Sports Counselling. Alcohol Abuse and Sports


This case is not unique because there is plenty of evidence that indicates athletes generally use drugs more than their nonathlete counterparts (Lisha and Sussman 2010, p. 405). However, most studies on drug use among athletes focus on performance-enhancing drugs and there is relatively little data on the use of alcohol, marijuana, and other illicit drugs. In the review of literature on this subject, it was noted after research on the relationship between alcohol use and sport participation indicated that alcohol use increased with the degree of participation in sports (Lisha and Sussman 2010, p. 405). On the contrary, the use of illicit drugs reduced participation in sports. Other authors of similar papers cited possible motives to include cultural perception and peer pressure (Mays et al. 2010, p.240). In the case presented it may be assumed that the athlete is in a similar situation.

This athlete’s situation needs to be handled with care to ensure withdrawal from this abusive behavior and prevent other possible problems that could arise from substance abuse. Other studies have found that substance use is related to participation in other high-risk behavior such as illicit drug use, etc. (Mays et al. 2010, p. 1). In addition to the risk associated with other deviant behavior, there is a likelihood that continued consumption of drugs may worsen his sleep disorder. According to Brower, as the consumption increases so does the possibility of insomnia (lack of sleep) in alcoholic patients (Brower 2003, p. 523). The poor sleep patterns that John provides as a motivation for alcohol abuse may indeed be caused by the pharmacological effect of the drug (Johnson and Breslau 2001, p. 2).

Literature Review

From the interview with the athlete John, it has been established that the interviewee has an alcohol dependency problem and requires rehabilitation to end the abuse of this drug. In some of the literature reviewed in relation to this problem, it was established that alcohol abuse and insomnia are often related. Insomnia is a common disorder in which patients find difficulty falling asleep (Brower 2003, p.523). Alcoholism which results from prolonged abuse of alcohol is a disorder that is characterized by the inability to control the consumption of alcohol despite adverse effects from continued consumption. Both alcohol abuse and insomnia can hurt an individuals’ time performance. Studies have indicated that alcoholism is significantly prevalent among people suffering from insomnia and it has been reported that many alcoholics resort to the use of alcohol as a sleep aid (Brower 2003, p. 525).

Researchers have studied the effect of alcohol over the long term and have suggested that it is possible that the inability to sleep well among alcohol users may be due to the chemical effects of the drug. According to the research, the brain is compensating for increased exposure to alcohol may react by increasing the secretion of hormones that maintain the subject’s arousal levels. This state in turn causes the subject to experience difficulty in sleeping thus interrupting sleep regulation (Brower 2003, p. 531).

Another fact that came to light in the course of the review of literature in relation to this case was the attitude or perception of athletes to drugs and drug use. It was noted that alcohol features prominently in sport through advertising but it is also interesting to note that people who actively participate or watch sports are more likely to use alcohol and other drugs than their counterparts (Smith et al. 2010, p. 1). Among the reasons motivating the athletes to use drugs was the issue of peer approval. An athlete who is part of a team may begin and continue the use of a certain recreational drug such as alcohol to feel more at home with teammates. It was apparent from the study that drug use of one form or another was almost part and parcel of sport and had been going on for a long time.

Appropriate Implementation Strategies

There are several available intervention strategies in place today that are effective in combating the effects of alcohol abuse. However, the most common intervention for alcohol abuse therapy is group counseling. This intervention involves sharing experiences in a group setting and it is believed that through this approach a community of social support helps in resisting pressures of alcohol and drug use (Panas et al. 2003, p. 271). Under this approach, the individual joins a group and is integrated into the group’s activities to help desist from the practice. Among the common activities within these groups include locating and providing appropriate medication to deal with the symptoms of withdrawal, the provision of relevant and comprehensive reading material to understand the dangers involved in high-risk behavior, the building of strong inter-personal relationships as support in replacement of the drugs.

Behavioral Therapy can also be successfully used as an intervention in the treatment of alcohol abuse or dependency. This intervention is primarily focused on the family or a member of the family during therapy for alcohol and drug abuse and is reportedly very successful in light of the reduced relapse rate (O’Farrell 2010, p. 5). This therapy usually involves the participation of the spouse where applicable or other family members in the treatment process.

Another therapy that could be used to cater to the case at hand is the use of medical interventions to combat the athlete’s problem. However, even in the case of this procedure, a health care provider needs to identify the problem and get the patient to accept its existence since it is normal for patients to deny the presence of such a condition. Once this has been established the practitioner can provide a dosage of the drug to be taken by the patient. These drugs often cause the patient to feel adverse effects when taking alcohol and therefore deter the user from continued use (Mayhew 2008, p. 617). This intervention may be recommended in conjunction with other interventions.

Methodology Identified/Used

After the brief discourse on the various strategies available to combat alcohol addiction, it would appear that the best choice for rehabilitating the student would be enrolment into a 12 step program However since the subject is a student and on his admission, the company he kept was probably the source of the drive to begin the habit of abusing alcohol, it would be wise to consider enlisting his peers alongside him in such a program. This approach focuses on cognitive restructuring which in counseling practice attempts to identify and resolve perceptions of the individual which are wrong and form the basis behind the deviant behavior (Steigerwald and Stone 2000, p. 322). Through cognitive restructuring, it is believed that if the thought process is wrong then interventions on deviant behavior should be focused on the thought process as opposed to the behavior itself.

The first step entails selfless admission that consumption of alcohol has taken control of the individual’s life and owing to it their lives had fallen apart. This seemingly weak statement is a key to rehabilitation since it has been noted the faulty perceptions with regard to the power of self and control are the lay the foundation for addiction. It is therefore only through relinquishing this power that the subject can truly begin to redeem themselves from addiction (Steigerwald and Stone 2000, p. 322).

The second step involves forming as a basis a belief that a higher power can restore sanity in their lives. This statement suggests a religious perspective to recovery and provides the insurmountable challenge to the defiant nature of alcoholic thinking. It is reported that alcoholics generally think constantly competitively and this approach provides an avenue for a new kind of relationship. As opposed to one of winning and losing this relationship promises service in place of dominance (Steigerwald and Stone 2000).

The third step in the program involves the subject making a decision to make a firm intention to allow whatever higher power they understand to be God handle all their affairs. This step is normally referred to as the action step because it is at this stage in direct relation with cognitive restructuring. It is at this stage the subject’s concept of self-will is challenged and the cultivation of reliance on a higher power is initiated. Some practitioners have argued that recovery may be measured by how well this step is grasped by the subject. The alcoholic thinking attempts to attain self-sufficiency when in reality it reaps dependency. However, dependency is not entirely wrong but the right kind of dependency is what is sought in this stage (Steigerwald and Stone 2000).

The fourth step involves the subject making a sincere searching of the soul and formulating a moral inventory. This allows the subject to assess themselves sincerely using personal standards and formulate new goals individually. The fifth step involves admitting to God, ourselves, and other people that they were wrong and assessing the exact nature of these wrongdoings. This teaches the subject to also seek forgiveness from others they may have wronged. The sixth step involves accepting and wholeheartedly asking God to rid us of all the defects in our nature. The seventh step involves learning to make humble requests to God to rid us of our defects (Steigerwald and Stone 2000).

In the eighth step, the subjects make lists of all individuals they may have harmed and consider means of making amends with all such people. The ninth step involves following up on the eighth commitment and making amends with all people the subjects may have offended except when the attempt may injure or otherwise cause them harm. The steps from four to nine are sometimes referred to as house cleaning steps and the critical retrospection is crucial for recovery (Steigerwald and Stone 2000).

In the tenth step the subject continues undertaking a personal assessment and when wrongdoing is identified are advised to learn to stop promptly. The eleventh step involves seeking God through prayers and meditation to improve the spiritual relationship between oneself and God. The final step involves spreading this approach of problem-solving to others having seen them successful in solving our dilemmas (Steigerwald and Stone 2000). The steps from ten through twelve are also referred to as maintenance steps. This program is believed would be effective in rehabilitating John from his current condition and making him once again live a life free of dependency on alcohol.

Results of Questions and Answers Integrated

As stated in the review of literature it is common for alcohol and other drug abusers to be hostile or difficult when it comes to responding to questions about the drug habit (Mayhew 2008, p. 616). In the interview, it would appear that right from the onset John was apprehensive of the motives for the interview. This is seen in his answer to the question of whether he has been consuming alcohol or any medication for his sleep problem. In his response to the question, there is a slight hesitation before concededly offering vague details of the nature of the problem. This is seen in the answer stating that the interviewee uses just a couple of drinks before going to bed.

On further inquiry, the interviewee reveals that the problem began almost one year ago during which the frequency was once or twice a week. The interviewee goes on to state that this increased to three to four times a week in the company of peers before the current stage that requires a daily drink before sleeping.

When asked to give reasons for drinking the interviewee suggests that the alcohol helps in relaxing and that the increased pressure from sports training, class, and assignments is putting an increased strain on his body. On answering this question the interviewee becomes very defensive when asked whether they perceive they have a drinking problem. This response corroborates the fact earlier stated that drug abusers will often resist admitting to having a problem. However, upon further inquiry, the interviewee grudgingly concedes that there is indeed a problem but he does not know how to solve it.

Discussion of Results and Literature Integrated

There are several theories in place that can be used to understand the interpersonal relationships between people. In the recent past, there has been a lot of research carried out especially on the inter-personal relationships in sport. Part of the reason behind this is a greater understanding of the explicit nature of these relationships will allow us greater control and reap more benefits in the various capacities of people involved in sport e.g. coaches, players, etc. (Shepherd, Lee and Kerr 2006, ). The reversal theory has its roots in the work of Dr. Ken Smith and Apter dated around 1970. The theory has a structural basis and emphasis is laid on how we structure or interpret specific motivation or emotion. According to this theory, interaction is based on a number of pairs of mental states. These pairs exist together as pairs and people switch between states on a regular basis. According to Lindner and Kerr, this is a theory based on motivation, emotion, and personality in which the behavior of an individual remains inconsistent (2000, p. 9). These mental states determine the individual’s motivation at any one time. They include telic-paramedic, negativistic-conformist, mastery-sympathy, and aquatic-alloy (Lindner and Kerr 2000, p. 9).

The behavior of an individual in a telic state may be considered to be goal-oriented often involving planning with little felt arousal whereas, behavior in a para telic state tends to be spontaneous, impulsive, and sensation oriented. Based on this we can conclude that the tendency to consume alcohol by John in an attempt to get to sleep is para telic in nature (Lindner and Kerr 2000, p. 9). The therapy is offered to John on the other hand will focus on helping overcome addiction and achieving education and sport-related goals is telic. Likewise, the aggressive responses are attributable to a negativistic state whereas the concession is attributable to a conformist state. The need to take the drug to sleep may be attributed to a state of mastery while the need to join peers for a drink may be attributed to a state of sympathy/empathy. It would be important therefore to bring John to an aquatic state where he can see the rehabilitation efforts as being to his benefit as opposed to an alloy state which focuses on the loss of others.


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