consult a doctor first. Vitamins like A, B-complex, and C can help replenish nutrients lost due to alcohol use, supporting brain health and the immune system.

4. How does exercise help with physical health in alcohol recovery for teens?

Exercise helps rebuild muscle strength and improves cardiovascular health, which can be weakened due to alcohol use. It also stimulates blood circulation, aiding in the efficient transport of nutrients and the removal of toxins, which is crucial for overall physical recovery.

5. What are the mental health benefits of exercise for teens recovering from alcohol use?

Exercise releases endorphins, natural chemicals that enhance mood and reduce stress, making it easier for teens to manage anxiety and worries associated with recovery. Regular physical activity also boosts self-esteem and confidence, as teens see improvements in their fitness, and can provide a sense of belonging through group sports or exercise classes.

6. Why is adequate sleep important for teenagers in alcohol recovery?

Adequate sleep is crucial for the brain and body to heal and recover, especially after alcohol use that may have affected brain development. It also improves concentration and memory, which are essential for daily activities, and maintains a stable mood, aiding overall recovery.

7. How does good sleep help in decision-making and managing cravings during recovery?

Getting enough sleep helps in managing stress and reducing cravings for alcohol. When well-rested, teens can think more clearly and make better decisions, which is vital for maintaining their path away from alcohol.

8. How can participating in Dry January support a teen in alcohol recovery?

Participating in Dry January shows solidarity with your teen and sets a healthy example, demonstrating a family commitment to avoiding alcohol. It also allows you to understand better the challenges your teen faces, fostering empathy and enhancing your ability to provide effective support.

Leading by Example With Reframe

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet millions of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol. 

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today! 

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